On March 15th last week, we woke to a bare Catskills landscape like it had thrown off its white quilt in the night and saw a high of 65F that day: such a stark difference from last year on the same day in the same place, where it remained at 37F and covered in snow.
Just before noon last week, we decided to check the last surviving bee hive. To our delight, after five years of trying to keep bees and failing, we discovered that our white hive of bees survived the winter. (The Warre hive into which we had installed a swarm last year did not.)
We re-stocked the surviving bee hive with food patties for the bees, just in case we got another cold snap, and put back the lid. Last year, we built a heavy “roof” for our hive and insulated it with old, woolen sweaters and pillows and this seems to have kept them warm. The hive is thriving.
Upstate Dispatch is now the proud owner of a nucleus (“nuc”) of bees developed for us by a Hudson Valley beekeeper and after picking them up, and driving them home, through the Catskills for over an hour, they were pretty agitated. Not for them the excitement of driving over the top of Kaaterskill Peak, past Kaaterskill Falls in enigmatic fog. We installed them in their new home, gave them sugar solution and fresh water, but they remained pissed off for several hours, buzzing around the hive frantically and attempting to sting us. When bees are pissed off, they fly angrily, darting around like little black bullets, all in perfect unison.
When you pick up your bees, you should do so at twilight, after they have come back to their nuc or hive to rest. Drive them under cover of dusk and install them in the hive after dark. We did none of this because the timing was all wrong. The nuc was suddenly ready, without ample warning and we weren’t able to plan very well, but this is the essence of farming. You do the best you can and Mother Nature does whatever she wants. Continue reading →
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. Continue reading →