Monday, July 2, 2012

Bees Love the Corn

I was in the garden early in the morning this past Sunday and there was a roar of bees coming from the corn. They really like the pollen from the corn tassles. My wife is afraid that the bees will steal all the pollen and leave us with substandard ears of corn.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Package Installation Day

I spent the day yesterday picking up package bees and installing them in waiting hives. I have seven hives that need bees and pre-ordered five packages last fall. I'll have to do some splits to fill out the other two hives.

Three of the target hives. They were prepared in advance with frames of pollen, drawn comb, and a small amount of honey to get them started. I just have to hang the queen in the middle and dump the bees out into the hive.
I can fit three hives comfortably on an this eight foot long rack. I have space between to park supers and covers while I work.
These bees had been driving all day in the back of the truck and were a little testy by the time I got them in the hive. Now they can settle in and make a new home for themselves. They are flying about here finding their way in and orienting themselves to their new location.
I finished painting the last of the 50 supers I bought last fall and assembled over winter. Since they have brand new foundation I just store them out in the beeyard for easy access.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Swarm Queen and Hatching Queen

I captured a swarm back on March 20 and put them into an empty hive I wanted to rebuild. I found this nice fat queen a few days later and marked her.
The hive is just going nuts with bees and brood. The queen appears to be very vigorous and is filling out frames. My only regret is that these bees are very mean tempered and will come out to molest the beekeeper.
In another hive, I accidentally crushed the queen manipulating the frames. I was lucky that I noticed it and could take action. The next day I found swarm cells in another hive that is full of bees and stole this frame plus several others filled with brood and nurse bees and moved them into this queenless hive. I'm hoping I took the swarm pressure off the other hive with those empty frames I put back in there.
In the queenless hive the queen cells are about ready to hatch. One of them is even hatching as I took the picture as you can see a hole in the side. I'm keeping my fingers crossed for this hive but my concern is that I haven't seen that many drones around.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Bees and Comb

The three hives I still have on the hillside are just going crazy with bees. I opened this one up and found lots of bees and comb being drawn in the feeding space.
I don't know where they are getting the honey from unless they found a feral hive somewhere and are robbing it. I don't think they are robbing my other hives. This honey has a bitter taste to it but it's still good.

Upper view of the comb being drawn on the underside of the inner cover. There's bees all over the place.

This is the hive right next to the one with the comb. There are tons of bees and they are starting to draw out some comb also. They had completely consumed the bee candy I left for them last time. I put more candy up here but it seems they have found a food source somewhere.
 Why would they be doing this so soon in the season?? These hives are going to have to be split come March/April.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Still Here

We are still here! It's been a busy few months since the last post. I sold my house of many years and moved closer to the bees while we construct a new home right at the beeyard!

This is the field beeyard about 100 yards away from the new house. I built new racks to mount the hives that I am going to restart this spring. They still have to be sunk into the ground.

So far this season I am down to nine hives that are still alive. I lost two of them recently where the bees were dead and still clustered. It looks like starvation even though there was a super full of honey above.

I had some material and decided to build this utility rack. It's made of 2x4 material and is light enough I can pick it up and move it. I can drag it behind the hives I am working and stack supers or work frames at a comfortable height. It's 24 inches high so no more bending and setting supers on the ground.

Standing at the house construction site. The apiary is visible from the house. This will be a short walk when I need to work bees.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Purple Honey

I was working the hives this past week and discovered several frames of capped honey. The bees were filling the space between the frames with comb and when I broke it open the honey inside had a purple tint to it. The only thing in bloom right now is the Kudzu Vine with its' purple flowers. Finally something good comes from Kudzu!

Of course I had to take several samples to see what it tasted like and let me tell you it is very delicious. I was able to pull out 12 frames of this stuff and bring it home to extract it. I ended up with a half bucket of the stuff. This is good timing as we are having a honey sample tasting at the club meeting this week.

Check out the pictures.
Broken comb with a purple tint.

You can see it here in the white bucket.

Field Apiary Video

I took a few minutes and made a short video of the new apiary in the field. Enjoy!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Split Progress

I went through the three splits yesterday evening. According to my bee math yesterday would have been nine days since I released the queen back on July 13th.

True to that timeline I saw lots of open brood and eggs and also capped brood. Only a few were capped, but with the number of open larvae that will quickly change. The queen must have started laying as soon as she was released.

