Old Frog Pond Farm

On Saturday, April 9th we loaded up the top bar hives and drove them over to Old Frog Pond Farm. I had been out at the farm earlier in the week to try to identify locations for the two hives. The farm is very beautiful and peaceful. There will be a lot of forage and water for the bees to enjoy. We found two wonderful places to put the hives.
We set up the first hive close to a couple of large willows on the banks of the pond. It took a bit of work and tweaking to get the hive completely level, but it turned out very well. I put 6 bars of comb and honey from the old hive into it and I put empty bars in between them. I plugged all of the entrance holes to make sure that nothing else moved into the hive before Monday.
The second hive is in the apple orchard. It is set off to the side and close to another pond. We made sure it was completely level, we have to move it around a bit to make it that way. This hive also got 6 bars with comb and honey. I am so happy that there was plenty of comb and honey to split between the two hives. I plugged all of the entrance holes in this hive too.
On Monday the 11th we packed up the all of our beekeeping gear and equipment and went to pick up the bees. Then we took the bees to their new home. We installed the bees in the Orchard hive first. The weather was a bit on the cool side. Luckily, everything was ready for the bees to move in. Before installing the bees, I removed the cork that was blocking the main entrance. There is still an entrance reducer in place, but now it is open for them. The installation went very smoothly and the bees seemed very happy to have drawn comb and honey already waiting for them.
I installed the packages the same way that I had last year. I removed the feeder can from the package first and then took the queen cage out. Once the queen cage was out, I covered the hole back up to try to reduce the amount of bees flying. I checked on the queen to make sure she was alive and well and then I attached her cage to a bar that had a comb that only covered about 3/4 of the bar. This was the bar that was the first after the divider board on the left side of the hive.
Then it was time to dump the rest of the bees into the hive. This year it seemed so much easier than last and last year wasn’t that difficult. I bonked the package onto the ground to shake the bees to one area and then turned it over and poured them into the hive. It’s amazing to me how most of them just let go and allow themselves to be poured into the hive. I tried to get as many of them out of the package as I could and then I sat the package in front of the entrance hole.
After the Orchard hive was installed and closed up, we went across the street to the Willow hive. The process of installation was exactly the same. I had a little more difficulty getting the cork out of the queen cage, but it all worked out. These bees seemed just as happy as the others about their new home. They went in easily and the overall mood was happy. It was so nice to install both of the hives and have things go so smoothly and without incident. After last year, I am really hoping to keep the amount of stings that I get to an extreme minimum.
There are times when I am still a bit nervous being around the bees, but when I am in all of my gear I feel so much more confident. The bees take notice of that too. My host hive colony really showed me that last year, so I pan to continue to keep suited up and regain my confidence. This year it will be a bit more involved for me to visit all of my hives. The host hive is in the same town, but the two new hives are about 15 minutes away. It might be good for me to have a little distance, then I can think about other things in my life too…like my garden! Since spring is here, I am thinking a lot about my garden.
Now that the Willow and Orchard hives are installed and everyone seemed to move in quickly, I will return in a few days to check on the queens. I will be looking for them to be released and accepted into the colony and seeing if they start laying. I am not sure what the timeline will look like since both colonies have prebuilt comb to work with.
I am very happy that I had honey to provide for each of the colonies. Sugar syrup is not that great of a diet and I am not interested in feeding the bees any of the other garbage that is marketed to beekeepers for feeding bees. If there is a need, I will offer the bees sugar syrup. To start though, they will just have the honey that is in the combs. I think that it should be enough to get them going since there is already forage coming up for them.
Picking up the bees
Picking up the bees
Opening the package
Opening the package
Removing the feeder
Removing the feeder
Removing the queen cage
Limiting the flying
Queen cage
Queen cage 
Removing the cork
Removing the cork
Pouring the bees
Pouring the bees
Bee bowl
Bee bowl
Trying to get them out
Trying to get them out
Putting the bars back
Returning bars
Home sweet home
Home sweet home
Second package
Second package
Opening it up
Opening it up
Taking the feeder out
Taking the feeder out
Hanging the queen cage
Hanging the queen cage
"Bonking"
“Bonking”
So many bees!
So many bees!
Full bee bowl
Full bee bowl
Stragglers moving in
Stragglers moving in

