Great hives from little nucs grow

We have had a few weeks of spring lately, with the air full of pollen and the bees going crazy. Rain and cool weather returned this weekend, so I am not able to work outside. I am instead sitting inside and writing this early spring update. A year will come when I  feel that my springtime work with bees goes well and the hives are buzzing along, so to speak. This is not that year.

Apiary

The expanded apiary on April 14. ©Erik Brown

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Winter weather and beekeeper’s thoughts change often

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Making sugar cakes on December 3. © Erik Brown

My friend Gordon used to say that it takes three years to become a good teacher. We were teaching secondary school in Botswana, Africa at the time, preparing students for their O-level and A-level exams. Gordon said that you spend the first year figuring out the material, the second year figuring out how to teach, and the third year really teaching. Of course, I only taught for two years, so it never quite happened for me.

This may apply to how beekeepers overwinter bees as well. I read and learned much and stumbled through my first winter. As we enter my second winter I have stronger opinions about what I should have or could have done better. Next year I will be perfect. Continue reading

Eat, drink, and bee merry

In Virginia, we have six to eight weeks of summer dearth followed by an unreliable fall, so the best nectar the bees see is in spring and early summer. Last year, in my first year of beekeeping, another beekeeper told me to feed my hives in August and September. Otherwise they will eat much of their stores and not have enough for winter. Well, it turns out he was correct. Continue reading

It bee better to give than to receive

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The yard on August 21, 2016. (c) Erik Brown

As my second beekeeping summer comes to a close, it is the time of year when beekeepers count the many pounds of honey collected from their hives, and answer the age-old question of how to handle the dreaded varroa mite.

This year I gathered my first honey, a grand total of nearly 6 cups worth. As another local beekeeper put it, the price per pound of that honey is pretty steep. Beekeeping equipment is not cheap, bees are not cheap, and our time is somewhat precious. All for a few jars of honey. Perhaps it is more about the love of bees and the joy of a hobby, at least for me. Continue reading

To every hive there is a season

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A butterfly in the bee yard, with Mars and Jupiter in the background. © Erik Brown

In my second year, I have become a lazy beekeeper. Last year, oh so long ago, I inspected each hive every week or two. I visited the apiary nearly every day to visually check the hives. I kept close tabs on their progress, and worried about the many things that could go wrong.

This year the bees have been fine, doing their bee stuff, and I’ve been working, travelling, and otherwise not looking in on them.

For much of July this bothered me, and I felt guilty that I left the bees to their own designs. It was hot, many days over 100 F (38 C), and I was on the road one way or another for three out of the last four weeks. I just didn’t feel up to checking the hives, so I didn’t. I finally got into my five hives this weekend, and for the most part the bees are fine. Given my lack of blogging lately as well, I figured it was time for an update. Continue reading