Winter Bees – 2012

winterhive

 

Here is a hive during the middle of winter here in southern Minnesota. We decided not to wrap (insulate) the hives this year because of the rather secluded location with good wind breaks. Bees do not heat the entire hive, like we heat our homes, but form a cluster in the center of the hive and keep the inner areas of the cluster at 92 degrees F all winter so they can continue to raise brood even in the coldest of months. It’s quite a fascinating process – the bees use themselves as insulation (the bees at the center of the cluster are the warmest, those in the middle much cooler, and those on the outside of the ball are just above freezing level).

Hot Summer Days

beescooling

July 2012 brought with it hot weather and the bees spent a lot of time outside of the hive, helping to cool it in the summer heat. This is a photo taken right before we added the third boxes to the top of the hives to give the expanding colony more space to grow.

Of Bees and Ants

A younger bee begging for nectar from an older bee – typical feeding behavior when workers return to the hive.

feedingbehavior

Going into summer 2012 the bees were working hard, building new comb and filling it with pollen and nectar stores, making honey for the long winter here. It takes a single colony about 100lbs of stored honey to make it through our Minnesota cold.

Inside the Hive–Summer 2012

Here’s a look inside the hive as it is expanding!

bunchofbees

You can see there are a lot more bees crowded onto the frames when we removed them, they were absolutely packed in the ‘busy’ areas where they were raising brood.

May 2012 Bee Update

After the installation and first checks, we let the hives sit another week before opening it up again.

onebeebox

Here is what the hive looked like when we removed the top cover – a few bees milling about on the top, but not a lot of activity. It was still quite cold outside – bees don’t usually start flying/foraging outside the hive until it’s about 55 Fahrenheit.

Preparing for Bees

We had decided to get bees, we had taken a class about beekeeping, we had read our books, we had the backing of many generous sponsors – so now what?  The first step was to get the supplies we needed to house and care for the bees.

We placed our order with a large local beekeeping supply company, Mann Lake, and a few weeks later a truckload of supply boxes was delivered to our front door. We had to assemble the bee boxes (which form the ‘home’ in which the bees build their nest) from pieces, which involved a lot of nailing, gluing, sanding, priming, and painting. We decided to stick with as natural of materials as possible, so chose to finish the boxes with natural stain and wax instead of latex or oil based paints. We stained each of the stacks to be a slightly different color – the reason you usually see bee boxes in such varied colors is that each bee orients itself to its hive when it flies out of the nest – and they use visual clues like color to find their way home. A bunch of solid white hives one next to the other in a row can leave a bunch of very confused bees.

beeboxes

Our Bee Adventure Begins

Where did this all start? I didn't grow up dreaming of an apiary. I didn't give it a whole lot of thought until one day I wondered just how doable it would be for an average person to keep bees - did you need specialized training/knowledge? How much time would it take? Would it even work in our area? I picked up the book 'Keeping Bees and Making Honey' and read through it - there was definitely a lot to learn but it was no longer this mystical giant 'what-if' anymore and seemed like yes, it would be something I could pursue in the future! Onto the backburner, since our community association said a big fat 'no' to bees in our neighborhood. "Not in my backyard!"

fox_beekeeping

3bees

Beginning Beekeeping

Thanks to all of our generous and awesome donors from our Kickstarter campaign, we now have bees! We have successfully set up our first apiary and have been photo documenting the process of getting, installing, and checking on our new bees. :)

It's been absolutely amazing so far - despite the fact our bee suits didn't arrive on time and we did our first colony installations and checks without any protection - it was a bit intense, since I've never had my face in a swarm of bees before, but they were surprisingly gentle and uninterested in me - way too much change and things going on for them to care, I think.

Thank you again to everyone who has made this happen for us! We will also be housing native bumblebees as well as blue orchard bees/mason bees and other species and will be updating with lots of info about those soon!

Here is a link to a list of useful resources if you are interested in learning about keeping bees!

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