2017, February

Farm update – 2/19/2017

I’m not sure you could have ordered up two more lovely weather days than we had this weekend. And we certainly took full advantage of them!

This weekend we started pulling up our remaining fall lettuce and arugula to make way for spring plantings. That means we were able to put together Whole Farm baskets featuring those greens, a dozen eggs, and a spring onion to sample.

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In addition, we planted another bed of carrots, some radishes and lettuce, three raised beds and two field rows of red new potatoes, a row each of cauliflower and Hakurei turnips, some red onion bulbs and Texas sweet onions, a flat of pea shoots, and we transplanted tomato babies into larger pots.

And that was just on the vegetable side of the farm! We finally had ideal weather for hive inspections, which has been on our to-do list for a while. We’ve learned that choosing the right weather conditions makes the difference between a successful hive inspection and a miserable one.

We haven’t seen a whole lot of activity from our strong, well established orchard bees, which has been a little disconcerting over the past few weeks. Did they run out of honey (food) over winter? Did they succumb to pests? Are their numbers way down due to impending colony collapse? The woods bees, our weaker hive that was installed last year, in recent weeks have had more bees coming and going than the orchard bees.

However, our hive inspection revealed that the stronger hive remains strong and the weaker hive is still struggling. The orchard bees have three supers full of honey and capped and uncapped brood (bee larvae at various stages of development); enough so that we felt comfortable giving them an empty super to start collecting honey for our consumption (yay!). The woods bees, on the other hand, only have one frame of what looked like fresh honey, have fewer adult bees, less larvae, and many more (undesirable) hive beetles. So while the orchard bees may have honey ready for us in April, it’ll likely be summer before we reap any from the woods bees.

Our working theory on the amount of activity that we were seeing from each hive is that the stronger hive had enough resources to keep the colony content; a minimum of foragers was out scouting for additional floral resources that are just now beginning to come on. The woods bees, with greater activity, may have been sending more bees out to cover as much ground as possible in the hope of having one of them stumble into a valuable resource area.

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One other interesting thing we observed during the inspection is that the queen of the woods bees was unmarked. The queen that we installed in this hive in May 2016 had a subtle but definite mark on her thorax. Queen bees, unlike their short-lived subjects, can live for several years. Either our queen’s mark somehow came off, or she didn’t reach anywhere near her life expectancy and was replaced by a new queen. The latter would readily explain the terrible disposition of the hive last year (bees get unruly without a queen), and possibly the lack of organization and seeming slacker status of that hive. Now that the hive is definitely “queenright,” hopefully it’ll start behaving better!

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