Disclaimer:

This blog explains how I keep bees. It works for me, it might not work for you. Use my methods at your own risk. Always wear protective clothing and use a smoker when working bees.

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Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Package Bees or Nucs

 

A nuc in May
3 lb package bees in April

It is getting close to the time to ordering bees for the upcoming bee season. The question I get asked frequently is which is better, package bees or nucs?

 Nucs or nucleus hive usually comes in five frames with brood and bees. Normally nucs arrive in early May. Most nucs that come to Minnesota and Wisconsin come from Texas, Mississippi or Georgia. During the month of February, in Texas, a beekeeper will divide a colony and take one frame of brood and bees and put it in a five frame nuc box with four used frames, or a side by side four frame nuc box that was made out of a deep brood box. A sealed queen cell is added at this time. The queen will hatch and go out and get mated in the next 10 - 14 days or so. As time goes on , the queen starts laying and the population will slowly start to increase. In a perfect world, if the weather is favorable (warm), the nuc will grow to approximately 3 - 4 frames of brood by May 1st. If the weather is not favorable (cold) the population will suffer and the nuc will have less brood and bees. So someone who has purchased a nuc in January for example, will get the nuc that is coming, if has been a cool spring in Texas the nuc will not be as populated with brood and bees as if it is a warm spring. So the beekeeper in MN or WI doesn't know what they will be getting. Also, if the nucs arrive late, a beekeeper should expect a better population and more brood in the colony. Nucs that arrive in late May with only two and a partial frame of brood, will not develop in time of the nectar flow and may not even put up enough honey for their winter stores. So getting delivery dates and asking how many frames of bees and brood you can expect, is good to document. Bees coming out of the southern USA will come with hive beetle. If it is a warm spring the hive beetle levels will be higher than in cool spring. Beetles that arrive with your nucs can fly. The beetles can move into other equipment that you are not presently using and start rearing larvae, especially on unoccupied brood frames.

Package bees, usually come from California and Georgia. The package bees from Georgia will have hive beetle in the package. The package bees from California will have very little, if any, hive beetle. So know your bee supplier, I have always preferred the California bees. In my opinion, I feel the California queen producers are some of the best queen breeders in the industry. To have a good hive you need a good queen. With package bees a beekeeper always knows what they are getting. Three lbs of bees and a queen. The number never changes and the outcome is usually predictable. When the bees are trucked here non stop, the bees usually arrive in great shape. Resist the temptation to have bees shipped to you via a shipping service. When bees are shipped using a shipping service, the bees can arrive with many, sometimes over an inch deep of dead bees on the bottom of the cage. When they are trucked in on a bee truck, the numbers of dead bees is very low.  

So on a head to head comparison. A package of bees installed on drawn comb around April 10th, will have about 3 to 4 frames of brood and bees in the hive on May 7th. If it has been a cold spring this may be slightly less, a warm spring slightly more. Package bees in late May should have 7 frames of bees and brood. 

 A nuc arriving from Texas on May 7th may have 3 - 4 frames of brood and bees. If it has been cool, this may be slightly less, a warm spring, slightly more. A nuc arriving in late May should have about 4 - 5 frames of brood and bees. If the numbers are less than this, the nuc will be a liability and will cost the beekeeper money to feed the bees for winter. The nucs arrive with used frames. Nuc producers usually outfit their nucs with frames culled out of their hives. In most case the beekeepers receiving the used frames, need to discard the frames as soon as possible. Old, black used frames can have high levels of pesticides and nosema spores. The frames sometimes can look pretty tough. Package bees go in on your own frames. 

In my opinion there is not a huge advantage to nucs. Sometimes nucs look great, nice and strong, other times nucs look weak. When you get a weak nuc you just plopped down $175 on, you received a hive that may never give you honey and may turn out to be a liability. If you have to feed the nuc just to get the bees to winter, the nuc really cost you over $200.

Package bees are always the same, the bees usually come in on time. In over thirty years of keeping bees, there were three times that the package bees came in late. Every time it was weather related, and most bee suppliers were having the same issues.


