B r e a k f a s t W i t h T h e B e e s

A sharing on the Birth, and Life

of a Honey Bee Colony at Grass Lake Sanctuary, grasslakesanctuary.org

Manchester, Michigan

Monday, November 28, 2011

Bee Tea: Batch Number Two

The day after Thanksgiving - another warm and lovely day in Michigan. 

Two days after I left the 1st batch of bee tea in the hive I came back to see that not much had been taken.  I thought maybe it was too watery, or possibly did not get heated enough to properly blend the mixture. 
Or, they just may not need the supplement at this time?
However when I took the jar of tea out of the hive, replacing it with a thicker well blended batch, some bees gathered on the lid seemingly very interested in the contents of this vessel!

More Attic Dwellers

Bee Tea: Batch #1

Today I took a modified version of Spikenard Farm's Bee Tea with me to the sanctuary.  It was modified in that I only used chamomile and nettle leaf in the tea since those are what I had on hand.  There are several other herbs recommended on the Spikenard website - which is a beautiful site  to visit and one of my top references: http://spikenardfarm.org/beekeeping_tips.html

Anyway, I wasn't sure if it would be warm enough to go into the hive, or even if they would like the mixture I had made.  My car was parked up at the care taker's house - a few hundred yards maybe from the hive.  The passenger side door was opened and I was standing outside the car talking with Marnie, another volunteer.  I looked over and there was a honey bee rummaging around in the open bag I had on the floor which contained the Bee Tea! "She found it - all the way up here! I exclaimed."  It was so cute!  I poured some of the tea in the lid of the jar so she could drink from it - which she did.  Well, I guess that answered my questions... and off I went to put the jar in the hive.

Monday, November 14, 2011

What To Feed The Bees? And Activity at the Hive on November 13, 2011

I could not resist feeding them again!  They seemed to enjoy the honey the last two times, and it was warm enough to be able to open the hive without getting them too cold today.  I've chosen to feed them honey instead of sugar because it is their natural food, and would not put extra stress on them - as the processing of sugar syrup or candy might.  I've heard also that high sugar ingestion by the bees can create an imbalance in their guts  - perhaps  then leaving them more susceptible to disease processes, and an over abundance of pathogens.  Makes sense to me.

I'm  wondering if they just eat the honey, or if they take and store it for later when needed?  I'm hoping the latter.   I had initially purchased an organic, raw honey packaged in a glass jar to feed to to them.  My intention was to stay as close to their own supplies as possible.  But then I read on the packaging that the honey was from India.  So although organic and raw, it was not local - and the unfamiliar nectar sources could put strain, even if temporary, on their delicate systems.  Although there were some other local organic honeys to choose from, they were all packaged in plastic.   I decided to go with the local honey packaged in glass - although not labeled organic I felt more comfortable taking those chances over the possibility of leaching plastic chemicals.  

I did read somewhere recently that feeding them in the fall  (perhaps when they don't need it?)  can "over stimulate the queen".  I don't know exactly what this meant, but assume perhaps it is a time that she is supposed to be taking a break from laying more eggs, and maybe the feeding of this kind of volume to her workers gets things moving too rapidly - or  gives a false sense of supply and so stimulates her to start laying?    I've since ordered some more books on biodynamic beekeeping, but with the information I had, I questioned  briefly if it may have been better NOT to feed them - at least this early on - sensing they must have supplies on hand at least until January?  
My conclusion is to relax and see what happens next, but I must admit, there is a sense of satisfaction around feeding them - I would imagine its like seeing your children eat all of their dinner  - knowing they are well nourished.

I also read, again briefly, that although the queen does take a break at some point for a few weeks, there is brood rearing going on through the winter - as well as the associated concern for pollen stores for the young - as I think this high  protein substance is their main food source until coming out of their cell.

Again - it seems to be a delicate balance among all  of the elements.  So far it has been easiest to rely on intuition and what they may "tell" me as far as what their needs are, and to relax if I'm not entirely sure of my movement...
In this process things I am watching are ...
Am I feeding them out of fear - that they will not survive?
Is it becoming a mental process?  
Or, can I relax into the feeling Relationship that is always available ....
Bless you honey bees for joining me on this journey :  )

Why a Barn-Red Panel, and Can the Bees See It?

Nov 6 2011, red panel installed over air space underneath the hive in hopes, on a sunny day,  of raising their surrounding temperature even 1 degree - with the thought that - maybe even if one degree warmer, it would save on honey consumption - leaving even a bit more for the next day?

Plus visually for us humans, at least for me, it adds some color and warmth to the area!
And a reminder of a fun day helping to paint Lana and Larry's barn  in Dexter, MI!

I mention in the video that bees have a different visual system - looking it up just now it seems they see more along the lines of the blue-green and blue-violet and the ultraviolet spectrum, and maybe some into the yellow-orange too, but not so much in the red and infrared fields.
Interestingly:  from the site: http://westmtnapiary.com/Bees_and_color.html 

"If deprived of UV light, 
bees lose interest in foraging, 
and remain in the hive until forced out 
by severe food shortages. . "

They liked it !

