Tag Archive | Bee

Assembling Frames – Pins vs. Pins

May 24, 2015

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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.

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We Bee Cold!

Saturday, January 10, 2015

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Well, so much for the 60 degree days.  It’ll be 9 degrees here in Central MD tonight.  For us, that is COLD.  Burr!  This is the time when I start to worry…and wonder…and worry…and wonder if I did right by the girls this winter.  Hoping for some warm reprieve.  In the meantime, I’m getting more candy made so I’m prepared to stock them up on food the next time I’m able to get into the hives.  I’ll step up there tomorrow and clean their entrances of dead bees.

The Cat House

The bees aren’t the only ones who are cold.  We have two kittens who showed up at our house over a year ago.  A year later, they’re still here, inside all cozied on our bed.  Spoiled little monsters.  But their mamma is very ferrel and she still comes around.  We feed her and the hubster made her a nice covered shelter with lots of hay for burrowing, which she has not yet used.  It breaks my heart that she’s out in the cold while her youngsters are living the high life.  But she’s a wild one.  Very very skittish.  She’s a bee-utiful girl too.  Makes me wish I was Dr. Doolittle and could talk to the animals.

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Indoor Activities – The Soap Incident

Then there’s the great indoors – I love soaping.  My latest project was a 3 lb batch of cold process honey oat soap.  I was excited to try out a brand new soap mold.  The key word here is “soap” mold.  Soap is not cold when you put it in the mold. It is still warm and pourable, so you would think that if a mold is designed for soap, it would withstand some heat.  Well it started off great, then a few hours later we had a melt down…literally.  The mold melted down and my soap collapsed.

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Disappointing.  I love the handsome, uniform bars.  But I’m over it.  In 4 weeks it’ll be ready for the bathtub or shower and no one will care that it looks like the state of Tennessee or a monument from Stonehenge, as long as it lathers up and cleans.

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I hope everyone else’s indoor activities are going well – getting the equipment prepped, making candy for the girls, reading up in preparation for the spring explosion.  I’ve already seen beekeepers taking orders for nucs and packages, and our bee club will be holding their annual new-beekeepers course in another week.  Wow, time goes crazy fast.

To you and your bees – hang in there, stay busy, and stay warm.

 

BooBee December Update

December 13, 2014, Saturday

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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.

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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.

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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!!!  

2014 Frederick County Fair – Popular Bees!

September 20, 2014

One thing I look forward to each year is working the fair with the Frederick County Beekeeping Association.  In addition to selling hoards of honey and educating our locals about beekeeping, colony collapse disorder, the benefits of honey, and so much more, we also teach them how to make hand rolled beeswax candles!

People make a bee-line to come visit us and see the bees!  It’s really a wonderful event.

Here are some fun photos highlighting the FCBA at the fair…

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The Epipen Dilemma

August 19, 2014

 

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The epipen is a stick of adrenaline, literally.  If you find yourself reacting badly to a sting, like throat closing, unable to breath – then you stick one of these into your thigh, which releases adrenaline into your system and makes your heart race, which somehow counteracts the reaction and can save your life.  Every beekeeper should have one around the house, if not for themselves, then for visitors.  It is lifesaving insurance.

Two seasons and six hives later I finally decided, or rather remembered to call my doctor and make an appointment to get an epipen prescription.  We recently had dinner with friends, one of who was a member of the actual team that developed the epipen.  He asked about the bees and my husband relayed my large poofy reactions to the stings.  I’m not deathly allergic, but I do swell considerably.  In no uncertain terms, he said I needed to get an epipen IMMEDIATELY, and followed with horrible stories of people who died because they disregarded their reactions and symptoms to stings.

I met with my doctor, and after answering the standard questions – “how’d you get into  beekeeping?”, “what do you do with your honey?”, and so on – my prescription was called in and I was warned – “they’re pretty expensive”.  Really?  No one told me they’d be very expensive.

