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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Thursday, February 15, 2018

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Open Longer Hours

We are now open:
Friday noon to 6 pm
Saturday 9 am to 3 pm

Monday, February 12, 2018

Wednesday colony check?

Looks like 40's on Wednesday. Good time to check colonies.
 When it is above 25 degrees and not windy, it is not a problem to open a colony for a quick check.
What to look for: whenever you open a colony in the winter, having a plan on what to look for before the top is pulled off.
  •  Alive or dead. This is obvious, but sometimes the bees are down deep in a hive and may be alive. No bees on top? Look deep in the boxes.
  • Colony strength, Right now we would like to see at least four frames of bees in the hive. Most colonies should have bees in the top box. The cluster should be spread out over four frames. A Carniolan queen hive may have threes frames of bees, this is fine. Carniolans winter a smaller cluster and build up very quickly. Sometimes a hive can cover the top of the frames in the hive and looks fine for population. In reality, that is all the bees there is in the hive. To get a good idea that there is a good population, leave the inner cover and moisture board on, break the top box loose. Lift up one side of the box and teeter it back. Look underneath the top box. If you have bees covering four frames to the bottom of the top box, that is a good population.
  • Food stores. For me the best way to judge food stores is to slip off the winter cover, I leave the inner cover and moisture board on. Break the top box loose with the hive tool and lift the top box off the lower box. This will easily tell the weight of the colony. If the hive box feels heavy you should be good. If it feels light, feeding is on the horizon. If the hive feels empty of food and very light, starvation can be near. Winter patties can get a colony to limp along for the short term before we can feed syrup in a couple weeks.
  • Order new bees. If you colony has two frames or less of bees consider them dead. Weak colonies struggle along and can't get their population to move forward. They will not build up to a productive colony without addition of bees from another colony. 
  • Great bee strategy. If you have a couple hives and have one hive alive or are expanding to a second colony. Some beekeepers plan on doing a divide to expand their colonies. Sometimes colonies do not come through the winter strong, and at divide time the colony cannot be divided. Now the other hive sits empty. Here is the strategy. Purchase a 2 lb package for the empty hive. Install the bees in the empty hive. If the overwintered hive can be divided, the divide can be added to the package. This will assure that all the hives will be filled with bees. The package hive will get very strong. No queen will need to be purchased for the divide. The stronger colony will produce more honey than a package or divide could make. The extra honey the colony makes should offset the cost of the package. Do the math. Package around $128.00 including tax. You don't need to purchase a queen for the divide, cost of a queen $35.00. Now we are at $93.00. If you got an extra super of honey because of the stronger colony, which is about 40 lbs of honey worth at least $2.50 lb that's $100.00.  Package bees paid for. I have had several beekeepers use this strategy and they have commented to me on how well it worked.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Hive Location

I was driving up near Finlayson this morning. I noticed a temperature contrast that was worth noting. Driving on I-35 the temperature was about 1 below in Forest Lake.
 As I continued driving north the temperature was cooling off. By the time I got to the Finlayson exit, the temperature was 6 below. As I traveled west on Hwy 18 the road took a few dips. The temperature in the bottom of the dips was 14 below. As I came out of the dips the temperature rebounded to between 6 below and 9 below.
This is a good lesson when locating hives. Avoid low spots. Cold air runs like water. If a hive is in a lower spot and is surrounded by trees and brush. The vegetation will hold the cold air. If the brush was cut in a fashion that forms paths. The cold air can possibly leave and not settle in on frosty mornings.

Monday, February 5, 2018

What is happening in the hive right now.

The winter is moving forward, now it is early February and beekeeping spring is about 30 days away. Beekeeping spring is when we can feed pollen patties and syrup (if needed) to our overwintered colonies.
 Right now the bee cluster should be up in the top brood box. The exception to this if your hive was very heavy with honey. The bees may still be in the lower box. But, for most of us the bees should be up. In most cases the queen has just started to lay a few eggs or will be starting very soon. The bees will be uncapping and consuming honey. When they start opening capped cells of honey, there should be pollen under some of the capped honey (if you did reversals on your colony last early June). The pollen will help stimulate brood rearing. If you don't think you have pollen under the cells in your hive, just solid honey, you may want to throw a pollen patty on, around Feb. 20th or so. If you did a reversal or two last spring, I would not put pollen patties on until early March.
 Don't put pollen on too early, pollen patties can get the colony moving forward too fast. Putting pollen on too soon leads to increased consumption of honey and in some cases, results in huge hive populations in late April. This can lead to early swarming before queens are available for divides. Think about timing and what you did last year before putting pollen patties on. Once pollen patties go on, you need to keep them on through spring.  
 As we get into the start of brood rearing, this is the time when bees can starve if the weather gets cold.  This week is going to be cold, if the queen has started to lay, I wouldn't worry about starvation because of small amount of new brood in the hive this week. But anytime after the February 10th is around the time when most hives have brood in the hive. There won't be frames of brood, but one side of a frame will be getting eggs laid on it. Being it takes 21 days for brood to hatch, as time goes on, more sides of frames will start having brood on them as the queen starts increasing her egg laying.
 Starvation can occur in February when there is brood present and we have weather that is near zero or below for three or more consecutive nights. The cold weather makes the cluster of bees contract to a tighter cluster. The tighter cluster is needed to maintain a 96 degree temperature over the brood. If the bees have consumed honey off the frame(s) of brood, the bees have to go to the honey that maybe a frame or two away from the brood. The brood can't move, so the bees have to move to the honey. When it is cold for several days in a row. The cluster  moves off the honey, to maintain the proper brood rearing temperatures. Moving off the honey for several days can result in starvation, even though honey is one frame away. This is the time of year when winter patties, candy boards or even granulated sugar on wax paper laying on the top bars of the top box can possibly prevent starvation. If the weather in February, is around the normal highs and lows, most colonies will be fine.
 By the end of February, most hives will have a couple frames of brood in the hive. Maybe more if their population is large and they can cover and feed that large amount of brood.
 Our hives are changing, soon it will be time to dust off that bee suit.