Sunday, June 26, 2016

Meet the Bees at MCGA

In Spring 2014 honey bees came to the garden.  Two bee hives were established in a small apiary just behind the gate at the back of the garden area.  It was a difficult first year for them.  Both of the hives re-queened themselves.  This means that they decided their queen was not up to snuff and they replaced her on their own.  This gave the hives a slow start but they did finish the season with enough honey stored to survive the winter.  Through the winter bees cluster around their queen and generate heat by shivering and moving their wings in small rapid movements.  This cluster moves through the hive consuming stored honey and pollen.  Sadly these two hives did not make it into the spring.  Going into the winter slightly weak in population combined with other stresses to the colonies (natural predators such as hornets, yellow jackets, etc and mites) proved too great a challenge for them.  

In April, 2015 two hives were relocated to the garden apiary from local backyard locations.  These are hives which not only survived the winter but came through it quite strong.  This put us off to a strong start at the very beginning of the gardening season.

This season has been an exciting and productive one for our bees at the garden.  Early warm weather and blooms made a fabulous spring for the bees.  In mid-April you may have been one of the lucky to catch a rare sight – a bee swarm.  Yes, the bees swarmed out of the hive.  This is a sign of fast early growth in population and the hive community divides in half.  One group stays in the hive rearing a new queen and the other half leaves to find a new home.  Luck was with us and we drove up to do some hive management just as one hive’s swarm was  gathering in a tree.  We brought them a new hive box to move into so they were successfully re-hived.  The second hive was bearding on the front of its hive in preparation of swarming.  That population was split into three separate hives due to its size.  For the past three months there have been five happy hives pollinating the abundant blackberries throughout the park and all the fruits and vegetables and flowers in the garden.  The new hive colonies that resulted from the swarm and splits were left in place until their newly raised  queens were proved to be strong layers and the hives were well established.  Earlier this month, the extra hives were relocated, bringing the number of resident hives at the park back to two.  The bee populations are strong and have been very busy this summer. 

The majority of the bees in the hives are a small mostly black bee.  This breed of bee originated in the mountainous region of Slovenia and are known as Carniolan bees.  They are good pollinators.  Given their origin, they are well adapted to the typical PacNW weather – cool and wet.  This summer the bees are finding abundant sources of pollen and nectar and producing both greater population and honey stores.

Note:  Ken and Maryanne have been donating honey from these bees to our FB coolers to be given to HopeLink!  What a wonderful addition to MCGA these bees are.