I found all of the queens. I know right where to go where I expect to see brood and without fail that's where they are. They were all looking very good...

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Split Success(Now I Know)

I released new queens into three splits this past Wednesday three days ago. I went through all three of the splits today looking for either egg laying or the queens themselves. I sure have been lucky lately as I found all three of the plump queens wandering around on a frame. They were all alive and well! The splits are a success.

I should start seeing emerging bees sometime around August 4th. I'm hoping that in the third hive I looked at the new bees from theses queens are gentler than the ones that came from the old hive. They were all over me as dug deeper into the hive looking for eggs. I was stung several times in my shoulder but after the first two just winced a little with each attack and kept going.

I was cleaning out a bluebird box today and irritated a wasp nest that was in the top of the box. One of them came out and hit me on the wrist. It hurt for a minute but now several hours later I can barely tell where the sting is other than the little mark it left.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Split Success(I Think)

I split three hives back on July 2. See previous entry for how I set this up in advance. Here is the latest status.

After one day, of the three hives two of them still had a good many bees. One of the hives appears to have lost half of its bees back to the old hive about 1000 feet away. I cured this by robbing two frames of capped brood and moving it into the depleted split to grow the population.

On this same day(queenless for over 24 hours) I introduced new queens into the hives. These are the golden queens from Koehnen in California. I opened the cages and allowed the attendant bees to escape. I then replaced the corks. I do not allow the bees to release the queens. I like to have control of this myself(control freak that I am).

I checked back in four days and the bees were still all over the cage. Not good. I waited two more days and observed the same thing. I decided to move the queens into these frame length introduction cages(in picture) which have alot more surface area for the queen to communicate and come back mid week to give them a few more days with the queen. Sorry for the pic quality. All I had was my iPhone.

Well tonight I was pleased to see that only a few bees were crawling on the cages and they had all built these little beards of comb underneath the cage under the queen. Great! This is what I am looking for. I went ahead and opened the hatch to allow the queens to escape. I'll check back this weekend to see if the queens are laying and hopefully find them still alive...

Friday, July 1, 2011

Preparing to Split

Hive broken down

I spent the past weekend prepping three hives on the hill to split. I have four fresh bottom boards waiting for bees out in the field. The fourth will get bees from the field hives. I have four caged queens being nursed in a nuc box waiting for their big day.
 My strategy here was to break down the hives look for the queen and put her in the bottom boxes below an excluder. I found her in all three hives! Now all I have to do this weekend is pull off the boxes above the excluder and go!!

Hive broken down

This hive had seven mediums full of P.O. bees. Lucky for me I found the queen in the fourth box and stopped. Look at those bees boiling out of that hive! There was tons of brood in here. This queen has been busy.    
Queen excluder in place. Split to be placed on top.
Queen safely set aside. She is huge!

Another 50 or so Pounds

OK, This is getting out of hand. I was in my hives last weekend and discovered more honey! I've got a little Sourwood blooming around my place but didn't think it was enough to amount to much. Wrong!!

I pulled out 18 medium frames and extracted this week. It almost filled a five gallon bucket. I have run out of containers and will have to get more.

I put in some fresh foundation. We'll see what I find this weekend.

Nice color

Perfect Capping

Friday, June 24, 2011

What Once Were Nucs are now 10 Frame

Things were getting a little tight in the new apiary so I decided to build and install a new hive rack. I want to split some older hives on the hill and move the splits here. Also the three nucs that I started from packages were busting out so I upgraded two of them to 10 frame. 

Nucs upgraded to 10 frame

The short hives on the left are the 10 frame hives resulting from the upgrade. I had stacked the nucs four high and they were becoming unstable so I had no choice but to go to larger digs.
The bees that went into these nucs were from packages that were not wanted by the buyers so I used nucs in case they changed their minds later and wanted the bees. They never did so now I have them.

Additional rack installed on right

You can see the old nuc boxes on the new hive rack on the right. The racks are 2x6 lumber, eight feet long, 20 inches deep(front to back) and 18 inches high. The legs are about 12 inches deep in the ground. The rack will hold four hives.
They are very solid. You could do a River Dance on them with no problem.

Retired Nucs

These are the now empty nucs facing backward sitting on the new rack. These are handy boxes to have around.

