I went out for coffee on Sunday with my family again, and while we were visiting my aunt mentioned that her colony no longer had any activity to it. Almost 3 weeks ago the colony appeared very active and was hauling in lots of pollen, so I was surprised to hear things had taken a turn for the worse. Keeping an out apiary is tough, and I never really get the chance to go observe the bees like i would if they were in my own backyard. I’m sorry to have lost another colony, especially when they were so close to having made it through to spring. This year I will be starting two colonies of bees with two packages though, which I hope will make all the difference for next winter.
In other bee related news, I have started making a bug hotel. Utilizing my resources, I found a local recycling place that has wood pallets they’re giving away for free.
Despite being sick, I spent several hours on saturday clearing this space out to make way for the hotel. This space was going to be a composting area, but when we realized we didn’t have the proper spacing or setup for a hot compost bin, it became more of a weed haven. Two hours of weeding and 3 wheelbarrows of wood chips later, the area was ready for the pallets. My aunt was kind enough to pick them up and deliver them to me early last week. Now that these are in place I can start filling them up with twigs and logs with holes in them. This hotel will give earwigs, centipedes, beetles, lady bugs, snails, slugs, moths, and bees a place to live and overwinter. For fun ideas on how you can make a bug hotel in you yard, see http://www.inspirationgreen.com/insect-habitats.html
I also spent this morning drilling a series of holes in an old stump we have in the yard. I tried about 5 different drill sizes in the hopes of attracting a variety of different bee species. I hung a block for blue orchard mason bees a few weeks ago, and some bees have finally found it. A single hole had been filled when I left for work today, and when I got home a second hole had been occupied. I’m excited to see that they’re moving in. I attached the block of wood to a plank so that I could drill all the way through the block and give the bees the longest hole possible, but unfortunately I didn’t do a very good job, and part of the block lifts away from the board, exposing the back of the holes/block. Blue orchard mason bees like tunnels 4-6 inches long, and longer tunnels allow for more female eggs to be laid. Male eggs are always laid to the front of the tunnel so that if any predators find the hole, the males will be eaten first, and males also hatch earlier than females, so they leave the colony first. By drilling straight through the block, I hoped to provide long tunnels and encourage female bees, since those are the ones that really make a difference in creating a second generation. I’m really happy to see the block being used so quickly after I put it up. Even though its still early in the year, I’ve placed out a tray of water and put some dirt in it, to ensure the bees have a source of mud nearby so they can make the “doors” they need in the tube. Anyway, I’m going to get another nail, or maybe even a screw, and connect the back of the block to the board so that the entire block is usable. Hopefully the stump fills up too!
Since I don’t work until tomorrow, I took some time yesterday to call around and find bees. While I was on the phone with the person I’ve been trying to reach since last week, a bumblebee came up into my room. It was 68 yesterday, so honeybees were all over my grape hyacinth, and the occasional bumblebee was buzzing through the garden. I had all the doors and windows open downstairs to air out the house, and went inside to call about bees. I didn’t really know what to do, because bumblebees never come in our house. I told the guy I was talking to about it and he suggested that she came in on my shoulder. She flew around my room a little and investigated the pot that my ficus tree was in. While I was still on the phone I opened the blinds on my bay window and opened up both windows. The queen bumblebee found the windows no sooner than I had opened the second one and was outside in seconds. I’m taking this as good news for the year!
I also called another place about getting more wood chips delivered, and should have half a load (about 6-8 cubic yards) of those by friday. I have to say, having a free source of wood chips is really nice. My garden just feels happier having them down everywhere. There are certainly a lot more worms now. I’m going to try my best to make this year about all sort of bees in my garden. I talked my mom into letting me build an insect hotel (see: http://www.inspirationgreen.com/insect-habitats.html for ideas of what they look like). Essentially its an artificial habitat with lots of twigs and bits of wood pilled up together with the intention of attracting various insects to your garden. These insects are likely already here in smaller numbers, but this hotel provides even more places for them to breed/over winter.
The bumblebee queen seemed to really enjoy our house yesterday, because once it got dark I found her trying to crawl into the house underneath the door jam. I opened the door to let the dogs in and they refused to go any further because there was a very large black bumblebee sitting right in the middle of things, haha. I picked her up using a cup and moved her out into the garden. I put her in an over turned garden pot in the hopes she would be safe there, and potentially even like it so much she would nest there (though it was highly unlikely). I went to check on her again today and she was still under there. It was colder than I had thought it would’ve been under that pot. I quickly moved her onto a nice dry rock in the sun, and after a little bit she hopped over onto some hyacinth, which I didn’t know they enjoyed.
