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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Sunday, August 2, 2020

New Solar System + Solar Update For July

A fellow beekeeper put up a new 14.5 KWH solar system at their home. It consists of 42 panels. They originally wanted 48 panels, but Xcel told them that may exceed their feed wiring capacity to their house. This is because the main wire near their house was  installed in 1937 and never has been upgraded by the utility.
 Their new system is just coming online this week I think. Everything is done, they are just waiting for Xcel to set their meter. The 14.5 KWH solar system set them back $52,000.00. They will be getting a federal tax credit of about $13,500.00. So their out of pocket will be $38,500.00. They will probably have that all paid off in 10-12 years. Most solar panels have a life of 25 years minimum, with a performance of still over 90% after 25 years. The size of their system will probably cover 90% of their yearly utility bill (gas and electric). Any credit from Xcel can be used against the utility bill.
 They had All Energy Solar. install the solar system.They were very pleased with their contractor. Click on the pictures for full size.

They went with a ground mount solar system. This ground mount is fixed. It will not be able to change the panel angle. Usually fixed solar systems are set at about 37 degrees at our latitude. The advantage with the ground mount is that the solar panels are easy to remove snow and to keep clean. The panels are located in full sun so they will collect the maximum solar power available.
Our solar update for the month of July.
 So far this year it has been a very good year for solar. Our July solar was 2.42 megawatts or 2420 kilowatts. The average home in the U.S. uses about 900 kilowatts per month. So we made more than 2-1/2 times what a normal home would use. We will get a credit on our Xcel bill for July. Solar does work well in MN and WI.

Friday, July 31, 2020

My Mite Treatment Plan

 I always treat for mites in late summer, usually in August. Waiting until September to treat for mites may be too late. The bees can be severely damaged by mites at that point and the odds for winter survival may be much less.
 I like to use Formic Acid for a mite treatment in August. Formic Acid called Formic Pro or Mite Away Quick Strips. Formic Acid is considered an organic treatment and honey supers can remain on the hive during treatment.
 This may be very helpful this year. With the high humidity we have had, honey in the supers may have a high moisture content. By leaving the honey on the hive longer, there may be a better opportunity for the bees to lower the water content of the honey on the hive.
 Also, we have had great moisture this year. Goldenrod tends to produce a better nectar flow when there is adequate moisture after July 1st. A good Goldenrod nectar flow may give beekeepers the opportunity of another super or two of honey.
 Using Formic Acid in the summer, we are always looking for a proper time to use it. The daily temperatures have to be under 85 degrees for the first three days the Formic Acid is on the hive. So watching the weather is critical to find the proper time to use it. Next week looks great for using Formic acid. Highs in the upper 70's. The hive populations are high, so the bees will be able to deal with the vapors of the Formic Acid.
 I have purchased my Formic Pro and I will be putting it on the hives on Monday.


