Another Lost Queen

It’s June 10th and it’s only been six days since I checked in on the colony. I wanted to check them so soon again though to see how the queen situation is coming along. Since I didn’t see her or any evidence of her, I am concerned about them If she is no longer in the hive, I hope that they are using the brood that I gave them to make another queen.

The weather is great today, seventy six degrees and sunny. I spent some time watching the foragers before I opened the hive. They are still acting like everything is normal and they are bringing in pollen. The main give away is that they are so grouchy all the time. They get up into my face even before I open the hive up. I am glad that I am fully suited before I even get near the hive.

Once I got into the hive, it was obvious that things are not right. They are not building any new comb and at this point they don’t seem to be making an emergency replacement queen from the bar of brood that I put in. I did not find the queen again this time, so now I know she is gone. The number of bees is getting smaller. That will change a little when the capped brood from the bar hatch, but things won’t get better if they do not replace the queen.

After giving it a lot of thought, I have decided not to requeen the hive. I have already given them two queens and a bar of brood to work with and they have chosen not to for some reason. Now it is just a matter of waiting to see what happens. It seems that they should have already started to make an emergency queen, but maybe they still will. It will be there only hope for survival.

Finally the Sun is Out!

It’s June 4th and the sun is finally shining here! With the weather being so nice, I thought I would stop by the hives again and see what they are up to. Today I started at the Orchard Hive, since they have been so wonderful to work with. I also did not need to do a full inspection of them since I was here about a week ago.

They are doing very well. The colony is growing nicely and they are so sweet. Working with them is such a pleasure. They seem to be filling up the hive quickly so I gave them three more empty bars to build on. I stole one beautiful bar filled with brood at all stages to give to the Willow Hive. Since the queen in this hive is laying so nicely, I don’t think they will mind too much. It was actually very easy to convince the bees to come off of the comb. I used some of the fern leaves from the plants around the hive and gently brushed them off.

On this visit I did not see the queen, but there is plenty of evidence that she is there. There was a lot of brood at all stages and the colony was so calm. Those things are good enough for me, I don’t actually have to see her to know that she is there. I often do see the queens and I have gotten quite good at spotting them, but it is not always the case.

Now it’s time to tighten my gear and make sure that I am fully protected from the angry bees of the Willow Hive. Even before I opened the window they were in my face. The ants had moved out of the window area, so that was nice to see. When I opened the lid up there were the wasps again. I waited for them to fly away and then I scraped their little nests off of the lid. Then I found the ants, they had placed their eggs in between some of the bars. Ugh!

This hive is really taking me for a ride this season. I went through the hive twice today and did not find the queen. There is no new brood and the colony size is dwindling. I added the bar of brood from the Orchard Hive into the Willow Hive and I gave them a empty bar with drawn comb. The comb that they have is filling up with pollen and nectar and they don’t see to be building new comb. Honey bees are best at making wax between days twelve and eighteen of life and with the shrinking colony there are less and less bees at this stage.

Adding the bar full of brood now seems to be the only hope for this colony, unless the queen was hiding from me today. I will be checking in on them again soon to see how they are doing and if the queen is there or they are making a new one. This season is going to keep me on my toes.

Cold, Wet, and Cloudy Spring

This spring has been very wet and cold. There has been so much rain and almost constant cloud cover. The benefit of this has been that we are no longer in a drought, but the downside is that inspecting beehives in this weather is a challenge. The bees really don’t like when I open up their home in cloudy, cool weather. It seems like it has been raining everyday and I am sure that the bees sense that the rain is going to pour into their house.

Today is like all of the others, cool and cloudy. It looks like it might rain, but I am hoping it will hold out until I am done checking in on the bees. Since the Willow Hive is having issues, I decided to start there. That way if I can only get to one hive, it will be the Willow. Before I could even check on the bees, I had to deal with the wasps that have decided they really want to live in the hive lid. They seem to be determined to build here even though I remove their nests each time. Hopefully they will get it soon that they are not wanted here.

It has only been five days since the new queen was released into the hive. I did a little research and found that the new queen will typically start laying eggs within seven to fourteen days after her release. This new queen is not laying eggs yet, hopefully it will not be long before she does. She looks well and the colony has accepted her.

The hive has plenty of capped honey, nectar, and pollen. Now I just need to make sure that they do not become nectar bound like last year. I need to watch and make sure that the queen has room to continue to lay eggs. Avoiding late season swarms is a big goal of mine this year. I added two empty bars for them to build on.

