Tag Archive | beekeeping

First Swarm of the Season

May 17, 2015

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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!

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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)

 

Let 2015 Begin!

January 3, 2015

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Happy New Year everyone!  The past few weeks have graced us with occassional 55-60 degree days, giving me the opportunity to check on the welfare of my girls.  So far all five hives have been out and about, cleaning house, getting some orientation time in.  I’ve continued to restock their candy so they always have food, so we’ll just keep on keepin’ in hopes that spring comes quick this year.  No worries though, I have plenty of indoor activities lined up.

“The Bees”

The hubster bought me a book for Christmas called (what else?) “The Bees”.  It’s not a how-to book, but rather a fictional novel where the characters are all bees.  It got great reviews, and I’ll post my own thoughts when I’ve finished it.

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Of course I’ll be reading Michael Bush’s “The Practical Beekeeper”, “Beekeeping for Dummies”, and some other beekeeping books to help me keep up with the girls.

Soaps, Lotions and Potions…Oh My!

I’m obsessed with soaping and lotions and potions.  I made a batch of Goat’s Milk Hand and Body Lotion and Goat’s Milk Facial Lotion yesterday, and today I have a batch of Honey Oat Soap melting down in the crockpot as I write this.  I might even make a batch of lotion bars before the day’s end.

Check out the recipes on the main menu bar above!  I’ll add more recipes and how to’s for using honey and beeswax.

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Equipment Prep and Cleaning

It has to be done – Clean the hive tools, smokers and boxes.  Prep frames, and build and paint new boxes.  Build swarm traps. Plan out a new area for more hives (don’t tell the hubster) :o)

Planning out the Garden

Buying and starting seeds in the greenhouse this year???  Will be nice to use it for something other than storing bee equipment :o)

Happy Beekeeping in 2015!

Yep, lots of busy work ahead in preparation for what I hope will be a growing and prosperous 2015.  Best wishes to everyone for another happy, busy, productive beekeeping year!  I’m off to make soap….

 

The Girls Get a Bathroom Break

Saturday, February 22, 2014

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After 3 weeks of nonstop freezing temps and snow, we finally got a warm day. Warm enough that Green Hive 1 (GH1) and Blue Hive 3(BH3) could clean house a bit and benefit from a much needed cleansing flight.

At the end of January, we lost Yellow Hive 2. Just when I discovered what had gone wrong (hint: bad ventilation =moisture) the cold returned and I didn’t get the chance to make adjustments to GH1 to ensure it didn’t experience the same demise. I did, however, do something very stupid. I pulled out the mite board which I had inserted as a bottom board.  I should have pulled it out a few inches at a time over a week or two to allow them to acclimate.  But I didn’t know and instead yanked it out in one feel swoop.  But I learned that the cluster positions itself at the warmest location in the hive, and by drastically removing the bottom board just prior to a cold snap, I risked chilling the brood while also making it harder for the girls to stay warm.

My reason for doing this was:

  1. The hive needed better ventilation, and
  2. BH3 has no bottom board and is currently showing up its much larger neighbors. No ventilation issue whatsoever.
  3. Screened bottom boards also help control mites.

I will use only screened bottom boards from now on.  

So when I looked into GH3 earlier this week and saw an empty top box, I was prepared to write their eulogy. But today, although the top box still appeared empty, quite a few bees were buzzing out the bottom. I’m still unsure of their exact state, but I do know they have lots of stores, so they don’t have to come up top to feed if they don’t want to. The cluster may be hanging out in a lower box. I was just happy to see the activity and felt sad that no nectar was in sight.

BH3 has a huge cluster and they are eating away at the sugar candy. Rather than order a package for spring, I’m considering ordering 1 or 2 Texas queens from BeeWeaver and just splitting BH3. The bees are dark in color, they’re cold hardy, and they’re bred to be mite resistant. I like ’em!

Blue Hive 3 so far looking strong.

Blue Hive 3 so far looking strong.

I did make a few adjustments to help improve ventilation in both hives. The crazy boxes with pine chips have been removed. It’s been mentioned the chips could be blocking air circulation. I moved candy to one side of the frames, around the cluster, and not taking up any more than 1/4-1/3 of the frame space. And I inserted a chopstick into one corner of each hive to prop the top cover and allow for ventilation.

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Chopstick in corner beneath top cover helps ventilate the top without allowing much space for mice to get in.

I was so glad to see the girls today. I thought about pulling up a chair and just watching the show. Today was a great reminder that spring is just around the corner. Another few weeks of winter cold and we’ll bee in growth mode. Lots of decisions and preparations ahead. Lots of new lessons to learn. I can’t wait!

