Hi bee family, happy fall! It was a busy season once the nucs (starter hives) were picked up and installed. I've started moving the hives to a new area of the yard this year which will be easier for the beekeeper to access, and hopefully equally agreeable to the ladies. I'll still keep a couple of colonies closer to the cabin since the dog and I like watching them from the window. Two of the nucs weren't ready for pickup until July, which put them both significantly behind the others, however they were able to catch up and produce enough honey to get them up to weight for their winter stores.
In other news, in early September I was contacted for a bee rescue from an apartment complex in downtown Kingston. A resident was storing a couple empty hive boxes on his balcony and a wild swarm had moved in, packing it with close to 100 pounds of honey. Neighbours were surprisingly tolerant but were starting to get stung as the bees became more protective in late summer. It was a bit sketchy carrying two heavy boxes filled with bees through the hallways, but we were able to get them down safely to the truck and move them to the apiary.
I'll be overwintering five colonies this year, and I just finished feeding them sugar water over the last few weeks to help boost their winter stores. Treatments for varrora mites and afb (american foulbrood, which is a serious honey bee virus) have been completed and things are looking decent for winter. I'll check their mite levels again this month to make sure we're not over the threshold, and may need to do a final late fall treatment.
The good news! There was a small honey harvest this year, which was extracted last week. Most of this honey was produced in late summer and early fall so it's a darker honey with a decent amount of goldenrod. Goldenrod produces a slightly darker, stronger tasting honey which tends to crystallize faster than lighter honey. It's excellent for allergies in hayfever season, and the stronger flavour makes it my personal favourite.
I'll start filling pre-paid orders in the order received, and hope to start bottling next week. If you pre-ordered honey, look out for an email in the next couple weeks.
As always, thanks for your support and interest.
1000 Islands Honey
Just wanted to give an update on the bee yard. Your support helped make it possible to order four nucs. The first two were installed into their new hives five weeks ago with queens imported from Italy, more on this in a minute.
A nuc (short for nucleus colony) is essentially a 'starter hive', usually with four frames of bees, brood and a laying queen. These frames are then installed into a full hive box with ten frames. Usually the bees would have to build out new wax on the rest of the frames which can take several weeks if not a whole season. Because I already have fully drawn out comb and honey from the colonies that died, the bees will have a good head start. The queen will have space to lay her eggs and the workers can begin filling the comb with pollen and nectar. Nucs usually have around 10,000 bees, and a typical colony grows to 50-80,000 bees in summertime.
So, why imported queens? Queens take 16 days to hatch from the egg, and then need time to mature, go on mating flights, and finally start laying brood - about a three week process after emerging from her queen cell. Most queens and nucs from local suppliers won't be ready until mid to late June. Importing mated queens in springtime give beekeepers a head start on the season, potentially an extra four-six weeks - significant considering our short Canadian summers.
The first two colonies are doing well and were simply packed with brood, honey and pollen a week ago. The next two nucs will be ready to be picked up soon but it's good to hear the yard buzzing again. Go bees.
Hi all, Curtis here with an update from the beeyard. Bear with me, this post will be a longer one. As many of you know, beekeepers in Ontario had a disastrous loss over winter and spring, and my apiary was no exception.
I serve on the board of our local beekeepers guild and our members survey indicated a 65% loss. The Vice President of The Ontario Beekeepers Association was the guest speaker at our meeting last week and he confirmed that our losses across the province equally include commercial and small scale/hobbyist beekeepers.
Although varroa mites have been largely reported in the media as one of the main causes, there is no confirmation of this. My own colonies were monitored continually for varroa through the season and mite levels were well controlled going into late fall, so I also have my doubts whether this was the main/only cause. I suspect it’s a combination of several factors including climate change, enviro issues, pesticides and neonicotinoids predominantly used in our corn and soy crops, as well as varroa. Queen health is a big factor too - when I started beekeeping, queens had a life expectancy of 3-5 years. Now it’s 1-2 years at best. We need to do more to protect our environment and pollinators.
Now to the good news. Although I seriously considered hanging up the veil after twelve years, we’re building back the yard with the generous help of family, friends and supporters. Thanks SO much to those of you who donated, purchased presales of honey, or simply sent words of support. Mostly, thank you for your continued interest in the honey bees.
There are four nucs on order and the first two should be ready to be picked up in a week or so from a long time friend/mentor and trusted beekeeper. The queens are Melita Carniolan, imported from Italy and bred for their productivity, gentleness and good overwintering capacity. They were installed in their nucs recently and are settling in nicely. This means they’ll have a decent head start on summer.
The other two nucs on order have local queens that were grafted from eggs a week or so ago and are being raised by another longtime beekeeper friend who supplies queens and nucs. We took a queen rearing course together a few years ago to learn how to graft (removing freshly laid eggs and placing them into a special built queen-raising cell) and she’s been raising queens since. Her own losses were significant so these two nucs won’t be ready until late June after the queens are raised, finished their mating flights and laying eggs/raising brood.
There’s a bit of an exodus of both commercial and hobbiest beekeepers in Ontario this year because of all the losses, and bees will likely continue to be in short supply.
Thanks for reading if you got this far, I’ll post another next update when we pick up the nucs.
April 2022 Blog: Beekeepers across Ontario are reporting major winter losses this year, varroa mites being the main suspect. Unfortunately, I'm incredibly sad to report we lost all of our colonies. So, what happened?
Firstly, I'm a beekeeper with 12+ years of experience. I am by no means an expert, but neither am I a newbie. I've always followed best, sustainable beekeeping practices and have been a member (past vice president and current board member) of our local beekeepers' guild for many years.
I suspected trouble in late fall, when two colonies suddenly failed. One simply absconded with the queen and all the bees, leaving their winter food stores behind. The other was losing it's population so we combined it with a stronger hive. For some background info, all of our colonies are monitored for mites through the season, and were treated in spring and early fall. They were fed sugar water in September after the honey harvest, and all the hives had plenty of honey to get through the winter. They were seemingly strong, healthy colonies and I was confident they were ready for whatever winter was planning to throw at them. When the nights get colder in Oct/Nov, the hives are fitted with winter wraps, ensuring there is enough ventilation to let moisture escape. In February, I noticed that only a couple of the hives looked they had any activity.. a few dead bees outside the entrances are always a good sign. Bees will clean up on warmer days by carrying out their dead, and will take short cleansing flights if possible. By March I was pretty sure only one colony was still alive, and it died by the end of the month. Heartbreaking to say the least. But, onwards and upwards. It will take time to rebuild the apiary, at least a couple years to be back to where it was. We have nucs on order, and amazing supporters rooting for the bees. Your support is appreciated, step by step the yard will be humming again.