Archives

Assembling Frames – Pins vs. Pins

May 24, 2015

photo

I cleaned all of my old frames.  I used the kind with L-bent wires at the bottom and the wooden slat that lays across those wires.  However, instead of removing the wooden slats and busting up the frames, I’ve just added wax foundation and used pins to hold it in.  The bees will do the rest.

The problem with this method is the pins.  Those small hardware pins that are sold with the frames are

  1. overpriced
  2. really, really hard to use – the opening is never wide enough for the wax and I end up mutilating the wax trying to get them in place.
  3. they’re too short and don’t do a great job of holding in the wax foundation.

There’s always a better way.  In this case, bobby pins!  The uncoated kind.  They fit perfectly through the holes, it’s easy to insert the wax so no mutilation.  They’re much faster, easy to find, and cheap!

I use two, one on each side, diagonal from one another.  And because they extend much farther, they hold the foundation in much better.  At this point, use wireless foundation since they don’t care for the wires.  The bees will glue everything in for you.

First Swarm of the Season

May 17, 2015

IMG_3140_2

It may bee the first, but it certainly won’t bee the last swarm of the season. The funny part is that I never saw it happen.  I knew it was inevitable (tis the season), so I’d been itching to get the our swarm lure up.  We found a super tall telescoping pole on clearance, perfect for raising and lowering a swarm lure.

We took it out back, placed the lure on the pole and began to raise it high into the trees.  I looked up, and I’ll bee darned if there wasn’t a healthy cluster of bees hanging stealth-like in the very top branches.  About 15 feet above the swarm lure.  Buggers!

swarm 2
swarm1

They always go too high, so once again, I couldn’t retrieve them.  The other bees were flying around in wild frenzy in front of their hives – their typical response when a swarm occurs.  I should’ve known something was up.

Theoretically, scout bees seek out a new residence weeks before they swarm, so I had little hope that they’d sniff the lemongrass oil and make a b-line for the lure.  But it didn’t keep me from hoping.  We kept watch through the evening.  They were in the same spot the next morning, but gone by the time we returned home from work.  Another one lost…probably in someone else’s hive by now.  I’ll admit that my response this year is much more calm and accepting than last year.  I still don’t know which hive it came from.  They all look just as busy and well populated as they did before.

I hear about people catching swarms all the time.  Now I keep watch over the swarm lure in hopes of catching someone else’s swarm…or maybe, just maybe I’ll actually catch one of my own.  At this point, I really don’t care which, I just want to catch a swarm! :o)

 

BooBee December Update

December 13, 2014, Saturday

IMG_2859

Between work and the holidays, my free time has disappeared, and so I’m playing catchup on my bee journal.

The weather changes every few days around here – 60’s and sunny one day, then below 30’s and bitter cold.  I don’t mind that because the girls get opportunities to get out and about and I can check on their statuses.  I confess that during the winter I never quite know what’s going on, and I’m never an optimist.  Anything can happen at any time.

Possible Issues with Purple Hive

Everyone is still flying about during warm spurts, but I have noticed that Purple Hive has a lot more dead bees coming out of the hive than the others, and Mint Hive doesn’t appear to have much activity at all.  When I lift the lids, I see bees in all hives but Purple Hive.  That doesn’t necessarily mean they’re dying out because they may be toward the bottom staying warm.  Candy has been consumed and they are cleaning house regularly, so there is activity.  I just have to sit back and hope for the best until the weather turns warm enough to warrant further investigation.

Winter Prep

I hadn’t shown off our winter wind breakers this year.  Last year’s wind breakers were very effective, but a bit tedious to put up and maintain.  This year we went with a simpler approach.  My husband owns a large format printing business, which means he has access to coroplast and metal frames that stick in the ground.  He used thick 1/2 inch 4 ft x 6 ft sheets of coroplast to form a barrier around the outside of the hives.  This creates an easy, inexpensive and effective wind breaker.

