Monday, November 14, 2011

Line: Mad Urban Beekeepers

Here is a new bee business in Madison, WI: Mad Urban Beekeepers.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Fox Blocks As Hive Insulation

For the last few years I've been searching for a convenient, yet effective way to winterize my hives in the cold Minnesota environment I live in. Hay bales were effective but tended to attract vermin, and presented me with a problem after winter: I could not find enough people who wanted to utilized these bales after their winter use. We tried pink insulation foam last season but they were not insulating enough it seems. This year we will try insulating the hives with Fox Blocks, insulating concrete forms. This insulation should be as effective as hay bales, yet reusable and easily stored.

Monta designed and built these structures using her skills as a sculptor. Pink insulation foam was used to close off and fill in the gaps.

We will see how this works.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Getting Metpropolis Ready for Fall/Winter

Yesterday, I spent the afternoon moving bars of honey around in the top bar hive, Metpropolis. The hive surprised me. I'd been thinking that, while watching from the outside the last few days, it was rather weak. This was not the case. It is thriving with much capped honey, a healthy looking queen, and a solid population. I cannot say the same with the other top bar hive, Plan Bee... . I looks like it was weakened and robbed in some way. It is essentially dead! This was a surprise as well because in August it looked like the strongest hive I had. I fed sugar syrup and pollen patties to the other hives. They seem to be doing well just like Metpropolis.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Article: Beekeeping "Gangs of New York"

This is a very interesting article which shows just how far beekeeping has come in the American imagination.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Playing Catch Up On the Blog

I've neglected to write in this blog for a few weeks, all for good reasons. This entry is meant to catch everyone up on "doins" in Beelandia..

  • I have reluctantly finished  4 of the hives treatnent with Api-Var.  While I would like to treat the bees "naturally", I recognize that my bees do not live and forage in a "natural" world, but a world of globalization,   monoculture, urban development, neighbors with pesticides and herbicides, and a nearby golf courses. Given the high mite counts, I made a decision to treat with the safest, most sustainable miticide. Nothing is ever fixed in my mind, so we will see how this works.
  • I combined Bee Glad... with the nuc I had started earlier this spring. The nuc was too far behind while Bee Glad... went queenless.
  • Lake No-Bee-Gone is now fishless. A local leopard frog got in the pond and ate all the fish while I was in the hospital. I will rethink the pond arrangement for watering  the bees.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Mite Counts

The mite counts have been high, so a tough decision needs to be made. I've read and heard all sides in the "treat-don't treat" debate. I am committed to sustainable beekeeping but also cannot buy and build up packages each year. More later but I will probably choose the compromise of Api-Var.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Photo: Visitor To Beelandia

Click here to see a photo of a beautiful butterfly (swallowtail?) foraging in Beelandia Sunday morning. The butterfly seemed to hangout all morning. The photo was taken by the mosaic artist Monta May.

It's Been a Long Time

I have not written in a few weeks. I have not been able to really beekeep either. (I have done some really cursory examinations, especially of the top bars.) Three or so weeks ago I had unexpected abdominal surgery. It may take awhile to do some major lifting, though I have plenty of volunteers who will help me out.

What I could see the last two weeks look fine though Bee Glad... has little nectar though plenty of honeybees. I will be testing the hives for mites this week and judge what I need to do in August to control them.

My surgery has been making me consider whether to go to all top bar hives. Top bar hives, except for the initial set-up, might be a bit safer for me if I continue in this abdominal state.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Inspections: Top Bars Only Good

I went out late morning to inspect my two top bar hives as storm clouds started blowing into Winona.

I went to inspect the hives with a bit of fear and discouragement. I was disappointed with the langstroths the last two days and expected the same in the top bars. Fortunately, I was pleasantly surprised as both top bar hives are healthy and productive.

Both Metpropolis and Plan Bee... had stored away an abundance of honey already and the brood patterns, though not perfect, were solid. Larvae could be found at all levels of development. I did not find either queen in the hustle and bustle of workers and drones. I added an empty bar between the honey area and brood nest of each hive.

