Our early attempts at beekeeping failed when our bees died over one of the Catskills’ harshest winters four years ago and we never got back on that horse again. Past Catskills winters have been brutal with night-time lows as low as 15F recorded on our thermometer, but that was nothing compared to the temperatures we have just been though this winter: -19F over this past Christmas and the New Year. Not sure how any creatures except the penguin survives these kinds of temperatures, but year after year, we find bumble bees pollinating our crops. They must survive in the wild somehow.
We still have all the beehive infrastructure, including the electric-fenced garden in which our orchard is now thriving. Plus, we now have a dog, so when he’s outside the bears give our property a very wide berth. I swear I even saw a bear creeping through our neighbors property last summer that darted into the brush when I spotted him. Bears don’t like dogs, not because they couldn’t fight off a black lab mix, but because a human is usually right behind and there are no forest hospitals. Bears also prefer to avoid confrontation.
So, on the farm calendar for this year is a new beehive. We have ordered a nuc of bees from Anarchy Apiaries in Livingston Manor. In May, we’ll stock one box of a hive so that the bees can build out comb and lay eggs over the summer. Anarchy Apiaries is a non-profit dedicated to promoting bees and beekeeping whose mission is to “make more beehives than televisions” and “distribution of mite-and-disease-tolerant, cold-hardy mated queen bees, facilitating Beekeeping Bootcamp hands-on trainings, setting up every 7-year-old with their own bee hive, reinvigorating our own NY bee club- the B. A. N. D. (Beekeepers Association of Northern Dutchess), the New Bee Circus travelling bee medicine/training/puppet show, and modifying our bee-hauling van to run on waste vegetable oil”.
Last year, we kept our pasture mown to keep the ticks to a minimum, but this year, we’d like to grow out a few acres of grassy area to encourage the wildflowers, so that the bees can have the best chance possible. Ticks hate the hotter months and I never saw a tick in July or August, but we had an onslaught of them in October: the worst tick season we’ve ever had. Chickens eat ticks. Perhaps now we have the bees, we’ll have to get chickens…