A New Start

After last years terrible ending, I decided to order a package of bees to start my season off.  This is the first time I have bought bees…I’ve always caught swarms to add to the apiary.  With the terrible losses last year throughout the state, I was nervous the swarm scene might not be as magnificent as it was in 2017.  I received my package yesterday–it was a balmy 42 degrees out.  I was hoping for much warmer weather, but this coming week looks to be delightfully in the low to mid 60’s.

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The post office called me at 6:30am to let me know that the bees have arrived in town.  It was 32 degrees.  When I got there to pick them up, the Postmaster told me he was a little worried because they were all very quiet first thing, but as the temp began to rise, so did the bee activity.  It was 42 degrees when I decided to hive them.

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I’ll admit I had to watch a YouTube video before trying this. (you can learn anything from YouTube!)  I found that getting the sugar water out of the package was a bit difficult, but what I really failed at was the Queen herself._DSC0771

As I flicked the staple out to release her cage I did so without holding on to her!  Down she fell!  Retrieving her was not that difficult actually, but I was worried that I would squash a few reaching for her.

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In the end, the rest of the installation went smooth as can be.  The cool weather might have helped a little, but I was surprised to see so many bees flying around the apiary. They seemed calm, just taking a look around.  I closed up the hive, and I’ll check on them on Monday to verify the Queen has been released from her cage.

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Fingers crossed and a quick prayer to Saint Valentine, who not only is the Patron Saint of love and romance but is also charged with ensuring the sweetness of honey and the protection of beekeepers.

Here’s to new beginnings.

Our First Trap-Out

        A friend of mine texted me one night and asked me if I was interested in some bees.  It was right at the start of swarm season, and I was super excited to get my hands on a swarm.  As I asked more questions, I came to understand that it wasn’t a swarm at all…

        As it turned out, a neighbor a few houses over has had bees in their house for over 8 years!  Let me let that sink in for a few…8  Y E A R S.  In the back yard, there once was a deck that was removed.  Once removed, the hole that remains in the cedar siding were just left open.  Eventually, a swarm found their was in through the holes and made a warm home within the rafters of the ceiling.  For years, they have been trying to find someone to help them with this problem…to no avail.  After we talked, we decided to do a trap-out to remove the bees without doing any damage to the home.

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        The first thing we needed to do was make sure all potential entrances into the hive were closed except one.  We used wire, duct tape, and a board to wedge under the siding that had been separated a bit from the house.   We used wire to close up two of the three holes leaving the largest one open.

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        Once all of that was completed, Ed made a cone out of wire that we placed over the remaining large hole.  The idea is to allow the bees to leave the hive like they always do, but not allow them to re-enter the hive.  We placed a new hive at the new exit, so that we hoped they would choose set up camp right there.  We gave them 4 framed of comb, and one frame of honey.  We figured that would make it smell like home.

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        It didn’t take long for us to see the first bee exit the funnel.

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        After we watched for awhile longer, we decided to leave for the day.  We returned in the morning to find a large congregation of bees still on the side of the house.  I was getting nervous that we left an opening still uncovered.  As we looked closer we noticed that the bees removed the cheap duct tape that we used under the funnel to tape the  wire to the concrete.  We used a board wedged between the ground and the siding to finally close that off.  Two days later, we were happy to see that the bee’s have decided to use the hive we offered them.  Now it was just a game of wait.

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        At week 3 we decided it would be a good idea to add some brood to the new hive.  I was hopeful that they would decide to create a queen.  A lot of time when you do a trap-out, the queen never emerges from the hive.  We tried to keep the funnel opening large enough to allow her to join her gals in the new hive.  For good measure, we wanted to offer them an alternative in case she didn’t make it.

 

        Six weeks after we placed the cone, bees stopped exiting the cone so we removed it.  Re cleaned up the siding as much as we could, and removed extra staples, but left everything else in place until the home owner was able to properly seal the holes so no other wandering swarm  decided to find a home in the same place.

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        All we had left was to strap the hive down, and bring them to the apiary to continue to thrive, pollinate, and produce.  We are so thankful to have these bees and grateful that they weren’t destroyed because of the nuisance that they create when they inhabit a human space.

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HOME SWEET HOME

 

A New Hive Added to the Apiary

Spring is such an exciting time for those of us in the beekeeping world.  Last week another swarm was added to the apiary.  I wasn’t prepared for how large this was, so instead of placing it on a small nuc box until the 4 topper hive was ready for occupants, I tried something new.  Using 2 follower boards and a wall of straw between the two…I added this swarm to the back of the previous hive that was captured earlier in the spring.  A 1/2 in. circular hole was added to the side of the hive for a second entrance.  I was nervous that it might not be far enough from the front of the hive and a bee war would insue.  Happily, this plan worked!  A week later I was able to easily move the new swarm into their permanent home.  These ladies are most likely Carniolan bees, and there are kicking butt!  This hive is very busy and making comb and bringing in nectar and pollen. DSCN2736

There official name within the apiary is the Maple hive…and they are doing great in their new home.