I might harvest a bar of capped honey from each hive next week.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Inspections: The Good and the Bad

I did two sets of inspections on my langstroth hives the last two days. Somethings look better then they were, others looks worse. The weather has been hot, clear and muggy finally!

Yesterday, I inspected Worker Bees... and Lib-BEE-taria and things look a bit better in these hives then last week. The bees are building up now though the brood pattern is still not to my liking. I added a third box to each hive though as it was getting a bit crowded in the two.

I am not really pleased with Bee Glad... at all. The brood is spotty, and the workers have raised supersecedure cells. I will see how the bees work this all out with a new queen but I am not confident.

I am inspected the nuc and while I saw the new queen who looks mated, I saw no signs of egg laying.

I don't know whether it is me or not but it seems to me that my langstroths are all not producing as many drones as they did in previous years. I am going to email some local beekeepers to see if they noticed the same thing in their hives. I hope there are some drones around the local area for mating.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

24 Hour Mite Drop Count

I did a 24 hour mite drop count on the three langstroth hives. The counts were as followed:

  • Worker Bees... - 2
  • Lib-BEE-taria - 2
  • Bee Glad... - 1
Looking back at my records, these are unusually low counts which I can't yet explain. I will look back at my records and look for any possible patterns to explain this.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Video: Bees on a Hot Summer Day

I filmed the above video this afternoon. Please forgive the mess up on Bee Glad... The view finder is so hard to see in the bright sun.

Best Hive?

In my last post, I offered some of my reflections on Oliver's excellent article in the July 2011 issue of American Bee Journal. In this post I would like to comment on a small side issue (p. 656-7) written in his "Best Hive" section of the article.

Let me quote Oliver:

My point - standard Langstroth hives are "standard" since they have proven the test of time for over 150 years. Believe me, if anything better had been invented, commercial beekeepers would have adopted it in a heart beat! (p. 657)
 Before I discuss this quote, let me make this perfectly clear: I am not wedded to any particular hive. I have no axe to grind here.  (I  have both top bar and langstroth. I might try a Warre sometime as well.) This statement is probably true in many respects as well. My problem is that it doesn't really settle the issue of  what is the "best hive" for me.

First, the fact that the langstroth hive has been used a long time does not mean anything in itself. The "test of time" is only one test and it is often used to retrospectively justify the continuing use of a technology or an institution. Banjos have had bodies shaped like drums for longer than langstroths have existed. Is this because that shape is or was important/functional to the particular use and sound of the banjo? Maybe, though some historians disagree. The first non-gourd banjos were made from old circular wooden cheese crates simply because they were conveniently available. Most banjos continue to follow that same shape because of tradition (that's what a banjo looks like after all!) not function. We should remember that  Egyptian beekeepers still use clay pots like their ancestors 1000 years ago.

Secondly, before we can judge whether something works or is successful we have to ask, what is it meant to do exactly? To judge whether or not a langstroth is the best hive, we must first ask: what exact purpose is it meant to serve? Is it   being used for migratory pollination services? To supplement an older retired couples income? As a source of amusement? As a cottage industry that provides a person with some honey for their toast? Bee hives do not serve the same function for all beekeepers.

Oliver is partially right.  The langstroth hive serves the needs of commercial beekeepers very well, but are the needs of a commercial beekeeper  exactly the same as the needs of other types of  beekeepers? Granted, a top bar hive is not very convenient for a migratory beekeeping outfit, but it will allow a disabled individual in a wheel chair access to the field of beekeeping.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Reflecting on Oliver's "Rules" for Successful Beekeeping

This month's American Bee Journal (July 2011) contained an important article, "Rules" for Successful Beekeeping, by Randy Oliver. I have always liked reading Mr. Oliver's works whether in a bee publication or on his website. Oliver approaches beekeeping as an empiricist, subjecting beekeeping "wisdom" to experimental verification. Over the few short years I've been beekeeping, I know that his writings have influenced my practice and have always forced me to ask, "Why am I doing this?"

