Monday, August 17, 2015

Beekeeping Self-Talk in August

In our third year of beekeeping (a.k.a. attempting to keep bees), my beekeeping self-talk banter goes something like this...

"The hives look great!  This is going to be the best year ever!"

"Wow!  We've already been able to split several hives and we even caught a swarm- we have six colonies this summer!"

"Wait.  All of sudden, they've stopped building comb.  This one doesn't even have a queen.  We'll give them more brood to raise a new one.  They'll do fine.  There's still a lot of summer left."

"Oh my word.  The hives look lousy.  They're not building comb.  The colonies are small and not booming like they should be.  What are we doing wrong?  What should we be doing instead?  Okay, we'll start feeding light syrup to encourage building and then soon switch to heavy so they can store more for winter."

"They're all going to die again this winter.  I just know it.  We can try to combine colonies to bolster them and keep feeding them but they're likely going to all die.  We stink.  Beekeeping is hard."

"They won't die.  They'll be fine.  The bees know what they're doing.  They'll figure it out.  The more hands-off the better.  Well, except for all those ways we could help them along.  What was all that I read three years ago?  When in doubt, offer food, right?  I'll just make more syrup.  Maybe they just missed us while we were away.  Yep, that's probably it.  Everything will be juuuust fine."

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  1. Bee keeping IS hard. We had a so so colony go through the winter and a robust one. Unfortunately, they swarmed before we were watching. But there were still lots of bees in there. end of June, we were talked into splitting the robust hive and since a queen was found, added a queen to each hive. Now I don't know what's going on, as they are both so-so I think I'll just leave them alone and feed syrup until end of September and pray that they make it through the winter and can start up again in the spring.

  2. I was laughing through your post! This is our second year beekeeping (aka "attempting"), and we have the same conversations you are having in our heads and out loud all the time. Beekeeping is amazing and frustrating at the same time. You know there is science to it all, but there are also so many things that are left up to the beekeeper and his/her ability to make the right decisions. If you ask people, no one can really give you an answer. Our beekeeping mentor says that for every 12 beekeepers you ask, you get twice as many answers. We have three colonies, and they too slowed down on building comb. I think it was due to the unusually hot, dry summer we have had here. We had to requeen one colony, then that queen disappeared, we added a frame of brood from another hive, they raised another queen, then wax moths got in (probably because they were weak). We froze the damaged frames, moved them to new boxes, and then went out the other day to find that that particular colony was dead. We have ideas of what we did wrong as hindsight is 20/20, but it is still frustrating and stressful. We'll keep going though. If we keep doing it long enough, we're bound to succeed, right? Thanks for the post, and good luck with the bees!

  3. Oh - so interested to read about your beekeeping! We are just trying to start beekeeping here in Tanzania! Doing it at home at the moment, and hoping to start projects in rural areas soon! Very excited and a little in trepidation entering the unknown! Thanks for the posts! Rachel


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