Next stop…the pharmacist.  I asked “how expensive are they?”, and his response – “they’re expensive as hell!”.  For two (yes, they only come in two packs) epipens that I hope I will never have to use…ever…they cost $400.  I just about choked on my own tongue.  How do you make a decision like that?  Whether to take the risk or spend $400?  Even $200 for one is insane, yikes!  But the alternative is even worse.  Decisions, decisions.

Luckily, insurance did cover them, so my decision was easy.  $30 later, me and my epipens were heading home.  What if insurance didn’t cover it?  How many beekeepers opt NOT to purchase them because they’re so expensive and they don’t have insurance to cover them?  A vast dilemma I’m sure, and something that’s easily dismissed until time of need.

In anycase, I hope this little experience sheds some light on yet another side of beekeeping that many may not know about or consider.  We hear about near and final fatalities from bee stings all the time, and I for one, take risks and get stung regularly, thinking I’ll always bee fine – just war wounds, part of being a beekeeper.  But I confess that having the epipens does offer some comfort, knowing that my husband, my family, my friends, myself – we’re all safer now because I have two epipens in my bathroom drawer.  I hope never to have to use one, but they’re there if the need arises.

Back from Vacation

July 4, 2014 (Friday)

I have returned after a week away from the girls and I’m happy to report that they are all present and accounted for, happily buzzing about and making the garden grow so tall that even my tallest hives barely peek over top.

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The garden provides some food sources, as does the clover and flowers, but trees are the primary sources of pollen and nectar for the bees. Now that they’ve stopped blooming, we’re experiencing some dearth, resulting in robbing activity and a frenzy on our hummingbird feeders. During our drive through South Dakota, the grasslands were filled with yellow flowered alfalfa. I thought about how my bees would go nuts in a field like that.

I’m always amazed at the many, many locations that would bee perfect for keeping bees – like parks, nature reserves, and vast fields of wildflowers. Seems to me the best way to increase the bee populations is to give them more places to live and flourish. So I was happy to see apiaries set up periodically in the grasslands along the highway.

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I wondered if I would have noticed them were I not a beekeeper. I’m so much more aware of bee-related things now, spotting beehives, bees, flowers and nectar sources.  It was good to get away, but I’m happy to bee home tending to my own bees, picking the fruits of their labor from the garden, and keeping tabs on their honey production. They’re coming along slowly but surely. Soon we’ll be extracting honey that WE can eat.  Perhaps as soon as this weekend…

Musical Bees Revue

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This past week has been crazy trying to keep up with these girls. Everyone has their own thing going on. It doesn’t help that I’ve become a bit hive crazy. No more, I’m done splitting and adding new hives. I’m up to five hives and one nuc. Just working now on building up the ones we have so we can get them through winter. The entries below explain all about our musical bees – swapping, splitting, adding, splitting. There really is some method to the madness.

June 10, 2014 (Tuesday) – Two Mail Order Texas Queens

Last week I started Purple Hive from several Blue Hive frames. I knew it was a bad split and that they probably didn’t have enough resources to make a new queen. I was right. They’ve adapted to their new hive just fine, however they have very little brood and no signs of queen cells. It takes 24 hours for the queen smell to dissipate, at which point they realize they are queenless and will begin straightaway on producing a new queen.

I checked around and there were no local queens available. I decided to bite the bullet and order another Texas queen for Purple Hive. I know, I know, I didn’t say nice things about the Texas queens in my last post – they’re a little temperamental, but they’re available, and darn if they’re not hearty and productive and bred to bee mite resistant. Anyway, the real cost is shipping the little buggers 3-5 day USPS. However, 2-3 queens can be purchased for the same shipping fee, so it makes sense to order multiple queens. Who knows, Blue Hive might need a queen!