Besides containing general suggestions for our beekeeping regimen, this month's article includes an assessment and critique of the field of beekeeping. In this world of the internet, new beekeepers are faced with a barrage of misinformation,  "slanted" and more "faith-based" than empirical. Oliver lays some of the blame for this on 2nd or 3rd year beekeeping bloggers (ooops, that's me!) who portray themselves as experts but lack the knowledge that comes from years of beekeeping. According to Oliver, these individuals spread misconceptions which are picked up on by newer beekeepers just starting out.

I think there's a great deal  of truth to this critique and I am probably as guilty as anyone of doing this. I started blogging about bees before I had them! I have expressed strong opinions on things occasionally, though generally, I have attempted simply to describe what is going on in my apiary. I have attempted to bring the insights of sociology (the discipline I am trained in!) into the discussion of beekeeping and have always been (at least in my own mind) tentative in anything I've written. I always try to be critical of what I've written and willing to revise my ideas as evidence comes in. I apologize to anyone who might have been led astray by things I've said. I try not to confuse my models of reality with the reality of my models.

I think my boldness in stating my opinions strongly in this blog comes from living and working  in the field of academics where the young hot shot  with new ideas often has more capital than the old-timer. The new academic can make a name for him/herself by shooting down holders of the old paradigm. Experience, in itself, is not given very much authority in this world.

Having said this, I wonder if the field of beekeeping is a little more complex than either Oliver or I see it. My experience as a newbie to beekeeping has been rather different than Oliver describes. When I entered beekeeping I was often faced with deciding which old-timer should I believe. One of these experienced,  well-known beekeepers demanded total, unquestioned allegiance, ridiculing those who asked honest questions about her practice. I steered away from that and found healthier places (e.g. to learn where I could still question, and, yes, sometimes disagree. The humility, challenge and support of  Phil Chandler's website has kept me in beekeeping, even though, Chandler and his colleagues may have fewer years of experience than other "experts".

I agree with Oliver's discussion of the misuse of the  term "natural" in connection to beekeeping. I would add one other point however. 

I do not think it's possible for me to manage bees "naturally" since the world in which my bees forage is not natural. My bees collect pollen, nectar and resin in a world of "pesticided and herbicided" golf courses, weed free lawns, open garbage pails at local convenience stores, and a city where there is a "noxious" weed ordinance. These realities mean I may need to remove comb from frames every three years, feed pollen supplements at certain times of the year,  or control mites periodically. None of these are "natural" apicultural activities.

I have always preferred to describe my practice as long term sustainable beekeeping rather than "natural".

So what are your thoughts on Oliver's article? What can we all learn from him and each other?

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Top Bars, Nucs, and Swarm Cells

Today's entry is a "catch-up" post. With my busy schedule this week, I neglected to report on Sunday's inspections of my two top bar hives. I will also report on today's inspections of the "walk-way nuc" I created a few weeks ago, and my examination of Bee Glad...

Sunday, my grand-daughter Taylor and I inspected the two top bar hives. From all appearances these two hives are doing so much better than any of the langstroths I maintain. (Whether this has anything to do with being top bar hives remains to be seen.)

Both top bars are strong with great, solid brood patterns. The bees have brought in a good deal of nectar and pollen. The queens look healthy. There were no signs of swarm or superseder cells as well. I am very pleased with their progress in this cool, rainy June we've had here in Winona.

Today I inspected two hives. First I opened up Bee Glad..., a langstorth hive; the only one to survive the winter.

Bee Glad... seems moderately strong, though its brood pattern is too spotty for my liking. I also discovered 10 or so swarm cells not yet capped but containing brood. This was unexpected.( I probably placed too much faith in my first attempts at checker boarding.) I pulled some capped drone comb for mite prevention, as well as two frames of capped honey which I placed in the nuc. I will watch Bee Glad... over the next week.

