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Checking our Beehives after a Long Winter

March 16th, 2010

Every couple weeks throughout the winter, we put our ears up the side of our beehives and listening for that humming sounds that bees make keeping warm. There are a few steps you can take to help them survive the winter; you make sure you don’t take too much honey from the hive so they have enough to eat throughout the winter and you try to keep them dry. We didn’t take any honey from our hives last fall, trying to give them the best chance for survival.

If you were reading the blog last summer, you’ll remember that we split our hive. We were worried that the new hive, which was the smaller of the two, might not make it through the winter because of their lower population and less honey stored. Oddly enough all winter long they were the strongest hive, buzzing away quite loudly. When the weather warmed up they were the first bees to leave the hive.

Last week on a warm day (it was almost 70) we decided to check on the old hive, which we were worried hadn’t survived. We found a small cluster of bees and spotted the queen so they seem to have survived the winter, although they appear to be weak (although since this is the first time we’ve overwintered bees, we’re not sure). They still have a ton of honey left, so we’re hoping they make it through any more cold spells we have.

It’s good to see activity at the hives again and see bees flying around the garden on warm days. We noticed that they’re already bringing in pollen, most likely from the crocuses that are blooming and the pussywillows. We’re considering moving our hives to a different location where they’ll get more winter sun. That’s something we’ll be doing soon before they get too big this spring. We also found a great new resource with tips on overwintering bees and beekeeping in general, for those of you interested here’s the link. We’ll be ventilating our hives better this year and wrapping them in tar paper next winter.

Hopefully we’ll have a nice harvest of honey this summer from our hives. We may end up splitting one of our hives again if they’re both strong by early summer. It wasn’t much later than this last year that we got our first package of bees. If you’re interested in getting a hive now is the time to buy. Make sure you ask around to find a good reputable source.

Have you ever thought about getting bees for your gardens?

19 Comments to “Checking our Beehives after a Long Winter”
  1. deb on March 16, 2010 at 7:45 am

    Yea! So glad your bees made it through the winter. There has been such a decline in the bee population its great to hear a success story. We’ve often thought about keeping bees, but have no idea where to even begin. For now, I’ll just follow other bloggers hives :)

    We’ve been having wonderful weather in northern Michigan as well–isn’t it great? I suppose we’ll still get a bit more snow, but for now, we’ll enjoy the warmth.

    Reply to deb's comment

  2. Dave on March 16, 2010 at 9:02 am

    I’m glad they made it through! I bet you’re looking forward to the honey harvest from this season. I’m amazed by all that you two do from bees to syrup.
    .-= Dave´s last blog ..Siding on the Greenhouse Shed…Again =-.

    Reply to Dave's comment

    • Susy on March 16, 2010 at 10:03 am

      Sometimes we wonder how we have time to do it all – but I guess not having cable helps :)

      Reply to Susy's comment

  3. Kelly on March 16, 2010 at 9:17 am

    We’ve thought about it, and perhaps in a few years we will. Our “neighbour” across the road has hive boxes, but we don’t know if he still keeps hives (we all keep to ourselves in this area). There’ve been lots of bees among my crocus this year already. My youngest boy thoroughly enjoys watching them.
    .-= Kelly´s last blog ..White Day and Other Things =-.

    Reply to Kelly's comment

  4. Melissa on March 16, 2010 at 10:05 am

    I’ve often thought about getting some bees. I need to read up on the subject – thanks for the link! Seems like a no-brainer for a gardener to also keep bees. :) Melissa
    .-= Melissa´s last blog ..My Favorite Whole Grain Sandwich Bread and Cinnamon Rolls (or Sticky Buns) =-.

    Reply to Melissa's comment

  5. Michelle on March 16, 2010 at 10:42 am

    I just love reading about bee keeping. And yes! I am considering keeping some of my own in the future. The more I read about them…and the more I read about the medicinal qualities of honey…not to mention the health benefits!…I become more and more amazed by those sweet little creatures. They are truly amazing. I love the up close photo of the bee..he’s adorable!
    .-= Michelle´s last blog ..New Beginnings: A Ministry. =-.