June 14, 2014 (Saturday) – The Royal Fiascos

My queens arrived on Saturday. Actually they arrived Friday, but I didn’t know it. I had called the post office the day prior and asked that they not leave the bees in our mailbox. They didn’t leave the bees in the mailbox, but they didn’t drop them off at the house either. Instead, they held them at the post office and left messages on my cell phone, which I never check during the day because I can’t get cell phone reception at my work. Doh! So I worried all evening and into the morning until my perfect hubster picked them up and reported that everyone was alive and kicking. Yay!

I wanted to get my new royals into the hives that same Saturday evening. As planned, I installed one queen in Purple Hive. Easy peasy. Then I opened Blue Hive and found fresh brood and larvae. Blue Hive had a new laying queen. Good news, but that left me with a hive less queen. Luckily I had planned on that as a possibility and had the hubster lower down the nuc that we’d set as a bait hive. It had 5 new frames and was ready to go. I pulled several frames from yellow hive, which had gone from sketchy to crazy productive, and swapped them with several fresh nuc frames.

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I installed the queen cage and closed it up. But for the life of me, I could not find the correct entrance blocker for the nuc, so I ended up using one that was just a smidge too high, causing a very small gap between the boxes. Too small, I thought, for the bees to get through.

June 16, 2014 (Monday) – The Drifters

I returned home in the evening after a meeting and went up to remove the entrance blocker. I noticed robbers slipping through the gap. I opened the top and I saw maybe 20 bees in the hive with the queen. They’d all drifted back to their original hive. Doh! Too dark to do anything about it, I went inside and lost another night’s sleep wondering when I’d get the chance to make another split, and hoping the queen would hold on for another day.

June 17, 2014 (Tuesday) – Good Way to Start the Day

My chance came at 6:30 am the next morning. I never work the bees that early, but it was beautiful and bright and warm outside, so I put on my suit, lit the smoker and got to work.

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I pulled the queen and her posse from the nuc and they looked alive and very active. I set them aside and opened Green Hive. Another Carneolan hive, the bees were gentle and easy. I found several swarm cells (If I’d only known, I could have saved $83 bucks). They’ve been getting crowded, and having been over wintered, I suspect Green Hive may have swarmed since traffic has noticeably died down in front. Still lots of bees and they have brood. I took the top super, which still held mostly undrawn frames, and I placed it above the bottom box, splitting the brood chamber and giving the queen plenty more room to reproduce.

I pulled several frames of brood and placed them in the nuc, and replaced those with undrawn frames. The queen was installed in the nuc. The nuc was closed, and this time, I placed the correct size entrance blocker in the entrance.

That started my day in a good mood!

June 18, 2014 (Wednesday) – Purple Hive Has Released Their Queen

Purple Hive has released their queen! So much excitement and activity in that little hive of only 2 weeks. I suspect they’ll build up quickly with their new Texas queen.

One super has been added to Yellow Hive. They’re my first year package hive, but they’re building up so quickly that I stopped feeding them several weeks ago and am hoping they produce some honey.

Green Hive has produced more honey than anyone.  The race is on for all the other hives to catch up!

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June 20, 2014 (Friday) – Yay! Everyone Has a Queen

Yay, the nuc has released their queen!  I unblocked their entrance and placed some branches in front so they can reorient.  Now we’re in “hurry up and wait” mode.  I’m hoping they build up enough over the next month to get themselves through winter.  Come mid July, all of the bees will begin winding down and their focus will be on preparing for winter – less reproduction, less drones, less nectar and pollen as dirth sets in, and more stashing away stores and honey.

Time for a Vacation!

I pick up another order of boxes and frames this weekend.  Once those are assembled, we’ll add a few more supers onto the larger hives.  That should sustain them through my vacation.  Yes, I am going on vacation and leaving the hubster with the bees!  I would take him with me, but he has a small business to run, so I’m going on a trip with my dad to visit and take photos of his last 4 state capitols – a project that’s been in the works for over 30 years.  I shall report the hubster’s events upon my return.   Happy beekeeping!

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