Tag Archives: Hive

Is it a Bird? Is it a Plane? Is it a gigantic Swarm of BEES?

bee_swarm

I walk home at lunch because I just can’t get enough of my husband, my kittens and I get to eat leftovers for lunch instead of grocery store concoctions. Well, I was walking back to work, and I heard this roaring buzz. I ran back up to the house, breathless as my tummy is growing, and asked Marc to come help me spot a suspected swarm.

And there it was, 75 ft up a tree, the size of a beach ball. *sigh* It was a primary swarm and after checking all the hives, the only hive that could spare that many bees without emptying the hive completely would be good ol’ Gertrudabelle, my oldest hive. She’s 5 supers (boxes) high and was the most productive, my biggest promise of honey supplies. She’ll still be a source of honey, but not as much as I was hoping. Unless we can catch these bees.

My very helpful co workers suggested phoning the fire department for the longest ladder on island. Yeah, not even the most esteemed fire fighters have a ladder that would have to reach 100 ft. And then you’ve got 30 lbs of bees to haul down a ladder. What misadventure that would be! So instead we went to plan B (or Bee, if you prefer. ha ha)

We made a nice little home for them. A hive box, with honey smeared around the entrance and inside. A bedsheet spread out beneath it with sugar syrup, and a welcome home mat at the front door. Think it’ll work?

And I phoned the neighbours to ask them to check their eaves periodically in the next few days just in case they decide on a different home.

I’ve dealt with swarms quite a few times before but they were never mine, this is the first swarm I’ve personally had and keeping bees for 3 years, it’s surprising that it took this long.

In other news, the strawberries are ripe and selling like hot cakes at the Farmer’s Market. (Not ours, we are the blueberry people…) So my pregnant belly is really enjoying these red explosions of flavour. And, yesterday I ate the first ripe-ish blueberry! *key the ominous music*

Blueberries would usually be greeted with nothing but thrilled excitement, and yes they still are, but they are also greeted with loads of long days picking. When you have 500 bushes to rake through, it means rising at 6am and picking well into the evening. Good thing blueberry bushes are not the prickly type! And selling at the market is ever-so fun!

Hope the emergence of Summer is finding you well, swarm-free, and floating in your favourite berries!

Mourning with those who Mourn

I had a very sad note this week from the Vancouver Island Beekeeping club. They put out a newsletter called the Bee Line. I wanted to share this part of the article with you.

Last month I attended a meeting in Duncan with the Valley Beekeepers. They requested a meeting with Paul van estendorp to discuss the need for support for beekeepers that suffered huge losses this winter.

Under these conditions, support is necessary to make it viable to be a honey bee producer on the Vancouver Island. Trust me; this was not a very pleasant get together. There were about forty people in the room, and one by one they told their crushing stories of bee loss. I was stunned to hear those that wintered down over 300 colonies, and by January all but about 60 remain wintered 30 and lost all, wintered 175 and have 19 left, wintered 22 and have 3. Wintered 12 and have 1. There were tears in the room, and it was well over an hour to before all had told the facts of their loss. Losses in that room were very close to 1000 colonies and maybe 159 remain. You don’t need a percentage, or a dollar sign to see the devastating costs over the past several months.

There was no pattern to the losses, as all beekeepers treatments were varied, but timely and according to best practises. All reported colonies going into late summer/early fall with abundant bees with good stores of pollen and honey. By early winter losses were starting to show, and by early February the devastation was pronounced.

This story breaks my heart. I have spoken to several beekeepers on this island and they have had similar losses though not to the extent and volume of these beekeepers, as the ones on Pender are hobbyists. Though the sadness carries over no matter if you lose one colony or one hundred.

The honeybee loss has struck a chord with the media as well. The Times Colonist has featured a couple articles. CBC has had a special on the bee loss and everyone has an opinion on it that I’ve talked to here.

In the meantime, the enthusiasm for honeybees is also increasing steadily. I’ve had more people coming into my work, asking if I have honey yet. (Which I do not, thank you for your inquiries.) And I’ve received more interesting links to honeybees. Check this one out! Her name is Agathena Dyck and she does a lot of art work with bees.

queen-2

The beauty that bees are capable of just by doing what they know, being who they are, this is what amazes me about honeybees. Somehow honeybees have carved out an existence complimenting their environment. It frustrates me that humans have not figured out a way to do this. We are more of a smash ‘n grab species. Why?? I feel like I am repeating David Lee Murphy cliche “Why can’t we all just get along?”

I hate to despair or bring anyone down, but 90% bee loss is horrific and terrifying. So a small challenge, I urge you to support your local honey producers as they are definitely struggling and any purchase of honey or beeswax from a local producer is going to help the economy and increase the number of people willing to keep bees and invest in this incredible species!

Thanks for reading and Happy Saturday!

Bee Aggressive, Bee Bee Aggressive

bee_madSome hives just are more aggressive than others.

This is said to be caused by an ornery Queen.

They alarm more easily.

They send out the “kill” pheramone more readily than other hives.

This is Miss Lucy Hive.

beesI was reading about aggressive bees the other day and I came across a beekeeper who had a shirt that said “I’m John the Beekeeper. If I’m running, you should to.”

Now, I am cheerleading 4 hives. Lucy Hive is the one that stings me the most.

It all started on a sunny day, when I got out my spikey little cage and yellow marker, to mark the queen. I do it ever so gently. I try not to squish her beauteous long legs or her elegant hips. Her children did not take kindly to the momentary trapping, and they rammed their little butts in the back of my gloves and the stinger charged into the back of my hand. This is the weakest part of my bee suit.

Now it must be said that I was not stung at all the first year I kept bees.

The second year, however, I was stung 4 times in one week. I went to the pharmacy because my hand was itchy and swelling to the point where my knuckles looked like dimples. The pharmacist was very kind and suggested I stay away from any bees for a bit. Um, not going to happen.

Lucy hive is so ornery that when I try to do the bi-weekly check-ups, they fly into my face and bounce off the screen. The noise level of angry bees is incredible. It sounds like a diesel engine.

This weekend, I winterized my bees. Simply put, I take any mite strips out, take the syrup buckets out, put lots of dry sugar on the inner cover, and shut them up tight until March.

Lucy would have none of it. They stung me three times on the back of my hand. (itchy!) And received less dry sugar in my effort to close ‘er up as fast as possible. Perhaps Lucy is in need of a new monarch, with better manners.

You’ll be happy to know that all the other hives were much more congenial.