I don’t wrap hives, mainly because I believe that hives need to breath and that wrapping prevents that, causing ventilation issues.  If we lived in Canada or Vermont, then yes, I would probably wrap.  But with our warmer climate, although we have cold spurts and snow, I don’t think it warrants wrapping.  Wind breakers help tremendously for keeping out the cold and they’re much easier to work around.

Bees can manage in the cold – moisture is a bigger problem.

IMG_2856

IMG_2854

Candy Making Party

I mentioned that they’re eating candy.  In November our bee club had our annual Candy Making Party.  I love the candy making party.  Always a fun time to get better acquainted with other beekeepers, ask questions and learn.  Click here to check out our candy recipe.   The bees seem to enjoy the candy and since the party, I’ve already replenished their supply.  Some feel that candy is for emergency feeding.  True, but I don’t think it hurts to keep it in the hives during the winter to ensure they always have food.  If they don’t need it, they won’t eat it, it’s a simple as that.  I supplemented with candy all winter last year and had two very healthy hives come through with flying colors.

One lesson I learned is NOT to cover the top of the frames with candy because this inhibits ventilation.  This year I placed the candy across the front third of the hive on the side where the morning sun first hits.   This helps soften the candy and allows plenty of room for air to circulate.

IMG_2847

IMG_2841

 

So there you have a two month update in a nutshell.  Bees, winterization and candy…oh my!  Hope everyone’s girls are hanging in there through this cold and blustery time of year.  Expect the worst and hope for the best…that’s my motto!

I am looking forward to the quiet time to catch up on indoor activities like reading up on my strategies for the coming year, cleaning equipment, and making homemade lotions and potions.  Stay tuned for fun recipes and how to’s.

Best wishes from all of the BooBees at BooBee Honey for a bee-utiful, happy holiday season!!!  

Making Robber Screens

Sunday, October 24, 2014

IMG_2818

 

We’ve had some warm days here in Maryland, and since there’s not nectar to be had, the girls are continuing to rob, rob, rob.  So all entrances remain closed except for the main front entrance, which has been reduced to its smallest size.   Yes it seems like a small space, but it’s really all they need.  So I reduced the size of the robber screens to conforms with the smaller entrance size.

These robber screens are super simple and cheap to make.

Supplies per screen

  • ~ 8 inch x 6 inch piece of window screen (cut to size w/ scissors)
  • Two 1/2 inch square pieces of wood cut to 6 inch lengths
  • Hardware stapler and staples

IMG_2804

I’m not methodical with my measurements.  Eyeballing works fine for this project.

Position the two pieces of wood in the center of your window screen, leaving more than enough space between the two pieces so the bees have plenty of area to enter and exit the hive.  Measure the space against an actual entrance reducer, as shown below.

IMG_2806

Position these pieces of wood on your screen, make sure there’s about 2-3 inches of screen extending beyond the outside edges of each piece of wood.  These pieces will be stapled to the hive to keep it the screen in place.  The screen should extend the length of the wood fully so that it is flush with then surface of the hive at the bottom.  This is to ensure that bees do not enter from beneath the screen.

Using a heavy duty hardware stapler, staple the screen to the wood.  I staple three times on both sides.

IMG_2809

Below are the finished screens ready for installation.


IMG_2814

The installed screens are shown below.  It’s not perfectly flush against the hive because the entrance reducers aren’t flush, but it works because it forces bees to enter from the top rather than giving them direct access from the front.  Bees from that hive will figure out the detour.  Robber bees will continue to enter from the front and will give up because of the barrier.

IMG_2815

In the meantime, all other entrances are covered with pieces of window screen that have been stapled to the hives.  This allows for continued ventilation, but blocks robber bees from entering.

IMG_2819

This robbing stuff has to be one of the most disturbing and frustrating issues I’ve experienced yet as a beekeeper.  The screens have helped tremendously, and they’re simple, cheap and easy enough that I can add them to all of my hives.

