Bone Lake Meadows Apiary Blog

making the planet a better place one hive at a time.

February Housecleaning February 15, 2012

Filed under: winter stuff — dronedude @ 9:33 pm

After a dose of true winter coldness and boldness a few weeks ago, we have once again settled back into the tropics here at the intersection of 47 degrees north and 96 degrees west. This week marked the return of the true ten hours of daylight for our area. What normally happens now in winter in the hive is for the queen to begin laying some brood for the spring buildup which will start to replace the dead worker bees that have moved on to greener pastures.  Some of the bee experts at the University of Minnesota are thinking because the winter has been so mild, that many hives are going to brood up fast, pedal to the metal quickly, instead of the normal slow transition into spring.  If this is the case, hives may be in jeopardy of eating themselves out of house and home before the real spring arrives.

The photo taken today on the right shows one of our single nuc boxes which has a new fall 2011 queen. From the image you can see that major housecleaning and cell scrubbing is going on inside the hive as debris gets pushed to the curbside. This is an indication that this queen means business about raising a colony and they may need some additional nourishment.

What most beekeepers would do in a situation like this would be to put on a pollen supplement patty. Most of the patties sold to beekeepers are a recipe of corn syrup, white granulated table sugar, flour and odd pollen collected from who knows where.

We do not buy the over the counter pollen patties anymore. Last fall, we made a point to collect and preserve our own local strain of pollen and put  honey aside for the spring to make our own version of a  high protein meal deal for the bees. It will not be too fancy, just a wholesome mix of local pollen and crystallized honey blended together and served a la carte on the hives top bar. We’re keeping it fresh and local for our bees. Not all of the hives will be served, it’s only the ones that are showing us this cleaning frenzy at their lower entrance that will get the caloric bump in grub. Right now it appears that our wintered over nucs of young queens are the only ones chompin’ at the bit with a major dose of cabin fever.

The other hives are all still alive and appeared clustered somewhere in the center of their palaces, continuing their long winter naps in a winter that never was.


Russians Don’t Care January 19, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized,winter stuff — dronedude @ 9:03 pm

The first below weather of the winter finally came to town here in Minnesota. The temperature dropped below zero last night for the first time this year. The temperature this morning in the “Lone Wolf” hive was 35 degrees Fahrenheit (1.6 degree  Celsius) in their third box with the outside temperature at a minus 15 below zero Fahrenheit  (-26 degree Celsius). These bees, like the majority of our hives are clustered tightly in their second box out of sight, hopefully with an ample supply of honey and pollen. I mention pollen because of our unusually mild winter, the chances are very good that the queens in many of our hives have been laying some early brood that will consume some of their spring pollen supplies.

And then there are our first year Russian bees. The high temperature never got above zero degrees Fahrenheit today. Toward sundown, I detoured to one of our apiary yards that only has our Russian hives in it. I have read some articles that speak of how resourceful and resilient Russians bees are. But I had a hard time believing my eyes when at -5 degree Fahrenheit (-20.5 C) with a strong wind blowing off the frozen tundra, these incredible little bees were hanging out around their top entrance soaking in some of the weak January sunlight. I noticed they would rotate in and out of the top entrance at a slow leisurely pace. Not a care in the world, still checking things out, looking for spring. This cold wave is supposed to last for a week or so before it breaks. We will then  have to do an inventory to see how all our hives made out  during this current cold snap. Not worried about the Russian bees. They are going to be alright. Russians don’t care about freezing in their tracks. They had winter figured out long before we did.


The Year in the Review January 3, 2012

Filed under: winter stuff — dronedude @ 10:15 pm

Happy New Years to all you Beeks out there.
2012 came bbbbursting in with a blast of white out weather to blow away the last remnants  of 2011.Last year saw us rear our own queens for the first time with giddy  success. Though early season honey production was down substantially, a fall explosion of goldenrod and asters supplied the bees with copious opportunities to fill their boxes and erased the nervous feeling of not having the bees make it through the winter on their own. With the pop of a cork and the drop of the ball, January 1st found all of our hives and nucleus colonies still alive.

2012 looks to provide us with more opportunities for letting bees be bees and hopefully expanding on our early successes of queen rearing. We have been approached by three more CSA farms in the St Croix River Valley that would like to have us place our bees on their organic fields. So great to have these options to chose from, seeing as how difficult it is becoming to find suitable land that bees can survive on.

Until the sun returns, pick up a bee book and kick back with a hot cup of coffee (with honey of course ). If I may offer a book suggestion, THE BEEKEEPER’S LAMENT, by Hannah Nordhaus, offers the reader a close up look at the plight and perils of migratory beekeeping in America. I found it sad and tragic. Enough said.

Early March will find us attending the North American Organic Beekeeper conference in Tucson, Arizona. Should be interesting. Many of the treatment free  beekeepers that were in the movie Queen of the Sun, will be presenting, like Roy Arbon from New Zealand.

