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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Monday, March 30, 2020

Bee Pickup Information and Pickup Schedule

Bee Pick up Schedule for 2020: ****READ THIS WHOLE POST!****

The FIRST pick up is SOLD OUT.  We have some extra bees on the second pick up, so if you need bees, call ASAP to 651-242-2233 to place your order.  If you mail in the order you will be too late.  We will discontinue taking bee orders on April 1st for the second delivery.

Arrival dates for the first and second pick up are APRIL 7th – First Delivery and around April 10th - Second Delivery.  Please note, these could be subject to change.  Check this blog every day because the date can still change.  

Check the blog before coming to pick up.  The bees are scheduled to arrive sometime on these days. The arrival time is not known so please watch the blog for an announcement that we are ready to distribute packages. No bees will be distributed prior to announcement on blog. Do not come here before it is announced that the bees are ready to pick up. You will be asked to leave.  You are not allowed to park on the road and wait.

ADHERE TO THE PICK-UP SCHEDULE.  Due to COVID-19 we will have fewer workers on site, so it is even more important to follow the pickup schedule.  Please do not call and request to come at another time frame.  I know this maybe inconvenient, but we all need to work together to keep each other safe and keep this as seamless as possible.  This schedule is to keep traffic at a minimum and in doing so, there will be less people on site. 

UPON PICK UP DO NOT GET OUT OF YOUR VEHICLE.  Give us your name, and we will place your bees in the vehicle for you.  This is for everyone’s safety.  Prepare ahead of time, legibly write the name of the person whose order is being picked up with black sharpie on a piece of paper and put it on your window.  This way, you can keep your window rolled up.  You can also write what additional items you are purchasing.  Do not hand cash or check to the people loading bees and product into your vehicle.  We have a separate crew designated to handle the money that will not be handling the product.  They will come to you.
The following will be items available for purchase when you pick up your bees.  These are cash and check only.  We will not accept credit cards.  If you use cash, BRING THE EXACT AMOUNT OF CASH so currency doesn’t need to be returned to you.  This is an additional safety measure so please comply.  These prices include sales tax so you can prepare prior to pick up.
$7.00 - 1 Gallon Feeder Pail
$6.00 – Feeder pail insulation
$5.00 – Queen Cage Holder
$9.00 – 2 pack pollen patties
$30.00 – 10 pack pollen patties
$80.00 – 40lb pollen patties
$35.00 – 2.5 gal Pro-Sweet
$55.00 – 5 gal Pro-Sweet

Pickup time will go by the first initial of your last name:  This year the alphabet will be spread out in TWO days.  This is due to Covid-19 as we will have fewer workers on site.

FIRST PICK UP TUESDAY April 7th & SECOND PICK UP April 11th - Pick up Schedule:

L       7:30 – 8:30
M      8:30 – 9:30
N-O   9:30 – 10:30
P       10:30 – 11:30
CREW LUNCH 11:30-12:30
R      12:30 - 1:30
S       1:30 - 2:30
T-V   2:30 - 3:30
W-Z  3:30 – 4:30
Open Time (If the schedule is not possible) 4:30 – 7pm

FIRST PICK UP WEDNESDAY April 8th & SECOND PICK UP April 12th - Pick up Schedule:

A       7:30 – 8:30
B        8:30 – 9:30
C        9:30 – 10:30
D-E    10:30 – 11:30
CREW LUNCH 11:30-12:30
F-G    12:30 - 1:30
H      1:30 - 2:30
I-J     2:30 - 3:30
K      3:30 – 4:30
Open Time (If the schedule is not possible) 4:30 – 7pm

The OAKDALE Store is CLOSED during bee pick up.  If you need equipment, please plan ahead and get those items picked up before the store is closed.

