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Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Precipitation Data - Cincinnati Area

At the beekeepers meeting last night we discussed the dearth and how it was effecting the local beekeepers. I decided to do a little research and come up with some monthly data on the local area and what the actual precipitation was. Here is a chart of the results:


For data on your area, visit NOAA's Website.

Northern Kentucky Beekeepers Meeting

Last night the Northern Kentucky Beekeepers Association had its November meeting. I've been looking forward to getting together with my fellow beekeepers and having a chance to compare notes and discuss a few ideas for the club.

We decided to spend a little money and purchase a couple books for two local libraries here in the area. 'Beekeeping for Dummies' and 'The Beekeepers Handbook', both excellent books for beginners were selected and we'll be buying two copies of each for the local community.



One set will go to the Boone County Library and the other to Campbell County Library.

We also had a few new beekeepers visit the club, one from Ohio and one from West Virginia. They both brought some interesting ideas about their clubs as well as lobbying activities in West Virginia where the state subsadizes beekeeping costs. Interesting...

I also got ahold of a homemade frame display case. I'll be attempting to make one of these this winter.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Goodbye to 2008 Beekeeping Season

Date: October 28, 2008
Time: 2:00 PM
Temp: 47'
Weather: Cold, Dry, and Windy

So long, farewell, auf wiedersehen, goodbye...the 2008 beekeeping season is done. Today I closed up the hives and did a final check in the bees. Nothing much to report as the temperature was only in the 40's. I didn't even use a veil. Although I nailed in the mouse guards, I would recommend screwing them in. I was only challenged by a bee or two which promptly went back inside after not finding me too interesting. There was plenty of activity inside the hives and they seem like they have plenty of honey stored up for the upcoming winter.

I removed the top feeders, added the mouse guards, tilted the hives forward with a few pieces of scrap wood, spaced the top cover for ventilation, and closed up the screened bottom board.

Thanks to all of you who have written me e-mail or have simply checked out the website. I have some very cool ideas for next year and promise to keep the website interesting and informative in the months to come.

In the mean time, I'll be attending and working to build up our local beekeeping club and look forward to meeting all of the local beekeepers who have contacted me.


Monday, October 27, 2008

First Frost

Here in Northern Kentucky the weather has definitely turned towards winter.  The leaves have been changing, the grass has stopped growing, and while deer hunting near my hives last week, I noticed minimal activity coming from the hives.  The temperatures here have been in the 60'-40's range, but tonight is expected to be the first frost of the season.

Tomorrow, I'll head out to the hives for one last seasonal visit.  I need to remove the top feeders, tilt the hives a little more, install mouse guards, remove the ApiGaurd, and say good bye to the 2008 beekeeping season. 


Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Visits from Around the World

I'm amazed at the number of people from all over the world who have visited my website.  To date, visitors from six continents have visited.  

Thanks to all of you who have sent me e-mails and continue t0 make my website interesting.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Cleaning up and a Bee Battlefield

Date: October 3, 2008
Time: 2:00 PM
Temp: 67'
Weather: Cool and Dry

This afternoon I went to the hives to install the second round of Apigaurd treatment in both hives. Apigaurd is used to kill off the Varroa mites that have infested my hives. I picked up a few leaves of tobacco from the field and added it to my smoker...mmmmm good. It's said that tobacco smoke is also good for treating Varroa. Both Genesis and Exodus were pretty quite. I checked the weight of both hives and both seem to have a good amount stored up for the winter. I'm terrible as estimating weight, so I'll just say 50lbs? Here's a video of Exodus. (Notice how slow the bees were moving)

video

I removed the empty supers that were on top of each hive and fed the bees a winter syrup mixture. The recipe is 2.5 qts water and 10 lbs of sugar. Each hive got about 1.5 gallons.

Bee Battlefield
On top of Exodus, underneath the empty super that the bees had been cleaning up, I found dozens of dead bees, cut in half. Strange...I suppose they were battling robbing yellow jackets.

video
I also saw a field mouse in the area of my hives. So, sometime very soon I'll be installing the mouse guards on each hive.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

"You are an adequate beekeeper"

I took an online beekeeping test.  I scored 29/50.  The result is the title of this post.  I suppose that that's not too bad because the questions were pretty difficult.  

Here's the link:  Online Beekeeping Test

Let me know how you did...

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Wooly Worms

This post is a little off topic, but does relate to an earlier post.  The land owners grow tobacco on the land where my hives are.  Here in Kentucky, tobacco is a still popular crop to grow.  

The landowner needed some help getting the cut tobacco off the ground and up into the barns.  Having never done it before and wanting to learn more about it, I volunteered to help.  Needless to say, it was a lot of work and I can definitely say that I don't think I want to grow tobacco in the future.  It was however fun to be out there with a few guys doing some manual labor in the sun.  
Now, for the interesting part.  While picking up this tobacco, we counted the number of Wooly Worms and analyzed the results.  The saying goes that an all black Wooly Worm means a cold winter and a black and brown one means a mild winter.  The count was 8-1 for a COLD WINTER.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Newspaper Article

Today the Boone County Recorder, a local newspaper, published an article about me.

Here's a link to the article: 'Beekeeper Blogs Progress'

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Paying the Rent

Early this morning I paid the rent for my hives.  Actually, no money traded hands, instead I took both landowners (father and son) a big jar of honey.  No fancy labels, no special bottles, just about 4 lbs of honey for allowing me to keep my hives on their property.  Both were very appreciative.

