-Posted by Isaac
Ok, enough about Jayne already. Let’s get back to the bees.
I’m killing three birds these days. 1. Winter spacers go on the hives. 2. Supers are stacked in the yards. 3. Honey rent is delivered to land owners.
The work doesn’t end when the cold weather comes, it only changes. I’m alone most of the day, and I guess you could say the work gets more introspective. Thinking about this, brooding about that. I’ve got my thoughts, my podcasts, my truck radio. NPR when I want some news, the AM ‘angry white man’ stations when I want to feel angry. And white.
I’m sure I could speed things up if I brought someone along, but in some ways, that would ruin the whole thing. These short cold days provide a sort of meditation.
Sometimes Facebook provides the entertainment. I always like to check up on the commercial beekeepers page. (Talk about angry white men!) Or I’ll sometimes find something truly remarkable. Here’s something ancient and modern and ugly and beautiful all at once:
Sunset on Mars- Meditate on this a while.
Ok, let me talk about these three birds in more detail. If it’s going to be a dry day, the first thing that happens is the truck is loaded with supers. I can get about 120 stacked on the flatbed following an early morning run and before the kids get on the bus. There’s a handy hour in there if things are going right.
After the kids are off to school, I load up with the yard rent for the landowners I’ll be visiting.
We’ve got 42 bee yards on other people’s land, and this time of year all the land owners receive $90 of product or money. A small Christmas ‘thank you.’
After collecting supers and honey rent, it’s off to the yards. With 120 supers on the truck, I can knock off three or four yards before I have to return for more.
I’ve been storing supers in the yards for a few years now. It makes sense. Opens up the barn for winter work, and even more important, saves a trip in the spring when I really need those supers on the hives. Some yards get a small stack (above).
And some get a big stack.
As you’ve probably already figured, it depends on how many hives are in the yard.
But it also depends on the spring forage. If there is a lot of honeysuckle and autumn olive in the area, I’ll throw another super on a strong hive.
Here’s a yard of invisible bees.
Six yards look like this. These girls are sitting at home right now, waiting to go into the apples in April. I’ve learned that apple pollinators can be really strong (when things go right) after they come out of the orchards in May. As in, you’d better have enough supers.
Here we have the cell phone yard.
Every year these girls show me that the “Cell phones are killing the bees!” theory is most likely bogus. This is an awesome yard. Especially in the spring. Could it be that the cell tower is enhancing the foraging? Hmmm…
So after the honey rent is delivered and the supers stacked, bird number three involves actually popping lids and looking at the bees.
Cold days are the best.
The bees put out moisture as they slowly metabolize their honey stores. You can sort of see this with that ring of frost on the lid pictured above. To prevent the condensation from dripping on the cluster all winter, there needs to be some ventilation. A spacer takes care of this.
The reason that cold days are the best is because I can put the spacer on and check the girls quickly. No smoke, no veil needed. It takes seconds.
I’m also checking food stores. On a cold day in December when the bees are in a tight cluster, looking down, you shouldn’t even see them. They should be under three, four, five inches of honey.
Those that aren’t, the lighter hives where everyone is up high, will be fed a sugar patty in January. They get marked with the brick up. This year, I’m guessing that only about 10% have a brick in the “feed me!” position.
Ideally you have a box of honey on top and a big cluster on bottom. Yesterday it was warm enough to split a few and really check.
Most are looking great. Especially the hives with younger queens.
So that’s my routine of late. It’s enjoyable. It’s peaceable. I’ll do three or four yards in the morning and maybe another couple in the afternoon.
I have to be careful though. If I happen to go in the honey house between trips, they may try to put me to work. It breaks my meditation. On a normal day in December, I’ll find Jayne, Katie, Kristen and Hannah all busy… running around frantically filling Christmas orders. On most afternoons, my second trip involves a drive to the post office. The bee truck doubles as Santa’s sleigh.