I used the inverted bucket type feeders last year and, so far as I remember, they worked fine. I reasoned that they would be ok this year.  I made sure they were clean, mold free, etc. and filled them with syrup. When I inverted them on the deck they seemed fine so I carried them out to the hives. Placed them, as planned, on the inner cover where they were slightly elevated by a couple of strips of wood. I peered under them from the side to ensure the ‘drip’ was non-existent. I didn’t want to flood the hives. (You know what is coming, don’t you!) In a couple of days later I went back and they seemed ok. (Hang on, you could still be right.) After a few more days I went back and discovered a mess on the ‘bee=bench’ where the bucket on one hive seemed to have drained itself dry. (See, you were right after all).  I was disgusted. What did I do to my poor bees, I wondered? I took the buckets (both were empty) in the house and, woe is me, I tried again. I hate to admit it but I really did try it again.  I can’t understand why they worked fine last year and not now!  Was it because the air is cooler this year? I think not? I can’t imagine the difference but I won’t EVER use them again.

Meanwhile I ordered and received, today, three BeeMax top hive feeders. They make sense and they aren’t terribly expensive. Probably a LOT cheaper and less painful than coming to terms with the probability that I have wrecked two colonies!  Here’s a video of a feeder that another keeper posted on YouTube.  You can probably tell this keeper is in a MUCH warmer location than I am. Enjoy.  

The winter has been pretty interesting. I waited until the snow was down to a couple of feet and a warm day (high 50s for the second day).

East Hive Winter 2011

With snow in the forecast and not confident that my hives were built up enough from last summer I paid them a call and provided the first of my spring feedings. Surely hope this was not a mistake. I was surprised that they look as well as they do.  The number of dead bees out side of the hive did not seem horrific (not that I know what horrific is at this time of year) and there were bees flying about when I got there.  Both hives were active but the east hive was the busiest.

It may be a couple of weeks now before we have another day like this.  Keeping my fingers crossed.  Oh, I used my snow shoes to get out there.  The snow is still too deep to wade out without getting soaked. I suppose I could but on some snow pants, as if I had any. The fact is, I get precious little use from the snow shoes as is. Who knows, maybe I will be wearing them all the way to April this year?!

A friend asked, in a recent comment, for some tips on getting started.

The first thing to do is find out about local beekeepers. In the case of my friend in Savannah, the Coastal Empire Beekeepers Association looks like a good bet. I didn’t see a web site for them but there is a public email address listed at UGA

Many associations offer ‘bee school’. This is what we did through the Seacoast Beekeepers Association in New Hampshire. These programs can be excellent because they reflect local realities, season specific tips, and often provide a well structured approach for introducing the novitiate to the art and craft of beekeeping.

Beekeeping is not a cheap hobby but it need not be horribly expensive either.  In general a beginner needs a good understanding of the vernacular that describes equipment, methods, and the bees themselves. Books abound and are helpful but may not be sufficient. Web sites are helpful too but, as one commentator said, getting advice from the internet is like asking a stranger to guard your wallet (or your purse).

Shot taken when we started our colonies.
This shot if from April when we started our colonies.

In our case we purchased supers, frames, wax foundation, a smoker, a bee hat, and feeders.  Our plan was (and is) to start with two colonies placed in two hives.  (See there, I am passing on some jargon already. A hive usually refers to the habitation while a colony refers to the organic ‘collective’ consisting of a queen, a gazillion workers, and a small number of drones.)  To get things going we purchased two packages.  (Jargon alert!) A package consists of a queen and a nice cantaloupe sized ball of workers shipped in a box that looks a LOT like my Dad’s old cricket cage.

From that point we followed the process suggested by our mentors at bee school and, with a lot of luck, our colonies should be ready to survive their first winter. Yep, that’s a fact. It takes all of their best effort to ensure that there is (1) enough comb (2) enough brood -future bees (3) enough food to make it from late October to late March.  For my friend in Savannah this is not nearly as much of an issue but I am sure he will discover that even the lush gardens of his home and the traditionally mild winters are the bright side and some other threat looms periously over the future of his colonies if he decides to take up this practice.

One final (for now) note. Beekeeping has changed in HUGE ways in the few years since I first considered getting into it. Twenty years ago, a box and some frames would have been sufficient. Not anymore. If you decide to keep bees, do it right. There’s a lot you can do wrong and it won’t just harm your bees, it may well do harm to many others as well.

Tomorrow we are putting “more” syrup in the supers.  Well, we are putting it in the feeders in the supers. I will take pictures, really. I promise.

The last two days were fairly hot and muggy. Not as bad as a week ago but still it is more like July than June. The garden is thirsty! I am glad there is a brook near the hives for their water supply.

G’nite.

I am so far behind in this blog that I am embarrassed. I saw my friend Colin’s comment the day he posted and only now am I close to providing an answer… In my NEXT post. First an update. I am blown away with now rapidly the bees in each hive have built out the wax comb. My partner (oldest daughter) and I have doubled the size of each to consist of twenty deep frames. It is already time to add two more supers and another twenty frames. I must confess that I am still learning the hard way.

At the seacoast meeting I learned that the start of heavy nectar flow is the signal for bees to build out comb. Of course I realize that the comb is full of brood, pollen, and sugar syrup (not real honey) but still it is impressive.

The weather is far from typical. In the garden the lilacs are long gone, the peonies are full, the fox glove is huge and full. At the same time my blueberries are swollen about three weeks ahead of normal!

Rain is 1/2 of normal. Temps are ten or more degrees above normal. The atmosphere is filled with smoke haze from wild fire in Canada.

One more note; I composed this on my iPad. Pretty sweet. Pictures will be added later but for now, enjoy.

The meeting in Lee, NH was focused on swarms. It seems that there have been more spring swarms than usual this year.

Update

Had a week away but my partner kept up the vigil. Things are looking great. Eggs are in the hives. The apples are blossoming and despite some chill in the mid week all looks well. I will try to post more detail in tomorrows entry. For now the weather is humid after a morning trace amount of rain. The sky is overcast with a chance of thunder storms. Bees are entering and leaving the hives at a normal rate. Still need to secure the covers and to put a fence around the bee yard.

Not a lot to say today. Been very busy with various chores. Am happy to know that the ‘professional’ feeders will arrive tomorrow. My DIY feeders have too many holes and while they haven’t flooded the hive one is certainly too liberal in the quantity it dispenses.

This morning we removed the corks from our queen cages. It is a clear mild morning. Not much dew and a very light breeze. The hives should similar levels of activity. The workers were clusered and the entrances to each hive was quiet.

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