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
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. http://www.bushfarms.com/beesnaturalcell.htm
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
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
Bastards October 18, 2011
FRESH has organized a petition to stop Monsanto’s genetically modified (GM) sweet corn from reaching grocery shelves. I’ve just signed it, and hope that you will join me in asking supermarket CEOs to refuse to carry this product.
For the first time, Monsanto is marketing a GM corn that will be sold directly to consumers and go directly to grocery aisles. The corn is engineered to kill insects with Bt toxins and to resist heavy spraying with Roundup herbicide. Already, Roundup resistant crops have resulted in an epidemic of over 21 types of resistant superweeds. Even more alarming, recent studies have linked Roundup with birth defects in animals, and Bt toxins from GM foods have been found in the bloodstreams of pregnant mothers and their unborn babies.
Let’s nip this in the bud now. Trader Joe’s has already indicated they will not carry GM sweet corn. Sign to tell the rest of the top grocery chains to follow suit.
Another adventure for winter October 4, 2011
Hello from the 100 Acre Wood, also known as the Ashdown Forest in East Sussex, England. Unexpectedly, it’s been quite sunny and nice out but it is most definitely fall. The leaves are beginning to change and the grapevines are the most beautiful shade of red. Things are starting to slow down and prepare for a winter rest.
You might wonder what I am doing here or why I am writing about it because it has nothing to do with bees or honey. No, I am not just writing to talk about the English countryside and the romance of it all. I have come here to a tiny village called Forest Row to study something very relevant and important to honeybees. For the next 18 months I am being trained in biodynamic horticulture at one of my new favorite spots on the globe: the biodynamic agriculture college
A few years ago when I started getting into bees I was exposed to the world of plants. Anyone who keeps bees quickly learns what good bee food is as the season progresses. Many people think that bees will visit any flower but this is far from the truth. Just like people, bees are attracted and prefer certain foods. They, too, cannot live off just one or two things. They know what they need and what is most nutritious. As Beekeepers, we must make certain that we surround our bees with a variety of nourishment. In support of healthy bees, I started learning more plants honeybees frequent and planting them.
In the process of learning what bees like and planting for them, I starting planting for me too. My first year was a wild one! I got a little crazy with all the planting and failed at thinning as it all grew in. Going to pick a squash or cucumber was like venturing into the wild unknown. Either way, it was great to watch everything grow and even better to eat! After learning the potential of growing veggies I decided next year I would actually plan it so I could avoid the store and only eat from the garden. 2011 was the tastiest summer of my life.
The difference between fresh, local food and stuff that comes from a great distance, genetically manipulated or ripened in a warehouse is immense. Our food system is beyond backwards and won’t last. Agribusiness is such bullshit – what happened to the culture part in agriculture? Sustainable doesn’t come in a bottle, bag or laboratory; it comes from the methods and practices that got us here over the past thousands of years. I encourage you to think about where your food comes from and how it came to be. If you don’t know, you probably wouldn’t want to.
I will leave you at that story. My goal here is not to complain about today’s problems but to give you an idea of why I am studying a sustainable form of agriculture, how it sparked my interest and how I hope to change the world. I hope you are all enjoying a beautiful fall and getting your fix of squash!
Also, did you know what over half of the money you spend on our all natural lotions, lip balms and beeswax candles supports my education? :) thank you all!
October Hives October 2, 2011
The past cool crisp October weekend was spent inspecting the hives in our other yards. I always get a little fall reflective this time of the year when checking the bees because you are always wondering: did I do my best or did I miss something earlier in the season that will come back to haunt the hive this Halloween. This is really important this year because we are not treating our bees with chems or doing high fructose crappy syrup additional feeding. We are asking our bees to be self efficient and strong enough to sustain themselves through the upcoming winter. This year it required us to leave more honey on the hive for the bees than what would be considered normal by other bee people. What we are finding is that the bees look to be in great shape with lots of stored away honey. The photo show one of our Russian hives filled to the brim with fall nectar. It was very encouraging to see that the different varieties of bees in our yards all seem to be in decent shape as far as population, temperament, hive health, sassy young queens and plenty of honey weight in the individual colony. Now if those bear sightings we have been hearing about from other beekeepers stay to our north, I like our chances this winter.
Under the Apples Trees September 21, 2011
Oh you got to love Mother Nature’s sense of humor.Just when you are in one of the best stretch of warm ,sunny bee weather all year-long, she throws down the first frost of the year. Perfect icing for what has been a very unsettled honey season. The proverbial dagger thru my unripe tomatoes hearts. The iron clad freeze slammed the door shut on what was a very good goldenrod, sunflower and aster nectar flow way before its time was up.
I checked one of our orchard yards in the valley the other day.Even with all the shaky weather of late, I was very happy to see that all the hives had done their due diligent duties and packed in lots of winter stores in nectar and pollen. We don’t do supplement sugar syrup feeding for our bees so I was very happy to see that all these orchard hives had answered the bell and took nectar hording to a whole new level.
We got a few more yards to check in the upcoming weeks and we are hoping to see the same productive heavy honey hives.
In the meantime,fall is a great time to get out to your local farmers markets and take home the seasonal harvest you will find there.