It’s been a pretty hectic year so far as the bees are concerned. I don’t talk much about our bees, either here or in the magazine, not because I don’t do much with them, rather there always seems to be something more interesting to bring up. But this year has been different enough to bear mentioning.
Winter loss. Major winter loss this year. We left about 100 pounds on every hive but one and they still ran out of food. By Feb the cupboard was bare and getting food to them was problematic. We were either gone, and couldn’t get food out to them, or the cold kept them from breaking cluster and getting to the remaining honey or the fondant we supplied. But though the weather was extreme, our preparations and emergency care wasn’t enough. I just hate losing a hive. I just hate it, and when it’s me not doing the right thing I hate it even more.
We also wrapped every hive, even the top bar. We use that thinly insulated plastic wrap tight on the boxes, then that collapsible heavy-duty, weather proof corrugated box over the top. With our 8 frame towers that box reaches down far enough to only leave the bottom two boxes exposed. We leave about a third of the screen bottom board open, with the space under the hive stand blocked from strong wind so we get good ventilation all winter.
The hive we didn’t leave 100 pounds on actually had about 130 pounds and lots and lots of bees. It did just fine thank you, and came out in April busting. We split in late April, and again in late May and both are going strong. They’ll be good overwinter for sure, and the earliest one may make a box extra before goldenrod. The second will have four boxes (8 frame mediums) of brood, bees and honey by fall plus at least 1 more of just honey. But the summer so far has been wet, and if it slows at all during goldenrod, that might be a bumper crop again this year so they both might make a couple of boxes so we’ll have some to share.
Packages. Establishing packages that replace the fallen has been easy so far. We had all the drawn comb we needed, and enough honey that we only fed for about three weeks before they were gathering enough on their own. We keep protein patties on until the end of May though, just in case. And they kept eating them so it was a good investment.
Two of the four packages we got are strong enough to split now, and we’ll go ahead and do that and get those splits established on summer flow. They’ll store winter stores on the goldenrod…presuming there is that flow. Otherwise it’ll be feeding, or sharing from other hives…always the first choice. And it will be back to that 100 pounds again. We’ll try harder this winter.