Monday, December 30, 2013

What Beekeepers get for Christmas

Every year in January I lament not going out to the hives in December to give the bees some bee candy. Usually by the time January rolls around temperatures are too low to really keep the hives open for more than a few seconds to slip in the disk of hard sugar.

This year we got a wonderful gift of a day that was near 70' and we remembered to go into the hives! And this was right before Christmas too. Bonus!  My DH and I suited up as bees disturbed this time of year are unpredictable.

Cerulean's hive is looking just fine. We are most concerned about these girls as they are the weakest. They were a sweet and gentle as ever.

Star's (daughter of Sunshine) is doing amazingly well. They built wax- yes, you read that right, they had built wax, which is a most unusual task for bees this time of year. When I opened up the hive to slip in the sugar disk, I ran into some wax comb that wasn't there early November. I hadn't opened up the hive that far since, so they've been busy. This meant that the whole top of the hive had to come apart. Their honey super is nearly empty but the hive is still hefty. These girls did  not like having their hive disturbed and flew all over he place. They settled quickly - whew!

Astrid's hive is doing quite well. They are just as gentle as ever. I am concerned that there is a gap in their hive. I've tried covering the gap with duct tape (my favorite fix-it in the apiary) but it won't stick well on the outside of the hive this time of year. I am open to suggestions.

This was one of the other fun gifts I received for Christmas. I have a friend who travels a lot and he got me honey from south Asia and some buckwheat honey. I love the packaging on the honey that looks like a tube of lotion. What a clever idea. The honey came with two beautiful cards that were hand drawn.

Hope everyone has a sweet New Year!
Go bees!!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Baking with honey

I love to bake with honey. This was true even before I became a beekeeper. Honey keeps your baked goods soft and chewy longer than sugar.

Here is a link to one of my favorite honey recipes. I am going to experiment this year with making with just honey as the sweetener. Promise to keep you informed.

Do we have CCD?

A question that we are often asked, is are we having a problem with Colony Collapse Disorder?

The simple answer is no, CCD doesn't usually affect hobbyist beekeepers. Nevertheless, there have been record losses of beehives in this area over the past few years.  A couple of different organizations are working to tease out the causes, but with 30% losses each winter, we aren't far from having no bees.

What is causing this sort of loss?  There are many reasons that all add up to some serious worries. 

1. Weak bees.  Bees are assaulted by various pesticides as they go from flower to flower. In addition, the variety of flowers bees visit is diminishing. 

If you use any kind of pesticide (for grubs in your lawn or pests in your garden) think twice. Is there an alternative that is gentler or can I even live without the pesticide. While these many not directly kill the bees, they can diminish their ability to fight diseases. 

If you only at one kind of food, even if it is healthy, the lack of variety will weaken you.

2. Poor queens. The genetic diversity of bees is diminishing. The queen breeders have smaller and smaller stock each year. 

3. Diseases and pests. With the globalization of beekeeping comes a globe-ful of pests that attack bees. Just in the last year I have seen a rise in the number small hive beetles in our hives. 

4. Poor management. Beekeeping is an intense hobby that requires continuing education. No beekeeper wants to admit that they made bad decisions but it does happen. 

So what can we do? 

1. Support local bees. Buy local honey, reduce or eliminate the use of pesticides in your yard, and plant native plants.

2. Think local bees. Advocate with your neighbors and town government to do the same - support local beekeepers and reduce pesticide use.

3. Support small farmers. Most small farmers plant a greater variety of produce than large scale farms. The greater the diversity of forage, the stronger the bee.

4. Use your charitable dollars. Support organizations like Heifer International and buy bees or Mass Audubon.

Go bees.