Summary of my beekeeping in 2013

2013 was a year of learning. I experienced my first dead hive, extracted honey for the first time, and took my first Beekeeping class – the Beginners’ class that I had intended to take the previous year. It’s a challenge to recall an entire year’s worth of work I did on starting a new hive, but for the purposes of record-keeping this is it in a nutshell:

January

  • Discovered dead hive
  • Extracted leftover honey
  • Ordered a nuc from Win Harless, a swarm that he would catch in the Spring

March

  • Began the Beginner’s Beekeeping Class, sessions from March through September – learned about several mistakes I made that probably contributed to the result of my dead hive (lack of feeding and managing my hive, including a proper winterization)
  • Cleaned/prepped my hive equipment for my new bees

April

  • Purchased a birdbath from ACO to provide a source of water in compliance with GAAMP (Generally Accepted Agriculture Management Practices)

May

  • Observed my classmates’ installation of package bees at the MSU Tollgate Farm in Novi – http://andrewpotterphoto.zenfolio.com/beeinstallation
  • Got antsy for my own bees to arrive since I, of course, have to to do everything differently than everyone else and not get packaged bees with the class, nor keep my hive on the Tollgate premises

June

  • Picked up my nuc from Win Harless – 5 frames of drawn-out comb, bees, and a marked queen
  • Installed my new bees in my backyard hive starting with 1 deep
  • Fed my bees a 1:1 ratio of sugar-water to help them build up wax

July

  • Continued feeding bees the sugar-water, observed they continued to take it in even during the honeyflow
  • Observed 80% of the hive body had been populated, and was ready for the addition of a 2nd deep
  • Continued feeding bees to encourage wax production for drawing out comb of new plastic cell frames
  • Observed middle frames to be built up the fastest in the 2nd deep, but outside frames to be left completely untouched as well as untouched outside frames in the 1st deep; moved a few of the 2nd deep’s completed frames down to the 1st deep’s outside frames, and moved those empty frames to the middle of the 2nd deep in a checker-boarded fashion (did all this at the end of July)

August

  • Observed the checker-boarding was successful in encouraging more drawn comb; they really don’t love the plastic cell, but they really don’t like the enormous availability of space throughout the chimney area (they worked hard to achieve the proper bee space)
  • Worried over whether they would have enough time to fill all the newly drawn comb with honey for their winter supplies, honey production seemed non-existent
  • Continued to feed, almost felt like I was over-feeding, but they were still taking it

September

  • Performed final inspection of hive, and final manipulations such as placing two honey-filled frames into the 1st deep on the sides in preparation of working as winter insulation
  • Purchased queen excluder and Imrie Shim as part of supplies for winterization plan
  • Continued feeding and observed that sugar-water remained more and more untouched throughout the month as temperatures dropped

October

  • Observed less and less activity from the hive as temperatures began to drop
  • Kicked myself for not installing the queen excluder last month to give them ample time to bee-glue it in place (sealing up the cracks between the excluder and the boxes)
  • Waited for an opportunity (a last warm autumn day) to install my winterization equipment

November

  • Installed the newspaper, sugar, queen excluder, Imrie Shim, quilt box, burlap bag with pillowcase full of leaves from yard, inner cover, and telescoping top
  • Observed temperatures dropping

December

  • Waited anxiously for signs of continued life
  • Observed relief flights at the end of December, removed a moldy quilt box, and added more newspaper and sugar since they had already eaten 75% of what I had given them the month before

January 2014

  • Assumed another dead hive for this year since temperatures reached a -15 degrees, and observed absolutely zero signs of life
  • Began researching where to purchase bees from this year and planning my hive equipment needs

February

  • Ordered a nuc from Mid-Michigan Beekeepers, will arrive in May; will need to re-queen with a local queen to ensure “local bees”
  • Ordered equipment from Keith Lazar, enough for two new hives and two nucs
  • Observed my hive is ALIVE – I have survivor bees this year!!!!!! (at the end of February when temperatures temporarily reached 45 degrees)

March

  • Observed a few more days of relief flights on days that were warm enough
  • Attended the SEMBA conference at Schoolcraft and ran into classmates from the Beginner Class who talked me into taking the Advanced Beekeeping Class 
  • Picked up half of my hive equipment from Keith
  • Enrolled in the Advanced Beekeepers class
  • Fed my bees (today, March 30th, 2014) – they were all out today as it was a beautiful 50 degree day

Well, that leads us up to today. I plan to take more detailed notes throughout the season this year, especially since I could have up to three hives this year with 1 survivor hive, another hive in May from the nuc I ordered from Mid-Michigan, and then potentially another hive if I need to split my survivor hive since these bees seem to be roaringly strong. Being that my survivor hive was from a swarm, they may be more likely to swarm this year. Knowing this, I intend to strategize and perform the necessary management to keep them from swarming. Wish me luck!

 

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