Memphis Backyard Farmer

Spring Into Beekeeping
March 14, 2013, 6:53 am
Filed under: Bee Keeping, Livestock, Memphis, Urban Ag | Tags: , , , , , , ,

Bees on framesI made a lot of bee keeping mistakes last year. At some point, I’ll detail them, because the tale is worth telling. I’ve been keeping bees for 17 years now, and I’ve never made as much of a mess of my bees as I did last season. But 2012 is gone, and spring is springing in Memphis, so I decided to bite the bullet, wander out to the apiary and see if any bees made it through the winter. Imagine my pleasant surprise to find my last two remaining hives going strong. And compared to years past, I’d say strong is an understatement.

What’s typical for especially new beekeepers in this area is for their bees to starve, not freeze, over the winter months. Often bee keepers take too much honey off the hive in the fall, and don’t feed early enough in the spring. Once the cluster breaks (due to warmer, 50+ degree temps), the hive has a desire to take in more calories. In Memphis, we can have 60, almost 70 degree days in February(!), so the cluster breaks early. Because there is no nectar source, a bee keeper must have a sugar supply ready for his girls. If not, he’ll discover a hive full of bees with their heads buried in wax cells, dead. If you’ve ever experienced it, it should make you sick, because it’s your fault.

Last fall I left two honey supers on both my hives, more than I typically leave. Part of it was penance for my poor care of the bees last summer, some of it was a lack of time to take off fall honey stores, and some of it – honest! – was to make sure they had plenty of honey to over winter. It appears to have worked. I did feed them on this trip. I didn’t pull the frames in these supers, because it’s still cool enough to chill the brood and I didn’t want to take any chances. I used the baggie method of feeding since the cluster had already broke. I’ve posted a video here so that you can see how this works. It’s quick and easy, and perfect for this occasion.

I’ll reverse the brood boxes in a couple of weeks, and tear the supers down to see what kind of shape they’re in. I can typically get several boxes of early spring honey by May if I’ve planned ahead. Take note: I am planning ahead!

Oh – and if you want a video version of this update, check it out here.


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