September 6, 2016

Not a Good Bee Mom

It is with great disappointment that I write this news - I've lost my last hive of bees. Gone. This was my surviving Daylily Hive, which started out so vigorously. We've had a lot of problems with skunks this year (as in one almost every other week), but I assumed because of my skunk guard they hadn't actually gotten to the hive.

Daylily Hive with skunk guard

If bees are sensitive to the smell of skunks, however, that would have been a problem, because that's been how we've known we've had so many skunks. (The carport still stinks from the one that was making a home under a cabinet stored out there.)

I think the real problem was the long period of upper 90s this summer with no rain. I told you how the garden stopped producing and went into survival mode. That meant very little was blooming. I had been keeping an eye on progress in the hive and knew they weren't building a lot of comb. After the fact I realize they weren't building because they were consuming their stores. If I'd been smart or had the experience to realize what was going on, I would have fed them.

In other bee news I never did catch anything in my bait hive.

Honeysuckle as a bait hive remains empty.

I wasn't really counting on that so I wasn't disappointed. More disappointed about Daylily. I hate learning things the hard way.

Not a Good Bee Mom © September 2016

50 comments:

  1. You two do so many things well; I'm sure this was a blow. I'm sorry, and hope you do better with bees and homegrown honey next year.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Michelle. I'm a little discouraged at the moment so it's hard to think about getting more bees. I'll need to decide soon because it will be time to order soon. Part of it will depend on finances then. I'll just have to wait and see.

      Delete
  2. Its hard learning by mistakes that involve losses, I feel so sorry for you my first two winters with bees I lost them it was devestating, I was ready to throw in the towel then hubby bought me another nuc third time lucky and they made it, I hope you continue to try with bees.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Dawn, it's a comfort when others struggle as well. I keep thinking about comments to my past bee posts, and how folks seem to have more trouble keeping package bees alive. I'm thinking I should try a nuc next time. A bit hesitation there, however, is that I'd have to work out an intermediate arrangement to go from a standard nuc to a Warre hive.

      Delete
  3. What is it this year with bees? Did you see our post a few weeks back? We lost the last of ours. I know EXACTLY how you feel. It was a blow for sure. I think I'm still determined to try again next year though. I hope you will too! So sorry.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh no! Oh no! I've been thinking about you and wondering how your bees were doing. Such a strange hive death too. I've never seen anything like that, although as a beginner I haven't seen much. Return commiserations. :(

      Delete
  4. The neighbor west of us had 6 hives in a hay field about a half mile from us. We saw him haul the hives out in late August. He said he had lost all 6, he thinks it was the heat/humidity as the fields are full of flowering weeds, far more than most years.
    His other hives are in more wooded areas and seem okay. (These 6 were along a field edge in full sun)

    Hang in there!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Fiona. My dad sent me a newspaper article that said last year approximately 44% of honeybee colonies didn't make it. So I don't feel alone. That being said, I'm definitely glad I put Daylily in the shade.

      Delete
  5. Sorry about the bees. They are certainly temperamental creatures to raise at times. I was just reading a few days ago of a beekeeper in Florida lost all 45+ of her hives in one evening when the county she was in decided to spray for Zika without warning her at all and despite the fact they hadn't had one case of transmission occur within the county.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I read of a similar situation in South Carolina. An entire bee farm lost all it's hives in one day after the state sprayed to kill mosquitoes in case of zika. Then I read another article, which said that South American physicians aren't convinced that zika is the cause of the birth defects. They based this on zika outbreaks they treated in communities where there were no birth defects. The common link for the birth defects seems to be a particular pesticide sprayed on nearby crops. Everybody has already jumped on the zika bandwagon, however, so I doubt much will change except for more fear mongering.

      Delete
    2. Now that you say it, I think the situation I read about was the same one in South Carolina.

      I always worry when we jump the gun without proper testing, especially when it comes to chemicals.

      Delete
    3. Sadly, I think we jump the gun all too often. I know people become anxious and want to do something, but you'd think we'd have learned by now that sometimes the cure can be worse than the problem.

