Thursday, April 4, 2013

The Beeginning of a New Adventure

Flowers, but no bees.
Spring is here, so the calendar tells me. You wouldn't know it by the temperature, or by the signs of spring in the yard. If we're lucky we might get up to 55 degrees today. And maybe actually above freezing tonight. The weather reminds me of February's sugaring weather...freezing at night, in the 40s during the day.  February weather, not April!

Crocuses have opened and are now withering away, but still no sunny daffodils waving in the breezes. Or the bursting forth of the forsythia. To me the forsythia is always the true sign that spring is here to stay.By now it should be warm enough for the flowers and when the flowers bloom, in come the bees. And very soon, like next week, come MY bees!

Last summer, while chatting about chickens with my friends Karen and Leslie (We probably sounded much like the hens we were discussing "pick a little talk a little cheep cheep cheep.") we came around to talking about raw honey and then to bees. All three of us expressed a mild interest in beekeeping.

Mild interest, for I don't really like crawly things. I appreciate them, love how they help us, but don't really like them. Each summer I find myself putting on a brave face and chanting to some child, "Worms (spiders, bees, etc.) are our friends. We must let them go back to their homes." Meanwhile my inner wuss is screaming "squish it!" Especially when it comes to spiders.

But, after a year's worth of research: attending beekeepers meetings, reading, perusing catalogues, taking an intro to beekeeping workshop, and taking what the beekeepers call a "short course," we are actually picking up a package of bees next week.

Einstein is attributed with stating, “If the bee disappeared off the face of the earth, man would only have four years left to live.” No one is really sure if he said that, but the point is a valid one. We need our pollinators, or we'll starve to death.

Unfortunately, our pollinators are dying off, and no one wants to say why. Most seasoned  beekeepers seem to think its a combination of things: pesticide use, genetically modified crops, loss of nectar sources, climate change, lowered disease resistance (due to the above). Lots of reasons all combining to wipe out a species that just can't adapt fast enough.

And beekeepers seem to be losing huge numbers of bees; dying off in late winter. (Some of the keepers at the York County Beekeepers Association are saying to expect a 50% die off this year.) It's been too cold to get in the hives to get hard numbers. 

So, while it might seem an exercise in futility, we're going to give it a try on our little homestead. My teacher, Jeremy Barnes, is estimating his losses at 10-20%, so maybe I'll be lucky if I emulate his methods. 

While I spend these last few chilly days (weeks?) dreaming about this year's yield in the garden and freezers full of chickens, I will also be nailing together hive bodies and frames, painting boxes, mounting beeswax foundation, and chanting to myself "Bees are our friends...."

Putting a frame together

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