Thursday, February 24, 2011

Catalogs! And a story...

Occasional spring-like weather, longer days, grass showing through the snow (though 3-5" forecast for tonight and snow likely over the next 5 days), and now the arrival of the catalogs in the mail, Dadant, Mann Lake, etc., all serve to increase our anticipation of spring's arrival and "real" bee season.
Looking at the Mann Lake catalog, I remembered a funny story from last summer when we visited the facility, located in Hackensack, Minnesota.  We were staying as guests of our friends, James and Dana, who had invited us to spend a week with them at their family cabin, named Point House (call it a gorgeous resort!) on nearby Big Sand Lake.  We had  taken a short drive to check out the little Scamp camping trailers, which are also constructed in that area.  On our way back, we pulled up to a stop sign near a large building, looked up and saw the name Mann Lake on the side.  We hadn't even been thinking about the fact that this company was located in Hackensack, but we immediately pulled into the drive and went in to see what they had in their showroom.
We were shown around the showroom by an employee who is also a beekeeper.  Of course, we talked about bees and the trials and tribulations of keeping them.  In northern Minnesota, there are some concerns we normally wouldn't have here in eastern Iowa--namely black bears.  She had been having difficulties with a bear recently and was anxiously awaiting bear hunting season, which was not far off as I recall, as her brother had guaranteed he would eliminate her problem.  A couple days before we were there, she had gone out to the bee yard to find her hive bodies and frames scattered all over the yard, torn completely apart by the bear.  The bees, of course, were in a highly agitated state, and it took quite a lot of work and, I imagine, nerves, to reassemble everything with angry bees buzzing all over the place.  She finally got everything put together, but several bees just kept after her all the way to the house.  She was able to get inside after awhile without having them follow her in.  An hour or so later, someone came to the door with a delivery.  No sooner did she open the door than two of the bees, who must have been lingering about outside, immediately attacked her and stung her on the hand.   She showed us her fingers, which were still very swollen.  Strangely, they did not attack the person at the door but must have felt she was the one they wanted to get, though she had done all the work putting things back together for them!
I wonder if her brother ever got that bear.
Kathy and Dana in the dining room of Point House

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Sixty degrees +

Hive #1

Hive #2
Beautiful day today, high near 65.  I had to go out and check the bees.  Wow, were they flying.  I took a video but unfortunately it turned out fuzzy, and the photos don't capture the feel at all really.  They were all over the place.  For many of these bees, this was their first time out into the world.  They were having a blast.
I looked in hive #2 first.  There were some bees near the top of the frames after I removed the inner cover but not a huge number.  I did not pull any frames but clearly saw there was still an ample honey supply.  I decided not to feed this hive at this time.
I pulled the top cover off hive #1, and bees began immediately to pour through the oval slot in the inner cover.  Hundreds were immediately on top of it, so I decided not to remove it.  I had decided not to use smoke just to avoid stressing them and to avoid forcing them to start gorging themselves on precious honey.  Instead, I added a medium super on top of the inner cover and put in 4 frames of left-over honey, some of which had been capped though not all.  Sitting in the barn over winter, the honey I could see had pretty much crystallized.  The bees should consume that just fine though.
Looking between the added honey frames.  .

They started climbing up on the frames right away, so I just closed it up and watched them.   I'll check again in a couple weeks.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Spoke too soon...

Last week I talked about the January thaw we experienced.  Well, February decided differently.  Here is what our Groundhog Day looked like:
Real nice, huh.  Kathy did work up the energy somehow, after the two plus hours of snow removal we both worked at (we have a long lane), to wade through the drifts to check out the bees.  She said there were no drifts by the hives, which sit just to the east of a double row of pine trees.  It has proven to be a good location, providing snow break and wind break from the west.  Where we live, on top of a pretty decent hill, wind breaks are essential.  She cleared away the landing pad and listened to the hives but heard nothing.  It's interesting that I am the one who has no difficulty hearing the bees even though I am almost totally deaf in one ear and do not hear so well out of the other.  I do seem to do well with low frequencies though, so the congregate hum of the bees I pick up quite well.
Let's hope the month goes out like a lamb.  Wait, that's next month...