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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Monday, May 31, 2010

The Nectar Flow

Notice the whitening of the burr comb edges. This is a good indicator the nectar is coming in. A look down into the tops of the frames may show the whole top edges white with new comb.

Now is the time to put on supers. Everything is pointing to an early start. I believe the plants are two weeks ahead of schedule.
My Basswood trees have opened their seed pods. This usually happens about the third week of June. They then flower around July fourth. I expect them to flower around the second to third week of June.
An old beekeeper told me that the nectar flow starts 10 days after the first clover bloom is seen. In my area that was about 5 days ago.
If you are drawing out foundation, when the bees are close to being finished, put on the supers.
The packages should be getting many, many bees. The are turning into a powerhouse of wax production.
The first box took three weeks to draw out, the second box 10 - 14 days. The third box if desired, will be drawn in a week or so.
Stay on top of this in case the nectar flow booms at the start. The bees will plug a hive up with nectar in a week.
It is better to put supers on early than to put them on late.
Dr Furgala said " You can't make any honey if your supers are in your garage".

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Making a colony stronger

A sheet of newspaper is placed on top of the queenrite colony

The divide is opened. There is a comb of uncapped honey due to not enough
frames in the box. It is all beeswax filled with honey, hmmm.
It tasted great.

I found a few supercedure cells being this was a queenless divide.

The divide is added into the second box with some frames of foundation.

The hive is now combined.

I had a weak colony that was slow to develop. The queen was laying fine but the bee numbers were down. This was a weak package that will develop in time. But I didn't want to miss the nectar flow so I kicked it up another notch.
I received a divide from a beekeeper. I then combined it with the weak hive using the newspaper method.
A sheet of newspaper is put on the queen rite colony. A small slit about a 1/4" long is put in the paper. This gives the bees a place to start chewing a hole.
Slowly they will chew a small hole in the paper. As the hole gets bigger the bees will start passing back and forth slowly uniting. After a week a pulpy paper pile will be seen in front of the hive.
This uniting process works great and usually there is never any queen issues.

Monday, May 24, 2010

The daily changes of what's blooming

yellow sweet clover

Today as I was crossing some railroad tracks in Edina I noticed some yellow sweet clover blooming. A fellow beekeeper also saw some yellow sweet clover blooming coming in from Ramsey.
I was on the ramp going home 0n 100 and 494 and saw alfalfa starting to bloom in the ditch.
How is this possible with the time of the season? They are about two weeks early.
It all comes down to growing degree days (GDD). As my previous post about the Black Locust. The link to the Black Locust page refers that it needs 140 GDD to flower.
All plants use this same GDD to get to the point of flowering. While they are all different as to when they flower, the formula is the same.
Alfalfa, clovers, Basswood, etc; all of these have predetermined by nature of when they flower. Of course moisture may play into this, the warm weather we have been experiencing has plants reaching their GDD early.
Jerry Linser first brought this concept up to the MN Hobby Beekeepers on how beekeepers can determine with some accuracy when a plant will flower. This helps us to determine what plant is blooming and when to super.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Growing_degree_day This is some interesting data.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

The heat

Capped swarm cells usually the bees have swarmed.
Photo by: Jim Kocherer

This hive is more than likely cooking up a swarm.

This warm humid weather is a swarm generator. Any crowded over wintered colony will very likely be cooking up some swarm cells. Regular 7 - 10 day inspections should be in place to stop the bees from swarming. Squash any swarm cells that have not been capped yet.
Capped swarm cells usually means the bees have swarmed. Make sure you can get a queen before the capped cells are squashed.
It is normal to see the bees hanging outside the hive on a hot day.
Strong colonies should have there entrance reducer out and the drawer out of any screen bottom boards.
Grass in front of the hive needs to be cut short to keep the ventilation of the hive open for fanning by the bees. A rubber welcome mat in front of the colony helps keep the grass down. A lighter color is preferable to black.

The hive rumor mill

I have been talking with beekeepers. Several have told me that they were from the April 10th load. Many are almost done with their second box. The April 22nd load are putting on their second box.
Some first loaders are supering two deep colonies and starting to get a little nectar.
There is a good nectar flow going on in some areas Black Locust are starting to bloom.
My friend who brings 200 colonies back from Texas put supers on his colonies on Wed and went through them today checking on his queens for the first time since coming back from Texas two weeks ago. In four days the bees had put up 20 - 30 lbs of Black Locust honey.
Look for this tree it is a shrub or tree with big plumes of hanging white flowers. If you see some stop by and look to see if bees are working the flowers. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robinia_pseudoacacia
I have heard of high expectations of the Yellow Sweet Clover bloom in South Dakota due to ample moisture last fall and this spring. Yellow Sweet clover produces more honey in the Dakotas due to their general drier conditions. This seems to get the nectar flowing more there than in MN.
If you never have tried true Yellow Sweet clover honey from the Dakota's, I recommend putting that on your bucket list.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

A real nice bear fence

Carnage left in the wake of the hive predator called "the bear"

The bear leaves very little after his visit other than debris , very similar to a tsunami

This is the new bear fence.