I also took the empty supers and wax cappings over to the hives to let the bees clean them off.  Since I'm treating each hive with Apigaurd, I put the supers on top of the hives.  Immediately, several yellow jackets came over and started eating the honey left on each super.  My bees were barely waking up and only a few were flying.  Hopefully, they'll clean the wax and supers out within a few days.

The weather here continues to be in the mid 80'-mid 50's with no rain.  Beautiful, but a little dry. 

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Honey Harvest 2008

I've been waiting for this day for a long time. Today, the whole family worked together and harvested the twenty supers that I pulled off of the hives a few days ago. I did have some honey that tested more than 20% moisture content. So, for the past few days the frames have been sitting in a make-shift tent made of painters drop plastic and a dehumidifier. After a few days the 20% moisture had dropped to around 15%. Oddly, most of my capped honey tested at 18%. My understanding that 18% is on the higher end of honey, but nevertheless, it's honey.
After totally disassembling, washing, and then reassembling the borrowed extractor, we definitely put it to good use. Wow, the electric motor is amazing and really made short work of spinning the honey out of the frames. Everyone pitched in and had a specific task to do. My wife uncapped, the two boys monitored the honey flow gate, and the little one kept the quality control up by taste testing. We had a great time spending time together and working on such a unique project. The boys were totally enthralled with the amount of honey that came out of the frames.

Speaking of amounts, the total take for 2008 was nearly 3 gallons for a grand total of 36 lbs.

The Queen Bee















Teaching the fine art of uncapping















Quality Control Team



















My favorite frame for 2008












And a video
video

For the extraction process, I simply used a stainless strainer for larger filtering and a 'paint filter' for finer filtering. Other than that, it's pure, raw honey. Next step...bottling.

More Feeding

Date:  September 18, 2008
Time:  1:00 pm
Weather:  Low 80's, clear and calm

After seeing how much syrup the bees consumed yesterday, I went to Kroger early this morning and bought 40lbs of sugar to feed the bees.  It's on sale and I decided to make as much syrup as my feeders would hold.  Both hives had plenty of activity upon my arrival and were touching up the last bits of sugar left in the empty feeders.  Each hive got 2 1/2 gallons of 2:1 sugar syrup (15 lbs of sugar for each hive).  I'm interested to see how fast they can consume that much syrup. 
 
video

Immediately after closing up Exodus, I noticed a few yellow jackets, a hummingbird and a butterfly checking out things close by.  Word must travel fast that there's food nearby...

I also noticed a few inch-worms on the ground close to Genesis, but I don't think they'll be a problem.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Doctoring the Hives

After a little research and an e-mail from Dr. Tom Webster from Kentucky State University, I've concluded that my hives need to be doctored and treated for Varroa.  My mite counts were well over 50/day (50-100 is dangerous).

So, off to the hives...  Both hives had activity outside, although, Genesis had more, as always.  I opened the lid of of Genesis and was shocked to see that the bees had consumed every bit of syrup I put in yesterday.  That was a gallon.  Exodus was the same way.  Strangely, both hives had literally hundreds of bees drowned dead inside the feeder.  I'm not sure what's up with that, other than they were really excited to have something to eat I suppose.  The dearth is here and food sources are scarce.  I'll have to refill those feeders asap with another couple of gallons of 2:1 sugar syrup.
















I also installed a treatment of ApiGaurd which is a chemical that will kill the Varroa mites that are infesting my hives.  As directed, I'll give it two applications, two weeks apart.  Left untreated, they would surely cause my hive population to dwindle and eventually crash the hive resulting in a total loss.  I used an empty super box as a spacer between the top brood chamber and the feeder.
















I did not inspect the hive today as my time was limited.  I'm still not sure on the course of action I'll take for the suspected Wax Moth.  I really need to do a full hive inspection and check for webs, larvae, and damage and confirm their existence in the hive.  From the reading I've been doing, Wax Moths are a symptom of a weak hive.  Perhaps treating the Varroa will allow the bees to strengthen up and eradicate the suspect larvae themselves.

I also picked up the county owned extractor.  It's a really nice three frame, electric driven model.  Thanks to the county extension agent, I'll have my honey extracted in no time.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Varroa Count and Possible Wax Moths

I visited the hives today and saw lots of activity on 'Genesis' and some, but not quite as much on 'Exodus'.  Note the 'first flight' taking place at the front of the hive.  All of that brood must have emerged!

I fed each hive a 2:1 gallon of syrup in order to shore up their winter supplies.  I also pulled the sticky boards off of the hives to check the Varroa count.  To my disappointment, after preforming the count, the levels were pretty high, which means that I may have to treat them with some chemicals in order to avoid my hive crashing this winter.  I have an e-mail in with the State Apiarist asking for a recommended treatment.

Here are the results:  (Calculations based on 120 hrs in hive)

'Genesis'  
Total Count - 494
Daily Calculated Fall Rate - 98.8
Hourly Calculated Fall Rate - 4.11
 
'Exodus'
Total Count - 719
Daily Calculated Fall Rate - 143.8
Hourly Calculated Fall Rate - 5.99

I also found what I believe to be three Wax Moth larvae stick to the sticky board.  I have to do some research on this, but may need to pull each hive apart and do a much more through inspection.  


Sunday, September 14, 2008

Northern Kentucky Beekeepers Association Field Day

Today the Northern Kentucky Beekeepers Association hosted the annual field day and cook out for members and people interested in getting started in beekeeping. 
It was a small group and we beekeepers had a good time sharing our experience and passion with potential new beekeepers.  We had a live hive demonstration as well as equipment, reading materials, and even a door prize drawing for one of my bottles of mead.  The day concluded with a business meeting, the pledge, and a q/a session.