The walk-away nuc I created a few weeks ago is doing fine. I saw the new queen though no sign of her laying any eggs. I placed two frames of capped honey on either side of the nucs broodnest. I will watch this hive closely as well.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Chalkbrood Continues, Mite Count Is Minimal

I did an inspection today of the langstroth hive, Worker Bees... and the chalkbrood problem has returned. I suspect the unseasonably damp and cool weather is partly to blame. The chalkbrood problem probably accounts for the spotty brood pattern in the hive. I will try to keep the hive strong by feeding some supplemental pollen patties. I may look to requeen from Bee Glad...

As far as mites, the 24 hour mite fall was 1. That's something to be thankful for.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Video: You Can Lead a Bee To Water...

In between activities, I was able to film a bit of Beelandia bee activity at their chief watering hole, Lake No-Bee-Gone.

Who'll Stop the Rain?

We've had 4 straight days of intermittent rain and unseasonable cold. It has not only kept me from inspecting the bees but has kept the bees "indoors". Like last summer, the bees have not had the chance to forage as much as the "should".

I plan on placing some sticky sheets under the hives today in order to test for mites.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Top Bar Inspections

I inspected the two top bar hives at noon today. I didn't think the weather was going to allow this but the cloud cover broke up and the bees decided to cooperate.

Plan Bee... is doing very well. I did not see the queen but I saw evidence she's there and healthy. There were all stages of brood in the hive and the brood pattern was solid. The bees are storing much nectar and pollen.

Metpropolis is doing well though, it seems, somewhat behind Plan Bee... The same healthy brood pattern (and I did see the queen here) but less bars drawn and less nectar stored. I am not necessarily worried about this as it seems, overall, that the honeybees are doing well otherwise.

I placed two empty bars in each hive, one on each end between the brood nest and honey storage area. I opened another entrance on each.

I also took the entrance reducers off of each langstroth.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Some Photos on the "Front Porch"

Here are some excellent photos taken by friend and fellow beekeeper, Greg Smith. She got back into beekeeping this spring and decided to try her hand at top bar hives. The bees are hanging out in front of the entrance during today's rain storms.

Yesterday's Inspection

Yesterday I inspected all Beelandia's langstroth hives along with the nuc I started last week.  The weather was sunny but rather cool for a mid-June day.

Not much to new to report about the hives. In the hives installed this spring, the bees are working in the second deep box. The queen is laying eggs in  the top box, and the workers have stored or moved nectar up on the edges.

The walk-away nuc I created last week seems to be doing fine. I peeked in the top and saw queen cells capped and ready to hatch. I was a bit concerned about the number of workers in the nuc. I should've shook in more workers when I created the nuc. I will wait and see whether this creates any problems.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

I Almost Forgot:: Disease Prevention

I have been trying to document all those bee management activities I use. Unfortunately, I've forgot to mention a simple apicultural activity suggested by Marla Spivak that might serve to prevent some diseases developing in the bee hive. De. Spivak suggested "roughening up" the inside of hive boxes before using them to house bees. The "roughening up" encourages honeybees to "propolize" the walls of the hive box to a much greater degree. This simple management technique may lower the chances of some bee diseases gaining a foothold in the hive. Dr. Spivak has asked woodenware manufacturers to sell boxes in such a state.

"Roughening up" does not take much doing. Just take some steel wool and lightly scour the inside of the box.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Yesterday's Top Bar Inspection

Another scorching day in Beelandia yesterday where I inspected the two top bar hives: Plan Bee... and Metpropolis. Again the weather was hot and muggy with very little breeze.

Both hives were in a similar state.

I had worried needlessly two inspections ago about the state of Plan Bee... and the nature of its brood pattern. I am happy to report that things are going well in this hive. Plenty of brood, good pattern, and the bees have begun to store away honey on the edges. The queen looks fine. I did accidentally break some comb in the hive but wired it together a bit. The bees should repair the rest. I did add two undrawn bars to either side of the brood nest.

