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The Days of our Hives: Opening the Hive

At last! Spring has arrived with the promise of summer waiting in the wings. For as long as I can remember, the sight of luscious green bulb sprouts pushing up out of the ground was the sign that the season had truly changed. I’ve only been beekeeping for a handful of springs, but already my internal compass has shifted. Now I stakeout the spring heather, winter aconite and vernal witch hazels in late February chuckling with glee when I spot that first hardy bee who kicks off the season.

But the hallmark of real spring arrives when it’s warm enough to open up the hives and see what’s been going on in there during the long winter months. Inhaling that first warm waft of air scented with beeswax and honey, mixed with the smell of wood smoke from the smoker and the hum of happy bees, and that’s it, spring has arrived.

Spring for the beekeeper also brings a frisson of anxiety; last fall the TBG lost a hive to a deadly trifecta of varroa mites, tracheal mites and chalk brood (oh my!). Our beekeeping team was anxiously wondering how the remaining colonies fared over the winter. We knocked down the pesky mite population in the late fall with a double whammy of formic acid and thymol (organic treatments that keep mites at bay), but once the hives are sealed, it’s left to the bees to deal with any bad guys we’ve sealed in with them.

The ‘Leaning Tower of Beeeza’ bees (heretofore known as ‘The Tower of Power’ − those bees are fierce honey-makers!) were at top form, as expected. To our great delight the ‘Pollen Nation’ hive was almost mite-free as well. Sweet relief!

As the season gets underway so begins the work of the beekeeper (in my humble estimation): poking around in the hives, rearranging the furniture and being sneaky. As evidence of this nefarious benevolence, check out this video on our Facebook page showing Mylee Nordin, Foodshare’s Beekeeper and self-effacing apiarist-extraordinaire, as she entices the ‘Pollen Nation’ bees to accept a frame of brood (bee larvae in the metamorphic stages of becoming adults) from a different hive.

In the coming weeks the ‘Leaning Tower of Beeeza’ will be the focus of our attention. This hive is so strong that we’ll split their colony to re-establish our third hive. Keep an eye peeled next month for the blow by blow and wish us luck!

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