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Tag Archives: honeybees

Four of Ken’s six beehives burned in the fire last summer and the replacement bees arrived last month. Ken and I went over to Dave’s house where other local beekeepers were gathered to get bees to start new hives or replace colonies that didn’t survive the winter or succumbed to other things like mites, pesticides, fire, etc. I think there were over 120 boxes of bees delivered to start their new lives in the Methow and Okanogan valleys.

We quickly brought them home and Ken got to work moving them into their new bee boxes. After that he checked the two old hives and discovered that one of them had died in the last couple of weeks. It had been the weaker of the two but after surviving the fire and the winter, it was a great disappointment to lose them just when things should have been improving.

Despite what the calendar indicates, Spring is bursting out all over. The animals feel it. They are out foraging for fresh food. Insect-eating birds have returned from their winter vacations and are having no trouble finding bugs to consume. A Northern Pygmy-owl spent a couple of days here eating the voles whose dirty handiwork is emerging from the melting snow. I’d hoped the owl would stay longer to put a real dent in the vole population but it has moved on. Both Western and Mountain Bluebirds have arrived. The Western’s are checking out nest boxes and making plans for the upcoming breeding season. It is fun to watch the pairs take turns examining a box and seemingly discussing the pros and cons of each one. ‘Look this one has a nice view’. ‘ Ahh but I like that one over there with the better perch’. Well what about that one out there?’ ‘Too close to the dog corral’. And on and on it goes. The Say’s Phoebe, a pretty bird with a soft, sometimes two-note call has also returned. It is a member of the flycatcher family and easily identified, unlike some of its relatives. And high on our hill I found a singing Western Meadowlark – truly a joyous sound of spring! Most of these birds were pretty distant for photography, except the ferocious looking owl. But that didn’t keep me from trying.

And on another note, Ken took the lids off of his two beehives and sure enough, they are still alive and ready to start foraging as soon as the flowers start to bloom!

In a normal year I’d have lots of blog posts from my garden. Needless to say, this hasn’t been a normal year and I have rarely been out to the garden except to do maintenance or harvest. Last week I took a little time to really enjoy it. It was a warm day and lots of pollinators were active in the sunflowers and catnip. I imagine they are building stores for the fast approaching winter months. I love seeing them all covered in pollen. The bees in the catnip moved quickly from flower to flower so they were much harder to photograph. In the sunflowers, they move slowly, savoring the abundance of the blossoms. Most of these insects are honey bees but there are some natives as well as a moth. Do let me know if you can identify them since I really don’t know insects very well.

I am seriously getting behind on photo editing. I will probably never catch up. So tonight I am combining two days of honeybee images into one blog post. Ken is the beekeeper, not me. I just really enjoy watching the process as it unfolds and I have to tell you, beekeeping is FULL of drama. There is always some new question and the answer is invariably ‘Well we don’t really know. What do you think?’

Last Monday, Memorial Day, Ken had enough time to open up all five of his hives to see how they were doing. A friend said the honey flow is early this year so a person needs to be ready to add supers to the hives and to watch out for swarms. Of the five hives only one is kind of behind and that is the one that was a swarm late last summer so its stocks were low and it was lucky just to get through the winter. If it survives this winter, it should do well next year. Of the other four, three are going along alright, not yet needing a new super but one of them was nearly full so he moved around some of the frames and put the new super (another box for the bees to store honey) on it and was pleased but still concerned that the bees could swarm. He had one extra hive so he set that up just in case.

Two days later while I was in town, he was playing ball with the dogs. At one point Luna refused to retrieve the ball so he went to see why and sure enough, there was a swarm of bees right above the ball. Smart Luna. She’s been stung and has a healthy respect for bees. So he suited up again, cut the pine branch full of bees, put it into the empty hive and closed it up. The next day he had to go on a road trip so before he left he wanted to get the branch out of there and replace it with frames for the bees to use for building comb. Suited up again, he picked up the branch and brushed the bees into the box with frames. If all went as planned and if the new queen was in there, the bees would stick around start making brood and gathering honey. I checked yesterday and the bees are still in there! Now he has six hives.

Ken’s honeybees are an endless source of questions and wonderment. He enjoys working with them and checking on them from time to time to see how the hives are doing. Are they strong? Are they too strong? Will they swarm? What are they eating? Will we get honey this year? How do we keep other bees from stealing the honey? There are more questions than answers. One friend said while you need to keep an eye on them, there is so much time when you are not watching and who knows what is happening then.

 

Ken ‘smokes’ the bees as he opens the hives

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Smoking calms the bees

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Pulling a frame from a hive as a bee watches

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These are new hives this year

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The bees are making brood and storing food

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Ken points out a possible queen cell to the neighbors and their golden retrievers

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Many frames are not yet filled. It is early in the season

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There’s some honey! We got to taste it.

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