Ok, just kidding! Must have just been a dream. :-) The weather's felt this cold the last week, and it did spit some snow yesterday, but, no, it was not like this .......
We had a lot of rain and cool weather. Very windy. The bees seem to be hanging in there, though, probably doing a bit better with some food in their bellies and no extreme cold. I am at work during the day (when the sun has briefly popped out), so I can't tell if they've been out at all. At night when I check them through the window, it seems like the cluster hanging from the top is spreading out a bit. They are just covering about 5-6 bars now, which seems like more than before. That could mean they are building comb out, but I won't know until I see them during a warmer day. Unfortunately, I will be heading out of town early (3:30 AM!!) Saturday for a conference next week, and will not return until late Wednesday. I will have to wait to find out, I guess :-(. Need to put a WEB cam in there :-)
Last weekend when they were flying, I spent a lot of time watching what they were up to. Most were hovering around the entrance in a cloud extending about 5 feet out from the hive. Occasionally, one would peel off, flying in circles out about 20 to 50 feet from the hive, then it would return to the cloud. I did not see any bees foraging. I believe what is happening is the bees are orienting themselves, training essentially, to where they are and what is around them visually. We often think of bees scurrying about, running off to flowers (up to 3 or miles away), and then coming back home with their pollen and nectar booty. When they do that, however, they use visual clues or markers, to find their way. Until they have that down pat, they stick close to home. Eventually, they make wider and wider circles, moving further and further from the hive. In their travels, they may come across some flowers and check them out. If they are good, then they will head back to the hive with a sample and spread the word. Right now, my babies are still taking their, well.... baby flights, getting used to the environment. We'll need more warm weather for them to get the ol' bee Google maps up and running! Until next week, thanks for dropping by and think warm thoughts :-)
Today was another nice sunny one. The bees were out and about again. Early this morning, I got out before the bees were up, and cracked the lid. The baggie feeder I had put on top of the bars earlier was completely dry. They were obviously pretty hungry. I took that out and closed up the top of the hive to force them to use the feeder inside the hive. That feeder is an inverted jar with sugar syrup. It has holes in the lid and works like a humming bird feeder, dripping when they eat. I checked earlier this evening and the pint Mason jar was about gone.
After Easter dinner with Kara and Trevor, it had cooled down and the bees were quiet. We got Kara suited up, just in case, and we went to put in a new jar.
The feeder sits on one end of the hive in a rack. Kara had a few "hangers on" after we pulled out the old one. I put a full quart in this time, as we are expecting cooler weather and rain. In all the flying yesterday and today, I haven't seen the bees bring much in to the hive, so having food available will be a requirement for a while. I also left the heat tape and wrap off tonight. It is going to get cool, but not the "winter" type cold we've been having. I'll add back the thermal protection if it looks like it is going to get colder. Until then, I need to learn to trust in their abilities more :-) They've certainly proved themselves this last week.
Another cold night. 27. I checked the hive window this morning before coming to town to pick up some bark for the yard. Things looked pretty dismal. Many bees had fallen off the cluster and few moved when I bumped the hive. I headed to town with Wendy, wondering what else to do.
I have wrapped a plumbing heat tape around the hive in the area where the bees are gathered, and covered that with a thermal blanket at night. I took off the blanket this morning since it was supposed to warm up and be sunny today. I figured some sun on the hive couldn't hurt. I was finishing up my errands in town when I got a text from Beth ...
What's this!? Maybe some hope after all!
I hurried home. The hive was really buzzing. You could hear it from the back door. They were very active.
They were at it all day, everywhere I went in the yard, I could hear them buzzing over head.
So, there was some resilience in those girls! We'll check in tonight when things cool down. At least they had a chance to eat today, and they'll need it as rain is coming next week .....
I'm in my office when someone passes by and sticks their head in the door. "What do you think about this?", they ask. "About what?", I reply. I've been lost in the virtual world of probability distributions and bootstrap estimations on the screen in front of me. They nod toward the window beside me. I turn to see a full white out snow storm over the parking lot outside. Uhhg! Spring in Idaho.
We had a covering of snow this morning. The snow isn't so bad, but the cold is. We've been hitting 25-28 degrees every night and the forecast, while sunny at times, is for continued cold, at least at night. Winter has been very reluctant to give up its grasp this year.
