Bees In Our Bonnets

The (mis)adventures of raising honey bees in Minnesota

On the rebound

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Per the last post, I lost all four of our hives this winter.

I didn’t winterize as thorough as I ought to have, and the excluder bars were not set properly. Horsemen #1 was helping me today, and he saw a couple of voles scurry out of War when we began work, and there was evidence of boring on some of the frames.

My bad.

My favorite bee supply source, Nature’s Nectar, managed to scrounge together a couple of packages of Carniolans for us out of his first package shipment, so we put those in Famine and War (our original two hives).

We found that while both top deeps were heavy with honey, the bottom two deeps in each hive were pretty much cleaned of honey and pollen.

So, we now have two productive hives with Carniolans. With any luck, Jim over at Nature’s Nectar will have some spares from his second package delivery next week.

Written by beesinourbonnet

23 April 2013 at 17:50

Posted in new bees, The Four Horsemen Apiary

Tagged with ,

Not an auspicious start to the year

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I went down to my local bee supply guy and picked up pollen patties, and bought sugar to make feeder pails.

Our winter wasn’t harsh, but it’s still going on! We had 4 inches of snow on April 18th. I figured we’d have to feed our bees for at least two weeks and possibly as much as four before we get nectar flow.

The Horsemen went up the hill for me to look into the hives while I was out running errands, and it turns out we’ve lost all four hives.

All dead as doornails.

At least one of them died early on, because Horseman #4 couldn’t lift Pestilence’s top deep box by himself.

sigh Guess I’m going to have to spend $300 on four new bee packages — if I can find four of them this late in the season.

It was a crap winter, and now it looks like spring isn’t going to be much better.

Written by beesinourbonnet

20 April 2013 at 17:23

Our fall honey harvest!

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We’ve been busy as our bees this summer and fall with the Minnesota state campaign urging voters to reject the proposed amendment to permanently ban marriage equality, so the blog has been neglected lately.

Have no fear, though! We pulled our honey frames a couple of weeks ago, and we got almost exactly 10 gallons of honey from three of our four hives! As usual, hive Famine created almost exactly nothing in two honey super boxes; that one is going to have to be requeened in the spring.

Here is what part of the harvest from the Four Horsemen Apiary looks like for 2012:

Our honey is yellower than usual, most likely from the abundant goldenrod bloom we had earlier this year. The flavor is moderately floral — more so than last year, but not nearly as fragrant and flavorful as 2010’s harvest. (Beekeepers say that 2010 was the best honey harvest in 30 years.)

Plans for next year include requeening Famine, putting down landscape fabric and mulching the beeyard, and getting some nifty signs made for the hives (so that when I refer to Pestilence, everyone else will know which one I’m referring to).

(Thanks so much to Russ for the label design!)

Written by beesinourbonnet

6 October 2012 at 07:59

I wonder what the mead would be like…

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I wondered how honey from killer bees tasted. Now I have a clue…

Thanks to Real Life Comics for the smile today.

Written by beesinourbonnet

21 March 2012 at 15:18

Posted in Uncategorized

It’s a new year for the Four Horsemen Apiary!

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The Great Frozen North has not been so great or so frozen this years as it was in past years; it was a very mild winter. We’re barely into March and we’re already in the 50s and 60s regularly…

…and with that comes the new year for our bees.

Jim Kloeck over at Nature’s Nectar was getting the word out that an early spring is going to mean hungry bees. We’re not going to see any blooming nectar or pollen sources for awhile, so we’ll have to tide everyone over with early rations. Ours have been doing their early cleansing flights, so it’s also time to get the hives in order for the season.

Pestilence, pre-spring treatment

I picked up some pollen patties and a new feed bucket (we lost one last year). Gathering up my hive supplies, I trudged up the hill to get everyone squared away.

The hives in Minnesota have to be wintered with a black, waxed cardboard sheave to keep the wind and wet out. There is a bottom winterproofing board covering the mesh bottom board. That came out, and I took the sleaves off of the hives.

I checked for bee activity. The two newer hives (Pestilence and Death) both swarmed last year, and neither have been particularly robust since. Here is a peak into Pestilence’s interior:

Pretty quiet, and I’m a bit worried about this one. However, there is nothing to do for that right now, so I proceed with getting the hives un-wintered:

  • remove the moisture-absorbent wickboard (keeps the hive from getting too damp)
  • remove the black cardboard outer sleeve
  • remove the cardboard mite-treatment strips from last fall (I was told the bees would break those strips down, but they didn’t)
  • put down a pollen patty atop the frame tops

    Leave the waxed paper liners on the patties -- the bees will eat them away

  • put the inner lid down atop the patty
  • place the feed bucket full of 1:1 sugar/water mixture atop the inner lid
  • place a super box atop the inner lid
  • place the outer lid atop the super box
  • don’t forget to get that weight atop the outer lid (like a nice rock)

There. Now your hive is ship-shape for the following season.

A caveat: if your top brood box is medium heavy to heavy, don’t feed sugar water to them; they have sufficient honey stores. However, you do need to give them pollen patties. There is nothing in our area bee-forage-wise that is due to bloom for at least a month.

Our apiary's two newer hives Pestilence and Death

Our two original hives Famine and War

Written by beesinourbonnet

10 March 2012 at 15:22

Mystery bees in the yard

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The second half of our package bee installation blog is coming later today, but in the meantime:

Does anyone recognize these two? I found them on a dead pine branch in the yard. They have pronouncedly triangular heads and long tapered bodies. I would have thought they were some other sort of insect, but there are gold and black stripes on their thoraxes (hard to see in my iPhone shot)–that made me think they were some sort of Apis.

Anyone have an idea?

Written by beesinourbonnet

10 May 2011 at 08:52

Posted in new bees

Tagged with

Avis melliferis arising in St. Paul

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We got our Italians ladies installed into three of the four hives in our Four Horsemen Apiary today. We have two new hives, and poor War has to be repopulated.

First things first–getting War repopulated. I’d cleaned out the hive decently well:

There was a lot of honey left in War, and some of it spilled onto the bottom board.

I took off the top deep and redistributed its frames to the other three hives, since those frames are just bursting with honey and pollen. (The ladies in War must have died early in the winter, and I’m still not sure why.)

The new queen went in without a hitch…

All shiny and new!

The pollen patty went in, and the syrup bucket went in atop the inner cover, and War’s ready to become the great producer it was last year. (We got 16 pints of honey for it, and that’s a good yield for a first-year hive.)

Famine was in decent shape; we’ve been seeing cleansing flights for several weeks, and I found a modest amount of honey and pollen in it a month ago. I checked the pollen patty that’s been in there for awhile and it was in decent shape. So a syrup bucket went on, and Famine’s locked and loaded.

On to the new hives–Death and Pestilence–in the next post!

Written by beesinourbonnet

2 May 2011 at 18:46

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