    Reply to Michelle's comment

  6. Rachel on March 16, 2010 at 10:47 am

    we are getting our first three pound box soon! We are going to try the top bar hive, mainly for cost reasons. Looking forward to seeing them out in the yard this summer!
    .-= Rachel´s last blog ..bastardized recipe =-.

    Reply to Rachel's comment

    • Susy on March 16, 2010 at 10:50 am

      We want to build a top bar Warre hive and split one of our hives again this summer. The troubles is finding time to build it!

      Reply to Susy's comment

  7. stefaneener on March 16, 2010 at 11:13 am

    Your original queen may be aging. You might consider (I know this sounds awful) deposing her and letting the bees raise up a virgin queen. You could, if you needed, put in a frame of very young eggs from the strong hive to make sure they had resources to do so 24 hours after losing the original queen. That way, you have survivor stock, adapted to your conditions, and from a strong hive.

    I’m thinking of splitting a hive and raising up a new queen for just these reasons.
    .-= stefaneener´s last blog ..Bee-youtiful =-.

    Reply to stefaneener's comment

    • Susy on March 16, 2010 at 11:16 am

      We’re actually hoping to get a queen or two from the Ohio Queen Project, which raises queens just for our area of Ohio. They raise disease & mite resistant queens. The one guy we want to get our queen from is 100% organic, doesn’t feed, doesn’t do anything to his bees in his efforts to raise really strong bees for this area.

      Thanks for the recommendation.

      Reply to Susy's comment

  8. Barbara on March 16, 2010 at 11:52 am

    Please visit my blog to get view the award I have given you.
    Thank you
    .-= Barbara´s last blog ..AND THE WINNERS ARE- =-.

    Reply to Barbara's comment

    • Susy on March 16, 2010 at 12:13 pm

      Thanks for the award! Much appreciated.

      Reply to Susy's comment

  9. sweetlife on March 16, 2010 at 2:56 pm

    I am so glad they made it thorugh the winter..how lovely.. I have always wanted to have hives. I need to begin making plans to try-

    sweetlife

    Reply to sweetlife's comment

  10. Pampered Mom on March 16, 2010 at 3:05 pm

    Color me jealous…the city council turned down the recent chicken ordinance – they’d flip if someone wanted bees!
    .-= Pampered Mom´s last blog ..Don’t Scrumple On It! =-.

    Reply to Pampered Mom's comment

  11. Amy on March 16, 2010 at 5:14 pm

    Growing up my father tended 18 or more hives at a time my entire childhood. Consequently I tend hives but usually no more than 3 or 4. My neighbors have always been delighted with my bees. For they pollinate their orchard. My gardens are always prolific and they are wonderful for teaching my son whom I home school. One thing I have wanted to do for a long time is to have a nuke that can be in/out of a window in our home. So we can study them better.

    Reply to Amy's comment

  12. MAYBELLINE on March 16, 2010 at 10:38 pm

    Nope. My bees must fly in from the almond orchards or alfalfa beyond.
    Spotted ladybugs flying in today.
    .-= MAYBELLINE´s last blog ..Nasturtiums, Wisteria, Strawberries, Grapes =-.

    Reply to MAYBELLINE's comment

  13. Alan on March 17, 2010 at 9:37 am

    We’re not getting bees either. We have enough friends in the area who have bees that honey isn’t hard for us to get. We also have a kind who is severly allergic to bees. Kinda puts the whole project on the ‘not any time soon’ list. Glad your bees survived the winter. Many people around here lost lots.

    Reply to Alan's comment

  14. Autumn on October 5, 2011 at 9:47 pm

    I am very interested in keeping bees. What would be your advice on how to start and where is best to get my supplies?

    Reply to Autumn's comment

    • Susy on October 6, 2011 at 6:42 am

      I’d recommend looking for a local bee club to join, they’ll know local sources for hives and they’ll be able to tell you where the best source for bees in your area is. We purchase all of our supplies from local vendors here in NE Ohio so they probably won’t be the same for you.

      Reply to Susy's comment

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This is a daily journal of my efforts to cultivate a more simple life, through local eating, gardening and so many other things. We used to live in a small suburban neighborhood Ohio but just recently moved to 153 acres in Liberty, Maine.

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