It's been a while since I've written about our bees. This first summer with them is definitely a learning experience. I never thought I'd be so fascinated with an insect but they are so interesting. The last hive check we did was a week ago and the bees in Buttercup - our blue hive - are not doing as well as we'd like. Bluebell - our yellow hive - is much stronger and is drawing out comb in the second super now. Problem is that neither hive is storing honey. I was worried that they would not survive the winter without honey stores.
I do plan on feeding them sugar fondant and pollen this first winter anyway but they should have stored something by now. They do have pollen, just no honey! In the photo above, most of the bees are massed over the brood area. the small white cells in the center are baby bees and the yellow cells are pollen. The white edges are the foundation that they are starting to draw comb on.
I consulted with other Missouri beekeepers because you use your resources when you are a newbee. They told me that the dearth, the time without a nectar flow, is very hard on new hives and so I should feed them. We made up a 1:1 solution of sugar water and we filled chick waterers with this solution. Then we put enough marbles in the trough so that the bees don't drown. The first day, some drowned anyway so I added thatch from the ground to give the bees some traction. They were having trouble with the slippery marbles.
One of our feeders is way out against the back forest fence, high up on a pole and the other one is on top of our dog kennel/chicken emergency ward that is near the entrance to the chicken pen and the garden paddock.
This morning, I was a shade late and the sun had already risen before I went out. That means the bees were flying! I was doing alright at the kennel feeder, there were only ten or so bees when I got out there. Filling the feeder was not a problem - I knocked off the ants from the night and filled it. More bees arrived as I was leaving but they didn't bother me at all.
I went out to fill the back fence feeder. It's a nice walk to get back there. You pass the beehives on the way. They're on the other side of the fence and a decent distance. A person can stand there and watch them come and go from a place of safety. Today, I could hear the hives as I approached.
The closer I got, the louder they got and I realized I was walking through a cloud of bees on the way to the feeder. Now, the feeder was empty but the bees didn't know that and there was a couple of hundred of them flying about, milling around the feeder.
No, I was not wearing a bee suit. I was only feeding them, I didn't think I would need my suit. It was just a tad scary with that many bees in the air and I thought about abandoning my mission and going back up to the house for my suit.
Then I considered what I was doing and how I was doing it. I was giving them food. I was moving slowly and deliberately and they were landing on me but not stinging. More tasting the sugar syrup that had dripped on my hands from the first feeder. I cautiously brought down the feeder and there were so many bees clustered on the feeder and my hands that I was slightly afraid but they all moved out of my way!
They followed that feeder down to the ground and the crowd flying around me got very thick! The noise of their humming was drowning out the pitter patter of my frightened heart! I kept calm, filled the feeder, added the marbles and the thatch and they were already landing and feeding before I got the feeder back up on top of the pole! Then I just calmly (outside not inside) walked back up the path to the house and they stayed behind, clustered by the feeder.
I checked out the kennel feeder and there were a lot more bees. I spent about fifteen minutes in the paddock garden, harvesting tomatoes and peppers and when I got done - I checked on the feeder again on my way out.
The video at the start of this post was what I saw. Well, this has been an all new experience and has made me aware of one thing - I am absolutely unafraid of bees! They do not bother me the least, at least since this mornings feeding. This made me very happy!
As always, if you have any questions about what we do here at Windy Thistle and how we do it, leave me a comment!