Pollinator Protection

Massachusetts is in the process of putting together a pollinator protection plan and so far what they have is not very protective of our pollinators. Here is the link to the final draft,  http://www.mass.gov/eea/docs/agr/farmproducts/docs/mdar-pollinator-plan-final-draft.pdf. We have until April 30th to email MDAR (Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources) supporting the use of the Pollinator Protection Plan Framework put together by 8 county beekeeper associations.
The “Pesticide Enforcement Program” only addresses large agriculture pesticide application. They do not at all address neonicotinoids and the use of them. Nor do they address small scale pesticide use or private residential pesticide use. Pesticide applicators are “encouraged” to obtain proper licensure from MDAR prior to the application of pesticides. They are also “encouraged” to seek training about pollinators and the best management practices.
The section titled “The Role of Beekeepers” states that beekeepers have the main responsibility for the overall health and welfare of the bees. It seems to me that the people writing this draft must not understand that honey bees are wild animals. We may “keep” the bees in hives that we provide, but they do their own thing. Beekeepers have no control over what and how things effect the bees. There is only so much that beekeepers can do or should do.
Then they go on to tell the beekeepers that we need to “prevent swarming by colonies”.What? Swarming is a natural, reproductive process of a healthy colony. Measures used to prevent swarming can be harmful to colonies and can leave a colony queen less. Beekeepers can try to make splits of their hives, but that is not always a successful way of preventing swarming of a colony. Again, honey bees are wild animals and they need to do what is best for their colony.
There is a little coverage of the need for forage and water for the bees. This is put in under the land managers and farmers section. They also touch on the role of nurseries and landscapers, but there is very little information there. At the end they mention that MDAR will periodically review and modify their plan to “ensure that is meets the needs of the stakeholders”. I have a feeling that the largest number of “stakeholders” is in big agriculture and not those who are really concerned about the welfare of the pollinators.
In response to the plan drafted by MDAR, eight Massachusetts county beekeepers associations came together to write a plan that would focus more on actually protecting the pollinators. Here is the link, http://www.plymouthcountybeekeepers.org/beekeepers-pollinator-protection-plan-framework/.
They emphasized a need to have all involved working together, but that Massachusetts beekeepers will have the majority vote.
Under the regulatory section there is a focus on training of inspectors and strengthening the state apiary inspection program. They also requested having information in electronic format and open to the public in the annual Pollinator Health Report. Beekeepers are requesting that the people that do use pesticides, do so at night when flowers are not in bloom and bees are not out foraging. Neonicotinoids are address in this plan and they ask to restrict the use of them in order to protect the pollinators.
The section for beekeepers encourages continuing education and continuing the activities that are being put on by the various beekeeping associations in the state. They want to see a continuation of hands on trainings to help beekeepers understand what to look for in their hives. There is also a request that the state inspectors educate the beekeepers on any problems that they find in their hives in a timely manner.
The pesticide applicator section focuses on educating the applicators about the chemicals that they are using and how they effect our pollinators, as well as educating them about local forage that is utilized by the pollinators. They put in guidelines as to when pesticides should be used to have the least effect on the bees. There is mention of beekeepers and pesticide applicators needing to be aware of each other’s activities and information on when and where pesticides are being sprayed.
The beekeepers plan also addresses improvement of forage, as well as expansion of it. They encourage research into the health and wellbeing of the bees. There is a push to set up queen rearing initiatives in Massachusetts. They plan to have the stakeholders meeting quarterly and as I said, the beekeepers will be the majority vote. This plan is much more open to communication and change as it needs to happen.
If you are in the state of Massachusetts you can send an email letting MDAR know that you are not satisfied with their plan and that you would like to see them implement the plan put together by the beekeepers. You can go to http://salsa4.salsalabs.com/o/51103/p/dia/action3/common/public/?action_KEY=17988 to send a letter the state apiarist. You can also send a letter to John Lebeaux at john.lebeaux@state.ma.us, it is requested that you refer to the document as “The Eight County President’s Beekeepers Pollinator Protection Plan Framework. That way it is not confused with the protection plan that was submitted by farm bureau.
Reading through both of these plans, I don’t agree completely with either of them. The MDAR plan is not written to provide protection for the pollinators. The beekeeper’s plan does better, but it could do more. I still have a lot of learning to do around the politics. What I do know is that our pollinators are very important to us and if we don’t protect them there will be negative consequences for everyone. Let’s work together to make things better for our pollinators.