      Delete
  6. Do try gain next year Leigh. We all have bad years and good years when beekeeping and it isn't always our fault. Sounds like feed, available water and some shade might have helped, but sometimes it doesn't matter what you do!
    I do know how you feel lost 4 hives a few winters ago and I was devastated.
    Gill

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Gill. Daylily was in shade, so I know that wasn't the problem. (If Honeysuckle had become occupied I would have moved it next to Daylily. Our summers are just too dang hot in the sun.) I kept water available as well. The feed, though, I should have fed them when everything stopped blooming. I'm sure the parade of skunks didn't help. Whether or not we get bees next year will largely depend on our financial situation.

      Delete
  7. How sad Leigh, I'm sorry. You should try again though. Think of all those bees lost in the Zika spraying. I think small hive keepers are going to be honey bee saviors.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh Theresa, I know. The list of things stacking up against honeybee survival seems to be growing every time we turn around.

      Delete
  8. So sorry to hear you have lost your bees♥Hugs♥

    summerdaisycottage.blogspot.com

    ReplyDelete
  9. Sorry, Leigh. I watch a bunch of different bee YouTube channels and they all make it look so easy. However, everything I read makes it sound like it is seriously not easy. I hope you can afford to try again.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, they always make it look so easy! But I suppose if they only showed problems no one would do it!

      It seems to me that it's getting to a point where keeping bees must be done for the sake of the bees, i.e. to preserve them. A harvest is a bonus, but the real point is the bees themselves.

      Delete
  10. I'm so sorry. :'( Wondering if shade, food & a good fence might be the key. You know we'll all be praying for your success on all you do! :D

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. This time I fell down in the food department. At least I'm pretty sure that was the problem. :(

      Delete
  11. I am sorry about your hive. I bought tow nucs this spring, one is doing great, the other is dead. It looks like CCD, all the bees are just gone. They left behind tow full frames of larva and fresh eggs. So disappointing.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh, I'm so sorry to hear that. It always is a mystery. Did you transfer the egg and larva combs to your surviving hive?

      Delete
    2. It was too late for that, unfortunately, but the other hive is going gangbusters. I have to get out there and give them more space.

      Delete
    3. Well, at least you have the other one. Here's hoping it thrives.

      Delete
  12. I am sorry for your loss. I do not have any insight into what went wrong this time. I am inclined towards examining local farming practices or the genetics of the bees.

    I ran across Michael Palmer a beekeeper from Vermont on YouTube. Here is a link to a playlist:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z0aHrVJDRfk&list=PL4nIHXEClbKY_7YCcIC6HEsmBK_d4iQ06

    Lot of good information here. He doesn't have anything good to say about buying packages of bees. Be patient with the Climate information while watching Keeping Bees in Frozen North America. It kind of applies to you in a different way. His ideas about making increase are solid gold. I disagree with his comments on treating for Mites, but otherwise good information and a lot to digest.

    I am thinking it is time to look for a local beekeeper that can provide you bees adapted for your area. You may have to buy or build a 9-5/8" deep Langstroth super and a telescoping cover and an inner cover. Setting a Langstroth super onto a Warre hive is ridiculously easy. Just cut a 20” x 20” square of 3/4” thick plywood and then cut a square hole in the center to slip over the outside of a Warre box and then nail 2 wooden strips on either side of the center hole so they rest on your Warre box handles and hold the plywood sheet even with the top of your Warre box. You'll also need a way to adapt 6 Warre Top bars into a Langstroth box. If you can make 6 bars ( about 3/4” thick, 15/16” wide, and 19-1/2” long) so they span from frame rest to frame rest of a Langstroth super and then wire your Warre bars to the wood bars and then fasten wooden blocks at either end of the wood bars and drop these “frames” on either side of your nuc frames you should get some nice Warre frames that can be placed in a lower Warre box in mid summer that will encourage your bees to move down into the Warre equipment.

    I'd be happy to supply pictures if you don't understand the above descriptions. Check my dimensions. I'm writing from memory.

    Otherwise, examine your environment for Bt corn and pesticides that may have thrown you this curve, but chin up and try again. I would stay away from packages and look for Nucs on Craigslist or look for a state beekeeping association that could point you to a local source for bees.

    As for me, I set out 9 swarm traps this season and came up with a big goose egg....Nothing for my efforts. I'll try again next year but I am also going to be looking for nucs. I still have my three Warre hives. I believe my bees are adapted to my area. They come from a package I bought 4 years ago and have never been treated for mites. They are nasty though. They like to staple my shirt to my arms when ever I work them.