Friday, September 12, 2008

Removing Honey

Date:  September 11, 2008
Time:  11:00 AM
Temperature:  72'
Weather:  Sunny, but clouding ahead of cold front bringing rain for two days

Today was the day!  I took the honey supers off both Genesis and Exodus hives.  First a few observations:
  • Both hives were still buzzing with activity, although not as much as in past visits.  I believe that this may be due to the cooler temperatures and the end of the honeyflow here in Northern Kentucky.  The only major nectar source left is Goldenrod, which as some people may know, is an extremely strong and dark variety of honey.
  • The drones are still in both hives.  As part preparation for winter, the drones (males) are expelled from the hive to maximize food stores.
  • I observed both capped brood and larvae in both hives.
  • Honey Robber worked will with minimal disruption and no stings.
Now, a few weeks ago I added an extra super to each hive and rearranged the frames in each hive.  Since then, I can't say anything has changed.  After taking a good look, I believe that out of the two supers I have about 50% capped honey, 75% total honey stored, and 25% blank.  I've secured a dehumidifier to remove some of the water and get the uncapped honey to about 16% moisture level to prevent fermentation.

Monday I'll be extracting the honey with the kids from the county owned extractor.  It should be fun and I'm looking forward to seeing the total honey take for 2008. 


Sunday, September 7, 2008

Mead is Made

Last year, I bought 5 gallons of 'wildwood' honey from a local beekeeper to brew mead with. 

In July of 2007, I brewed a 5 gallon batch of traditional mead using a recipe I found in 'The Joy of Homebrewing' by Charlie Papazian (using about 15 lbs. of honey).  Today, after allowing it to age for over a year, I finally bottled it up.  

It remains at 14.80% Brix and an alcohol content of 15.75% which is a little stronger than I wanted, but nonetheless, it's delicious.  It has a wonderful honey aroma, taste, and sweetness that nothing else can compare to.

I can now add 'Mazer' to the list of titles I carry around.



Here are some pictures from the brewing process.


Friday, September 5, 2008

Bloom Times Chart


Click for larger image.

While the 2008 beekeeping season isn't finished yet, I'm already planning for next year.  

Another thing that I learned this year was that knowing the bloom time of flowers that my bees are visiting is important.  Here's something that I put together using some information from the University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension.  The information is for Kentucky, but may be useful to others as well.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Interesting Population Chart

I put together this chart to illustrate the annual population fluctuation within a typical honeybee colony. What is most interesting to me, is where a colony starts out given that it comes from a package (the red circle). Now, the question I have is what does the population chart look like given that I start with a package vs. a nuc or existing hive.? I'm curious if someone knows the answer.


Friday, August 29, 2008

Preparing to Wind It Down

As the summer draws to an end here in Northern Kentucky, I'm getting ready for the fall and winter beekeeping season.  If the predictions of the Old Farmer's Almanac are correct, we're for a colder than normal winter here in Northern Kentucky.

Here's an excerpt:

November will have above-normal temperatures, on average, followed by an exceptionally cold December. After a welcome mid-January thaw, temperatures will be colder than normal in February and March. The coldest periods will be in mid-December, early January, and early February. Precipitation will be near normal in the east and above normal in the west, with above-normal snowfall nearly everywhere. Expect snowfall in time for Thanksgiving, frequent snow in December, and additional snowfalls from January to mid-February.

Today I ordered a few beekeeping items that I need to complete the next phase of my beekeeping season, extraction!  I also threw in a few items for wintering my bees.  

Most first-year beekeepers are fortunate if they get any honey at all.  If you've been following my posts, you know that I have at least 10 frames in each super full of capped honey.  I've very fortunate that 2008 has been a good year for beekeepers here in Northern Kentucky.

Here's a list of things that I'll be doing over the next two months:
  • Extraction of capped honey supers (early September)
  • Varroa count and treatment if necessary (early September)
  • Offering of sugar syrup to shore up winter supplies (early September)
  • Closing up of hive for winter (install mouse guard, reverse entrance reducer, ensure proper ventilation, close up bottom of hive) (early to mid October)
More to come...



Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Pictures Around the Hives

Time:  1:30 PM
Temp:  82'
Weather:  Mostly Sunny, Slight Breeze N

I had to run to the beeyard today to pick up something I had left behind durning my last visit.  I took my camera with me and took some pictures of some of the beautiful wildflowers that are blooming right now.  I'm not sure if the bees like these or not, but they really are nice to look at.

Here's the water source (less than 100 yards away) that my bees use.  















Ironweed















Queen Anne's Lace -- Daucus carota















Tick Trefoil -- Desmodium sp.













Saturday, August 23, 2008

Recommended Resources for Beginners

I'm often asked how I got into beekeeping.  Most of the time what people mean is 'how' I got into beekeeping and learned what I needed to know.  

As a first-year beekeeper the amount of advise can get overwhelming, but for those of you who are interested, I've made a top ten list of things that I would recommend to anyone who is interested in keeping bees.

1.  Look at the calendar.  The beekeeping season actually starts well before spring.  A first-year beekeeper will have to order/make hives, buy a few simple tools, and secure some bees, either by mail order or from a local source for delivery in March or April.  Either way, the time to start reading, gathering supplies, and preparing for the season is during the winter.

