Tag Archives: bee packages

Guest Post: Suburban Bees

It is always nice to find other beekeepers and homesteaders in the burbs’. Here is another great story from the opposite coast!

thekitchensgarden

Greetings from Northern California! As I write, the rain is pouring down, a real boon for our drought-stricken area. Looking outside, I can see the plants in our raised beds looking a little limp, and our chickens huddled miserably in the dry corner of their run. I can’t see any honeybees at all, though, and that’s because they are snugly huddled together in the middle of their hive, between bars full of honey!

I enjoy reading Cecilia’s blog so much, for many reasons, but I think the thing I find most fascinating is the larger scale of her operation. Cecilia has many barns, pastures, and animals, spread across acreage. Heavens, she even has to zipline across a creek to reach some of them! (Ok, maybe not yet.) Reading about the size of the Farmy delights me.

Here at Poppy Corners Urban Farm, space is at a premium. Four of us…

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2016 Honey Flow

Its that time again. Around July 4 seems to be the perfect time to harvest our honey from the hive. I had high hopes this year, as this was the second year that this hive would give us honey, but once getting into it, I was a little let down.

Last year (2015)we were able to get about 11 pounds of honey. Not a fantastic harvest, but still very excited about our first year. This year I truly expected that we would be able to harvest two to three times that amount, as the hive seemed very strong and thriving.

I guess sometime in the spring, we must have had a swarm from this hive. When I opened it up, the bee population seemed very low. Unfortunately, I had my wife taking pictures while I explored the hive and none of those pictures came out for some reason.

In the brood boxes, I found lots of empty cells, drone and female, along with a good amount of brood. There was a layer of pollen and honey, so the house bees seem to be keeping up on their duties. I did not find any queen cells, so the hive is not “thinking” about a new queen. I am guessing that this queen is starting to fail (I did not re-queen in 2015) so I am going to get a new queen and make that change now, so there will be plenty of time to assimilate and grow winter stores.

Back to the honey. I did get almost the same amount of honey this year as I did in 2015, so I guess I can’t complain too much. I will say the honey this year was much darker, so they must have got nectar from a different source than last year. I will be adding 2 more hives in the spring, so I look forward to the coming years of beekeeping.

Please enjoy some of the pictures from our day.

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Bee-utiful Morning

Finally! Had a nice weather day and some actual time in between planned and unplanned projects to see how my bee hives looked.

My one hive is empty because the bees swarmed last year and found a new home. I took it apart first just to see if I could determine any cause in the housing conditions to make them swarm.

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Left empty over winter since the bees swarmed last year

20160413_115817 20160413_120058 20160413_120149I could not

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Threw away all the existing frames. Don’t want to transfer anything to the new hive.

get any definitive information from the empty box. The pest’s that took up residence may have come in after the swarm, so I can’t really blame it on hive moths, veroa mites or other small critters. I may have inadvertently killed the queen at one stage last year and the bees decided to leave with the new queen they had grown. Who knows?

 

I am throwing away all the “guts” of the hive and will burnish the interior of the hive body with a torch to  be able to use it for my next hive. Hopefully this will kill anything that may have survived after the last bees left.

So, on to the good hive. It has been thriving well. This is the hive I got 11 pounds of honey from last year. They seemed to over-winter well, but I felt I need to take the hive down to see what is actually happening.

20160419_104008 20160419_104023I put a honey box on top a couple of months ago because the weather has been strangely warm-and rainy-so I just wanted to see how it would go. Surprisingly, when I pulled the honey today, it was about half full and the majority of comb was drawn and ready to accept more. This may bode well for this years honey harvest in July. But my main concern today was to check and see that we had a good brood, meaning lots of new bees over the next few days.

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Top Hive Body
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Bottom Hive Body
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Switched Hive body boxes and installed Queen excluder between honey box

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When checking the top box of the two deep hive, plenty of activity and lots of capped cells. So we should start seeing an explosion of bees in the next week! But maybe not….

The lower box was empty! I really was not expecting it to be empty, thought I might at least see some eggs or larvae. I went ahead and switched the two boxes positions (Since bees like to work their way up) and I will check it again next week to see if the queen is laying in the top box now.  I am hoping that will be the case, so just have to wait and see.

I will update when I get into the hive again. For now the hive is back together with the honey box on top—-fingers crossed.

