Wednesday, 30 July 2014
Beets, Brassicas and Bees are taking up plenty of time lately. Blanching, freezing, storing, dehydrating... busy as a bee am I!
The hives are really busy, too as the bees are going full tilt bringing in pollen and nectar. Near the hives, I planted a large area to bee friendly plants this Spring which seems to be well received. The bees are working the clovers, buckwheat, alfalfa, calendula, nettles, borage, comfrey, sunflowers, monarda, zinnias and more... A bee garden is a wonderful thing (whether you keep bees or not). It's deeply gratifying to know that a few minutes of seed planting can feed so many bees for so long! We also have a garden full of native plants nearby which I'm seeing that bees prefer to cultivated plants. Between both large gardens and the nearby naturalized areas, there appears to be adequate forage.
A recent addition to the apiary is a long top bar hive so that we can experiment with horizontal expansion vs. vertical (supering top bar hives). As we are new to beekeeping, we chose to intentionally stick to top bar hives this year and will add Langstroth hives to our apiary next year. We'd like to compare the 2 methods, but not in our first year as we don't need more variables to contend with when learning. There's enough "NEW" without mixing two very different methods. We both love this long top bar hive - it's SO easy to check the hive - no heavy lifting, no bending and stooping, just easy, relaxed work pulling one frame out at a time. Even our kids can do it with no help.
As you can see, the bees draw (build) their comb down off the top bars into the shape of the inside of the hive. This comb isn't fully drawn down yet in the picture above (it's close). The capped cells (seen better below) are "brood" (developing bees) and soon, a new female worker bee will emerge from each cell. The holes are cells where a bee has recently hatched out.
The queen in this hive is a vibrant, prolific layer. There's an abundance of eggs and larvae (in all stages) seen at every hive inspection. We currently check our hives every 3-7 days because we are learning and want to see the subtle changes that occur through the passage of time. Learning clues that may indicate problems takes time to master and we figure that frequent checks will give us more opportunities to do that. It's a balance between frequent checks to learn and not disturbing the bees any more than is necessary.
Our other hive is not quite as prolific. It's healthy, yes, but not quite as strong/populated. At our next hive inspection, we are going to transfer a comb of brood from the strong hive into the weaker hive so help boost it a bit. We want to balance things out for ease of management and up the odds of winter survival in that weaker hive. I'll let you know how that goes.
Back to the blanching pot...