There are certain pursuits which, if not wholly poetic and true, do at least suggest a nobler and finer relation to nature than we know. The keeping of bees, for instance. --- Henry David Thoreau

"Well," said Pooh, "what I like best -- " and then he had to stop and think. Because although Eating Honey was a very good thing to do,
there was a moment just before you began to eat it which was better than when you were, but he didn't know what it was called. -- The House at Pooh Corner

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

We're Baa-ack!

Just took this picture of my home "bee yard". It's booming, the bees are extremely active. The state of the bee yard kinda sums up my life at the moment. It's a little fuzzy, overgrown in spots, cluttered and junk spread around the edges. But the tree is pretty, n'est-ce pas?

Now that it is May and the flow is in full swing, here's a bit of a report:
The winter was hard. a bit colder than last year. Not that it was a terrible awful winter, but it was very wet, had snow and cold snaps at exactly the worst times. A couple of days in mid winter were sunny warm, fooling the bees onto making some hygienic runs and scouting forays. I'm afraid the cold and rain and wet caught them outside a couple of times. I started feeding all of them in January, as they were getting very light in stores. Alas, we lost about half of the colonies. The two original horizontal (kTBH) hives at the Eagle's Rest garden died out or absconded. When I opened the hives they showed traces of a massive wax moth invasion. I have removed them from the location and started cleaning them up and sterilizing them; melted down the empty combs - saving the wax for a future cosmetics project by my daughter Jenn.

Karen and Maria's 48" kTBH came through the winter just fine. (They fed them in January and February.) They have acquired another "mentor" who set them up with a Langstroth; so I am setting them free to do their own thing now with two diverse hives -- maybe more as the season wears on. (Of course, if anything exciting happens, I'll report it.)

OTOH, Jenny's biodynamic Lang on her property died out, despite trying to keep it fed. I retrieved the hive and cleaned it up along with the Eagle's Rest boxes. In a somewhat uncoordinated manner, I got the small blue kTBH transferred to the same spot in January. Those ladies are industrious and really active right now. Jenny's garden will be well pollinated. I'm hoping to catch a new swarm any minute now and restore her bio-Lang to its original location.

Here at the home apiary, everyone came through. They are all out and about and really active. The hives boxes are getting stuffed. The Hard Luck Warré is now four boxes tall and ready for another "nadir". (In a Warré operation one puts the new ... um ... 'supers' on the bottom as bees naturally want to build down, not up.) These guys are those pretty golden Italians. They're proving to be tough, prolific and not hard to work with.This year the bees are a little darker in this one hive -- I assume they are hybridizing because of some illicit mating flight that resulted in some feral DNA being added? (I really should pay more attention to our queens)

The same golden bees inhabit my original bio-dynamic Lang, and they are truly light yellow gold and so pretty. Now in its third season, the hive itself was at first struggling and slow to grow. I had trouble getting the bees to move up into the first super I put on. After many false attempts and several suggestions from the bee forums (unsuccessful), I simply took a page from the Warré book and put the super on the bottom, under the brood box. Wallah -- they moved right down and filled the box. I put another super on top in March and they have now proceeded to start inhabiting it too. No, I dunno why they decided it was now okay to move up.. Perhaps it's because I put those Pierco frames in this one super, rather than the starter-strip frames I usually use? Hmmmm.

Last, the Redwood Warré is growing rapidly.   It has the swarm of the Golden Italians that came from the bio-Lang. (remember the other one I let go away?). They were the first bees out and active as spring began, and they continue to be ahead of the rest of the hives. It's now three boxes tall and ready, I think, before long to have another box. I might even take some honey this year. I really like this little hive, all natural and unfinished. I  put a modified square roof on it, from an idea I got from David Heaf.

Okay, that's about all the bee news. I'm gonna clean up the junk and clear the weeds back from the home hives, don't worry. Ed has moved his main Eagle's Rest Garden operation to a new property over on Lost Creek. I don't think I will put the two kTBHs back, should my swarm traps catch more bees. I'm gonna re-roof them (stay tuned for a report on refurbishing these horizontal hives) and set them up here at home for awhile. I'll either move the Redwood Warré or the Biodynamic Lang over there very soon. He'll need the bees for pollination right away.

End o' report. How are your bees?