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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Saturday, December 29, 2012

Christmas Bird Count

I have just finished my part of the areas annual Christmas Bird Count. It is a national event that happens the last two weeks in Dec. This area, the northeast metro, does it on a Sat between Christmas and New Years day. I have been doing this for over twenty years. My charge is to watch my bird feeders all day and report my sightings. It is always interesting to see what types of birds I see. The key is to watch the feeders and surrounding area as much of the day as possible. Today I had a Robin and a Cedar Wax Wing that were here only for a moment. Had I not been watching I would have missed the sighting.
 The count is based on how many birds are at the feeders at any one time. 
My tally for the day:
12 - Cardinals
  8 - Chickadees
  1 - Cedar Waxwing
  3 - Crows
  4 - Downey Woodpeckers
  2 - Hairy Woodpeckers
  2 - Red Bellied Woodpeckers
  1 - Pileated Woodpecker
40 - Goldfinches
  6 - House Finches
  8 - Purple Finches
14 - Slate Colored Juncos
  4 - Pine Siskens
  1 - American Robin
  4 - Common Red Poll
  4 - Blue Jays
  6 - Mourning Doves
There was a Barred Owl near the feeders two days ago, and I heard it hooting before it was light yesterday morning. I don't know if that can be in the count or not.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

The 2012 Bee Year Review

The last season brought some things that no one around here had seen before.
Winter of 2011 - 2012 was the warmest for wintering bees that I have ever seen in almost 20 years. The warm winter made overwintering bees a cake walk. It seems that if the bees had 40 lbs of honey they were able to survive.
Most queens starting laying early in January. The only cold spell we had was in Feb for about three days. This did kill a few colonies caught with no honey and brood on the frames. Starvation still was an issue in colonies that went into winter short on stores.  Early feeding saved many colonies.
 The early laying put populations on a steady rise. By March colonies were building up nicely. Pollen patties were being devoured at a steady clip keeping the spring build up on course. Late March and early April there was natural pollen coming in. 
 April put colonies three weeks ahead of schedule. Package bees arrived on schedule and the weather proved nice to install them and get the bees up and running. Dandelions were coming out in mid April around the metro area. The fruit bloom started in late April with apples finishing in the first week of May. A hard frost hit in early May severely damaging the fruit crop in MN. The early fruit bloom left many colonies with no pollen coming in for three weeks in May. This dearth in pollen contributed to swarming, queen laying issues and supersedure. Beekeepers that put on pollen patties saw the bees gobbling them up.
  Swarming started becoming an issue in late April. Overwintered colonies began bursting at the seams. This caught many beekeepers off guard. Swarming began early and went on into June. Colonies were being divided three weeks earlier than normal starting in late April into early May. Luckily queens were available for most of the divisions.
 Package bees progressed nicely through May into June.
The main nectar flow started three weeks early around the first of June. Overwintered colonies that were strong began packing the honey away. Package bees still had not fully developed yet and were not able to reap the nectar at this time. The weather was fine and moisture was ample.
 Overwintered colonies put away large amounts of honey around the metro area. Beekeepers in the north had to contend with large rainfalls and beekeepers south of the metro had drought conditions to deal with. Wisconsin beekeepers had very dry conditions that contributed to a poor nectar flow. Minnesota beekeepers in the central part of the state heading straight into South Dakota had a good to very good nectar flow.
 The nectar flow was steady through the first three weeks of June then the weather dried up and so did the nectar for many of us. Package bees were up and ready to go by then but the dry conditions kept the nectar flow at bay.
 July came and the dry weather continued. Swarming came out again keeping swarm chasers busy for a long swarm season.
 The crud was in many bee colonies across the country. This was probably a virus. Luckily the crud responded to a couple of treatments of Terramycian.
 August did produce some Goldenrod honey for many colonies. The honey did have a higher moisture content than the June crop had.
Sept did prove a surprise. Being that the over wintered colonies had an early build up, mites started to rear their ugly little heads. Mite treatments were going on over the the fall months. Some colonies experienced mite damage  in August. Mite treatments applied in Sept and October on these mite damaged colonies  proved ineffective as the bees started to abscond in late Sept and  Oct. Mite damaged colonies were too far gone to save. Beekeepers that treated in August had good luck keeping the mites in check. The mite build up in packages was mixed. Some packages needed treatments but most seemed to have lower mite counts. 
 Winter stores in many colonies were light. Feeding went on through the fall. Beekeepers that fed early were able to get ample food in their hives. Cooler weather made late feeders struggle to get their colonies up to proper wintering weight. They had to resort to putting on candy boards or feeding dry sugar.
Late fall weather was warm even into December. The warm fall made for low consumption of winter stores that will hopefully bring the bees through winter.
While the last year was challenging with the weather most of the bees are in great shape and with a little luck and a normal winter, 2013 looks to be a good one.

