Simply Resourceful

Simple ways to be more conscious about how we use our resources.

A Spring Freeze and Our New Honeybees Leave

Last week my blog post was celebrating the arrival of spring and wishes for a good summer harvest.  Well, it seems my excitement was a bit premature after we had a hard freeze (low temperature reached 22 °F) on April 15th. In the last week, one of the package bees left the hive without warning, almost all of the tomatoes and peppers in the greenhouse were killed by the hard freeze, and two fruit trees aren't showing any life at all.  It was a rough winter and the start of spring isn't looking any easier.  This is the reality of things here which reminds me how frustrating homesteading can be.  For us, these few inconveniences set us back only a little bit of money and a few weeks of extra growing, but for those who make their livelihood selling produce, this is a travesty.  Growing food completely reliant on the weather patterns without the modern technologies of hydroponic growing, temperature-controlled greenhouses, and irrigation sensors, is a challenge.  When I hear shoppers complain about the price of food and how cheap food used to be "back in the day," I am reminded how much time and energy it takes to germinate peppers and tomatoes and how one hard freeze can wipe them out.  But onward we persist with growing our own food, starting with replanting all of those containers in the greenhouse.  The peppers and tomatoes will eventually get planted in the garden and we still have many living fruit trees, and two honeybee hives.  Homesteading isn't always rainbows and butterflies, but we still have many things to be thankful for and lessons to learn---starting with taking plants inside no matter how much of an "inconvenience" it seems at the time!

Many strawberry blossoms were effected by the frost.  The blossom on the left can yield fruit, but the one on the right is dead.

A picture of what a hard freeze does to rhubarb.  


Christopher April 22, 2014 at 7:41 PM  

Sorry to hear one of the packages left. Were they being fed 1:1 sugar syrup? I think I've read providing 1:1 sugar syrup to a new package will encourage them to stay put and not leave. I'll have 2 packages arriving in another week. wish me luck!

Holly April 25, 2014 at 8:27 AM  

Hi Christopher,

Yes, each of the hives were left sugar syrup and about 4 frames of drawn comb. Bad luck I guess, but next time I will watch the hives days following installation.


Erik in TX May 21, 2014 at 8:22 AM  

Love your site!

I would suggest you leave the empty hive out there. Swarm season is just starting and there are wild and managed hives that will be swarming all spring/summer/fall. One of those swarms might well decide to move into your empty hive! Another option is to post on Craigslist offering to collect a swarm. I clearly define a swarm as a ball of bees hanging on a tree branch and maybe include a picture. Otherwise you'll get calls about a "swarm" in the wall of somebody's home. That's not a swarm, it's a hive, and cutouts are always a difficult, painful, messy PITB. I already got one swarm collected this year from my CL post. You can see my current CL post for swarms here:

You may get wax moths that might come and destroy the existing comb, so if you have room you might move the frames to you freezer overnight to kill any wax moth eggs. Repeat weekly.

Another option if your other hives are building up strength is to just do a split. Take half the frames of brood and stores from the strong hive and move to the empty hive. Whichever group of frames ends up with the queen will rebuild. The other group of frames without the queen will make a new queen from the eggs and larvae.

Finally, you might consider using a "queen excluder" the next time you might hive a package or swarm. Originally intended to confine the queen to lower boxes and allow only workers to place honey up in the supers, a queen excluder can be used as a queen "includer" if you can position it where the queen cannot get through it to leave. If you use a regular bottom board and bottom entrance, put the queen excluder directly on the bottom board, then put hive bodies on top of the excluder. The queen won't be able to get through to leave and once the bees start raising larvae they are almost guaranteed to stay. Don't leave the queen includer in place more than a few days though because swarms sometimes have virgin queens and she'd need to fly to mate and any drones the hive raises would be trapped and unable to leave. A queen includer can be a great asset when first hiving a package or swarm though!

Holly May 22, 2014 at 7:43 AM  

Thank you for all the ideas Erik! I have never tried baiting a swarm but will try it this year per your suggestion. I only put 2 frames of comb in it---the oldest and darkest comb. Freezing them on a weekly basis is also a great idea which I plan to do. I don't think I'll do a split this year. Also, I never heard of using the queen excluder as a queen includer---something to think about! Thanks!

About this blog

A weekly update on our adventures of trying to be more self-sufficient by using resources wisely. We explore a variety of topics that most broadly fit in the "Homesteading" category, i.e. beekeeping, organic gardening, edible landscaping/fruit forest, food preservation/canning, woodworking, soap-making, and environmental stewardship.

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