Empty Hives

It was a weekly feeding of the bees during winter.  The first year is always the hardest while they are building their honey combs from scratch. The fondant we fed seemed to be working and the hives seemed fine……until today.

We knew there was an issue when there was still food left from our last visit. We didn’t want to fully open the hives to investigate because of the cold temperature outside. There were dead bees on the outside ledge but not a lot. We waited until a warm day to pull open the hives.

Unfortunately our worst fears were founded. The bees were gone and the hives were being raided by another swarm of honey bees who took all the food and honey to where ever they came from.

Unlike previous years where we lost a single hive due to cold or swarming, we lost ALL 3 hives all at once, in a single week.

We were baffled! What had happened?!  All 3 at once is a very suspicious situation. Did a neighbor spray a pesticide or herbicide? Did it really get cold enough over the winter to kill off all the honey bees? The bees purchased locally are usually born and bred in warmer states. Our dry, windy and variable climate is not very hospitable. Temperatures occasionally swing up to 60 degrees in a single day! From freezing to 80 degrees within 24 hours.  40 mile an hour winds, hail and snow storms in May are fairly common.

So what’s next? Since all the bees purchased in our state aren’t truly local, we set up swarm traps with scents that lure honey bees in hopes that local bees who have hardened up to our climate will move in.  

A lot of money has been invested in our bees and hives over the last 4 years and we have only been able to draw honey twice.  We will try to catch a swarm and wait until next spring to determine if we will potentially buy any again.

Please consider this when you are getting ready to use any chemicals.  Honey bees are dying at an alarming rate in our state and they are needed to pollinate and grow our vegetables! What may seem like a light weight harmless spray to kill weeds, spiders or other insects may eradicate colonies of bees within a day! Please help us save our bees.

Honey Comb In New Hives

We are excited to say that the new experimental hives that we set up for the new bees are working well! These hives are 2 boxes high and wide open. There are fewer frames custom made by us with no wax base. They started from scratch!

This window was a custom add on we created so we could keep an eye on the bees progress. We will never really be able to open the hive based on this new format so the window will be handy to monitor the health of the hive without disturbing them.

Considering we only received the bees a month ago and they have been through a 6 inch snow storm and 3 hailstorms they are doing incredibly well! We are anticipating more honey this year than we have ever collected based on both the new and old hives. We have a total of 4 thriving hives at the moment.

We also had the highest amount of moisture this spring than we’ve ever had. The state has been in a drought and we finally caught up to where we should be. This means a lot of vegetation growth. The pollen count is extremely high and the bees are reaping the reward. Even though the apple, plum and pear blossoms mostly froze during the late spring snow storm, there is still plenty of blossoms on the property.

We are looking forward to pulling honey from the Flow Hives.

See the current hive activity:

First Honey Drawn from Bee Hives 2017

It’s finally here! The day of our first honey draw!

Unlike other bee keepers we purchased Flow Hives for our bees. They are a new technology from Australia. The hive allows the honey to be drawn from the hive without opening the boxes and pulling out the honey comb. The honey super, which is the top box you see here, has plastic honey comb that collapses on a turn of a key allowing the honey to flow through the spouts and into 2 quart jars, untouched by human hands.

This hive has a large colony of bees we’ve had for a year and a half. They have 2 boxes of honey. One is the honey super and the other is the box below which they will use in the winter for their own food. Plus they should be able to fill another box before winter hits.

It didn’t take long to get the flow spouts flowing. We filled 67 jars and sold them all in a couple weeks. You can see the honey is very dark in color. We were surprised at the strong flavor. Sort of floral from the wildflowers and a little piney. We aren’t sure how else to describe it. It was so strong we were a little worried if the product was sellable. After sitting for a few hours the most pungent flavors subsided and the flavor was amazing. We received so much positive feedback, even from people who had done honey before.

Honey looks to be one of our best sellers at this point and we plan to buy a number of new hives next year since this is the only hive that survived our climate. We hope to be even more successful next year.

You can watch the honey draw on the farm YouTube Channel: