BEEKEEPING IN THE NORTHEAST - An account of my beekeeping, not a treatise of expertise, but for friends & family who wish to keep bees vicariously through me, and for the occasional apiarist passer-by.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

New Apiary


A retired couple down the road from us, beekeepers from back in the day, offered to let me use some of their land to stage a new apiary. I hope to start from scratch and try and raise local bees. I'll begin with eight hives in Spring 2014. I'm using 8 frame, cypress hive components from Ross Apiaries in Georgia. The goal in our community is to raise local, winter hearty bees. The trend is to start with the Italian's, "brood laying fools" as Michael Bush phrases it. I currently have had experience with two colonies of these Georgian bees making it through pretty long cold winters up here.

I was going to space them apart more, but one of our state inspectors said it really doesn't matter that much. To keep them from drifting I'm grouping them in twos, spacing them enough apart to work them, and will paint them appropriately so that the bees can see a difference. Eight hives planned for spring. My Rossman shipment just arrived. I thought I'd get them set up, sealed up, ready for the bees as early as I can get them Spring 2014. The hives will have screened bottom boards, slatted racks and cypress bodies for moisture resistant support.

Now that I know a little more about what I'm doing as a beekeeper I hope to have hives survive these smaller units and be able to split them in Spring 2015. I'll be using the medium supers only as brood boxes with one medium on top for growth. That is about as big as they get up here. Then a small super for honey collection. I did not take honey off any of my hives this season. The two that died in April provided me with about 30 lbs so I'll have what I need for my winter cooking. Hopefully, my overwintered hive from 2012 and my hearty colony from this spring will make it. They are both going into winter strong.

Another Re-cap of 2013
One note: All three hives that went into winter survived through early April. The two that died in April I believe had badly mated queens. The third I left alone. I did not feed them. I made a conscious choice about this to see if on their own they could make life up here work for them, and they have. This also despite the bear attack. Out of the two colonies I installed from packages, one is hearty, one completely disappeared two weeks into September. There was healthy worker brood two weeks before, then the hive body was a ghost town. No sign of anything in any of the cells and no dead bees.

Re-cap Of 2013 Season

Just in case you are interested, here’s an update on my bees on Ferncroft Road.

In spring I attended a few beekeeping programs including a conference with a scientist from Penn State. The Scientist said that CCD is a buzz word for the public but that what we are really dealing with is World Wide Pollinator Collapse. It has been going on for decades and the bees, who have been supplementing the need for pollination in spite of this collapse, are now showing the same symptoms.

Pretty much what the scientist explained at the meeting backed up the conclusions drawn at the Organic conference I attended summer 2012 in Massachusettes, basically this:
  • Tiny microbes that allow honey bees to process nectar and other natural resources into  the things that sustain them as a species, propolis, wax, bee bread for feeding the young, royal jelly for feeding the queens, honey, pollen, are under attack from a combination of over 132 identified chemicals now common throughout the hives of the garden landscapes of our urban areas as well as our commercial farming lands.
  • These same chemicals render Drones sterile, which means when queens mate, their  life span, determined by the colony based on how long she lays, is currently down from six years, to often less than six months.
  • Out of three hives I brought successfully through the winter into February, two of them died this spring with at least 30 lbs. of honey and pollen stored between them, a dry, healthy looking nest, and no indication of varroa destructor mites present.
  • Based on the look of the frames, the queens may have failed to lay at the spring equinox as they should have and there were no larvae for the colony to shape up into queens under our over-wintering conditions, hence the whole hive died. That’s all I can figure out. Neighbor beekeeper lost both her colonies as well with similar conditions in the hives. Our spring colony purchases were three weeks late this year as the largest supplier of bees has had record losses this spring. Also a shortage of bees is being attributed to the increased numbers of novice, hobby beekeepers.
·         Sometimes it seems there is Little hope for the honey bee; but there are some folks in Maine being somewhat successful and I hope to follow their lead and start learning from them how to raise our own local bees.

The Good News is that all of this hubbub about the bees is bringing about change for the better in our environment…and one of my hives came through the winter with flying colors!

This is my fifth year and I appreciate everyone’s interest and support. I intend to learn to do it right and am not giving up yet. Please avoid using fungicides and herbicides in your gardens and avoid chemical fertilizers, GMO products, and buy your honey from a local beekeeper.

Some other events:
Our nephew came to visit so we invested in a child's beekeeping outfit. This was worth every penny:

 So glad I bought a hanger. Of course, if the sun was shining he wouldn't be using this magnifier:

 I had my first Black Bear incident. She must have been small. She came in through one of the winter grounding wires then must have been shocked once on the inside as she ran without doing any damage.  The bees just kept on, business as usual. They were gentle as I re-situated the hive bodies. My neighbor beekeeper wasn't so lucky. A bear chewed through her hive, but the queen survived.
A neighbor called to say the bees were singing outside the chapel to local musicians,
Saundra and Nixon Bicknell, tuning up to accompany the service. I got them on YouTube: