Sunday, June 28, 2009

Taylor and the Bees

The first step in educating the public about honey bees and their bio-physical environment is to provide them with realistic knowledge about this fascinating creature. Beekeepers need to counterbalance the adolescent African Hybrid paranoia that exists without resorting to anthropomorphized and dysnified images of friendly bees who only sting evil people. Education should instead generate a healthy respect for this generally non-aggressive, important species. With this in mind, I decided to introduce my 4 year old granddaughter Taylor to the ins and outs of bee management.

On Thursday, Taylor and I suited up and went out to inspect the carniolan hives in Beelandia. (I'd bought Taylor a small bee suit from B & B Honey Farm.) I taught Taylor the various names of the inspection tools I use and we went out to open up Plan Bee... and Lib-BEE-taria.

Taylor just loved the experience while learning a great deal about the lifecycle and behaviors of the honey bee. Grandma Monta took a few photos of the inspection I'd like to share with you all.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Muggy, Uncomfortable Inspection

I was finally able to inspect the hives containing the Minnesota Hygienic honey bees Monday afternoon. The two days before were too rainy to inspect. Today, on the other hand, was bright, sunny, hot(low 90s)and humid. The bees seemed as uncomfortable as I was, as they were bearding and "washboarding" in front of both Metpropolis and Bee Glad...

Bee Glad..., a langstroth hive, has three boxes on now and the bees have started work, in earnest, in the third box. Two frames in the top box had newly laid eggs on them and 7 out of the ten frames in the hive were being drawn on. The second box was fine as well although, again, the honey bees do not seem to take to the green drone frame as well as I'd like. The other plastic frames are being worked quite well however.

I had to add three bars to Metpropolis, the top bar hive. This hive is booming! Plenty of brood (in all stages of development), pollen and honey. I took one bar of capped drone brood out of this hive in my effort to control the mite population, although, so far, my sticky board inspections show no mites in any of the hives.

I received no stings during this inspection but that did not keep me from ultimately getting stung today. I brought Monta out to see all the bees bearding in front of Bee Glad... and carried a hitch hiking worker in the house with me. I went to scratch my back while walking through the living room of our house and WHAM!!!! I received a nice sting in the "webbing" between the thumb and pointer of my right hand. The cats were thoroughly amused.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Video: Bee Activity At the Entrance to "Bee Glad..."

A short video of the entrance to one of the hives in Beelandia. Look closely and you will notice a number of interesting behaviors occurring: "wash boarding", ventilation of the hive, the exit and return of foragers.

Third Box On Lib-BEE-taria

Yesterday was a busy day of beekeeping at Beelandia. After driving Monta to work, I drove off to Houston Minnesota to pick up a telescoping cover at B & B's. Monta constructed a double nuke last weekend and I wanted to be prepared for any queen cells that might be built and be ripe. It rained a bit along the way, so I wasn't really expecting to do my scheduled inspections of the carniolan hives, but, by the time I got back, it was quite sunny with a temperature about 80 degrees.

Around 1:00 p.m. I did my scheduled inspections. I started with Lib-BEE-taria, the langstroth hive inhabited by carniolans. The bees were busy in the second box, working on all ten frame, so I added a third box with a frame added from the second and opened the entrance fully. In all, Lib-BEE-taria is a very healthy hive with gentle bees that allow me to work quickly.

I can't say that my experience in Plan Bee..., the top bar hive, was the same. Yes, this hive is also doing well "production and health-wise" but they seemed a little too defensive this afternoon. It wasn't simply the one sting I received on the hand but also a handful of guard bees hovering around my veiled face challenging me to continue. I got most of my activity done but the hive remained "testy" all afternoon. They didn't want me in Beelandia! I am pondering why right now. Cabin fever from two and half days (on and off) of rain? Some disturbance over the last few days? Just "mean" genetics? They are not unworkable, just not as gentle as the other three hives.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Video: Top Bar Hive ConstructionSimply

I like top bar hives for a number of reasons, including their ease of construction. Top bar hives can be constructed simply using recycled and reused materials. The following video shows just how simple it is to build one of your own.

A special thanks to Outofabluesky for uploading this video on youtube.

Added a Third Box To Bee Glad...

Yesterday I inspected those two hives (Bee Glad... and Metpropolis) containing the Minnesota Hygienic bees. As I mentioned in my last blog entry, the bees in Beelandia are so much more productive, and seemingly healthier than those I had last year.

I added a third box to Bee Glad... as the honey bees were working each frame of the second box. I moved a broodless frame up from the second when I did this. I took off the hive entrance, did some powdered sugar dusting before closing up. I did move the green drone brood frame around in the second box, trying to encourage a little more activity on that frame.

Metpropolis, the top bar hive, has also been productive. They are starting to pack away honey on the edges of the colony. I do love pulling out bars that are primarily filled with capped honey. The feel of their comparative heaviness to the other bars is a rush... Yes, I am peculiar! I added two more bars to this hive.