2.  Get to know some local beekeepers.  The best way to do this is to find the local beekeeping club.  If you don't know where to start, contact your local agricultural extension agent, state apiarist, or ask around at the local farmers market.  Find out who the local beekeepers are in your area and ask them about their beekeeping activities.

3.  Buy, borrow, or check out several books on beekeeping.  I highly recommend 'Beekeeping For Dummies' and 'The Beekeeper's Handbook'.  Both are excellent resources.  Other recommended resources can be found on my blog under 'On My Bookshelf'.

4.  Surf the net for topics on beekeeping.  Many beekeepers come at it from different angles.  You may be interested in pollination, producing honey or honey products, or you may be interested in beekeeping as a business.  Whatever your interest, there are literally hundreds of websites that will have information for you.  Be sure and check out blogs, web forums, and chat boards.

5.  Order supplier catalogs and start getting familiar with equipment.  Many suppliers carry slightly different items.

6.  Attend a beekeeping workshop or field day.  Many beekeeping clubs or organizations will host a weekend workshop on beekeeping.  Theses are geared toward the beginner beekeeper and will prove invaluable in building your confidence and knowledge base.  (I attended two of these before I ever had bees.)

7.  Get to know your equipment and how to use it properly.  Practice manipulating the hives, using the tools, lighting the smoker, and manipulating the hive before there are bees in it.  Assemble and have it painted and ready to go by the day that you put bees in your hive. 
  
8.  Start with two hives.  This was a great piece of advise that I got.  It allows you to compare and contrast the two hives with each other and lookout for disease and pests.  Also, if one fails for any reason, you have not lost all of your beekeeping for the whole season.

9.  Don't be discouraged by what happens.  When I found out I had mites I was devastated.  Then I realized that everyone has them.  Bees are natural creatures in an unnatural environment.  There will be mishaps, missteps, accidents, defeats, and discouragements.  The joy in beekeeping in being successful despite these setbacks.  Beekeeping is a very old and time-honored tradition.  Only a very special few partake in it.  That's what makes it special.

10.  Keep a journal, blog, or some type of record of your beekeeping activities.  I decided early on to photograph and blog about my experience as a record to refer back to, share with friends and family, and encourage others to become beekeepers.

These are just the main points that I wanted to stress to anyone who is looking at becoming a beekeeper.  If you are interested, let me encourage you to e-mail me and tell me about your interest.  I'd love to hear from you.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Just Delighted
















Today I checked both hives and the progress that the bees had made on the honey supers.  I also took a reporter from the Boone County Recorder with me.  She interviewed and photographed me along with the hives for an upcoming article.

Well, after looking under the cover of Genesis, I think 2008 will be a great year for me as a first-year beekeeper.  The top honey super was nearly completely capped.  I rearranged a few frames and checked the second super.  I must have put them back in the wrong order last time because the second (lower) super was pretty much devoid of any activity or progress.

Exodus had all ten frames capped and nearly every space was filled.  I added a second super to the top of it and closed it up.
















I'm estimating that each frame was 3-5 lbs, that could mean nearly 100 lbs of honey (gross)?

Monday, August 18, 2008

Is Fall Here?

Over the past few days I've been looking around my garden and noticing that things seem to be signaling the end of summer.  We've also had very little rain in the past few weeks and that too could be having an affect on the trees, plants, and flowers.  Perhaps the most poignant example are my grapes seem to have stopped growing completely and are not hardening up for the winter.

The bees and insects are busy and every morning, I've watched the bumblebees working my raspberries and potted flowers.  There seem to be quite a few wasps out lately too.

I have not checked my hives recently, but will be in the next few days. 

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Thinking About Winter Plans

Based on some information I got at the Northern Kentucky Beekeepers Club meeting, I need to make a few notes here about my plans for the upcoming next few months.

Pulling Supers - Sometime around Labor Day, I'll be pulling my honey supers.  I have been advised that for this area they should go back on April 1st.  Pull non-completed supers and freeze to kill wax moths.

Closing up the hive - After 1st frost.  Use mouse guard.  No wrapping up hives.  Make sure and tilt hive for water discharge.

Feeding - May change my current method of feeding to top drip-down mason jars for winter.  Also, I may want to consider pollen paddy around the 1st warm day of winter.

Requeening - Not annually, unless a lot of drone brood is spotted.

Deep hive inspections - Not necessary this time of year.

Hive Reversal - Reverse hive bodies in spring to discourage swarming.



Northern Kentucky Beekeepers Club Meeting

This evening I attended the bi-monthly meeting of the Northern Kentucky Beekeepers Club.  As is always the case, we had a great discussion about the current state of the honey crop here in Northern Kentucky.  The consensus is that 2008 is shaping up to be a great year, even for us beginners.  

One of the great things about being a member of the local club is the ability to ask questions and get information from seasoned beekeepers.  As a beginner, I've found the more information the better.  I was encouraged to see several other 1st year beekeepers at the meeting and look forward to getting to know each one.

If you're a beginner or are just interested in learning more about bees and are in the Northern Kentucky area, we meet the first Tuesday of every other month at the Boone County and Campbell County Extension offices.  Our next official meeting will be in November at the Boone County office.  

By the way, I absolutely love the fact that we say the "Pledge of Allegiance" to our American Flag before each meeting.  

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Taking A Peek

I decided to check on the progress of my honey supers and see how the bees were coming along.  
It's been pretty hot and dry here lately, although the month of July finished up only less than 1/3" less than normal for precipitation.  Both hives had a fair amount of activity on the outside of the hives and plenty of 'first flights' could be seen.

