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, July 30, 2008

My Bear is Back

The bear has returned. He is causing a ruckus in the neighborhood. Tipping over garbage cans, tipping over some empty bee boxes. The electric fence has kept him at bay.
This is the time of year when bears are a big problem. The mating season of black bears is coming soon. Young bears get chased off by their mothers and other dominant bears, they must establish a new area for their own.
An area that has not had bears but is near possible bear areas is prime for these young bears. They will do some traveling and feed at bird feeders and an occasional beehive leaving carnage in its wake.
Not having an electric fence is asking for trouble. The bear will wreck the hives then the fence goes up and new beehives must be purchased. Put the fence up before the bear hits.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

The Nectar Flow Update

There has been a decent nectar flow going around the state finally. Some areas it is coming in large quantities. It is advisable to check supers to see if they are full. I have heard from some folks that the have more than 6 supers full and will be needing a ladder if they add any more. Caution must be made to stay ahead of the bees so they don't plug up the brood boxes.
If the supers are getting to high it helps to throw some of the full ones on a weaker colony so the ladder can be left at home. But beekeepers love the photo-op of a colony with 8 or 10 supers on it. I fit this group as well.
This nectar flow may last a while yet. The late spring has definitely made for a late flow. The slow build up of colonies because of the cold has been helped greatly by the late flow.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

News from around the state

I attended the MN Honey Producers summer meeting in St Cloud on Friday. There were several speakers talking about bee nutrition, residue from a pesticide called Imidichloropid, and information about nosema ceranae.
Beekeepers at the meeting all seemed to be having a poor nectar flow up to this point. They are hoping the late spring has moved the nectar flow back and that it will pick up in the very near future.
Imidichloropid's are a nicotine based pesticides widely used in landscape plantings and many other Agriculture products. As beekeepers what we are concerned about is residual pesticide that are possibly winding up in the nectar of some flower bearing plants. Are these compounds part of the CCD debate? More data is needed. France has done some research on these compounds. The reader should look at their findings and make your own conclusions.
Nosema Cerane is a mid gut disease that can cause the death of a colony of bees. Most beekeepers are familiar with Nosema Apis which usually shows up in spring then will go away by late May early June. It is time predictable when we would see this condition. Nosema Apis usually would hit Northern beekeepers, Southern beekeepers usually never would never get this disease.
Nosema Cerane on the other hand can strike at any time of the year. North or South. This condition has rapidly spread throughout The U.S. Possibly a cause of CCD.
It affects older bees and will kill infected bees in 8 days. Larvae and younger bees don't get it until later in their life. Once a bee gets this they usually can't recover. This disease will cause a strong colony to dwindle down, getting weaker with time.
Nosema Apis is very obvious if a colony has it. Nosema Cerane can be diagnosed using a sample of forager bees and a procedure to look at the sample under a microscope looking for a spore count. While most beekeepers do not have a microscope, looking for colonies that are showing symptoms possibly should be treated with Fumigilan-B.
Both Nosema Apis and Nosema Cerane respond well to treatment with Fumigilan-B. Follow the manufacturers information on the label for application.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Hive Beetle

This is a picture of the hive beetle trap. Some assembled some not.

Hive beetle trap in the hive.

I did have some hive beetle in some of my hives. I saw them in a couple of weak colonies.
They were not reproducing. I didn't see any active beetle larvae. As a precaution I put in some beetle traps.
These are narrow plastic troughs with a plastic screen that snaps on. The troughs are filled with Apple Cider Vinegar. The beetles are always getting harassed by the bees and like to hide.
When they hide in these they will fall in and drown.
The troughs are narrow and fit between the frames, the screens hold the troughs in place.

Checked my honey supers

I can tell this box needed more supers. The white new comb is covering every frame. Each frame has honey in it. More supers are needed now to stay ahead of the bees.

If there is comb honey in any super boxes grass is needed in the spout of the smoker. This keeps charcoal bits from the smoker getting on the comb honey.

I looked at all of my hives today. Added supers as needed. Some had two supers full, some were just getting into the first super.
I have heard varied reports of some beekeepers have two to four full supers. While others are just at the point of putting on there first supers.
The nectar seems to be coming in ok.
Hives with the bigger populations are leading the race.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Cut Comb Honey

A standard medium frame. Note wooded wedge I have broken off the top bar.

After the foundation is inserted the wedge is positioned to anchor the foundation.
Notice the thin strip of foundation I trimmed off so the foundation would fit proper.

A stapler is one method to attach the wedge strip. 5/8" nails work as well.

The cut comb frames are put in the box closest to the queen excluder. I have marked the frames with a marker. When the combs are all capped they all look the same. Obviously these are new and can easily be spotted. But as time goes by the frames will darken then the marking will be important.

I have a nectar flow going at my place in Stillwater. When I know I have a flow going and the bees are putting up nectar into the supers, it is time for cut comb honey.
Cut comb honey is probably the easiest comb honey there is to make. Nothing special except a few frames and thin surplus foundation.
I use a medium super on my strongest colonies to make cut comb honey. Starting with medium frames with wedge top bars. Assembly for the frames are the same as any frame, nails and glue.
The wedge is a cut piece of wood on the top bar. There are two types of top bars, grooved and wedge.
I break the narrow wedge off the top bars before assembly. After I glue and nail the the frame together I run my pocket knife across the top bar to take off any extra wood left by the wedge. This makes for a smooth top bar and nothing can get hung up on it.
The next step is to insert the thin surplus foundation. This foundation is 100% beeswax and is edible.
Insert the beeswax foundation into the groove of the bottom bar and gently push it against the edge of the top bar. If the foundation fits too tight slight trimming may be necessary. The foundation should hang straight with no bulges or waves.
Take the wedge and push it tight against the top bar, pinching the foundation. This will hold the foundation in the frame while the bees are drawing it out.
Nail or staple the wedge in place. When the bees have finished the frame of comb honey the wedge can be removed and new foundation can be reinserted repeating the process.
I always use the strongest colonies to make comb honey. Taking the supers off I put the frames about in the center of the super right above the queen excluder. Using weak colonies or putting the frames on to early sometimes leads to the bees chewing holes in the foundation instead.
I will recheck it in a week to see if it is finished.
When checking the comb honey, always stick green grass in the end of the smoker spout. This will act as a filter to prevent bits of black charcoal from getting all over the new white comb.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Nectar Flow and a New Hive

I made this mistake when I first started keeping bees.
I didn't think I would get any honey the first year so I didn't think I needed to put on honey supers. What a mistake.
The bees collected so much honey that the brood nest was plugged solid. The queen had no place to lay. The hive dwindled and didn't survive the winter.
Now I make sure all of my colonies have honey supers on.
A hive can put up so much honey in a short time that if it is not checked at least weekly can plug up the brood nest also. I always am two supers ahead.
Bees have a hoarding instinct. Beekeepers can exploit this by keeping empty supers ahead of the bees. The bees will work harder to fill this up. If the supers get full, the bees may just stop collecting nectar. Having an empty super on top makes the hive get all the honey that they are able to collect.
The weather and the long term forecast is perfect for honey production. Warm days, not hot. Low humidity. Hopefully there will be a good crop.