Tag Archive | syrup

Bees are Springing to Life!

Sunday, March 8, 2015

We had a wonderfully warm high 50’s day and the bees were crazy!!!  I started into winter with 5 hives, and had one that died out and 4 that appear to bee thriving.  I couldn’t bee more excited!

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So now that spring is in the air and the bees know it, what’s a beekeeper to do?  Well, spring is all about getting those girls up and running ASAP.  They’ve been clustered all winter, so they have some catching up to do!  They’ve been feeding on sugar cakes, and they likely have plenty of pollen stored up, but to bee safe I whipped up a batch of my gourmet pollen patties.

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When temps are consistently in the 50’s, then I’ll put some jars of syrup on the hives and that will really get the queens laying so they can get their numbers up.  The more bees, the more nectar and pollen can be brought into the hive when things begin to bloom, and the more honey they’ll produce.

Remember those swarms last year?  Well, that’s what overwintered hives do when they run out of room and don’t have enough ventilation.  This year, I plan to stay on top of things and make sure they have both.  I also intend to plant several swarm traps around the yard, and we need to figure out where we can put more hives.  Yee gads, more hives you say?  Now you sound like my husband.  You’ve gotta put ’em somewhere when you catch ’em.  Of course, I’ve heard other beekeepers say they’ve had more success catching other people’s swarms than their own when using swarm traps.  Hey, that’s ok too.  My swarms are probably happily residing in someone else’s hive.

Temps will be in the 40’s and 50’s this week, with a chance of snow on Thursday.  Ugh!!  Just when we thought it was over!  That’s always a bad thing when temps are warmer, then sudden cold sets in and the bees aren’t ready for it.  Just shows that we’re not out of the woods quite yet.  Regardless, I’ll bee cleaning frames and adding top boxes with jars of sugar syrup so the girls can get themselves juiced up.

Would love to hear how everyone else’s hives are doing and their strategies for pushing into spring!  All the best for happy spring hives!

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Burnt Sugar Bad for Bees

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Learning lessons the hard way – most definitely my biggest pet peeve about beekeeping.  But as I’ve said many times, if you don’t make mistakes, you aren’t learning.  I made what could be a serious mistake this past week.  A simple mistake that I didn’t think anything of until I decided to research it a little too late.

I made a batch of sugar syrup last weekend.  I added sugar, then water, didn’t stir it, turned on the heat, then ran upstairs.  When I came back, the bottom of the sugar had scorched; not much, but enough that it turned a caramel amber color.  I strained all the pieces out and fed it to the bees anyway.  I’d been meaning to look it up, but life is crazy, so not until 5 days later did I give it a Google.

In no uncertain terms, burned sugar syrup of any kind is bad for bees.  It will make them sick and it can kill them. 

Fan-freakin-tastic.  I removed all feed from the hives and whipped up a new batch of syrup.  I haven’t noticed any issues yet, but then I’m at work all day and haven’t seen the girls in action all week.  It’s too cold when I leave and too dark when I come home.  Frustrating, but it is what it is.  I’ll keep and eye on them and hope for the best.  Passing it on in hopes that others can learn from my mistakes.

Initial Prep for Winter 2014-15

Sunday, October 5, 2014

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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.

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4) Feeding Grease Patties

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

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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.

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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!

Give the Girls Some Space

Saturday, March 22, 2014

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Fresh frames give the girls room to grow and build out new comb.

 

Spring Inspections

About 1 month before the nectar flow, this 70 degree day couldn’t have been more timely.  The bees are waking up, eating like crazy, building out comb, and hopefully will be growing in leaps and bounds.  This is the time to take action by doing a thorough inspection, giving them lots of space to grow, and making sure they have the right food to boost them into production mode.

