Yesterday with the warm weather and spring approaching, Han and I went to check on the bees out back for the first time since the fall. We found one hive to be very active and healthy though moving slowly. Even with the warm sixty-ish weather the bees have not warmed up completely from the last big snow storm. Bees, like people, do not venture outside unless the weather is fair. Also there is no reason to go outside. The brown snow-covered landscape offers nothing for them to forage for. Until the trees start blooming they will have to rely on their food stores and the sugar-water we give them. Fortunately Martha Keen, on-site apiary manager*, left the bees with plenty of food for the winter.
With all things come surprises and in this case a hive died this winter. Luckily, in the Keen’s four years of keeping bees, they have not lost a single colony. However, in the bee industry large losses have occurred due to various factors such as diseases, parasites, pesticides and colony collapse disorder. Because of these large losses in the bee population we need backyard beekeepers more than ever. Did you know that last year the Hastings City Council voted to allow Beekeeping legal in the city of Hastings? The UNL extension office also holds a beginning beekeeping one day long workshop in the city of Hastings. This year this occurs on March 10th. If you are interested in setting up a hive, the time is now. We plan on holding workshops but if you want to get started this year contact us and we will help you.
Unphased by the death of one hive, we will split the hive that is healthy and active. This is actually a simple process, and merely involves taking part of the population of one hive, introducing them to a new queen, and ensuring an abundance of food to encourage the hives to focus on raising new brood. There is a beekeeping phrase that comes from an old english poem that says “A swarm of bees in May is worth a load of hay; A swarm of bees in June is worth a silver spoon; A swarm of bees in July isn’t worth a fly.” By splitting our hive early this spring, it prevents the hive from swarming due to its need for space. Once the bees become too big for their hive, filling up all the hive boxes, the worker bees would make another queen and part of the colony would leave with the new queen. This is what happens when you see a swarm of bees outside your window. This split also ensures that the new colony will be able to grow to a large enough size to produce honey for harvest, and allow themselves to survive the next winter. By the way, if you have a swarm in your yard and you need it removed we would love to take it away for you, call or text 402 705 4390 or 402 705 1664. That is if you live in central Nebraska.
Today Hannah gave a super, a small bee box opposed to a deep bee box, full of honey to the most active bee hive. Martha had this on reserve in the event that one of the hives desperately needed the food. With this extra food the hive will stay strong until the flowers come up.