This has been a great garden and beekeeping weekend. Our Smoky Mountain Beekeeper's Assoc. hosted a beginners bee school on Saturday. We were fortunate to have Jennifer Berry as our instructor. Jennifer is a long-time beekeeper and bee researcher at the University of Georgia. I saw her last May at Young Harris College Bee School. She is not only very knowledgeable about her subject, but also very lively and entertaining. She did a great job of covering the basics of beekeeping such as biology, equipment, diseases, and pests. She spent a great deal of time on varroa mites since this is the probably the most serious problem facing bees right now. I was very encouraged that she is strongly advocating natural solutions to the problem of varroa such as sugar shakes, drone comb and the discontinued use of chemicals in the hive. I was even more encouraged last week when I learned from some of our senior beekeepers that they are treating their bees without use of chemicals and not seeing any difference in their losses. Researchers and beekeepers alike are acknowledging that we are killing bees with chemicals and pesticides.
Jennifer also spoke of small hive beetles, which I am not seeing, but she did say that they lay their eggs in grease patties in the hive. Since I have a patty on the hive now, I will remove it soon. Don't want a SHB problem. I wanted to inspect Walter Bee today, but although the temperature was low 60's, there was a good breeze so I decided not to open. Maybe tomorrow. I'll also do my sugar shake when I open and also reverse the inner cover. The bees are quite active right now and I'm anxious to know what's going on inside the hive. I'm still feeding sugar syrup, and will continue to do so, but I changed the ratio of sugar to water to 1 to 1.
Another interesting topic that Jennifer covered was the poisons that we are bringing into the hive with the use of wax foundations. Wax foundation is made from wax that major beekeepers sell. Since most of these operations are using chemicals on the bees, those chemicals remain in the wax made into foundation. Her solution is to use plastic foundation, which bees do not seem to like. But she sprays the plastic with a 1 to1 ratio sugar solution and her bees are drawing it out sucessfully. She also suggests turning over all foundation every 5 years, which she does by removing 2 outer frames, adding 2 in the middle, each year, until all 10 frames are replaced. I will date my frames when I open the hive. Busy spring coming up!
I spent today in the garden. March is such a frustrating month for me. The days are gorgeous, but our temperatures have been in the low 20's for the past 3 nights. Frost all 3 mornings. I'm so anxious to start planting, but know it's waaaay too early. I did transplant several things today. Moved some phlox, bachelor buttons and daylillies. We dug out the lillies last fall and threw them in the woods, but they came up so very pretty on top of the soil I decided to put some of them back in the garden. Lots of perennials up and I'm throwing lots of compost around anything I see. Also put out pine straw in my first bed. I'll fill it out this week with lettuce, parsley and cilantro. All my beds are a combination of flowers, vegetables and herbs. I garden in such a small space and can't bear to waste an inch of soil.