Friday, March 29, 2013

It's that time of year...

If you are a beekeeper, it is time to record bee losses at This is a quick survey about the number, location, and state of the hives you had in the fall and still have now. This survey is not a true scientific survey but gives a us a good picture of the state of the health of our bee populations in the US. At their website, you can see the results of previous year's surveys.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Record Losses

This year is shaping up to be a record year of bee loss in this region. Many beekeepers have lost significant numbers of hives this winter and large numbers just in the last month. It may not be just here in New England either. Every spring, beekeepers in the US participate in a survey of hive loss and I am set to add my numbers April 1.

I am happy to report that our bees are doing fine. Both hives looked excellent yesterday. I am a bit concerned about the amount of poop on the outside of one of the hives. That this the brown splotches you see in the picture above. I am going to seek advice on some essential oils to feed them to help them deal with some gut parasites that might be bothering them.

They were also bringing in pollen. In the picture above you can see yellow pollen and that is probably from some early willows and skunk cabbage. The honey comb is what I supplemented them with - honey that was stored in the hive we combined. The white in the lower left is a sugar patty. Getting nervous after hearing about starving bees, I panicked and added sugar just in case. This is like going to the drive thru - it will keep you going for a short time, but lacks nutrients. So as soon as night time temps get a bit warmer, I will start feeding them some honey.

One thing that really made me happy was the temperament of both hives. They were calm and didn't bother much with me. I did veil because bees in the chill air can be unpredictable, but they were both really calm and focus. That is a good sign that the queens are in good condition and brood rearing is going well.

Go bees!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Sign of spring

I found this girl on my deck yesterday. It was a gorgeous day here in Massachusetts with temps in our yard just over 50' and lots of sunshine. If you look carefully, on her hind leg what can we see ... POLLEN!

So what are the early spring flowers that are in bloom?  Skunk cabbage, pussy willow and maybe an early crocus could all be a source of pollen. Given the very light color, I would normally say pussy willow but I haven't seen any out in our immediate area. Skunk cabbage is usually kind of a day-glo green-yellow and often the bees have pollen down their backs.  Crocus is a bit yellow-orange.

One other thought occurred to me last week while walking in the woods. Witch hazel still has some sad looking flowers on their branches. There is always the possibility of a few stray grains of pollen left on these flowers that bloomed late, late last fall.

Regardless of the source, I am so pleased to see pollen. Pollen means babies.

There have been dead bees in front of both hives over the last few days. While that is sad, it does mean that there had to be some live bees in the hive. At the moment, both hives are doing well but March isn't over and it is one of the most difficult months to survive as a bee. The temperatures fluctuate a lot and there really isn't much to eat out there for the bees. Early spring flowers don't have much in the way of nectar or even pollen.

So let's hope for some mild temperatures and hug a red maple tree. Red maples are a key source of nectar and pollen for bees.

Just one more picture - she's so cute. Oh, and she's a new baby - from an egg laid in 2013.