It took me a long time to finally order my bees this year. I was so reluctant to order my packages. After last season, I am feeling a bit put off. I had the hardest time getting myself to oder the bees, I didn’t want to think about the upcoming bee season. I gave in and finally ordered two packages from Gold Star Honeybees. I really like the fact that the bees are untreated and mutts.
I did only order two packages though. I am only going to replenish the hives at Old Frog Pond Farm this spring. The Host Hive is going to be removed from it’s home and put into storage for now. If the need arises for a hive during the season, I will have that one available for use. I think that it will be good for me to start slowly this year. I want to spend more time focusing on the bees and what is going on in the hives.
Mites and all of the diseases that they bring into the hives are really becoming a big problem. The Orchard Hive had a high mite load and deformed wing virus that I am sure led to their demise. I have a strong feeling that it was the mites that led to the loss of the Host Hive too. I did not send in a sample from the hive because I am fairly certain that the bees had been dead since December at some point and I did not get to open the hive until mid January.
When I finally did open the Host Hive, I found a good size colony all dead in the middle of the hive with honey filled bars on both sides of them. I have read that some of the diseases that are brought in by the mites can cause the bees to be indecisive. If the bees are unable to make the decision about which direction to move in as a group than they will die from starvation. It looks like that is what happened to the Host Hive.
It seems that mites are going to be one of the biggest challenges that I will be facing as a beekeeper, so I want to try to figure out how to help the bees. We will be modifying the hives before I put the bees in them. I believe that it is important to have a screened bottom, but I don’t want the hive to be exposed to the weather in the winter. We will be modifying the Bee Thinking Hives to be more like the Gold Star Honeybees Hives. I think that Christy Hemenway put a lot of thought into the design of her hives and that it is beneficial for the bees to be able to have screen bottomed hives during the good weather with the option of closing up the hive during the cold.
Having a screened bottom means that the mites fall through if they come off of the bees instead of just falling down and crawling back up onto the bees. The screened bottom will also allow for more ventilation during the hot months. The other benefit that I see to the screened bottom board is that I can sprinkle the bees with pure powdered sugar if the mites get to be too much. The idea behind the powdered sugar is that the bees will work hard to clean themselves and each other, ideally picking off many of the mites that will then fall through the screen and be unable to get back to the bees.
My other plan is to plant mint around the bases of the hives. I have read that the mites are repelled by the mint oil and honey bees love mint plants. I had hoped to do this last season, but I didn’t get the chance. This season I am going to do the planting as soon as I can to make sure that the mint can get established and hopefully be blooming later in the season when the bees need more help in dealing with the mites.
At this point there is a little less than a month before the bees get here. I have a lot of work to do to get ready for their arrival. Spring is my favorite season and I am very excited for it’s return. There are already seedlings sprouted in my little greenhouse that I set up in my living room, giving me hope for what is to come. This year I plan to put a lot of my energy into my garden, the honeybee meadow, and caring for the bees. I am looking forward to a productive season.