Monday, May 2, 2011
Monday, April 25, 2011
like many other beekeepers (both experienced and non-) this year, our bees died. they somehow managed to make it through the hardships of winter with plenty of honey and pollen left over, but their population just wasn't enough to keep the colony afloat.
it is very sad to look into one's colony to see a tiny number of worker bees valiantly surrounding a dying queen as she does her best to keep laying.
it's hard to not take personally. these photos show the last cluster, the leftover honey, and eggs and larvae in various stages of maturity.
the queen and workers:
what the queen and workers had been trying to do:
so, who know what happened. we had questions about this queen during the summer. perhaps our gut instincts about her were justified--perhaps she was not a very good queen. we didn't treat for varroa mites--maybe that was it. maybe dr spivak was right, and all of the university of minnesota's bees overlapping territory provides just too much competition. we don't know, and probably never will.
oddly enough, we found out about the status of the colony the day after another bee class with some of the best bee people in the country. so it goes.
Saturday, March 19, 2011
It's been a few months. In that time:
It snowed a lot.
Christmas Cat brought cheer.
XC skiing was attempted and likely adopted.
This guy or girl discovered the resident cockatiel and spent 20+ minutes trying to figure out a way to enter the house and eat him.
The little yellow bird's perspective from inside the house. Imagine a cockatiel-about-to-die death scream as a soundtrack.
To get a colony of bees to survive a long and cold and snowy winter in Minnesota you first cover the brood boxes with a black cardboard box. The box has a waxy surface to repel water and at the top is a special board for wicking away moisture.
And to keep the garage roof from collapsing and the bee entrance clear, heavy equipment was required.
Beyond that, leave them enough honey to eat (we didn't harvest any this year) and they'll vibrate in a bee survival ball within the hive until it's warm enough to...
Take a big *#! or go on a "cleansing flight" on the first day warm day in the new year. Bees are hyper hygienic and don't excrete waste inside the hive. During the cold winter months that must get uncomfortable. After not hearing or seeing peep from the bees for 2+ months we expected the worst. Then on a warm day in February they came out firing. Imagine a few thousand little insects projecting, what looked like tobacco juice, into the snow surrounding their home. And also their dead friends, or more like colleagues for the common cause, had to leave the hive as well.
Again, it was a big relief to see our that our insect friends had survived the winter, this far at least. Many checked out the snow and returned to the hive.
Now that it's late March and the temps are up it's not uncommon to see a bee or five out for a flight. We added some granulated sugar over wax paper to supplementary feed in February (just in case their honey reserves were low). They were probably fine but it's like being over protective of a first child. It looks like snow, but this is their sugar pile. It looks like they're enjoying it.
Today we un-winterized
checked the honey reserves
and added a pollen patty for some food to last until things start growing around here.
It may be morbid or borderline cruel at times, but being hygienic the bees were busy bringing out the dead.
Flowers for the next post.