Thursday, December 20, 2012

Just Add Sugar

The temperatures have been in the 60s for a while now and the bees are still flying.  The trouble is there's nothing for the bees to gather this time of year.  When it's cold, the bees cluster and they require much less food.  When it's warm, they're more active and they eat up their stores.  So, just as a precaution, I put a sheet of newspaper on the top of the frames, and poured sugar on the paper.  I misted the sugar with water and Honey B Healthy to help the sugar clump and to keep it from sliding down into the hive.  I placed a hive box around the sugar and the inner cover and telescoping top on top of the box.  This is called the mountain camp type of feeding.  Some call it emergency feeding.  But it seems to me that if they need it, it's there, and if they don't need it, I'll make it into syrup next spring.  I put sugar in both hives, so hopefully they'll all make it into next spring.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

The Year In Review

Some of the people in our beekeeping association are so talented!  At our 2012 Harvest Dinner, there was a compilation of the year in pictures made into a video presentation and showed to the members.  They have added it to the Cherokee Beekeeper's site.  Click Here if you want to see it.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Catching Up

Things are slowing down for the winter.  The feeders are off now and there's not much to do.  Hopefully there's enough food in the hives for the bees to survive until Spring.

Kelley and Brushy Mountain had free shipping after Thanksgiving so I ordered enough woodenware to make two more hives (two deeps and two mediums for each hive, all 8-frame).  When I get some time off, Dad and I will put that stuff together and paint it so that it'll be ready.

Since I started with a spit, and captured a swarm, I thought I'd try package bees.  I ordered two packages from Kelley to be delivered in April.  So, depending if one or two of the hives make it through the Winter, I'll have two, three or four hives going next year.  Hopefully, the honey production will match!

So for the next few months, it will just be a monitoring routine to ensure the bees make it.  I do have 30 frames of uncapped honey in the freezer I can thaw and add if they use up their stores.

But, if I have to start over with the two packages, I've learned a lot this year and hopefully I can add to that knowledge base with more experience in the years to come!

Friday, October 26, 2012

Harvest Dinner

The Cherokee Beekeepers Association (CBA) had the 2012 Harvest Dinner last night and there was food and friends galore.  Tennessee Beekeeper's Association (TBA) President Lynda Rizzardi addressed the membership and told us about the recent meeting and how the TBA and 4H work together.  She also told us about grants available next year for new beekeepers.  Our delegates to the meeting gave reports as well.

A video was shown capturing most  of this years events of the CBA from the spring short course to the present.  It was well done and they had tried to get pictures of as many members as they could.  It brought back a year's worth of memories.

I took my world's famous (well, around here anyway) banana pudding and it went over like it always does.  It really tastes good.

Door prizes were given away and many left very happy (all left full of supper!)

New officers were elected for next year, and we all wish them well and much success.  We thanked the outgoing officers and wished them well, they did a great job.

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I haven't done much with the bees.  I am currently feeding them a gallon every few days.  I'll probably keep that up until the hives get really heavy or it gets too cold for liquids.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

On my 10-Frame hive last year and now since today, I've used a BM plastic hive top feeder. It holds a gallon easily, and maybe even two gallons (but I've not tried that much in it).



For the 8-frame hive, I got a Mann Lake hive top feeder. It is made differently, with the opening in the middle and a gallon-sized holder on each size. It is screened in so that the bees can't get out and they have something to climb on so that they don't drown. I will probably get one for the 10-frame, as the plastic one seems to want to warp, and it didn't want to seal good this year.





Friday, October 12, 2012

Getting Ready For Winter

A couple of weeks ago, I extracted three 10-frame medium supers. I put the supers on top of the inner cover of the strong hive because I had read that they'd clean up the comb and move any remnants down into the hive. Since I've had to work a lot, I only got back into the hives today. The three supers that were to be cleaned out were full of bees and a lot of honey.

I also have the swarm hive that I caught a couple of months ago in an 8-frame deep. They are OK, but not great. There are a lot of bees, but they're not drawing comb and I didn't see any eggs. They are, however, bringing in pollen and there was capped honey in the hive. I looked, but I didn't see a queen (but that doesn't mean there's not one).

I've been feeding both hives with zip lock bags on a table out in the yard. I'm sure a lot of that has ended up in the three supers on top of the strong hive.

My goal today was to get each hive to two boxes for the winter.

I had to use the fume board and the spray stuff to get the bees out of the supers I wanted to remove. The bees weren't too happy about that.

