Friday, September 7, 2012

Following Up

About ten days ago I had placed an Api Life Var wafer onto my hive (broken into four separate pieces) along with a section of pollen patty. I have now gone back into my hive to replace the wafer with a new one and to check on my bees. When I took off my inner cover, I was not overly pleased. The pollen patty that I had put onto my hive was severally infested with small hive beetle larva and I had to go on a killing spree, killing about 20 beetles. I do have to admit that most of the beetles were hiding in corners but with the amount of larva and beetles that were in the hive top feeder, I took it off and set it to the side to deal with later.

Pollen Patty with Hive Beetle Larva

Hive Beetles Hiding in a Corner
I had only added half of a patty thinking that my bees would devour through it in no time but now that it is filled with larva, it is trash.I was told that I had added too much of the pollen patty and that if I were to continue feeding with them, I only needed to add small chunks at a time. 

Going deeper into my hive seemed to be a lot better. Still a lot of bees and a good brood pattern. When I got down to the bottom brood chamber, the wafer I had broken up and placed on my hive was completely gone. Broke up a new wafer and applied it to the four corners of the brood chamber and closed up my hive.

Broken Wafer on the Corner of a Brood Chamber
Another 7 to 10 days and I apply my last wafer for mite treatment. Everything is looking good except for the abundance of small hive beetles.

I hate dealing with Pests!

Friday, August 31, 2012

Treating My Girls For Mites

Now that the Honey Harvest is finished for my hive, I am beginning to prepare for fall. I had previously reduced the main entrance and closed off the upper entrance to help prevent robbing bees from entering my hive. Using a wooden hive top feeder, I have begun to feed my bees sugar water (2:1 ratio of sugar to water) mixed with the feeding stimulant Honey-B-Healthy. They have taken to the feed and I am checking on it every week ( so far I have added 3 gallons).

Looking into a Hive

Last time I was in my hive, I went through all the brood chamber, checking for eggs and making sure there was a decent brood pattern. I was somewhat disappointed to find that only the bottom two brood chambers had larva and eggs. I have a third brood chamber, mostly filled with honey, and above that, lays a honey super below my hive top feeder. While feeding my bees, I was hoping that the added food would implement laying from my queen.

I rotated my upper two supers, thinking that she might not have room to lay with the frames in the third brood chamber being mostly honey. While I was in my hive, I was thoroughly inspecting my bees for any deformity in their wings or visible mites. During my inspection I noticed some of my bees had smaller spread wings where as the normal bee would have their wings flat against their back. My next task was to check my mite count and see if I needed to treat.

Photo By: Lazy B Farm
My bees were not to this extent but you could see a slight difference between them and the norm.

After using a corex sheet in my IPM bottom board, I was relieved to have a mite count below the average 40 to 50 mites but I thought it best to still treat. The recommended treatment from other beekeepers was Api life Var. This treatment comes in a pack of two wafers (strong odor and should be handled with gloves), with one wafer being used per hive. 

Api life Var Package

After opening the package, I took one wafer and broke it up into four separate pieces to go on the four corners of my brood chamber. For the treatment to work properly, I needed to place these four pieces on top of my bottom brood chamber and close up my hive so that the vapors would not escape. I ensured that my entrance was reduced and my corex sheet was in place beneath my IPM bottom board.

Wafer Pieces on the Corners

Closed up my hive and now I am waiting 7 to 10 days to repeat the treatment (2 more times). I was told that if I were to see a vast majority of my bees outside of my hive, the vapors are to overpowering and I need to reduce the amount of wafer pieces I am treating with. I need my girls to be mite free ( or close to it) going into to winter.

Cleaning out the pests!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Closing Up for the Fall

I was very proud of my girls and all the surplus honey they collected. I walked around my hive the other day to get a feel for what was happening with the nectar flow. Clovers were present upon the ground but no bees were foraging from them. I still had some flowering plants in the garden, yet again, no bees were found. I decided it was time to reduce my hive entrance and let the bees have the rest of the honey frames.

Now that the nectar flow has finished, it is time to begin feeding and checking for mites. I will not begin mite treatments until the end of August/ beginning of September but with the cease of the nectar flow, it is very important that I supply my bees with food as soon as possible. I will also want to prevent robbing as best I can by closing off any upper entrances and reducing the main entrance.

Entrance Reducer

I will be using a hive top feeder and a sugar water feed for the fall that will consist of a 2:1 ratio of sugar to water. Other suitable methods of feeding your bees would be: pollen patties, fondant or high fructose corn syrup. I want to include a feeding stimulant to insure my bees will be healthy going into the winter months, therefore, I need a liquid solution for feeding my bees.