Here she is sunning herself on the rock. It had just finished raining and this rock was drying up the fastest, so thats where I put her.
You can see her tongue poking into one of the flowers. She’s about as big as my thumb. After a few minutes of hopping from flower cluster to flower cluster, she flew off in search of a better food source.
We get bumble bees in the garden every year, always looking for a place to nest in the rockery. I know that building hives for them to live in have extremely low success rates, but I still wouldn’t mind having one or two for them.
My family got together for coffee this morning and I ended up going over to my aunts house to check on her bees. She was certain the activity in/around her hive was just robber bees, so she wanted me to double check. After getting there all I needed to do was knock on the side of the hive to send a few guard bees shooting out to investigate. Remember that her hive is a Warre, and last year I left three boxes on instead of the recommended two. I take this to mean that the hive population is large if they’re able to crawl through one and a half to two boxes of empty comb to investigate a disturbance so quickly. Needless to say, my aunt and I were very excited to have bees survive the winter. She was concerned that her bees hadn’t made it, and so asked me to buy another colony for her. So once I reach someone who sells packages I’ll get one for her as well as one for me.
I’ll have to go over there again soon so I can check the hive’s stores. My aunt texted me after I had left to say that there were lots of bees coming in with pollen, which is excellent news. By the sound of things she wants these bees to kind of officially be hers. Which is fine with me; going to her house to keep bees is not convenient since I’m not working there any more. It’s a half hour from my house, but the hive location is nice because there are lots of open fields with flowers in them. She should get plenty of honey this year!
It was a relatively warm day yesterday, and no bees of any kind were to be seen in my garden. Feeling brave, I decided to peek into the hive without a suit on. I found that despited the fondant I had given them, my bees had died.
This was all that was left of them. A little over a dozen bees and the queen.
I’m not sure why they decided to cluster here, given that just a few cells to the right there were eggs present.
Lots of eggs. I almost think the queen was so desperate to lay eggs she was putting more in the cells than she should’ve. They couldn’t have supported more than this space (obviously) because of their numbers, so there was no where else to put them. Some of the cells have 5+ eggs in them. The bees had pulled in pollen from outside and from around the hive to make that nice little pocket of pollen for those eggs.
There was lots of pollen here. And probably a frame and a half worth of honey in the colony, plus the fondant.
I took the queen out to bring her inside and show everyone in my house, most of whom have never seen a queen before, and as I was walking toward the house she seemed to perk up and start moving. It was really bizarre. The warmth from my hands was enough to revive her a bit, so I put her back on the hive to let her walk around. She couldn’t move one of her legs properly and her tongue refused to retract. She never really got up to full speed, but with the sun warming her up she made her way through the telescoping cover and back down into the cluster of other lifeless bees. It was kind of sad. I feel like I should’ve given them a burial or something.
Its a little late in the season to order bees now, as most places are sold out. The first day of Spring is today after all. I would like to get some, but they’re extremely expensive. Last year they were $90 for 3 pounds of bees, and this year they’ve gone up to $110. Things are definitely getting worse if there’s been a $20 price hike over the course of one year. And Nuc’s are even more expensive, at $150 a piece. They guy I bought my first colony of bees from said that he’s already lost 50% of his colonies, and expects to be lucky if he makes it through with 1/3 of what he started the winter with.
I don’t know what else to be doing. I bring more flowers into my garden every year, and I spoke with hundreds of people last year at my internship about bees. I just don’t understand why people don’t see that there’s an issue worth solving here. Especially one that’s easily remedied. I just want to move to the middle of no where where I can keep several dozen hives and not be penalized for it, and where pesticides are less of an issue.
Yesterday and today have been relatively warm, with temperatures up in the 50s and lots of sun. The bees have been out in very small numbers, visiting the crocus that are up in the garden.
It was nice enough today that I took the liberty of making more fondant and going out to feed it to the bees. I was dismayed to find that they have dwindled down to just a couple dozen in number. They were huddling between two frames near the middle of the hive, and all the fondant from last time was gone. The queen is still alive, and eggs are present. I don’t know why they did so poorly, as there were two full frames of honey on the edges of the box. I moved both of them right next to the minuscule cluster of bees after I ‘wrapped’ the fondant around the two frames they occupied. I don’t know how they could possibly survive, but I’m hopeful. There are plenty of pollen and honey stores present to get them going, but I think their numbers are just few to stay warm if there’s another deep cold snap.
I took the Warre hive box off of the telescoping cover, since there’s no need to have the sugar water feeder on while the fondant is present, and it was empty. I don’t know why I didn’t take it off sooner. I replaced the Warre box with the metal lid that goes with the langstroth system.