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Nature's Nectar LLC - First Delivery of Bees, Updated Again

Make a sign for your window on bee pickup day. We can get it ready for you easier. The price of all the items will be coming very soon

 Nature's Nectar LLC called to tell me that their first delivery of bees will be coming in sometime in the first week of April. Dates are not solid as of this morning. More information will be published later today or tomorrow morning.
 The second delivery of bees may follow soon after the first delivery.
Because of the COVID-19 we are trying to minimize exposure to our customers and our workers. When you pickup:
  • Stay in your car
  • Make a paper up written with a dark marker with your name and what else you want to purchase. Be ready to hold this up so we can see it.
  • Have exact cash or check with you. We would rather not have to give change back.
  • Make sure your vehicle is empty and cleaned out so the bees go in the vehicle quickly

Friday, March 27, 2020

What I should be doing with my bees

 Right now the overwintered colonies are on their spring time build up. Not a huge amount of work to do today. But pretty soon our workload will be increasing.
In the short term winter covers can still be on. We will have a warm day it looks like on Monday. But then it cools off a bit. I look at the extended forecast and I think by April 10th the winter covers could be removed.
 We should now be starting weekly inspections. We will be looking at food stores. If a hive has three frames of honey in the same box the bees are in, that should be enough food for easily two weeks. Usually a lift of the box will tell us by the weight of the box, if the hive needs to be fed or not.
 Pollen patties should be checked weekly to see if more are needed. Beekeepers need to stay on top of the pollen patties. We don't want the patties to run out before placing another one on the hive.
 On Monday it is supposed to be warm out. A hive could be knocked down and we can do some spring cleaning. When breaking down a colony in the spring, do not put a box up on end. If there is a breeze, the wind can whistle through the box. The brood may get chilled and die. So keep the brood boxes parallel to the ground. I usually turn my telescoping cover upside down and put a brood box across the wooden edges of the cover while I am working on the hive.  
  The bottom board may be full of debris, when the hive is broke down, bring a box out with you, clean of the bottom board into the debris box. The dead bees have a lot of nitrogen in their carcasses. Dumping them in the bee yard will give the weeds more energy to grow and may attract critters. Dump the debris away from the beeyard.
  Total food assessment can be done at this time. Each box can be judged for weight. A frame or two of honey can be moved to the box where the bees are if needed. But, don't give the bees too many frames of honey. The queen should have five or six of relatively empty frames to lay on. There will be some minor nectar flows going on before the dandelions bloom, so the bees will bring in some nectar. There will not be enough nectar coming in to sustain a strong colony. So watch the food stores. Feed syrup if needed, do not over feed.
 If the overwintered colony is strong a reversal could be done at this time. If the colony is weak, it maybe too early to reverse. A reversal will give the bees an opportunity to expand their brood nest.
Reverse like this:
On a three deep colony, boxes are numbered.
Existing              Reversed
1    top                      3 bottom
2    middle                1 top
3    bottom                2 middle
Two deep reversal is simple:
1                               2
2                               1
Keep a pollen patty on the box where the bees are, you can put a 1/2 a pollen patty on the top box after the reversal.
The winter cover can go back on for the short term.
Colonies are building, doing reversals and keeping pollen on will increase hive populations. This will bring give us a strong colony when we can do a divide. Divides usually happen in May, or when we have eight frames of brood and bees. 
 Last remark, beekeepers cannot do a walk away split reliably in MN or WI until early June. Drone populations are not large enough for proper mating until around June 10th.
 Trying to make your own queen in the month of May is usually a waste of good brood.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Package Bees - Order now

If you need package bees you need to order NOW. Do not send in anymore mail orders. Call them directly. 651-242-2233

Treating for Mites this time of year

Apivar comes in a foil pack. 10 strips to a pack.

