Friday, January 20, 2006

When Friday is Sun Day

sun beeAccording to the National Weather Service, the coldest days of the year here are usually from January 9 to January 23. Today, it is a sunny 60 degrees F out there, and the girls are flying their hearts out (though bees don't have hearts...but they do have blood). It's the fourth warmest January on record, with no cold snap scheduled for the immediate future.

Now, for the beekeeper, warm weather has its pluses and minuses. On the plus side, your bees are not freezing to death, and you have fewer of those "Poor Bees!" thoughts while hustling about outside. On the minus side, warm bees are more active bees, and they therefore eat more of their honey stores at a time when there is no nectar anywhere for them to collect.

So this means, tah-dah, I get to pay them a visit! In the winter, we feed the bees a heavier sugar syrup, one that is 2-1 sugar to water by weight, and we hope they eat it. Today I got to go up with the second dose of sugar in two weeks, and to be with my girls in the sun. Take a look at that picture and tell me that it's not at least a little like living with Tinkerbell.

Well, the hives were rocking and rolling with honeybee comings and goings, but the girls were very gentle. I did not smoke them, and should not have bothered wearing gloves (since I decided not to use smoke, it seemed smart to wear gloves. To heck with that!) I had a big soup pot with 10 pounds of sugar in 8ish cups of water, and that is what you see me pouring into the hive top feeder on Twain. Wilde once again got more than half, since I suspect that the Carnies are already raising brood.

A subject of more concern: there were bees with shrivelled wings creeping around the roof. Only a few, but this is evidence of Varroa mite damage. When the mites grab onto larvae in the honeycomb, they suck their blood. The stress and loss of nutrients causes the honeybee's wings to form poorly, and the bites can even introduce illnesses to the developing bee. I have posted a question on a beekeeping bulletin board about "How Much Is Too Much?" when spotting mite damage, and will let you know.

One last observation: I gave the hives each one cup of fake pollen during my last visit, and Wilde did not eat theirs, though Twain did. So Twain got some more, even though it's not really time for that (I am supposed to wait until February). We should start having ample local pollen soon, so maybe I should stop monkeying around. I just love to work with them, and to give them what I can.


Kathy Connelly said...

I enjoy reading about your colonies. I starting keeping bees six years ago, and would have kept bees in my urban yard but my partner too much feared the LAW. Keep up your entries! I am going to give your site a plug in our newsletter "The Minnesota Beekeeper."

Phang said...

Hey Kathy --

Your comment was a joy to me, but there seems to be no way to find your email address (and it has taken some trying!) It's a bit late to respond, and I don't know if you will see this, but thank you! It's walways amazing to find that people read this blog, and it is nice to think it might be a resource to others! "Do not do as I do!" etc!