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, May 30, 2014

What's In Bloom

We worked several days getting the garden in,  carefully watching the weather for any frost possibility.

Dandilions are in full bloom and some other wonderful things like violets, wild strawberry, cherry trees are glorious this year, and some rather dreary apple blossoming. May not be a good apple year.

The bees seem happy in their new abode. It is still cold. 50 degrees at 9 am when I took these pictures this morning.

We moved my friends hive to her house and it was easier than using those frick'n ratchet straps I bought, but made it so all we had to do was lift the hive into her car. A few stragglers wanted in and patiently waited while we undid the entrance block for them. I think we got them all and no one came home to an empty hive spot. Just in case I put an empty hive there. This hive all the colonies seem interested in for some reason so I can't tell if this morning what I was seeing were stray bees.

Beautiful morning.

Apple trees ending their bloom. The bees found it just fine.

I also played with my solar melter for the first time and worked famously. Like an oven. Cleaned the wax right off my old frames.

The Garden last day of May 2014

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Nucleus Colony Workshop

Phil Gaven, Master Beekeeper, gave a class on making up nucleus colonies on Saturday at The Honey Exchange in Portland, Maine.

I love Maine. Everything was in bloom, it seemed. It was sunny and warm and we felt over dressed coming from up north, 2 hours drive. We walked around the quaint old neighborhood looking at the houses and stopped for coffee, but as soon as the class turned to go outside it was too chilly for the bees to fly.

Phil took us out to the apiary yard and we split a hive anyway, leaving the main colony to raise another queen. Little tidbits of info from other beekeepers make going to every possible meeting so valuable. I've had so many workshops and classes over the years, and maybe I just forgot this, but he mentioned bees won't draw comb when the queen is not present.

So instead of going home to split my hives I thought in these cold rainy days coming up this week I'd just let my bees while away the hours indoors drawing comb. I made all new deep frames for the new splits and painted the foundation with watered-down last season's honey to peak their curiosity. They should have a pretty good time. Hope it beats honey-bee ghost stories as told around the brood area during a New Hampshire spring thunder storm. It will be nice to have some new drawn comb to give the splits I'll make soon.

All nucleus colonies from Palmer seem so busy and happy in their new surroundings. Dandelions are now in full bloom, apple trees may be on the way out, but they hardly came into bloom while the cherry trees are bursting. The three farmers on Ferncroft road are busy in the fields, planting and prepping, as have we been out on Red Path. Memorial Day seems a good sign that frosty nights are past so we'll finish up our planting this week.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Puttin' On The Nucs - May 14, 2014

The first dandelions... just a few... were finally coming into bloom the day of installation.

Those long round-trip drives to pick up nucleus colonies are especially worth it when the bees are from several generations of Northern raised, disease resistant bees. 

The hope is that we will all raise our own bees as responsible beekeepers, so after years of learning how to get the real deal and failures with packages, I think I finally got it right this season.

Nucs should be introduced to their new home by removing the hive and placing the nuc box right on the stand. They imprint so well that they will orient right to that spot that very new day. We left for Vermont at 4 pm, arriving at Mike Palmer's bee yard around 8:30 and the bees were still flying. He tucked them in by darkness around 9pm while we had a nice visit with this veteran beekeeper of 40+ years, then we drove them back to New Hampshire, arriving around 1:30 am. You think NH and VT are close? Well... ya just can't get there from here... not without a lot of twists and turns. 8 hours round trip!

When I found myself waking up before the alarm at 4:55 to get them out to the bee yards, I knew after six years, I was finally on my way to being a real beekeeper.

5:30 all three nucs were sitting on the base of their newly prepared homes. The beautiful melodic song of a wood thrush heralded their arrival. Wait... aren't they flying insect eaters? Hmmm... 

Stand by me...

The bees were really ready to burst from that box! When I went back that afternoon to transfer them into the hives they immediately spread out over the 8 frame hive deep and medium super filled with drawn comb frames.

Pollen foragers were coming in loaded already!

She's thinking: "I go out shopping, come back, and the contractor has already been and gone; but where's the door?"

I had a few confused young bees not used to the light.

STAND BY ME... Nurse bees and young bees are "photosensitive" This forager made haste to stick with this young bee who was disoriented in the move.

Da Bus

I never had to deal with a cardboard nuc box before so my first attempt threatened to roll a lot of bees while taking the frames out. I lost some on the ground, although I had a white sheet with me in case that should happen. Some pieces of beeswax comb came in handy. The photosensitive bees clung on to a piece as I "drove" it by them on the ground. "Here comes the bus! Hop on!" 

"Here comes the bus! Hop on!"
and they did. I had few if any casualties during the three transfers.

Leveling it all out...

There is a better way! Must come back and fix the stones!
Hives MUST BE LEVEL. If they are not, the bees will build comb that is despite the beautiful frames you supplied them with. They just build one next to it that is STRAIGHT. Picky devils. For some reason most leveling went smoothly but on one hive I had such a hard time. Even after the install I had to put wedges in to make it straight. i will go back and find a way to get it right once the shock of their big move is over.