Thursday, January 14, 2021

Doldrums of January

 In the hive not much has changed. The bees are on the frames of honey eating their food source to produce energy to produce heat for the cluster.  The bees in the cluster move around quite a bit. Bees on the outside of the cluster will change places with the inner cluster bees. The bees share the work on keeping the cluster warm. 

The bees are not keeping the inside of the hive warm. This is what many beekeepers think, that the bees are heating the inside of the hive. But if we measured the temperature about 9 - 10 inches away from the cluster, the temperature will likely be very close to the outside temperature. 

The cluster will get looser or tighter depending on the outside temperature. When we experience temperatures in the 20's, the bees can easily move around near the cluster. When it gets below zero, the bees hunker down in a tight cluster. The problem beekeepers can run into is, if it gets frigid, the cluster has a harder time to move to a new frame of honey. The bees can starve even though honey is a frame away. This is the gamble beekeepers take every winter. With a little luck, the bees are on a ample frame of honey and can weather the cold spell. 

 Right now, I wouldn't expect the bees have consumed a huge amount of honey, being the winter has been pretty tame so far. Rumor of some very cold weather moving in a week sometime late next week. Not sure if it will happen, but that is the winter we face in the upper Midwest. It is mid January as I write this, we can feed syrup in about 6 weeks, package bees will be coming in about 10 - 12 weeks.

Saturday, January 2, 2021

Happy New Year - What is happening in the hive in January and Ordering Bees

      Need Bees: Here is a link to Nature's Nectar Bee Order Form

Dead bees in front of the hive is normal.

 Right now the bees are just hanging out eating honey in the hive. The cluster of bees are enveloping a frame or two of honey. The bees are consuming the honey for nourishment and to produce heat for their cluster.

The winter so far has been very good for the bees. No extreme weather. no below zero winter blast with bone chilling windchill. The bees should be in the box below the top box right now. Bees consume about 9 - 12 lbs of honey a month this time of year. That is about a frame to a frame and a half of honey. So since the first of November, the bees have consumed about 2 - 3 frames of honey. The month of January is the transition month. Usually sometime in late January, the bees will start a slow transition into the top box. If you fed your bees properly, there is at least 8 frames of honey in the top box. By the time the bees get into the top box, there will be about 4 - 6 weeks of cold winter left before beekeepers can feed syrup. 

 This week the temperatures will be in the 30's and sunny. I expect to see bees going out on cleansing flights. Many bees will not make it back to the hive and the ground surrounding the hive will become littered with the corpses of dead bees. This is normal behavior. Many bees that are dying, are bees that are on the end of their normal life span. Bees would rather die outside and away from the hive when possible. The warm weather also aides the cluster to be able to slightly reorient to maybe another frame of honey. So if a big cold blast comes, the bees would be on ample food stores to survive the short term below zero spell.

 The days are starting to get longer, the sun intensity will get stronger, making the bees an easier time keeping the hive warm during sunny days. If we can stay away from any extended below zero weather, we may have some very good overwintering reports come February.

Need Bees: Here is a link to Nature's Nectar Bee Order Form

Saturday, December 26, 2020

Christmas bird count

 We participated in the annual Christmas bird count today. No odd birds at all this year. We were lacking a couple species that we have seen this year but not on the official count day. When you do the count, you count the most birds you see at once. We have literally hundreds of birds coming to the feeders all day. Many birds visit many times.

 

   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Red bellied Woodpecker and a Red Breasted Nuthatch

Our count:
5 - Black capped Chickadee
3 - Blue Jays
11 - Cardinal
1 - Coopers Hawk
25 - Goldfinch
4 - House Finch
9 - Junco
2 - Mourning Dove
2 - Nuthatch, White Breasted
2 - Nuthatch, Red Breasted
2 - Pine Sisken
15 - Purple Finch
4 - Downy Woodpecker
2 - Hairy Woodpecker
1 - Red Bellied Woodpecker

Sunday, December 13, 2020

Covered my hives - finally

 I got lazy with the warm temperatures and no snow that we have been enjoying. The cool temperatures are perfect winter weather conditions. Cold enough that bees shouldn't raise anymore brood, but warm enough that the demand on stored food would be minimal. If this winter comes out to be a warm one, colonies that normally would starve, will be thriving. This happened several years ago when it was a warm winter. During that winter, if a hive had 40 lbs of honey, they survived. 

