Monday, April 20, 2015

A New Season Bee-gins

Wow, it's been almost a year since I last wrote. Life is busy and between the family, running a business, writing a book and of course, tending the bees, there isn't much time for me to keep this blog updated. Anyway, another winter is in the books and it was not a kind one! Sustained cold temps  were very hard on the bees (and the people!). We didn't get a ton of snow here in Philly, but it was below freezing for much of the winter and the bees didn't have many chances to come out and relieve themselves. Bottom line for me was that I went into winter with 7 hives and only 3 survived. Not very good odds. One hive disappeared, gone without a trace. The other deceased hives died from a combination of varroa problems, small populations and some nosema.

One of the hives that survived this past winter and looks amazing right now is a swarm that was given to me last May. A beekeeper friend called me one day (thanks Stuart A.) and asked if I wanted to capture a swarm. I said "Of course, I'll be there ASAP." By the time I had mobilized myself, he called back and asked me if I wanted him to bring the bees to me. "Uh, yes please!" He showed up at my door with a box 'o bees. One swarm delivered, no extra charge!

This hive is now known affectionately known as "WB Mason"

I moved the bees into my handy dandy Bushkill bee vac setup so that I could easily leave them confined in there for a day or two. This confinement decreases the likelihood that they will swarm again and it also allows the queen to start laying eggs immediately in the empty comb I provided.

Dumping bees into bee vac box

Sealed up and ready for transport

I installed this hive at my Francisville apiary and they made it through winter in great shape. The queen is now laying strong, they have plenty of honey and already have begun to store fresh nectar.

I once again broke my resolution not to buy any bees this season and I purchased a package from Sam Comfort of Anarchy Apiaries. Sam is a great guy and a great beekeeper, known for his singing and for his natural approach to keeping bees by getting out of the way and letting them do what they do best, be bees! Sam stopped in Philly during his wanderings and brought some packages for me and another beekeeper. I met him in a parking lot and there he was standing at the back of his little hatchback Honda with about 15 bees buzzing around his head. In a lovable and most admirable way, Sam reminds me a bit of Pigpen from the Peanuts, but instead of being trailed by a cloud of dirt and dust, Sam's constantly surrounded by a cloud of bees! Last year's bees from Sam didn't make it, they were the hive that totally disappeared without a trace some time between October and February. But I will try again and see how it goes. Below is a video of installing the bees at my Woodford Mansion apiary (video by my 6 year-old son and assistant, Jonah). Nothing too exciting in this video, although for me, it reminds me of how much anxiety I used to feel when installing a package of bees like this, but these days, it ain't no big deal at all.

That's the latest and greatest from Philly. See you soon and may the Force Bee with you!