Last Thursday we installed 2 new packages of bees from Noble Apiaries into our estate hives. Just like last year, we ordered 3 pound packages, which basically consisted of 10,000 bees (!!) with 1 queen. For those of you interested, each package costs $95.00, but then you have to add Next Day Air shipping, which adds another$80.00 (bee-keeping is a fairly inexpensive hobby, add another $350 for equipment, which on average lasts 5 years).
Last year, we were beginner apiarists. We followed all of the installation instructions, observed and monitored as suggested, kept them fed through their first HOT summer, etc. But I still lost my bees in late November. And I mean, they were dead…what was left of them. I had no other explanation than “operator error”. It was my fault, as a novice, that I lost my bees. In hindsight, I realize my queen never got to laying like she should have. There were not enough bees to collect pollen, make honey, tend the queen, and finally, there were not enough bees in the hive over the winter to keep them warm when the temperatures reached below 30 degrees. Sadly, following our first major cold spell, I entered the hive and saw what was left, frozen to the frames. I didn’t think about requeening, or combining an inferior hive with a stronger hive so that they would survive. Yes, NOW I know to do this, but I didn’t quite understand how a rapid decline in my bee population could destroy the whole life of the hive itself.
The Apiary Inspectors of America conducted a survey to estimate winter colony losses for 2009/2010. They recorded a 33.8% loss of managed honey bee colonies. Responding beekeepers attributed their losses principally to starvation, NOT Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD). This is what I believe happened to my bees. Simply, there were not enough of them to survive.
Within the first 24 hours of installing our 2 new hives, we observed a major difference in these bees, compared to last year. They are the same breed, Carniolan honey bees, but from a different breeder in California. Our bees are busy! They were doing all of their duties: guarding the entrance, giving directions, coming and going. It was amazing to see, we DID NOT see this last year. After 7 days we returned to the hive again to make sure the queen was out of her cage and see what was happening. Well, you can see for yourself! The above photo shows the beautiful, white, pristine honey comb that is being drawn out and it is dripping with clear honey…within 7 days ( “busy as a bee”)!! (You can double-click on the photo to get a full screen version.) Both hives had this activity–good comb drawn out on 3 frames, an empty queen cage and bees fanning their wings (indications of a honeyflow). Needless to say, we were pleased! We were happy and full of rejoicing! This is going to be a good year for all of us!