Friday, December 28, 2007
Sunday, December 9, 2007
Today I converted the cardboard box that my nuc came in into a swarm collection box. I put a frame with foundation in the middle to give the swarm something to crawl around on, and on the top of the box I added four bee escapes, which are basically one-way valves for bees. Bees can go in the box, but they cannot get back out. In theory, I can shake a swarm into the box and put the lid on it. Any bees from the swarm that did not go in the box immediately will eventually go in through the bee escapes, so long as the queen is in the box. I reinforced everything with duct tape, which makes the box more durable and water resistant.
Saturday, December 1, 2007
Holy cow. Can you believe there are people that actually read this blog? I received "honorable mention" from Bee Culture magazine in an article about bee-related blogs. I am humbled and flattered that the folks at Bee Culture considered my blog for this article. Flattery gets you everywhere with me!
Friday, November 23, 2007
I also want to get a second hive ready just in case I come across any swarms, be they from my hive or anyone else's. And of course, there are plenty of beekeeping books to read this Winter.
My hive is buttoned up and ready for winter. I am wintering in two deeps and medium. I estimate that there is over 100 pounds of sugar syrup and honey in there, so starvation is not a concern of mine. The medium super, which uses the Pierco plastic frames, is all sugar syrup and honey, whereas the two deep boxes contain both brood and honey. I noticed that a few first year beekeepers entered honey in the local fair this year, so I will be curious to see if their bees will have enough food stored to survive the winter. I don't see how it is possible that you could have no bees in April (most folks in my area received their nucs and packages of bees in May this year) and have extracted honey the first week of August without seriously compromising the chances of your bees successfully surviving the winter. I guess we'll see how things shake out this Spring.
I switched the original mouse guard that I made for another one that I made out of 1/4 inch hardware cloth. This new mouse guard allows more airflow, which is important in cold weather so that the condensation produced by the cluster can escape the hive so that the bees are not encased in a block of ice. The new mouse guard also allows more bees to enter and exit when the temperature is over 55 degrees. The previous mouse guard that I made was acting too much like an entrance reducer for my taste.
Speaking of taste, I can taste this Spring's honey crop already...
Saturday, November 17, 2007
I stumbled across a second scale that I can use to park a hive on. This scale (the light blue one) is a 1,000 pound model, unlike my other scale which has a maximum capacity of 500 pounds. I would surprised if even the strongest hive weighs over 300 pounds, even when stacked with full honey supers.
I completely disassembled, wire brushed, primed with rust inhibitor paint, and then reassembled and painted each scale. I also turned the direction of the needle balance, primarily because I prefer the counter weight holder to be toward the rear of the scale. It was a fun process to restore these scales. Each one is over 50 years old, and they are surprisingly accurate.
Friday, November 9, 2007
An interesting op/ed piece in the New York Times about the inaccuracies in Bee Movie. Of course, everybody knows that Bee Movie is not a documentary (the bees have opposable thumbs and talk, for goodness sakes) but the fact that many worker bees are portrayed as male is unnecessarily inaccurate, and had upset some purists. Here is my favorite part:
If Mr. Seinfeld wanted realism (and an R rating), his male bees would be sex workers who do little more than mate with the queen — after which their genitals snap off. Worse: when winter comes, worker bees shove the freeloading males out into the cold. If drones are required in the spring, the queen will simply make more of them.
Life is tough!
Tuesday, October 16, 2007
This spring, I want to put my hive under a scale to weigh how much nectar and pollen are coming in. I might even put it under the hive this winter to measure how much honey is used. I was fortunate enough to come across this old Fairbanks scale for a steal of a price. All I had to do was paint it and clean up the inner workings to get it taking accurate readings. No one seems to like the color I painted it. Not even the cat.
Sunday, October 14, 2007
This particular mouse guard is of the homemade variety. It is recycled from a leftover piece of roofing tin from a building that received a new roof.
Tuesday, October 9, 2007
The observation hive:
The queen in the observation hive that my wife found in about 3 seconds flat:
Uh, I think the outside apiary needs some attention:
Wednesday, September 19, 2007
My varroa mite counts have been rising to peak at more than 50 mite per day despite my organic treatment methods, so I broke down and put some Apistan Strips in my hive. The strips work. I have never seen so many dead mites on my mite board. It is not a good idea to use the same mite treatment two years in a row, so next season I will try something different. However, I am impressed with the strips.