I put an empty super on the 8-frame hive. I had to use a medium, I didn't have a deep. I took the best 8 frames with a lot of honey, pollen and bees and put in the super on the swarm hive. I put a piece of paper between the boxes just to ensure there were no trouble between the bees (I don't know if I had to do that, but it seemed like a good idea at the time. I had never done it and wanted to learn about doing the combine thing). I have the inner cover and telescoping top on top of the super and will look into it in a week or so to see if they're doing OK.

I put the three 10-frame supers and remaining frames in a freezer where they will probably stay until next year.

I was really surprised that the bees had started filling up the supers again. I had read that somebody put an empty super between the inner cover and the super(s) to be cleaned. Maybe that would have been better.  Maybe I should have taken them across the yard and just left them open for the bees to clean out.  I'll try different methods next year.

I will probably do a mite check next week. I know I should have already done that, but until I get my work schedule more regular, I'm just going to have to do things when I can get to it. Luckily, it doesn't really get cold here until January. After that, I should be good until next year (I hope).

Anyway, this has really been a learning year. And the bees have remained buzzing despite my actions (some good and some not so good). I've harvested about 80 pounds total of honey this year. So it's been an introduction into beekeeping, to say the least.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Honey!

Friday 9-14-12

Well, I took the three medium supers off of the 10-frame hive today. That leaves two deeps for them to winter in. Some of the frames were completely drawn with comb and filled with honey and capped. Some of the frames had some capped honey, some uncapped honey and some pollen. I ended up extracting 16 frames (out of 30).

The fume board worked pretty good. It got cloudy, so the fume board didn't get real hot. But the bees left the honey (well, except for a couple of really dedicated bees). When we got the box to the shed, we tried the leaf blower idea. It works ok, but some of bees can really hang on when they want to!

Some of the frames that have pollen and honey are going to go into the other hive where I put the swarm. They're still drawing comb on empty frames, so I figure that drawn comb with pollen and honey will be a big plus for them. They're still in one deep (8-frame), so I need to get that deep finished being drawn and another deep on with drawn comb so they can have two deeps for winter.

I have finagled the use of an old freezer for a while, so I will put the leftover frames with comb in there for a few days.

I used the heat gun to uncap the frames. It works well. But there's no wax to be had that way. I don't think it caramelized the honey, as I tried to keep the gun moving. But I'll have to taste it to see. I think I'm going to end up with about 2.5 gallons (9.46 Liters) or maybe a little more. I wanted to take pictures and videos, but the battery in my camera was dead.

This is the first time I've used the extractor since I mounted it on the pallet. It worked pretty good. Balancing the frames is the key to smooth operation. I had to swap a few around to get it to balance out, but I did get it up to "fast" speed and it worked great.

I've got to go back in the morning and finish up. There was a frame that just didn't want to empty, so I left it draining tonight. And, the honey was still going through the mesh filters into the bucket. So I put a lid on it and I figure it'll be drained by in the morning.

Ended up with 10 quarts of honey.  It's really dark and has a complex flavor.  But it's really good.





So things are coming together and getting ready for winter, I believe. I think it's been a pretty good first year.

Tale of Two Hives

Sunday 9-9-12:

The good news is that the swarm hive is going like gangbusters. New comb, eggs, pupae, larvae, etc. They seem very happy. I am still feeding them 1 to 2 pints of syrup a day and I think they're going to be ok.

The other hive is a different story. I know I have too many supers on, but I'm wanting to find out if there's a goldenrod flow. The goldenrod is just now starting to bloom around here.

Note: Every frame in every super is covered with bees.

The top super weighs 50-60 pounds and is full of capped honey. Yeah!

The next super down is drawn but empty comb.

The next super down has mostly drawn frames and about half is capped honey.

The top deep is mostly drawn comb and has some brown liquid (nectar?) and pollen in it.

The bottom deep is mostly drawn comb and has some brown liquid (nectar?) and pollen in it.

I didn't see any eggs, larvae, pupae, or queen.

It might be that I overlooked something, as I didn't pull every frame. But I did try to look at some of the middle frames in each box.

It might be that I rolled her the last time I looked in there.

I'm hoping that the queen is hiding, and the drought and hot weather has made her stop laying temporarily.

I am going back into the hive next Friday. I am going to extract that top super and maybe the other capped honey frames in lower supers. I need to get the hive down to two deeps for winter anyway.

Meigs County Fair

Friday, 9-9-12

Meigs County Fair

I helped work at the Cherokee Beekeeper's Association exhibit at the fair on Friday night.  Lots of folks came by.  We had pamphlets, pictures, recipe books, honey for sale, and an observation hive with live bees.

