Flannel Jammies Farm

...praising God on our 1/5 acre of suburbia

Thursday, January 2, 2014

bee blankets... or something like that...

On June 3, 2013, we became beekeepers.  We received a swarm call, suited up, and with the help of a couple of experts, we slowly removed the most beautiful swarm of honey bees hanging precariously from a tree branch in a sweet homeowner's back yard.  Safely sealed in a swarm bucket, we brought the bees home and shook them into a lovely English Garden hive.  They made themselves right at home!
Our first hive, one week after capturing the swarm
The months since then have been filled with questions, worries, and the steepest of learning curves.  Thankfully, we had beekeeping mentors and friends in the Beekeepers Guild of Southeast Virginia and in the Virginia Urban Homesteaders League.  These patient folks let us trample through and observe their bee yards, answered every question with kindness, and calmed each fear that arose.  We've successfully tackled hive building and painting, bringing a swarm home, finding and (very sloppily) marking a Queen, splitting a hive, installing a nuc, hive beetles, sugar syrup feedings, stings, honey robbing, and so much more.  It's been hard work and anxiety-filled for this first-time-bee-mama.  Yet we are filled with joy daily as we look out onto the bee yard.

But it was always out there.  In the distance.  But closer with each passing day.

Winter and its dangers were coming.  Harsh winter storms are now bearing down on the states above us and the next couple of days hold bitterly (for us) cold temperatures and strong winds.  Honey bees remain active throughout winter, despite the cold.  We confirmed that our bees had plenty of stored honey for food.  Now we had to do what we could to protect them from this drastic weather change.

Again, we are beginners.  And again, I am a first-time-bee-mama.  Please don't judge.

We gathered some leftover roofing paper and styrofoam sheets from the shed and set to work.  Each hive body was wrapped in the heavy paper and squares of insulating styrofoam, which were tied with simple garden string.  The entrances were left open and entrance reducers were in place in their smallest configuration. 

The bees work hard to keep the temperature inside the hives warm and even, optimally just above 90 degrees.  Too cold and bees won't survive.  But another danger is moisture from condensation forming inside the hives.  We have screened bottom boards or screened vents in each of our hives to allow moisture to escape.  As soon as the temperatures rise again (which in our area means a day or two from now!) we will remove these “bee blankets” from the exterior of the hives.  Hopefully our efforts will give the bees a little better chance at surviving the winter.

But then comes Spring which means swarming, new Queens, mating flights, more hive beetles, hive splits, honey harvesting...

1 comment:

Janet Pesaturo said...

Thanks for sharing on From the Farm blog hop. I am thinking of beekeeping, and totally appreciate your honest description of your anxieties about getting it right. I am like that with anything I do. Hope your bees get through the winter just fine!