 

BEE-utiful! A Honey of a Season!

Three years in the making! Three years to get a colony of bees to over-winter, but worth it!

It has been tough going getting our bee hives to grow. Starting the bees three years ago, we have lost every colony through fall and winter each year. But I made a commitment to myself (Actually the wife made a commitment for me) that I would give it a minimum of three years to over-winter a colony.

The original goal was to add a new colony each spring until I had three colonies, but each spring I have been starting fresh with one colony.

I have always bought Italian bee’s, but this past year through a special deal from our local club, I purchased two nuc’s with Russian bees. I think changing to the more aggressive and hardier Russian bee made some difference, although I did still lose one colony through 4 different swarms.

The colony that did survive the winter, turned out to be a very strong and thriving colony. Yesterday we removed the Illinois honey box and proceeded to extract our very first run of honey.

I truly though it would be a lot of work, so I asked a couple of new beekeeper friends to come and help, but it was truly not to bad. Pulling the frames of honey, de-capping the comb and spinning the frames proved to be a pretty easy experience.

I was really thrilled with our first year’s production, considering we extracted over TEN POUNDS of honey from just 6 1/2 frames! It was the best tasting honey I had ever eaten, but that could be just the excitement of eating our own honey talking.

Here are a few pictures from the day, sorry I did not take more!

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By the way cleaning the equipment was really simple. (buckets and honey extractor) I just set all the equipment in front of my bee hive for the rest of the day and the bees cleaned it all up for me! Just a little soap and water this morning and the equipment is back in storage for next year!

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Here is a quick video of the honey extractor at work. I can’t wait til next year!

Lot’s more pictures HERE.

 

Planting for Bees? It’s About Thyme

Adventures in Natural Beekeeping

5-27-15...Pink Chintz Thyme 5-27-14…Pink Chintz Thyme attracted bees last year

Butterflies like them too. Butterflies like them too.

June 29, 2014...English Thyme June 29, 2014…English Thyme

Head first in pink Thyme Head first in pink Thyme

June 29...English Thyme June 29…English Thyme

6-4-13...Red Thyme 6-4-13…Growing as a ground cover, this red thyme is hard to see until you bend down close.

Health benefits of thyme…

To finish out the beautiful music of La Tabú, I added some video of this new plant…a type of St. John’s Wort called HyPearls Hypericum.

July 10, 2014...HyPearls Hypericum attracted many bees, usually in the morning hours. July 10, 2014…HyPearls Hypericum attracted many bees, usually in the morning hours.

You can understand why it's called HyPearls. You can understand why it’s called HyPearls.

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Oh, HaBee Day!

The weather begins to give us a glimmer into warmer days, a tease that we may actually be through this winter. Truly that just means that as a suburban homesteader, my days are about to get long to get everything done to start outside planting.

Starter plants for 2014 garden
Starter plants for 2014 garden

This spring is even more tumultuous than previous years as we are in the middle of our greenhouse project (wet, cold weather has severely delayed the project), and I have begun building aquaponics tanks for other enthusiasts. Both of these projects are keeping me hopping (16 hours yesterday), but on the bright side, I beginning to lose that excess winter weight very quickly!

As harried as yesterday was, I took great delight in installing our new bee colonies in their new permanent home in our backyard. In my last bee post, I told of our problems last year and how we lost the colony.  I am very optimistic this year that we will have 2 strong colonies survive next winter.

Instead of package bees, like last year, I went ahead and spent a little more to buy “nuc’s”. Nuc’s are 5 frame units  full of bees born from the queen in the nuc. Since these bee’s are all “brothers and sisters”, they are already well adept at working together. They will only need to adapt to their new home in my hives.

I opened my hives, pulled out 5 empty frames and replaced them with

Nuc frames in new hive
Nuc frames in new Hive

the filled frames from the nuc’s. The bees were so busy they never even really took the time to notice they were moving into new  digs! At least the first nuc didn’t notice, the second one was a little more observant and not happy about the change.

In working with bees, I have never “suited up” except for a pair of gloves, since I have to grab full-of-bee frames. These bee’s decided I should be taught a lesson, maybe they thought I was a little cocky for not wearing protection, but……….Having longer hair and a full beard is not good when you upset a bee colony.

