Saturday, March 23, 2013

The 2013 plan: Bees are back!

They're coming back in 2013

I stopped keeping bees at the end of the 2010 season; other parts of the farm required more attention, and I had a higher-than-normal dieoff, that eventually took all of my bees out.  So I put the equipment away and spent the next two years concentrating on the farm infrastructure.   

I really like the local honey; we've got several blooms that produce really tasty stuff, and I am about out of the honey I produced, and so I'll be keeping 4 hives this year.  I'm going to see if I can do something with the hives that I've seen done -- put one of them on a scale. 

What I'd like to do is keep track of the hives progress by the weight of the hive, and I happen to have an old feed scale that I can use for this.  It's inspired by this website, and it's an accurate way to look at what your hive is doing without having to open it up or disrupt it any more than you have to. 

What's interesting is that most of the honey in the hive is produced in early summer, with a little produced in the fall.  That means that the majority of the honey the bees will collect will happen by July, probably.  but the scale will tell me for sure. 

The website has data collected from many hives over apparently a 20 year or more span -- you can see a map of the locations and click on any location for its data. 

I'll be keeping 4 hives total this year. 

NOTE:  If you are considering keeping hives this year, you have to think about doing it NOW.  In order to get your hive bodies ordered, assembled and prepared, and find a source of bees, you need to take action in the next two weeks so that you can get it all set up and the colonies established before the nectar flow occurs.  If you're in this area (Everett, WA) you can find all of your supplies, bees and so on at the beez kneez apiary supply in Snohomish, WA.    I have no connection with beez neez; I just like Jim and think he's a great resource for beekeepers in this area. 

If you aren't local, I've found that does a pretty good job of offering equipment and supplies for the beginning beekeeper.   Look carefully at their beginners kit, which is shipped fully assembled, or save a few bucks by ordering the unassembled beginners kit.   The kits come with gloves, so be sure that you order the right kit with the right sized gloves for you if  you choose to go this way.   The kits themselves aren't much different in price; it's the shipping on the assembled kit that really goes up. 


Dave said...

I was wondering what happened to your bees. Check out Mann Lake they offer free shipping on most orders over $100

Jeff said...

Are you ordering your package bees from Beez Neez as well? All five of my packaged bees ordered last year didn't make it to 2013, while the swarm that volunteered into an empty hive is doing quite well. My theory is that the California bees just aren't well adapted to our climate.

Bruce King said...

It's hard to say that bees are from any particular region any more. Most of the package bees are from companies that migrate their hives around the country to follow crop blooms,so the bees in the package might have been in 6 states before they ended up there.
The video I've seen of packages being assembled is basically just vaccuuming up random bees from possibly several colonies and stuffing them into the box with a caged queen. It'd be nice to think that they are all from the same hive, but from my point of view it's closer to supermarket hamburger: Many contributors.

Bee prices are actually pretty similar, so I could purchase packages from other areas, but I figure that since the queen will be laying eggs, by the end of the first season all of the remaining bees will be related, no matter how they started. I'm hoping with insulation and proper care I can get them to live through the winter. Normal winter dieoff for me was 10-15%, but then I started seeing 30%, and then finally lost all my hives. I'm starting clean this year; new equipment, new packages.