Thursday, March 11, 2010

It was a winter of extremes

The bad news is: my girlz, the bees, did not survive the winter. On a recent sunny, warm, pre-spring day I opened the hive to check on their condition. There was a small cluster of bees around one of the top bars, all dead. After looking further I found another small cluster in another part of the hive, also dead and random bees throughout the hive, all dead. I had feared this having gone up to the roof earlier in the month on a warm day and seeing no activity outside the hive opening. It's hard to express how I felt. After all, they're just bees, but I felt as if I had let the girlz down. I spoke to my beekeeping teacher and he said it sounded as if the bees had broken cluster on a warm day and couldn't regroup to cluster when the temperatures dropped. There was nothing I could have done, but I knew what I had to do now. I got all the necessary tools including my IPod and began to disassemble the hive. I was listening to the Bach "St. Matthew Passion" as I took out frame by frame and brushed off the dead bees. The top "super" was filled unused honey. I set those frames aside to take downstairs later. The two "deeps" were picture perfect; honey in the corners of the frames and pollen too, unused. There was no indication of foul play; no disease and no intruders. There was some wax moth on the bottom board, but that's normal, and there was none on the frames.
The good news is: because the frames were in great shape I can use them for a new colony as is. The frames are already drawn out and come with honey and pollen to give the new girlz a great start when they're hived. Also, I will be able to extract all the honey that was not touched in the top "super" to the tune of some 30 lbs. Now that's what I call an early harvest! I have ordered two new boxes o' bees with the idea of starting another hive to be placed in the garden. The climate on the roof is so extreme I'm thinking a hive on the ground might have an easier time of it. In a week or two we should find out whether our efforts to legalize beekeeping in NYC succeeded. This would be a big step towards making our city and lives greener.


Anonymous said...

Hey Beej, sorry about the bee-sease, but glad to hear you are back in the saddle again, and with new plans and new girlz in order....that's the spirit. We still have just a teeny bit o'your honey left, using it so sparingly and only on good's just so much better than what we get at the grocery store. xxxooo Fran

Anonymous said...

hi bj! i met you in beekeeping class yesterday.
i love your blog and your garden. a great inspiration. i have some questions i'm hoping you can help with.
1) i run a large school garden at a h.s. and we are transitioning to raised beds. what kind of wood did you use for yours? any treatment? how long have they been there and how long do you expect them to last? our space is LARGE, so we can't afford cedar or other hardwoods.

2) i'm building a chicken coop, but was wondering - does your run just sit on top of the ground? someone told me racoons are relentless and will dig 6 inches under and go in and kill the birds. i also want to keep rats from doing the same. have you had any problems with either? it would be easiest if our run could be floorless (for digging) and just sit on top of the ground.

more about my school program here:
and here:

please email me at:
much thanks!

Charlotte said...

go BJ and go all you new girlz. BJ, don't let your pooch tow you on your bike: hitch up the bees instead.