The chicks at 6 weeks.
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I heard about the Back Saver from Gary Reuter at the University of Minnesota Bee Lab this spring when I took their Beekeeping in Northern Climates, Part 2 class. Pat whipped up two of these for me in no time and boy, do they ever save my back from stooping over while inspecting frames, especially in those bottom boxes. The open-bottomed design of the Back Saver also helps protect any bees (including the queen) from being squashed when setting them down. And, if you’ve ever set a brood box on the ground you’ll know that grass, etc. can stick to the bottom making an awful mess (there is always honeycomb and/or honey on the bottom of the frames in the bee boxes).
One modification I will have Pat add for me is a solid piece on one or both ends to use as a table for my equipment when testing for varroa mites (blog post to follow).
Here’s are some more links to plans for beekeeping woodenware that Gary Reuter has compiled. Thanks for the info, Gary!
A couple of days ago, I did a full inspection on our hive that made it through the winter (aka Hive of the Mound). This hive currently has three brood boxes full of bees and brood. That’s a lot of bees. As soon as the parts for a new hive arrive, I will be dividing this hive into two hives. I will also have to purchase a queen for the divide, which will become a second hive. The original part of the hive will be the honey-producer this year, and the new divide will be overwintered and produce honey next year as described in a previous post about the Horizontal Two Queen System we are using.
I took a few video shots of the numerous bees, with which my dear husband Pat did some lovely editing.
It’s time. Time for me to make some final decisions about what to grow next year. Yes, I have a lot of seeds left from last year’s buying frenzy, but there are some new things I’d like to try and some superstars from last year that I’d like to grow in larger quantities.
Our goals this year:
Last year’s superstars:
You may have heard via Twitter or Facebook that one of our hives did not survive the winter. I suspect it was queen failure. There are plenty of frames of honey left, and the empty brood frames were EMPTY – no dead bees or larvae (which might indicate disease). Did I accidentally kill her during my last fall inspection? Or was she weak and just didn’t live very far into the winter? I may never know. But what do I do with all these frames with honey in them? They looked dark, almost black, but i tasted some and it was fine. I took one to the other hive thinking they’d be short on food by now, but they still have 1/3-1/2 of a box full of honey. So I took it inside to see if I could harvest the honey. As I started scraping, I noticed that I couldn’t scrape all the way to the bottom and some clusters of cells were full of powder – POLLEN? You don’t find that much pollen in a frame of capped honey during the summer, so why was this honey so full of pollen? I couldn’t find much reference to it online, but did discover a few discussions which suggested that for winter storage of pollen, they put it into open cells as they normally would, but then cover it with honey and cap it. Putting up for winter, I suppose. They need a lot of pollen (protein) as well as honey to survive the winter. I’m not sure what to do with all the honey left in that empty hive. I suppose I could start putting them in the other hive as they run low instead of using the sugar water feed typically used in spring. If there are any experienced beekeepers out there reading this, I sure would appreciate your input!
I met Felica Wild, a Milwaukee chef and blogger, at the first MKEFoodies Tweet-up in December She came to visit earlier this spring to chat about what we’ll be doing here at Tanglewood Hill. The day she was here, no seeds had been planted, the chicks were delivered earlier that morning, and the bees were still several weeks from arriving. It’s amazing how much has changed!
These are the real superstars of the garden so far: slow-bolting, insect resistant, beautiful and delicious!