    Sincerely:

    RonC

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Ron. As always you are encouraging and full of helpful information. Last year I found a county beekeeper who was selling Russian nucs, and I plan to see if he is still doing so. When I was first getting started I queried the county beekeepers association, but at the time they were very anti-Warre, but maybe things have changed. It's good you've now got survivor bees, although I think I could do without that level of aggression!

      Delete
  13. Leigh so very sorry to hear this! I understand how this must of set you back. I lost my hive about 6 years ago at the previous farm in another county. It is quite frustrating isn't it? You hives are so pretty also. I had more beekeeping in mind but was a bit concerned about the same result next time. All the nice knowledgeable replies above and your "go get 'em" philosophy are encouraging. Let us hope next year we both have something sweet from our efforts.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. This is the third one I've lost in two years so I'm a bit discouraged! If I can find some nucs locally I will likely give it another go. After all, I have all this equipment! I just need bees to use it with.

      Delete
  14. Sorry to hear that Leigh, I was really hoping this year would work out better for you. I went into beekeeping thinking that it was better to leave the bees to themselves and not check on them too often, but we quickly learnt that you have to check on them, that's why its called bee "keeping". In our area anyway, you need to make sure that they don't have too many small hive beetle, that they have enough stores of honey and pollen (and feed sugar syrup if they need it), or if they have too much stores and brood and are planning on swarming you need to get in first by giving them more space (but not too much space!). Its really hard and I think starting with the package bees is even harder, I wonder if you can find a local beekeeper who could sell you a nuc to get you started instead next season. Even though you have chosen the awesome warre hive design, maybe you have to use langstroth for a while just to get some bee hives established. The other thing that is really difficult at first is judging how much flower/nectar is around for your bees and whether they can forage enough or are using stores. Anyway, you are learning and one day you will get it right and keep those bees!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Learning the hard way is pretty much the way of farming and homesteading, isn't it? It's hard not to regret all the things I could have saved if I'd had the experience (goats, chickens, bees). If I try again, it definitely won't be with package bees. Seems the success rate with them is truly minuscule. As for hive type, Langstroth beekeepers have no better success rate than Warre beeks, so there's no sense investing in a big bunch of new equipment (which would be the financial deal breaker anyway.) My first step will be to find someone who sells nucs. If I can, we may have a go next year.

      Delete
  15. I'm sorry to hear about your loss. We didn't get a lot of honey when he put the super on. Same dry conditions here. I think he is going to split it next year. The bees have been only slightly less aggressive toward him. Maybe it is the drought. Either way, I know I will at least be able to tap my maples this winter!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. No nectar in drought! I don't have maples, but maybe I should start looking around for a used sorghum press. Not as tasty as honey, but sorghum would be a doable homegrown sweetener here.

      Delete
    2. Sorghum is a hardy type of grass, isn't it? With things being so difficult to predict, I need things that won't fight me.

      Delete
    3. Sorghum is a cane type grass, yes. It looks something like corn, except it doesn't tassle on top, it forms seed heads. The canes are harvested and run through a roller type press which squeezes the juice from it. The juice is them boiled down to make syrup. There is also a grain sorghum (sometimes called milo). I've grown that too, and the grain is definitely easier to process than wheat. Some varieties can be grown for both purposes, but I'm not sure how they do that. For syurp the cane has to be harvested green; for grain it has to mature and dry to harvest.

      Delete
  16. Oh, that is not good about your bees. I am so sorry that this happened. Nancy

    ReplyDelete
  17. I had six strong hives until last week. One of the hives simply just flew away! I checked the frames, they left no brood, honey, or pollen. I have no idea why they left. I'm glad I have 5 hives left.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. What a blow that would have been! My first colony just disappeared too. Such a mystery. I'm glad you still have 5 hives too.

      Delete
  18. Leigh - I thought of you when I saw this: http://www.littlethings.com/goats-hop-on-rhino/

    ReplyDelete
  19. For a few years in a row I lost every hive to one problem or another - I feel your pain! I'm sure you'll have better luck next time.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'd like to think that eventually I'll figure it out!

