1 With spring approaching and with some flowers blooming, the honeybees have been venturing out of their hives collecting pollen, which is vital to the developing larvae back in the hives.
2 D.J. Haverkamp of Bedford Bee Honeybee Service has been helping Carlos with my hives.
3 Late February is time to check the hives to see how they fared over the winter.
4 If all has gone well, the Queen has begun to lay about 10 to 20 eggs per day, since around the second week of February. She ceased laying at the end of November and with no brood to feed, the hives have been very quiet.
5 On nice days, the bees will emerge from the hive to get rid of wastes.
6 Having had such a mild winter, I have noticed quite a bit of bee activity.
7 Moving the hives last autumn, to this sheltered and sunny area near the stable was a very good idea.
8 With very little flower nectar available for the bees, Carlos was going to feed them sugar water, so he brought out the hive top-feeders.
9 D.J. explained that feeding sugar water to bees at this time of year can cause bee dysentery, and ultimately, death to the hive.
10 So, the top feeders were lifted up...
11 And removed from the hive.
12 Rather than a liquid diet, which causes the bees to leave the hive much too often for elimination purposes, D.J. made a large tray of bee fondant, a type of hard candy for the bees to eat.
13 The fondant is made with 5-parts of white sugar to 1-part of water and heated to 238º to the soft ball stage.
14 D.J. stirs in 1 cup of rye flour, which turns the fondant a brownish color and provides nutritious protein for the developing larvae.
15 He also adds about 10 drops of essential lemon grass oil, which lends a citrusy scent to entice the bees.
16 D.J. wanted to check one hive to see how it was faring.
17 This box is called the honey super and the frames contain last autumn's goldenrod honey which the bees have been consuming all winter.
18 The fact that there are so many bees on the tops of the frames, may indicate that the frames are nearly empty of honey.
19 D.J. then lifted the honey super, revealing the bee winter cluster in the brood box. This is where the Queen lays her eggs in empty cells starting in late winter.
20 The bees cluster like this to keep themselves warm. At the center is the Queen, where the temperature stays around 80º. The outer edge of the cluster is about 46º.
21 Heat is created when the worker bees shiver. By continuously moving back and forth between the inner part of the cluster and the outer part, very few bees actually freeze to death.
22 Peeking into the hives like this during late winter is something a beekeeper does only when it's calm and around 50º, so as not to disturb the clustering bees too much.
23 D.J. now knows for certain that the honey supply in the hives is low and the bees will benefit greatly from a supplemental diet of bee fondant.
24 A piece this big should be added to each hive.
25 Having just made the fondant that morning, it hadn't had enough time to fully harden.
26 Carlos lifted while D.J. placed the fondant in the hive on top of the frames.
27 The fondant should be checked every few days to see when more should be added.
28 The bees should continue this fondant diet until the middle of April when the willow trees begin to bloom.
29 With this fondant diet, each hive can increase its population by 10,000 bees. That, of course translates to each hive producing 15 to 20 pounds more honey! A real plus for any beekeeper!
30 D.J. wanted Carlos to show him all of our beekeeping supplies. He was checking to see if we needed more foundation for the honey frames. We do!
31 He also wanted to see our bee hive parts, which are kept on a loft in a storage barn. I would like to increase my hives from 3 to 6 and an inventory was made.
32 There are plenty of bottom boards for building the new hives upon.
33 And plenty of inner covers for the supers
34 And extra top feeders when they are called for
35 These are called spacer boards - one side is flat, while the other side has a raised edge to make room for that fondant placed inside the hives. Carlos needs to add these to the three existing hives.