Monday, May 25, 2020

November Hill farm journal, 101 (bee hives!)

We had some sunshine after last week’s daily rain but then shifted back to rain yesterday with a late afternoon thunderstorm. Today it’s overcast but thankfully not raining! Time to dry out a little bit so the daily routine can get back to normal.

Saturday morning it was dry and not too hot, and our honeybee nuc delivery from western NC went off without a hitch. I coordinate an annual bee nuc purchase and delivery for our county, bringing in VSH honeybees with terrific genetics and sweet natures. 7 Stands Farm is a family-owned business and they are wonderful to work with.

I got home with two new nucs and my husband helped me get them down to Arcadia. We opened the nuc box entrances so they could fly and start to settle in. Late Saturday afternoon we went down to install them into their permanent hive boxes. The bees were super busy when we opened the first nuc up and since our smoker wouldn’t stay lit and husband was getting a little bit agitated himself, I decided we should give them the entire day and overnight to settle in. We closed everything back up and called it a day.

Yesterday, Sunday, we went down at 11 with a well-lit smoker and got rolling. Things went perfectly. These nucs are thriving, with many bees packed on the five frames. We decided to go ahead and put a second hive box on both, and we fed all three colonies with 1:1 sugar syrup with some Honey Be Healthy added, since our main nectar flow is now over. Bees need nectar to build new comb, and 1:1 syrup closely resembles nectar. They need new comb in order to build out their frames to grow new brood, store the pollen to feed them, and to make and store honey for the winter. That’s the life cycle of the honeybee, and why we won’t be taking any honey from these colonies this year. They’ll need all they can make for their own survival.

After making a decision to put the new hive boxes in my potager, I changed my mind the day before the nucs arrived. While the potager is at the end of the paddock and fenced off from horses and donkeys, if for any reason we needed to move the hive after putting bees in it, we’d have to do a gradual move through the back pasture, through Poplar Folly, and finally down into Arcadia. It could be things would go fine in the potager, but there’s also a chance the bees would have bothered the horses. So we moved the hive boxes Saturday morning and all three are in Arcadia, well away from the herd and, honestly, in a little bit of heaven down there right now with all the things blooming. They can and do fly up to the pollinator beds by the house. I think the decision to keep all the hives together is the right one.

So, here they all are.

Echo is the hive we installed the end of March. They were able to to take full advantage of the nectar flow and have built out their brood box and have a great start building out the second hive box. They stayed busy in their usual foraging routine yesterday while in the literal center of the installing activity. Thankfully we have plenty of room to space these hives out so they weren’t really bothered by all the new bees flying around!

Artemis hive was the agitated one on Saturday. They were very focused on us as we opened up the nuc and getting in our faces more than is usual. They never bumped me but with agitation spreading to my husband, it felt like a bad combination. Yesterday, with more time to settle in and my husband and I both well-rested and ahead of the heat of the day, things went perfectly. I’m happy they’re in their new home and hope they use the syrup to get rolling with comb building. Thankfully the inkberry hollies are now in full bloom, so along with all the wildflowers in Arcadia, the pollinators I’ve planted in Poplar Folly, and the pollinator beds coming into full bloom at the house, they have plenty to forage as well.

And finally, Hegemone. They are in the spot where I had the two hives last year. I’ve been keeping an eye on the area for the past few months after big rains, insuring that we’re not seeing a lot of water run-off. I’ve done some work uphill from the area to address the run-off, and it’s paying off. There is one dry stream bed that flows when we get huge rainfall in a short period of time, but it’s well in front of the hive and shouldn’t bother them at all. These bees have been super active since we got them off our truck, finding a way out of their nuc box before we even opened it. Even today they’re still flying about, but they’re in their new and spacious home now and can hopefully finish settling in today and get to work foraging.

We had a little drama yesterday early evening, after the deluge, when our county bee group posted an email about a swarm report (we get a lot of calls from the community when people find swarms of honeybees, which we love, because instead of people killing them, we can send out experienced beekeepers to collect the swarms and install them in hive equipment) that was less than a mile from November Hill. I had a moment of paranoia that one of our nucs had swarmed and husband ran down to check on them. They were fine. Whew! I am not an experienced beekeeper and have not yet collected a swarm, so I’m glad we didn’t have to yesterday!

Several people were going to coordinate to get someone over to the swarm before nightfall. We’re lucky to be in a county with a large number of experienced beekeepers, many of whom are certified and have gone on to meet requirements for journeyman and master beekeeper. We also have a very active beekeeping association, so we have a lot of support in general.

I’m glad the bees are home and we can help keep them happy and healthy as we move toward summer, then fall, and into winter.

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