Some beekeepers are thinking mite treatment as we are coming into spring. Normally overwintered colonies should be treated for mites before spring divides happen in May.
 Right now it is too cold for using Formic Acid. Plus, when using Formic Acid in the spring, care is needed that the Formic Acid is not applied to a weak colony. Look at and follow the directions from the manufacturer whenever using any mite treatment.
 This time of year, Apivar mite treatment can be applied to any colony. Apivar can be used in cool spring temperatures and will not harm the colony. Apivar is a 42 day treatment. If you are planning spring divides, Apivar should be put on the hive sometime in the next week. This puts the mite treatment being finished by mid May. Perfect timing for doing a divide.
 The strips are put into the brood box where the bees are. Being it is cool, the strips have to be located in the main cluster of bees. If this cluster moves later during the treatment, the strips may have to be re-positioned. Once the foil package is opened, the strips are active and need to be used.
Apivar FAQ
Here is a YouTube video from the manufacturer:

Monday, March 23, 2020

Installing Package Bees

Here is a couple video's of installing package bees. The first one is with wooden package bee cages. The second one is using plastic package bee cages. Some beekeepers may be getting their bees in wooden cages. Nature's Nectar LLC will be getting their bees in plastic cages. The only difference between the two cages is how the bees are removed from the cage. Double click on video for full screen.
Because of the lack of bee meetings, if you have any questions about these video's please comment on their YouTube page and I will answer your questions.

Friday, March 20, 2020

Bee Delivery Update from Nature's Nectar LLC

With the breaking news of COVID-19 constantly developing, I wanted to reach out and provide an update about the bee pick up and how we are approaching the situation at Nature’s Nectar, LLC.  Together, we are facing a truly unprecedented situation. The global coronavirus pandemic is affecting our families, our businesses, our communities, and our way of life.
First and foremost, our hearts go out to anyone who's been impacted by the virus, either directly or indirectly. Our thoughts are especially with those who are sick, to whom we extend our heartfelt wishes for a full recovery. And we're truly inspired by the selfless healthcare workers around the world who are on the front lines working tirelessly to care for people in need.
In regard to the Bee pick up.  At this time, we do not have the pick-up dates.  We will communicate that information as soon as it’s available.  Some things to make note of when you come on site for bee pick up.
·      YOU DO NOT NEED TO GET OUT OF YOUR VEHICLE.  Give us your name, and we will place your bees in the vehicle for you. 
·      ADHERE TO THE PICK-UP SCHEDULE.  We create this schedule to keep traffic at a minimum and in doing so, there will be less people on site.  Again, do not get out of your vehicle.
·      BEE PICK UP LOCATION: 14185 Square Lake Trail, N. Stillwater, MN 55082
The following will be items available for purchase when you pick up your bees.  These are cash and check only.  If you use cash, please try to bring the exact amount so currency doesn’t need to be exchanged.  These prices include sales tax so you can prepare prior to pick up.
$7.00 - 1 Gallon Feeder Pail
$6.00 – Feeder pail insulation
$5.00 – Queen Cage Holder
$9.00 – 2 pack pollen patties
$30.00 – 10 pack pollen patties
$80.00 – 40lb pollen patties
$35.00 – 2.5 gal Pro-Sweet
$55.00 – 5 gal Pro-Sweet

We have an amazing group of volunteers that assist us with the bee pick up.  We want to reassure you that we are taking steps to protect the health and safety of our volunteers, you our customers and the community we serve.

Our store in Oakdale will continue to be open to serve our customers.  We will be wearing masks and gloves to protect our customers and ourselves.  Please consider taking precautions as well if you decide to come into the store. 

Thank you for your continued support.  We appreciate you very much!

Tom & Jessica Minser

Sunday, March 15, 2020

Insulated five frame nuc box

 I took a five frame nuc box and put follower boards on the sides of the hive box. I then insulated the gap in the follower boards with foam. The nuc box now has a better R-value.
 Springtime, the weather is cool. Package bees will be coming in a little over two weeks. I plan to put mine in these insulated nuc boxes. A three lb package of bees will fit perfectly in this hive. The bees will take up the majority of room in this smaller hive box.
 Knowing the life cycle of the honeybee, one can conclude that, the package of bees will not be increasing in size for about 28 - 30 days.
 By putting the bees in a smaller hive box, the bees should be able to keep the hive warmer, than if the package bees were in 10 frame equipment.
 After about 28 days, it should be around May 1st. The weather should be warmer by then and I will be able to move the bees into 10 frame equipment.