My goals were:

  • Inspect to see where the bees are located and switch them to the bottom so they can move up the hive.
  • Look for brood and determine whether the queen is in good shape.
  • Clean out the old candy and refill their 1:1 sugar syrup and pollen patties.
  • Remove mouse guards and clean bottom boards.
  • Add a box of new frames so they can build out and grow.
  • Pull capped sugar syrup frames for extraction

Both Green Hive 1 (GH1) and Blue Hive 3 (BH3) are doing well.  The bees were all over the boxes, not just in one place.  Bees tend to move up the hive, so by shifting the busiest boxes down to the bottom, the bees feel there’s more space to expand and grow above, which can help prevent swarming in the spring.  Overwintered bees are much more likely to swarm than first year bees, so space is important.

Blue Hive 

Blue Hive bees were at the top and building comb ladders to get through the inner cover.  At two boxes, they needed space bad.  I inspected for brood and found one frame with a nice centered, circular brood pattern.  I hope that’s the beginning of more to come.  I also saw the queen.  Big red dot, no doubt, she’s still alive and active.  I cleaned their bottom board.  Surprisingly, not many dead bees.  They did a good job of cleaning themselves.  I switched the two boxes, cleared out all of the old candy, added a box of fresh new frames, and gave them a gallon of 1:1 sugar syrup, leaving their pollen patty in place.

Green Hive 

Green Hive had 4 boxes and the bees preferred to reside closer to the bottom of the hive.  They had too much room.  I pulled a top box filled with sugar syrup for extracting.  I didn’t find any brood and I didn’t see a queen, but the bees seemed plentiful and healthy.  I cleaned the bottom board – more bees in this one, maybe 2 cups, normal.  I shifted busy boxes to the bottom, topped with fresh new frames, cleared the old candy, and  gave them a gallon of 1:1 sugar syrup, leaving their pollen patty in place.

Neither hive seemed to be eating the pollen patties.  They had plenty of capped sugar syrup, and the pollen intake was strong last year, so they’re probably getting plenty of pollen from the comb.

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Pollen patty and sugar syrup in ziploc bag feeder.

They also were not stingy.  Not that they weren’t evidently upset at times, but for the most part they were calm.  I didn’t use any smoke and I didn’t get stung once.

Yellow Hive 

We’re waiting for our package to arrive for yellow hive.  I have to prepare the box for the new colony which is expected in early April.

Honey and Wax

I still have quite a bit of capped sugar syrup that I’ve been storing on the hives.  I pulled those and plan to extract this weekend.  I’m recycling some old dark comb and saving the wax.  As soon as styrofoam coolers come back in the stores, I’ll purchase one to make my solar wax melter.  Stay tuned for that tutorial!

Yay Spring!

After what is hopefully the last snow fall, temperatures are moving up into the 60s, and if the weather reports are correct, they should stick and continue to warm.  Will be a wet April, so flowers will be blooming soon and we’ll be planting in the garden this weekend.

Happy spring everyone and may the bees come a buzzing’ very soon!

 

 

Prepping the Girls for Winter

September 8, 2013 (Day 121) – Winter Prep and Mite Treatment

The temperatures have been dropping and I’ve been thinking about and acting on all the things we need to do to prepare for winter. It feels like we’ve been working toward overwintering since April, and all of our efforts will soon be put to the test.

New Feeders

Starting with feeders, all three hives now have the “no drown” top feeders.

Blue Hive 3 (BH3) did have an enclosed plastic boardman feeder, which I’ve managed to collapse and create a syrupy mess more than once.  Even enclosed in a medium box, I think this feeder attributed to their being robbed by Green Hive 1 (GH1).  Now the top cover is tight and closes off the top entrance, resulting in one less access point for robbing.

I also swapped out the bucket feeders in GH1 and Yellow Hive 2 (YH2).  The bucket feeders work great for summer because they sit up slightly higher than a medium box, creating a draft at the top allows for ventilation.  Now that the weather is cooler, the top cover seals in the warmth, plus top feeders are much easier to fill.