The same report can be made of Metpropolis minus the breaking of comb. The queen is laying well, good pattern, and the bees are starting to store away honey on the edges. I also added to undrawn bars to the hive.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Yesterday's Big Inspection in Beelandia

Yesterday, I spent late morning and early afternoon working in Beelandia on all the langstroth hives.It was not the most comfortable day to be bundled up in "white armor" however. The temperatures were in the high 90s (Fahrenheit) and absolutely no wind to speak of. The sun felt scorching.

I put second boxes on both Worker Bees... and Lib-BEE-taria, along with drawn drone comb frame as part of my mite management plans. I took the 3, 5 and 7 frames out of the bottom box and moved them up to the second and put drawn frames in their place in the bottom box. I left both with a pollen pattie.

I did a walk-away split on Bee Glad... I've never done this before preferring to create nukes from queen cells I've grafted or were given. I am an experimenter and want to see if there is a significant difference in results in my local area. I will report the results as they come in.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Today's Mite Count

I just checked the 24 hour mite count for 4 of my 5 hives. Here are the results:

  1. Plan Bee... - 3 mites.
  2. Worker Bees... 0 mites
  3. Lib-BEE-taria 0 mites
  4. Bee Glad... 0 mites
The sticky paper I placed under Metpropolis fell out during the night so no count was taken.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Article: Swarm in New York City

An article, with slide show, about a swarm in Little Italy in New York City. I love these stories and the relative calmness of all those involved. We might yet be able to live with bees!

Friday, June 3, 2011

Video: Chalkbrood

I found chalkbrood in front of the entrance to Worker Bee of the World Unite. This isn't all that surprising given the intermittent cold and rainy weather we've had up until recently. I am not too worried. The hive seems to be taking care of itself.

Last Tuesday's Inspection

Last Tuesday, I inspected all the hives in Beelandia. While it was sunny and reasonable warm, the wind was very gusty. I have caught the bees foraging Dutch White Clover, chives and mint on my property. I was a bit concerned about the bees since we had rainy and unseasonably cold conditions the previous week.

All the hives seem to be doing well. Plenty of larvae in all stages of development. They are bringing in pollen and the queens look large and healthy.

Drones have hatched in Plan Bee..., the largest top bar hive. I did not see any in the other hives.

I took off the top feeders but did leave a pollen patty in each hive. They have been consuming it and, with the rain and cold, I have worried about the bees diet.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

24 Hour Mite Drop

I did a "24 hour mite drop" on Bee Glad... and found 5 mites on the sticky sheet placed below the screen bottom board. I will monitor this hive carefully in the next few weeks and continue to remove capped drone brood when able.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

All For Good Intentions and Beauty

For the last 4 years, come summer, my bees and many native pollinators have foraged wild grape vines that covered an old store front building just down the block. Today, a gentleman, with all good intentions, was out early in the morning removing these plants thus "beautifying" this building and possibly raising the building's value.

And thus, in a nutshell, the treadmill of "development" goes on at the expense of other creatures who live in the neighborhood. All this is done with entirely "good" intentions and for the "love of beauty".

Friday, May 20, 2011

Second Inspection

Yesterday I did the second inspection of the season for all the hives. I don't usually do them all at once but the weather hadn't been promising all week and, for the next few days, the weatherman predicted overcast skies and rainy conditions.

All the hives seem to be doing well except for Plan Bee..., one of the top bar hives. The queens were laying and the brood pattern was excellent. The bees have consumed the pollen substitute patties I had placed in last week.

I have some concerns about Plan Bee... . Everything seems to be going well except for the brood pattern which is spotty at best. I will watch this hive carefully and I may requeen from my own stock if it does not improve. I did not see any queen cells, however.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Video: Honeybees On A Plum Tree

I took this video last week and neglected to upload it until this morning.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

First Inspections of 2011

I made my first inspections of the hives this week.

On Saturday, the temperatures were in the low 60s (F) with sunny conditions. The next two days were overcast, and stormy, so no inspections took place. Today is sunny and warm with temperatures finally reaching into the low 80s.