Combined ingredients together and mixed in a 1 gallon jug. Added 4 tbsp of Honey B Healthy and ensured that all the sugar had dissolved.

Bees at Entrance

Out at my hive, the entrance appeared very crowded but nothing threatening was happening. No signs of robbing was a relief but I was intrigued at all the activity that was happening at the entrance. When discussing the issue with another beekeeper, she said that newer bees will need to go on a navigation flight in order to orient themselves with their hive. They will fly out making loops back toward the hive and after every pass, they will extend their distance a little further.

Opened my hive and started to do a quick pass through my supers. I pulled out one of the outside frames in order to work toward the middle frames, and as I was checking the frame, I notice a small hive beetle crawling along the edge. I know that a strong colony will send them into hiding but every hive is bound to have one or two slip out and roam around, right? That was the only downside while going through my hive. Everything seemed normal and none of my bees appeared to be deformed or had bad wings.

Small Hive Beetle

After working my hive, I added the wooden hive top feeder and filled each side with my healthy sugar water mixture. Placed one end of the float down into the mixture and slowly lowered the other end. Floats fit perfectly and were floating properly.

Pouring Sugar Water Mixture

Dropping Float

Dropping Float

I know its not sweet nectar but I hope my girls enjoy their new diet. Having this hive top feeder will allow me to easily check and make sure the feed is topped off and add more if needed. 

Just taking care of my Girls!

Monday, July 16, 2012

Extracting My Honey

During the middle of last week I found time to visit my hive. I had taken 4 frames of foundation out to my hive with the intent to exchange them out for honey frames. My hive was looking marvelous! I was able to pull out 4 frames of capped honey and was reminded that I am dealing with insects that can sting (the girls pack a pretty good punch). 

Over the weekend I was able to uncap and extract my honey! Only having 4 frames, I did not find it necessary to run them through a Sideliner Uncapper. My weapon of choice was the Cappings Scratcher (would have been faster with a Cold Knife).

Uncapping Frame

Placed all of my frames in a Multi-Use Straining System while I uncapped one frame at a time. Included is a cross bar with a nail to rest your frame upon. Using the Uncapping Scratcher, I slid the forks slightly underneath the caps and lifted perpendicular to the frame. Working small sections at a time, I was able uncapped all 4 frames in little time.

Cappings Scratcher

 At the beginning of the nectar flow I was unsure if I would even be able to extract any honey this year. Now that I am able to work in 4 frames to extract, I was not prepared to invest in an extracting kit. Another benefit of joining a bee association or having a mentor is the ability to borrow some equipment until you are ready to invest in your own. 

With this being my first year as a beekeeper I did not want to put a lot of money into an extractor that I might grow out of in a couple of years. I was fortunate enough to use someone's extractor. The extractor I was allowed to use was an 18-frame motorized extractor. I only had 4 frames and one of the important things to make certain during the extracting is that your frames are evenly spread out in the extractor for balance. 

Frame in Extractor

Once all the frames were loaded, I started the extractor off at a slow speed. As i gradually increased the speed, I was able to see the honey being 'flung' from the frame.

Honey Coming Out of Honey Gate

Before I began extracting, I opened the honey gate and placed a bucket with a strainer to catch the honey as it flowed out. The strainer made certain that I had nice, clean honey (free of debris). 

Bee in Extractor

The bees that had followed me into the extracting room were drawn to the extractor as the honey was being drawn out of the frames. All in all I was able to extract 8-10lbs of honey. As it was coming out of the honey gate I had to sneak in the finger taste test. 

Best Honey I Have Ever Had!

Friday, July 13, 2012

Harvesting My Honey

It has been a while since my last post but not much has been happening with my hive. Last time I had made a visit to my hive, before now, was two weeks ago and that was to check to ensure that my queen was still laying. One benefit on that visit was being able to see the birth of a bee.

Bee Birth

 When I went into my hive yesterday though, I had the intent on harvesting some honey. I have been keeping an eye on the nectar flow and it seems to be settling. I figured this would be the perfect opportunity to see if I could collect honey from my bees. With this being my first hive, I was told that whatever my bees were able to harvest during the nectar flow would be used during any dearths and the winter months. I know that they will need 60-80 pounds of honey in order to survive this winter. 

It has been a tremendous nectar flow and knowing that my bees were working extra hard, I had the mind set the I may harvest some honey this year. My hive was bursting with bees when I took off the top.

Bees on Inner Cover

I was not expecting such a strong colony. Last time that I had went in, there were a lot of bees in the honey super but not to this current capacity. Once I took off the inner cover I was able to see that all the frame were drawn out and most of the center frames were capped (Yay!) 

