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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?

Snug as Bugs

January 29th, 2010

We’ve been keeping an ear to our ladies this winter. Mr Chiots heads out after each snow fall and makes sure the doors are clear of snow and he scrapes away and dead bees from the entrance. He puts his ear up the hives and listens for that buzzing of bees beating their wings to keep warm. Both of our hives are still buzzing away, one’s louder than the other.

During winter, the worker bees cluster around the queen and brood in the hive. They try to keep the temperature at about 90 degrees. The bees from the outer parts of the cluster will move to the inside as the bees from the inside move out. This way all the bees stay warm throughout the cold winter. On warmer days they’ll take cleansing flights, basically to go to the bathroom. We haven’t had any days warm enough for such flights yet, but we may have one in the next few weeks. We’ll be watching the hives to see what happens come spring.

We’re hoping to have a good honey harvest this coming summer if both of our hives survive. Learning how bees work really makes me appreciate the honey I put in my tea, it’s amazing what they go through to make it!

What kind of foods do you appreciate that take such intricacy to produce?

Stretching their Wings

October 4th, 2009

It’s been raining a lot here lately and our poor bees get a little restless when they can’t leave the hive. When we have a warm sunny day we see them all over the gardens. It’s kind of funny because we usually don’t see our bees in the garden, I see a lot of solitary bees, and on occasion a honey bee. But now that it’s getting colder I’ve seen a lot of our bees in the gardens.
Bees_entering_hive
I especially see them around water sources getting drinks. They love Lucy’s bowl in the front lawn. I put some leaves in it so they don’t drown.
Bees_drinking_out_of_Bowl
If you don’t have water sources for beneficial insects, consider added a small basin filled with sand or straw to you garden. Make sure you replace the water frequently so as not to breed mosquitos. You’ll be rewarded with lots of beneficials flitting around your gardens.

Have you noticed more bees as fall is coming or fewer?

Hello World

August 28th, 2009

Here’s a new bee emerging from it’s cell, not something you see every day.
Bee_emerging_from_cell
One of the great thing about gardening and beekeeping is that we get to see things many people don’t.

Have you seen anything amazing recently in your garden?

Checking on the Our Hive Split

July 16th, 2009

Yesterday we went out and checked our two hives. We wanted to make sure the old hive was still doing well and thriving, and they are (time to put on a new box for them).
Checking_on_the_Beehive
We also wanted to make sure the new queen had been accepted and was going to work laying eggs and building the new hive, and she was. We were able to spot eggs, larvae and new capped brood in the new hive. That means our queen is hard at work and she’s no longer living in a tiny box, she’s got a whole hive to rule over.
Empty_Queen_Cage
Because we split our hive we won’t be able to harvest any honey this year. It’s the honey harvesting season right now, so we’ll be searching out a local beekeeper to buy some all-natural local honey from!

Do you buy local honey?

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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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