As many of you know, this long, harsh winter was extra hard on beekeepers right across Ontario, with bee yards everywhere suffering massive losses due to the extreme cold and delay in normal Spring weather. Despite the careful preparations we had undertaken last fall (making sure each hive was packed with honey for the bees, fall treatments for mites, wrapping hives for winter, etc etc) like so many other beekeepers in the area, spring greeted us with a series of cold, silent, dead hives. In our case, all 6 of our hives had starved out.

Replacing the bees has not been easy, either. We made a series of calls in early spring to various queen and nuc suppliers only to find back logs and long waiting lists, and many of the suppliers we spoke to were busy trying to replace their own winter losses as well as meet the demand from other beekeepers. We had to patiently wait until mid June before we could guarantee replacement bees for our hives. Well, that day has arrived, and on the weekend Etta and I hopped in the truck and made our way out to Szabo Queens to meet our new gals.

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Etta, the helper-monkey. Etta loves visiting bee yards. Or maybe it’s just that she loves truck rides. Either way, she made it clear she was coming with me.

We made our way out to Szabo’s and then Tibor took us out to a nearby bee yard to start selecting and boxing up nucs. It’s been a grey, rainy week, but the weather was on our side and it was a beautiful, sunny June morning. It was nice to be surrounded by the buzz of busy bees hard at work.

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One of our beautiful new queen bees.

We chatted a bit with Tibor about the winter, problems with pesticide spraying and the effect he was seeing in his bee yards, and some of the difficulties of having to replace so many of his own winter losses as well as have bees ready to go at a reasonable price for people like me needing new queens and nucs. Pesticide use with corn crops is a major issue in the area, which made me glad that Shelley and I have our hives in an urban setting where the chances of exposure are pretty minimum. We’re also very fortunate that the City of Guelph has a pesticide ban in place, so even the use of sprays or weed killer within the city is not allowed, which is reassuring.  As we chatted the nuc boxes were prepared and then loaded into the truck.

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3 framed cardboard nuc boxes: containing the queen, brood, young bees and food.

 

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Nucs secured in the back of the truck

And from there it was off to the various yards back home — we had already cleaned up the old hives, replaced comb where needed and had the sites ready to go for the new bees. Within a few minutes at each backyard we had two brand new hives set up with the girls curiously checking out their new digs.

Shelley gets the grounds ready in front of a hive, clearing out weeds and anything that might block the bee's flight path.

Shelley gets the grounds ready in front of a hive, clearing out weeds and anything that might block the bee’s flight path.

checking for the queen before putting the frame in.

checking for the queen before putting the frame in.

spot the queen...

spot the queen…

The nuc frames, including the one with the queen on it are put into the hive, and the rest of the gals are gently encouraged to join her in the new hive

The nuc frames, including the one with the queen on it are put into the hive, and the rest of the gals are gently encouraged to join her in the new hive

Repeating the process at one of the other backyard spots

Repeating the process at one of the other backyard spots

So, all going well we now have six new hives set up in three locations throughout the City of Guelph. A huge thank you goes out to our friends who are allowing us to host the hives in their yards. If the summer shapes up ok, we may even get some honey out of the hives this year, although with new hives it’s best not to get our expectations up too high. We’ll see what happens and keep you posted!

In the meantime, Etta patiently waits for the next trip out to the bee yards.

In the meantime, Etta patiently waits for the next trip out to the bee yards.