Genesis:  Looking underneath the lid on this hive I was a little disappointed to see that the bees hadn't really touched the second super yet.  The first super was still about 80%  complete.  I was really excited to see the amount of propolis that the bees had managed to set into this hive.  Amazingly, the new woodenware I had for the past few months now has a beautiful reddish tint to it.  I managed to scrape some off and actually tried eating it.  Tasteless!  

A look deeper into the hive revealed massive amounts of honey and capped brood.  Fewer eggs, but I did see them.  I'd estimate that each frame weighs at least 8 lbs.  I didn't explore down into the lower brood chamber and I'm told, it's not necessary. 

Exodus:  The bees are just now working on this honey super.  As has been the case for the entire season, this hive seems to be about a week behind Genesis.  As usual, the Exodus bees were a little more aggressive and were bumping my veil during my inspection.  The reddish propolis stain was everywhere and the top brood chamber was filled with honey, capped brood, eggs, and bees.  I saw a bee emerging from its cell and watched as it chewed its way out, that was a first for me.

I did have to pull some weeds and grass that were obstructing the hives a bit, but other than that, no other maintenance issues.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

15 Minutes of Fame

Well, it happened.  Finally...

I've been waiting for the Cincinnati Magazine article to come out.  It finally did.  Larry Nager, the author, contacted me about two months ago and inquired about my beekeeping website and asked to interview me about my beekeeping experience.  

He wrote a great article on local beekeeping, complete with a cast of characters that I personally know from around here.  

As the article states, it's been a good year here and I'm off to do a check of the hives.  I may even have the supers filled by now.

Here's a link to the article:

Friday, July 25, 2008

An On a Personal Note


Today we welcome our baby boy and baby girl into the world.  Both babies are doing well and so is mama.  

Praise God from whom all blessings flow! (Psalm 100)



Wednesday, July 23, 2008

A New Solar Wax Melter













Over the past few months, my bees have built comb in unusual shapes and in spaces where I don't want them to build.  During each inspection, I've made it a habit to remove this 'burr comb' and keep it.  Initially, I didn't know what I was going to do with it.  I kept it in a sealed, plastic container.  Keep in mind, some of this comb has eggs, larvae, and pupae in it, so it can get quite rank after a few days.

So, after researching my options on what to do with all of this stuff, which I did not want to waste, I decided to build a solar wax melter.  I found some very simple plans for a small, cheap, and easy to use wax melter.  Materials include a cooler, a piece of glass, a container with water, a paper towel, and a rubber band.  

The premise of this contraption is that the sun will heat the air and comb, the wax will drain through the paper towel, and the water will keep the wax from sticking to the bottom container.

I also consulted two trusted advisors (one my dad, a chemist, and the other my boss, an engineer).  I believe that the thermal value is most efficient with one simple piece of glass.  I did have doubts about the paper towel holding up, as did the engineer I consulted, but after three successful melts, it does not tear and holds up fine.

Bees wax melts at about 145' F and so at the end of the day you end up with burnt, nasty blobs of bee goo and in the bottom container, there floating on the water is beautiful filtered bees wax.

You can find plans to make your own here.  Total cost was under $6.00.  They retail for over $300.  Of course, these are wooden and have metal drip pans.  Mine works just as well, just on a smaller scale.




Tracking Bees

This evening, while sitting outside on the back patio, I saw some honeybees giving my hummingbird feeder a good workover.  Several bees were lapping up the sweet red sugar water and returning to their hive (somewhere east) via flying in between my and my neighbors house.  

I decided to try a little experiment and doused the bees with powdered sugar.  I wanted to see if the same bees were returning to the feeder.  Sure enough, I saw the same bees coming back, time and time again.  

The kids thought this was pretty cool.  So did I.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Adding Second Super

Date: July 10, 2008
Time: 2:30 PM
Weather: Mid 80's, No Wind

I added the second super to Genesis today.  Not much else is happening.  I'm still working on finding a way to build my own hives.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Trying to Build a Nuc

Ok, so for the last week or so, I've been trying to build a nuc hive.  I have a lot of tools, but my table saw, which I'm using to cut box joints, doesn't want to cooperate.

First, i tried to build a jig to make my box joint cuts easier and more accurate.  Then, after realizing that things could go easier with a dado blade, I decided to check into that.  The arbor on my saw blade is too short, so no dado blade can be used.

Next, I tried using my router with a 3/4" bit, but the wood likes to chip out.  So, that seems to be out.

Next, I'll look at buying the aluminum box jig and trying that with my saw.  If that doesn't work, I may have to look at stepping up in saw.  Well, funny how it works because it's still cheaper than buying hives.  I'd still rather build them myself and I'm not giving up just yet.

It's just frustrating...but as I told my older son, if it was easy, it wouldn't be worthwhile.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Next Year's Plans

I'm already thinking about next year and if I want to increase the number of hives I manage. Realistically, I'd like to add at least one more hive, possibly two, but as other beekeepers know, equipment is expensive. I'm just hoping that I can break even this year with a little honey from my two existing hives. That's why this weekend I stated building a nuc hive. I thought I'd give it a try. The cost is exponentially cheaper and with the help of my woodworking neighbor, I think I just may be able to build them myself.

Another question is where to put any new hives. I'm sure I'd have no trouble adding them to my existing beeyard plot, but a little closer to home would also be nice. I'll have to think on that one for awhile.

I'm just hoping that I can break even this year with a little honey from my two existing hives.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

'Exodus' Videos

Here are two short videos I shot of 'Exodus'. I really like the idea of taking video of the hives and will have to think about developing this further.

