Thursday, September 9, 2010

Welfare Bees

In bee news, my hive partners and I took the hive apart down to the bottom super (of four) last weekend to see how set they are for the coming change of season. There's a LOT of bees, which is good, and we spotted the queen in tan hive, but neither blue nor tan hive had much if any brood. The brood the queen lays now will be the workers that take the hives through the winter.

Then on Sunday there was a tremendous amount of activity outside of blue hive. I've never seen them cloud in front of the hive that way. The next day there were so few hanging around the hive entrance I wondered (via email) to my hive partners if they might not have swarmed. This was alarming, as we hadn't had a confirmed sighting of a new queen or that one had been laid. Then over the next couple of days the hive looked completely normal. I guess I was just hysterical.

In any case, it is my turn to feed them. If we feed them they'll be working less outside the hive and will hopefully turn their energies toward making more bees.

I got 3 qts of water and six bags of sugar into my crab pot just fine. Then I thought it was a brilliant idea to use the giant aluminum pot that was in the garden next to the bucket in which we collect any comb we scrape when we're in the hives. I got the water and five of the six bags of sugar I had left into the pot and started cooking before I realized that the bottom wasn't sound and it was leaking all over the stove. I managed to get everything transferred to two other pots with Russ's help (and only a little spilled onto Russ's shoes). BUT, after hours of slow cooking, a lot of the sugar had not melted. I think the 2:1 might be too much octane. I cooked them more this morning and more of the sugar melted. We'll see if it's crystallized again this afternoon. And that was without that sixth bag of sugar. Lucky welfare bees! Will it hurt them if what we feed them is a bit crystallized? I doubt it. Reminds me of an elementary school experiment where we melted sugar until the water was so saturated it crystallized onto a string we left in the mixture over night.

I'm so glad it's cooler. We'll suit up and go back in this afternoon. Keep your fingers crossed for more bee babies!


Kathleen said...

When is it that they will produce honey? In the spring?

Kathy said...

They are producing honey, though most of it's pretty light due to our feeding them. When they are more on their own the honey will be much darker. In full production mode, we would be harvesting two or three times between April and August I think.

Pam J. said...

Yep, welfare bees is right. This is my first year of beekeeping too and I'm also starting to be more attentive to feeding for the coming winter months. As of yesterday it looks like my 4 medium supers are quite full of bees, "honey" stores (mostly sugar water of course), and some brood--I haven't done a full frame-by-frame check in a long time so I really don't know how much brood is there but I intend to find out soon. My girls are sucking down a gallon of sugar water a day, which I think is good. The one thing I've learned in my 5 months of beekeeping is that every beekeeper's experience is different from the next one's experience. No. I correct that. Every colony is different from every other colony, even those living on the same basic spot of ground. I found a few small hive beetles yesterday and am now pondering whether to treat for them. I found an interesting trap online, a home-made one from a CD jewel case. I'd like to avoid any chemicals in my hive, and if my girls make it through the winter I'll be really committed to no chemicals. But if small hive beetles (or mites) kill my colony over the winter I'll reconsider. I had no idea when I took this on how much there was to learn. And how many variables there are.