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Switching to 2:1 Sugar Syrup

I checked on BH3 yesterday and they had not touched the frames in their top box.  At this point, I’m not counting on their building up more brood, but I’m still hoping they’ll draw out some comb and stores.   GH1 and YH2 are packed with bees and they have tons of brood, so at this point, everyone is getting switched from 1:1 to 2:1 sugar syrup (that’s 2 parts sugar, 1 part water).  We’ve been going through about 150 lbs of sugar every 3-4 weeks.  GH1 can go through a gallon of sugar syrup in 2 days.  It’s hard to keep up with them.  2:1 will go through even more.  Ugh!  No one said this hobby would be cheap.

Consolidating the Hives

GH1 and YH2 are both packed with bees and there’s have more to come.  I’ll leave YH2 in three boxes, but I’ll likely use a bee escape to reduce GH1 down to 4 boxes.

BH3 will be the real challenge to get through the winter.  Their numbers are few and I don’t see much brood.  Their current two-medium hive is too large for winter.  I could combine them with another hive, but I don’t want to lose that $50 Texas Buckfast queen.  So I purchased a nuc box for their winter home.  This nuc will include two 5-frame medium boxes.  I’ll pack them in and do everything I can to keep them going.

Treating for Mites

One big action item is to treat the hives for mites.  Varroa and tracheal mites are a huge threat to bees, like ticks on dogs. I’ve been waiting for the lower temps before treating with a chemical-based solution called API LIFE VAR.  Aside from using some essential oils in their feed, I have yet to apply any mite prevention tactics.  Next summer I hope to treat more using safer, more bee friendly methods, like fogging with essential oils and using oxalic acid; but as we are heading into our first winter, I’d rather play it safe and use something I know will work.

I chose API LIFE VAR because it is a “soft” chemical that will hopefully prove less harsh and invasive to the girls. No chemical is good, but when we’re up again varroa, it is by far the lesser of two evils. And it is cheap. Less than $3 a pack. I’m treating Green Hive 1 (GH1) and Yellow Hive 2 (YH2), so 3 packs will get me through 3 weeks of treatment. The drawback is that, for 3 weeks, I have to dig into the hives every 7 days to add new tablets above the brood boxes. I wish there was a better option, but they’ll just have to tough it out.

Blue Hive 3 (BH3) is far too small to treat, so therein lies another challenge for getting them through the winter.  I may try a wintergreen treatment and a sugar roll in hopes that they’ll have some winter advantage against the mites.

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The API LIFE VAR looks like beef jerky, has the texture of brittle burned wood or charcoal, and has a powerful chemical smell.  The warnings are scary – wear waterproof gloves when handling, don’t leave around heat or anything smoking, extra pieces in newspaper for safe disposal.  Bottom line – this stuff is nasty.   Again, not my first choice, but it has to be done.   And this is the SOFT chemical.  Yikes, I don’t even want to think what the hard chemicals are like.

My Recommendations

  1. Wear disposable rubber gloves.
  2. Lay it on newspaper and open it when you get up to the hives.  Not in or around the house, and especially not around dogs or pets.
  3. Use scissors to cut the package in half length wise, then gently break each long piece into four even tablets.  You’ll have 8 tablets total – this will be enough for treatment 1 of 3 for GH1 and YH2.

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Close off the screened bottom board so the fumes remain in the hive.  I used my mite count board.  I even covered it with Crisco so when all is said and done, I can see just how effective the treatment is.  Hopefully it will be covered with lots of dead mites, and no dead bees.

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On the top brood box, I laid the pieces on top of the frames on the four outer corners of the box. Do not lay the pieces in the center over the brood.

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Put the hive back together and let the API LIFE VAR do its job.

The Reaction

I returned to the hive an hour later.  I could smell the chemicals from 100 feet or more.  The girls were not happy with me.  The photo below shows the scene.   No wonder they don’t like me.  I’m Beezilla, creating havoc and digging through their home, and now I’ve stunk up the place.  And I have to do it two more times!   Yeah, there’s gotta be a better way.  

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