It's always a gamble in Idaho, but knowing that doesn't make it any easier. The bees are still clustered up where they were last time I looked. A few have succumbed to the cold on the outside of the cluster. They have not been active that I can tell. Of course, they would need to endure our winters eventually, but right now they don't have the advantages of stored food and more numbers. They haven't even had a chance to draw out comb yet. So, it's a waiting game. Not much we can do, except see if they make it.
I have had a bout of second guessing as to where the hives are as well. I'm a bit concerned about being too close to the garden, etc for people and dogs. Wendy got "popped" on the cheek the other day and was very upset by it. I'm not sure who initiated it (probably her), but it did point out the potential. I've debated trying to move them to the orchard where they would be more secluded, but that will require fencing the area off to avoid wildlife (raccoons and skunks mainly). It is feasible, but would be a disturbing move for them. I was all gungho to get on with it last night and Beth had heard every argument, for and against, at least a dozen times. It's a wonder she's able to still tolerate all that after nearly 30 years :-) I also kept thinking of my Dad, who's been in my mind many times during this project. Two things I used to hear from him: "Sleep on it" and "Difficult problems have no easy answers and the solution is probably in the middle".
I checked things out this morning (in the cold!). The hive entrances are pointed towards the garden, which puts the "flyway" to the hive right in the path of people. I now think we will turn the hives 90 degrees so the entrance faces East, towards the back of the property. That way the main part of the yard and garden will be less "in the line of sight" to the front of the hive (and guard bees at the entrance). They will still get the morning sun to warm them, and it may help mitigate the hot summer sun we get in the summer. This small move should disturb them little during this delicate stage. At the same time, I will think about clearing an area in the orchard to have ready in case I need it or decide to expand the number of hives. We'll see how things go. I can initiate a move to there later, but will wait to see how much of a problem we have first.
Somewhere in the middle ......... I hear you Dad :-)
Suited up and ready to go. Well ... I did forget to put my hood up until the last minute when Beth reminded me :-) That would have been a bad start!
I put the package in the shade while we got ready. This morning when I got up, they were very quiet. By the time we were moving them, they were very active and loudly buzzing.
We had a few supplies set up. A spray bottle with syrup to keep the girls busy. Tools to get the can out of the package, and a baggie full of syrup to feed them once in the hive.
The idea was to pull out the can and quickly cover the opening until I could get the queen out.
She is in her own miniature cage in the package. I was able to extract her, but she was covered in bees. We tried to carefully brush them off. There was a cork in the end of her cage that I needed to remove and replace with a small marshmallow. The idea is to not release the queen too quickly, but eventually, in a day or two, they should be able to eat through the marshmallow and let her out. I pinned the queen cage to a bar in the hive so it is hanging from the top.
Next come the bees!
After knocking the package on the ground to collect the bees at the package bottom, I dumped them into the hive. They were .... well, not real happy with the operation :-) Lots of flying bees at that point. Fortunately, these jackets work really well and neither of got stung, although it wasn't from lack of trying!
After all that, we put the bars back into place. I put the baggie full of syrup on top and cut a few slits in it so they can access it. This is only temporary. we'll take it out later.
After that, we closed up shop and moved away to brush the bees off of us. We've kept a far eye on them most of the day. They were flying a lot at first, but then they quieted down as it got cooler.
All closed up!
We peeked in the window just before dark. Everyone was clustered up around where I put the queen.
Now we need to let them sit for a while and see what they do. So far they are doing well.
This morning it was drizzly and gray outside. Beth stayed in bed getting over a cold while I dragged myself out and up to get ready. Some hot tea and I was mostly ready.
In the car, U2 was trying to convince me it was a "beautiful day" over the static filled radio . It sure didn't look like it, but at least the spirit of Jess thought so :-)
The drive to Spokane is a couple of hours. No problems on the way and the weather was breaking a bit further north. When I arrived at Tate's Honey Farm, the street was full of parked cars and trucks. Evidently, I wasn't the only intrepid one out there. Outside the building people were gathering. I was told the bees had not arrived yet, but would be there soon. I checked out the store, bought some gloves and paid for the bees and then went out to wait with the crowd.
Several new beekeepers like me were there, along with the old veterans. Soon the truck and trailer drove up and we all watched with anticipation as the packages were unpacked. The bees are packed pretty tight in the screened packages, but a few must get out somewhere, and they were buzzing all around. After a short while, we lined up as the owners at Tates yelled out orders. Young and old, we all quickly jumped up to get ours when called, happily carrying off the humming boxes. I picked up just one, but many people went off with several.
