The Joy of Pollen 2015

by Jorge

Today was the happy day that arrives every spring when I get to see lots of pollen carriers coming into the hives for the first time. There has probably been quite a bit of action in the past few days, but I just got to see it underway this afternoon. And so, here is a gratuitous pollen moment that I must always share at least once a year!

There are a number of reasons why the earlier pollen sightings are important: 1) the weather is favorable enough for the pollen to appear and for bees to collect it; 2) warm weather and pollen gathering stimulate vital brood production; 3) new bees will bring higher vigor; 4) strong brood production promotes a successful hive splitting season for colony increases in April and May.

For all of these reasons, I am pleased. Tomorrow I will hope to visit more hives before a rather damp week descends upon us.

Honey Building Work Last Year

by Jorge

At the Mount Vernon location I moved to in early 2014, there are two honey buildings taking shape. One was the leaky-roofed shed that I put a metal roof on and featured in an earlier post. It did come with a floor anyway. Here is how the interior started:

Now I've got it setup with heat, water, and a proper electrical box that can handle a decent load. Here's the insulation phase (after framing up the interior with stud walls and windows):

I'll make a video of the finished interior sometime soon.

At the same time, I also needed to get a floor into the larger steel building where I store equipment. Life is much better now that it no longer involves so much lime and dirt. Here is a picture of my happy transformation going up on 1/2" rebar:

In the last photo of the day, I rented a little mini-loader with a trenching attachment from my local ACE to tile in the drains. My own skid steer unfortunately doesn't have the auxiliary connections built out on the frame:

Anyway, I just thought I'd share those pics from the endeavors of last summer and fall! I'm thinking this year will be more manageable now that things are decently operational--though there is certainly still plenty to accomplish!

Biltmore Bees

by Jorge

The bees are all fed, so I'm finally getting around to transferring a bunch of old pictures from my old smartphone. I came across some photos that I took at the Biltmore Estate (near Asheville) last summer when Alex and I traveled to North Carolina for one of his athletic competitions.

For any who are unfamiliar, the Biltmore house and estate are rather massive. One of the Vanderbilts constructed this modest little home in the late 1800s.

It's very nice to see that there are also Biltmore bees on the mighty estate :) They have even provided a kind cautionary notice for people who might brave a closer look!

I suppose I was probably more intrigued by the Biltmore bees than most people who stumble across them, but I found it all quite amusing! It's worth the visit!

Back in Charlotte, we also dropped in to enjoy one of the local Tupelo Honey Cafe locations--delicious!

Perhaps one day our little man Andrew will check out these places too! Here he is a few months ago in an admirable bee bib :)

2015 Survivor Bees!

by Jorge

The new beekeeping year is springing into action! After the interminable 2013-14 winter, mother nature was much kinder going into 2015. There were a couple of weeks of serious weather from time to time, but nothing like the scourges of last winter. There were flying days every month of the winter, and we had a stretch of beautiful March weather that let the bees get out with regularity for several days. Some folks in the area reported seeing some significant pollen, but I have not witnessed much action outside the hive beyond simple flight so far.

Altogether, only 7% of my hives died this winter. That is the best survival I've ever gotten to report. The warm weather has a fair amount of brood started in the strong hives--and most of the hives are indeed strong. Here's a video from one of the locations where none of them died. It's in the Solon area.

I'm really hoping April queens arrive in good time. With hives this populous, I need to be splitting by mid-April or be prepared to see a lot of bees hanging in the trees by May. Then again, I'd just resort to raising cells if mated queens aren't available. There are always options I guess. Good luck as the new season unfolds!

October Bees 2014

by Jorge

I have photos and a few videos from the end of summer that I planned to post here in various blogs, but I guess I'll have to play catch-up as the year concludes. I've been rather buried in the university life, bee duties, and family excitement. The overall honey season turned out to be rather mediocre, though not a disaster. It was just too cool and wet during the prime honey-making weeks that followed my previous post.

I'm already through mite treatments for 2014, but this fall has been even worse than fall 2013 in terms of honey collection for overwintering. Thank goodness I'm setup with dual division board feeders in just about all of my colonies this year. That was a lesson well-learned after seeing some starvation during the last winter. A good number of hives will have consumed and stored 80 lbs of feed before they're set to go for this winter. I'm getting close to optimistic going into the next winter. Supposedly the arctic vortex will remain at bay, and my bees are starting to look really good.

Here is a video from this afternoon that shows good populations in some of my dark Carniolan hives, and there are a few yellow Italian colonies at this location too:

If the bees look half this good in March, I will feel good about spring 2015.

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