From outside the hive the bees are bringing in a good deal of pollen. I have caught the bees foraging on our plum tree's blossoms and those of the dandelions on the neighbor's lawn.

On Saturday, I inspected the 3 langstroth hives, 2 of which I just installed. In the newly installed hives, I found plenty of eggs and young larvae, I also found the queen in each which wasn't all that difficult. All the queens in the newly installed packages are black and the workers packaged with them are all much lighter in color. The bees are not eating the sugar syrup provided and prefer the combs of capped honey  last year's bees have provided them. I retrieved the queen cage in each.

Today I opened the top bar hives and found pretty much the same thing. Eggs, larvae, (even some capped brood) and an active dark queen. Again, the syrup provided went pretty much uneaten. Queen cages were retrieved.

Monday, May 2, 2011

May Day Installation

Yesterday did not seem like the first day of May, even for Minnesota. The temperature hovered in the 40s; it was rainy and overcast with a brisk wind. Not the type of day you'd expect to install bees in.

John and I went down early to B and B Honey Farm to pick up our bees. John was getting two 2 lb. packages and I was getting 4. With the chill in the air, the bees were rather quiet in the packages, all huddled together around the queen cage.

Installation of my four packages went without a hitch. I installed two of the packages in two top bar hives, and the other two in two langstroths. Except for dropping a jar of sugar syrup on the only cement in the beeyard, there were no major disasters.

I will be going home this afternoon to take a look at the hives and see how they're fairing. I don't expect to see much. May 2nd has temperatures in the mid 30s.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Yesterday's Reverse

Yesterday afternoon I reserved the boxes on the Bee Glad... hive. Before closing up the hive, I left a pollen supplement pattie. Hopefully today, the new packages come.

Sustainable Beekeeping in an Unsustainable World

Every year about this time I make beekeeping resolutions for the coming season. After listening to Marla Spivak's talks at both Saint Mary's and Winona State, and reading Randy Oliver's series of articles in the American Bee Journal, I have decided to recast my apicultural practices somewhat. I would really like to be totally natural in my approach but I must recognize that my bees forage in an un-natural world. They live in a world of suburban development, city ordinances against 'noxious' weeds, conspicuous consumption and leisure, growing monoculture, the casual use of pesticides and herbicides, and globalization. All these social problems impact the nutrition, and health of honeybees. While a 'social apiculturalist' should also be working to fight these economic/political problems, in the present, I need to be concerned about some of my bees' immediate problems. With this is in mind, I resolve to do the following practices this bee season:

  1. Culling three year old comb-  Comb retains many of the noxious chemicals and diseases bees come in contact with while foraging. This season I have already removed comb that is three years or older.
  2. Supplement Nutrition- I will be more disciplined in supplementing the bees' nutritional needs with pollen supplements when called for. This grates against my 'natural' tendencies but I am convinced now that my neighbor's on the west side of Winona are not providing my bees with a diverse enough diet.
  3. Monitor and Manage Varroa Better- I will be monitoring the varroa count of each hive regularly, removing drone comb, and using essential oil based miticides if the mite count calls for it. 
  4. Carrying Capacity-  I may have been pushing the number of beehives in the neighborhood to its limits, especially given the rainy and cold spring/summer we had. I will try to stay within a 4 hive limit (with nucs) in the future.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Video: Beelandia 4/24/11

A video from Beelandia after a reversal.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Winona State Class Visits Beelandia

Last Tuesday, Winona State's Introduction to Apiculture class visited Beelandia to get their first taste of beekeeping hands-on.

Biologist Bruno Borsari and his bright and eager students, dressed in the 'armor' of the trade, spent a good hour and a half examining both beekeeping equipment and the population of bees in Bee Glad....

I spent a good deal of time fielding some very intelligent questions concerning the ins-and-outs of what I do day-to-day with the bees. The class included some very keen observers who actually watched the bees carefully as they came and went from the hive.