Sunday, September 9, 2007
As the summer draws to a close, my bees are in good shape. They have two deep brood chambers and a medium fully drawn. The medium is almost completely full of sugar syrup, and there is a good bit of honey in the other brood boxes as well. The hive is densely populated with bees, and they have become defensive of their stored food. As a result, my bee photographer has lost interest in hanging around the hive as I paw through it. In fact, the heat (especially when wearing a full bee suit) and the sheer number of bees have made my inspections pretty quick.
The only downer is that my varroa mite population has exploded. I was getting a mite drop of 10-15 mites every 24 hours, but now a 24 hour mite drop typically yields more than 50 mites. The rule of thumb is to treat when a 24 hour mite drop is around 150, so I still have some wiggle room before I need to take any chemical action. I am keeping on top of the sugar dusting, but I broke down and ordered some Apistan Strips (a commercial pesticide for mites) to have on hand in case things get much worse. Since mites develop alongside bee larvae, and brood production will likely shut down this month, mite reproduction should stop as well.
In the meantime, I just need to keep feeding and keep an eye on the mite situation to make sure my bees will survive the winter. I can taste next year’s honey crop already!
Monday, August 20, 2007
Wednesday, August 15, 2007
I received word from my neighbor that my honeybees were building a nest in the eves of their porch. Turns out the “honeybees” are actually yellow jackets (which are not even considered bees). It’s funny how everything with a stinger is a bee to most people. Of course, I probably would have thought the same thing a few years ago.
Tuesday, August 7, 2007
Sunday afternoon I sat and watched a European Hornet pick a couple of my honey bees right out of the air and eat them. I tried unsuccessfully to kill the hornet, but I have resolved to let nature take its course. Well, at least for now anyway. My hive is doing very well and is more than capable of defending itself. European Hornets fit into the ecosystem, too.
Friday, July 27, 2007
Well, my normally gentle bees have become much more aggressive since the nectar flow has ended. I inspected the hive last Saturday and I got stung twice. Unlike the first time I was stung, these two times hurt. In defense of my bees, I had let the feeder jar run out a few days prior to the inspection, so it makes sense that they would have been a bit more defensive of their honey stores. Also, there are so many bees that it is difficult to move your hands without disturbing at least a few of them.
Other than the defensive behavior, all is well. There is plenty of eggs, larvae, brood and honey. I would love to post some pics, but my official bee photographer has been slow in transferring the pics from her computer to mine (hint).
Thursday, July 19, 2007
From the Examiner:
- Matthew Danchanko has squatters in his new home. And they won't leave without a fight. They're honeybees - tens of thousands of them. They buzz through the four-bedroom house, creating a low hum and an estimated 100 pounds of honey. Pa.
Danchanko recently bought the house northeast of
He planned to fix it up and move in. But shortly after he began renovating, the long-time residents of the house made it abundantly clear they had no intention of leaving. Johnstown, Pa.
Danchanko won't exterminate the unwanted guests because the honeybee population has significantly deteriorated this summer. Instead, he has found a local beekeeper who will remove the buzzing brood.
Wednesday, July 18, 2007
Sunday, July 8, 2007
Saturday was inspection day, and I went through both the upper and lower brood chamber. The bees are really doing well. The frames closest to the walls of the hive are heavy with honey, and the remaining frames are filled with more honey, eggs, larvae, capped brood and pollen. I removed the drone frame and replaced it with a new undrawn drone frame. I am happy to report that no mites were found in the capped drone cells, but I am saddened that all those capped drones are now in my freezer. I think my sugar dusting have been so successful in preventing the mites that there are not many even in the drone cells. Lesson learned: from now on, I’ll uncap a sample of 30 or so drone cells before I decide to freeze the frame. If I don’t find any mites, the frame goes back in the hive, not the freezer. I can’t believe how gentle these bees are. I was shaking them wildly off the drone frame when I removed it, and I did not get stung at all.
My favorite pic from the inspection is below. The little white things at the bottom of the cells (they look like grains of rice standing on end) are eggs. How they become chickens I’ll never know. Oh, wait a minute…
Saturday, July 7, 2007
Here is a video of some drones hatching from the cells of the green drone frame. Ordinarily, there would be hundreds or thousands of worker bees covering this frame, but this shot was taken after I shook off the worker bees that were tending to the drone brood on the frame. The empty cells are from drones that already hatched. Luckily, I did not find any mites in any of the drone cells. I guess that means my powdered sugar treatments are working to prevent the mites.