Sunday, March 8, 2020

New Queen Cage Holder

This is a new way to put a queen cage into a hive. The cage holder safely holds the cage preventing the cage from falling to the bottom board. Nature's Nectar LLC has these in stock, $4.50 each,  5 - for $20.00.

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Pussy Willows are starting to emerge

Pussy Willows starting to emerge
I was walking down the Browns Creek Trail in Stillwater on Sunday. I know where a stand of Pussy Willows are located. So I always give them an eyeball as I walk down the trail. A pollen source coming soon. Another sign spring is coming. 

Sunday, March 1, 2020

Happy March - Time for some Beekeeping

This is an old picture, but feeding pollen is still the same. Putting the pollen patty right on the bees. I put this patty on and right away the bees are going after it. Leave the wax paper on both sides of the patty. The wax paper help keep the pollen patty fresh and moist. The bees will chew through the wax paper and the paper will end up on the bottom board.

March is coming in like a lamb. No Lion at the moment. Now is the time to do some chores. March average high goes from 34 degrees on March 1st to 49 degrees on March 31st. Sunset goes from around 6 pm to 7:38 pm.
  • Check bees look for alive or dead. If you don't see them on top and you think they are dead, lift up the top brood box. The bees may not have moved up yet and can be down deep in the hive. There is still time to order package bees but that window is getting smaller everyday.
  • Open up the hive, do not pull frames or breakdown the hive. Unless the hive is dead. If the hive is dead, clean up any dead bees that are loose or in a cluster. Try to establish a reason for the hive's demise. Learn from this and change your wintering habits to get better wintering success. Clean off the bottom board in the dead hive. Close up the dead hive. Make the dead hive bee tight so the honey does not get robbed out before new bees come.
  • If the hive is alive, check for food stores. I usually like to feed the bees one pail of syrup no matter what. The bees will take down the syrup and put the syrup around their brood. If the weather goes south, the bees will have ample stores where they need it most. A pail of syrup, if the bees take it down, will give the bees 10 days to two weeks of food. A word of caution, do not feed pail after pail of syrup. The bees will take the syrup down a plug up the hive with syrup. The queen will have no place to lay eggs and the bees population will suffer.
  • Time to add a pollen patty. The pollen patty has to placed right where the bees are. I put the patty right on top of the cluster. If the patty is placed away from the cluster, the bees may not touch the patty and the bees population will suffer. If the bees are occupying two brood boxes. I place pollen patties on the top bars on the top box and on the top bars of the box below. Check on the patties every 7-10 days, replace as needed. A strong overwintered colony may eat up four patties in the spring. I usually keep pollen on until May. Then put another patty on right after the fruit bloom , usually by May 20th. Pollen is cheap and is necessary for hive population expansion. Pollen is what helps turn a colony to a hive that can be split in May.
  • Too early to pull off winter covers.
  • Look at the hives population. If the overwintered colony has two frames of bees, it is probably too weak to make it. You could try to nurse it along, but consider moving the bees into a five frame nuc box. The bees can keep this smaller box warmer. Plus you can wrap the nuc with 2" Styrofoam for greater insulation. If you have a couple other hives alive, a frame of brood can be added to a weak hive in April to give the weak colony a boost.
One of my simple pleasures is the first time I open a colony of bees in early March. There is nothing more satisfying when you remove the inner cover and the bees are covering the top of the top brood box. The bees are buzzing, the noise of the hive, the odor of the hive. A welcome start to my new season of being a beekeeper.