Monday, July 27, 2020

Refractometer for testing water content in honey


Refractometer, used for measuring water content of honey. Refractometers are job specific. Example, for testing honey, you need a refractometer meant for honey. Don't purchase the wrong one.
Refractometer readout.
We have had a humid summer. Looking forward a week, the dew points are supposed to drop and be much more pleasant. But the past month has given us many humid days and nights. The high humidity may have brought stored honey in honey supers on our hives, to a high level of water content.
 To be considered U.S. Grade A honey, the honey has to have a water content of 18.6% or less. When honey has a water content of above 18.6%, the honey will ferment with time.
 So a beekeeper needs to find out what the moisture level of the honey is, then take the appropriate actions to ultimately have U.S. Grade A honey.
 The upcoming week with the lower dew points will help to lower the moisture content of stored honey even on the hive. Frames of honey that is capped with beeswax may not be grade A honey. The moisture content may be too high. But the good thing is, the wax capped frames are hygroscopic. If something is hygroscopic, the substance can pick up or give up moisture relating to the relative humidity. This means during a time of low humidity the frames of honey can lose water content and bring the honey down to a lower level.
 There are many types of Refractometers, and they are specific to their industry. Refractometrs are used for measuring machine tool coolant and glycol levels in heating and cooling systems for example.
 Beekeepers need a Refractometer that is used for honey. If you look at the pic above the measured scale says Honey moisture. Many times beekeepers see a "good deal" on a refractometer and end up buying the wrong one.
 Refractometers can be purchased from a bee supply store. They range in price from around $75.00 to $475.00. Or you could bring a sample of honey to Nature's Nectar LLC and they will test your honey for free. When you bring a sample, in a container, fill the container with the honey sample. Putting a thimble full of honey in a quart canning jar will give you a false reading, because the honey sample just absorbed any humidity that was in the jar. A full jar of honey works great, the sample used, can fit on a couple of toothpicks.
 Testing frames of honey before you extract is many times inaccurate. The moisture content on honey frames can be all over the place. You can check different places on the same frame and come up with a different reading.
 The safest way to get your honey right, with the proper moisture content, is to put the full honey supers in a room with a dehumidifier for a week before you extract. Getting the humidity in the room down to 40% is the desired level to have. Removing the high moisture from honey before the frames are extracted is easier to do than after the honey if extracted.
 When extracting, the safe bet is to extract the mostly capped frames of honey first, then extract any uncapped frames separately. Usually uncapped honey can have a higher moisture content, but not all the time. Sometimes the only reason the honey was not capped, is that the nectar flow ended and the frames were never filled. The honey could be grade A.
 Moisture in honey can be a big issue, knowing what the moisture content will give a beekeeper an idea where they stand.
 I will put a video on in the future on how to lower moisture levels in honey.  

Monday, July 20, 2020

Nectar Flow Update

Do you still have a nectar flow? I have heard some beekeepers saying that their nectar flow has slowed.
 This is the time of year when nectar flows get spotty. For some beekeepers the nectar flow is over, other beekeepers still may be getting a nectar flow. Nectar flows are like real estate, location, location, location.
 As the nectar flow slows, we would like to fill the boxes we have on our hives. So adding more supers can slow down a bit. At this timing of the nectar flow, I usually make sure I have one mostly empty super at a time on the hive. I will go in and do a quick visual on the capped frames on my supers. If the outside frames of my supers are not capped, I usually will move these empty or uncapped outside frames to the center of the supers. This make the bees more inclined to fill the frames, if there is nectar available.
 Check the supers weekly, if the top box is filling up, then add another super. Nothing happening, check again in a week.
 The one thing I haven't talked about yet, is moisture content of the honey on the hive. The upper Midwest has experienced quite a few humid days. This could affect the moisture content of your honey. To be Grade A honey, the moisture content has to be 18.6% water content or less. During humid summers, high moisture honey is more common. High moisture honey will ferment over time.
Leaving honey on the hive is usually the best way to get the moisture down if the weather improves. Or, if the honey has to come off, the honey should be put in a room with a dehumidifier. A properly dehumidified space can lower the water content of honey before the honey is extracted. An air conditioned space in not adequate to dehumidify frames of honey. I use a commercial sized dehumidifier in my honey house. I try to get the humidity down to 40% in the room. I also run a fan. I leave the honey at least a week before extracting.
 If you have hive beetle in your hives, leaving them for more than three days off the hive, can get any beetles in the supers to start laying eggs on the honey frames. In a short time, the frames can have beetle larvae hatched out and damaging your honey. Having a room at 40% humidity, can help stop this from happening.
 As we come to the end of July, mite treatments should be on the minds of beekeepers. I believe that mite treatments should be put on the hives in early August. Waiting too long to treat your hives for mites, can result in poor overwintering results. Formic Acid is considered an organic treatment for Varroa mites. So it can be used anytime on a hive. Supers can be on while treating with Formic Acid. When Formic Acid is put on the hive, the first three days that it is on the hive, the daily temperatures have to be no greater than 85 degrees. So if you are going to treat with Formic Acid, keeping an eye on the weather for a window to put on the mite treatment is critical. If a window of perfect weather happens, a beekeeper needs to be ready to treat. Sometimes during a hot summer, there may only be one or two opportunities during August to use Formic Acid. So be prepared and watch the weather. Formic Acid is sold under two brand names, Formic Pro or Mite Away Quick Strips. Formic Pro has a long shelf life on any unused product, Mite Away Quick strips should be used during the season they are purchased, their shelf life is only a few months. Never use expired Formic Acid strips.

