An interesting conversation I had with the head beekeeper of the Ottawa Community Beekeepers Association stands out in my head. He told me to always be thinking about the next winter – in the fall, do the bees have enough honey stores in the hive? Winter is coming. Is there enough brood for the winter cluster? Winter is coming. In the summer, do the bees have enough to forage on? Winter is coming. Are the bee pests at a manageable level? Winter is coming. In the spring, is colony build up happening fast enough? Winter is coming. Is my queen healthy and strong? Winter is coming. The list goes on. He stressed to always be two steps ahead in terms of preparation. As with most things in life, my honey production will depend on my preparation and anticipating my bees needs.
I am looking outside at a snowstorm. It is April 6 and it is snowstorming outside. Brrr. It has been too cold the past few days for any sap to flow. The forecast for tomorrow is promising for good sap run.
I am torn between feeling elated that I’ll be able to get at least one more boil in before the end of the maple syrup run, and feeling angst about the cold weather’s effect on the health of the bees’ that I am ordering. Talk about a new feeling, being worried about bees. The bees are not even in my possession yet and I am already worried about them. I must remember that the bees I am ordering from my local supplier, Mahmoud at Forestdew Honey (www.forestdewhoney.com), are overwintered in an indoor, climate controlled ‘beedome’ so they will not be subjected to the erratic weather conditions outside. The bees I have ordered are New World Carniolians. While half of the colonies I am getting will have imported queens, the other half will have Ontario queens. (My reasoning behind this: why not?) I will take note of which are which and make observations on whether the colonies featuring imported or domestic queens perform better. Courtesy of my Opa, the beeyard will host several homemade hives, as pictured below. What a craftsman he is. The bees will be ready for pick-up in late May. In the meantime I have more beehives to assemble and a bee yard to prepare for their arrival. That, I believe will keep me busy as a bee until they arrive.
My newest venture is beekeeping! Even though my adventure into the world of beekeeping will commence next year when the bees arrive in the mail, my preparations for their arrival have already begun. As with any other hobby or study of mine my first steps are to immerse myself in literature on the topic. I am up to my eyeballs in beekeeping books; I have scads of research on seasonal nectar sources. And the sketches have started. A doodle in a margin here, a quick drawing on a pad of paper there. Anytime my mind wanders I start doodling. Plus, I have a book on order that is considered by many to be the source for all beekeeping knowledge. “Hive and the Honeybee” by Lorenzo Langstroth himself, the man who revolutionized beekeeping with his hive design. I am going to start my bee-yard with one or two pre-assembled hives, then using those as models try to construct my own. I attained instructions on how to build Langstroth hives and I’ll start on construction of those this fall.
While meandering the woods my mind is also at work devising where to put my bee yard; access to water, nectar, and shelter from the wind are musts. Just the other day I came across a big bear paw print in the mud along a path. The fact that we have a bear living in our woods I must consider in my beekeeping plans as well. While the idea of Winnie the Pooh stealing honey from my hives is humorous, real bears do not exhibit Pooh’s docile manner. They will rip my hives apart to get at the honey and nectar inside. In order to protect against the destructiveness of bears and other vermin I’ll need to get vermin boards and an electric fence to surround my hives. I’m excited to start harvesting honey yet I think it’s a good thing that I am starting my preparations a year early. There certainly is a lot to learn and think about.