 

 

 

Blasting the Beetles

August 4, 2013 (Day 86) – Installing Beetle Blasters

I drove to my bee supplier and bought 10 Beetle Blasters.  Beetle Blasters are small plastic wells that sit between the frames and are intended to trap small hive beetles.  Fill them half way with oil and when the bees chase the beetles around the hive, the beetles will jump into the traps to seek refuge from the bees.  This is an effective, safe alternative to chemical treatments.  However, ask a question to 10 different beekeepers and you’ll get 10 different answers – this certainly applies to the how to’s of using the Beetle Blaster.  Below are some Beetle Blaster how to’s that I gathered during my research…

One time or multiple uses:

  • Beetle Blasters are meant for one time use, however, my supplier said he carefully cleans his out and reuses them.  I’m cheap, so I will attempt to reuse.

How many to use:

  • Some say put one or two traps in each box, depending on severity of the infestation.   I find this method to be very invasive.  Especially if the traps in each box are changed every 7-10 days.
  • Some will place up to 4 just in the top box, because most of the beetles reside up top.
  • My bee supplier uses two in the top box of all of his hives.  Again, this is because most beetles reside in the top of the hive.
  • Again, I’m cheap.  I’ll start with one in GH1 because I haven’t seen any beetles in that hive, and two in YH2 since it has more beetles.  I’ll increase if needed.

What to use for filling the traps:

  • Vegetable oil is most popular.  Hive beetles are supposedly fond of Crisco (the oil, not the shortening).  It has been suggested that bees will clog the holes with propylus when using vegetable oil.
  • Mineral oil is safe and supposedly effective.  It was also suggested that bees do not clog the holes with propylus so much when using mineral oil.
  • Some people use motor oil.  Sure it probably works, but why would you put that in your hive?
  • My bee supplier suggested vegetable oil with a top layer of dish detergent to allow the beetles to sink to the bottom.  This enables the trap to hold more beetles and also prevents floaters from acting as stepping stones for the newly trapped victims.
Fill half way with vegetable or mineral oil and top off with dish detergent. This breaks the surface and allows the trapped beetles to sink to the bottom.

Fill half way with vegetable or mineral oil and top off with dish detergent. This breaks the surface and allows the trapped beetles to sink to the bottom, so the trap can hold more beetles.

How to fill the traps:

  • The easiest way I found to fill them is with an empty syringe.    The traps easily hang across a 9- inch bread baking pan.  I lined up 4 traps across the baking pan, used the syringe to fill them halfway with vegetable oil, then topped off the oil with a thin layer of liquid dish soap.
4 beetle blasters are easily filled and transported while sitting across the top of a 9 inch bread baking pan.

4 beetle blasters are easily filled and transported while sitting across the top of a 9 inch bread baking pan.

How to install:

  • I just lifted off the top of the hives, smoked the bees down (because they’re very curious creatures) and inserted the traps easily between the frames.
Placing the Beetle Blaster between the two end frames.

Placing the Beetle Blaster between the two end frames.

Positioning:

  • If using one, then between the first two or last two frame toward the back of the hive.
  • If using two, then place between the first two and the last two frames, one positioned toward the front and one positioned toward the back.
In place and ready to start blasting some beetles.

In place and ready to start blasting some beetles.

Now we just hurry up and wait.  I’ll check them again next weekend.  Of course, I open the hive to insert the traps and did not see one single beetle the entire time.  I hope they’re in dark little corners shaking with fear.

In the meantime, I pulled the homemade CD traps.  Not one single beetle entered those traps.  But as soon as I set them down, the ants raced right into them.  So great for trapping ants, not so great for trapping beetles.   At least mine didn’t work so well.

I’d love to hear how other beekeepers manage their beetle and pest problems.  Do you have any thoughts on using the Beetle Blaster or other beetle and pest management methods?

Welcome to Boo Bee Honey – How it All Began

As a new beekeeper, the two questions I hear most are

1) when will you get honey? and
2) how did you get into that?

They say you don’t get honey until your second year. Spend your first year growing your colony and keeping the bees alive – THEN worry about honey! We’re from Maryland, just 30 minutes north of Washington DC. Not a great honey state, I’m told, because our flowering season is short. However, I have spoken to a few new beekeepers who said they got anywhere from 35 to-100 pounds of honey their first year. I’ve also been told that any honey harvested first year will be sugar water honey – not the best quality.

At this point, I have no expectations and the information is overwhelming, and often conflicting. Honey is secondary, and right now I’m drinking in the bee activity. In fact, it’s their activity that drew me in 2 years ago. I remember watching a set of hives while on a hop farm. There’s something so rural and relaxing about bees and their hives. We stood and watched them go in and out of the boxes, minding their own beeswax. So I approached our local beekeeping association at the county fair and expressed my interest and concern about time commitment. They assured me that bees are low maintenance and actually prefer to be left alone.

That was it. I signed up for their class and haven’t looked back. In most cases, my ability to retain information is ridiculously bad, but I absorbed those bee lectures like a sponge. This confirmed what my husband has always said – I pay attention to things I’m interested in. I soon ordered two nucleus hives (nucs) and all of my hive equipment from a beekeeping supplier located just 20 minutes away from our house. Kismet you say? I like to think so.

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