Capped Honey

I started pulling out frames and found that all my frames had honey. Most frames were either fully capped or had patches of capped honey except for the outed two frames. I brought 4 empty frames with me to exchange out for honey frames (did not expect 4 frames of honey to be so heavy). I didn't intend to collect much therefore I did not see the reason in using a honey harvesting tool other than my bee brush. I now regret not using Natural Honey Harvester or an Escape Screen. A bee brush removed a few bees but more were flocking to the frame (I knew that I would be taking some to the extracting room).

While I was in my hive I thought it would be best to check my lower chambers to see how everything looked. I knew that I would not be collecting any more honey this year, so I went ahead and removed my queen excluder. 

Brood Chamber

As I began to remove frames from my brood boxes, I guess my bees became agitated because two of them were able to sneak some stings past the jacket I was wearing.  I assume that when a bee stings you, they release some type of pheromone indicating an attack, because after the two stings, my hive became chaotic. It was only time before a couple bees found there way into my veil and I knew it was time to close up and get out. I was able to escape with four stings (3 on the arm and one on the head) but I found this rational with the four frames of honey I am able to extract.

Tomorrow I Extract!

Friday, May 18, 2012

Adding a Honey Super

It has been a couple weeks since I have had a chance to check on my hive. The nectar flow has been tremendous with little spurts of rain here and there. To give you an update on where I am with my hive, I took a picture of the three brood chambers.

Bee Hive
Bee Hive

Here is a time frame of what I have done since purchasing my hive:

Weekly Time Frame
What was done during the week

Week 1

I purchased my Hive Equipment along with a package of bees. Painted the outside of all wooden components. Set up my hive in its location.

Week 2

Installed my package of Bees

Week 3

Removed the queen cage from the hive. Made sure she was released and laying. All was good and experienced my first bee stings of the season.

Week 4

Installed another Brood Chamber

Week 6

Installed another Brood Chamber

Week 8

About to install my first Honey Super

When going out to check on my hive, I was hoping to find that my third Brood Chamber would be filled with eggs and larva, just ready to burst. With that expectation in mind, it was a great sign when I removed the inner cover to find all my frames had drawn out comb. Removing the first frame I did not see any sign of brood or larva within the cells, only nectar and pollen. As I began to move into the center frames, I was finding the frames were mostly honey and nectar rather than laid eggs. This was not a good or bad sign, it just meant that the nectar flow was so good and the queen didn't find any need to continue laying in the upper brood chamber, at least I was hoping so.

Checking My Frames
Checking the Frames

I started working down into my next brood box and I began seeing plenty of eggs and larva within the cells. My queen was present and still laying, she just did not have the need to move into the upper brood box. My intent was to add a honey super onto my hive and after speaking with my mentor, he suggested that I take the center four frames from my upper brood box and transport them into my honey super. With it being mostly nectar and pollen in these frames, it will give the bees incentive to move up and begin to work the other frames in my honey super.

Frames in the hive
Removed Four Frames

Note: If i was not able to transfer these frames into my honey super I would have sprayed my foundation with sugar water to entice the bees to move up.

When talking to another beekeeper, he had mentioned that another option would have been to add a super beneath the brood chamber that was mostly nectar and pollen. He said that this would relieve congestion within my hive. 

I went with my mentors approach and transported four frames into my honey super and replaced them with frames containing foundation. Placed a queen excluder on top of my brood chambers, set my honey super on top and closed off my hive. By placing a honey super on so late I probably will not be able to harvest honey this year. Those frames that do contain honey will more than likely be used as feeding frames.

I can still hope though!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Adding Another Brood Chamber

Before I stepped into managing my bee hive, I read books and watched videos. There was a lot of good information out there and some great demos but I can now see how hard it could be to capture every aspect of beekeeping. I'm sure that at some point I had read about this or seen photos describing it, but when I went out to my bee hive to add an additional brood chamber, I had noticed some weird formations in the comb that was being drawn out.

Photo By: Chris Bednarek

I saw that the drawn comb was forming specifically where my frames were spaced further apart and no where else. I was hesitant about pulling out the frame because they had attached the comb to the opposite frame.
I began removing the frames from the edge, working my way toward the gaped frames. Using my hive tool, I scraped the comb off from one of the frames. I knew that removing the frame would tear out the comb from the other, but it had to be done. Once the frame was removed, I was able to pull off the excess comb so that the frames could be properly set within my hive body.

Just another learning experience from a newbie.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Checking on my Queen

At the end of last week I finally had a chance to go back to my hive. I wanted to go back and remove the queen cage that I had bound to a frame. I removed my inner cover and noticed the rubber band was missing that I had used to secure the queen cage with ... I was a little scared that it broke and the cage had dropped. I did notice, before I began removing frames, some of the worker bees were sticking there tail ends in the air and beating there wings. They were fanning out pheromones signaling  their sisters to come to them.

