Thursday, February 24, 2011

Spring WIll Come... Eventually

It is cold and snowy again- the temperature is supposed to hover right around zero degrees for the next couple of days. I am ready for spring to arrive- I'm sure it will, eventually. Even though it is cold and snowy I am getting excited for bee season.

I found this really cool map tool that can be used to draw a radius of any distance around your hives so you can see the potential foraging area of your bees. Click right here to follow the link and use the map tool.

In the image below I have drawn a 1.5 mile radius around my 2 hives.
The green rectangles indicate known alfalfa fields for seed production that blossom continuously throughout the summer. The orange outline indicates where there is a large concentration of Russian olive trees along the river bottom. They bloom for about a week and provide a good source of nectar and pollen. The blue line cutting across the map indicates the approximate location of a canal which is a potential water source for the bees as well as providing habitat for more Russian olives. Last year the alfalfa bloom and the Russian olive bloom occurred at the same time on about June 20th.

There are other nectar sources within the radius besides those outlined on the map. There are lots of other alfalfa fields which are cut for hay. Our farmers usually get 3 or 4 cuttings each summer and it seems like the alfalfa blooms for several days to a week before the fields are cut. There are also lots of pastures which contain dandelions, clover, other wildflowers, and even nectar producing weeds. This all combined for a total of 15 gallons of honey harvested from our two hives at the beginning of last September.

I'm sure the bees will travel further than 1.5 miles to collect nectar and pollen. I just suppose that the majority of our honey production comes from nectar collected within this radius. There was a study performed right here in Wyoming to determine exactly how far bees would travel. The study found that bees would travel up to 7 miles to forage- but at that distance they consumed more honey in order to travel the 7 miles than they were able to produce. The max distance the bees could travel and still produce excess honey was 4 miles. You can read a short article about that study by clicking right here. It really is quite interesting. But right now it is time to shovel the walks one more time.

Monday, February 14, 2011

The Candy Is In The Hives

The bee candy is in the hives. It was pretty easy to make. The recipe I followed just called for water, sugar and vinegar. There are other recipes that use water, sugar, Karo Syrup, and cream of tartar. A quick internet search will bring up a few different recipes. Below is a picture of the candy cooling in the molds.

I used two 9"x9" disposable baking pans lined with waxed paper. I didn't want to make a very big batch on my first try in case it didn't work out very well.

These next two pictures show Virginia first and then Georgia with there cakes of bee candy.

You can see in Georgia's picture that the candy is broken in two. I wanted to see how strong the candy was. It is about the consistency of stiff fudge but not as heavy. The waxed paper was difficult to peel off. The bees will eat the candy off any bits of paper that remain and will probably remove the paper form the hive if I don't get back in there first. I put jars of crystallized honey in as well. I wonder which one the bees will eat first.
I mentioned a couple of days ago that Georgia's cluster looked pretty small. When I opened her up today I saw that the bees were covering almost half of the frames. Looks like there are more bees left than there first appeared.
We are supposed to continue with warm weather for a couple more days and then get cold. I don't know when it will be warm enough to check on them again. I think I will prepare in advance and make up more candy just in case they need more before it is warm enough to put on a top feeder.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

February Thaw

It finally warmed up a little- enough for the bees to get out for some cleansing flights. I walked over to the hives today and saw little yellow spots all over the snow. I also saw several bees who went out to relieve themselves, got chilled, and crash landed on the snow never to see the inside of their hive again. Some people think this is kind of sad, but I have always thought of the entire hive as being one organism. If some bees are lost I am not bothered as long as the individual hive remains healthy.

Since it was a little warmer today I wanted to see how the bees were doing and how much honey they have left. I had a chance to pop the tops back in the first part of January- at that time both clusters were in the upper deep just below the medium supers that are sitting on top. I wasn't sure how much honey they might have gone through since then so I thought it might be a good idea to have something ready to feed them just in case. Last year I tried the mountain camp method of feeding- that mostly left a big mess in the hives. I didn't have anything else ready to go so I filled a couple of pint jars with some old crystallized honey and figured I could lay them down on their sides on top of the frames. That would give me time to whip up some bee candy to put in on Monday or Tuesday. (It is supposed to keep getting into the upper 30's and 40's for a few more days.) Here is a picture of the emergency feed I had ready to go.

I first opened up Georgia's hive and this is what I found:Georgia's cluster appears small. I am not sure if it really is that small or if the majority of the cluster was still down below. I did not want to disturb them too much to find out. She still has about 7 medium frames of honey left.

I next popped open Virginia's hive. This is what I found under her cover:Virginia's cluster covers about half of the medium super. She also has about 7 medium frames of honey left in her super.

I decided I did not need to provide the crystallized honey as emergency feed today. I will make some bee candy this weekend and place it in the hives on Monday. I think I might put both the honey and the bee candy in at the same time. It will be interesting if they take all the honey before starting on the candy, or if they will take them simultaneously. I have never made bee candy before so this will be a new adventure. I will use a recipe I found on

At this point it looks like Virginia has the healthier hive and larger colony. Last year it was just the opposite and Georgia had a booming hive while Virginia struggled all spring. They both ended up requeening themselves last summer so I don't know which one has the better queen now.

Lastly, we drove up to Cody this morning to run a few errands. As we were driving back I noticed that the willow trees up there are turning bright orange. Willows are probably the first plants that offer the bees any kind of forage each spring. From what I have been able to research on the internet it looks like bees use willows for both nectar and pollen. This does get me a little excited for spring to arrive, but I know that we are still a long way off from any significant nectar flow. It is hard to be patient.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

So Cold!!

I am sick and tired of the cold!!

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