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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.  


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.