The colony is still very grumpy. I was hoping that once they had a new queen they would feel better, but maybe they want new brood too. It’s just not as fun to work with angry bees. The bad weather doesn’t help either. The sun has to come out at some point!

I came back to the farm two days later to check in on the Orchard Hive. The weather is still not good for beekeeping. My plan is to do a quick check and give them a couple of bars. They are growing very well and the colony looks great. I only checked five of the nineteen bars since it is pretty windy.

I was able to find the queen, but I did not take the comb that she was on all the way out of the hive. There was a gust of wind and I didn’t want the comb to snap off of the bar. I found everything that I needed to see and I added two empty bars for them. I am feeling good about the Orchard Hive and how they are doing. The bees were calm even with the yucky weather. It is so nice to visit this colony, they help me to feel so much better about beekeeping.

Beginning of a wasps nest
This interesting bug greeted me from the top of the Willow Hive (on the outside)

Queenless

It’s the 20th of May and we are finally having some really nice weather. Today it is 70 degrees and sunny! I stopped at the Orchard Hive first and spent some time watching the bees coming in from foraging. These foragers were bringing in lots of pollen and there was quite a bit of traffic in the doorway. Since this colony is growing well and seems healthy I removed the entrance reducer to help relieve some of the traffic.

I opened the observation window and there was a large colony of any nesting there. The hive is surrounded by ferns, so I picked some and gently brushed the ants off of the window. Then I put peppermint essential oil on the window door to deter the ants. The ants are just a nuisance for me, as long as they stay out of the hive the bees do not care that they are there.

The Orchard Hive is on twelve bars right now and eleven of them have comb. I opened up the hive and the bees were so calm. A few of them came to greet me, but they were not upset and they were very gentle. I really enjoy the buzz of a happy colony. I am sure they are as thrilled as I am about the weather today!

The queen is laying a very nice brood pattern and this colony is growing well. I was able to find the queen easily today. There are eight bars with capped brood on them. Most of them are worker brood, but there is also drone brood. There was uncapped larvae and eggs too.

They have nectar on almost every bar and a good amount of capped honey. They had pollen stored on four bars. I added two more empty bars for them to continue growing. The colony is growing nicely and everything is looking great. I closed up the hive and headed over to the Willow Hive.

When I got to the hive, I looked around at the front to see how they were looking. There were some foragers coming and going, but not as many as at the Orchard Hive. Next, I looked in the window and saw that the colony seems to be growing a little. They are not growing as quickly as the other colony.

Once I got into the hive and began looking around, I realized that the queen was not there. I know that they were hoping to replace her, but it looks like she was only able to lay unfertilized or drone eggs. Now the colony has some brood in it, but it is all drone brood. The colony has plenty of pollen, nectar, and capped honey.

These bees were very grumpy today, even with the nice weather. That is one more signal that the colony is queenless. I decided that I would requeen the hive, but it would have to wait until tomorrow when I can get a queen. I closed up the hive and spent some time pulling poison ivy that is around the hive. I wasn’t able to get all of it, there is a lot. The bees were also very upset with me and letting me know it by slamming themselves into the suit. When I got enough of the poison ivy pulled out I left the bees alone.

The next morning I went to buy a new queen to put in the hive. When we got to the hive I opened it up, shooed out the wasps again, and removed the bar that I wanted to hang the queen cage on. I chose a bar that had a tiny piece of comb on it. I removed the cork from the candy end of the cage and hung it on the bar.

The bees seemed interested in her and were checking her out. Hopefully they will fully accept her and things will go well. The weather is not looking agreeable in three days, so I will come back in two days to check on their progress with the candy. This was a quick hive opening and I am very glad that it was because the bees are so cranky.

On May 23rd I went back to the Willow Hive to check in on the queen. Again I was greeted by wasps and angry bees. I opened the hive took out the bar with the queen cage on it and looked to see if she was still in there. I had to blow on the bees that were on the queen cage to get them to move and I saw her still in there. I then looked at the candy and it looked like it had barely been touched. Of course, this is hard to say for sure, but I decided that I would remove the cork on the top of the cage and put the bar back into the hive.

