Bees on a Beautiful Day in February

Here in Southwestern Ontario, we were blessed with a beautiful day in the middle of winter. On a day when some years the high can be -10 degrees celsius, today it was +17. After a January full of cloud, the weather feels simply amazing.

It appears our bees thought so too! They were out in full force, all over the yard in any place that was sunny. What a welcome site! The population for Queen Amelia appears to be strong. After a struggling through the whole year Queen Rosa’s hive died late last fall. Here is a short video showing some activity around Queen Amelia.

For those of you who have been around bees before you’ll know why there are so many dead bees outside the hive. For those of you who haven’t, on warm days, the bees clean out the hive. This includes going to the washroom and removing any dead bees. Over winter the hive reduces to a population of around 10,000 (from around 60,000). Some bees don’t make it through the winter and some general housekeeping helps clean them up.

At this point Queen Amelia’s hive looks good. I didn’t open the hive today as they should have enough honey left over from the summer. On a warm day in March, I hope to open the hive up and have a look at their food stores. We have some leftover honey from Queen Rosa’s hive and can feed this if we need to. It never hurts to have some extra food kicking around.

All this warm weather in February is not good for the trees and other plants, but it sure is a nice respite for the humans, the dog, and the bees. We hope the weather is nice where you are!

When We Started Beekeeping

If you ever get a chance to get to know the Blackwell Gardener (Christina) you would soon find out that she never stops dreaming. Even when her plate is over full she will keep looking into more amazing things to build and do. I think her real hobby is not any of the things she does, but actually coming up with new hobbies. That’s where our beekeeping started. Once the Blackwell Gardener mentioned it, the Blackwell Bee Keeper (Chad) knew that was the hobby for him.

Like any new project, keeping bees can be a bit daunting. After a few conversations and articles online I learned that there are many ways to keep bees. This meant that it was going to take a lot of research to get an idea on what kind of beekeeper I wanted to be. I chatted with a local beekeeper who practices traditional beekeeping and he recommended reading Beekeeping for Dummies. While this is a great book to get anyone started on the fundamentals, it is short on how to raise bees with the least amount of interference. So I branched out and read More than Honey and watched the video with the same name. This really opened by eyes to the thought that we could try keeping bees with as little intervention as possible.

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I can’t remember how, but somehow I stumbled upon The Bee Vlog (https://www.youtube.com/user/TheBeeVlog and https://www.facebook.com/TheBeeVlog/) This YouTube channel is just what I needed! Set up by a regular guy with a regular name (Bill), this Vlog shows his vulnerable start with bees and works through his first couple of years. He still post videos from time to time.

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A pic of Bill from The Bee Vlog
I watched every video of his first year from beginning to end. I became a bit obsessed and my family grew a little tired of hearing about and seeing bees every night for about a month. The great things about these videos is that when I started keeping my own bees a few months later I felt like I had done it before. The first time I opened my hives, I felt calm. I credit my first year success to everything I learned from Bill. I really should get a t shirt that says “Everything I know about beekeeping I learned from Bill.”

This was the beginning. Really you don’t have to do as much research as I did to get started. However, I think there was some success the first year because of the hours of work put in ahead of time. This is my beginning.