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, July 30, 2017

Minnesota State Fair

Honey at the MN State Fair. The black Buckwheat honey is Amber honey. The Reddish Honey is Light Amber, all the other honey in this picture is White Honey.
This is the time of year when beekeepers compete for the best honey in the state of MN. Registration needs to be completed by 4:30 pm on August 14th. http://competition.mnstatefair.org/
Bee and Honey entries has to be bought to the fair on Saturday the 19th or Sunday the 20th of August.
 Food exhibits only on Tuesday, August 22nd 9 am to noon.
  You do get all your entries back at the end of the fair.
 Entries are in three classes, novice class, open class and Junior Division aged 10 - 15 years old ( the Junior Division does have some age requirements on some entries).  
 The novice class is for beginners and is a great place to start if you have never entered before.

All classes need to be looked at in the premium book. Read it thoroughly because the rules need to be followed exactly.
 You can enter any or all of the possible entries.
 Each entry has a description of what the entry contains.
There are many entry possibilities:
Liquid Honey in glass jars
Liquid Honey in squeeze containers
Granulated Honey
Chunk Honey
Comb Honey
Extracting Frame
Gift Basket
Beeswax Block
Food Entries
Creative Bee Art
Link to the Bee and Honey Premium Book

Friday, July 28, 2017

Great Weather and Nectar Ripening

The nice sunny weather will really give the bees a great opportunity to dehumidify any uncapped honey.
 It wouldn't surprise me, if you go out today and look at your colonies, that you would see bees at every opening fanning their wings.
 The bees are bringing in the warm dry air. The air currents of air that they move around in their hive, will bring down the moisture content of the nectar as it ripens into honey.
 Sometimes in humid weather, even though the honey is capped, it could still have a high moisture content. This dry weather can help improve that scenario.
 The beeswax capping are hygroscopic. That means it can absorb or give off water vapor right through the cappings.
 This sunny weather will keep the bees out working the nectar plants. I do think the nectar coming in has slowed a bit. But there still is nectar coming in.
 The nectar flow is probably about 65% - 70% over if I was to put a number on the nectar flow. The bees are still trying to store honey. If your supers are full, there is still time to add one more.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Using a Refractometer

A Refractometer is used to measure the water content of honey.
 To be U.S. Grade A, honey has to have a water content of 18.6% or less. Honey that is over 18.6% water content, will ferment over time.
 There are many types of refractometers that have different scales and are used for a specific fluid in many different industries.
Beekeepers use a refractometer that is set up for honey. A honey refractometer is set up with a moisture content of 13% - 30% on the measurement scale.
 Honey refractometers are electronic or a visual lens.
The electronic refractometers use a sample of honey and will give you a moisture read out.
 I myself prefer the low tech lens style. A sample of honey is put on the lens. Then the sample is held up to a bright light for the reading. How the light passes through the honey sample gives the reading on the scale in the instrument. I like the low tech system because it is visual and you can see the results.
 A refractometer has to be calibrated to make sure it is accurate. Calibration fluid is used to calibrate the instrument. I always calibrate my refractometer before every season to make sure it is accurate.
 Beekeepers can bring me a sample of their honey and I will test it for free.
double click on the video for full screen

This is what the scale looks like in a Atago refractometer. Where the purple line and the white color meet is your number. Then a temperature adjustment is figured off the attached thermometer. This sample is reading about 19.3%.  Different manufacturers may have different looking scales

Atago Refractometer

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Some Pollinator Plants

 Many summer Perennials are still coming out and will be for the next few weeks.
These are a few of them that are in our Pollinator Garden.
Also, Purple Loosestrife is blooming in swampy areas.

Blazing Star

Milkweed in the background is still coming out

Butterfly Weed

Purple Cone Flower

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Extracting, The Basics

This is a video about extracting for a new beekeeper. Equipment used are a three frame extractor, uncapping tank, capping scratcher, filtering system, and a bottling pail.
 Your first year of extracting your honey crop, I usually recommend a capping scratcher to uncap the frames. With ten frames in the super the capped honey is very flat and flush with the wooden frames. It is hard to use a hot knife to uncap the wax cappings. With a capping scratcher it is easy to uncap. There is more wax in the honey and filtering is a little more putzy. Next year supers that have drawn comb, can be run with nine frames. The capped honey will be fatter on the frame, making it easy to use a hot knife.
Nature's Nectar LLC does rent several three frame honey extractors for $30.00 a day. We do take reservations for the extractors for when you would like extract.
If you have any questions about how to extract or what to use, stop by and we can help you make the right decisions to make extracting easy.
Double click on the video for full screen

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Planning for Varroa

I was up at the MN Honey producer summer meeting. One of the speakers was Meghan Milbrath. She is an epidemiologist. 
Epidemiologists are public health professionals who investigate patterns and causes of disease and injury in humans. They seek to reduce the risk and occurrence of negative health outcomes through research, community education, and health policy. They get involved with mass outbreaks of disease and epidemics. 
 Meghan describes the current Varroa issue as an epidemic. Here is a link to her site for Planning for Varroa.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Nectar Flow update

