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.
The air smells slightly of pollen and the bees are going crazy, so you know that spring has arrived. Our cool nights are probably not totally over, and daytime temperatures occasionally call for a jacket. The hives are expanding quickly so it is time for a spring update.
After my success at reducing a standard deep nuc to a medium one (see Busy beeks are always metaling), I decided to take on the more daunting task of building a top bar hive nuc. After an adventure with hardware stores (yes, plural) and some minor angst on my part, I deem the effort a success.
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
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
I am in the sky at 34,002 feet as I write this, on my way to California and thinking about my rain-sodden bees in Virginia. Northern Virginia had five days of solid rain, well over 5 inches (12 cm) of water at our house. The bees (and the people) have been huddled away waiting for it to end. As I left the house the sun peered out to see what was left of the land.
With fall firmly in place, I naturally wonder whether the bees have enough food for the winter. Last year I was able to bring my three hives through to the spring. I hope my five hives will do the same for my second winter with bees. Yesterday I provided some additional food for some of the hives to help pull them through. Continue reading
As you may recall, I two top bar hives. My original TBH I purchased last year, which has 14 inch top bars and has overwintered. Then I caught a swarm in a new TBH my dad and I built, which has 19 inch top bars. Thus both are top bar hives, but they are somewhat incompatible. Here is an update of their status. Continue reading