If you are interested in becoming a beekeeper, or you want to become a better beekeeper, join me for thoughts on beekeeping in the news, honeybee research, book and equipment reviews, interviews, and other beekeeping topics.

Subscribe in iTunes

Subscribe in Zune

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

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. 

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)

Total Count - 494
Daily Calculated Fall Rate - 98.8
Hourly Calculated Fall Rate - 4.11
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.