A Lady Fanning Her Pheromones 

I slowly began removing frames and was checking thoroughly for my queen. With the first frame removed I was able to see the queen cage and it was empty (thank goodness). I knew the queen had been released but was she laying? As I started turning over the frame in my hand I noticed a queen cell. This was just my luck to  install a new hive and have the queen already replaced. I didn't know how this had already happened and what it meant for my colony. Set the frame down and gave my mentor a quick call (would highly recommend attending a bee meeting and make some friends).  As to what was going on: 

When a colony is first installed into the hive, the queen is still in her cage and will not be laying for a couple of days. During this time that she is caged, the colony has interpreted her as being weak, therefore the begin to develop queen cells. When she is finally released and begins to lay she will go through and kill off the queen cells that were produced. I was told not to worry, scrap off the queen cells and go through my frames and check for eggs and larva. I was also told that as a newbie I was to remove the queen cell and taste the royal jelly that it held..."It is a delicacy and is the initiation into beekeeping". Lets just say I'm a beekeeper.

He also mentioned that if the queen hadn't been released and I was still seeing queen cells, the package that I had received had a queen already in it. In this case I had many different options.

I removed the queen cell from the frame and began looking for eggs. While looking over the frame I noticed that the bees were already storing food and out of the glimpse of my eye, I saw her!

My Queen Bee
I was really excited to be able to spot my queen and see that she was doing great. I checked some other frames and noticed patches of laid eggs and larva. I concluded that the bees must have chewed through the rubber band and everything was okay. 

My hive was looking great, the colony strong and I was happy.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Installing My Package

My Package of Bees
On March 28th I picked up my package of bees from Brushy Mountain Bee Farm. I had watched an instructional video and read information on installing a package but holding my package, with hundreds of bees, made me a little nervous. The day was looking great and I had my hive ready... it was time to install my package.

Before I brought out my bees I wanted to double check and make sure that I had everything prepared for the installation ( I would hate to be pouring out my bees and forget something at the house). Double checked my equipment: spray bottle with sugar water mix, hive tool, rubber bands (3), protective clothing and the cell phone in case I needed to call someone. For the other newbies that are installing their packages I would check out the Brushy Mountain Video first to make sure you have all the steps down and feel comfortable during the process.

Spraying Down My Bees

Brought out my package and began spraying the bees down with sugar water. They fall so nicely when you bump them against your hive. Removed the feeder can and the queen; she looked pretty and all the attendance were alive as well. Gave one last spraying, took a deep breath and removed the wood plank covering the hole.  Now I braved the installation by only wearing  a veil with no gloves or jacket (again it was a nice day out) so when I started pouring hundreds of bees into my hive and they started buzzing around me, a cold chill ran straight up my back. I was ready to close up shop and get out of there but , with the reference video in mind, I took a deep breath and slowly lowered my frames back into the hive.

Successful Installation

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Beekeeping from the Beginning

To give a background on me and what I hope to develop this blog into I will start with:

My name is Daniel and I recently joined Brushy Mountain Bee Farm's team. I have to admit, before I was employed at the Bee Farm, I had no idea what beekeeping consisted of. After reading through catalogs and checking into books, and yes I did read Beekeeping for Dummies, I felt like I had a grasp on what it would to be a beekeeper. After being employed for a month and a half I felt like it was in my best interest to go beyond the books and see what the hype was all about.

This is going to be a blog about Beekeeping from the Beginning. I am starting my first beehive, with no experience at all, and through my blog postings I hope you the reader will gain some insight through any problems that I might run into.

Starting from the very beginning: I placed an order for my Bee Package. I had the option of purchasing a NUC (nucleus hive) that would give me five drawn frames, an already laying queen and a NUC box if I ever needed it for future use. I skipped out on the NUC and went with a package instead because I wanted to start at square one. With my package of bees ordered and ready for pickup at the end of March, I need to get my hive setup before they come.
English Garden Bee-Ginner's Kit
Materials List:

  • English Garden 8-Frame Bee-Ginner's Kit 
    • Inner Cover
    • Copper Top
    • 2 Medium Depth Cypress Supers
    • 16 Grooved top/bottom Medium Frames
    • I.P.M. Bottom Board
    • 16 Sheets 'no hook' Crimp Wire Foundation
    • Hatless Veil
    • Plastic Gloves
    • Brushy Mountain Smoker with fuel
    • Bee Brush
    • Hive Tool
    • Plastic Entrance Feeder
    • Beginner's Book
    • Instructional DVD
  • White Paint and Paint Brush (purchased at Lowe's)