Hang in there girls
It’s the beginning of March in the Box-Ironbark of Central Victoria. The last time I stood in this apiary, I told my bees of my father’s passing and that I wouldn’t be able to shift them to greener pastures, I had to go away for a while. I had just taken their queens and given them cells. I told them to hang in there, hoping the feed they got from the Red Gum this year would hold them over.
Six weeks later, I returned to the apiary of 50 mating nucs (5 frame and two-way 8 frame) and 15 honey/drone mother hives in March fearing the worst and hoping for the best with my three year old sleeping in the carseat.
I walked around the apiary, lifting boxes. Light. Little flight. No pollen coming in. Yuck. I opened a few lids to find jittery, flighty, unsettled, hungry bees. They still had honey in the combs, but not a bit of pollen. The brood was suffering and most colonies had 3 frames of bees. They would not make it through a Victorian winter.
The next right thing
The container of heavy syrup I left in my ute six weeks ago was still there, as was my watering/sugaring can and I went around giving each colony a drink. I refilled the free flight feeder with Bee Build and coated the bees in each entrance with the powder to let them know their feed was refilled. Within 10 minutes, the feeder was buzzing. I needed to make some decisions about the next move (or not).
Weighing the options
Although I have been keeping bees for over 15 years, I have only been in Victoria for 6 years, and only running this number of mating nucs for 2 years. I have a ute, but no trailer. I have some secure sites around Bendigo, but no real options to move to greener pastures. I have a three year old and am confined to working within the constraints of creche. I understand bees, but am just learning about Australian flora. I know how to feed bees and have devoted considerable time to understanding the best recipes and products, but few in Australia think it is possible to build bees on “artificial diets” (except Tasmanians).
A little help from my friends
I spent the following week looking into buying or borrowing a trailer and talking to my local beekeeper friends about options to shift the bees. I gathered options, weighed the advantages and disadvantages, did my maths, did a gut check, and have decided to stay put and feed bees.
I figured that there is no point in me touting products and supplemental feeding if I am not willing or able to follow my own lead. The next series of posts will document the process of trying to build bees for winter on a supplemental feeding regime. In theory, it should work, we will see.