Drive space behind hives

I'm trying to keep a drive space between the tree line and the back of the hives. This lets me drive the truck right up to where I need to be so I can work off the tailgate of the truck. Nice, nice, very nice...

Note on the right I have that one remaining nuc to transition into a 10 frame. I didn't have enough supers to pull it off last weekend so it had to wait.
So much to do...

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Honey Extraction

After pulling off all those frames of honey it was time for step two. I anticipated getting a bit more honey this year than last so I invested in my own extractor and uncapping tank. I'm glad I took the plunge. Having my own equipment has allowed me to work on this at night after work at my convenience. Even with the extractor this is a long process and does not go quickly.

This was a good year. I was able to extract about 16 gallons(192 lbs) of honey. Step three will be to bottle the honey once it settles in the bottling buckets.

This is the capping tank with uncapped frames waiting for the extractor. I have accumulated a nice pile of cappings there in the tank. This will spawn another process of melting down all the wax in the solar melter.

Among all the frames most were filled with a light color honey. I had a few though that were very dark. I believe this to be Tulip Poplar based on the strong taste. I wish I had a couple of supers of this as it really tastes good. It will just have to mix it with the other for generic wildflower honey. 

This is the extractor I purchased. It's a Maxant 3100P. That little motor on top has been a good friend. I could not imagine having to hand spin all these frames with the club's manual extractor.

The 3100P will hold 9 frames if you pack them in with three loaded tangentially. I found it is best to run with just six frames to prevent an unbalanced load and higher spin speed. I can let this run for a half hour or so and get the frames nice and clean.

Here is a quick video of the Maxant in action.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Honey Harvest and Hive Combo

Good grief this season is speeding by! Between work, garden, and bees just trying to have a life in the few off hours is difficult at best, but the payoffs are rolling in with veggies, berries, and honey! I got to spend the entire day this past Sunday working in the bees - a rare treat even with the extreme heat.

This is site with the new hives for 2011. I have five here that I started back in April from packages. They are going great. There are three bottom boards and covers waiting for splits from the other site on the hill. 
Eventually all my hives will be here. This is much easier to manage than the other site on the hill.
 This is one of many wet honey frames from last week's extraction. I take them back to the bees and put them in a super above an inner cover to to let them clean them out. I'll take them off next time I am here.

Two supers setup for clean up.

This is a combination I made last week of a queenless hive with another queenright hive using paper to separate them.

I was surprised to see every bit of the paper inside the hive has been eaten away! Nothing left. It must have worked. Now I have one big hive.

Payday! I went through my last two good hives looking for honey and I was able to pull out 39 frames. I could not find lucky number 40. 

Here are the 39 frames in four supers sitting on an inner cover and a towel on top to keep out curious bees.

This hive was the worst. These bees were not happy with me taking their stuff. It was hot and they were all over me.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Sw-armed and Dangerous

I got a call from my club's swarm co-ordinator that there was a swarm in someone's backyard in my assigned coverage area. Finally! I was about to settle in for the evening but now I had a swarm to catch! Minor matters like dinner and drinks would have to wait. Honey, I'll be back before dark...

I called the contact and he described them as a golden orb hanging on a tree branch that could be reached easily and were about 7ft off the ground. Good grief could this get any better? I got called earlier this year only to discover ground bees. With gas at $4.00/gallon you can't afford to not ask the right questions.

I had everything ready in my garage. I just recently bought one of the John Jones Super Deluxe Swarm Device and a long pole. I also had a poor little nuc box that I have been carrying back and forth between my bee yard and home in the event I discover a swarm out there. Of course my beekeeper tools always move with me in case someone calls me needing help or an actual swarm call comes in.

The only thing I did not have that I wish I had brought was a syrup sprayer. I had the homeowner make up two cups of 1:1 for me and I soaked a clean cloth into it and wetted down the bees from below which is difficult to do by wringing the cloth and shaking it up at the same time. That worked to some extent but a sprayer would have been the bees knees and I wouldn't have syrup in my face and glasses! I would have been able to spray down the entire cluster and knock them off right into the swarm catcher and into the nuc. Without it I was having to wait for the bees to stop flying and knock them off into the container of syrup and then scoop them out and into the nuc -very time consuming. I got most of them this way though.