Friday, February 21, 2020

Our bee season is about to get real

Everything is on the upswing. Days are getting longer, the temperatures are warming every day, the Chickadees are singing their fee-bee song. Spring is on the horizon. The next few days will be nice out. Hives should be inspected for alive or dead and food stores. A hive can be opened for a quick peak. A good hive has about five frames of bees, a weak hive has two frames of bees. A weak hive with two frames of bees, will likely not build up without adding frames of brood to over the course of the spring. Package bees should be ordered if your colonies dead or weak. I always used the strategy of, if the hive is dead, order a package for it even if you have another strong colony. Too many times I have seen beekeepers plan on a split, only to have the overwintered hive fizzle out. Then the beekeeper is left with few options. By starting a deadout with a package, if the overwintered colony makes it and a divide can be taken from it. The divide can be added to the package of bees with the newspaper method in mid May. The package will build to a strong honey making colony with the extra bees.
 Looking ahead to this coming weekend. March 1st is almost here. Pollen patties can be put on overwintered colonies. You can make your own or buy the pre made patties. I usually purchase pre made patties. The manufactured patties are as good as I can make.
 When I first started beekeeping, we had to make our own pollen patties. The best pollen powder at the time was BeePro. Now there is UltraBee. Which in my opinion some of the best pollen substitute on the market today.
 Here is a video I made 10 years ago on how to make pollen patties with powder.

 The only way to improve on the pollen patties, is to mix in natural pollen.
 Some beekeepers trap pollen during July and August. Pollen traps are used. Pollen can be put on cookie sheets to freeze. The freezing will help dry out the pollen pellets so the pollen doesn't mold. Best to keep them in the freezer until spring. Never purchase pollen from a store and use that with your bees. This is a quick way to give chalkbrood to the bees. Only use your own pollen or pollen that has been irradiated treated.
 Don't dawdle on ordering bees. Suppliers will start selling out soon and bees will start getting hard to come by.
 I am excited, next week I am putting on my gear and start the next chapter of beekeeping.

Saturday, February 15, 2020

Hives coming out of February

It is now mid February. The days are getting noticeably longer. We are picking up about three minutes a day in sunlight. By Feb 29th (leap year this year), we will have picked up forty minutes of daylight from today. The solar radiation is getting stronger, on a sunny day,you can feel the heat through your winter coat.
 The solar radiation is helping to warm the hives. Bee will be going out on cleansing flights more often now.
 The queen should be laying now. I think most of us should have a patch of brood. It may not be much at the moment, by the end of the month there may be a frame or two of brood.
 Hives should be checked to see if they survived the latest blast of cold. The cold was not long in duration, so most hives should still be alive, if the bees had access to food.
 On a warm day (in the 30's), if you opened up the top of your hive and looked across all the top bars of the top box, you should be able to see capped honey at the top of some of the frames. Hopefully you would see this capped honey, right adjacent to the cluster. If you don't see this, I would close the inner cover and put the moisture board back on. Then take your winter cover off. Break the top box loose with your hive tool. Lift the top box and feel the weight. If the box is very light, I would feed syrup to the hive. This is an emergency feeding situation. We would hate to lose the bees now. If you see capped honey, or the top box feels a little heavy, the bees should be fine for another two weeks. The bees need about 7-9 lbs of honey to live for two weeks. By March 1st, we can give syrup and pollen.

