Saturday, January 22, 2011

CSI: Francisville

Well, unfortunately my suspicions were confirmed. Someone was indeed meddling with at least one of the hives that recently died. How do I know, you may ask?  Well, I broke down the hives in order to do a post-mortem and to see if I could determine the cause of their demise. As I was taking down one of the hives at the park, I quickly noticed that one frame was missing from one of the boxes - hmmm, I thought, it is unlikely that I neglected to replace a frame during my inspections, but hey, anything is possible.  When I got everything home and took a closer look, I saw that it was actually two frames that were missing.  Now, I might be forgetful sometimes, but there is no way that I put a hive back together with two whole frames missing.  Then, as I continue to examine the hive, I see this -

The honeycomb from this frame was cut out - look closely and you can see the thin vertical wire from the foundation in the middle of the frame. Someone just went and cut out the comb - amazing!
When I saw the frame with the comb cut out of it, I was kind of in shock.  It took me a few seconds to figure out what I was looking at, because I never expected to see something like this.  So, this confirmed it beyond the shadow of a doubt. There's a honey thief in my 'hood!! More important than the pilfered honey is that I will never know how often this person was messing with the hives and I'll never know how much of a role that played in the death of these hives.  So I don't stand to learn much about beekeeping from this, except that I need to be much more careful about hive placement in the future.  Here is a picture of part of the tiny cluster that I found in the robbed-out hive, there were so few bees in there it was sad -

The other hive had quite a bit more bees in it (though not a ton) and no obvious signs of tampering, so who knows what killed them.  There was still a lot of honey and pollen left in both hives, so the thieves did not take it all.  The drawn comb and all of that surplus honey (about 3 medium supers full) will give my new bees a great head start in the spring.  And if necessary, I can feed this honey to my other existing hives if they are running low.

Just another day in the wacky world of beekeeping in the city, I am undeterred...

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Winter is Here

So it looks like this winter is shaping up to be just like last year, lots of snow.  We've already had 3 little storms, nothing like last year's blizzards but still Philadelphia has already surpassed it's average annual snowfall of 20".

So much has happened since last I wrote, I'm not sure where to start.  I guess the bad news first.  The two hives in the little park where the tree was cut down have already died (these were the awesome bees from Vermont).  I was worried about them being kind of small in population and I guess I was right. There was still honey in the hive so they didn't starve. I am pretty sure some unknown person/people were messing with the hives. There were several times when I went to check on these hives and I could tell that things were not as I left them.  I also got reports from others that they saw people "leaning on the hives" - hard to imagine but stranger things have happened. This situation was not helped by the fact that the chain-link fence surrounding this park was destroyed by the tree removal and this allowed anyone to just walk right up to the hives.

I was pretty bummed by the loss of these bees and by the overall failure of this site but the silver lining to the dead bees is that they made lots of nice, drawn-out honeycomb last year.  This drawn comb is a valuable resource and it will help my new bees to get a quick start on building their new home. I was planning on moving these 2 hives to Woodford Mansion in East Fairmount Park, but since they didn't make it, instead I have ordered 2 new packages of bees from the Seaborns and will install them at Woodford in early April.

My 3 other hives appear to be doing well.  On a recent warmish day in December the bees in my home hive were busy cleaning house.  They were dragging out the dead and relieving themselves in the snow.  When we were out on the roof one little bee landed on Jolie and proceeded to poop right on her shirt! Hopefully these 3 hives survive the winter.

This spring I am hoping to do more bee removals and swarm captures.  This will help me to either grow my apiary or be able to provide other beekeepers with some bees.

As a follow-up to the the Langstroth celebration and Honey Fest, which was a huge success, the Guild is bringing Ross Conrad to speak in Philadelphia in February.  Ross is the author of Natural Beekeeping, which is a book on keeping bees using organic management techniques. Registration has already begun and it looks like it is going to be a great turnout.

There's more to write but I just wanted to get a quick update written.   Stay tuned...