Tag Archives: hives

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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Who Inspired You? A Story Of Inspiration – And A Big Thank You!

One of my favorite blogs for living a simpler, more self-reliant life.

Old World Garden Farms

There has been someone, somewhere, for all of us, who made a difference in our life. Maybe it was teaching us to garden, or how to cook or can – perhaps it was to play a sport, an instrument, sing, dance, paint or write. Maybe it was to reach for a goal, become a better person – or to simply not give up and to keep trying.

There is no doubt my love of gardening comes straight from my parents There is no doubt my love of gardening comes straight from my parents

Over the past week, we have had so many who have pledged to our book project make one simple request – to place the name of a mom, dad, aunt, uncle or friend in place of theirs in the credits of the book – simply because he or she loved to garden, taught them how to cook – or in some way, shape or form was an inspiration in their lives.

The answer, with…

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Beekeeper’s Dream-Update

A few days ago I wrote about the new Flow Hive (Beekeeper’s Dream) that was about to hit the market. Well it actually hit on Sunday Night here in the Mid-Atlantic U.S. and I am amazed at how it has been received.

Within the first 2 hours on Indiegogo.com over $250,000 of sales were recorded. The attention that this product is receiving is nothing less than phenomenal. As a beekeeper, I understand, since the honey extraction process can be tedious. Not to mention that I have about $400 worth of equipment in my basement that I only use once a year for the extraction.

Take a minute to head over to their site and see whats going on with the new Flow Hive. When I last checked they were above $2.4M in sales in the first 48 hours!

Flow Hive

Beekeeper’s Dream?

As a novice beekeeper, I am always interested in the easiest and cheapest way to do things. I have invested a lot of money into bee equipment, including extractor’s etc. but when this comes available, I may have to invest more.

Check them out! https://www.facebook.com/flowhive

Looking for new Bee Keepers

Honeybee
Honeybee

We are very novice when it comes to beekeeping-3rd year, but will be the first year we have actually over-wintered a colony. But it is that time of year again that our club-The Central Maryland Beekeepers Association offers the FREE Honeybee night.

This is a great night to learn the basics of beekeeping and to interact with professional beekeepers. Get questions answered and if you would like, sign up for the spring beekeepers short course.

Whether you are interested in bees for yourself, as a hobby, or selling bee products-this is the perfect night to get the information you need. There is no charge for Honeybee night, so just take two hours and learn about one of the worlds greatest assets!

Honeybee Night

February 19, 2015 7pm

Oregon Ridge Nature Center

Shawan Rd

Cockeyesville, MD

Sponsored by the Central Maryland Beekeepers Association

Short Course Registration Form (pdf)

Time to feed the bees

Its almost the end of January and its still pretty cold here in the Mid-Atlantic region. January & February are usually the worst months when it comes to cold and snow in our area. We are currently watching a snow storm which is supposed to hit us later today, tonight, and tomorrow. So, with that and the current temperature around 40 degrees, its a great time to open the hive for a quick inspection and add some food for the remaining winter.

Bee food in a split feeder. 5# of sugar, mixed with water, packed into feeder to dry
Bee food in a split feeder. 5# of sugar, mixed with water, packed into feeder to dry

Our bee food is no more than sugar and water put into a feeder and allowed to dry. Normally we would use a liquid feed, but with the worst of the winter still coming, we opted for a solid that the girls can nibble and get enough sustenance to complete the jobs this winter.

Opening up the hive in winter is iffy, so we wanted to make this a very quick inspection: only removing the top and inner cover to expose the top box frames.

There was very little activity in the top box and most of the cells

Frames of the top box-little activity.
Frames of the top box-little activity.

looked as if they had already been eaten, so I looked deeper to see a flurry of activity in a lower box. This is a great thing to see this time of year and hopefully means we will emerge in spring with a strong, honey rearing colony.

We were not in the hive more than a minute to insure not losing much heat stored from the bee colony. After insuring activity, we closed up the hive and re-wrapped to allow the bees to quickly regain the 90+ degrees they are used to in winter months.

Feeder added to top of hive.
Feeder added to top of hive.
Close hive with feeder
Close hive with feeder

The Fishes and the Bees

May the Simple Things be Amazing

Bees in an aquaponic system Bees in an aquaponic system

For sometime I have been toying with the idea of installing a small aquaponics system in my yard.  Part of the sustainable lifestyle I am trying to lead is the important responsibility of raising as much of the food we eat as possible.  So the thought of breeding my own fish for eating, while their waste water recycles as nutrients in my veggie patch, cycling, cleansing and returning to the fish, really appeals to me.  I want some living systems to learn from as well as to grow my own provisions – at least within the capabilities of my (very) small garden.  I want to spend more time immersed in ‘nature’ than I do.  So all hyped up with that in mind I decided to visit a recommended aquaponics retailer.  Now I must say, although my research showed I’d have to wait a while for the fish to grow large enough for harvesting I was running a few recipes through my…

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Oh, HaBee day!…..NOT!

We were truly thrilled to install our newly purchased nuc’s in our bee hives in April, it was a truly HaBee day, but along with issues in our other projects, and being behind on getting our garden beds done, we lost over half our colony to 2 swarms.

About two weeks ago, laying in our bed, looking out the window at the bee hives, my wife and I noticed a flurry of activity around our most active hive. It looked as though 10,000 bees were playing gleefully in the air above the hive.

We went outside to see why there was so much activity and saw that the bees were flying to a neighbors property and congregating on one of their bushes. The picture below is not very good, but the bee swarm is circled:

Bee swarm in neighbors tree
Bee swarm in neighbors tree

Bees will swarm for various reasons, but it boils down to the hive not being able to sustain the colony. In our case when opening up the hive, it looks as though the bees were very productive and bore far too many bees for a 2-box hive. The hive still looked very full and productive, even though we had just lost, I am sure, over 10,000 bees.

Our original queen was evidently a very fertile and active queen. Queens can lay up to 1500 eggs a day, so my guess is that she was doing just that and had plenty of worker bees to maintain the growth. I guess I have a better understanding of over-population now when it comes to hives.

I did not have a third box readily available to add to the hive, but the bees were already lost, so I did not worry too much about it. Yes, I could have captured the bees and put them in a new hive, but remember this is only my second year. I am really not that confident yet.

Well, the bees stayed in the neighbor’s tree for about 2 days before moving to a permanent location that they had chosen. I again checked my hive and all was going well. They were filling the 2 boxes with their winter stores and all seemed habee again.

Yet………two weeks later, to the day, a second swarm occurred from the same hive. Wow was it overpopulated-2 swarms in 2 weeks. Again, had no extra equipment, so again lost the swarm. Another 10,000+ bees gone.

Heading up to the local supplier to buy more equipment, don’t want to take a chance on a third swarm, since the hive still seems very full!

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!