It was fun to open the hive and see the jar empty !
Like I said - for some reason I had nervousness about feeding them - not sure what they would like, what would be "best" for them - even though I've been reading on what and how to feed them - there seems to be many opinions on this...

Something I noticed Humanly ( for me )....
when feeling them accept this gift so readily I was left more open and relaxed in the moment.
aaahhhh.......   the beauty in giving and receiving...


Second jar of honey being placed in the hive


and in the coming months....
what do they need to be most supported?
How do I most fully serve them?

Again there seems such a delicate balance when  it comes to feeding the honey bees...
more on this in upcoming posts...

Encouraging Sight !

Winter Activity Notes, and The Spring Blossom Garden on Bee Line Lane

 Winter Activity in the Hive
Since taking this video I've learned that the bees can be "active" all winter.  They generally stay "in cluster " around the queen once temperatures drop below 45-55, but the cluster expands and contracts depending on how cold it is, and they rotate position to the outer part of the cluster.
If it is 55 for example the cluster may be loose - with some bees still going outside to forage for any remaining goodies.   There is a delicate balance to this "warmer" winter weather  because the more active they are the more energy they require in terms of stored food, yet there is not much, if anything, in terms of food coming into the hive.   When it is very cold though, they need just enough energy (food) to keep the warmth up within the cluster.   They cluster generally right over the honey stores so they dont need to leave the cluster to feed.

On warmer winter days they will take  periodic "cleansing flights"   - in a sense - going to the bathroom outside, and  may do house keeping chores - removing any debris and transitioned bee bodies from the hive floor.  They are quite fastidious house keepers - even in the winter!

I'll share more on what Im learning about the balance of temperature and supplemental feeding in the upcoming posts.

Spring Blossom Garden at Grass Lake Sanctuary
40 new trees were planted at Grass Lake Sanctuary near Bee Line Lane.  The honey bees are in for a lovely surprise come spring time as the new Blossom Garden comes alive with its full presence - sharing beautiful colors, fragrances, nectars and fruit !
Thank you to the many volunteers and donors who helped bring these gifts to the sanctuary !

Black Woolly Bear Caterpillar visiting at the Hive Nov 6, 2011

If  the amount of black coloring on the Woolly Bears is truly an indication of winter - 
we may be in for a Big One!
But not to worry - 
plenty of warmth underneath 
seems also to be indicated  - 
take a look!

Clear examples of drones being escorted out of the hive

At one point I had the idea of perhaps gathering all of the wayward Drones and taking them home, providing them a little house with some comb, and feeding them myself.  Apparently they cannot feed themselves and rely on the workers to do so - this is why in part they are kicked out since they require a lot of care, not to mention food, and they are not needed during the winter months - the queen can just lay more drone eggs come spring time.
Anyway it could be fun - having a bunch of boys in the house!  And they don't sting either.  I may still try this sometime, although I don't know how it might upset the balance of things for the colony - but I suppose Id just be seeing them through the rest of their short lifespans, and would not necessarily be releasing them back to the colony.

Here, she tosses him out, but then a few seconds later you'll see a drone (the same one?) entering the hive!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Using Cinnamon to Repel Ants - It Works!

Try fresh cinnamon as an ant repellent - it works!
 Here are 2 more short videos from November 2nd.

Lots of activity here!  Fun to watch them!
And working with some  ideas to help them stay warm this winter:

November 2nd, Visit to the Hive

Here are 5 short  video clips from my visit with the bees yesterday:
It was such a treat to see them again.  I'm never too sure these days if I'll be closing them up for the rest of winter - depending on how cold it gets.  We had a nice break yesterday in Michigan with sunshine and 60+ degrees!  I thought Id offer them some honey supplement to see if they were at all interested this early on.  I also wanted to practice feeding them to see how it was going to work while it was still warm enough for me to feel comfortable opening up their hive.  I've been nervous for some reason around the feeding thing - mostly on choosing the right food for them, and how to set it up in the hive.  So, at least it was warm and I didn't have to contend with "worry" about the cold too much - on top of my  other concerns!

Beautiful new comb seen at the back of the hive:
Honey delivered to the bees!
and at 1:50 in this video you can see a worker moving with a Drone  up the side of the hive and then take off with him:

Purring bees again!
I like to think this means they're  really happy : )

a closer look and listen:

Worker bee escorting a Drone away from the hive

Well, here is a photo of it really in action:
When I arrived yesterday I saw quite a bit of this going on, 4-5 times - worker bees literally tumbling out of the hive entrance dragging a seemingly bewildered drone  with them.
I feel a bit sorry for the Drones.
They're not aggressive - they cannot sting - as they have no stinger.
What a job they sign up for - come in, mate with a queen once, and die, and if he doesn't get to mate by the time winter arrives, maybe because he was born just a little late in the season, there's a good chance he'll get kicked out of the hive by the very same nurse bees that helped care for and feed him throughout his short life.
Thank you, and blessings to you Drone bees for your service to the greater whole of the colony.