Overall, the bees were on their best behavior, as I was the only one stung through the entire class.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Yesterday's Beekeeping Activities

The weather was pleasant yesterday (50 degrees F and sunny) and honeybees in the Bee Glad... hive were out bringing pollen. It was a fine day to do some work in Beelandia.

I finally was able to prepare both top bar hives for bee installation later this month. I took all the insulation off, leveled the hives, and removed all the old comb (three years old or older) from the hive. As I suspected, the bees in these two hives had not collected very much nectar last summer and fall and had probably died of starvation.

After top bar tasks, I went on to work with Bee Glad..., the one hive to survive this winter. I remove the quilt box, hive wrap, and other insulation. I made a very brief inspection (I did not remove any frames). The cluster is at the very top of hive with very little honey left. I reversed the top two boxes, left some pollen patties, and put on a top feeder with syrup added.

I did make one discovery doing all this: I am stronger this spring than I have been in the last three. My previous weakness, which I had attributed to age, was probably due to my unrepaired surgical hernias. My December hernia surgery was a success!

Friday, April 1, 2011

Dr. Spivak Speaks at Saint Mary's University on April 8th.

Dr. Marla Spivak will speak on April 8th at 1:45pm in the Figliulo Recital Hall (which is in Page Theatre). For further information about the event follow the link.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Beekeeping Surveys

I just received the Brushy Mountain E-newsletter for April and in it were links (see below) to two surveys on Winter Loss and Past Year Management created by the Bee Informed Partnership. I think it would be well worth your time to fill these out.

Dear Beekeeper:
We need your help. Please take 20 minutes out of your busy day to complete these two surveys. Both surveys are only open from 1 April through 18 April 2011.

1. Winter Loss Survey This should take less than 5 minutes.
2. Past Year Management Survey This should take less than 15 minutes.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011


It's the 30th day of March in Winona MN. The temperature was about 45 degrees F in the beeyard. The sun was on the one surviving hive (Bee Glad...) and a number of bees looked to be bringing in pollen. Except for the crocuses, I have not seen any other flowering plants in the neighborhood. I still would like to think the bees are bringing in healthy food.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Article: What is Education For?

An important article from In Context.

I've always wondered why I felt uncomfortable teaching. Maybe the answer lies partially in this article.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Video: How to Make a Traditional Japanese Beehive

Here is a Youtube video that explains how to build a traditional Japanese beehive. Enjoy!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Article: Are We Hurting Bees Again?

"Blue Orchard Mason Bees may be the wonder bug of the moment for gardeners, but have we put them on a path that ends with us wondering, 'What happened?'"...

An article from the Surrey Now website.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Opening Up Bee Glad...

I went out and opened up Bee Glad... (a langstroth hive) very quickly to look at the state of the hive. The bees were in the top box (out of three) and in need of some food. I left a pollen pattie for them and shut up the hive without incident. I did bring a "hobo bee"for the cats to play with however.

Bring Out Your Dead-- Part I

Today I began cleaning out the dead hives in Beelandia. This morning I scraped, cleaned and examined the langstroth, Worker Bees... . I was surprised with how few dead bees were left in the hive. It is quite possible that the queen died sometime late in the fall. I took out a number of full frames of capped honey which I use when I start new packages next month. In all, I am a bit stumped about what actually happened to this hive at this point. I will reserve judgments after I examine the rest of the dead hives.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Another Visit to Bee Glad...

I went out today and checked on Bee Glad..., the one hive that has survived the winter so far. The hive was alive and active, even on this cloudy, upper 30s day. I might open her up tomorrow and quickly leave a pollen patty. Hopefully, I can also bring in some boxes from the dead-outs.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Article: Beekeeper uses ‘tough love’

Here's a story about a beekeeper from Michigan who takes a "social darwinist" approach to beekeeping.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Article: Centerville Considers Bee Ordinance

According to this Star-Tribune article, another Minnesota community considers a bee ordinance.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Article: Beekeeping Alternatives

Beekeeping Alternatives: Top-bar Hives, Warré Hives and Natural Approaches to Honey Bees

