Hives are alive again – 3 sets of new Italian girls. Sadly none of mine made it through the winter. I have plenty of hypotheses, nothing confirmed. In case you are wondering, bees come in packages by the pound, including one queen, marked (a dot with white out) or unmarked. Three pounds of bees, like those pictured below have anywhere from 7,500 to 10,000. A bit counterintuitive, but they are quite calm in this situation as there isnothing to defend and the queen isn’t even necessarily theirs. She is in her own little cage inside the box with bees surrounding here – I am holding the queen cage in the photo with the blue gloves. Bees can’t really sting you through the latex gloves and it is easy to work with than big leather gloves. Those come out later when the bees are more defensive. Just watch your wrists…..
One of two top bars didn’t even make it to winter, the other did but didn’t put away enough food (I didn’t take any either). They seemed to have just quickly reduced in numbers then jump ship, as there wasn’t much in the way of “carnage” left inside. They even left some drawn out comb with honey – a hive warming for the next crew I suppose.
The two Langstroth hives (with Carniolans) located on our upper west facing balcony all looked to be well set for winter AND provided us with several gallons of honey. However, they both died out too but in separate ways, I think. One had not as much dead bee bodies, as they were able to keep up with the undertaker role. It is something else to see how clean they keep the hives and to move out the dead or almost dead. Some don’t leave without a fight. No hospice or nursing homes in bee land…. The other looks like it froze and died all at once, given the almost 2 inch deep layer of dead bees. Again, both had frames with honey and put away extra after our harvest. The conditions on the balcony, while very fun for viewing out our window, made for tricky working conditions and pretty gusty living conditions. In the heat of summer, the male drone bees seemed to enjoy loitering around in the balcony space below, which is where we like to have BBQs and friends – just a little challenging, no bee vs. people incidents and usually the bbq smoke moved them out, but did present the need to wear shoes on the deck and clean up after them. Might have been more than they could handle…
This year we decided to just run one top bar, maybe try splitting a hive later into the other one and moved the two Langstroths back down into the yard, with one of them ultimately going across the alley to our very green thumbed neighbor. All three packages are Italians, no real reason other than that is what the bee fellow was bringing up from California, but I wasn’t to hot on the Carniolans – given that I had quite the time the tree times they stung me. Giant welts and one blistered up like a regular burn – don’t worry, no gory photos, but should I ever get a tattoo it will be a bulls eye on my right upper thigh. I do believe inpart their attacks were based on what I was wearing, which they must not like very much. Lesson learned: bees don’t like skinny jeans.
This will be my third year with bees and I can’t wait to see what they will teach me this year. We were out of town this year when the packages arrived but the bee-man graciously installed them for me. A little bummed that I ddint get to do it because it is really quite the rush and something else to be handling that many bees all at once. I do have photos of my very first year installing packages into the top bar hives. I will share those with you. The bees basically pour out of the box, into the hive, sounding like packing peanuts. I also do an initial powder sugar shower treatment for the bees. It serves a few purposes 1) food source 2) bees will clean each other and begin to bond (not reaaaly sure about this but why not) and 3) non-chemical way to treat and prevent mites. It makes for some snowy white bees that can’t really fly. Just scoop the powder sugar out onto a screen placed over the hive and bees and sift it in. I used a paintbrush and removable ($5) window screen from Home Depot. This screen as proven quite handy and right now it covers the temporary chick box.
Can’t wait to see what these girls achieve this year!