Our four three-pound packs of bees arrived today. They usually show up a week or two late, but of course this year they came in right on time. Lisa was at a cheesemaking class, so I went down to Stonewall Farm to pick them up, after washing the hive-top feeders out with bleach to get rid of the mold that accumulated while we were gone.
I brought them back and installed them in the waiting hives. At 42F with snow on the ground, it was much colder than desirable. And there’s a winter storm watch, which meant it was now or never. I left the boxes in the warm truck and only brought them over to the hives one at a time. The good news was that it was way too cold for them to get obstreperous. I needed my veil and gloves, but I got away without smoke or sugar water.
The bad news was that any bee that did fly, or wouldn’t shake into the hive was dead. Many of them made it only few feet before falling out of the air. I found out later that a few did make it to the upstairs balcony. As a result I lost far more than I would have liked.
The next issue was that they showed little interest in going into the hive. They seemed to be forming their cluster on top. That meant that if I put the hive-top feeder on as planned, I would have crushed hundreds. I put the inner cover back on which gave them enough clearance and then the top cover and went away for an hour, hoping they’d go down into the hive.
They didn’t. When I got back an hour later they were still crawling around the hole in the inner cover. I put the feeders on over the inner cover and hoped they’d find their way.The feeders are polystyrene and good insulation anyway. Even if it’s too cold for the bees to et to the syrup in the feeders, there’s at least five pounds of honey in each hive, which ought to hold them till the weather breaks.
The on again off again snow cover has (unfortunately) given us the real egg story. As soon as last weeks storm stuck them back in the coop the daily egg count went right back to three. Yesterday was their first day venuring beyond the sheep pens and we got two. Today we got one.
This is bad on many levels. We want the eggs, and we don’t want random predators gathering round to eat the eggs. It also pretty much ends the idea of having the chickens just pasture with the other animals. Not having to buy feed is good, but pointless if we get no eggs. OTOH, we want to let them wander the garden to eat bugs. We’re discussing how to handle the situation. Our new chicks won’t start laying till fall, so they at least can be out and about, but then they won’t have Egil and his girls as role models. Having seen how much this helps with sheep, I’m reluctant to forgo it with the chickens. Well, that’s next month’s problem.