I got lucky and was able to replace the Italian bees that took off last Thursday. It's good to be in contact with the local beekeeper's club. I went to the monthly meeting the same day I discovered my bees had gone and pressed the flesh, did my pitiful but earnest new beekeeper routine, and begged for leads to packages or nucs. On Saturday I got an email about a beekeeper who had some customers back out of an agreed upon sale of nucs. They were Italian bees with new queens, and only about an hour away. We were there Sunday afternoon to pick up our new bees.
Foligno (my Italian hive, nearer one in the picture above) looks a bit different now, since the colony was sold in a medium super with a full complement of comb and some brood. We kept them in the garage overnight since it was going to be so cold. We wanted to give the smaller colony a break with keeping their brood warm enough to survive. It was a snap to "install" them Monday morning and top off their feeder. They did their orientation flights as soon as it warmed up. That's what bees do when you move them: they map the world by flying out of the hive and turning to look back at their home, gradually flying farther and farther away as they familiarize themselves with the landscape. By Monday evening, we saw foragers returning to the hive with their pollen baskets nice and full.
While we were suited up, we checked on Izhevsk, the Russian colony we started this year as well. They look great, even if they are drawing comb directly inside the frame feeder. We didn't see the queen, or take out more than one frame, but there is a good deal of comb being drawn and we saw some pollen stored there. It's a very active colony that looks promising.
I found it interesting that both Izhevsk and (the original) Foligno kicked a bunch of drones out just after the packages were installed. Drones, the male bees, are total freeloaders. They contribute nothing whatsoever to their home colony. A newly installed package of bees has plenty room but no time or energy to spare. Drones won't even help themselves to food within the hive; they beg food from the (female) workers. Looks like when push comes to shove, it's the drones that get the boot. There were many of them dead in front of the hive in the first few days after installation. I can only speculate, but it seems there's a lesson in there somewhere.
For the record, the trick of painting cinder blocks with used motor oil to keep black ants away doesn't work. Maybe a full on dunking or soaking would be more effective, but the thin coating of oil we put on the blocks has almost disappeared from the top course. I think the oil is redistributing itself within the material of the block. I found a few ants on each of the hives yesterday. I do think the oil is effective to limit wicking of moisture from the ground though.
I live on a 2/3 acre homestead in a residential neighborhood. A major goal is to demonstrate how much food a non-expert can produce in my particular climate and hardiness zone, with the soils native to my immediate area. We have gardens of annual and perennial plants, keep laying hens and honey bees, and regularly bite off more than we can chew. Another major goal is to pay off our mortgage as fast as possible. Here I blog about frugality, self-reliance, gardening, cooking and baking, food preservation, practical skills, half-baked experiments, and preparing to thrive in a lower-energy future.