Red Bucket Farm is an urban farm on a quarter acre property in an average residential neighborhood. We are located in Wisconsin, USDA Zone 5. We focus on chickens, bees, orchard fruit, and raised garden beds for fruits and veggies. We hope to reduce our footprint on the planet by growing some of our food, reducing our use of fossil fuels, and gardening with sustainable practices. Thanks for visiting!

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Honeybee late winter update

On Saturday, March 2, we conducted a partial inspection of two (out of three) top bar bee hives. At noon the weather was 40 degrees and sunny, so we worked very quickly. We had to shovel snow out of the bee yard to access the hives. Our main purpose was to insure the bees would have enough food to survive the late winter.

Last week, I made fondant bee candy following the recipe in Christy Hemenway's new book The Thinking Beekeeper. Fondant is a good way to feed bees in the winter because it won't freeze like sugar syrup. It's important to get the fondant as close as possible to the bee cluster.

We opened the red hive first because we're certain there are still living bees in that hive. Sure enough, those girls assured us that they didn't appreciate our intrusion. Since we found plenty of honey dripping from the combs, we quickly closed the hive.

Next we opened the blue hive where we also found plenty of honey. Rather than annoy any remaining bees, we closed up the hive and covered it with the insulation blankets. There hasn't been any activity from this hive in the last few weeks, and I'm unsure if there are any survivors.

Our green hive hasn't shown any activity since December. We presume it is dead and didn't bother to open it in winter conditions. There was plenty of honey in that hive last fall, which we'll retrieve in the spring.

Reports from other beekeepers have been discouraging. The survival rate this winter is very low mostly due to mites. If we can keep just one hive alive, we will consider it a huge success. Bees reproduce quickly in the spring and we can use the increase to make splits for the empty hives. Late winter is the most challenging!