The weather has been the big news for beekeepers across the country, with much of the country being much warmer than usual for this time of year. and its led to some interesting things in my backyard.
But first, the fate of my first colony, that of Elizabeth. I did an inspection a couple of weeks ago and there was just a handful oof bees clustered up and no queen and no brood. This hive was finished.
So I took the honey frames from the super and gave them to the other hive along with the bee remnants. I then took the shallow off of my new main hive so now there is the deep and two supers for them and then harvested the honey from the shallow box. The shallow box was always supposed to be for our use anyway before the second hive took off.
So now I’m back down to one hive which may sound like a real setback, but honestly I’m still ahead of last year when I had zero hives in my backyard. Plus I have the knowledge that I gained that I didn’t have last year. In addition I have 10 half-pint jars of honey! The drawn comb and extra honey comb can also be put too good use by the other hive.
So I did an inspection around the 16th, about a week after combining the two hive bees and stores and everything seemed to look good. That hive has continued to be active throughout the warm spell that we’ve been having. One problem with the warm weather is that since the bees are more active, they are going to be eating more than if they were simply clustering in the hive for warmth. So the extra honey I gave them could be quickly eaten away if I didn’t tend to them. But I didn’t want to feed them inside the hive as I was doing during the summer, because it can create problems during cold snaps as the bees are trying to keep the hive warm.
So I set up an outdoor feeding station on our old swing set. Since I have only one hive and the only one around (as far as I know) I’m not too concerned about robbing behavior. The swing set makes the perfect station because it’s off the ground and away from the ants. I also put the frames out there after I have gotten most of the honey. The bees make a really good cleaning crew, reclaiming the honey from frames and wax, in addition to getting their supply of sugar water.
But bees also need pollen for protein. As I watched them, they were bringing it in from somewhere, despite us having gotten frost several times in previous weeks enough to kill most flowering plants. I didn’t have to wonder too long, as I happened to look up at the maple tree right beside my house.
The tree was loaded with blooms and the bees were making good use of the opportunity to gather pollen.
Most beekeepers around the country report that the bees are able to find things to forage on during the abnormally warm winter. And we’re all hoping that our hives survive whatever the conditions. At the moment we are still extremely warm (above 70 F) but we’re very wet and rainy which tends to keep the bees inside the hive. But they will come out between showers if they have a place nearby to go. I had a chance to observe a bunch of them buzzing around the entrance right before the rains really got heavy. These would be newer bees making their orientation flights.
While not treating the hives cost me one of them, the July walk away split had an offsetting benefit in a much healthier hive going into winter. I’m currently thinking about how to best incorporate this into a more deliberate management practice. I could divide my hive in early spring (as an artificial swarm) and then divide again in July but that would mean another year of very little honey. That would be offset by having up to 4 hives going into winter. However without treatment, I could stand to lose all but the last two split hives. Fortunately I still have a few months to think about it, but it’s definitely food for thought.