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It’s All About the Wax

One of the very first tasks a colony needs to accomplish when setting up a home in a new hive, it to create wax.  The wax is formed into “scales” by wax-producing glands in the abdominal segments of worker bees.  Once secreted, a different bee will harvest it, and use it to build comb.  One of the amazing things that bees sometimes do when making wax is called festooning.  This is when bees hanging together, leg-to-leg, between the frames of comb.  Some beekeepers say this is done to get new comb to the area of the frame in need.  Others think that this chaining is a way for the bees to measure out what space needs comb.  Either way, I think its neat to watch them work together to get things done.

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An interesting thought about wax.  It’s said that a bee will use 10 pounds of sugar (artificial or nectar derived) to produce 1 pound of wax.  That makes wax a huge commodity!  Much more so then honey itself.

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The obvious issue in harvesting this commodity its the availability, and harvestability.  In a standard Lang hive that uses wax foundations with wire support, the process of harvesting the wax can become a tedious task.  The alternative might be to use the removed capping when harvesting honey, but this is a limited volume.  That said, the National Honey Report indicates that on average honey goes wholesale for $2 lbs, where wax yields $3.50 or higher depending on color and cleanliness.  It might be of significant value to save those cappings even if it might take a while to collect enough to use.

One of the biggest reasons I choose to learn top bar beekeeping was to be able to harvest wax much more readily.  Without the use of foundation and wire supports, it is pretty easy to remove a start of new wax before the bees even begin to use it.  I currently use wax in my artistic adventures and continue to find new ways to try and include wax as a selling point in both encaustics and candle making.

It’s crazy what these ladies have to offer!

 

The Season of Swarms

As my love for bees continues to grow, I wanted to share my enthusiasm for my small backyard hobby.

I know…bees stings right!

What I’ve learned in my first year of beekeeping is by far outweighs the occasional sting. Honest!  Now in my second year, I am excited to share the joy these bees have given me.  Please understand I am in no way an expert in bees, but my love for these little fuzzy ladies is true.   I would love to share with you what I did in my first year, as well as keep you informed as year two continues to develop.

I’m going to start this blog with a photo I took this weekend.  What you are seeing are queen cells,  (the cup looking things that are open at the top) and what this is telling me is that my hive want’s to swarm!  That is when the old queen takes a  bunch of the resident bees and leaves the hive in search for a new home…leaving behind the pupa of the new queen to take over what remains.

Why would she do this?  Because it’s one of two ways that bees insure there survival.  What beekeepers try and do is prevent the swarm by splitting the hive…kind of like an artificial swarm, and putting it in a new hive to let them prosper.  I tried to do that, but I didn’t do it correctly and forgot to move the queen with my split 😦  Now I have a hive without a queen, and a hive ready to swarm.

All is good though, no harm done to the bees.  The queen-less hive will produce a queen, and the  hive that swarmed ( or will swarm), will have more room to grow.  If the old queen already left, we didn’t see that swarm and we have lost those bees for our apiary.  If she is preparing to leave, we have set up a trap to try and catch her, and her worker bees to place them into a new hive to grow that colony.  Only time will tell…but I’m sure keeping my fingers crossed that I haven’t misses her.

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An Adventure in Beekeeping

A few years back…actually 10 now, my next door neighbor stopped by my yard with a wooden box covered on all side with a screen and asked my grandson and I if we wanted to see something neat.  It was a package of bees, and he sat on my grass and answered every question we had about why the bees were in the box, and what he was going to do with them…and most important to my grandson, why he wasn’t afraid of being stung by all those bees!

Skipping ahead, 10 years later my mother was able to get some land that both my brother and I have placed hives on.  I decided at the time to start with a top bar hive, and my brother started with Langs.   Our little apiary (Little Falls Apiary) started its first season with 3 hives in total.

My top bar hive almost didn’t happen though, because actually I only ordered 2 nucs, and but the time I realized I wanted a third hive, there were no bees to be bought!  Taking it as a gift from God, I was called about a swarm.  Not actually ever touching a bee yet, (but taking a beginners beekeeping class)  I mustered up the courage and caught my first swarm.

It went as smooth as butter, and before I knew it…I was officially a beekeeper!  With the adrenalin still pumping, I called a mentor/member of my local club, and she helped me to get my new colony into the top bar hive.

I was amazed at the ease these girls accepted my hive, and from that point, my love for bees just continues to grow!  These little beauties are amazing to watch, and as I study them, I continue to find more reasons to marvel.

Who knew this would sweep me off my feet so quickly?

Beekeepers…that’s who!