Initial Prep for Winter 2014-15

Sunday, October 5, 2014

IMG_2754

I can’t believe it’s that time of year already.  Seems like yesterday we were chasing swarms and working to keep up with the spring explosion.  This year, it looks as though we’re going into winter with 5 hives.  I do no go into winter optimistically.  The bees are resilient, but anything can happen between now and spring.  I keep moving forward, try to do the right things and hope for the best.  I went into last winter with 3 hives and came out with 2.  Ventilation was the big issue.  Bees can handle cold, but they can’t handle wet.  The lost hive contained lots of moisture.  So above keeping them warm, I want to be sure the hives have good ventilation.

I took advantage of yesterday’s 70 degree weather to do some winter inspecting and prep.

1) Check for strong hives.  

I did not check for the queen this time, since I did find brood two weeks ago and the numbers look good in each of the boxes.  I’m not messing with them, since that does more damage than good.  Brood is at bottom, stores are at top.  My overwintered hives have lots and lots of stores, even Green Hive despite the robbing episode.

2) Checking for stores

Mint and Purple Hives, my two new hives, are lower on stores but feeding like crazy.  I’m continuing to feed them like crazy so they can stash it away, and I’ll give them both several frames of honey left over from last years hives.

3) Feeding 2:1 Syrup with Honey B Healthy

That’s 2 parts sugar to 1 part water – all hives are feeding right now in hopes that they’ll pack it away and have plenty to eat for winter.  I always use Honey B Healthy (HBH).  In fact, I make my own HBH which contains organic wintergreen, lemongrass and spearmint essential oils to help keep their guts clean and to help ward off varroa.   I’ll post the recipe soon!  Just as effective, and much cheaper than buying it.   If you do purchase HBH, use 1-2 tsp per gallon of syrup.

Mason Jar Feeders – I switched all of my hives to the mason jar feeders for several reasons:

1. They’re inexpensive and and easy to make.  Especially nice when you have a bunch of hives.  I simply drill 10-15 holes in the top center of the lid using 1/64 size drill bit.

2. They’re easy to collect and fill as needed.

3. I put 2 jars in, so when one empties, I can remove and they still have syrup left in the second jar until I fill the first jar up again.

4. Easy to see what they’ve consumed through the clear glass.

5. They fit securely within a medium box.

6. They dispense the right amount of syrup, so there’s less chance of it sitting and crystalizing.  And if it does crystalize, you can see it through the jar.

I place the feeders on a set of wooden or plastic chopsticks so the bees can fit beneath the jars.  After awhile, they become a permanent part of the inner cover as the bees glue them in place.

IMG_2747

IMG_2746

4) Feeding Grease Patties

An easy supplement to help ward off tracheal mites.  Click here for my Grease Patty Recipe.

IMG_2745

 

6. Installed Mouse Guards

We had our first front/freeze warning, so I installed my mouse guards so the little critters can’t make their home in my hives.  I used the Brushy Mountain mouse guards last year, which worked fine.  But I find myself going with the easy, less expensive options as my apiary has expanded.  1/2 inch hardware mesh works great.  I set the entrance size to larger to prevent bottlenecking, and to allow for a bit more ventilation.

IMG_2748

IMG_2749

That’s it for now.  Our first round of winter prep.  I have a few more tricks up my sleeve to help them out this winter, but the bulk of the work will be up to the bees!

Our First Swarm – Part 2

May 25, 2014 (Sunday)


Our first swarm and we lost our bees. I was so upset.  The hubster stayed outside and was piecing together the conduit contraption that he rushed out to buy. If I’d kept watch, as I’d been tasked to do, I would have seen where they went, but in the heat of the moment I ran off to seek a last resort and returned to an empty branch and no bees.

I went upstairs to post a message to my bee club when the hubster yelled for me to come back outside, “hurry”! I ran like the wind and saw the cloud of bees erupting from above the trees, just a few feet below their original site.  They’d settled behind some bushes where we couldn’t see them.

This time we sprang into action and began work on a swarm trap. Using an old computer box, I inserted one frame of brood comb and used some nails to tack it in place.