Pictures of the fair and the exhibit can been seen at the CBA's site:

http://cherokeebeekeepers.blogspot.com/2012/09/meigs-county-fair-pictures.html

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Small Hive Beetles and Other Observations

The swarm has been taking about a pint of 1:1 sugar syrup a day.  I have an entrance feeder on top of the inner cover with a super around it.  Yesterday when I changed out the feeder, there were five or six little black bugs that were under it that went scurrying away.  Small Hive Beetles (SHB).  My luck ran out.  They finally found me!  I knew it was going to happen one of these days.  I had ordered some beetle jails to have when they arrived.  So today we went into the hives for an inspection to see the extent of the SHB and the general condition of the bees.

I'm still not sure how or why the SHBs are in the swarm box.  There's hardly any comb drawn, and there's no honey.  My guess is that they either came in the swarm, or they were attracted by the Honey Be Healthy I put in the sugar water.  Today when we opened the hive, there was only one SHB, so the bees have taken care of the others, or the others have found better hiding places.  Here is a picture of what a SHB looks like compared to a bee:





And this is what a beetle jail looks like:



They're plastic and the lid is hinged so that you can open it to empty out the beetles and refill it with mineral oil.  I ordered some Freeman Beetle Traps today for the hives.  They are like a screened bottom board, but the screen has slightly bigger holes so the beetles can fall through.  And there's a tray full of mineral oil underneath to drown the beetles and mites that fall through. That's much easier than tearing into the hive to change out the beetle jails.  By the time they get here, the beetle jails should have started working.  So we'll see.

The swarm was busy making comb and other bee things.  They seem happy in their new home:



So we went into the big hive and looked around.  There had been a 10-frame super full of capped honey the last time I was in there.  Today there was 7 frames partially capped.  I guess they've been having to eat the honey.  The drought, high temperatures, and stressed plants have put the bees in a dearth I suppose.  I'm glad I left it in there and didn't harvest it.  Hopefully there will be a fall flow and they'll fill the supers up with honey.

The good news is that I didn't see any beetles in the big hive.  That doesn't mean that they're not in there, though.  It just means that I didn't see them.  I put some beetle jails in there anyway.  So if there are any beetles, hopefully I'll trap some (or all) of them.

One of the things that bees do is build drone comb in between levels of frames.  When you take a super off, it opens up those drone cells to expose the drone larvae.  Varroa mites prefer to lay eggs with drones.   Here is a picture of a drone larvae with a mite:



I also spread some Diatomaceous Earth (DE) around the hives.  This is microscopic sea shells that slices bugs up that crawl through it.  The SHB larvae that are ready to pupate leave the hive and burrow into soil near the hive.  When they crawl through the DE, they are sliced up and die.  This also is supposed to work for ants.

Next update when the new Freeman Beetle Traps get here.  Stay tuned.

Friday, August 10, 2012

1st Swarm Experience (and I got to help, too!)

I got a call at work about a swarm of bees on a crane.  They needed to use the crane, but they didn't want to kill the bees.



I had never actually dealt with or even seen a swarm in person.  Luckily, there is an experienced beekeeper that works there, too.  So we gathered up what protective type equipment we could scrounge, a cardboard box with a lid and headed out there.

Time was not on our side, so we had to act quickly.  It wasn't a "textbook" capture, but he did the best he could with the bee's welfare in mind.


We taped the lid onto the box with duct tape (duct tape will fix anything!) and poked a lot of air holes in the box.  We kept the box in a cool place until quitting time.

When I got home from work, the bees were still ok.  I had a general idea of what I wanted to do.  It seemed to me that I should treat this box of bees like a package of bees.  So I cut a "window" in the end of the box and sprayed them with sugar water and let them sit for 15 minutes:



While they were "resting", I sprayed the frames with sugar water to hopefully make them more appealing to the bees.  I have an 8-frame deep and had three frames out initially to make room for the bees:



I put the remaining frames in, put on the inner cover, put an entrance feeder on top of the inner cover, and put the telescoping top on the top:



I gave them about an hour and checked them. There were only four or five bees at the entrance. I put in the entrance reducer and put a block of wood over the hole. I was advised that it would be best to put the hive in the shade for a day or two while they got settled, so I did. I blocked the entrance (the hive has a screened bottom board) so they wouldn't be oriented to this location. In a day or two I'll move it to where I want it and unblock the entrance, so they can orient on the hive then.


General observations: It was my understanding from what I've read and heard that swarms are docile.  Also, I thought sugar water calmed them down. It may be true. However, in this instance, neither were true. It was as though I had took a big stick to a hornet's nest. These bees were MAD and were really coming after us the whole time (except for right at the end). Luckily I didn't get stung, but my dad got one sting through a glove.

