Tuesday, May 26, 2015

99 bulbs revisited

The 99 bulbs finally came up and bloomed. It was really fun to see the hard work in the fall show up so colorfully many months later. In the past, I had always tried to plant just pink and white thinking that keeping the palate of colors simple would work with colors of the house. I am so glad I let that go and embraced color. The tulips looked amazing next to the house and the purple and orange color combination was surprising pleasing to see everyday. The warm colors really drew attention as the other plants emerged.

I was sad this year to see our nice pink bleeding hearts not bloom - maybe they just couldn't compete with the spectacular showy beauty of the tulips.

The purple crocuses were much slower than the yellow and white never showed up. The remaining tulips were double tulips looking a bit like peonies.

Most years I find three or four cells of black pollen in the frames where the bees collect the tulip pollen together. I haven't seen it this year and I wonder if it is because so much of the pollen is late. Blooms are about three weeks later than usual so some thing are over lapping and without the draw of nectar, are the bees skipping the slim enticement of the black tulip pollen?  Or did they tuck it in somewhere I didn't look?

Monday, March 23, 2015

Sugar Syrup for Spring

Spring has finally started to show around the bee yard. There were moments I honestly despaired that spring might never arrive.

Mud is becoming more frequent and squishier with all the snow melting. We revived over nine, yes NINE feet of snow in the bee yard. But Turkey Vultures, skunks, and woodpeckers rapping on trees are more more welcome signs of spring!

Many signs of spring are important to bees and beekeepers. The red tips of maple trees are a sure sign that one of the most important nectar sources is on the horizon. Maple trees will be in flower in a few short weeks providing much needed pollen and nectar for the bees as they emerge from their winter of cuddling.

To help them get going this spring, I plan to feed them the remnants of  their own honey from last year but I don't expect that to go very far. I might need to supplement with sugar syrup.

In the spring I use a 1:1 sugar syrup. This means that for each cup of sugar I use one cup of water.

 I measure out both the water and the sugar so I am ready. I start the water heating and when it is boiling, I add the sugar and then remove the heat.

Then I stir it until it is clear and the sugar is dissolved completely. This will need to cool before giving it to the  bees. It is at this point if you want to add essential oils or medication, you can do so when cool. 

Thyme, lemongrass, and spearmint are common oils to add in the spring and can help bees cleanse their guts from overwintering. Other options include adding fumagilin B to help control nosema

On another, but related note, I was talking with a friend about keeping bees and why I do so. Part of my answer, which was longer than I expected, included that it is important to me to support the food supply and this is one important way I can help keep variety in my diet. So go bees!!

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Beekeepers in Winter

Without being able to see my girls in the cold weather, I have to content myself with other ways to think about bees.

This past weekend I attended NOFA - Northeast Organic Farming Association at Worcester State University. The event has left my head buzzing with ideas. (Get it?)

About 800 people attended and just being with 800 other people who get the importance of bees is pretty cool. I spoke with farmers who grow incredible vegetables, beautiful chickens, and fuzzy sheep. The food, as you might imagine, was not only tasty but organic as well. All day long, the only thing I saw that wasn't labeled organic was the sugar in my tea. Which might have been organic, but unlabeled.

As expected, there were a couple of workshops on bees. One was on beginning beekeeping and I decided not to go to that. I am coming to the close of my 7th year beekeeping so I checked out other things during that time.

I did go to Dan Conlon's workshop on Queen rearing. He and his wife own Warm Colors Apiary. I learned a lot and this echos what I'd been thinking about. If I love a queen, I should actively keep her genes in my apiary.

So inspired by Dan, I am going to work to keep really clear records of my bee lines and learn to mark queens. I am going to select on two important characteristics: gentleness and honey production.  Right now, I am really in a record keeping phase but as we expand the operation here, which hive the queen comes from will be quite important.

Go bees!