In other news, I’ve been certified as an official apprentice beekeeper after finally taking the state test. I went to collect my certificate and the little badge/patch that comes with it a couple days ago, but the president of my local association had forgotten it at her house. I bought the journeymen level booklet and went home to watch a new episode of Supernatural. I didn’t bother looking at the test booklet once I got home since I had had a long day, but when I opened it the next day I was extremely confused by what I found. The Apprentice booklet had had nice neat sections full of text on whatever the topic was. This booklet is thicker and seems to be full of various regulations/laws surrounding beekeeping, and a couple pages of “suggested reading material”. This certification process is supposed to take a full year to complete, and tests for each section in the book are given individually. I’m kind of annoyed the president didn’t bother to explain any of this to me, especially since I’ll now need to go and find/buy a bunch of books to actually learn anything. Essentially I paid $20 for a reading list. Part of the certification for this level also requires “service hours” in which the beekeeper spends time educating the public about bees, educating other beekeepers about bees, tabling at a county fair or similar event for the local beekeeping association, or writing essays/being published in a beekeeping journal. There are about 10 different types of activities you can do, and every activity has a point value. And of course there are guidelines to how many points you can earn in each category, and how many hours of an activity count for a point and how many hours of activity can be counted for a single event. It’s honestly an extremely confusing mess of rules that make no sense and don’t seem to do much to make learning about beekeeping any easier. Needless to say, I’m not very excited about completing this certification process.
After weeks and weeks of doing nothing, I made some fondant for the bees yesterday. I think it was about 2 pounds, and it took a little over an hour to make because I had no idea what I was doing. Today I went down to the garage and looked through the empty hive boxes I have, to see if there were any frames with decent honey stores on them. I found two, and brought them upstairs to warm in front of the fire. While the frames warmed up I went outside and moved our compost and recycling bins over to make a windbreaker in front of the hive. After about ten minutes, when the honey was starting to run out of some of the cracks in the wax, I suited up and took the fondant and 2 frames outside. I took the Warre hive box off of the top of the hive, and removed the empty plastic container I had been using to feed the bees sugar water late last November (ish?). I was glad to find the bees were unhappy to see me, and a few flew out of the telescoping cover’s hole to investigate. I quickly removed the telescoping cover and then covered the bees with the burlap from the Warre box.
There were 3 or 4 frames of bees present, and they were more to the left of the hive (the north side), which is more protected from the wind. I removed two empty frames from the right side as quickly as I could, and then placed the frames with some honey stores on the right next to the brood nest. I removed the burlap cloth from over the bees, and replaced it with the fondant. I anticipate having to feed them again soon. I’m really glad they’ve made it this long though. There were a lot of dead bees on the mesh wire at the bottom of the hive, and the ground around the entrance was littered with them. There were several bees that landed on me while I was working and I tried to place as many as I could back into the entrance. The high today was 48, and it was windy out, so the bees weren’t too happy to be outside. Judging by the cluster’s size though, I definitely needed to feed them. I’m not sure how long it will take them to get through the fondant. It was maybe a centimeter thick, and was about the size of a dinner plate. The cluster was a little oddly shaped, so the fondant rested on a couple of empty frames. I had it rest on the frames I had just added to try and entice the girls to move over there.
I really hope they make it! The cluster seemed so small. This fondant may be too little too late. We’ll see!
Sorry I didn’t write a post about the movie night yet. I needed a break from everything for a bit. Maybe I’ll write a post about it tomorrow, depending on how I’m feeling. I’m getting my wisdom teeth pulled in a couple of hours. I’m a little nervous. I don’t like surgery or medicine or anything like it. I’m really tired. I stayed up until 1:30 (doctors orders), so I would sleep in really late and not have to worry about being hungry for very long. You can’t eat anything 8 hours before the surgery, which means I had to miss breakfast and lunch today. I wouldn’t mind so much if I wasn’t so cold. I get really cold when I don’t eat. I have gone entire days without eating when I’m depressed, but I’m not all that sad today so I’d like to eat, haha. Really I would like to just go to sleep. The good news is that in two hours I’ll be completely zonked out and will get to sleep all day!
I’m not really sure what I should watch while I’m recovering. I was thinking Downton Abbey would be good. I don’t think there’s too much I could say that would get me into trouble while I watched it. If I say anything. I’m hoping I manage to keep myself relatively under control and don’t talk very much/ at all. I feel like I might end up just crying the entire time. I seem to always be on the verge of tears, even when I feel fine, so I don’t know if being delirious will make me cry uncontrollably. My mom took today off to take care of me, so I’m really hoping that’s not the case!
Anyway, I’m logging off now.