Wednesday, July 4, 2007
To the right of the below pic you can see a working hauling in some pumpkin pollen:
Here are some bees on a pumpkin bloom:
They like cucumbers too:
Sunday, July 1, 2007
Thursday, June 28, 2007
There was a bee related editorial in the
Unfortunately, the Maryland Department of Agriculture has only one full-time employee, plus some part-time contractors, to inspect hives for diseases. These inspectors have to do double duty advising beekeepers - which is not their job - because in 1996 the Maryland Cooperative Extension eliminated the last apiculture extension faculty position. If the system were working properly, the University of
would do research on how to improve beekeeping, and agricultural extension would bring it to the beekeeper. Maryland
But it's not happening. One example of this neglect: Since 1984, two types of invasive mites have devastated
bees, becoming resistant to several treatments in turn and leaving beekeepers without effective controls for these pests. But the Cooperative Extension has not revised its printed beekeeping handout since 1983. The inspection program needs better support; UM should do more practical honeybee research; and the beekeeping extension program needs to be revived. Maryland
Ahh, government inaction! Ooops, I meant in action.
Monday, June 25, 2007
The cat, of course, is unimpressed.
Sunday, June 24, 2007
The bee is not afraid of me,
I know the butterfly;
The pretty people in the woods
Receive me cordially.
The brooks laugh louder when I come,
The breezes madder play.
Wherefore, mine eyes, thy silver mists?
Wherefore, O summer's day?
~ Emily Dickinson
Wednesday, June 20, 2007
Today, I went to Don Pablo’s in
Given the flight range of a honey bee is about a mile and a half, I suspect these bees were from a feral colony. I seriously doubt anyone is keeping bees in the commercial and heavily suburban areas within a mile and a half radius Don Pablo’s. This put a smile on my face. It is good to see there are still feral colonies out there that have not been killed of by mites, CCD or uniformed humans with cans of Raid.
What I find even more interesting, is that you rarely ever hear of swarm sightings or other kinds of European honey bee “inconveniences” in the local media. This shows that feral bees are thriving just under the radar of human awareness. Bees are highly evolved survival machines that (hopefully) will be around for a long time.
Sunday, June 17, 2007
My favorite queen pic so far:
A new frame of new comb:
I put a metal window screen on top of an empty super and brushed the sugar through it onto the bees below. The bees sounded kind of pissed.
Three hours after dusting, there were 26 mites that had fallen off the bees through the screened bottom board. I was hoping for more, but mites are not a huge problem for my bees at this point. As long as I do this every three weeks or so, along with the removal of the capped drone brood (mites reproduce in drone comb), I hope to minimize the mite threat.
Sunday, June 10, 2007
Yesterday was inspection day. I have not pawed through the hive in three weeks, and in that time the bees have been hard at work. With the exception of one side of a wall frame, all 10 frames in the hive are fully drawn. They have been sucking down the sugar syrup from the hive top feeder which has really stimulated their desire to draw the comb out. Most of new frames are filled with capped brood and a good bit of capped honey. The bees have really taken advantage of the clover bloom to build up significant honey stores. I ate some of the burr comb honey I scrapped off the top of a frame and ate it. Mmmm…it was delish. One of the new frames has eggs and larvae on it. Interestingly, I have only seen the queen on one of the four original nuc frames, but she is obviously getting around to the other frames to lay eggs.
The bees are doing so well, in fact, I have added a second deep hive body. The frames in the new hive body are not drawn, so the hive top feeder will stay on to encourage them to draw comb on these frames quickly. I am extremely pleased with their progress.
This comb honey tasted GOOD...
Look at the capped brood and honey on this pretty new comb...
Check out the larvae in the cells of this frame (they look like little white grubs)...
Sunday, June 3, 2007
Below are some bees gorging on syrup from the hive top feeder...
And here is my wonderful bee photographer, dressed to remove plutonium from the hive…
Saturday, May 26, 2007
One of my favorite things to do is just sit back a little ways from the hive and watch the bees fly in with loads of pollen and nectar. The pollen can be seen on the hind legs (in the corbicula for the scientifically inclined) of the returning foragers. Right now the bees are bringing in light grayish pollen and bright orange pollen. The nectar is carried in the stomach of the bees and cannot be seen.
Thus far, the colony seems to be flourishing. Every week there are more and more bees flying about.
Sunday, May 20, 2007
Plenty of capped brood...
Thursday, May 17, 2007
Tuesday, May 15, 2007
You wake up with mites.
The bottom of my hive is made of wire screen mesh. These types of bottom boards became popular after the invasion of the varroa mite, a parasitic mite that inflicts bee colonies. Almost every bee colony is infested with these mites to some degree. Anyway, the theory behind the screened bottom board is that when the mites happen to fall off the bees, they will fall through the screen and onto a tray that can be inspected by the beekeeper. Counting the mites is one way to gauge the severity of the mite infestation of your bees.