Orientation Flights and Entrance:
video

Top of the Brood Frames:
video

Hive Check

Date:  Thursday, June 19, 2008
Time:  1:30 PM
Weather:  77', Slight Wind

I stopped by the hives today to pick up the bottom boards, feeders, and completely remove the entrance reducers.  The colonies should now be strong enough to defend themselves as well as utilize the larger entrance for better ventilation.

Both hives had great activity outside the hives with lots of bees taking orientation flights and foragers  returning from gathering nectar and pollen.  I saw several bees with full pollen sacks in each hive.  

I only checked the honey supers and the top brood boxes, of which neither hive had any evidence of drawing out comb.  Each hive had strong brood patterns, eggs, and lots of activity in the honey portion of the frames.  In the Genesis hive, I switched the end frames to encourage more building on the remaining portions that had not been built upon.

I'm not sure how the cooler weather we've been having (low 50's and high 70's) will affect the honey flow, but I'm pleased with the health and progress of each hive.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Great News, Varroa Analysis

I received word back from Dr. Tom Webster from Kentucky State University.  Here is his e-mail:

Darcy,

These sticky board counts look pretty good. They come to 26 per day and 10 per day. If the counts come to 50 per day or higher be aware that they are getting in the danger zone.

The fall of mites is higher during very hot weather (above 90, as we have had recently). If your sticky boards were in the hives during this hot spell, the numbers will give you over-estimates. In other words, the mite populations are not as high as they appear to be.

Are you using screened bottom boards? If not, I recommend that you get some and swap them for the solid bottom boards. This is a good way to get rid of live mites that fall from the bees. And they are especially useful during hot spells when the mites tend to lose their grip on the bees.

Also, you do not need to feed syrup now. The bees have had plenty of time to find flowers and there is a good honey flow on in most parts of the state.

Tom


So, I'm in good shape.  I'll continue to monitor the Varroa Counts.  I'm thrilled that my supers are on and the bees are now busy collecting my honey. 

Friday, June 13, 2008

Varroa Sticky Board Test Results

I stopped by the hives after work today.  Both hives had bees busily milling about at the entrances.  I simply slid out the screened bottom board from the back of each hive and headed home to check the results.  Using my fly-fishing magnifying glass my oldest son and I counted each sticky board. 

Here are the 48 hour test results: Genesis: 52 Exodus: 20












Here's another close up of the mites.  They are the oval dark buggers.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Installation of Screened Bottom Boards

Temperature:  Mid 80's
Weather: Sunny, Slight Wind
Time:  2:00pm

Today was the first day in quite a while that my schedule and the weather synced up and allowed me to install the screened bottom board as a defense against Varroa.

Genesis and Exodus were both abuzz with activity.  Bees were busy flying to and fro.  The syrup feeders were both completely empty and lots of burr comb was built up in between the screen and the frames.  The bees didn't even seem to notice me while I was doing the inspection.  Eight out of the ten frames in the new chambers either had honey or capped brood in it.  Some of the frames were very heavy, laden with honey for the bees.  I checked out all twenty frames, never seeing the queen, but plenty of eggs, larva, and signs of a strong queen.  The brood pattern looked good.  Most of the frames in the bottom brood chambers were empty and the bees seemed to be cleaning them out or repacking them with...pollen?

The only thing  that got the bees stirred up was me taking apart their whole hive to install the screened bottom boards.  It only took a few minutes, but the bees were flying all around and surely would have stung if I was not in my full bee suit.

Since the second brood chambers were full, I removed the syrup feeders and added queen excluders and a honey super (this will be be where the honey that I take is stored by the bees).

I installed a 'sticky-board' to conduct the 48hr test and will send the results to the state apiarist, Phil Craft.

It's just my observation, but Exodus now seems just as strong in temperament, building levels, and population as Genesis.  Perhaps the funk they were in is over, perhaps not.  Whatever it is, it looks like it just may shape up to be a good honey year.


Here's a short clip of Genesis I took with the Flip-Video camera.

video

Monday, June 9, 2008

I'm in the Local Paper

On Sunday, June 8, 2008 I made it on the front page of the local section of the Cincinnati Enquirer. I'm quite proud of that. My mother-in-law gets the credit for taking the picture.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Northern Kentucky Beekeepers Meeting

Tonight I attended the Northern Kentucky Beekeepers meeting at the local extension office.  There were about 25 people there, although not all of them beekeepers.

It was great meeting all of the local beekeepers and I was encouraged by the willingness to assist new beekeepers such as myself.

It was a coincidence because Phil Craft, the Kentucky State Aparist, was there to discuss Varroa and treatment options.  Wow!  I could not have planned it better.  Phil went through a great presentation and discussion about Varroa.  It was just what I needed.  He also answered some basic questions I had about inspecting the hive and how to best accomplish it.

I highly recommend getting to know other beekeepers in the area.  I think building those relationships will prove invaluable in the future.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Letter to the Editor of Bee Culture Magazine

Bee Culture magazine is a great resource for beginners.  I've had my subscription since early this year and always look forward to reading each issue cover-to-cover.  Once and a while, I feel compelled to comment on an article(s) I read.  Tonight was just such a time.  So, I sent the following e-mail to the editor;


In Defense of Chemicals

I’ll preface this by saying that I am a first-year beekeeper, and quite possibly, very naive when it comes to the long-term issues regarding the use of chemical treatments. I’m also a hobby beekeeper which means that my two hives aren’t going to break me financially if things go bad. That being said, I’m simply astonished by the overwhelming ‘hysteria’ and negative stigma that chemical treatments get. Those who decry treating with anything less that a full ‘organic’ or mechanical means must surely must know that hiving bees in wooden boxes is just as ‘unnatural’. Has the global warming fervor of ‘natural at all costs’ despite proof spilled over into beekeeping as well? Or perhaps a better analogy would be those who don’t believe in inoculating humans against diseases such as smallpox, measles, etc. because it too is unnatural. As a beginning beekeeper with numerous questions about how to keep healthy bees, I implore those who truly know the science to step forward and raise up the knowledge base of the next generation of beekeepers.