The next several days we are looking at rain and clouds so I needed to just take care of this today. I left the queen in the cage and just put everything back the way that it was. Now if they don’t let her out quickly enough, she can climb out the other end if she figures it out. We will see how things go. I will come back soon to check in on them, I just need to wait until Mother Nature lets me.

New Queen
Queen Cup
They found her!

Looking for Brood

It’s only been a week since I checked in on the bees, but I am back again invading their space. This spring has had awful weather, rainy and cold. I do appreciate the rain for the sake of the plants and the soil. It’s good to be out of the drought status, but it has been so much for so many days in a row. I would love to have some sunshine for a few days in a row every now and then. The other issue with the weather is that the bees are just not as friendly when it’s cold and cloudy.

Since the Orchard Hive seems to be doing better, I thought I would start with them. They were not thrilled with me being in their home, but they didn’t seem angry. The wasps had to be removed again. Last year, the kind of wasp that had started a nest in the Host Hive was more territorial. If there was remnants of a nest other wasps would not nest in the same space. These wasps are not like that and they don’t even mind nesting with another wasps nesting nest to them.

This is going to make for a challenging beekeeping season if I have to deal with wasps every time. I hope that they get sick of being squashed or shooed out of the hive and not come back. I really hope that I don’t have to find out how my suit will hold up to wasps. After finding out how I react to bee stings, I can’t even begin to imagine how I will react to wasps stings.

The Orchard Hive looks really good. They are growing well and at a steady pace. Out of the eight bars that they have comb on, they have brood on five of them. I found brood at all stages. Most of the brood that I found was worker brood, but they had some drones too. I am sure that once the weather gets better they will have more drone brood.

They also had a good amount of pollen and capped honey. They had bars with honey in the hive to start, but they are also busy make their own. With the weather being what it is, I was worried that they wouldn’t be able to collect as much as they need. I am very happy that I don’t have to feed them sugar water.

Since they are going well and filling their hive with brood and food I gave them three empty bars today. I put the bars on the outer sides of the nest so that I did not break up the brood nest. If we get more cold nights I don’t want the brood to get chilled. I put everything back together and tightened the bars as much as I could then closed the hive. Now to find out what the Willow Hive has in store for me.

The Willow Hive sits in such a beautiful location on the farm right near the pond under a willow tree. The Orchard Hive is near another pond across the way in the apple orchard, it’s also lovely just not as much as the Willow Hive location. On the walk to the Willow Hive, I get to enjoy seeing all the vegetable beds and this year they have added a strawberry patch. I have the geese with their goslings, heron, and turtles on my way to the hive.

Once at the Willow Hive, I opened the lids and their were wasps there too. After they were dealt with I finally got to open the hive. These are some very grumpy bees. They are acting like there is something wrong, but I am not sure what. While inspecting the hive I found brood at all stages, pollen, nectar, capped honey, and the queen. In fact, I found a lot of nectar. This worries me since last year the Willow Hive was nectar bound and the queen had no where to lay eggs which prompted them to swarm late in the season. I will have to continue to monitor this closely.

At this point, there is still some space available for the queen to lay eggs. They don’t seem to be building comb very quickly though. I do have several bars with empty comb, so I will bring one next time to give to them. Hopefully they will be building new comb by then. They have built some new comb, but not as much as I would have thought.

Today I also found queen cups, but only two this time. One was capped, but it looked like they were opening it. There may not be a viable queen in there and they are removing her. They seem to really want to replace this queen for some reason. Maybe she is too old or not healthy. Something seems really off with this colony I am just not sure what it is yet. Time will tell.

Orchard Hive
Willow Window

Pollen

Capped Queen Cup

Queen Cup in center

Unwanted Pests!

Today I started at the Orchard Hive and I got an unpleasant surprise when I got there. There were several large paper wasps starting to nest in the lid area of the hive. There is empty space between the lid and the top of the bars and they decided they wanted it to be theirs. Of course, I do not want them there or anywhere near me.

After running scared from the wasps, I headed over to the Willow Hive. They were very grumpy today. The weather was not ideal, but I was hoping that a quick inspection would be okay. Grumpy bees are not that fun to deal with, they spend a lot of time slamming into my veil.

Going through the hive, I found five queen cups. Two of the queen cups were on one bar and they were capped. It’s obvious that they are working to replace the current queen. I was able to find the queen, but the hive does not seem right. I am not sure what is going on, but there seems to be something.