 So I covered my hives yesterday. I did get to my sugar cakes that I made in a previous video. I made 3 cakes. 2 in a plastic pan and 1 in a 2 lb rubber beeswax block mold. The beeswax block mold held together pretty good. The 2 plastic pan sugar blocks did not fair well. I think they were too thin and ended up structurally deficient. The pan cakes broke apart and were still a little damp on the bottom. Hindsight tells me to make the cakes with a wooden frame with a cardboard bottom. Doing it this way, the cakes could be turned over and allow to dry on two sides instead of one.

The sugar broke up in chunks. Still usable but I needed plan B. You can see the sugar brick from my beeswax mold in the center held together quite well.
Wax paper works great for putting sugar on a hive. The bees can chew up the wax paper as they eat the sugar, making it easier for the bees to access
I added a shim to the top of the hive for room to stack up the sugar
This hive was short of stores and may not make it. I put down a sheet of wax paper on top of the cluster.
This hive was also short on stores.
Sugar is placed on top of the wax paper. The sugar could simply be granulated sugar, but I used the sugar chunks and some loose sugar. The bees will be able to get to the sugar easily.
This is what the top of the hive looked like. On top of the top box is a shim, inner cover and moisture board.

I have two hives short on stores in this yard. Notice I have two bricks up on end, now I can remember which hives have the sugar on. Later in winter, I can check these two hives to see if they need more sugar.


Wednesday, December 9, 2020

EV's - My Opinion Part 6 Last of the Series

 Disclaimer: I do own Tesla stock, I have a CyberTruck on order. The following post is my opinion, it is not a recommendation or investment advice. I have been following Tesla for a long time and my opinion will reflect that. If you are going to purchase an electric vehicle, do your homework.

 As a beekeeper, I have been trying to be more conscious to our environment. My wife and I put in a big solar array to lower our carbon footprint. Our interest in doing our part to make this world a better place started there. Now we are looking for an electric vehicle to keep on a green track. 

 Tesla is my choice for an electric vehicle. Tesla has been in the EV business since 2003. Elon Musk has been on a crusade to bring the world into a more sustainable energy future. I will have to say, Musk forced the hand of automobile manufacturers. All of a sudden there is a mad dash to bring EV's to market. With new battery tech and new manufacturing techniques, Tesla will soon be able to price their EV's cheaper than gas cars.

 Tesla is years ahead of the competition in battery tech, full self driving, and manufacturing tech. Tesla is the only EV maker that does over the air software updates. Ford wants $150.00 from me to update my maps in my truck, something Tesla does for free. Most Tesla owners have said that their cars are completely different than when they first purchased it, because of the software updates. Volkswagen which is releasing new EV's, is trying to launch Mission T which is to try to catch Tesla by 2024. Even VW is admitting that they are four years behind Tesla right now. VW is one of the biggest automakers in the world. Tesla's stock has benefited from their industry lead,  One stock analyst has Tesla at a share price of $2500.00 a share within three years.

I do believe that the Long Range Model Y with the new 4680 high nickel battery cells will be the best EV in the world. The new battery pack and the aluminum cast front and rear structure will be a better vehicle when compared to the competition. The availability of that EV may start sometime in late summer 2021. I have heard that the new battery will have a fifteen year lifespan and is well over a million mile battery. Tesla has not openly stated this, so they would not fall victim to the Osbourne effect

 The CyberTruck I ordered is supposed to have a 240 volt plug in. In the future, homeowners may be able to plug their CyberTruck and power their home during a power outage. With a 100 kilowatt battery in the CyberTruck, a home could be powered for a couple days, maybe longer with some conservation. If the power outage lasts a while, the truck could be recharged at a supercharger that is not suffering from an outage.