Sunday, February 9, 2020

February hive update

This is the front of one of my overwintered colonies. There are dead bees in front of the hive. The brown snow is bee poop from cleansing flights. All of this is normal. As the snow melts, the area in front of the hive will be peppered with dead bees. Consider this, the bees went into winter with 40,000 bees. About half of these bees have perished. A strong overwintered colony has about 15,000 to 20,000 bees right now. A nice looking overwintered colony of bees would be fully covering both sides of four to five frames, top to bottom on the frames.
At this writing on Feb 9th, what is going on with the bees?
 The weather for this winter so far, has not been bad at all. We haven't had any extended bitter cold with bone chilling winds.
 I have talked to several beekeepers who have been experiencing good winter survival so far. They were all running hives with Saskatraz queens.
 One beekeeper says his hives look great. The one hive he lost was due to fall robbing that depleted his winter stores and the hive starved. Other beekeepers that I have talked to have experienced small colony losses with their Saskatraz bees.
 We are now entering into the critical time of the winter. In most cases, the bees have now moved up into the top brood box. The bees have been uncapping honey in the top frames. If you did your brood box reversals last summer, there should be pollen under the capped honey. As the bees expose this pollen, this can help spur on the beginning of egg laying by the queen.
 The queen will start laying eggs very soon, if she hasn't started already. She will start laying slowly and then as time goes on, the egg laying will start to increase.  With brood in the hive, there will be a slight increase in using up honey stores and feeding on the newly discovered pollen stores. The bees will be covering the brood, keeping the temperature where the brood is at around 95 degrees F. To maintain this temperature the bees will eat more honey.
 Beekeepers get in trouble this time of year if the temperatures go subzero for usually three days or more in a row. Looking at the 10 day forecast, I do not see any multi-day subzero events. A one day of subzero is usually not a problem for the bees.
 Having ample food stores is the only problem that beekeepers are sweating right now. If your top box was very heavy going into winter, there is probably sufficient winter stores right now. If the top box was not full of honey going into winter and your bees are alive. Adding winter patties, sugar or Fondant might be a good idea. The winter patties are nice because you can have them made up and slip them onto the top bars of the top brood box. The patties can be added in 15 seconds. Be prepared, take the Telescoping top cover off, have a smoker going. try to keep the winter patties warm. Lift the moisture board, a couple puffs of smoke into the inner cover hole, lift up the inner cover using your hive tool. Slip a big patty right on top of the bee cluster. Have the edges of the patty exposed so the bees can get to the sugar goop right away. Close the colony. Make sure to wear your beesuit and gloves.
 The bee season is now underway. By the first of March, we can give the hives their first pollen patty. Syrup can also be fed if the bees need it. By late February our daily temperatures will be getting into the thirties. We should be able to go out and break the top box loose and lift it up to see how heavy it is. This can tell you what the existing food stores are, and if feeding is needed on a larger scale.  When doing spring syrup feeding, we feed as needed. Do not feed pail after pail of syrup. The bees will take it all down and plug the brood box with syrup. This will leave the queen with not much room for brood and the population of the hive will suffer.
 Time to get out the beesuit and gloves. Check them for mouse damage. Pollen patties can be purchased anytime now, for use in March. A strong overwintered hive may eat three or more pollen patties in the spring.
 I know my batteries are recharged and I am ready to keep some bees.

Sunday, February 2, 2020

Check bees today

Today, Sunday the temperatures are going to be in the 40's. It is a great day to check on the bees. We will be looking at if the bees are alive or dead.
 The bees should be going out on cleansing flights because of the warm temperatures.
 Also, today would be a good time to check on or put on winter patties. A quick look under the inner cover will tell the story of if the bees have eaten winter patties or add some winter patties or granulated sugar. Be ready when you open the inner cover, have the plan in your head, so the quick glance will be brief.
Feeding Sugar look at the second post.
Feeding Winter Patties The posts are a couple years old and the prices are off a bit but the method is still solid.
I hope you find your bees are alive. If you think they are dead, the bees can still be down deep in the hive. Rapping on the side of the hive or looking under the inner cover and listening can give you the real story.
If the bees are dead, it is a good idea to order packages right away before the supplier is sold out.

Monday, January 27, 2020

Honey Liquifier

This time of year most beekeepers are noticing that their honey is in various stages of granulation. Most new beekeepers are caught off guard and aren't really set up to deal with granulated honey.
 I have spent the time after the holidays making a honey liquifier. I have finished it. I used a 31 gallon metal trash can. The can and lid are insulated with Reflectix insulation. The heater is a 100 watt incandescent light bulb. There is a thermostat that controls the internal temperature. The liquifier can liquefy five gallon pails or bottles (glass or plastic) of honey.
 This heater can also safely warm up syrup or frames of honey. It really helps when adding honey to a hive when it is cold out, that the frames are around room temperature. Warm syrup can be taken down easier by the bees. Setting the thermostat at 80 degrees for syrup or frames.
 The liquifier is made out of quality materials and is heavy duty. All you need is a 120 volt outlet. The liquifier is easy to move with the handles on the can. It stores easily and does not take up a lot of room.
 I will be donating this honey liquifier to the MN Hobby Beekeepers Auction that is on Feb 1st. Check it out. If you are attending the auction, bring your checkbook.
This is the frame that elevates the honey above the light bulb. The frame is made out of 1/2" galvanized steel schedule 40 pipe. The frame is anchored down to 3/4" plywood. The frame is heavy duty and can easily support a pail of honey.