Friday, July 10, 2020

The Nectar Flow

Our hill is covered with Bee Balm. The Butterflies and the Bumble Bees are in nectar nirvana.

I think tight now we are in peak honey flow. Summer flowers are coming out more and more. I saw spotted knapweed blooming on Hwy 36 today. The white sweet clover has about another week left in it then it should start to wane.
Spotted Knapweed, a noxious weed. But the honey tastes buttery
The nectar flow is really hitting on all cylinders. I can only say, stay ahead of the bees and keep stacking on supers.

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Honey For Sale

Wendy and I are still in the honey business. Five gallon pails of honey go for $178.00. Right now I have some pails of Goldenrod honey available. Call us if you are interested.

Sunday, July 5, 2020

The nectar flow

I have been having a great nectar flow. I have four supers on most of my hives and I may be putting on more.
 Right now I think we are at near peak nectar flow. More and more flowers are blooming. Perennial summer flowers are starting to bloom. The hot weather is also helping the nectar flow.
 Today a surprise thunderstorm gave us an 1-1/2" of rain. So moisture is not an issue in Washington County at the moment. But we have had ample moisture anyway, so moisture should not be an issue at the moment. I think they are still dry in the Harris/Pine City area.
 Aside from that, everyone should be experiencing a nectar flow right now. If the hive has a good population, the bees should be filling the top brood box and into the supers with nectar.
 If the bees are not putting nectar into the supers but are filling the brood area with nectar, and there is no brood, your bees may have swarmed and if you did not remove any capped queen cells in the last two to three weeks, there should be a new queen laying soon. You may have to move some frames to another hive to get some relatively empty frames, to give the queen some room to start laying.
 If your bees are still in one or two deeps and they are not drawing out much comb. You could have had some queen issues along the way. The hive may not have many foragers yet. You may have to feed the bees some sugar water right now for the bees to draw out comb.
 Some strategy's to use for supers:
  • If you are running out of supers, use a deep for a honey super
  • Hives getting too tall? Take full supers and put them on top of colonies that are not producing. Move the supers bees and all. This will give the weak hive an increase in bees. (Don't worry about fighting. Smoke the bees a little and they will be fine. House bees in supers are 12 - 17 days old and easily accept other bees.)  The bees will take care of the honey. Do not take off supers and store them off the hive somewhere. The honey will absorb the high humidity that we are experiencing and will cause the honey to eventually ferment. 
  • New supers and nothing happening? Remove the queen excluder until the bees start making some comb on a couple frames then put the excluder back in.
  • Put new undrawn supers on top of the top brood box, then drawn supers on top of them. Drawn supers can be just stacked on top of the hive as needed.
  • Supers go on two at a time during the early part of the nectar flow.
The nectar flow should stay on track for awhile. Nectar flows are unpredictable and beekeepers are never sure how much honey is going to come into the hive. But staying ahead of the bees with empty frames can kick in the bees hoarding instinct. When bees have space in front of them, the bees will try harder to fill that space. If the honey space is full, the bees may stop collecting. I always like to pull off a partially filled top super at the end of the nectar flow instead of one packed full. I know with the partially filled super, I got all the nectar that the hive could produce.
 Keep ahead of the bees, the nectar is flowing, it will be a great thing if every super gets honey in the frames.