2020 has been a wild year for everyone, even beekeepers! Here is our story of beekeeping during a pandemic, hive maintenence, and socially distanced bee pickup during COVID-19.
Hi everyone, I haven’t done a beekeeping update yet for 2020 here on my site (I have a few Instagram posts and story highlights about it!) so I wanted to dive right in and give you the buzz. We almost didn’t get our new hives this year due to COVID-19, but literally at the last minute decided to go for it… and I am sure happy we did!
“Social Distance” Bee Pickup
We had placed our order for 4 new hives in January or so, long before the pandemic started in the US. We went with the first possible pick-up date, April 4th, because we wanted to get an early start on our hives. Unfortuantely, late March/early April was when the pandemic was just starting to ramp up. Our local beekeeping store, Wood’s Beekeeping, took it very seriously and scheduled a “social distanced” bee pickup – which made all the difference to us! They had a drive through pickup where they took our reciepts, loaded the bees from a truck into our car, and had a virtually contact-less pickup experience. It went smoothly, was stress free, and they did a phemonimal job with everyone’s safety. I was beyond impressed by Wood’s – without them we woudn’t have gotten our bees this year.
That morning, we were going back and forth about whether it was even possible to travel to get our bees. While the pick-up sounded safe, there was a lot of uncertainly about COVID and we didn’t want to put oursleves or anyone else at risk. We also had to cross state lines (from Massachusetts into Rhode Island and back) to get the bees, and didn’t know if there would be roadblocks out. Wood’s provided everyone with agricultural transport forms in case there was a road block, but thankfully we didn’t encouter any on the road.
In a stressful time, it was so nice to have an event like bee pickup go smoothly. I was so happy we were able to get our bees in this year, and stay safe in the process.
Installing Our New Hives
I had Brett try to take a video of me doing the install, but his camera manfunctioned during the shoot and he didn’t get the full video. We did the tried and true “thump and dump” method where you take out the queen, secure her in the hive, and then loosen the bees in the package by thumping them on the ground then shaking them into the hive with the queen. I think this year was a record! We had all 4 hives installed in about 30 minutes. I’ll have to get that video next year 🙂
It was cold and cloudy when we installed. A few days after the installation, it actually snowed again. I remembered a few times I went down to brush the snow off the tops of the hives. We had the insulation wrap on the hive that we wintered, but didn’t have any insulation on the newly installed hives.
I’ve had lots of fun this year during my hive inspections, and have really enjoyed the process of thoroughly checking the hives. While I can’t always find the queen I have had great luck this year. Our one queen in Hive 3 always makes grand entrances during my inspections, and I have seen her so much this year I feel we’ve bonded a bit. We bought marked queens this year, but I’m not sure what happened, as she is unmarked now. I don’t know if the marking wore off, or if she is a new queen that the hive made themselves. Either way, she is very present and active, and has maintined and grown a healthy hive!
With our 4 new hives, and 1 older hive that we over-wintered, early spring was a busy season for us. I’ve always had great luck with entrance feeders, so I had one quart sized mason jar feeder installed in each hive. Turns out that wasn’t so gre. While the bees loved it, the wasps also loved it too. One day in April or early May I noticed a few wasps hanging around the outside of Hive 5. We lost one hive last year to wasps invading, and I didn’t want to see it happen again. I removed the entrance feeders on all hives ASAP after the first wasp sighting, and switched to hive-top feeders.
As spring progressed, a few of our hives didn’t do well on the hive top feeders. So I later switched to in-hive frame feeders. I replaced 2 frames in each hive with a 2-gallon feeder, so the bees could get their food right inside the hive. So we’ve had 3 types of feeders this year, and the in-hive ones seem to be the most successful. It’s also what our beekeeping store recommends, so I’ll stick with those for the rest of this year!
Flowers To Forage
We noticed that the bees absolutely loved our clover this year! Maybe they’ve always loved the clover and we just haven’t been around to see it (working from home 24/7 has had some great advantages). For most of May and June, we would water the clover patches in our backyard, and see so many of our honey bees and also bumblebees feeding off them. The clover patches would hum so loudly with bee activity, it was so neat (and a little scary) to hear.
Right now, as our hydrangea is blooming it is covered in honey bees, wasps, hornets, all types of bumble bees and wild pollinators. The hydrangea is about 15 feet tall and has hundreds of blooms on it, it is the largest hydrange we’ve ever seen… and that anyone else has ever seen too. I’m happy that as we progress into summer the bees have a place to forage locally, and not travel too far from the property.
New Beeswax Recipes
While we have been focusing on home improvements during the pandemic, we made a great recipe for beeswax furniture polish! This recipe has 2 ingredients (beeswax + mineral oil) and will shine the heck out of any wood surface. We used some leftover wax from our honey harvest last year which was awesome. Brett polished up his wood desk (a gorgeous cherry wood desk that he made with his dad) and brought the thing right back to life. Get our Beeswax Furniture Polish recipe here!
If you have any beekeeping questions – send me a message below, I’d love to connect!