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.