Archive | February, 2013

And the brood is on!

14 Feb

It’s barely spring in Albuquerque, but already my backyard colony is ramping up for the big bloom! It hit 50°F this afternoon and the girls were soaring like tiny eagles.

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Which is all to say the queen has increased her egg production and the workers are out looking for food and water. Food? There’s none to be found yet in Albuquerque — not even the elm or sumac are blooming. But water? They’re drinking like champagne on New Year’s Eve.

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If you haven’t set out water for your hives yet, consider doing so. Even if it freezes at night, the girls will be out on a warm day looking for a source of hydration to mix with pollen for “bee bread”, so it’s safest to ensure they find yours.

NOTE: I’ve found it takes about a week for my bees to find a new source of water, so yet another reason to start watering earlier than you might think.

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Hands down, the best beekeeping book for beginners

2 Feb

homegrownhoneybees-coverThis is the book I wish existed when I started beekeeping in 2008. Loaded with photos and step-by-step instructions, it’s one of the few books that will help you survive your first year, especially if you don’t have a mentor.

Homegrown Honey Bees: An Absolute Beginner’s Guide to Beekeeping Your First Year

Pros:

  • Photos, photos, photos! Everything from eggs and larvae to wax festooning to varroa mites to Nasonov fanning gets a gorgeous photo. See examples at the end of this post.
  • Step-by-step instructions are included for a variety of beginner tasks like installing a package, lighting a smoker, and conducting your first hive check. Seasoned beekeepers often forget how scary these first steps can be.
  • A personal storyline. This book follows the author’s experience keeping backyard bees with her family. The good the bad and the ugly details are all included, making for a very forgiving and human narrative.
  • Interviews with local beeks. Backyard beekeepers from San Francisco to Austin to Chicago are highlighted throughout the book. (I’m on page 47. Yay.) The sheer variety of beekeepers presented makes a new beek feel comfortable developing their own unique approach.
  • A natural approach. Most books I used in my first year were very chemical-centric and solely devoted to Langstroth hives. This book primarily covers Langstroth hives but also discusses top bar hives and pays more than just lip-service to a chemical-free approach.

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Cons:

Once you have a full year of beekeeping under your belt, you’ll want to move on to more substantial reference books like The Beekeeper’s Handbook or The Practical Beekeeper.