Tonight, I pulled the tray beneath my screened bottom board and I found three varroa mites. They are so small they look like random dirt specs- but they move. I also found lots of little flakes of beeswax which leads me to believe the bees are busy drawing comb. Additionally, I found little green pellets which were kind of mushy. I think these are pollen pellets that the bees were working into the comb and happened to drop.
Ah, the fun things you can see without even opening the hive!
Monday, May 14, 2007
A nuc is basically a couple of frames (usually 3-5) of bees in a wooden or cardboard box that serves as a temporary hive. The frames from the nuc are then installed in a permanent hive. The good thing about a nuc is that the queen has already been accepted by the bees and she has been verified by the nuc-maker to be laying eggs. I thought this was the best way to go for a beginner.
The installation of the nuc frames into my hive went very smoothly. The weather was a tad chilli and it was a little bit breezier than I would have liked, but all in all it wasn’t too bad. The temperament of the bees was great. I just blew some smoke into the nuc box which immediately chilled the bees out. The whole time I was juggling around the frames the bees were as calm as Hindu cows. The bees had glued the frames in the nuc box pretty good, so I had to do quite a bit of prying to get them out. It seemed like there were zillions of bees on the frames so it was tough to see if there were eggs or larvae in the comb. I did notice a good deal of nectar and honey which is a good sign. The comb on the nuc frames was drawn out far enough where it was a bit of challenge to fit them, along with six frames of foundation, into the new hive.
Check out the queen bee in the above pic. She is the one with the yellow dot on her back.
The last step was to add some sugar syrup to the hive top feeder to get the bees to draw comb on the new frames. In about a week I’ll crack the hive open again and make sure they are drawing comb and I’ll check for eggs and larvae. They're home at last!
Friday, May 11, 2007
Tis’ the season for swarms, so I want to say a few words about them as a public service to non-beekeepers.
First, a swarm is when about half the bees (including the queen) decide to leave the hive all at once and look for a new place to live. The bees in the hive that stay behind raise a new queen and otherwise continue business as usual. Swarms are how bees start new colonies. Most animals, like people, perpetuate their species by rearing young that leave the nest and start new families. Social insects, like bees, need to produce new colonies in addition to new individual bees. Thus, Swarms are the means in which bees “leave the nest” and make new colonies. In other words, swarms are perfectly natural bee behavior.
Secondly, bees normally sting to defend their hives, their brood, and their food stores. Since swarms have no hive, no brood and no food, they are gentle. In fact, a swarm of bees is the gentlest state in which you can find bees. You can literally paw through them with your hands to find the queen and you won’t get stung (as long as you are gentle).
Third, Africanized Honey Bees (AHBs) are not yet in
Swarms usually hang out for a few hours or a few days while scout bees go out and look for a new place to live. As soon as one is found, the swarm will head to the new home and take up residence. If you see a swarm, the best thing to do is take a few pictures and enjoy the miracle of nature that it is.
If you see a swarm and do something like this, you are a moron.
Friday, May 4, 2007
Thursday, May 3, 2007
Honey bees just cost Monsanto some sales. By transferring pollen from Roundup Ready alfalfa to regular alfalfa, bees cause the Round Up resistant trait can be transferred to the regular alfalfa. Many people, including the judge, are unhappy about this.
A Federal judge today made a final ruling that the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA's) 2005 approval of Monsanto's genetically engineered (GE) "Roundup Ready" alfalfa was illegal. The Judge called on USDA to ban any further planting of the GE seed until it conducts a complete Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) on the GE crop.
Wednesday, May 2, 2007
Monday, April 30, 2007
Here is a great article on Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) and race to find a cause. Theories run the gamut on what the cause of CCD might be. My favorite is that God is calling the bees to heaven (someone actually suggested this to the researchers). Another one, which sounds like it might be possible but the science does not support it, is that cell phones are causing CCD. It might not make sense scientifically, but I won’t take any chances. When my bees finally arrive, I will not be allowing them to have cell phones!
The Sun had a good article today as well.
Sunday, April 29, 2007
I have selected the site for my apiary, assembled and set up my equipment, so now I just sit back and wait for the nuc that I purchased to arrive. Hopefully, it will arrive in the next 2-3 weeks. I have most likely missed the nectar flow already, so a crop of honey is probably not in the cards this year. I will focus on building a strong, healthy colony of bees to get a crop of honey next year and possibly split this hive into two. In the meantime, there are plenty of bee books to read.
The goofy looking thing between the top cover and the brood chamber is my fancy pants hive top feeder. I will leave that on at least until I have two brood chambers of drawn comb and then stop feeding for the summer or switch to a feeder jar with only a few holes to simulate a light nectar flow.