Monday, March 23, 2015

The Big and Final Update--December

December 8, 2014:

Already dreaming about spring beekeeping.

It's true: in the past week I've stopped believing that my bees will all die. HOPE.

Floyd sent me a song:

Click here to hear the song!

December 8, 2014.  Jan sent me a photo of this beautiful "Eco Bee Box":

December 10, 2014.  Ken sent me a bee tattoo:

And I went on a little online spree, and found this beautiful tattoo:

December 16, 2014.

I bought more bees.  I decided that even if my 2014 bees did make it through the winter, I'd like to have two hives in 2015, so I ordered a nuc box to be picked up in Billerica, Massachusetts.

I ordered from Merrimack Valley Apiaries, at

December 23, 2014.  Abby got a bee hat for Christmas from her friend Sierra:

My cousin Marcia sent me this gorgeous bee photo:

December 27, 2014.  The bees were still alive:

Yesterday it was very warm, so we went out and checked the hive...and there were a few bees buzzing about, testing their wings. This is monumental news: it means the queen is still there, doing her business, and the bees may well make it through the winter. Yay!

Sunday, March 22, 2015

The Big and Final Update--November

November 4, 2014:

Step one in winterizing the hive. Black roofers' paper to absorb the heat of the sun. They piled out of the hive to say hello when I started stapling into the hive.
And: a negligible number of mites on the drop tray. I think the chemical is working.  (I put in Apistan strips in early October.)

November 6, 2014: Diane sent me a comic.

The Big and Final Update--October

October 7, 2014:

Floyd sent me a poem by Sylvia Plath from the Smith archives.

Plath wrote a bunch of beekeeper poems, it turns out.

James sent me a comic:

October 27.  Ken sent me a video:

The Big and Final Update--October Harvest

uncapped frame

October 5, 2014.  Harvest:

Sam and Ken helped me harvest!  It was much easier than I expected--but perhaps that's because most of the frames were uncapped honey.  Reputable beekeeper sources told me that the honey was, in fact, ready to harvest--that the bees weren't capping it because they were stressed by the mites.  So: it's good to eat, and it needed to be pulled off before I did any chemical mite treatments.  

18 1/2 pounds of honey. And the bees seem like maybe they'll be ok. More mite tests are waiting.

my new extractor!
extracting bucket

Pile of Frames
Sam decapping with the fork
in the extractor

spinning the honey

on tap

The Big and Final Update--August-September

Well.  I left off updating this blog at the end of August, when things still looked...relatively optimistic.  I'm going to make a few long posts here with dates in late August through February, charting the course to the eventual sad demise of my hive.

There are reasons to feel optimistic, even in the midst of this, and even though I'm still quite sad about my 2014 bees.  I'm a better, smarter beekeeper now, and I have a nuc on order for 2015.

First, just a reminder of how beautiful my bees were:

August 24, 2014:  Hive inspection today. The mites haven't done much of any damage, that I can see. The whole colony has slowed down production, but that's to be expected: there aren't as many flowers blooming now, and they've got to work harder to stay warm at night.

September 2, 2014:  I went out to close the top of the beehive, in advance of the giant rain storm, and as I got close to the fence something BIG stamped and scurried away in the brush. What's living out there?

September 11, 2014:

September 22, 2014:

Ben says he was thinking about me:

September 24, 2014:

Elliott sends me a bit of Yeats:

I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,
And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made:
Nine bean-rows will I have there, a hive for the honeybee,
And live alone in the bee-loud glade.

September 26, 2014.  Mites:

Well, it's bad news. My beehive has a serious infestation of varroa mites--about 3-4 times manageable levels, from what I can tell right now. I'll have to treat the hive, and even then...well. I'm not sure whether my bees will make it through the winter. I couldn't be more heartbroken.

As soon as possible. In fact, I'll have to take the honey crop off--even though it's not capped, and thus not really honey yet. I just ordered Apistan strips, which are strips impregnated with a chemical that kills the mites: they should get here Monday, and I'll have to take the honey off before I put the chemicals in. At this point I just want the bees to live. I don't give a shit about the honey.

I'll try some other things this weekend, too. Shaking powdered sugar into the hive can help knock the mites off the bees, according to some beekeepers--sort of like dogs rolling in the dirt to knock off ticks. I'll try that.

September 28, 2014:

Well. I just went out and shook 2 cups of sifted powdered sugar into my hive. And I took about 200 bees and put them in a jar and shook them around with some sugar, and collected that sugar (and the mites that fell off with it).
It's very weird being a beekeeper sometimes.
I've never seen my bees this angry. There's a little swarm hovering around my porch, just daring me to come out and play.