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I began this blog to chronicle my beekeeping experiences. I have read lots of beekeeping books, but nothing takes the place of either hands-on experience with an experienced beekeeper or good pictures of the process. I want people to have a clearer picture of what to expect in their beekeeping so I post pictures and write about my beekeeping saga here. Along the way, I've passed a number of certification levels and am now a Master Beekeeper! Enjoy with me as I learn and grow as a beekeeper.


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Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Mothering the Bees

This has been a bad bee year for me.  In my eight years of beekeeping, I've had two awful years - that's 25% - not too great.  In one of the years - I think it was 2010 - I got honey but all my hives died (five of them) going into or during the winter.  This is the worst year yet.  This year in 2013, I have lost count (or refused to count) the number of hives that have absconded.

When I tell other beekeepers my hives have absconded, they all say, it must have been the small hive beetle.  But I didn't have a big SHB population this year.  The hive with the worst hive beetles is still alive in Sebastian's yard.

Most of the discovery of empty hives came in late July.  I think it was about no stores.  The bees couldn't collect enough honey during the honey flow because it literally rained every day.  Then in July they were still hopeful that there was honey somewhere - just not in their area, so they left.  Every hive I opened had NO DEAD BEES - just emptiness.  There was absolutely no honey and very little brood and the bees were totally gone.
  • The hive at the Morningside garden had a pesticide kill and never recovered.  It was a tragedy because that was an amazing hive.  The split beside it never took off and simply dwindled away.
  • Both hives at Chastain absconded.  No dead bee bodies were in either hive and no stores.  
  • The hives at Stonehurst Inn are both there and doing fine.  One is a hive that moved into a dead hive in early August.
  • At Sebastian's one hive left - no bodies, no stores left behind - and the other hive is there - it's going OK, but there are SHB in that hive.  I have two different traps on that hive - at the entrance and in between the frames, but the beetles are still there.
  • At Ron's the splits never became thriving hives.  One colony hived there absconded.  I replaced it with a Wilbanks hive and they left too.  Ron's theory was that the pesticides Emory uses on its campus and in the neighborhood where Ron's house is made the location one that was bad for bees.  Whatever it was, they left lock, stock, and barrel with no bodies left behind.
  • At my own house, my best swarm hive absconded when the electricians used jack hammers about five feet away from them.  I had a queen excluder on that hive below the bottom box, and found the queen still in the box.  I made a split and put them in a nuc, but the queen is not in the nuc and the bees are almost dwindled away.  A swarm hive in my yard also absconded as well as the only hive other than Morningside that I had left as the year started.
  • I do have one solitary hive in my backyard.  It's the swarm I collected near Northlake and is going gangbusters.  I put a feeder on this hive although it was heavy with honey and the bees only just began to take the bee tea.  They totally ignored it for about two weeks.
I've had a terrible bee year.  And I got no honey.  I harvested one box from the Morningside hive but the honey is too thin - 19.2% water.  And if I had left that box on the hive maybe those bees would still be alive.

So I'm going into winter with six hives and I've been feeding them bee tea like there's no tomorrow.




Here are the two hives at Stonehurst.  I have put almost three gallons of bee tea on these hives.  I feel disheartened, though, because there are roaches under the cover of the hive on the left and every hive I've had with roaches eventually dies during the winter.




Here's the bee tea.  The leaves floating in it are thyme.  You can see the bees crawling up the inner tube to get the welcomed food.



This is the hive at Sebastian's that I fed the same day.  You'd love to see me visit that hive.  Sebastian's new house has a tall gate with the latch on the inside.  To get to the bees, I have to take a Rubbermaid stool and stand on it, reach over the gate and feel for the lock, slide it open and open the gate.  I repeat the action on the stool when I leave!

In this hive there were these little black things that I thought were mouse droppings, but at close look on my computer screen, they are dead small hive beetles.

This hive appears to be doing well going in to winter, but I have two different versions of SHB trap on the hive and still there are these random dead beetles littering the inner cover.

It's going down to the 20s tonight.  I hope the feeding I've been doing of all of these hives will keep the hives alive as winter descends.

6 comments:

  1. That is very disappointing. And to still have no real answers to prevent it next season

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  2. How do you make bee tea?

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  3. I've had a terrible summer here in WV. I had to combine two hives late August because one got completely robbed of honey and the other lost a queen and failed to raise a new one. After they were combined, they looked great and had plenty of winter stores before the fall nectar run. BUT I checked them this past weekend and there is not a drop of honey in the hive at all....can't believe it! Either there's a colony out there in my woods that has been robbing them or the yellow jackets did it. Sad...no hives going into the winter and I will have to start completely over in the spring with no honey stores...

    ReplyDelete
  4. Ah Linda, I will join you in a round of The Beekeeper's Lament. I too had a disaster year, for different reasons (my blog entry "Pardon My French" on Plan Bee). In my case it was disease brought in on dirty bees. Lost my honey harvest. Undeterred, and after a summer spent carefully building up my remaining colonies, I emptied my piggy bank and bought out the bees and beeyard rights of a local beekeeper who is retiring. I love the bees too much to give up on them and I know you do too. Big hugs.

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  5. For John Going: There are numerous recipes for bee tea on this blog. All of them originate with Ross Conrad who got the recipe from a beekeeper from the 1800s
    http://beekeeperlinda.blogspot.com/2010/10/ross-conrads-bee-tea.html
    http://beekeeperlinda.blogspot.com/2010/11/chemistry-secret-to-crystal-free-21.html

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  6. Was the Honey not capped when you harvested it to have such a high moisture content?

    Sorry about your losses. I had a great year here but I was due one after last years drought and Winter die off. I met a guy earlier this year who told me about a neat trick for dealing with the hive beetles and it seems to work better than the oil traps I have seen. He places ant traps under the screened bottom boards. I tried it this year and it not only worked on the beetles but did a bang up job on the ants and roaches as well.

    Winter is just getting started here so the final tally isn't in and I won't really know how this year ends up until we make it through March.

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