Thursday, February 13, 2014

Bees, Location, Location

Now where oh where shall I put the hives? Not so much a big deal when we were putting them in a field on the open prairie, you just picked a sight near water. In the winter you looked for a place that the winter winds didn't hit them straight on and that was about the best you could do but this will be different.

In our new home we want the hives on our own property and hope that works out. With I think seven fruit trees and a garden we will double in size, I'm hoping they will have plenty to pollinate and keep them busy. A bee needs to be located no more than 2 miles from its food source. There is a pasture just west and north of us besides our own and I'm not sure what they hold for flowering vegetation. Obviously I have not seen them in the summer. I'm hoping for a little alfalfa. There are fields further to the south of us but the further a bees flies the shorter its life span. Also the more they have to eat to fuel their bodies for the flight the less there is to put in the hive for us and them for winter stores. When the honey flow is on a worker bee literally works itself to death. That is why bees last all winter and yet only six weeks at the peak of flow in summer.

Water and food nearby are essential followed by protection. With this in mind I at first thought of putting the bees in the garden to the east of the garden shed but gave that idea up when I remembered the huge snow drift across the raspberries. It wouldn't do for the bee hives to be buried and have to be dug out. I can't put them in against the barn on the left because it won't get the morning sun and that is where the goats will go when not in pasture. A pen structure has to be first built of course.
I'm thinking to the right of the barn here about 2/3rds back would work the best. That will protect the bees from the western winds which bring the weather in over the mountains to the left and back side of the barn. No drift of snow that I noticed the last time we were there. The eastern side here will get the first rays of the sun and the barn is facing south which will also help to warm the hives. The sun is a bees alarm clock and the sooner the bees are lit up and warmed up, the sooner they will sun themselves at the entrance and take flight. A longer work day means more honey. With the barn on the west side of the hives this will shade them from the hot afternoon sun. The best part of all about this arrangement is if it doesn't work, we don't have to dismantle the hive and load it up to move it. We just close the entrances and put it on a dolly and scoot it to another location around the yard. I'd rather not have to though so I've given this careful thought.
The hitch in this plan is where to put the trailers. I had thought also on this side of the barn and that might work still if they are up front far enough so that they don't shade the hives from the morning sun or the southern light.
As for water, we usually place our hives near a livestock water tank. When they have been behind the house here in the winter I've put out a black rubber bowl with a piece of bark leaning inside. That will still be the case in the winter as the rubber warms up nicely and you can break the ice out fairly easily when it freezes. Of course none of this is a worry if the bees aren't active. Having the hives behind the house has taught me that they are active close by the hive doing housecleaning chores a surprising number of days in the winter. The rest of the days they are huddled in the middle in close proximity to provide warmth.
In the summer I'm going to try using chicken waterers. The lip is just right to perch on for a drink and it fills itself. The one gallon size would work nicely for two hives. Did you know that bees should be fed a saline solution. Neither did I until I was doing some research on locations. The problem is it did not tell how much salt to add to your water. I'm thinking about a tablespoon per gallon might do.  I do know that I want to encourage the bees to drink from their own waterers and not the livestocks. You don't want bees stinging to discourage your animals from drinking on a hot summer's day.
Even though I figured I knew where to put the bees knowledge wise there is always more to learn so I checked out the experts on the subject. And I did learn something just not about location. And now I'm wondering why I didn't think of the fact that bees need salt too, everything else does it seems.
I think I'll put out two waterers, one with salt an done without and see which one empties the quickest. Bees use a lot of water in the summer. One reason is it cools the hive. When it is hot the bees bring in drops of water to place on the cells and the bees inside will fan the water with their wings to cool the hive. The less they have to do this the more they can be working on taking care of the brood and bringing in pollen and nectar so water near the hive is essential.
We've always had Italians in the past but this year we ordered something new to us upon the commercial bee keepers advice. I'll tell you what I've learned about them in a later post.

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