Until then, need to shake off lazy bastard tendencies and address that  piles of lumber laying on the garage floor waiting for someone to pick up a hammer and saw and build those  two dozen new deep boxes  before spring settles in. Crank up the Neil Young and lets get busy in 2012.

“The fact that man knows right from wrong proves his intellectual superiority to other creatures; but the fact that he can do wrong proves his  moral inferiority to any creature that cannot.”



Sunshine and blooming flowers December 27, 2011

Filed under: kelseybee!,winter stuff — queen frederica @ 11:51 am

In the midst of winter, just after the solstice, I took this photo to remind you that the days are now getting longer. Each morning here on Lanzarote I wake up to bees visiting the blooming aloe plants outside my window. If you look at the blossoms hanging toward the earth you will see a pretty lady getting breakfast. What a way to start the day..



Lone Wolf T.S.19 December 15, 2011

Filed under: winter stuff — dronedude @ 8:59 pm

In the far corner of the apiary stands a single hive, isolated from every other hive by design.  This part of the apiary  is where the white pines transition to the blue stem grasses and mixed stage horn sumac summer fields.This dark time of the year, the fierceness of the howling winter winds are unabated in this area. The bees in this hive are of a Buckfast gene pool darken honeybee with a one year old queen. This particular hive has always been somewhat independent in their bee personality. Sometimes fairly easy to work with and at other times quick to tell you they do not want company today. This is a one year hive that built up on lots of new foundation and was also a great provider of propolis. It capped over two fall supers after filling three of their own deep boxes.  T.S.19 is the name I put down in my notes for this self-sufficient hive. My main interest in this hive’s winter survival is that I am thinking of starting cell regression in the spring of 2012. Here is a link to a web site that explains a little about the cell regress process and going organic with beekeeping.

This winter I am monitoring both the outside temperature and the temperature inside the third box. I started out with the temperature probe in the second box but within a week they quickly proceeded to chew the temperature sender unit off the wire and totally encased it in propolis. The new unit is in the third upper box and working fine for now. It helps that all the bees are in the second box but I still can check on temperatures inside the hive. The bees are maintaining a 17-25 degree difference in the top box compared to the outside temperature on any given day. The temperature in the second box with the bees will be a constant 50-55 degrees for early winter survival. Sometime in late January or early February, when eight hours of natural daylight start again, all the bees will move upward into the top box for food and the start of the queen’s 2012  first brood laying cycle. By monitoring  the temperature inside the hive, I want to know when the mass movement upward is going to occur. The close up picture shows the temperature  differences on the morning of December 3, 2011. The outside air temperature (17.5F) is the top number and the bottom number is inside the hive top box (33.8F).

When they make that move, I will see the temperature rise  rapidly in a twenty-four hour period in the top box. For now, as 2011 winds down, my coffee mug in tow, I will check and note the morning temperature at 7:30 every morning . So far the temperature difference has been very consistent with that 17-25 degree range mentioned above. I am curious to see what happens if we ever get that severe cold snap on the back of an Alberta Clipper. For now, enjoy the mildness of this Minnesota winter. I know the bees are.  Next week, the year in review.

“Opportunity is missed by most people because it comes dressed in overalls and looks like work.”    Thomas Edison


Thanks and Give November 24, 2011

Filed under: winter stuff — dronedude @ 10:30 am

A big thank you goes out to all of you that stopped by this past weekend at the Victorian Christmas Courthouse event in Stillwater,Mn. It was fun to see old friends come out and meet the  new ones that stopped by our table.

This past week I did my first winter check on all of our hives to try to determine the  state of health of each. I will do these routine inspections every month now thru spring to gauge hives survivability in our Minnesota winter. Thanksgiving is a pretty good benchmark to start because usually by this stage of the calendar ,a weaken varrora mite infected disease hive will be near or completely died out due to the stress of early cold and snow.

I am happy to report that all of our hives are alive and thriving in early season clustered in the middle boxes of their three-story hive configuration. This is exactly where you would like to have the bees this time of the year with room to still move up later in the winter. Some local beekeepers have questioned our sanity for being chemical free and not feeding corn syrup slurpees early on this fall to our bees. The inside betting odds in some circles is that we will lose the majority of our  hives this winter due to not treating for the zombie parasites that feast on honeybees. I not much of a gambling dude but I like our chances of success.

With the buzzing still audible in all our hives this Thanksgiving weekend, I sheepishly grim and give a slight pat on each hive and say softly, “good job ladies,we can make it.”

Hopefully, everyone will have their share of holiday feasting foods between now and the new year .Remember to keep it fresh-keep it local and give back to others when you can.

Bee Peaceful People


winter bees January 6, 2011

Filed under: bees,winter stuff — queen frederica @ 1:47 am

After sending daily videos of Hawaiian paradise to Mike, he finally started to counterattack with this:

Still going strong!