Article: EU Beekeepers Stage Win Against GM Crop Producers

The EU's highest court may classify honey containing traces of genetically modified material as "food produced" from modified plants. Such a ruling may enable beekeepers with hives close to GM crops to seek damages.
from an article in Deutsche Welle.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Winter's Been Tough

I was just speaking to my friend and fellow beekeeper, Chris, about our honeybees. He has experienced the same losses as I have, ending up with one hive as I did. Anecdotally, our experiences are pretty similar to many in the area. One person in the know stated that close to 90% of the hives have been lost. The general consensus says that last year's heavy rains has much to do with it.

I've just called B and B and ordered two more hives.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Minnesota Winter is Beekeeper's Ally

I believe Kirk Webster said that it would be more beneficial to see the varroa mite as a beekeeper's ally than as an enemy. The varroa mite "selects" the survivor hives for the bee breeder, allowing the most adaptable bees to survive. I am trying to see Minnesota winters in much the same fashion, as only one of my hives has survived thus far.

In some sense, my survival rate ( one out of seven) does not surprise me. The two top bar colonies went into August with little stores and no amount of feeding seemed to help. The Metpropolis hive was never very strong throughout the season. I was hoping that the two hives I developed from my own mating nucs would survive but they never quite built up either. Surviving the winter depends on building up during the summer and the constant rain during last summer kept that from happening. The surviving hive this winter was also the strongest last summer and the hive with the most surplus honey in the fall. The survival rate is somewhat predictable then.

Friday, I will call B & B Honey Farm and order two more packages. I will use my surviving hive to start one or two others. Hopefully, if this year's weather cooperates, this survivor hive can produce some real solid stock.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Video: February Thaw

February Thaw and the bees are out II
Uploaded by WesBeek. - Watch funny animal videos.

I guess this is both good and bad news. It was over 40 degrees F in Winona today and at least one hive (Bee Glad...) showed a great deal of activity at the top entrance. In the next few days I will have to decide whether to order two more packages or will I increase solely through this hive.

February Thaw and the bees are out I
Uploaded by WesBeek. - Explore other animal videos.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Article: Learn the Art and Craft of Beekeeping Online

This online workshop will be hosted By June Stoyer and conducted by Philip Chandler, bee expert and host of The Barefoot Beekeeper.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Order Two Packages From B and B

I failed to record that I ordered two packages of Hygienic Italian bees for the spring from B and B Honey Farm. These will go to replacing the bees in the two top bar hives which I am sure are dead.

I have spent much of the winter recovering from surgery but, on those days when I can, I have been building 5 frame wooden nucs for spring expansion. I was not impressed by the cardboard nucs I used last year. Those I have left will be used for transport and any sales I have.

Beelandia Will Need Work in the Spring!

The roof of the large boarding house next door to Beelandia produced snow dams this winter that has damage the fence around Beelandia in two places. One area may just need a little straightening but the second section needs a whole new fence panel. Fortunately, none of the hives were damaged. Let us hope there is little snow the rest of winter/early spring.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Article: Beekeepers Fume at Associations Endorsement of Fatal Insecticide

An article from The Independent on the British Beekeepers Association's endorsement of 4 insecticides, all fatal to bees, and the furor amongst beekeepers these endorsements have caused.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Article: Western Indiana Beekeepers Derail Ordinance

Monta just sent me this link from the Chicago Tribune on a bee ordinance battle in Western Indiana.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Bee Ordinance Issue Put to Rest

After emailing both the mayor, Jerry Miller, and the Winona City Inspections office, I have discovered that the Winona City Council is no longer interested in regulating beekeeping through a citywide ordinance. The bee ordinance issue has been put to rest.

I am surprised how fast this became a non-issue. What began as a problem that seemed to need immediate attention from all parties involved, now quietly disappears from the City's agenda.

I will keep my eyes and ears open, however. As this issue illustrates, it often takes but one "squeaky wheel" to create an uproar. However, I think public opinion was against the ordinance from the start.