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.

Friday, December 9, 2016

Winter Comes To Wonalancet

Another season has passed on my little apiary in the woods of Wonalancet.

Seven hives are now all tucked in for winter. My two Palmer hives, still robust, are heading into their third winter with me, four total winters.

The TroyHall hive, very strong, now faces a second winter with me, three total winters.

The Canadians have had a few struggles but four out of seven now head into a third winter with me. These bees came from a retired beekeeper who had not bought a queen since 1962. From the original seven I brought home as full hives, three boxes deep, back in late fall 2014, through a terrible ice storm, four survive. One failed after swarming in 2015; a second failed from a devastating wasp attack in late fall, 2015. The third was a failed queen after swarming this summer, 2016.

I blame the open pasture location for attracting the many bee-loving bird species to my queens on way back from mating flights; I also blame my own inattentiveness on the two swarm losses. I did save one of the four remaining colonies with a comb of young from a sister hive.

We've had our adventures for season 2016. Predators: skunks, raccoons, wasps, phoebes, wax moths... but no disease... such a resilient troop of northern bees. So just one summer loss and one near-loss after a swarm incident in 2016. Fingers crossed for this one small colony with its home-grown queen from a sister hive going into winter, but all 7 Wonalancet colonies look pretty robust. I took only 40 lbs of honey - a few frames here and there from the hives that looked like they wouldn't notice. An important note is that I did not feed this fall. Some feed was offered in the spring with minimal interest.
Ossipee Teaching Apiary: Three of these four hives were selected based on colonies provided to beekeepers through my shop in Center Ossipee. An over-wintered nuc from the seacoast is the only one showing signs of disease - chalk brood & deformed wing virus a sign of varroa. I waffled on treating since I have never treated. The next hive over are Russians. No mites there. In my observation this little sick colony has some very good survival traits as all the sick bees we saw were doing their best to get away from the hive, away from the apiary. They were not trying to forage. All the beelines went to the west, they were headed east. Our state inspector once told me bees will leave when sick. At least that is a trait to look for when selectively breeding. To my amazement the seacoast hive rebounded & managed to pack away two medium supers of honey weighing about 60lbs. The cluster is small, but well positioned in cluster. I opened it thinking they were gone, and what a pleasant surprise. They may be gone in the spring, but are worth the risk. If they survive, I will certainly split them and value those genetics.

The fourth hive, third in from the lineup, are my beloved Shed Bee Gals. Looking good... very good. They've survived two tip-overs from some playful raccoons and a very violent wasp war. This is just since moving to Ossipee. In early spring they dealt with a serious robbing event from the TroyHall hive out on Ferncroft, a mouse, & a hungry bunch of nesting phoebe young. Very tempted, but an important note is that I did not feed this fall.

It is very easy to loose track of what happened when, so I've done my best to reconstruct my apiary adventures since getting smart with northern bees. The diagram above is based on a Corel Draw file with more field notes.