I went back to the Orchard Hive to see how they were and I brought reinforcement to take care of the wasps. Once the wasps were removed from the hive it was time to open it up and see how they are doing. It looked as if it would start raining at any moment, so I moved somewhat quickly. I did remain careful, I did not want to damage any of the comb in the hive.

The colony is looking good, but I only added one bar since the weather was not cooperating. Right as I closed the lid on the hive, it began to rain. The bees were very calm through the inspection, but at the end they were getting a little annoyed with my presence and as soon as I closed the lid I knew why.

Things are looking good with the Orchard Hive. I will need to come back in about a week to check in on the queen and if she is laying. The Willow Hive is also going to need a check up, I need to see if I can figure out what is going on in there. Hopefully things are fine.

A Fresh Start

Early in the morning on April 24th the Post Office called to let me know that the bees had arrived. It was a chilly day, so I waited a while for the temperature to go up. While I was waiting, I got all of my supplies ready. I had my “bee bag” already packed with the tools that I needed. I carry my hive tool, alcohol wipes, baby wipes, bentonite clay, and zip ties to each inspection. This season I added tweezers to my bag. They are helpful at uncorking the queen cage and sometimes helping me get things that fall to the bottom of the hive.

Since I had lost all of my hives last winter, I had comb with honey left over and decided that it would be better to feed it to the new bees. Honey makes so much more sense to me than sugar water. The bees seem to like it more too. I took eight bars to split between the two hives. When I set it up I would put four bars in each hive with four empty bars in between each comb.

This is the first year that I would be installing the bees by myself. I was feeling pretty confident since I had done several installations now. I was also excited to get back to Old Frog Pond Farm, I love my time there. It’s such a peaceful place to visit and there is always fun things to see.

My plan was to start at the Willow Hive. I got everything ready and opened the package to remove the queen cage. The queen was alive and active. I used a push pin to hang the queen cage on an empty bar after removing the cork from the sugar end of the cage. Once she was in there securely it was time to dump the rest of the colony in. I noticed that there was something in the way of the bees, they had a large piece of comb that they had built that was blocking the hole. After pulling the comb out it was much easier to pour the bees into the hive.

The installation went very smoothly. I put the package with the remaining bees under the hive entrance so that they could make their way in when they were ready. The bees seemed very happy to be out of the package. The can for sugar water was empty and they were happy to be put into a hive with honey. I put the bars closely together and closed the lid. It was a relief that things went as well as they did.

Then it was time to install the bees into the Orchard Hive. I headed across the way to get to the hive and prepare. I put all of the bars into the sides of the hive that I wouldn’t be putting the bees into. Then it was time to open the package and take out the queen cage. This package was easier to deal with since they didn’t have any large pieces of comb that they had built. When the queen cage was out I hung it onto an empty bar with a push pin and put it in the hive. Then I went through the process of dumping the bees into the “bee bowl” of the hive. They poured out very nicely, but there are always bee left in the package.

Once most of the bees were in the hive, I put all the bars in and tightened them up. The package with the remaining bees was placed in front of the hive to allow them to join their colony when they were ready. Then I closed up the hive, picked up my bag, and removed my protective gear. Both installations were done and went very smoothly. I was feeling really good about everything.

Once I was home a beekeeper that I met last year sent me a message about installing her bees in the hive. She was telling me that everything went well and she removed the cork from the queen cage then added the bees easily. Removed the cork from the queen cage? That comment struck me like a ton of bricks. I had forgotten to remove the cork from the queen cage in the Orchard Hive!

I headed back out to the farm, suited up, and opened the Orchard Hive again. I only removed the bar that the queen was on and carefully took out the cork from the sugar end of the cage. I put the bar back into the hive and then I stood there for a moment to think if there was anything else that I could have forgotten. I am so glad that I got that message and that it hit me right away. When I told the other beekeeper about what had happened, she said that she was god to help me since I had offered her help last season. Needless to say, I thanked her for the message!

Now that I realized that everything was done and taken care I could relax. I removed my protective gear again and went home. It always seems so strange to me to go home after dumping thousands of honey bees into a box, but that is how things go. They are wild animals and they don’t need me hanging around too much bothering them. Both of these colonies seem to be happy bees, let’s hope that they stay that way.

On the 28th, I went back to check to see if the queens had been released. The weather has been wet and cold here, so timing for things is off this year. I typically check in on the queens between two and three days after installation. Mother Nature has different plans this year.

