Friday, March 18, 2011

good news and bad news

Bad news first: my bees didn't survive the winter. Can't blame them, I barely got out alive myself. When I went into the hive I expected low numbers, but the box was nearly barren. What was left inside though, was a few pounds of uneaten honey...

Good news: I had an early spring honey harvest today! I brought in the combs and scraped the wax and honey into a colander set over a 5-gallon saucepan (cheap extracting) and by morning all that will be left in that colander is wax. So tomorrow I can heat up the honey on a low heat and strain it again through cheese cloth to get it clean and ready to jar in the larder. I wasn't expecting a spring crop of the sweet stuff, but at least I'm getting it instead of the bears.

Losing a hive is a burn, but since I'm not sure if it was disease or the cold that killed the Styrofoam hive: I'm not letting others coming in the end of april re-use it. Besides the fact it might carry mites or other critters—it could easily attract animals coming out of hibernation (like bears!)

Also, it is a goose magnet. Who knew? My geese never bothered the wooden hives but boy do they love pulling little Styrofoam balls off that new hive. It's been trashed by winter, geese, and dead bees. Time to cut my losses in the shape of honey jars and order a wooden hive.

Still No Lambs...


Blogger DarcC said...

Bummer about your bees, but glad no bears found the honey stash before you did. We have a nuisance bear roaming my neighborhood right now, it woke up a bit too early and is raiding all the birdfeeders it can find, right on people's decks even!

March 18, 2011 at 10:17 PM  
Blogger karental said...

So sorry to hear about your colony, but I'm glad you see a positive side to it. I probably can't start my new colonies until later this spring. I'm betting on full moon lambs!

March 18, 2011 at 10:21 PM  
Blogger Alyssa O'Leary said...

There was a very small, wild hive here I'd watched all last summer...when it finally got warm, I checked on them and they'd all frozen too. I'm sorry about your bees, I was pretty sad about the hive I'd been watching.

March 18, 2011 at 10:39 PM  
Blogger E said...

Plastic loses again!

Hope your next hive does better,

March 18, 2011 at 10:42 PM  
Blogger Paula said...

Hey Jenna- knowing that money is always a good thing to save, you might want to look into building yourself a top bar hive. I made mine out of scrap wood I had in the garage; the couple of extras I had to buy made the whole thing cost around thirty-five dollars (I had to buy No. 8 hardware cloth, and some molding for the top bars). You can download free plans here:

Hopefully, this will get you back into bees for less money. At least take a look at top bar hives; they're supposed to be better for the bees.

March 18, 2011 at 10:49 PM  
Blogger Why's woman said...


Sorry to hear about the bee loss.

I don't manage to read every entry on your blog, so I don't know if you are already familiar with Ross Conrad's book on Natural Beekeeping. Go over to the Chelsea Green publishing site ( ) and put "beekeeping" in search. As well as the book, there are some videos and links to his site.

Cold winter, yes ... but styrofoam for a beehive just seems odd. What kind of chemicals offgas from styrofoam and might be adding stress to the little critters? Having read a lot about Colony Collapse Disorder, including Jacobsen's Fruitless Fall and Laurence Packer's Keeping the Bees I'm concerned about synthetic materials being used to construct something so intimate as a hive.

Honey on buttered and peanut buttered rye bread toast is particularly tasty.

Best regards, Why's Woman

March 18, 2011 at 11:16 PM  
Blogger From the Country Farm said...

ooh ooh yes! Full moon lambs! The moon tomorrow night it supposed to be like 14% closer than normal... should prove to be interesting to say the least.

March 18, 2011 at 11:32 PM  
Blogger Nerissa said...

Have you heard of top bar bee hives? I would take a look if your considering buying wood although these are also easily made. Check out,, she is a hell of a lot closer to you than me (read: I'm jealous).

March 19, 2011 at 2:52 AM  
Blogger daisy said...

