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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Wednesday, February 26, 2014

More Than Honey the movie

I recommend this movie to any beekeeper or civilians
It will open your eyes to what is going on with the bees.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Wintering Bees Pics

Some pics of wintering bees by E. Rydeen.
A hive starts winter with around 40,000 - 50,000 bees. Over the winter more than half of the bees will perish. They will die inside and outside the hive. One of the spring chores to do on the first warm spring day is to clean off the bottom board. It is common to have over an inch deep of hive debris of dead bees and beeswax from uncapping frames of honey.
 The bees outside the hive, fly out for cleansing flights, get chilled and fall to the snow and die. Having a large amount of bees covering the snow, looks like bee Armageddon, but is the normal hive landscape of late winter.
A hive around March 15th that has three to four full frames of bees is about right for wintering success. By feeding pollen patties and syrup(if needed) the hive should build up to be able to divide in May.
A strong over wintered hive will consume at least three to four pollen patties. Maybe more if the weather is cold and rainy(ha, I said rain) thru spring. Pollen patties should go on after the next cold spell has past. Anytime after March 1st.
Waiting for Spring  E. Rydeen

E. Rydeen

Dead bees in front of the hive. Brown poop stains on the snow. This is normal. E. Rydeen

Poop stains on winter cover and snow from cleansing flights. This is normal. E. Rydeen

Friday, February 21, 2014

Package bee update

Our first delivery, that is all 2 lb packages, is 60% sold out.

At this time our second delivery is 75% sold out.
All that is left on that delivery of bees is 2 lb packages.
All the 3 lb packages have been sold.

3 lb packages give a beekeeper a slight advantage initially in a colony. They can draw comb a little faster. But 35 - 40 days after a package of bees has been installed, all of the bees that came in any package are now deceased. Bees only live about 40 days in the spring and summer. Any bees in a package colony after 35 - 40 days will be the new offspring of the queen. So a 2 lb package will catch up to a 3 lb package in about 6 weeks after installation.

The upcoming cold weather that is supposed to be below zero for several nights and will have a very negative effect on any live colonies in Minnesota and Wisconsin. Check any colonies right after the cold weather has passed.

Monday, February 17, 2014

The weather

On Tuesday it is supposed to be in the forties. This is a small sliver of time to open a colony and make sure a frame of honey is next to the cluster. If this is done, don't disturb the cluster. If there is honey next to the cluster it should be ok. If there is not a frame with honey next to the cluster pull the empty one and slide a honey frame in its place. This can be done in less than a minute. Use a smoker and have your bee suit on.
 Next weekend it is going to go subzero for a couple nights. Subzero in late February can be a colony killer.

Univ of MN Video series

The Univ of MN has a few videos on their website.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Checking a hive in February

Beekeepers are approaching the critical time for over wintering colonies. February is the time when colonies starve to death. It is not that they are out of honey, it is because the queen is starting to lay eggs.
 As the hive starts to make brood, the consumption of honey will increase. The bees will deplete the honey stores surrounding the brood. As this honey is consumed, bees will have to go to another frame for honey. Depending where the brood is developing, the honey may be close or several frames away.
 If the temperatures stay around average, getting honey is usually not a problem. If temperatures over several days in mid to late February are below zero, starvation can occur. The bees starve because their cluster tightens up to keep the brood warm. This contraction of the cluster may pull the bees off their current food source, or the food is depleted and the cluster can't reach out to the next frame of honey. Extreme measures can be taken to move a frame of capped honey next to the cluster, or sugar can be placed on the top bars next to the bees.
If you lift the top box and find it very light and it appears starvation is probable. A beekeeper can take a frame of drawn comb, and with a hand sprayer. Spray sugar water into all of the cells of the frame. Filling up both sides of the frame with sugar water. A full frame may have about 6 lbs of sugar water. Place this frame right next to the cluster. You will have to do this again in about a week. Carefully monitor the consumption of the sugar water.
It appears the weather is getting better. After Sunday the 9th, the outlook is for more moderating temperatures. Being it has been so cold, I am hoping that brood production has been delayed a bit and should be starting about now.
We are hoping for warmer temperatures to finish out February.
This is a link to my youtube video of a hive quick check in Feb.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Spring is coming

I look forward to spring every year to start the new bee season. One of the first signs of spring I hear is the black capped chickadee feebee call. The chickadees start this call always around the first of February.
The days are getting longer and the sun's solar power feels warmer.
 Willow tree branches is turning yellow. As I drive home in the afternoon it is now easy to spot willow trees. The yellow willow branches is now very noticeable against the back drop of our snowy winter backdrop. Willow trees are a good source of springtime pollen for the bees.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Super Bowl Commercial

This is what happens when civilians try to imitate a beekeeper.
Total fail. The guys veil in on backwards

Saturday, February 1, 2014

What is going on in the hive

Are the bees alive? Now is the time to find out if the bees are alive and dead. It is usually easy to tell from the activity at the winter entrance. On sunny days the bees will congregate at the winter entrance hole. The dark winter wrap will help warm the hive with the solar gain on the black cover. The sun is increasing intensity it is helping the bees activity.
 Right now in the hive, the bees should have now moved up into the top box. Soon the queen will begin laying eggs, starting the spring colony build up. Most beekeepers should be in good shape with food stores if the colony was heavy going into winter. If the hive is light on food, emergency feeding of granulated sugar or a candy board can help to stave off starvation. In general it is too soon to feed syrup. But if a colony is close to starvation desperate measures are in order.
 A beekeeper can take an empty frame of drawn comb and a spray bottle with sugar syrup. By spraying into the cells of the frame with sugar water, the frame will fill up with syrup. Putting this frame next to the cluster in the hive will buy the bees some time.
The next three weeks will be the make it or break it time for many colonies. Hopefully any subzero weather will be going away shortly.
With springtime on the horizon, hives will be building up for dividing in May.