Bees In Our Bonnets

The (mis)adventures of raising honey bees in Minnesota

On the rebound

leave a comment »

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

leave a comment »

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!

leave a comment »

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…

leave a comment »

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!

leave a comment »

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

leave a comment »

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

leave a comment »

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

“They’re heeeeere!”

leave a comment »

Our three packages of Italian bees showed up a day early at Nature’s Nectar!

One of the three packages of Italians--2011

Full report later tonight about the new hives Death and Pestilence, and the repopulation of War.

Written by beesinourbonnet

2 May 2011 at 16:01

The casualties of War

with one comment

I did the post-mortem on our hive War today. I gave it a decent cleaning–cleared the multitudes of dead bees out, took out each frame thinking I’d find some reason for the death of the hive, and getting it squared away for a new package due in a few weeks.

Deep #2 from War

I didn’t find much. No foulbrood or off-odors, and no large parasites (we treated for mites last fall). I did find a bit of mold here and there, but nothing systemic.

War had tons of honey in it, so our little ladies must have died early in the winter.

So War is ready for a new family. Famine hive, however, held some new surprises.

There were cleansing flights going on (temperatures were in the mid-50s), and I found the cluster around the queen in brood box #2. However, I find a mess of dead bees (lots of them), and a fair amount of mold. Deeps #1 and #3 were chock full of dead bodies, and there was a fair amount of yellow-ish and blue-green mold.

Jim over at Nature’s Nectar got a slightly-panicked call, but assured us it wasn’t all that bad. He recommended I clean out what I could without disturbing the cluster, remove the outer black cover and the winter wick board (I did), make sure there was sufficient honey in the combs (there was), and to also make sure there was a pollen patty available (there has been since last week, but it hasn’t been touched much–a good sign).  He said the bees will deal with the mold more thoroughly than I could.

So I cleaned out Famine as best I could, emptied the bottom tray (full of poor little dead bodies), and got Famine squared away for the season. I hope its inhabitants make it for another month.

I know that our bees are  just livestock that we use for our own purposes (homestead garden pollination and honey). I know that.

But I feel like we just lost some beloved pets.


Written by beesinourbonnet

3 April 2011 at 17:29

Posted in Hive deaths and die-offs

Tagged with , ,

This is perplexing

with 10 comments

We finally checked the bees today to see how they fared during this long cold winter.  We had a big surprise, and it wasn’t a good kind of surprise, either.  Currently we have 2 hives- #1, Famine, had a very rocky start last summer.  First, the queen left as we were hiving our first box of bees.  Then, we bought a new queen, which arrived just about the time the original queen made her way back home, so the hive turned on the new queen and killed her.  This hive produced very slowly and we harvested no honey from it.

Hive #2, War, was very active from day 1.  We got about 30 lbs. of honey our first year, a respectable harvest.  The bees had about 4 times that amount to make it through the winter.  We were sure that War would be fine during the cold months but were worried about poor Famine.

Today, the results are in: Famine is fine, thriving even.  A small amount of honey is left in the deeps but they should easily make it till nectar flow begins.  War is dead.  Completely, totally silent, nothing at all moving.  War also has 3 deeps full of honey, so this hive must have died very early on.

We have no idea of what might have caused this.  They had plenty to eat, they were wrapped for the winter and War had the healthiest queen.  We’ll be looking into this mystery and will post as soon as we have some idea of what happened.  In the mean time, it’s a pretty sad day around our house- we love our little bees!

Written by beesinourbonnet

17 March 2011 at 13:18

Posted in Uncategorized