It is true, however, that if you put the container with the bees that don't shake out next to the entrance, that they will all march right into the hive. I thought that was amazing.

Overall, I think it went ok for someone that never had done it before. They may abscond the day I open the hive. But they may stay. We'll see. But I think it was a good day and I've learned a lot. I have some days off now, so I can give all the bees plenty of attention and TLC.

I hope you enjoy the pictures.

UPDATE:  It rained Friday so the bees had a cool day to adjust to their new house.  Saturday was a beautiful day - low humidity and lots of sunshine.  We took the hive out to the yard and opened the entrance.  The bees came out, oriented, and flew off looking for food and water.  I peeked into the top and the entrance feeder had not tipped over during the move (that's good!), and there were lots of bees on top of the inner cover.  So, at this point, I think they're doing ok.  I plan on feeding them  a lot, and hopefully before winter there will be two deeps worth of stores to get them through until spring.  Here's some pictures of the hive out in the yard:



Saturday, August 4, 2012

Some Good and Some Bad

The month of June was super hot and super dry, so all the good clover and other plants wilted or dried up.  Luckily, we live close to Watts Bar Lake so they have access to plenty of water.

I haven't had much time to devote to the bees for the past month or so.  When I finally did get back into the hives, I found that the main big hive has one super full of honey, and two suppers filling with honey. I'll check back in a couple of weeks to see if they're making progress on the honey.  I sure hope so!

The split I made had not fared as well.  The last time I looked in it, there was still no queen, so I gave it another frame of eggs and bees and hoped it would take off.  Well, it didn't work.  The bees went to the other hive or died off.  The wax moths moved in and so I've got  a lot of frame scraping to do.  Here's some pictures of an 8-frame hive that has been taken over by wax moths.  I hope none of you see this in real ilfe:




Friday, June 22, 2012

Mounting the Extractor

When we extracted, we learned that balancing the frames inside the extractor makes the process smoother.  We learned that by not having it balanced and watching the extractor trying to jump around.  Luckily, we only did that at low speeds, so that we could slow it down.

One thing I noticed is that the tops of the sides of plastic frames is just a tad wider than wooden frames.  This requires wiggling, pushing, and muttering under my breath to get them in the bottom frame holders.  I have ordered a few medium wooden frames to see if they fit any better.  I may end up grinding/sanding the sides of the plastic frames a little to make them fit better in the extractor.

Anyways, I had an old pallet laying around in the yard and we mounted the extractor to that to give it a more stable base (plus now I could move it on a forklift if I had one!).  We put 2X4s underneath the top pallet wood to strengthen the setup.  Here's what it looks like:



 This shows the 2x4 underneath for strengthening and support:



 Room for a bucket on the pallet under the outlet valve:


Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Building a Solar Wax Melter


The crockpot thing kind of worked, but left something to be desired.  So I got on the web and looked for how to deal with the wax.  I found some plans and videos for building solar wax melters (it's cheap, but it takes a while).  I bought a styrofoam cooler at the dollar store and a piece of plexiglass at Lowe's and that's the major parts to it.  I painted it black to absorb more heat.

First I got black thumbs painting the cooler:

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Here's the finished product:

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Here's the "bucket" that has a little water in the bottom with a paper towel and rubber band:

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Here's the wax (that's been melted several times in my trials and many errors):

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Here it is all loaded in the melter with a piece of foil in the bottom:

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and here it is in action:

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And here's the picture I used for a guide:


















Here's some more pictures:

This is the top of the filter after the wax went through.  The video I saw on this said to save this paper towel, that it's good for getting the smoker going.  (sounds good to me!)



This is just a picture of the melter out in the yard. 



This is the wax out of the tub in the kitchen:





It finally came out right.  Now, when I harvest the next honey, I know what to do with the wax!  :)

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

More Wax Melting

I crocked the wax overnight and let it cool today. Here is the water that was left:

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Here is the bottom of the wax (the water side):

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And here is the side that was up (air side):

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It looks like a lot of the stuff didn't separate and sink.




So I stuck a meat thermometer into the wax solution. It was 180 degrees. I think my crockpot may get too hot on low (The optimum temperature is 145 F). That may be why the wax is turning brown.  There was a lot of gunk in the bottom of the water that I poured out the last time.


