SPRING IN THE APIARY
“A swarm of bees in May is worth a load of hay,
A swarm of bees in June is worth a silver spoon, but
a swarm of bees in July isn’t worth a fly” – old rhyme
The crabapple tree is in full bloom, as are the many very old cherry trees which line
the edge of the apiary where our bees new home is located. Dandelions cover the
the lawn and the whole phenology of this Spring puts us more in sync with the UK
than with Canada. The move of the apiary seems to have been for the best, just as moves often are and the bee hives have never been in as good a shape as they are this season.
It seemed appropriate to celebrate Mother’s Day by doing the Spring inspection of
the hives – and the Queen Bees in the hives have been very good mothers indeed, because
each hive was bumbling over with thousands of bees and many more to come! She is
indeed the Queen of the Sun.
The first hive inspected had the bees in such over crowded conditions that we are
surprised we are not getting complaints from the Housing Authority about overcrowding-
our bee tenants. :-} The bees had actually crowded into the Drone Cafe, which
we place in each hive for the bees to enjoy a wee bit of relaxation, and there was standing room
only. The hive started to look “normal” only after adding two more supers to it.
We had wintered another of our hives with three supers and that too was ready for
some additional space.
Here are some observations which we made of the hives after the long winter:
1. The small 7 watt red light bulb, installed for the winter in the bottom of each hive, had been effective enough to have the bees make their “spiralling ball” around the bulb for the extra heat.
As a result the bees were able to get to all of the honey and pollen stores found throughout the hive without being found froze to death in isolated sections. It also meant that the bottom brood nest box had lots of new brood and eggs and bees in it. This extra heat source is a good de-stressor for the
hive and we highly recommend it for geographies which have cold winters.
2. Last year we went to a local biodynamic farm and picked up wonderful square bales of
organic oat straw as they popped from the back of an old bailer. It was this straw which we put into the upper part of the hive, above the supers. The idea was to give insulation to the hive that was natural and we hoped that it would help prevent condensation in the hive. In winter that condensation drops on the bees and they freeze to death from this wet condition. Each hive inspected had very dry
interiors and so the “straw experiment” is something which we will use as part of our natural
3. The proof that the bees were able to safely get to all parts of the hive is that the 100 pounds of
honey and pollen stores which were left in the hive in the Autumn, for the bees to eat during the winter, were almost all gone when we opened the hives this week.. This year we learned, that the sugar which is now available in the supermarkets, is GMO and so even dusting with this sugar is not what we recommend. We bought a small
freezer which just holds the frames of the hive and we freeze extra frames with honey and pollen
stores for the Spring when the bees would like to have some feeding . This
year we do not have to use those frozen frames as the bees are making lots of honey and storing
lots of pollen already.
4.Every Autumn we wrap the hives in black tar paper. This year we lined the outside of one
hives on the north and northwest side with heavy blue styrofoam and then covered the entire
hive with black tar paper. They had both a bottom and upper entrance and the stand for winter
is taller than the summer stand, so snow does not block their bottom entrance. The first hive
to start flying daily was this hive. It was ahead of the others by a month and so next year all
hives will have this styrofoam sheath on those specific sides and we will leave the other two
sides with just tar paper so that the sunny days will give warmth to the hive.
The plans for our Natural Beekeeping Workshop for Beginners, based on Biodynamic
Principles, are in place and we still have a couple of openings if any of you would like to join
us for this course on Saturday May 26th and Sunday May 27th. Due to having to “buy a hat”,
which in the UK is a way of saying there will be a wedding soon, we will not be holding the two
autumn workshops which we did last year.
HONEY AVAILABLE AT ANNAPOLIS ROYAL FARMERS MARKET MAY 19th