A score of sweet honey is a mighty good thing! Enjoy! Have you blogged about processing it? I'd love to see what's involved!

March 19, 2011 at 6:34 AM  
Blogger Kate Mary Betty said...

We lost our hive over winter also is a Bee Max hive, but we left our queen excluder in the hive over winter and I believe that this made them have to travel too far to get to the honey and pollen...we will be harvesting our honey today as well. I have plans for a top bar hive that I got from (another good site to go along with those that other readers have suggested) and 2 boxes of bees coming from for the Bee Max hive and one for the new top bar hive...

Windwoman Farm

March 19, 2011 at 7:28 AM  
Blogger Kathleen Stoltzfus said...

I also lost my bees this winter. My first hive. From the looks of things, it seems to me they might have starved. There was maybe a cup of honey left at the very top. There also weren't many bees there. It's a mystery. This was in a top bar hive that I built last year. Perhaps they didn't store enough honey, perhaps the queen died and they lost their purpose? who knows. All I know is I'll wait at least until next year to try again.

March 19, 2011 at 7:46 AM  
Blogger Sylvan said...

Stryfoam! Stryfoam? I personally hate to taste anything that's been in styrofoam. I'd flee too. Just sayin...

March 19, 2011 at 8:37 AM  
Blogger Jen ( said...

I'd really like to get a hive, but like most other interesting animals, bees aren't allowed in my town. No bees, no chickens, no geese, no goats... Sigh!

March 19, 2011 at 9:14 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm going to third the suggestion for a top-bar hive. I'm hoping to start bees next year and that's what I'll be using, Everything I've read on them seems to point towards them being more than ideal hives. We shall see!

March 19, 2011 at 9:24 AM  
Blogger Chance said...

Keep a close eye on the girls, the full moon may work some gravitational magick. On the other hand, they like to lamb when the babes can be obscured from predators. Should be beautiful tonight for a moonlit walk to the barn to check on them. Have fun. Fingers crossed for twins!

March 19, 2011 at 10:38 AM  
Blogger steak and eggs said...

Jenna--I am so sorry you lost your bees. Glad to hear your getting a wooden hive. Much easier to keep clean and will last for years.

My dad kept bees. In the winter he would feed his bee with sugar and medicine such as terramycin. Also he would check the hives for moths or mites. At one time he had three hives in our backyard. Sometime I would go with him when he would catch a swarm. Did you know bee will not sting when they are swarming. They are such fantastic creatures. Just the other day my husband said we should get a hive. We have a lot of bees around our house now. Just wished I had all my dad's beekeeping equipment.

March 19, 2011 at 11:49 AM  
Blogger Kathy said...

I've had geese, and I believe you about loving the styrofoam. Our geese destroyed the straps on our hot tub lid. These days it is held down with something heavy.

Sorry about the bees. Hopefully it was just the winter and not disease.

March 19, 2011 at 3:51 PM  
Blogger DebH said...

sorry about the bees. But had to laugh a little about the comment on "you barely survived". I know the feeling and if you don't'll kill ya! Ha!!
HURRY up lambs!! I wish wish wish I was there!!

March 19, 2011 at 5:20 PM  
Blogger Rachael said...

Too bad about the bees, but the honey is a nice sweet treat. We really do take the good with the bad, hm? Two of my co-workers also lost their bees this winter. They wondered the same thing: long winter or disease. These poor bees. Good luck with the new hive this year.

March 19, 2011 at 8:25 PM  
Blogger Irma said...

Still not sure about how my hive fared, there's still an awful lot of snow around it. And those few hours in the afternoon, when it's actually warm enough for them to take an exploratory fly? I'm at my desk, with no idea how my babies are doing.

I DO know it looks like about 500 or 600 dead bees on the ground, but seeing how I had a strong hive, I don't think 600 dead bees is cause for concern.

God, please let my girls be okay, I;l actually open my hive this week to see how they did....

March 20, 2011 at 11:39 PM  

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