Ok lesson learned, I will at least wear my head gear with the gloves, since 6 or 7 bees gave their lives to teach me to bee humble. This encounter may discourage many. Anytime one learns a new task, there is always a learning curve and sometimes mistakes are made. Mistakes are always painful, but become a necessary tool in the learning shed.

Nuc Transport Box 2
Nuc Transport Box 2
Nuc Transport Box 1
Nuc Transport Box 1

Oh well, I finished installing the new colonies, filled and installed the feeders, and closed up the hives for the night. I sat the boxes in front of each hive since there were still many bees in them. They will make their way to the hive soon, since they are working for the queen that bore them.

New Home
New Home

Well the journey has begun, again. I am hopeful that we have better results this season than we did last year.

Bee Attitudes

HoneyBeeLast year, 2013, we began our journey into bee keeping. Being against bee keeping, my wife talked me into at least taking the beginner’s bee keeping course to get more information. By the time the 6 week course was coming to an end, I was hooked! (I have no doubt, my wife knew that would happen!)

We decided to start with just one hive, with the idea of getting it through the winter, then adding 2 more this spring. Reason being the expense of getting started and if we messed up, we would only lose one colony instead of two or three.

I believe, though, that we were doomed from the start. We ordered our bee package and all of our supplies though a local supplier, thinking we would be better off dealing locally. While I still believe this is true, the supplier still orders bee packages (bees that have just been put together and must be “Trained” to accept and work for an unknown Queen) and nuc’s ( 4 or 5 frames of bee’s with an established Queen) from a bee supplier in Georgia.

For those that live in or around Georgia, you already know what kind of weather you had late winter and spring 2013. Cold, Wet, and LONG! This kept package bee production to a minimum, with most shipments going out 1 to 2 months later than projected.

3# Bee Package
3# bee Package

We were scheduled to get our bee package on April 13, 2013, but it did not arrive in our hands until late June. This put our colony behind about 2 months-thats two months less of quality brooding time needed to grow a strong colony to over-winter.

We inserted the package into a single hive body and begin liquid feeding immediately. We continued feeding 1-2 times a day until late august when the single hive body seemed to be pretty full with brood and honey. We then added the second hive body on top and reduced feeding to daily or every other day.

Other than removing the top lid to add feed, I left the hive alone, since the bee’s know more about what they need to do than I do. It was about late September, early October when I decided to actually go into the hive and see the progress the bee’s had made. At this point, I had hoped that the second box would be nearly full of stores for the bee’s to live through winter.

Top Body Comb Production 1
Top Body Comb Production 1
Top Body Comb Production
Top Body Comb Production

 

The above pictures are exactly what I pulled out of the hive on that day. Not a pretty picture or anything like what I was expecting.

Unfortunately, being that in our region nectar is pretty well done by Mid-October, I again began feeding feverishly. I thought that although the comb production was haphazard, maybe with enough feed, they could still fill the frames with enough stores for winter.

This did not happen. My thoughts about what the bee’s should do and what they were going to do were two different things. They did not eat, my feeder sat on top untouched. They did not grow their stores much, so I had to come to the realization that I would probably lose this hive before spring.

I checked again in November, then again in December: no real change but my bee’s were still in tact. Maybe they could pull through if we have an early spring.

Anyone that watches weather much, knows what this winter has been like in the Mid-Atlantic Region. Here it is March 24, 2014 and it is snowing like crazy outside. This is the winter that just won’t stop. So I guess there was little hope for my fledgling colony.

We have had a few sixty degree days,-just a spring teaser-so I was able to open the hive and see if there were any survivors. Of course, there were not. The hive was completely empty except for a few dead carcases on the bottom board.

I was very dis-heartened, but I am one that will stick with a plan once I start. I ordered two nuc’s for spring, which are scheduled for delivery on April 5, 2014. I am in hopes that using nuc’s this year will increase my odds of over-wintering the hives.

Hives
Hives

Well, my hives are cleaned and ready for the new arrivals. I have set them next to my over-sized rabbit hutch, which was originally built to house my chickens. And hopefully in the near future will be able to house chickens again.

But for now I am concentrating on getting my new bee’s when they arrive to adapt to their new environment. Hopefully since they are coming from Minnesota this year, they will quickly adapt to our weather and will over-winter well. My plan is to have 3 hives next year, so it would be nice to have two strong colonies to start with in Spring 2015-and maybe even some honey!