Darcy Pach
Burlington, KY
www.nkybeekeeper.com


Thursday, May 29, 2008

Preparing to Attack

After getting my response from Phil Craft, the Kentucky State Apiarist about my Varroa problem, I have formulated my plan of attack against the little mites that would, if left alone, be a death sentence to my hive(s).

Phil suggested that I conduct a 'stick board' test to count the mites.  I'll use Apigaurd, a chemical treatment that is safe for the bees and humans.  This will knock out some of the mites and allow me to count the dead ones to give a rough estimate of the level of infestation.

After that, my plan of attack is as follows;

First, I'll be installing a screened bottom board to help keep mites that are groomed off the bees from crawling back up into the hive.  The mites fall down through a screen and cannot physically crawl back into the brood chamber where the bees live.  

Second, based on the test results and mite count, I will either dust them with powdered sugar (this encourages grooming and the loosening of mites), or I'll go ahead with a full chemical treatment.

Third, I'll continue to test and count mites to monitor levels.

After about four days of research, I've realized that mites are a factor that most beekeepers have to deal with.  Levels can be controlled through various chemical and mechanical methods.  It seems that the key is early detection and monitoring.  So far, I feel a little ahead of the curve and feel like I caught it early enough.

I can't stress enough the importance of having good resources to lean on.  Thank you Phil for your prompt response (even on a holiday).

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Varroa Update

This evening, my sons and I got out the microscope their nana had given them (thanks nana).  We poked around in several of the chunks of burr comb containing larvae and confirmed the Varroa mite infestation.  Here are a few pictures that I sent to Phil Craft, the Kentucky State Apiarist asking for his advice.



Varroa Destructor

Yesterday, while examining a few of the odd pieces of burr comb, I came across a section that was full of larvae.  Being a little curious I tore the front cover off and out oozed an immature bee.  Along with the bee I spotted a Varroa mite!   As soon as I saw it, I knew exactly what it was and I completely forgot to write about finding it.

Now, here is where I'll begin my research on treating this.  My first thought is that it's not too bad since I'm not taking any honey yet and it's early in the season.  But, I'll have to check on that.

This picture is from the Wikipedia.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Lots to Report

Date: Saturday, May 24, 2008, Time: 1:30pm
Temperature: Mid 70's, 
Weather: Sunny, slight breeze

We just returned back from checking on the hives. It's the first time looking 'under the hood' since installing the second brood box. My oldest son came with me today. He was just too excited that I didn't have a chance to adjust his helmet, oh well. He looks great anyway!

Genesis - This hive was a true buzz of activity. Just look at the picture. Bees were everywhere, flying to and fro. Plenty of activity and the bees were full of pollen upon their return. Very little, if any syrup has been taken. The bees appear to be well fed elsewhere. They had build out about three frames of the second box and started on several other frames in the second box. The first box was about 70% full. Newly hatched bees had left their abodes and were part of the explosive population growth that appears to have taken place.




The only problem with this hive is the burr comb that the bees had built between the middle frames linking box one and box two. It's a sticky, nasty mess, that when I scrape it off, I kill and anger bees. Here are two pictures of what I'm dealing with. There were plenty of larvae, eggs, and evidence of an otherwise strong hive. Adjusted entrance reducer to larger, 4", setting.



Exodus - On the other hand, and in stark contrast to Genesis, the bees in Exodus were barely visible. There were bees flying in and out of the hive, but none hanging around like on Genesis. I should have snapped a picture so you could see the difference. Similarly, the bees had build out the same amount of comb on the second box, and again, had build a fair bit of burr comb between the first and second box frames. The bees had not taken any syrup. Again, plenty of evidence of eggs, larvae, and recently hatched baby bees. One interesting observation in this hive was the 'sawdust' looking powder on the rear (from the entrance) bottom board. I wonder what that is. Pollen? I'll have to read up on that and inquire with some of my beekeeper friends. Adjusted entrance reducer to larger, 4" setting".

I've said from the start that this hive is radically different from Genesis. The bees build comb different and have a different temperament, yet seem to be at the same place as Genesis, despite their outward behavior. I'm really glad that I went with two hives this year, despite being a little more work, it is beneficial to see the differences in the two.

Lessons Learned: Keep removing burr comb, no matter how much of a task it is.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Fill'er Up

Date: Saturday, May 18, 2008
Temperature: Mid 60's
Weather: Sunny, windy
Time: 3:30pm

After the week of cool weather and rain, I decided to stop by the hives and check on the syrup levels. Neither looked like they had really been touched, but I ended up adding one gallon to each hive anyway.

Both hives had good activity. Genesis had some bees hanging out on the outside between the brood chambers. One strange thing, outside of Genesis, there were hundreds of pollen packings dropped on the ground. I'm not sure what's up, but it seems like a waste to me. Perhaps I should invest in a pollen trap next year.