IMG_4192 IMG_4193

We taped the lid closed and carefully taped every visible seam and opening. One hole was left open as the entrance. I added several drops of lemongrass oil at the entrance as the lure. We then adhered the box to the top of a ladder and set it below the swarm’s location, just outside the dense shrubs. Then we watched and waited.

IMG_4200

IMG_4205

We sat outside and wheels kept turning and turning.  I watched YouTube videos on how to make swarm traps, and the hubster was thinking about how to hoist the bait trap higher in the tree and closer to the swarm. I knew the lightbulb came on when he jumped up and ran into the workshop.  Ten minutes later, he emerged with another contraption. A platform piece of wood tied at the corners with rope and attached to a long piece of rope that was weighted at the end with some heavy metal hardware.

IMG_4213

After watching the Fat Bee Man make a swarm trap from a nuc, I ran to retrieve my nuc. Two bait traps have gotta be better than one. Using a Q-tip, I applied a ring of lemongrass oil around the inside of the box and added 5 new foundation frames. The hubster nailed on a flat plywood cover, and I added the entrance reducer and bottom board.

IMG_4222

IMG_4225

The hubster finally managed to hoist the rope over a high branch.We adhered the nuc to the platform, the began lifting it higher and higher, til it reached bee height.

IMG_4228

IMG_4231

We tied the rope to our well pump.  Now we had two boo bee traps!

IMG_4237

IMG_4236

With renewed hope, we returned to the patio where we watched and waited, as though the girls would simply emerge and file themselves neatly into one of our traps. Of course that didn’t happen. And so, with another busy day gone to the bees, we wait and we hope…

Super Spacers DIY

May 23, 2014 (Friday)

I’ve added supers on both Blue and Green Hives.  In fact, Blue hive looks like a skyscraper compared to pink and yellow.  Since we don’t feed the bees once supers are added (the girls fend for themselves since we want pure honey), I didn’t have the upper entrance exposed.  Also, we didn’t have any entrances or vent holes between all of those boxes.  With all of that activity, it can get darn hot in those hives.  Not to mention,the forager bees didn’t have direct access to the honey supers, which means they had to travel all the way up and down through 3-4 very busy boxes to get in or out of the hive.  That does not make for efficient honey production!

The Solution

I saw some nifty spacers at my last bee meeting and immediately put the hubster to work.  Using 1″x1″ lengths of wood, he built frames with entrance holes that fit between the supers.  Super easy and much needed.

IMG_4174

IMG_4185

I also added a 1″x4″ spacer frame at the top, above the inner cover, to elevate the top cover an expose the inner cover entrance.  We also drilled a hole into this spacer for yet another entrance and for added air circulation at the top of the hive.

IMG_4186

The girls wasted no time using these new entrances – a simple solution with great benefits. Quicker access means faster honey production, and better air circulation makes for happier and healthier bees!

DIY Solar Wax Melter

When it comes to products of the hive, honey is the first thing that comes to mind. It’s true, I get lots and lots of requests for honey. But for me, it’s the wax. Wax for lip balms, face creams, hand lotions, soaps, furniture polish…so many things can be made with beeswax. So after extracting a good 30 lbs of sugar syrup, I’d harvested lots of wax cappings – the beautiful creamy yellow wax that covers and protects the honey filled comb. Wax capping is the purest, best quality wax.  Particularly good for face creams and skin sensitive products since it moisturizes and protects dry skin.

IMG_3947

Wax cappings are shaved from the surface to release honey from the comb.

Wax can be harvested several ways. The indoor method requires melting the wax down in a pot of water, then straining.  This can be a messy process.  The other option is to let the sun do all the work for you.  Using a basic, inexpensive setup, I built my own solar wax melter, and it works like a charm.

DIY Solar Wax Melter

Supplies

  • 1 styrofoam or insulated cooler with flat edge.
  • 1 piece clear plexiglass or glass, fit to cover the top of the cooler
  • Aluminum foil
  • Aluminum tape
  • Container to fit bottom of cooler
  • Window screened frame
  • Water
  • Objects to hold down the top cover
  • Thermometer, optional

Instructions

1. Wash your beeswax ahead of time by soaking (for several hours) and rinsing it thoroughly (several times) in lukewarm water. The water should be slightly warm to help melt the honey and grime from the wax, but not warm enough to soften or melt the wax.  This process may require several rounds of soaking, rinsing and draining.

