It's been a hard winter in Massachusetts. Over the past 24 hours, Unity Farm has had over a foot of wet, heavy snow. We're waiting for a warm day to open the hives and check on the bees. Although we've provided supplemental food and kept the hives dry, there is a high overwinter bee mortality in New England, with about 80% of colonies dying.
The bee school will provide us with the best practices and a schedule to maximize the health of our bees.
In many ways, beekeeping is like IT - it requires infrastructure and ongoing maintenance. Just as with tractors, asking 12 beekeepers for advice results in 13 different recommendations. Based on all our reading, discussion, and training thus far, we're planning to standardize our hives and tools this Spring as follows:
2 Deep Hive Bodies
2 Medium Hive Bodies as "Supers"
20 Deep Frames/Foundation, Divided
20 Medium Frames/Foundation, Divided
Screened bottom board
Hive top feeder
Escape Board Screen
9 frame spacer tool
We also may need to add new bees to our hives and there may be a shortage this year. Many bee colonies are overwintered in Georgia. The "polar vortex" brought freezing temperatures to the most dense apiary areas. We've ordered several 3 pound "packages" with queens to ensure we're prepared.
We're very excited to take on the additional responsibility of supporting our bees, armed with new knowledge, just as we've taken responsibility for the 100 animals of Unity Farm, keeping them happy and healthy throughout the year.