 Tesla is more than a car company. 

Tesla is:

  • A software company, their full self driving, FSD (now a $10,000.00 option) will bring about Robotaxi's. If 500,000 customers buy the FSD option, that is 5 billion dollars for Tesla. Every year this will grow. Imagine calling for a taxi and a car without a driver shows up and takes you to your destination. This may make Tesla trillions. Your own Tesla vehicle could be used as a Robotaxi and could make the owner thousands of dollars a year. This may put Uber and Lyft out of business.
  • Insurance Company, Tesla will soon offer insurance to all it's Tesla owners. Tesla has data on its entire fleet of EV's. This data will give them the ability to offer insurance at a cheaper rate. Now available in California. This insurance business may really impact insurance companies as more Tesla's get on the road.
  • Power Company, Tesla is making micro grids. Micro grids can help make the electric grid more efficient. The Megapack has been installed in Australia and has saved the consumers millions of dollars in a very short time. Elon Musk feels that the energy business will be bigger than the EV business. Having a grid sized storage system will make the electric grid much more efficient and save on energy, especially during peak demands.
  • Solar company, the Tesla solar roof with a powerwall battery storage will give many homeowners an opportunity to be much more electrical independent. Having more and more solar homes contributing to the grid, will be able to lessen our demand on coal. The extra solar power generated during the day could be stored in a Tesla grid sized Megapack.
  • A semi company, Tesla semi is still in the works with production coming in the near future. With full self driving the Tesla semi could disrupt the railroad industry. Imagine a truck leaving California driving to Minnesota without a driver. Sounds scary, can that be pulled off? Maybe driver occupied during inclement weather.
  • Tesla has the best supercharging network. While not widespread in Minnesota at the moment, there are several superchargers in the metro area. Mostly located next to interstates for when traveling. While you are driving down the road, your Tesla EV can tell you where the superchargers are at and can even can tell you how many charging spots are open at the moment.
Tesla is right now in a great place in the market. Tesla has several factories, Fremont California, Shanghai China, Berlin Germany (under construction, open early 2021) and Austin Texas (under construction, open late summer 2021). Tesla just announced a sale of 5 billion dollars in stock. Tesla will now be sitting on 20 billion dollars in cash. The future for Tesla is bright. There will be many EV makers coming on line in the future. I am sure that many will end up going bankrupt. The EV makers will find out soon, that competing with Tesla may be too difficult. There is much more to say about EV's and I have just glossed over a few major points. If you need questions answered, ask an EV owner, they will more than likely be more than happy to answer your questions. Electric Vehicles are not perfect. There is a learning curve on how to use and operate the EV. As time goes on, there will be an EV in your driveway.

Tuesday, December 8, 2020

Need More Info About EV's? Part 5

 YouTube has many videos of people driving their electric vehicles. Easy to find out what's good and bad, range anxiety, cold weather batteries, charging advice etc. EV drivers are like beekeepers, they are quick to answer questions and readily offer good advice.

If you want more information about Electric Vehicles, here are some links to some channels I watch on YouTube:

Munroe Live Sandy Munro tears down vehicles then tells what is good and bad about them. He has great insight and gives an honest assessment.

Electrek Video's on all things Electric. They also have a podcast.

Cleanerwatt  Video's on electric vehicles a lot on Tesla.

Hyperchange   Mostly Tesla video's. Gali is a Tesla fanboy. He must make a video after he drinks a six pack of Red Bull. The guy really is a talker. 

Tesla Daily  Daily videos and podcasts about Tesla. Any news about Tesla.

Electrified  Electric Vehicle video's mostly Tesla

Torque News  Video's about Tesla, sometimes several a day. 

Casgains Academy videos on the electric vehicle industry

Manufacturers of EV's

Tesla

 Rivian

Lucid Air 

Nissan Leaf 

General Motors

Ford 

VW

There are many more EV's out there. Keep looking if these don't answer your questions.