Tuesday, May 26, 2015

May 17: One Week Check-in

On May 17, I looked into the hives for the first time since getting them out of their nucs and into their new homes.  Everything looks GOOD.  I saw the NEB queen (brightly marked), but not the MVA queen--but there was evidence that both queens were laying well.

The MVA hive, which was the stronger of the two nucs, is already crowded.  I squinched a couple of swarm cells and added a second hive body to that hive.  I'll wait another week to put one on the NEB hive.

No sign of mites.  Lots of pollen coming in the front door.

There's the NEB queen!

Wonderful video

May 20, 2015:

National Geographic asked the photographer Anand Varma to take photographs of bees.  The result was this TED talk, and the wonderful moving video below.

The TED talk, in which Varma explains the move toward mite-resistant queens:

And the (very beautiful) video of a bee's first 21 days of life:


May 19:

Many Facebook friends are sending me stories about swarming bees.  I've never seen one!  I'd love the opportunity to try to catch one, and I've been looking at swarm traps online now and again.

This is happening a lot in urban areas, and London in particular is having trouble.  Lots of urban beekeepers have sprung up, keeping rooftop hives, and they're inexperienced and don't know how to prevent swarming.  Sadly, most people don't know that a swarm of bees is usually very gentle--they're much more interested in finding a new home than they are in stinging anyone.


From a fable by Louisa May Alcott.

Monday, May 18, 2015

A NEW DAY: Beginning Again

May 5th: Painting the New Hive!

French Country Blue will be this year's color, and Abby is painting flowers and vines on the first hive bodies.

May 8:  This is a good place to bring the bees home to.

May 9:  NEW BEE DAY!!

Today's the day!  Ken and I drove out to Billerica and Tyngsboro to get the new nucleus colonies!

The experience at the two different apiaries couldn't have been more different.  New England Beekeeping is run by a sweet guy out of his house at the end of a residential street.  There are nucs and hives everywhere.  He spent 1/2 hour or so just chatting with us, and he marked my queen for me (barehanded, just reaching in and trapping her, and then dotting her with a special marking pen).  He had two big golden retrievers that gamboled about.  So sweet.

Merrimack Valley Apiaries, in contrast, is a huge business, with a giant factory building and many acres covered in hives.  We got there at 8, and there were at least a dozen other people waiting around for their bees--some waiting for 50-75 nucs, to cart away in industrial trucks.  We had to wait for over an hour, as the sun set and the mosquitoes (which were fierce) made clouds around us.  The main beekeeper wanted to wait for the field bees to come home before sealing the nucs.

In the end, I think that wait was a good idea.  The nuc from MVA appears much stronger--or at least, it just has lots more bees.  I think it may have the jump on the NEB colony.  We'll see!

Abby came out with us to do the installation, and she took most of these pictures and a sweet video:

And another:

May 10th: Happy Mother's Day!

The Big and Final Update--April

April 2:

I experience false hope.

I wrote:

There were 5-6 bees buzzing around, though mainly they were going in and out of the back of the hive, which is weird (the back is just a narrow slot where a mite-check tray lives--it's not connected to the main body of the hive). But still...I *think* they're my bees, which means I think that the queen must be alive. If I get an hour of warmth and no rain this weekend, I'll open up the hive and investigate.

April 6:

The President tells some kids "Bees are good!"  And everything gets crazy and kind of hilarious.

April 8:

"How the Fox-Terrier was transformed into a bull dog"

April 11:

EVERYONE sent me links to the "Honey Flow" kickstarter, to support a couple of Australian guys who have invented a beehive which allows you to harvest honey without opening the hive.  At present the hives are ridiculously expensive, and I have so many questions and concerns.  Seems to me that it would be good, yes, to not have to disturb the bees.  But on the other hand, the only way we know that the bees are happy and healthy and doing their thing, and that their homes haven't been invaded by mites or moths or disease, is by getting in there and looking.  I'm skeptical.  I'll wait for seasoned beekeepers to have a say in all this.

April 12:  The End.

Well, that's it. They're all dead.
What you see in the first photo is what was left of the cluster, all bundled around the queen. I'm pretty sure what happened is that it just got so cold that they wouldn't leave the cluster around the queen even by a few inches to get honey--so they starved to death, even though they were surrounded by frames and frames of capped honey. You can even see some there at the corners of the photo.
If it had been a stronger hive going into the winter--if there had been more bees, that is--then maybe even with some die-off, they would have been able to keep things warm enough, and they would have been able to venture out of the cluster. As is, they didn't have a chance. The mites hitting late in the summer doomed them. This year I'll be much more careful about a pest-control program.
There were a few bees hanging around the hive today, as there have been for a few days. But they're just neighborhood bees looting the house of the dead. I propped the frames out to make it easier for them. Someone should benefit from this.
This isn't honey I can use, since it was on the hive when I did the last chemical mite treatment of the year. But I took a huge fingerful for myself, anyway. Damn it.
So sad.

April 13:
My cousin Marcia sent this sweet consolation:

April 16:
Sometime in early May I will pick up a colony of bees in Billerica. And another in Tyngsboro.
The Billerica bees are from New England Beekeeping.  They're Aurora Italians.
The Tynsgboro bees are from Western Merrimack Valley apiaries.  They're an Italian/Carniolan hybrid. 

April 26:  BEGIN AGAIN

Today I started building a new hive, to accommodate the second of my new colonies.

April 27:

Matthes Honig - Matthes Fruit - 1900-25