It’s March 2020. Unlike any March I have ever seen in my life.
Yes, it was maybe warmer than a normal March, but you know what I’m talking about.
Social Distancing, lines at the grocery store, only essential people are at work….everyone else should be HOME!!!
At the first part of March, it seemed like it would a normal month….and by March 13, 2020 (Yes, Friday the 13th) EVERYTHING CHANGED!!
I can’t say that I saw this coming (although I do study astrology and astrologers have been saying that something big was going to happen in 2020), but I live in a rural area, have several acres, only make necessary trips to a grocery store and have been known to “stock Up” on necessary items. So, when people began hoarding things like toilet paper and cleaning supplies, I already had all that I needed. I did make a trip for some dog food and a few items, but that was just regular bi-weekly shopping for me.
Now, about 3 weeks into this “pandemic thing”, I am pretty much just going about business as usual. Lots of garden clean up to do and of course, getting into the bee hives as needed.
The Winter Was Not Kind!!!
The winter was not kind to me and my bees! I had 5 hives last summer. I am down to 2 as of January. Early March I did split one of my very robust hives that made it though the winter. So I now have 3 hives. I have some bees on order and will be at 5 hives again by May.
I have been experimenting with different hive types. Two of my hives are insulated. I lost one of the insulated hives due to “Hive Beetles”……in January!!! Yes, you read that correctly…..hive beetles in January!!
Even though I am a chemical free beekeeper, I do put hive beetle traps in my hives. In North Carolina you can have really high hive beetles in the hot months. The beetles pretty much co-exist with the bees and if the population gets too high, the traps allow the bees to corral the beetles into the traps and the beetles drown in mineral oil.
I have always removed the beetle traps in the winter. It gives me time to clean them out and get them ready for next season.
So in January, I noticed, all of sudden, that there was little to no traffic coming from that hive. I opened it up to find NO BEES and this slimy, oily looking substance all over the frames. I had never seen anything like this in my almost 11 years of beekeeping.
I took pictures and texted them to some fellow beekeepers and they all said….Hive Beetles. WHAT….In January???
Evidently, the slime that I was seeing is “beetle poop” and if the bees cannot get control of them, the stink forces them to leave the hive. I did notice a different smell when I opened the hive, but I guess the bees cannot tolerate it.
The Bees were gone and there was still lots of honey and pollen in these frames. I disassembled the hive and put all the frames in my chest freezer. My beekeeper friend said that bees would again accept these frames if they had been frozen, defrosted and then sprayed with a little fresh sugar syrup. In the world of beekeeping, drawn comb such as this is worth it’s weight in gold. Bees work too hard to destroy drawn comb.
From this point forward, I will be keeping the beetle traps in the hives ALL WINTER! With the temperatures being so warm this past winter, the hive beetle population just kept expanding. With no where to “trap” them, the bees just left.
In colder winters, the hive beetle goes out of the hive, into the ground and stays there until it is warm enough to come out and propagate. That did not happen this winter.
Another painful lesson learned for this beekeeper, but I guess that is why I keep doing it. There is always a new lesson when you are dealing with nature.
I sure hope that 2020 takes a turn for the better very soon!!!!!!
Next month I get to share all the flowers that are blooming. Here is a sneak preview of what bloomed in March.