Exodus had a little less activity and I had to pull the entrance reducer back out. It looks like it had been blown in by some wind, creating a larger space for the bees to enter.

Currently Blooming: Black Locust Trees, Honeysuckle, Lavender, Strawberries, Rasberries, and blackberries.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Week 3.5 - Fourth Hive Check

Today I got to visit the hives for the fourth time.

Temperature: Mid 60's
Weather: Sunny, slight wind
Time: 5:30pm

#1 - 'Genesis' - Some minor activity outside the hive . Bees returning to hive with full pollen sacks. No Activity on frames 1,2, 9, 10. Minor activity on frames 3, 7. Capped brood, pollen, and honey on 4,5,6. Frames continue getting heavier. Continued nice larvae and egg development. Did not see the queen (is she really there?). Feeder has not been being fed on. Added one gallon of syrup. Added second brood chamber.

#2 - 'Exodus' - Half the activity of hive # 1 outside upon arrival. After working with 'Genesis' I noticed no activity on the outside of this hive and had a slight moment of panic (CCD?), then realized it was getting late in the day. As compared to 'Genesis' this hive has considerably less activity inside hive. Not so much in numbers, but overall. Bees also seem a little smaller than other hive. After several trips to the hive, I am now convinced of this. No more droppings on hive enterance or on top of frames. Still no activity on frames 1,2, 9,10. Lots of burr comb throughout hive, especially leading up to feeder from top frames, what a mess. Emptied feeder, scraped burr comb out, and added fresh gallon of syrup. Feeder has not been being fed on. Comb being drawn out nicely on 4,5,6. Capping of honey on top and outside edges of hive. Several flying in my face to investigate me, similar to last week. Seemed slightly more aggressive than #1. Added second brood chamber.

I believe that this hive is suffering from something. Either it's due to me originally installing 9 frames or something biological. These bees just seem slower, smaller, more aggressive, and slower builders, except for burr comb.

I did manage to get my smoker going much better with a little newspaper, smaller twigs, and a little patience.

Lessons Learned:
Don't visit the hives late in the day.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Three Weeks of Beekeeping

After three weeks of beekeeping I feel like I’m getting the hang of it. Not that there’s a lot to do, it’s just knowing what to do and when to do it that seems to be the biggest issue for a beginner.

For example, in the first three week period I’ve had to ‘redo’ two things on my hives. The first was reconfiguring the entrance reducer to its proper setting for a new colony. The second was remove the nine frame spacers and change from a nine frame brood chamber to the standard ten frame. The entrance reducer was an easy fix and simple to fix. I don’t think that there were any ill effects from this simple mistake. The second, confusing a nine frame brood box with a nine frame super was the result of me confusing a statement made at the recent beekeeping school I attended. Right off the bat, I noticed that this hive had a lot of burr comb, was more aggressive, and its population seemed to be lower than the ten frame hive. It too was an easy fix, but I think it may have been a little more traumatic to the bees. I had to remove the frames, remove the spacer, and then add back the frames. All the while, bees were flying everywhere, and hopefully, I didn’t smash the queen in the process. I did add the tenth frame and quickly shut up the hive. I believe all will be well.

Another important lesson I’m learning is just how many opinions (as there are in most things) about the ‘right’ way to do things. There are lots of opinions about this and that, but I’ve found that sticking to the mainstream methods for the first year is probably best. Again, the nine vs. ten frame issue comes to mind. Having a plan, before going out to the hives, preparing for what I may find, preparing equipment, and taking care of issues when they arise seems to be the best method.

I’ve also found that having a few other beekeepers as resources is a good idea. I am planning on meeting up with the members of the local beekeeping club in the next few weeks. I talked with the head of the club and her few probing questions made me realize what a valuable resource she will be in the future when I do have questions or problems. I’ve also made it a point to follow a few beekeeping bloggers on the internet. Again, more opinions, but I’m also not limiting myself to the ‘local’ knowledge base either.

In summary, I’m finding out that patience and knowledge go hand-in-hand and when caring for bees and that decisive action, attention to details, and simple observation are key to ‘managing’ hives. It’s a lot easier that I thought and I’m a lot more confident in my abilities to read the signs. I’d recommend that a new beekeeper become familiar with some of the basic techniques of doing this, either by learning from others, or by reading, all the while keeping in mind that there are as many opinions out there are there are beekeepers.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Week Three - 3rd Hive Check

Today I got to visit the hives for the third time.

Temperature: Low 70's
Weather: Sunny, slight wind

#1 - 10 Frame Hive -Lots of activity outside the hive. Bees returning to hive with full pollen sacks (yellow and red). Minor activity on frames 1,2,3,8,9,10. Comb being drawn out nicely on 4,5,6. Frames getting much heavier. Good brood and honey capping. Good brood pattern. Nice larvae and egg development. Did not see the queen. Bees bubbling out of the top of hive. Feeder has been being fed on. Need to add syrup next week.



#2 - 9 Frame Hive (Now 10 frame hive) - Half the activity of hive # 1 outside. Bees returning to hive with full pollen sacks (multi-color). Less activity inside hive. Seemed a little lethargic. Still no activity on frames 1,2,3,8,9,10. Lots of burr comb throughout hive. Comb being drawn out nicely on 4,5,6. Capping of honey on top and outside edges of hive. Several flying in my face to investigate me. Seemed more aggressive than #1. Removed frames, removed 9 space divider, added tenth frame. Feeder has been being fed on. Need to add syrup next week. Similar to last week, attempted sting on gloves.

Lessons Learned
Brood Box - Never use nine frames in brood box.