Clean beeswax cappings, ready for melting.

Cleaned wax cappings ready to melt.

2. Gather supplies and prepare to assemble the wax melter.

IMG_4090
Supplies ready to go!
IMG_4125

We built a wooden frame sized to fit inside the cooler (above the container), then stapled window screen on the top. This is our filter.

3. Line the inside of your cooler with aluminum foil (see below).

4. Use the aluminum tape to bind the seams of the foil and adhere the foil to the inside of the cooler (see below).

5. Place the container on the bottom of the cooler (see below).

6. Fill the container 1/3 to 1/2 way with water.  The water prevents the wax from sticking to the container.

IMG_4080

Cooler is lined with aluminum foil, taped with aluminum tape, and a partially filled container of water is place at the bottom of the cooler.

7.  Place the framed window screen over top of the container of water.  It doesn’t have to set directly on top of the container, and in fact, is better if it sets about 3-4 inches above the water.

IMG_4126

Framed screen sets above the container to filter the wax.

8. Place a pile of wax, several hands full, across the top of the screen.

IMG_4159

The wax is piled across the screen ready to melt down into the water.

9. Place the clear lid on top of the cooler and fit it snuggly into place so it stays on and so the heat remains inside.  Then set the cooler out in the sun.  The warmer the temperatures, the faster it will melt.  Some people place a thermometer inside the cooler to track the temperature throughout the day.

IMG_4135

Clear lid is in place, secured by two small pieces of wood on each side that are held in place by the plastic lid clamps that came with the cooler.

 

IMG_4130

Waiting for the morning sun to come up. Let the melting begin!

Depending on the amount of wax and the temperatures outside, melting the wax can take anywhere from several hours to several days. As long as you’re not in a hurry, this method is maintenance free. As it melts, keep adding more hands full of wax into the melter and allow it to accumulate into one piece.

Note: Ants do like the smell of beeswax and honey, so bee careful where you set the cooler or your solar wax melter may become an ant farm. This can be prevented by setting the cooler into a container that’s surrounded by water or cooking oil, creating a moat. The ants will drown trying to get to the melter.

The image below shows how well the window screen filters out the dirt and grime.

IMG_2436

Left over crud that’s been filtered out of the beeswax.

What you’ll have left is a blob-like mound of beautiful, clean, creamy yellow beeswax. This can be used to make candles, lotions, balms, and other fun stuff! Check out my bee recipes and body and wellness recipes, located at the top of this site to view some of my own favorite beeswax recipes, like Beeswax Lotion Bars or my Homemade Face Cream.

IMG_2434

Voila! Clean, filtered beeswax, ready to bee turned into something fabulous!

Beeuteeous!  Happy melting!

Winter Hive Configuration – My Final Answer

Saturday, November 23, 2013

The bees and I are not liking this cold weather.  I leave for work when it’s freezing cold and just light, and come home in the pitch dark, so weekdays are out for any bee activity.  I can only hope for dry, semi-warm weekends to get things done.  I’m realizing the importance of a yearly schedule and having a plan in place well beforehand.  Being a newbie, I’m always thinking and rethinking about the bees – usually around 2 am, which doesn’t make for a good night’s sleep.

YH2 in Trouble

We had a brief warm snap last weekend when temps pushed up into the mid-50’s, so I took the opportunity to lay lots of candy across the top frames.  When I opened Yellow Hive 2  (YH2), the number of bees appeared to be dramatically reduced.  Not good at all.  Of course, it was too cold to dig in and see what the problem might be.   Queenlessness is always my first fear, which in this weather means the hive will likely die.  Even if they do produce another queen at this point, there aren’t any drones left to mate with her, so reproduction will stop and the bees will gradually die out.

