Monday, February 21, 2011

Spikenard Farm News: Mid-Winter 2011 Issue N0. 10

Dear Bee-Friends,

We hope you all had a good, inwardly strengthening winter time so far.  We send our warm thanks to all of you who have supported our venture in response to our holiday appeal letter, to the Kickstarter video project and with the screenings of "Queen of the Sun".  This heart-warming response not only helps us proceed with our work, but also gives us so much confidence that our efforts are understood and needed.
Please check our website for our educational offerings this spring and summer, also for our volunteer work days and trips out of town for screenings, talks and workshops.

Grass-root activities in the last months.
 So much has happened for the bees in the last months in the petitions against the use of neonicotinoids.  How wonderful what a strong grass-root movement can accomplish.  The battle is not won yet, but the pressure is applied here in the USA, following the countries where these chemicals have been banned: France, Germany, Italy and Slovenia. However, we will not be surprised if the chemical companies will soon attempt to befriend and soothe us with "safe" chemical solutions, so let's be awake.

 We are grateful for each and every one of these activists, and at the same time must say, that the cause for CCD goes far beyond the chemical poisons.  These are just part of the mono-culture, mineral fertilizer, GMO, bottom-line mentality of our agriculture, of which the honeybees are an integral part.  Just think of the tons of GMO corn syrup the colonies are fed, and the amount of monocultures they are forced to pollinate.

Those of you who know us at Spikenard Farm, will know that our efforts go towards intensifying our observation and understanding of the honeybee colony, out of which come the creative answers for her care.  Certainly the invigoration, diversification and healing of her surrounding and food supply is part of this path.
Suggestions for the seasonal transition
Looking at the bee colonies at this time of the year, I would like to make following remarks and give some suggestions.

The beekeeper's heart jumps with joy to see clouds of bees in front of their hives flying out to go to the 'toilet' on a warm day in January or February.  The snow is speckled with golden brown dots, a good sign.  New beekeepers are often worried about all the dead bees they see in front of the hive at such times.  This is normal.  The workers that hatched from September on will die off in winter and early Spring.

Checking for the honey supply is an absolute must at this time on such a warm day.  With some experience, lifting the hive will let you know whether they have enough.  Or you can take a quick look by lifting the inner cover a bit, since this is where the cluster normally sits by now.  In case you need to supplement the supplies, a quart of dense syrup of white sugar/honey mixture in chamomile tea, with a pinch of salt, can be given by adding an empty hive body, in which the quart jar stands holey lid facing down, close to the cluster.  In case of Nosema (dark brown spots all over the frames), a pint of honey in chamomile tea is advisable and can help them to overcome the illness.

If overwintering in two deeps and one super, February is the time to take off the lower deep, which can be cleaned up and added above the remaining deep in mid- to late April.  This way the dark comb in the deep brood boxes get cleaned up every two years. Even more important, the bees are tight and warm during the cold months when the brood has to be warmed to 95 F!  This is one of the factors helping to prevent foulbrood.
Giving a bit more airflow is now important for preventing a buildup of moisture in the hive.

And...don't forget to go to your hive(s), express your gratitude for their wonderful work and being, sing them a song, and give them a prayer.  Rest assured:
the BIG BEE receives your blessings.

- Gunther

For the complete Newsletter please go to Mid-Winter 2011 Issue No. 10