Friday, March 29, 2013

First Spring Work Day at Bee Hill

If the weather could be as perfect all summer as it was today, we'd both be full-time beekeepers. A light breeze, beautiful sun, and temperatures in the low 70s . . . I didn't even sweat!

A friend of Andrew's loaned us his Mule while he's out of town. We like the bigger bed space and bench seat!

Today we worked the 7 hives on our property. Earlier in the week Mark worked the bees at Barhams' and the week before that, at Harley's. Two colonies at Barhams' didn't make it, but all six at Harley's are doing well.

It's been a cold, wet spring, and the bees haven't had much of a chance to get out. Which means the beekeepers haven't gotten into the hives much!

That said, today they were bringing in *pink* pollen from the redbud trees, as well as yellow, orange and white pollen. Pollen will stimulate the queens to lay more eggs and build up the colonies' populations.

I can safely say that all 7 colonies are in good shape. We took two frames of solid honey from #3 to give to #4, which had a big population and no honey left whatsoever. Since #4 was the first hive we opened, we were concerned, especially since we did not harvest honey from this yard in the late summer!

Fortunately, this was the only hive without enough resources to make it through this weird spring.

Mark got a ventilated jacket with a hood last year, and really likes it.
 The most interesting thing we discovered was that leaving 2 deep boxes and multiple mediums on top filled with honey, combined with a cold, wet spring, resulted in abandonment of the brood chambers. We discovered "chalkbrood" -- a fungal disease that takes hold when there aren't enough nurse bees to keep the brood warm. The bees in at least 2 of our colonies were too spread out, and resources were far from the brood chamber. In both of these cases, the queen and workers had simply moved up to where the honey and pollen was, and took up residence there.

We ended up taking off both deeps from #2 and leaving a stack of three mediums. On another, we removed one deep.

It was so lovely to be back in the bee yard! All of the hives were docile and content, happily humming without showing signs of aggression. Well, except #7, and by then it had clouded up and gotten windy, so perhaps that was part of the problem.

Every year we learn more about what to do and what not to do. Mark has a lot of work to do in terms of killing weeds and ants out at Bee Hill. Next week he's going to set up a bee yard in Starkville for a guy who is starting an organic farm.

He got the first swarm call of the year yesterday, and like last year, it was a false alarm. And, like last year, it was because bees were going crazy in some holly bushes. It won't be long, though, until the weather warms up and the swarm calls come in. We're ready!