Saturday, March 6, 2010

The Bees in Winter

     Lately, I have been worrying  about my bees.  This is still my first year as a bee keeper, and the summer was rainy and awful - hard for the bees who won't forage in the rain.  All the journals and books say that Feb. and March are the danger months when hives will starve.  But, we do not want to check the hives in the winter and risk freezing the girls out...what is a new beekeeper to do??  Well, it was 43 degrees and sunny today, so I grabbed my nerve and opened the hive - just a quick peek.  I saw a living cluster of bees at the top - as well as some flying.  I hope there is enough honey.  One blog I referenced (written by a Minnesota bee keeper) said I could tell just by lifting the upper hive body and feeling the weight of the honey inside.  Unfortunately, I took the advise of a different bee keeper this past Fall and wrapped the hive in tar paper - essentially making the top and bottom hive bodies one until Spring.  Hmm. I popped the top, and there were the girls.  I shall still be ready to feed them - ordered some pollen substitute yesterday and will be making some bee candy tonight, but so far, so good.

     Here is a shot of what the cluster looked like today.  If this looks abnormal or there is something you see that I do not, please comment and let me know! Thanks!


     Is is weird to be in love with a bunch of little insects who, from month to month, may not be the same group of bees?

The next yearly project is to tap the maples and make some syrup.  We are a bit late, but for the three years we have previously done this I have also missed the first sap rising, and it has never bothered us.  I did have a person try to feel superior by telling us we were not tapping sugar maples, but Norway maples - but you know - it doesn't matter.  Our Norway maples still produce a lovely sweet syrup, as would our red maple if we chose to tap it.  So disparaging lady - I hope you feel bigger - but we don't care!
           We have such a high tech set up that the syrup tastes fabulous not matter what!  We set up a cinder block fire pit in the back yard shielded by a corner of the house and an old holly bush.  Next we grab all the dead fall around the yard (and some years there is more than others) and we steal the grill from our gas barbecue and set it over the cinder blocks.  We boil the sap in a large wide pan, (the picture shows us using the pickling pot, which we rapidly learned had sides that were too high) and warm more of it in small pot on the same grill - we sit outdoors in the smoke and the weather (hoping it won't snow on our "boil day") and we drink hot cocoa, we feed the fire - I even have a shawl I knit during boils - just something to keep me from thinking about how chilly it is.  Then by about 8 pm we move inside and finish the rest of the syrup off on the stove.  We do not ever use up all the syrup from the previous year before we start boiling the next batch, but it is becoming a family rite of late winter.  It helps the children see that we are blessed with resources from nature which are right at our fingertips.  It lets them know that they are capable of producing food for themselves with a bit of hard work.

1 comment:

  1. Oh, very very cool! Your bees look busy. When we opened up our hives last weekend, Dave my new beekeeping friend poured honey all over the top of the combs and let them come up and imbibe...

    He showed me the starved out hive, too. He pulled out a comb, and there were all these poor little bee butts sticking out of the chambers of the honeycomb, face first in there looking for that last bit of food. :(

    I hope your bees make it! Also, I don't remember if I've sent you off to my friends' Lisa & Robb's blog -

    I painted with them at Baltimore Opera sometimes, Lisa now works @ Berkely Rep. Stay warm up there!