      Delete
  20. You're learning, which is the main thing. We always learn on the job and do the best we can. Maybe next year, the bait hive will become occupied?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Chris I have to admit that I learn more from my mistakes and problems than from books. I just hate it that my critters have to suffer for it.

      Delete
  21. Here's a good video from a beekeeper in your state. there is a comment about package bees at the end in the question and answer session that will surprise:

    http://horizontalhive.com/gallery-video-picture/natural-beekeeping-videos.shtml

    According to Fedor Lazutin in Keeping Bees With a Smile, the three important factors in being successful with beekeeping is Location, Genetics, and a distant third is hive style. Any box will do if the Location and Genetics is well in hand. Support the bee breeders in your state and we'll be looking forward to a successful report next year.

    Sincerely:

    RonC

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Ron! You've been the best encourager.
      After you mentioned looking on Craigslist I did just that. I was surprised to find two area beekeepers selling frames, "bring your own box." Buy 5 and get a free queen. I was surprised that they mainly seem to sell at the end of summer. Of course these are lang frames, for which I don't have a box at this point. The temptation was to try to wack one up, but I know I need to not act impulsively but think it through. I'd still have to transition them to my Warre hives as you already mentioned. I need to be properly prepared, but at least I'm starting to feel some hope.

      Delete
    2. Here is a good introduction to what might be going on:

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=74-nx8lUg9U

      The beekeepers are raising nucs for their own use and then just selling off their surplus when they are assured they have replaced all their losses. OR, they had a colony that got the swarming notion so they broke up the hive into nucs and gave each nuc a queen cell and let nature run its course. Now they are selling lemon-aid from the lemon the hive gave them.

      I looked on Craigslist this past week and saw a beekeeper still selling nucs up here in Minnesota. We are within two to three weeks of our killing frost so it is way too late for me to bite. However, I noticed that he placed the add back in July so now I know to watch for them next summer. If I had a Langstroth hive full of bees, I would be tempted to buy two nucs and overwinter them on top of my Langstroth hive.

      A swarm in May is worth a load of hay.
      A swarm in June will make a spoon.
      A swarm in July ain't worth a fly...

      I'm guessing a Nuc in July will make a spoon, but you are really buying a chance that you can overwinter a colony and have a good running start the following Spring. That's all you are doing with a package of bees anyway. Plus, you should have local bees and a superior queen, but I would interview the beekeeper and make sure he indeed raises his own queens, and not by grafting and artificial insemination. It would be nice to get an idea of the temperament of his bees. He gets a higher mark if he doesn't move his bees south for the Winter. Also, if you are buying a nuc, make sure at least two of the 4 frames have a lot of worker brood. The other two frames should be nectar and pollen. If you get three full frames of brood, that's fine too but you have to watch that they don't run low on food.

      Watch all of the Michael Palmer videos in my first comment to this post a couple of times this Winter so you understand what is going on. Focus on the overwintering discussion one especially. I'm planning to empty the shavings from the quilt box and stuff 2 squares of 1.5” polystyrene foam in them. I will then flip it over and cut a small notch in the top of a side for a bee sized vent hole and put the upside down quilt on my hives. I will probably try wrapping them like Michael Palmer does and see how they fair this Winter. The insulation on the top of the hive needs to be thicker than any you put on the sides of the hive...like 2:1.

      I'd hold off on buying two nucs until next summer. In the mean time, build 2 Langstroth boxes, 2 adapter plates, 2 hive covers, 2 inner covers, and 12 adapter frames to adapt a Warre top bar to a Langstroth frame. One thing you'll learn is that bees don't like to transition down into Warre equipment from Langstroth equipment. That's why adapting a Warre Top bar to a Langstroth frame and then popping the top bar out once it is drawn and placing it in the box below and make the bees draw out a new top bar and move it down until you get the lower box drawn out makes the most sense to me.

      Sincerely:

      RonC

      Delete
  22. I'm so sorry about your bees! Yes, we also learned about keeping bees the hard way ... i.e., killing our bees too :( We got our first bees for free and starved the to death in late summer. The next bees we bought were not hardy for the mountains where we lived, so they died one winter. These bees we've had about 5 years or so, and they are doing well. It takes time to get them established. Not as easy as people sometimes say it is!!

    ReplyDelete

Welcome! Thank you for visiting and taking the time to comment. I try to reply to all comments and return blog visits if I can.