I have a warming unit on the stove.  It is a low heat unit that is used to keep food warm until the meal is served or the rest of the meal is prepared. I found an old all metal coffee can (they are very hard to find anymore) in the pantry. I put some hot water in it (140F) from the faucet and put it on the warming unit. It maintained 140 ok. So I put the wax in there (plus a little extra burr comb I found) and am melting it again, to see if I can get some more of the impurities out of it.

It's taking a long time to melt (so I turned it up just a bit), but that's ok. I have time.




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Hopefully this week or weekend, I'll make a solar melter and be ready for the next time I have wax (or, I could remelt this wax again since it's just a testing session).





Friday, June 8, 2012

What To Do With Wax Cappings

When I cut the tops off of the comb to extract the honey, the caps ended up in a bucket, along with some of the honey.  There are several methods of dealing with beeswax, and some are pretty elaborate.  However, since I didn't have that much, I decided to use a crockpot and melt it down.  Supposedly, with low heat, the wax will melt and the honey will separate.  Water and wax/honey is put into the crockpot, then heated.  When the wax has melted, the crockpot is turned off and everything cools.  The wax will float, and the water honey and impurities will be in the bottom.  I have it heating up now, so we shall see.



Update of Several Items

The Cherokee Beekeeper's Association had their monthly meeting last night.  We had a pretty good crowd, considering it's summer time and vacations and stuff.  The subject was swarm prevention.  It was an interesting presentation.  It's good to hear the experienced beekeepers give their opinions and thoughts.  Some of the members attended the Field Day at Kelley's in KY last weekend.  There is a story on the CBA's blog page (link on the right).

After the extraction, I ended up with 14 quarts (and a little bit more) bottled. I didn't have enough for everyone that asked for it. Luckily, there is another beekeeper at work that sells his, too. Here's some of the finished product:


One of the funniest stories I've ever read was on the Beekeepingforms.com.  It was about a bee's nest up in a tree.  Here's the link.  It is definitely worth the time to read!


Monday, June 4, 2012

Extraction: Day Two

Just an update to the slinging. I went back and slung some more frames today (Sunday). They had drained a good deal last night, but still had some to be slung out. I ended up with 3.5 to 4 gallons of honey (plus caps and wax). I told dad to not turn on the AC in the shed this morning, so it stayed around 90 in there today, but the honey flowed very well (as did the sweat!).

It took me forever to get the frames balanced in the extractor. I just ran it really slow for a while until some of the honey came out. Towards the end, I get it up to full speed for a little while. But I noticed that some of the comb peeled off the frame. I don't know if it was weak comb, my uncapping, or centrifugal force. It strained out, but caused some wobble for a while.

But, on the good side now, I have 3 mediums of drawn comb. Now if they'll just fill them up with more honey, I'll be good to go!

Now tomorrow I'll start learning how to deal with the leftover wax.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

First Uncapping and Extraction

Well, it was a good and not-so-good day. I only had a 10-frame medium filled with honey. However it was good to see the other two mediums with all drawn comb. Well, at least I had 10 frames of honey to practice uncapping and extracting. After talking with Maxant yesterday, we sanded and ground out the inside of the motor coupling that goes on the shaft and it fits nicely now.



I tried the bee quick spray and was kind of pleased with it. I may have not left it on long enough or maybe didn't spray enough on it. I was using a towel over the boxes, so I'll probably go ahead and get me a fume board to go on top of the supers. Some of the bees left, but there were a lot that didn't leave. We ended up taking each frame out and brushing them off right before we took it into the shed. We had some empty boxes in the shed to hold the frames when we got them in. We got the frames into the shed and shut the doors, as there were bees around the door handle that had honey on it from our hands.



Then it was time for the uncapping. I have an electric knife with an adjustable temperature knob:



The knife is going to take a while to master. If you go too fast, it cools it off where it's hard to use. Plus getting it level when the comb is not level is a chore. I did a fair share of gouging the comb. I'm sure my lack of uncapping skills contributed to the unbalanced spinning of the extractor.

Here is a picture of the loaded extractor. I found that the plastic frames don't go into the holders easily. I had to wiggle and mash them down to get them to fit into the bottom holders. I think the sides of the plastic frames are maybe a little wider than wooden frames.



It wobbled and I rearranged the frames and it still wobbled. I'm sure it was my uncapping, plus I don't think that you can ever get every frame with the exact amount of honey in it. But we slung it slowly for a while and got some to come out. Here is the first drop:





So we sat there for a while and spun the frames and got some honey.



But it got late and I was tired, so I figured that the frames might drain by gravity overnight, and I'll back in the morning and spin them some more.

At this point in time, I'm ready to charge $50/pint (0.473 liter). I'm sure it will get easier and I'll become more proficient. But it sure was a learning experience.