Friday, December 14, 2012


Apivar is a new mite treatment has become available in the U.S. The active ingrediant is Amitraz. This mite treatment has been available in Europe for a long time. I don't know anything about cost or availability at the moment.
It is now approved for use in the following states at the moment, SD, OR, ND, CO(*), MS, MN, CA(*), FL, MI, AR, KY for 2012.
 Apivar are contact strips that are inserted into the hive and hang between the frames. It is effective on Varroa and Tracheal mites.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Package bees

I have been getting calls about package bees. Beekeepers have been asking when orders will be taken for the next spring season. I should have my 2013 pricing for bees in late Jan.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Another Honey Melter

This is a honey melter that a local beekeeper came up with. It works for him.
He took a cooler added a light bulb on the lid. He uses a 40 watt light bulb wired into a dimmer switch. He also uses a indoor/outdoor thermometer to measure the temperature in the cooler. He says when the temperature reaches 100 degrees the honey is usually clear. There is so much mass of the honey in the jars absorbing the heat it takes a while to get to that temperature. As always, all wiring should be done by licensed electrician. Safety from fire is always a number one priority.

Photo by R. Schultz - The honey is on a grate.

Photo by R. Schultz -  A indoor/outdoor thermometer monitors the inside temperature. A dimmer switch on mounted on top.

Photo by R. Schultz - The lamp is mounted on the lid.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Making Creamed Honey

Creamed honey should be made by the end of this coming weekend if it is to be properly set by the holidays.
 I made 60 lbs of Cinnamon Creamed Honey this weekend. Two pails of honey that was just liqufied. It was a little too warm for adding the creamed honey seed. It had to let it sit and cool down to 95 degrees before I added the seed. The honey that I used was from western MN, the supers had a mixture of yellow sweet clover and sunflower honey. The moisture content was 14%. Even when the honey was warm it was very thick to stir.
 The seed was added when the honey cooled to 95 degrees. I couldn't find the seed I normally use at the grocery store. They were all sold out. Too many beekeepers making creamed honey this weekend I guess. I had to try another brand, I hope it works out.
 After I stirred in the seed, the honey was a consistent color throughout. I then stirred in the cinnamon powder. After that was all stirred in and thoroughly incorperated  I set it outside to cool down quickly. 
Of course I forgot it was on my deck and left it out all night.
  I brought it in in the morning. I checked it several hours later after it had warmed up. Low moisture honey and cool temperatures kicked everything into high gear.  The honey had all ready started to set. The jars were prepared and I started to bottle the honey. The consistency was already very thick and the pouring was slow going. Normally some of the cinnamon powder would have floated up to the top and would have to be skimmed off before bottling. With this thick honey all of the cinnamon stayed suspended and there was nothing to skim off. Hex jars were used for the bulk of the creamed honey, several plastic cups were also in the mix so I can tell when the creamed honey is set by squeezing the sides of the plastic containers. I think it will be ready by Friday.