I also ended up doing some minor tree work and cut down a piece of the dead tree they were hanging on. I then cut out the piece of the tree where they were hanging and building comb and dropped it into the nuc box also. I hope this will make them feel at home. I stuffed the entrance with a piece of cloth and took the cloth soaked in syrup and tossed it into the nuc to give them something to nibble on.

I brought the nuc home, constantly looking out the rear view mirror for the sight of bees flying around indicating that the nuc box might have slipped off the bottom board or tilted over. I made it home with no problems and placed the nuc on the deck of my house. I removed the cloth from the entrance and a few minutes later they were out exploring the new home. I checked again just before dark and I could hear them inside hopefully abuzz with delight with the cool digs and fresh syrup I gave them.

You can see a short video here of the swarm:

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Another Bee Documentary

I received an email asking me to promote on my website a new movie documentary called Queen of The Sun: What are the Bees Telling Us? You can go to the website and see the trailer and screening dates here:

I like documentaries. I watched the trailer and this one appears to be something I would like to watch. Unfortunately it is not scheduled to screen anywhere in the South East United States except for Miami. As I usually do I'll wait for Amazon or Netflix to catch this one.

If someone actaully sees this movie please send me a review. I'd love to hear about it.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

The Great Solar Wax Melter Day

I was actually at home this weekend after a full week of vacation working bees and the garden at my farm. The forecast called for full sun so I decided to setup the solar wax melter and work on this pile of foundation remnants with old comb that I had laying around from the deep frame conversion to mediums.

Foundation remnants of old comb.

Melter in full sun.

After scraping the comb off the plastic foundation I placed each clump into its own space to catch as much heat as possible. This works better than large compressed balls like in the bottom left corner. They melt but it takes longer and wax in the middle of the ball does not get hot enough. 
Those dark patches are the skeletons of the comb after the wax has melted away.

Capture pot.

The screen catches most of the debris allowing clear wax to flow into the pot. Warning: the wax in the pot is HOT! Just trust me on that.

Candy thermometer.

I placed my candy thermometer inside to monitor the temp. It got to 160F when the sun was shining on it. Ambient temp outside was around 82F.
Final output.

These blocks actually look pretty good, not good enough for a contest, but clean enough that they can be reprocessed in the electric wax melter without gumming it up.
There is a little pocket of honey that gets trapped in the bottom of the block since any left in the combs get super heated and flows like the wax down into the pot. It easily washes away with water after the block cools.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Yep, It's Officially Queenless

I have a hive that went queenless a while back. Eactly one week ago I dropped in a healthy frame of larvae and eggs into the hive to see if they would make a queen cell.

Well now I know. They built a queen cell all right, but only one! I thought they might make several.
I carefully replaced the frame to make sure I didn't break it open. I added a couple of frames of capped brood from the other healthy hives so they will have plenty of new bees to keep the population up.

Queen cell.

Here is the capped cell. This must have happened in the last two days. I am expecting this queen to emerge somewhere around April 30th.
There are plenty of drones around so she needs to get out of that cell and get busy!

I wish her the best.

Mentoring a New Beek

I agreed to participate in the bee club's Mentoring Program this year. Most of the contacts have been by phone or email but one of the new beekeepers invited me to his place to guide him in releasing queens for the packages he installed a week ago. Of course!
I got to Bill's place around 9am. It was a bit cool so the bees were not flying. In hindsight we could have done the whole thing without even a veil because they were so calm but we had full gear and a smoker on the ready.

Cool hive stand.

Bill and I talked about many things from smoker fuel to feeding to hive beetles. There is just so much to cover when you're new. He has certainly done his homework and built a good base of knowledge.  
Bill is in the construction business and has a workshop at home. He built this cool hive stand that has drawers to go under the hives to close off the screen bottoms or to do mite counts. The ends of the rail have metal guides to hang frames out of the way. He also built those jar feeder stands.


Queen cage surrounded by new comb.

Bill has all new equipment so this foundation was bare a week ago. The bees built all this comb around the queen cage in preparation for her release. Bill was amazed at how heavy the frames were with all the nectar being stored in them.

Newly marked queen released into the hive.
 After marking the queen in the queen cage she was released into hive. She should be easy to find with that bright white spot on her thorax.

Practice mark on a worker bee.

I had Bill try marking a worker bee with the marking pen. A drone would have been better but there are not yet any in the hive. We had to sacrifice her to make sure she didn't fly back in the hive and cause confusion.