At the end of 2017, I wrote about the death of Buzz the beehive due to a wax moth infestation. We have plans to re-hive Buzz in April, but winter projects on my to-do list include moving both Buzz and Woody about 10 feet from where each originally stood, and to finish cleaning and disinfecting Buzz from the yucky remains of the wax moth infestation. I’m pleased to say that I’ve achieved both goals, well ahead of the April re-hiving date!
When we discovered the invasion of wax moths, we removed the offending invaders and most of their accoutrements, therefore the ick of infestation remaining in Buzz consisted primarily of webbing, some frass (okay, lots of frass), and a few possible larvae cocoons.
I thoroughly vacuumed each box and all section pieces of Buzz, and then with brush, gloves, and bleach water in hand, proceeded to scrub-a-dub-dub the inside parts of the hive. In some spots, I used a utility knife to clean out narrow gaps and remove the remains of cocoons. I certainly don’t want any cocoon hanging around, awaiting release from dormancy for the purpose of reinfection. If the new hive is strong–which it will most likely be–a re-infestation is unlikely, but just to be on the safe side….
After rinsing the entirety of Buzz with fresh water, I left the dismantled hive out for a few days in the cold to dry out.
Meanwhile, we moved Woody to her new spot in the garden, and placed a marker right next door for Buzz–for when she’s ready.
You’ll notice a bottle of sugar-water on Woody’s bottom board. The bees are foraging on warmer days, but during this time of winter honeybees are at their greatest risk of starvation. There’s not much blooming and it’s possible that the girls have used up their honey stores. It’s too cold for me to check the hives, so the easiest thing to do is to mix up some “nectar” and see if they go for it–and they have! Honeybees like their sugar! Well, I can’t criticize, I’m well-known for my sweet tooth, too.
All situated, Woody is buzzing and Buzz is awaiting.
Of course, Buzz has no buzzy bees, so she sits, in decorative mode for now: no bees, no sugar-water, but all nice and clean and ready for spring!
Scar, our Warre hive, is also being fed.
In my garden, there’s currently little flowering, thanks to the cold, dry winter boasting of several hard freezes. However, my three Leatherleaf mahonia, Mahonia bealei, are reliable winter bloomers and the bees are all over the cheery blooms as they open.
Of course the bees also fly 3-4 miles for other nectar and pollen providers. The honeybees aren’t exactly bereft of blooms, but neither are there bunches of blooms for them to choose from.
I’ve recently planted this green shrub in hopes of providing more winter sustenance for my honeys.
It’s a Sweet Olive Tea tree, or Fragrant Tea Olive, Osmanthus fragrans. I’ve been angling for a winter blooming, non-invasive, and evergreen plant, and happened upon this specimen during a nursery sojourn. A non-native plant, the Sweet olive tree is primarily known and grown for its fragrant white blooms. It’s drought tolerant once established and also deer resistant, though (thankfully!) that’s not an issue for me. The Sweet olive tree is also something that isn’t particular about soil and will tolerate my clay and supposedly will bloom in sun, part-shade, and shade. The spot I chose in my garden for this large shrub/small tree receives winter sunshine, but is somewhat shady for the remainder of the growing season. I’m confident that it will prove a good source of nectar and pollen for my honeybees during winter. I also plan to add more mahonia to my garden, though I’ll probably choose other varieties than the Leatherleaf for the sake of diversity in plant material.
Honeybee season is nigh, as is the season for native bees. The first native bees in my garden will be the Blue Orchard bees, who will emerge, buzzing and beautiful blue, from their pollen-packed holes (in bee hotels and masonry) sometime in the next few weeks.
Bees are starting to happen!