Beginning the Bee Year


Sadly, my last colony perished this past week. I believe it was queen failure. The hive was full of honey, and not a single bee. So, for the first time in years, my garden is quiet. I’ve decided to only host four colonies this year—three skeps and my wall hive. So, today, I got to work getting the hives up and ready for swarm season, which always creeps up faster than I imagine…

I decided I will use Genisis hive, Charity hive, and my new skep, Gobnait. Genisis is the largest and most heavily insulated. Today, I tipped her onto her side, and pulled all the dark brood combs out. I left the lighter honey-storage combs, so there will be plenty of comb to get them going. I moved the hive to a new eco-floor log round. It is heavily propolised inside, as is the skep herself. I traveled to LA last week, and picked up three painted coconut rounds I’ll be placing on each hive for decoration! Here is Genisis, all ready to go:

Next, I placed Charity on a new log-round, and got her set up next to the pollinator hotel. I had to empty her, as she was full of honey last fall, but there is much propolis and wax bits on the interior of the hive. Here she is:

I’m still working on getting Gobnait ready. Today, I poured melted beeswax inside and added two old pieces of comb so the bees will have a “start.” I added bamboo spleets to stabilize the comb, and will be spraying the interior of the skep with what I call “propolis water”—the stuff that is left over from melting old wax. I strain the reddish-black water and freeze it to spray into new skeps and bait hives. Here she is with her new spleets:

I also got a bucket of very fresh organic cow manure that I will mix up tomorrow with clay and sand, and I’ll cloam the outside of her to protect her from UV damage. She is a lovely hive—by no means perfect, but better than I’ve done before. Here she sits, awaiting her crap coat:

Feather was my last colony. She was four years old this winter, and had made it almost all the way to spring. Dang. So, I spent the day pulling out comb. The hive is loaded with honey. I must admit that getting comb out of a skep is a messy business. I scooped and chopped and pulled for what seemed like hours. Feather still has loads of sticky honey all over her insides, so I’ve set her out for any spring bees who could use some sweetness:

Several bees found her quickly! Perhaps they were swarms of mine who had gotten away and made nests nearby. In the past, when I had no bees of my own, I had very few bees visit my garden. But there seem to be a good number of honey bees checking out the garden, and my honey-sticky Feather hive. I am hoping they come for the honey, but check out all the empty, enticing hives! Here was a tiny native bee who came to visit:

Now, I mustn’t forget to restock the pollinator hotel, so I’m busy filling cans now:

I’ll be hanging around four bait hives in my yard, and am also posting on our NexDoor email sites, and our local FB pages, that I do swarm collection. My town knows me pretty well, so I’m not too worried about how I will find bees this summer. I am super curious to see if any swarms show up in my yard and bait hives! I help tend a hive we installed at our local library, and they are really active this spring, so I’m expecting several swarms from them. If so, they will come home with me.

I now have three idle skeps, and I am offering them for sale. I’m asking $500 for each. If you are interested, just contact me and we’ll talk!

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