Tag Archive | ventilation

Ready for Spring

January 25, 2016 (Monday)

Hives in snow

It’s been an uneventful winter up til now.  Mother nature just hit us with a good 3 feet of snow this past weekend.  I know that’s not a big deal for some of you northern folks, but for us Marylanders, that’s a butt load of snow!

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How are the bees?  To bee honest, I won’t really know until the temperatures rise so I open the hives and add candy.  I’m hoping they have enough bees to stay warm and enough food to keep them going.  As I cleared snow off the hives, I did notice some dead bees in front of the entrances.   One or two flew out to see what was going on.  That’s always a good sign.

January is the time for clustering and keeping warm.  February and March is the time when they begin to produce more bees in preparation for spring, so keeping them fed and well ventilated during that time will be key to a strong start come spring.  Pollen patties are also on my to-do list.

As we were snowed in, I made a nice 10 lb batch of candy for the girls.  And we can’t forget the birds either, so I melted some tallow that had been rendered for soaps and mixed in some bird seed to make suet cakes.  Next week we cold crash and bottle a 10 gallon batch of blueberry mead, which will go on to age indefinitely.  We’re staying busy with indoor activities, but definitely looking forward to spring.   Hope everyone’s bees are doing well.  Stay safe and warm.

Candy and suet

 

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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!!!  

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!

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.

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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.

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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!

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!

 

 

 

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.

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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.

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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!

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Mice, Mold and Another Massacre (or two)

October 20, 2013 – Fall Inspection and Mouse Guard Installs

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FINALLY! My bee supplier scored a shipment of Brushy Mountain mouse guards for the hives. I’ve been waiting to install the mouse guards for three weeks now, since the farmers have been cutting down the corn and harvesting the fields. That means the mice are exposed and seeking refuge in … beehives? Of all places, I know, mice smell the honey, and hives are warm. During the winter the bees are busy clustering and the mice are left to do a tremendous amount of damage to the frames, honey and comb. That’s why we need mouse guards. You can make homemade mouse guards out of wire mesh and other hardware, but I like the Brushy Mountain guards because they’re sized for 8 frame hives, they’re easy to install, they’re sturdy enough to use again next year and the year after, and the things have been selling out for weeks, so I consider that a good testament that they work.

Good Day for an Inspection!

The weather has been consistently wet and cloudy and cold and/or windy. The girls haven’t been out much, so I was excited to see them darting around the hives this morning. It was a gorgeous sunny day, in the low 70s, slightly breezy. I haven’t inspected the girls in several weeks, plus I wanted to replace the hive beetle traps. I’ve seen hive beetles in all three hives. Thankfully the girls are strong and able to guard themselves well against mice and beetles. It’s also getting cold, so I’m hoping this is a close to final inspection before the freezing overnight temperatures begin.

I started with Green Hive 1 (GH1). They’ve always been my strongest hive. The top three boxes are filled with stores…yay!  I considered adding a bee escape board to clear out the top box and consolidate the hive down to 4 boxes, but then I’d end up having to freeze the top box of capped sugar syrup.  I decided to let them continue caring for it since they’re doing such a fine job.  Everything looked good.  They have new hive beetle traps, and 2:1 feed. Easy peasy. I closed them up and moved on to Yellow Hive 2 (YH2).

YH2 has 2 full boxes of stores. I didn’t see brood, but then I didn’t check every frame.   YH2 is like a propolis factory.  They seal the heck out of everything.  And they’re nosy to boot, which makes my job much harder.  I don’t dig much because there’s always risk of damaging the queen, and this time of year that’s the last thing I want to do.  Sure, they can make another queen, but the girls have kicked out all the drones, so she likely won’t be able to mate.  I’m still new at this beekeeping thing. I leave a lot to instincts, common sense and high hopes. They look healthy, numbers are good, they’re defending themselves, stores are strong, no red flags. Works for me.

