In some ways, taking care of honey bees in the winter is like baking a soufflé. No matter how badly you want to know how things are progressing, you simply can’t open the hive (or the oven) until the proper time.
The Appalachian mountains are the oldest in North America. They stretch across the Eastern portion of the United States including the eastern half of Kentucky, my home state. Eastern Kentucky is a land of contradictions. It is a region rich in natural beauty yet it claims some of the highest poverty rates in the nation. The same coal mines that provided high paying jobs to men with little or no formal education also scarred the land and decimated the miners’ homeland. As the coal industry waned, miners were left with few transferable skills and few options for alternative employment. The once vibrant communities of Eastern Kentucky saw shrinking populations, rampant opioid addiction, and little hope for the future. Continue reading
Christmas is over. The weather is cold, and the bees are clustered. What is a beekeeper to do? This beekeeper reads. While browsing at my local library, I happened upon the novel The Bees by Laline Paull (HarperCollins Publisher, copyright 2014). The book describes the inner working of a bee colony whose hive is located in an abandoned orchard. The story is told from the perspective of Flora 717, a bee born to the lowly class of sanitation workers. The author skillfully describes nearly every possible event within the life of the colony including: wasp attacks, a mouse invading the hive box, repercussions of climate change, contact with pesticides, spreading disease, mating, loss of habitat, swarming, and my personal favorite…..The Visitation. The Visitation is when the beekeeper comes and takes honey from the hive. The Visitation is one of the things the bees fear the most. The book describes a cut throat world where the ruling class clings to power, and the motto of all bees is, “Accept, Obey, and Serve.” Continue reading
This is the time when people reflect upon the past year and make goals for the year ahead. Want to learn a new language, lose 20 pounds, or switch your diet to 100% raw vegetables? Make these your New Year’s Resolutions! Everything seems possible in late December with the New Year just around the corner and the actual hard work of achieving those resolutions still several days away. I’m not making any personal resolutions this year, but I do have some bee resolutions that I am sharing with you. Don’t be surprised if you see some of these topics appearing in future blog posts. Continue reading
Tuesday was warm for December (46 °F/ 8 °C), so I walked to the hives to see if any bees were flying. We went into winter with three colonies of bees: Alpha (our strongest colony with ~60,000 bees in two brood boxes), Bravo (~30,000 bees in two brood boxes), and Echo (~20,000 bees in one brood box). Bees were flying in and out of Echo and Bravo, but Alpha showed no signs of life. You can check out my last post to see how we got our bees ready for winter.
Friends frequently ask me , “What happens to your bees in the winter?” What happens is an epic struggle to keep the bees alive. Some people say you aren’t a beekeeper until you get your first hive full of bees through the winter. If you buy new bees every year because your bees from the previous year died, then you aren’t really beekeeping. If you are a skilled beekeeper, your bees should have a better chance of survival than “the bees in the trees” also known as feral honey bees.
Millions of Americans are about to celebrate Thanksgiving, and the grocery stores are bracing themselves for the onslaught of customers. The fact that hundreds of millions of people in the US can eat a meal that consists of roughly the same menu on the same day is a miracle of modern agriculture as well as a testament to good supply chain management at that nations’ grocery stores. Have you ever considered how your Thanksgiving meal is impacted by bees? Many of your Thanksgiving favorites would not make it to the table without the pollination services provide by bees. Continue reading