Closing Down The Hives

Closing Down The Hives

_DSC0140We are not going to be getting much honey this year.  I mentioned this already in a previous post.

No honey from the southern hives, actually. None.

This is not a huge infliction monetarily on its own.  Honey from these hives never sold as well as the honey from our hives in St. Paul.  We still have a pile of the stuff from 2014.  People seemed like the more complicated floral taste of the St. Paul honey.

Not getting any honey from these southern hives is a monetary hit, none the less. Particularly, when you factor in that we should have had at least six hives in southern Minnesota.  Instead, we ended the season with just two.  That’s $80 to $120 per hive.  Gone.

The one hive, in the photo with tar paper wrapped around it, is a bit of a rare bunch of bees.  Actually, it’s probably just a strong queen.  This was the queen’s third season.

There probably short list of whys on the loss of four hives – the crappy Georgian/Wisconsin bees, the hotter-than-accustom-to Russian/Iowan bees, or just mites.  The list could go on.

It is actually some what late to close down the hives – the first day of November.  The hives are usually all closed down by this time of year.  It has been an odd fall, though.  Indian summer, no less.  We had late summer temperatures much of October.

Hives are closed down, now.  Wrapped in tarpaper, with an insulated moisture quilt on top.  The remaining hive of Russian bees (in the above photo, it is the hive with the smoker atop), although the bees did not produce any harvestable honey, all the available frames in the deep boxes was filled out with stock for winter.  If they overwinter successfully, I’m optimistic that they will produce a harvestable quantity of honey for us.


Hive Checking

_DSC9936Over the weekend, I decided to check the hives we have the back of our property.  I also planned to put escape boards on; there is honey to be harvested.

It had been a while since I had last opened the hives for inspection.  I had last been to the hives a few weeks prior to fix one of the supports under the pallet that two hives reside upon.  Moles had borrowed under the chunk of concrete supporting the back, right corner.  The tallest of the hives was resting against the chainlink fencing that surrounds the hive area.

It has been a fickle year for bees for us.  We mixed things up a bit this spring and got bees from a couple different suppliers.  One in Wisconsin with bees via Georgia.  The other, from northeastern Iowa where they were raised.

I say fickle because we lost, almost immediately, two packages of bees that we picked up in Wisconsin.  We had had plans to hive them in southern Minnesota, and had put the packages of bees into nuc boxes.  By the next morning, all the bees in each nuc were dead.  We subsequently had two hives swarm.

_DSC9951The Iowan bees faired well enough.  There is one quirk with them, though — two of the four hives (two in St. Paul, and two in Racine, MN) failed to move up into the honey boxes.  In the above picture, there are bees in the two bottom deep boxes, but there is very little activity in the top box.  No honey packing in the top box.  The two deeps on that hive are full of bees and honey; it’s like they just did not want to move up one more layer.

The tall hive in the photo – on the right – is loaded with bees and honey.  Three deep boxes for brood and three boxes of honey.  This appears to be the only hive we will get honey from this season.  Not much honey on the other hives.  No honey in the boxes on the other hive; the fourth hive swarmed or collapsed.  No trace of bees in that hive.

The one thing that I was very annoyed with was finding small hive beetles.  I have never had them in our hives before.  I suspect the Wisconsin bees carried the beetles.  I have no evidence to prove this, but those bees were simply unimpressive.

I think next year, we will go back to our previous supplier of bees — even though they will be priced much higher than the Wisconsin bees, they have been much more reliable in previous years.


Late Summer Bees

Here and there the leaves of the walnut trees on our property are starting to change color and drop to the ground.  Walking around the yard, I have noticed many goldenrod soldier beetles (Chauliognathus pennsylvanicus).

They are relatively common in our area.  I have seen these little insects on the various rudbeckia we have planted in and along the edge of the yard.  I have also seen them on the blossoms of the fancy pumpkins in the garden.  Their range is much of North America, but I really do not recall seeing them in the Duluth area – then again, I am sure I was not privy to most of the insects at the old place.

These little goldenrod soldier beetles are aptly named as they show up on the scene right around when goldenrods – the flower – are in full bloom.  For about a week and a half, the ditches and roadsides near the house have been full to the brim with blooming goldenrod.  Driving down into Mower County, over the weekend – to check the other hives – between the branching sunflowers and the goldenrods, much of the ditch-space and spots here and there around transmission poles were awash with yellow.

Last week, in the evening, it was still hot outside and there was a breeze coming from the east.  Generally, the winds have a more westerly origination; from over the Mississippi River, over Pig’s Eye Lake, up the little bluff, across highway 61, toward the the house, and beyond – pressing its way up the hill at the rear of the property.  Instead, the breeze was pushing down that hill.

The air – going from the patio at the back of the house toward the rear of our lot – smelled sweet and musky.  I was surprised the neighbors did not mention the peculiar smell.  It was, however, a ver familiar smell to us: goldenrod nectar being transformed into goldenrod honey.

Several years ago, when we had the first two hives at the house in Proctor, the physician who was my beekeeping mentor told me that I would know when the bees were working the goldenrod – your hives would stink like gym socks.

I like to think of it as being a rugged smelling creation.  Something that Charles Bronson would have put in his tea.

So, if there is one thing that symbolizes late summer bees – or more precisely, the start of fall, it is goldenrod and the musky scent of hives with its nectar.

Below – nothing to do with goldenrod, it is just a few seconds of bees coming and going from their hives.  Listen to the sound of the cicadas.

The Bees in Racine

With a dog show this weekend in Albert Lea, MN, we were headed to Racine, MN. Racine is about an hour to the east of Albert Lea – quite a bit closer than St. Paul. We stayed in Racine at our friends’ farm. The farm is also where we have four hives of honeybees.

In sticking with my current theme of point the camera at something for twenty-minutes, and then speed up the results, I did just that.  Shortly after mid-day on Saturday, I set the Nikon up, and pointed it at the hives and let it record twenty-minutes of high resolution (1080p) video.  The resulting video – post-processing – is about a minute’s worth of slightly lower resolution video.