Part of the whole “Save the Bees” thing is making sure they have food and water. But it’s nature! They can feed themselves, right? Wrong. At least not all the time. If it’s a particularly nice day- temperature is above 50, there’s a calmness in the air, and no signs of an upcoming storm; then the bees are ready to work. They will fly out in search of pollen and nectar, and bring it back to feed the brood. Unfortunately, there is less pollen in early spring, and there isn’t enough food to go around for all of the ladies. This is where bee food comes in. At this time of year, we feed the bees sugar syrup- 1 part sugar, 1 part water. They can suck up a gallon of this stuff in a little over a week.
I don’t expect other people to be ready with sugar water for your local bees, but having accessible fresh water is a great thing. Bees become easily dehydrated and may seek out water in less than pleasant places- like your pool, if you have one.
Bird baths are great for both birds and the bees. Put a couple rocks in there for them to land on and watch them drink. Then, pat yourself on the back for helping save the bees.
Our new Carniolan queen has been accepted! We named her Queen Ruth.We made this 2 minute visit only to remove the queen cage. Every time we go into the hive and mess around with the frames, we set the worker bees back a few days.
Within this time we were able to see that Queen Ruth is busy building her brood. Her ladies are hard at work and have already filled up some honey frames in the second deep super.
Interesting fact: Queen bees can lay up to 1500 eggs per day.
Have you wondered how new beekeepers get bees in the first place? Many people have asked if we just set out some boxes and hope to lure them in. If only it were that cheap and easy!
In previous years we installed nuclear colonies, or nucs, which we can talk about some other time. This was our first time getting package bees. Occasionally you might find a company that will literally mail these to you for pick-up at a local post office. Most likely, the postal workers won’t appreciate it. We ordered these through a local business and picked them up in Canandaigua last Saturday afternoon.
The package bees came in a well-ventilated plastic box. Within this box was a can of sugary syrup, 1 caged queen, and 3 pounds of Carniolan bees.First, we followed the advice of several YouTube videos and sprayed the box down with sugar water. This helped the bees concentrate more on eating and cleaning each other off rather than attacking a potential enemy.
Next, we removed the can of sugar water and searched for the queen cage. This is what it looked like when we found it. The worker bees either really like her already, or they just want to eat the sugar candy.
We picked out a mostly empty frame from last year and strapped on the queen cage with a rubber band. There is “candy” inside that hole you see at the top of the cage which keeps the queen inside. The worker bees will eat the candy, and will eat their way through it until they come face-to-face with the queen. The idea here is that they are given time to get to know her highness, and will hopefully respect her enough to accept her as their queen.
Next came the fun part. We turned the box over and shook them out of the package until the majority of them were in the deep super. It took a lot of shaking- you’d almost believe they wanted to live in that plastic box forever.
We plan to quickly open up the hive this weekend so that we can remove the rubber band and queen cage.
Here is a link to a very brief video of the seemingly violent shaking that had to be done to get the bees out of the package.
Shaking in the bees
Interesting fact: Carniolan bees are more prone to swarming, so this should be fun.
We did the spring inspection before picking up our new girls today. I knew they were active, but I was pleasantly surprised at how well they were doing. Those are some worker cells in the top left of this first photo. Can you find the queen?
There she is! She is seriously beautiful. Look how all of her workers are doting on her.
We had to pick up our package bees this afternoon, which meant we needed to clean out one of our dead hives. I chose this one. This is what it looks like when a colony starves over the winter.
Starvation causes them to drop directly to the bottom board. What was extra gross about this one, is the hive was tipped back a little due to the ground settling, and water gathered in the back of the bottom board. The scent of dead, moldy bees was absolutely foul. They sure had enough honey- in fact we are extracting honey from a few of the full frames they left behind. This was a weak colony, and I was not expecting them to survive.
Interesting fact: I did not get stung today, but I should have with all the time I spent harassing them.
The weather is beautiful, and I had all intentions of doing a spring inspection of our sole surviving hive today, but I pushed it off until it was too late in the day. They are still flying in and out and gathering pollen at 6:30pm, but it is best not to disturb them after 5. This is advice I was given through books, various speakers, and tested with my own stubborn experience. They just want to be left alone after a hard day’s work.
Aren’t they cute?