Back at the car, I got them settled in. The package was gently humming and buzzing. Driving back seemed to take forever. In Oaksdale, I stopped for a bit and the package in back was buzzing really loudly. I realized I had turned the heat up a bit and the bees were getting very active back there. I turned it down and opened the window some to cool them off. A few minutes later when we all got to Garfield, they were quiet again.The can on the top is food for their time in this box. It will get pulled out when we install and the bees will be dumped out into the hive. The queen is next to that toward the top of the box in her own cage. That's why they are all clustered up there.
By the time I got back, the weather here had lifted, but it was quite windy. I decided to give the girls a break and set them up in the back bedroom for now. They had been riding in trailer or car for many hours (they came from Northern CA), so some still and quiet couldn't hurt.
I've sprayed some sugar syrup on the screen to keep them eating and busy. Tomorrow we'll take the big step and introduce them to the hive. Until then, they are resting, quietly humming to themselves.........
Well, time is approaching quickly now. I have been busy preparing for the bees all winter, and now they arrive tomorrow. Everything is set, but the weather is not cooperating. We are in the rain now and expect cold, rain with possible snow tomorrow. That's not good as the bees need warm, but supposedly it will warm up and get sunny by Sunday, so I will probably wait to install the bees until then. They can wait in their package a short while. It is necessary for them to cluster together at the top of the hive (under the roof) in order to stay warm. If I dump them into the hive when it is cold, they won't be able to move enough to get back together. So, we'll wait a bit. Bees are only available one day a year and tomorrow's it, so we'll have to make do!
We've put in a "bee yard" next to the new and improved garden. I'm sure Ma & Pa Daniels will be wishing the later was there last year :-)
I was taken by the gardens around Cinque Terra and Italy in general last year. The "use what ever is around" philosophy seemed appealing, so I have been out on the property cutting wood for the fences and stringing them up around the garden. Mostly to discourage the dog, but some rustic appeal too.
The hives need to be level and we get a lot of frost heave here, so I dug some holes and packed them with gravel to make the hives stable. A bit of work, but hopefully they will settle in so I don't have to mess with that when they are full of critters.
Here I have the roof off the hive to check the level which I will be doing occasionally. This is important as the bees will draw out their comb from the top of the hive and having things level keeps things easier to manage. The hive system I chose is referred to as a Horizontal Top Bar (HTB). The box is about 4' long and V shaped. There are "bars" across the top. The V shape accommodates the natural shape of the comb as the bees build it (draw it out).
There are two end boards or "followers" in with the bars that restrict the available space in the hive (I've pulled one out here). This is necessary early on as the bees will need to keep the hive warm and too much space for them to heat will be stressful. I'll start with about 10 bars between the followers. The bars are wedge shaped with a ridge along the bottom which encourages the bees to build comb on each bar. This way, each bar can be removed and inspected one at a time. There are no frames as in a traditional box type hive, so the bees need to do things all by themselves. This will require food, which there is little of right now, so we will give them some sugar water to start. They also need pollen. I may get a pollen cake to feed them also, but there are a few trees in bloom and the crocus and daffodils are starting up. If we get some sun and warm days, they should be able to get out to collect. I'll eventually remove the sugar water food, though, as it is not the best thing for them.
In the front of the hive, between the followers, are three holes for an entrance into the hive. I have two corks in right now. Bees will want to guard their entrances and, with a small hive just starting out, I don't want them to have to much opening to mind. Later on when the hive begins to grow, I'll open up all three entrances.
It is important to make things as acceptable as possible, or the bees will simply pack up and leave. So, not too much space to heat and a restricted access for now!
On the back side, there is a window. There is a glass pane in there and usually there is a cover that goes over this. The window is not just for fun. It allows me to check out what's happening inside the hive without opening it up. Opening the hive too often is bad as it cools the bees down and will stress them too much. Well, it will be fun to check them out too :-) .
And then .... there's the "suit". Well jacket really. It has double thickness fabric to ward off stings. Beth has one too, so we'll be stylin' in the country :-) We will be using gloves too, at least for a while. The bee veterans go without, but I need some experience to work up to that.
Looks like someone will have to share her yard. I'm hoping they'll get along. bees have evolved to be wary of dark furry animals. They will put them into an alert mode if there is too much contact. Obviously, Wendy kind of meets those dark furry animal qualities, but I'm hoping she will be far enough away not to bug them. We'll see. Any bees in our yard will have to deal with it :-)
We're supposed to pick up bees on the 16th. Busy now trying to get ready. The hives are completed, but I still need to finish fencing off the area to keep curious canines out :-) More later.