Spotted Knapweed Flower

Spotted Knapweed Flowering
The current nectar flow so far has been outstanding. Many beekeepers have reported that they have 4 - 6 supers on their hives with most of the supers full of honey.
 I had a beekeeper in yesterday. He runs about 25 colonies. He purchased more supers. His hives have a total 100 supers, most of them are full of honey but not capped yet. He has pulled off some supers and extracted them to give him more room. His story is the same for many beekeepers that I have talked to.
 This will be a record honey year for many beekeepers. Many beekeepers may get up to eight supers per hive. One tip: if a hive gets too high from too many supers, you can move full supers onto any under performing hives. The weaker hives will take care of the honey. When moving the supers you can move them with the bees in them. Just pull them off and move them.
I think the next seven to ten days may be the peak in the current nectar flow. The warm days and warm nights with dry days make the nectar flow in large amounts. Being the nectar flow started a little late, I think it may last into mid August.
  If I was to put a number on it, I would say the nectar flow is about 45 - 50% done. This is about the midpoint of the nectar flow. So more nectar is still coming. The intensity may lessen as Basswood and White Sweet Clover start to wane after the next week to ten days, but the nectar flow is not done by any means.
 More nectar plants are still coming. Joe Pye weed and Purple Loosestrife to name a couple, but there will be also other flowers that bloom in late July into August. I had a beekeeper observing his bees working on spotted Knapweed. He says they looked like they were preferring the Knapweed. Knapweed honey has a buttery flavor.
 From a moisture stand point we need some rain. Quarter to half inch spurts spread out over the next month would be perfect. Not enough rain can turn plants. A little brown in the lawns is fine, but brown and crispy it too dry. Also large amounts of rain can also impact the nectar flow. Too much rain can possibly impact the nectar flow in a negative way.
If you are not getting any nectar in your supers, your hive may have swarmed or the colony has not enough foragers to bring in the nectar.
 Stay ahead of the bees, check your supers every five days. I hope everyone is riding this nectar train.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Friday, July 14th

We will be open normal hours on Friday, July 14th. noon - 6 pm
Jim will be at the MN Honey Producers convention in Walker, MN
Wendy will be running the store on Friday.
Jim will be back for Saturday hours, 9 - 3 pm

Monday, July 10, 2017

What's Blooming

Some common nectar plants I have seen blooming:
Yellow Sweet Clover
White Sweet Clover
Birdsfoot Trefoil
Bee Balm
Spotted Knapweed
White Dutch Clover
Alsike Clover
Sumac (waning)

Friday, July 7, 2017

Package Bees and Supers

The nectar flow that has arrived a little late, that is good news for beekeepers with package bees. Usually the honey flow starts around the third week of June. This year it started in earnest around July 4th.
 Package bees are usually at full strength around July 1st. So most of the new beekeepers are benifitting from the later nectar flow. Package bees are getting honey and are putting it in their supers.
 Now, what is the strategy. Most of the new beekeepers were told they would not be getting any honey their first year. I think for many of them, they can throw that statement out.
 As the bees draw out wax on the super frames and fill it with nectar, when they move into the second box and start work there, it is time to add two more supers. Bees have a hoarding instinct. If there is space to fill with honey, the bees will try very hard to fill it up. If the beekeeper is not diligent in adding more space, the bees may not collect anymore honey, or they could possibly fill the brood nest with honey. Filling up the brood area is never good. This cuts down on the queens ability to lay eggs and may ultimitly lead to the population of the hive diminishing.
 I think it is not a stretch for new beekeepers who have action in both supers could possibly fill two more supers.
 Let's look at where we are at in the nectar flow. I am estimating we have gone through about 25% of the nectar flow so far. That still gives us the majority of the nectar flow still in the future.
 I have heard good things so far with many beekeepers with overwintered hives have over 4 supers filled with honey already. Much of it was Black Locust, that ran very heavy this year.
 The week ahead weather wise, looks perfect for honey collection. Warm days, eighties to upper eighties. The warm weather helps the nectar flow better.
So, watch the supers, check them every five days or so and stay ahead of the bees.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Washboarding bees

A beekeeper shot this video of her bees washboarding on the front of her hive.
This is a behavior that happens occasionally in a hive. This is a little odd because a large area on the front of the hive has bees doing the behavior. The bees are just moving back and forth.
 No one is sure what really causes this, but an interesting behavior.
Video by K. Strupp

The Nectar Flow is Intense

The nectar flow has really picked up steam. Beekeepers have been stopping in for more supers. They were looking in their hives yesterday and today and noticed a huge difference than where the hive was just a few days ago.
 The hive at Warner Nature Center is on a scale. That hive put on over 12 lbs of honey on the 4th of July alone.
 You can see on the graph, the honey weight is the yellow line. From the 29th until the 1st, a slight honey gain. The 2nd and the 3rd, a more notable increase. Then the 4th of July, the nectar weight starts to rise dramatically. Today the 5th the weight is still on an upward trend. This is the link to Paul's Scale.
Paul's Hive Scale
 Beekeepers need to check their hives if they haven't checked them lately.

Current hive weight on a colony at Warner Nature Center - P. Liedel

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Nectar Flow - July 4th

Happy Birthday America.
On this Independence Day I am pleased to say the nectar flow is going again.
White sweet clover and Basswood / Linden trees have finally made an appearance. The hot temperatures will get many flowers blooming with nectar available everywhere.
 I am not sure of the nectar flow intensity, but if you have kept your bees from swarming, the bees should be filling supers quickly.
Make sure there is at least two supers on and check them weekly. A strong colony with a good nectar flow, can fill up a super in a week.
 Stay on top of the supers. If the bees are filling the second super, it is time to put on two more.
If there is a good nectar flow and a hive has a good population the bees may be able to fill four to six supers.