Worth and I have been to the Ranch three times since my last blog and… the news is good; the bees made it through the winter!! So, on April 16th when I opened the lid on the hive in reasonably warm weather for a peak, I was happily stung by a brave bee that had made it through the long, cold winter and was still prepared to protect the hive. Of course, I made a run for it as best as I could in my cross-country ski boots with a half dozen bees chasing me. Then there was the matter of placing the hardened sugar in the hive. This, I left up to Worth who also got stung while he slipped the sugar under the lid.
During the busy season when bees are foraging and nursing their young, life expectancy is 40 days. As winter approaches, the queen cuts back on egg laying and begins rearing fatter, “winter bees.” These bees will live for 5-6 months. When I went to Bee Maid in Spruce Grove on May 18th for bee supplies, the word was that winter losses were around 35-40% and even higher in the USA. I guess we did alright for our first year as fledgling beekeepers!
On our visit to the Ranch on May 12th, Worth and I discovered that the ants had returned in their relentless pursuit of irritating the bees and… me. We decided to head off to St. Paul for a 22kg bag of food grade, diatomaceous earth from the UFA. We returned and sprinkled a generous serving around the hive. Diatomaceous earth is a white powder made from fossilized prehistoric crustaceans called diatoms. We are hopeful that the sharp edges of the DE will cut into the ant’s bodies to cause death by dehydration. The bees will remain largely unaffected by the DE as their fuzzy bodies act to repel the DE and they clearly do not crawl around on the ground as ants do.
Our hive inspection showed the queen was laying nicely with proof of various stages of development on display; from egg of the day to capped cells.
We took the opportunity to tidy up the hive by cleaning the bottom board and scraping other winter debris from the frames.
When we returned to the Ranch on May 19th, Worth replaced the trail cam in which the batteries corroded with one that was functional. This year we will be taking the trail cam out in November rather than leaving it out through the winter. A bit of an expensive lesson, but truly well learned.
After a quick peak at the bees, Worth started his chain saw to clear some of the dead-fall on the trail that agonized our passage to the hive. There will be a considerable amount of clearing in the next few months and a great deal more of transplanting the beautiful, baby spruce trees that seem to be sprouting up everywhere.