Broadmead Beekeepers Battle Insects and Weather to Produce Honey

Three residents form a team that cares for the Broadmead Apiary. The year has been busy, but disappointing in terms of honey production.

To accommodate the planned new construction that routed the reconfigured Copper Beech Lane (aka the "Broadmead Beltway") right through the bee yard, the apiary was moved uphill. One hive was moved a foot or two each day, introducing the new location gently to the bees so they would not get disoriented and lose their way home as the hive crept up the hill. Under the Master Plan, creating the new location for the apiary last fall was the first move of the new construction. The apiary was the prow of the ship of the New Broadmead.

Residents have asked whether the bees have been upset by all the noise and obtrusive equipment associated with our new location near the parking lot being built for Broadmead employees. Apparently not. The bees have not complained or changed their ways. According to the beekeepers, as long as they have access to a good hive and plenty of pollen, nectar and water, they seem to be a contented lot.

However, dirt moving at our new site apparently brought to the apiary a new pest that ordinarily lays eggs in the ground around the hiveā€”the small hive beetle. These little creatures attacked the hives during the fall. They are smaller than bees and quick, so bees (that would happily eradicate the beetles) chase them constantly but can't catch them. Hive beetles, which will thrive and overwhelm a hive if left alone, killed two of the hives. They leave eggs in the hive and nearby ground that hatch into little worms that will eat all the honey, pollen and bee larvae in sight. A hive done in by small hive beetles is left vacant and dead, but thanks to the beetle larvae, every beeswax cell is clean as a whistle and left in pristine condition suitable for reuse. After spending a lot of time squishing beetles, the beekeepers put traps consisting of a small plastic array of openings inserted between frames in a hive, allowing beetles (fleeing the bees) to fall through to a small reservoir of oil that drowns them. For the present, at least, it looks as if the beetle problem has been solved.

This winter the team installed on each hive a new woodchip-filled "super" (the hive equivalent to a story on a building) fashioned by Court Robinson. The woodchip super absorbs a significant amount of condensation that forms on the ceiling of a hive when the warmth (ca 50 -55 degrees) that bees maintain inside a hive meets winter's icy cold ceiling cover. The new unit absorbs the condensation dripping from the ceiling, keeps the bees dry and allows their keepers to feed them a hearty diet of hardened sugar. The winter hives were loaded with bees that mysteriously died as spring arrived. The beekeepers speculate that perhaps there were too many bees wintering over and, despite being fed the hard candy, were unable to stay warm and survive the winter.

Four "nucs" of queens with bees were installed in the apiary in April, bringing the grand total of hives in the apiary to six. Bees in three are surviving but are too small to make much honey. Despite hopes for enough honey for the barn sale from the other three hives, mother nature intervened to make that unlikely: during the season when the main source of honey, black locust trees, wereblooming, it rained every day for a week. Broadmead beekeepers, like other farmers, are highly dependent on the weather for crop success. All honey that can be harvested will be bottled and donated to the barn sale.

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