This time I started at the Orchard Hive. I did a full inspection even though there wasn’t much to inspect. The queen had been released, I removed the queen cage, and they had started building comb on three of the four empty bars that were in the hive. I was able to find the queen and she looked good. She was busy checking out the comb and the cells. The bees were so calm as I inspected. It didn’t take very long to get through all the bars and see what I needed to. The colony looks great.

After inspecting the Orchard Hive, I went over to the Willow Hive. I was a bit surprised that they were not building as much comb as the other colony since they had the large piece of comb in their package, but they were building some so I was not concerned. The queen had been released and I removed the queen cage from the hive. I was able to locate this queen too and she was also busing checking out the comb. Everything looked good in this hive too. These bees were calm through most of the inspection, but at the end they were a little upset. The clouds were rolling in and there was a threat of rain.

I am relieved to have the installations completed and that the queens have been released. After losing all of my hives last year I was worried about getting into it again this year. I am glad that I decided to try again, I really enjoy being with the bees and learning more about them every time I inspect their hives. Now if we could just get Mother Nature to provide time to be out checking the hives, that would be great!

Queen Cage
Bee Bowl
Closing up
Remaining Bees
Package Comb
Orchard Hive
Installed!
Stragglers

Hive Modification

Winter had taken it’s toll on my bees and me, but now spring is here and things are looking up. I decided last season that I needed to modify my hives. I just needed to come up with a way to do it. I want my Bee Thinking hives to have a screened bottom that can be closed during the colder months. I really like that option with the Gold Star Honeybees hives. After reading up about Varroa mites, I think that it’s a good option to help try to control them.

The challenge that I have is that the hive sits on a stand, so I am limited in how I alter them. I decided that I would just cut the bottom piece out between the stand. This leaves some space on each side where the bottom will stay solid. At least there will be a large area in the middle that will be screened, with the option of closing the bottom up during the off season.

We started with cutting the area of the bottom board that is between the stand. Once the bottom was cut off in the area between the stand, we stapled the screen on. After that was set we added brackets to the piece of the bottom that was removed and one large screw on each of the other sides. This will allow me to have the hives open during the warmer months and closed when it needs to be.

Luckily, the modifications were pretty easy to do. Now we just have to see if it benefits the bees. I am sure that having more ventilation in the summer will be nice for them. Now I am just awaiting their arrival.

I Finally Ordered Bees!

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.

Where Have I Been?

The blog has been very neglected over the last four months. There have been so many things taking my time away from being able to write. The biggest of these things is the Maynard Honeybee Meadow. This spring the meadow started as a small idea to put a beehive in an empty lot behind ArtSpace Maynard and now we are looking at installing an amazing wildflower meadow with filled with art and an active top bar beehive!

When we first started, we had no idea how we were going to fund this project. Now we have just successfully completed a crowdfunding campaign through Patronicity and MassDevelopment will be giving us a matching grant. There has been so much excitement and positivity around the development of the honeybee meadow. We had several events during the fundraising campaign to help raise awareness for the project and for honey bees. It was a great learning experience for me, I had never done anything like it before.

Once the crowdfunding had come to an end I was focusing on getting the work done in the meadow that I can do before winter got here. We tilled the plot and put in some wildflower seeds and bulbs in the hopes of some color in the spring. Of course winter came more quickly than I had thought. The ground is now frozen and we can’t really do anymore work in the meadow. We have asked the artists to start working on the pieces that they will be creating for the meadow.

Now the meadow project has slowed down and I will have some more time. My own garden didn’t get as much of my attention as I would have liked, but it did well. I grew tromboncino squash for the first time and they did very well. The largest one was 4 feet long and weighed 13 pounds! Now with the freezing temperatures, the garden has been put to bed for the winter.

My beekeeping year was a rough one. I lost the Willow Hive in August and in November I lost the Orchard Hive. I think that the mite load in the Orchard Hive was too high and they had deformed wing virus. They may have had other issues, I am not sure. At this point, I am not sure if the Host Hive is alive or not.

I went to check on the Orchard Hive in early November on what I thought would be our last decent weather day. My plan was only to look into the window since I had checked them not long before. When I looked in the window, I saw one bee walking around. It was later in the afternoon and the sun was going down so I should have seen more bees than that.