And lastly, no stings...

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Wasp, Bees and Me

I was culling some capped drone brood from one of my top bars and set this bar aside. Some type of wasp flew in to steal a bit of honey and annoy the carniolans.

The Obama's Bees

The City Bees blog has an article about the Obama's bees.

Almost a Disaster...But Everything's Alright Now

Structural linguists state that "meaning is in difference." You don't know what a stream is until you know how it differs from a river. To know a cat is gentle, you must also experience a mean one. I think I am finally understanding what healthy bees look like by comparing them to the bees I had last year... you know the ones that died!

I inspected the carniolans today and found them expanding at a much greater rate than last year's bees. In the langstroth hive, 9 out of the 10 frames in the second box, which I put on just last week, are being worked on. In the top bar hive, I had to add two more top bars to an ever expanding brood nest. Yes, there could be other reasons besides having healthier packages this year, but my intuition tells me probably not. There are much, much less bees scampering on the ground around the hives this year and, as of yet, nothing significant to report on the mite front unlike last year.

All was not perfect in today's inspection, however. Besides the sting I took on the finger, I dropped a top bar while working in Plan Bee... I was culling some capped drone brood and the bar just slipped out of my hand, bees and all. I am happy to report it was not much of a mess, and the bees were not too badly riled up.

I gave each hive a sugar dusting!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Video: Russian Bees in a Warre

I finally got to read Kim Flottum's column in this month's Bee Culture. He suggests we all move to keeping Russian honey bees because of their resistance to mites. As a northern United States beekeeper, I would expect these bees are also more suited to my colder environment. I would eventually like to maintain some but, as of yet, these bees are not available within a reasonable distance from me. I suppose I could install a queen the hives I have.

Larry, a poster on the Warre email list, posted a short video of his Russian bees. So in honor of my pondering, here it is:

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Finally...An Inspection

The last two days have been cool and rainy but this morning the sun shone brightly. When I went out to inspect the hives at noon today, I could see that the bees had cabin fever, with all the activity in front of all four hives. I fired up the smoker, put on my veil, and opened up the two Minnesota Hygienic hives: Bee Glad..., and Metpropolis.

I only checked the top box of Bee Glad... and saw that the honey bees have been pretty busy this past week. They have begun to draw comb on half the plastic frames in the box, and the queen is laying on some of the frames. (I did see the queen on one of these frames.) Everything else looked fairly normal with plenty of stores to report. I closed up after a powdered sugar dusting.

The top bar hive, Metpropolis, is booming. I didn't see the queen in the hive but I did see plenty of evidence that she is there and laying well. I did notice the start of a supercedure cell but this is probably just a part of the normal insurance policy the bees are taking out. There is no evidence that the queen is deficient in anyway. Before I closed up this hive, I filled up a pesticide duster with powdered sugar and dusted the bees with sugar.

I am glad to report: no stings!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Adding A Second Box to LIb-BEE-taria

I had a very pleasant surprise today inspecting both of the hives containing carniolans. The last week was a productive time for both Lib-BEE-taria and Plan Bee... The hives have grown much bigger over the last week than I expected.

I added a box to Lib-BEE-taria, the langstroth, after inspecting the 10 frames in the bottom box. The queen seems healthy and strong judging by the brood in various stages. All ten frames were being drawned and worked. There was also a great deal of burr comb on the inner cover and tops of the frame.

I added two bars to Plan Bee..., the top bar hive. I did get to see the queen again in this hive, in pretty much the same place as I did last inspection. There was plenty of brood in all stages of development, and a good deal of honey and pollen stored. I cut out some drone brood as part of my mite control program.

Lastly, I squashed another bee with my left pinky and received another sting.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Added A Box To Bee Glad...

I did my inspection of the Minnesota Hygienic hives Sunday afternoon. The temperature was in the low 70s, it was sunny, and the bees were out. I think that a good deal of their pollen is being collected from the basswood trees that are in bloom all throughout our neighborhood.

Both Metpropolis and Bee Glad... are healthy and thriving, nothing unusual to report. In Bee Glad..., the Langstroth hive, around 80% of the frames have been drawn, so I added a second box, set the bottom entrance to the next size, and unplugged the top entrance on the top shim. I took off the top feeder as well.

In Metpropolis, the top bar hive, all is well as well. I added another bar to the 13 already on and took out the feeder as well.

One thing that was truly noticeable today was how calm and gentle the bees were in both hives. While it is difficult to speculate why at this point, I am guessing that it was the time of day. I usually inspect my hives two and half hours earlier in the late morning. For a number of reasons, I did not get to the hives until 2 or so yesterday. I am guessing that most of the foragers were out and about by this time, and the younger bees were too busy at other duties to take much notice of me. In all, it was a pleasant time for all.