May 13, 2013

Installing New Honeybees and Checking the Queens

Like many beekeepers all around the world, my beehives failed over the winter.  The bees simply vanished!  This mysterious and disturbing condition is called colony collapse disorder (CCD).  It’s estimated that CCD has wiped out from 20% to 60% of colonies in the affected areas.  Experts are looking at a range of possible causes, including the parasitic Varroa mite and several viruses.  There’s also a bacterial disease called European foulbrood that’s increasingly being found in U.S. bee colonies and, of course, the use of pesticides may be a real contributor to this very serious problem.

Whatever the reason, we needed to replace the four bee colonies we keep at the farm for pollination reasons, as well as for honey, so I ordered four packages of live bees.  Each ventilated package contains approximately 12,000 honeybees, including the all-important queen inside her own little cage.  It's absolutely necessary to keep the queen separate from the bees inside the box, as they are from different hives.  Until their respective odors mix and become one, the bees will kill the queen rather than protect her.  After a few days, the worker bees eat the candy plug on her cage and the queen can safely be introduced into the hive.  D.J. Haverkamp of Bedford Bee Honeybee Service helped me install the bees.  For a detailed look at how I regularly care for my hives, look for the July/August issue of Martha Stewart Living, on sale on June 24th.

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