I went home and picked up my nuc box just in case. I wasn’t sure what I would find. Back at the hive, I opened it up to look around. I found the queen and about 12 bees. The rest of the colony was dead at the bottom of the hive. There were probably 10 or so yellow jackets in the hive. I grabbed the queen and all of the live bees and put them in the nuc with bars full of honey. I decided to take them back to my house and see if there was anything that I could do for them.

It didn’t take me long to realize that I couldn’t help them. They would need to be a much bigger colony in order to make it through the winter. It was a devastating realization for me. I had lost two of my three colonies and winter wasn’t even here yet.

Winter was fast approaching, I knew that I needed to figure out a way to protect the Host Hive from the wind. That hive is out in the open with no protection. This year I decided that the hay bales would not work and the family hosting the hive didn’t want the hay bales either. I found 3/4” insulation and put it on three sides of the hive. I did not put any on the side where their entrance is, so that they can get out on the warmer days.

A couple of weeks ago we had one of those warmer days. My husband stopped by the hive to check in on them. He said there were no bees flying so he knocked on the hive to try to get the guard bees to come out and no one came out. There should have been bees out, it was the middle of the days and the temperature was in the 60’s. There have not been any more warm days for me to get over there and look. To be honest, I am also putting it off a bit. There has been so much loss for me this year with the bees.

I have learned a lot this season and I know that all of that will help me in the future, but right now the loss hurts. Looking on the bright side, I am hopeful that the Willow Hive and Host Hive swarms are doing well. I have been telling myself that I am helping to repopulate the feral bees.

Looking forward to the new beekeeping season I have been thinking about things that I can try to see if I will be more successful. There are options as far as what kind of bees I get to put into the hives. I am considering ordering small cell treatment free bees from Gold Star Honeybees and I am thinking of looking into getting Russian bees from a beekeeper here in Massachusetts. It is possible that I can do both since I will have four hives to populate.

The other thing that is on my mind is the design of the Bee Thinking top bar hives. When I bought the hives, I had the option of screened bottom or solid bottom. Since the bees would be living here with the cold winters, I went with solid bottoms. I am excited to work with my first Gold Star Honeybees top bar hive because I did not have to choose. The hives have a screened bottom as well as a solid board to put up when it’s needed. Now I am wondering if I can modify my current hives to have this kind of option.

My thought is that having the option to have the screen bottom in the summer and fall and the solid bottom when the weather is cold will allow the bees to try to reduce the number of mites when the bottom is open. This choice also gives me another option if I choose to use it, I can “treat” the bees with powdered sugar if the mites are proving to be too much for the colony.

The problem that is presented with modifying the Bee Thinking hives is that the stand gets in the way of being able to have a complete screened bottom and being able to raise up the solid board for winter. I am going to look at just modifying the middle section and the sides will need to stay as they are. At least that would allow some chance for the bees to try to chase some of the mites out. Now I just have to bring myself to get the hives and bring them home to work on them.

One of the other things that I am planning to try out and learn more about it using plants and essential oils to help the bees deal with the mites. I will be planting mint close to all of the hives. I had read that the mites do not like the oil from the mint plants that the bees will pick up when they visit the plants. I have been using essential oils for many different things inside my home, so now I plan to expand my knowledge and use of them to include the bees.

There were also so many things that happened while I was inspecting the hives this year that taught me many new lessons. I will be restocking my tool bag and making sure to carry things with me that I hadn’t even thought of at the beginning of last season. I will be adding zip ties and thumb tacks to my bag for when the comb falls off the bar. I will be keeping my nuc box with me whenever I head out to the hives, just in case. Also small collection containers for when things don’t go well and I need to collect a sample of bees. A flashlight will also be in my bag for when I have a hard time finding the eggs.

To every inspection I carry a checklist that I made to keep notes of what is going on in every hive. The basic things that I have are two hive tools and alcohol wipes to clean them with. I also keep bentonite clay around in case anyone gets stung, cinnamon and peppermint essential oil to deter the ants, extra bars and a sharpie to mark them with. During beekeeping season I keep my bag as well as all of the bee suits we own and gloves in the car to make sure that I am always ready.

Now with January almost behind us, I will get more serious about preparations for this year. At this point in the year I also get to start planting seeds for the garden. This time of year always feels so refreshing, it’s a time to start over and enjoy what the year has to bring. I am hopeful that 2017 will be a great beekeeping and gardening year for me! Happy New Year!