The “Not So Happy” Dance

While GH1 goes about their business, letting me get in and get out fairly quickly, YH2 bees are more involved.  They guard well, which is good.  They’re also smart.  How do I know they’re smart?  Because they know exactly where to find the opening in the bottom of my pants leg.  There’s nothing like holding a 50 lb box of bees and feeling a bee or two flying around in your pants.  That part is actually much worse than the sting itself.   Thanks to YH2, I have one sting on the front of my thigh, one on my ankle, and one on the back side of my other inner thigh.  If only they’d stay down inside the hives, the inspection would go so much smoother with less casualties.  I’ll be itching in the morning.

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YH2 Meets Beezilla…again

I pulled a center frame from the bottom box. Always a risk since the queen tends to hang in this area. No brood, mostly stores and empty cells. I managed to drop the frame down carefully, but then I pushed the frames together and caught a few bees in between. The buzz was intense and they rose up and out of the hive in a large mass where the mini massacre had just occurred. Beezilla is at it again… I can only hope that I didn’t harm the queen.  I’m always amazed at how emotionally distressed they become when a bee is…well…smooshed.  Communication in the hive is instantaneous and nothing will cause a mass of bees to start buzzing around faster than killing one of their own.

I gave my apologies and put YH2 back together with new beetle traps and 2:1 syrup.  On to Blue Hive3 (BH3).

BH3 – My Pride and Joy

I never truly felt like a beekeeper until I split my first hive.  Blue Hive 3 has been an ongoing experiment, a happy accident.  I’m so happy with how they’ve progressed. Lots of bees, decent stores (although they still hadn’t filled in the end frames so I did some rearranging), they guard themselves well, everyone is happy and healthy, no more robbing.  I’m not moving them to a nuc.  They’ve filled out their two 8-frame boxes quite well.  I have faith in my little hive.  We’ll just have to wait and see how they do.

BH3 is also interesting because these bees are very dark, compared to my other bees.  I’m hoping for some cross breeding in the spring because that makes for a hardier stock.

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Woo hoo! Lots of active, healthy young bees in BH3.

Mold in the Hives

Its not bad enough that we’re battling mice and insects.  I’ve noticed green mold forming between BH3’s inner cover and the top cover.  A result of moisture rising from the sugar syrup and not enough ventilation up top to release it. I cleaned the inner cover and top cover with vinegar to help kill the mold, and I added 1-3/4 inch blocks of 2″x4″ wood to raise the top cover and create some ventilation. Let’s hope that works. I added a few hive beetle traps and 2:1 syrup and closed them up!

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Green mold forming on the inner cover.

Installing the Mouse Guards

Oh, this was fun.  I thought the mouse guards would fit over the entrance reducers.  Wrong!  They REPLACE the entrance reducers.  This meant removing entrance reducers, which are so tight and well propolised in GH1 and YH2 that I spent over a hour digging them out with my hive tool.  BH3’s entrance never fit right anyway, so they were easy.  I was of course dressed in full garb.  The hubster was standing by with the drillI and screw in hand, ready to move in and screw them down, but by the time I finished, the girls were in a frenzy.  When I removed the entrance reducers, they poured out in droves.  The hubster didn’t stand a chance, and God forbid he actually suit up for the occasion.  Nope, I was left to size the mouse guards and drill them in myself, which I wasn’t prepared to do.

You know those action thrillers where hoards of people are try to escape before the walls close in, and for the pure sake of gore, a dozen people are smooshed with heads sticking out and feet hanging down?  Yep, this installation was straight out of a bee horror flick.  The hubster is a pro at drilling in screws.  I, on the other hand, had to be coached from the sidelines.  Those stupid little screws just would not stay on the end of the drill, and working under pressure did not help.  But once I got it, I managed to knock the other two quickly.   Of course, YH2 experienced the most trauma and everyone in the hive had to come out and see what the fuss was about.

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YH2 Not Happy with Beezilla

The guards in now in place. Yay! Although I didn’t see any signs of mice, I placed the mite boards in GH1 and YH2 to check for droppings, just to be safe.  Still some important winter decisions to make and research to be done, but so far so good. Ever forward!

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BH3 using their new guarded entrance