Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Habemus Apes!

We have bees!

Monday morning I drove to Barre MA to pick up 3 packages. I will be installing one package in Sutton, and 2 in my backyard.

Since I traded in my truck for a Jeep, they had to ride up front with me (the back of my Jeep was full). No problems - didn't have any "hitchhikers" (bees riding on the outside of the package) like last time.

I couldn't hive the packages right away, so I was going to let them sit on my kitchen table until the evening.

But my cat took an interest to those buzzing things! She started pawing at one corner of the box where a couple of bees were walking around. The screen on the packages is just normal nylon window screening, very easy for a set of claws to tear through! So I put the packages in the garage - I didn't want to come home with 10's of thousands of bees loose in the house!

The next day I worked from home, so I was able to take some time to hive the packages.

Everything went as planned, so now we have bees!

These pictures are from my backyard hives - I also installed one package in Sutton.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Bad Winter Season - 100% Loss...

This was a bad season for my bees - 100% loss. I lost the 2 hives in Sutton; I had 2 full-size hives and 2 nucs in the backyard that also perished.

Going into the winter I had plans on overwintering 2 nucs. The previous year I let time creep up on me and I didn't get the nucs prepared. So they both died before full winter started.

This last year I started early. I got a couple of queens from George O'Neil (my favorite source of queens) and made nucs. I got them nice and strong.

The plan was to put a double nuc brood box on top of one of my strong hives, to take advantage of the heat. In order to do that, you need to keep the two nucs separate from the strong hive, as well as separate from each other.

To keep the nucs from mixing with the strong hive, I used a Snelgrove board:

What you may not be able to see in this picture is that there are rotating doors on each edge of the board. You place this on top of the strong hive, and the double nuc goes on top of the Snelgrove board. You then open up the top side doors to provide an entrance for each of the nucs, on opposite sides.

In preparation for the double nuc, you can also see I tacked down a strip on the Snelgrove board. The reason for that is that this strip juts up against a double nuc feeder I created - see the following pictures:

The feeder is basically a reservoir for the sugar syrup, with entrances on each side, separated so that the bees can't mix. That way there is one feeder for both nucs. It sits down flush with the board I stapled on the Snelgrove board, and it is also goes completely to the edge of the super. So it blocks off any passage between the two sides.

Last year I had a 3rd nuc that I was going to overwinter, so I made this simple top for a full-size hive, that the nuc would sit on:

The slits you see are in place of a screen - I didn't feel like making things complicated.

Alas, for this last season, it was all for naught! We had such long deep cold snaps that the bees just didn't make it.

You can see that there was plenty of sugar candy on top, and lots of honey. But that wasn't enough because of the cold.

But one positive thing came out - my wife and I got to clean up the frames! Over the years wax and propolis builds up, and it's hard to scrape them when they are full of bees. So one Saturday we went over all of the frames (which totaled about 150 all told).

I was able to find someone who still had packages to sell - George O'Neil of Autumn Morning Farm. So it's back to the starting point for my hives (although with pre-built frames, the bees should have an easier time).
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