Friday, March 29, 2013

A Glimmer of Hope

As I went and refilled the feeders this morning I noticed some very small white flowers once again popping out from the mostly still Winter brown ground cover. Very few small pockets of snow remain here and there and you have to look hard to find them and we are into our second day in a row of shirtsleeve warm temperatures. In fact today was t-shirt and shorts warm with a bright Sun just perfect enough to instill hope that maybe this Winter-Hell is finally over. At this stage however hope can be dangerous.

Of my three remaining hives two of them are booming and were all over the feeders and bringing in a light yellow pollen so fast I almost switched the entrances to a larger opening. Under normal circumstances I would have done my Spring inspection today but I am not going to risk setting the girls back right now at all. I know what I need to know they are almost out of stores and they NEED food and temperatures warm enough to convert that food into honey. Right now I don't care if the queen is laying in the wrong chamber as long as she is laying or if they have burr combed something together. Once I know for a fact something is blooming they can use for nectar and we are done with snow storms and days on end of high winds and bitter cold I will open them up and see what needs to be done to get them back on track.

The third hive had a mound of dead bees in front of it and a few girls coming and going but not many. No pollen that I saw going in and little activity. In short it is acting just like the last hive I lost did before it totally died out so at this point it maybe a lost cause as well.

Daytime temps look to be mild to warm for the next week except for another short cold spell they are predicting to hit Monday with possible snow showers and temps once again dipping into the 20's overnight. Until I see actual life returning though I am not going to call this Spring or change tactics at least as far as bee feeding goes. I simply cannot afford to take the risk that I am wrong at this point, not unless I want to start all over again anyway.

I still haven't taken the hive apart from the dead out I discovered yesterday, although as I said I did open it up and see that nothing was left alive in there. However I went to remove the wind break from behind it today and noticed about half a dozen bees inspecting the outside of the hive and landing at the entrance but not going in. They may have been survivors but with our night time temps still hitting the lower thirties I doubt it. My guess is they were foragers from nearby feral hives or maybe even from one of my remaining hives two miles away or maybe even early swarm scouts. As long as some bees survive close by I can rebuild but it will take years as this Winter has been a major setback.

I will begin placing swarm traps next week if the temps stay warm enough. AT this point my entire sustainable bee keeping project has failed actually, even if I saved the few hives remaining I had to do so using resources that were shipped here and not naturally available, ie. sugar. It lasted for four years and started with one hive acquired locally that built up to ten hives last Summer until the drought hit. If I can find a source I may order in a few queens around May and start over once again, especially if as I suspect, there are few swarms between now and then. If I can managed to catch even two swarms however I will not order any queens because I still want this to be a local bee only sustainable operation if at all possible. Five years ago there was not a honey bee to be found outside on the Small-Hold flowers for the most part, at least now I know there is a feral population around locally so as long as the wild side effects are still alive I can rebuild.

In a sense however I wonder if being out where we are didn't hurt my bees more than help them. We are well out of forage range of any real watered plant life. Had I been closer to a city they might have had enough watered lawns and the like to survive. Just something I been thinking about.

First order of business will be placing swarm traps and then seeing if the remaining hives are thinking about swarming themselves. If they are I will make a split and get a new hive placed for the garden apiary.

On the bright side I have a whole lot of ready to go hives put together and painted not to mention drawn out frames of comb to give any new splits or swarms a nice head start this year and an ample supply of old black comb to use in the swarm traps as bait.

One final lesson for us sustainable preppers. Drought kills and will continue to kill long after the rains (or snow) start to fall on the ground once again. The earth does not heal quickly. It takes time and that is why we prep.

Keep Prepping Everyone!!!


  1. Have you ever looked into growing sugar beets for your bees? I know that it's how alot of old timers used to get their sugar because it was too expensive to buy. I'm not sure how labor intensive it would be. They also used the remaining pulp to fatten up livestock. Just an idea.

    1. I looked into them a while back but the process for rendering them into sugar as I remember did not seem to be something you could do on a small scale. At least I believe that was the conclusion I came to. Really my plan was to keep enough honey back to feed back to the hives when needed but there was so little this Summer I never got any to even feed back.

  2. That sugar beet idea might be something good for you to look into. I know they grow sugar beets as far north as Dakota. Good luck with your bees, the drought would be devastating in a grid down situation, but it is still pretty bad right now. The long range forecast is calling for a possible repeat in the Midwest. If it is another severe drought in that area, it will change the farming community for years to come.

    1. Sorry, I just checked and you are too far south to grow sugar beets. You might could eek by in a non-commercial situation, it might be worth a shot just to try something new.

    2. Sd - I hadn't looked at where the beets could be grown. I seem to remember the process of turning the beets into sugar needed something that was not easy to reproduce or use but it has been a long time since I looked so I maybe remembering it wrong.


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