Executing the Winter Plan

I’ve continued finalizing my plans for the internal hive configuration.  Better late than never, I hope.  Winter is a scary time for a beekeeper.  You can’t get into the hives to see what’s going on.  It’s cold outside, so the bees stay inside – there’s no outside activity to tell you what’s going on.  It’s easy to imagine the worst, that condensation is building up and collecting on the bees, or they’re dying out from losing their queen, or they’re starving because there aren’t enough stores, or they’re being infested by mites or wax moths or wax beetles.  No matter, you just sit tight and hope you’re doing the best you can do for the girls, and wait for another warm snap to hit so you can get out and check on them.

Today was sunny and cold, but low 40s is better than low 30s, and I had no intention of opening the hives and exposing the bees.  I just needed to rework the top portion to help improve the ventilation.  So here’s our winter hive configuration, inside and out…

  1. Exterior wind barriers covering the back and sides.  These seem to be working well, and they extend below the bottoms of the hives to prevent too much wind from going up through the bottom screens.

2. I added bottom boards on YH2 and Green Hive 1 (GH1).  BH3 is a home built hive and doesn’t have a slot for adding the mite board, so the screened bottom board is left open.

3. 2 inch high spacer frames are added onto the top hive body with a top entrance drilled into the front for ventilation and an upper exit.

4. The top inner cover is flipped so the shim side is down, and I stapled fine metal screen across the hole so the bees can’t get to the top of the hive.  This also provides another top entrance and allows for more ventilation in the hive.

IMG_2182

5. The hubster made some great ventilation spacers to add above the inner cover and beneath the top telescoping cover.  The bees cannot get into this box.

    • The holes on the sides are drilled upwards to prevent rain water from entering the box.
    • The holes are positioned just beneath the outside rim of the top cover, which extends out from the holes to keep water out.
    • 1/2 inch ventilation holes were drilled on two sides then covered with mesh on the inside to prevent bees from entering the box and to keep critters out.
    • Window screen was stapled to the bottom of the frame to allow it to hold wood chips.  The wood chips will help absorb moisture from the condensation.

IMG_2179

IMG_2180

IMG_2181

IMG_2183

IMG_2187

I know I said I wouldn’t open the hives and expose the girls, but I couldn’t resist taking a peek.  All three hives, including YH2, are full of bees on top devouring the candy.  I’m feeling much better now about closing them up and letting them go til the next warm day comes and I can add more candy.

Til then, I have a few good beekeeping books sitting on my bed stand.  Never to early to start preparing for spring!

IMG_2185

Home Built Hive Windbreakers

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Part 1 – Exterior Winter Prep

IMG_3554

The hubster has done it again.  I’ve been agonizing over our plan for winter prep.  Exterior windbreakers are half of the plan.  Hay bales are popular, wrapping hives with roofing paper or cardboard, etc.  Lots of ideas out there, but the consensus on wrapping, at least in our area, is that although it keeps the heat in and protects from the wind,wrapping also keeps the moisture in and prevents the hives from “breathing”.  Dripping condensation and moisture will kill the bees, especially during freezing temperatures.  So good ventilation is imperative.

We decided against wrapping and opted for barriers that would envelop three sides, leaving the fronts of the hives open so the girls can come and go as the temperatures fluctuate.  The hubster came up with wooden frames that wrap around the outside of the hives, leaving air space between the frames and the hive boxes for circulation, while protecting the hives from wind.   The outside of the frames are lined with black roofing paper to retain heat from the sun.  The bottoms are anchored to the ground with large railroad nails, and the tops are open to allow easy access into the hives.  The bees don’t mind them one bit (always a plus), access is much easier than if they’d been wrapped, and we can reuse the frames year after year.

IMG_3561

IMG_3566

IMG_3556

I confess that having only a few hives does afford the luxury of experimenting with more elaborate solutions like this.  And it helps to have a woodworker in the house.

As for the inside, they’re ok for now, but after more research, I believe I have a simple and effective solution figured out.  So stay tuned for ideas on how to configure the insides of your hives for winter.