One of the beekeepers that had bear problems last week sent me some pictures of his colonies before and after the bear onslaught.
He used livestock panels from Fleet Farm. They are 16 ft long and 52 inches tall. There were 6 panels used, his yard is 16 feet by 32 feet. These are the deluxe model with the bottom foot of fence, the wire is close together, and that will keep out any skunks.
This type of fence is great because you can weed whip next to the wire and you won't wreck it with the weed whip.
He also used a 12 volt solar fencer.
I will say that this is probably one of the nicer bear fences I have seen. It will last a long time and should have virtually no maintenance other than the fencer battery.

Friday, May 21, 2010

This is a brief explanation of a bear fence. How to build one is at the MN DNR
website on how to build a bear fence.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

A Honey Bound Hive

Extractor set up in the beeyard to extract out a honeybound hive.

A beekeeper e-mailed me about not being able to split due to his hive was honey bound. Plugged with honey and no place for the queen to lay. This presents the problem that the hive will decline and the nectar flow will be a bust.
The colony had a good population but not much brood.
I suggested that he extract out the frames to give the queen a place to lay.
As the photo suggests he brought his extractor out to his hive and made it happen. He now has a hive with great potential and maybe some honey for his troubles.

Overcrowded Hive, A Prelude To A Swarm click photo to enlarge

This hive is obviously overcrowded

I switched hives. I put a weak hive where the overcrowded hive was and the overcrowded hive where the weak hive was.

A quick check for swarm cell. And there was none.

I scooped bees off the face of the overcrowded hive.

I dumped them in front of the weak colony They walked in a few minutes later.. Now I made two hives better and stopped a swarm that would have happened in short order.

I had a single box hive that was terribly overcrowded. It was a swarm waiting to happen.
This same technique I use when I have a hive with active swarm cells. I am talking a swarm cell with milk, not empty queen cups. Remove the swarm cells to stop the swarm, then move the colonies. Weak one where the strong one is, strong one where the weak one was. This way the swarm will stop.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Swarming and Bears

A beekeeper sent me this photo. She was planning a divide and missed a swarm cell. She was disappointed because the divide was going to happen that day.

A ladder would not have helped.

This week with the warm weather swarming will kick into high gear. It is important to remove all entrance reducers from strong colonies. Also keep looking for swarm cells in the strong colonies.
If the over wintered colonies have not been divided, now is the time to do it.
Adding another box to a strong colony will not stop swarming.
Yesterday I was checking my colonies and noticed a swarm had moved into some deeps I had sitting there. All of my hives there where packages, so I thank the beekeeper whose bees moved in for the new colony.
Bears have been moving around leaving a path of destruction in their wake.
I live in northern Washington County. This is now bear country as is Anoka County according to the MN DNR.
Most of my bee yards are electrified. It works and they will stop a bear.
Two beekeepers living just north of me have been hit in the last week. They both put up an electric fence ATB (after the bear). One of them bought an electric fencer that is used on buffalo. Now that is my kind of beekeeper.
If you live where there is bears, even an occasional bear, you will get hit at sometime. It will be at a time when the bees are at their best and will be an emotional let down.
My suggestion is to put up a bear fence before the bears hit or you will pay for the fence and new equipment ATB.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

First Load package bees

The cold weather of recent days has probably slowed the expansion of all bee colonies in general. The package bees that were installed on April 10th should be having emerging brood and the colonies populations will be expanding.
With the increase in population the bees will be drawing out the foundation quicker. When the bees have drawn out 8 of the 10 frames it will be time to add a second box.
When adding a second box, take a frame that the bees are working on and move it from the bottom box to the second box. The bottom box will have 9 frames and the top box will have 10. Continue feeding syrup if foundation is still needing to be drawn out.
If the bees were installed on drawn comb they may be ready for another box by this weekend.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

My queen acceptance

I put in 25 Carniolan packages so far this season.
I checked them all for queen acceptance. I was 25 for 25.
One was on the fence. I put them in a week ago last Sunday. I did not see any eggs when I checked.
I looked again on Wed and she was laying up a storm. She was laying two eggs in many cells. This is normal when a queen starts laying. She should settle down by this Sunday and should be hitting all the cells on the frames.
Queen may take 10 - 12 days to start laying. This happened to several beekeepers this year who were concerned they were queenless. Most of the queens started laying after two - three more days in the colony.
Between the two loads of bees there was very little queen problems. Most being fly-aways. Out of 800 beekeepers maybe 20 had queen problems that needed a new queen due to the queen not being present after 12 days.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

First check on my package on Sunday

I checked my package on Sunday. Everything was going great. The bees are building comb and the queen is laying.
On my second package I have a queen that is not laying and I will check it again on Wed.