This pic shows the metal stand frame at the bottom of the can. The can and lid are insulated with Relectix insulation. The thermostat is hanging on the side. I set the temperature to 110 degrees for pails. This pail was partially granulated. I had it in the heater for about 15 hours. I stirred the pail and took a temperature reading with a thermometer. The honey was 110 degrees. Exactly where the thermostat was set. The pail was all liquid after that time.

Here I have two shelves of bottles. One the bottom shelf are 8 oz glass jars. In various stages of granulation. The top shelf is all plastic bottles. 2 oz bears, 12 oz bears, a 2 lb squeeze and a five pound jug. All rock solid granulated bottles. The thermostat is set at 100 degrees for bottles.

Thursday, January 16, 2020

What's happening in the hive right now

This video was made by Jerry Linser who took all the pictures.

Bees have been in their winter cluster since late November. The bees have started winter in the box below the top box. The bees in most cases have consumed about two to three frames of honey since late November.
 We are coming to the time of the season where bees make the transition into the top box of the hive. The top box should be mostly full of honey. 
 Remember last fall when I talked about having a partially filled frame of honey put into the center of the top box when overwintering a colony? As bees make the transition into the top box right now, having a partially filled frame will make this transition easier. The cluster will slowly start occupying the bottoms of a few frames of frozen honey in the top box. The partially filled frame will aid the bees into moving up a few inches on to the empty cells of the partially filled honey frame. There is no frozen honey on this frame, so it takes little effort to move up. The bees will then be able to warm the adjacent frames of honey for their consumption.
 If all the frames were full of honey, the bees will have a little more effort to move up. Especially if it is very cold out. Don't get me wrong, the bees can still move up, but the partially filled frame makes this transition easier.
 By the end of January most of the bees would have moved into the top box. The exception will be, if the hive was very heavy with honey. The bees may not need to move up yet because of an ample food supply.
 No peeking yet. Your hive may have dead bees in front of the colony. This is normal. If a colony was weakened by mites, it is not uncommon to find the colony full of honey and empty of bees. Over the course of the winter the bees had dwindled down to an unsustainable cluster of bees.
 At the moment there is nothing we can do to help the colony much. As we get into February, there is a few things beekeepers can do to help the bees survive. I will post those soon.
 Right now lets think about a few things coming to a colony near you.
The queen will start laying in about a month. Pollen patties will be going on in about six weeks. Reversals in about two and a half months. Package bees in two and half to three months. It doesn't look like it, but spring is coming, before long the bee suit will be on and the smoker will be lit.

Monday, January 6, 2020

Why did package bees take a jump in price for 2020

There was a price increase in package bees for 2020. This increase has to do with labor law in California. Workers for the bee industry are considered farm workers.
 The law on overtime rules changed for 2020. The law used to state,  that farm workers got time and a half after 60 hours of work. The new law for 2020 now has farm workers in California getting time and a half after 40 hours.
 During the package bee season, package bee producers are working their crews, 10 - 12 hours a day. Usually seven days a week for six to eight weeks.
 So last year, the crews of workers were getting premium time for 10 hours a week in a 70 hour work week.
  Now in 2020 the workers working a 70 hour work week, are getting premium time for 30 hours a week.
 The package bee producers had two choices to make over this change in labor law. Either your crews work normal hours and reduce the amount of package bees you sell or, increase the price of the package bees and sell the same quantity of package bees.
 The labor market for available workers is very tight at the moment. It is hard to get qualified people who want to put on a full pair of coveralls in 90 degree plus weather. Open up boxes of stinging insects, shake them into small boxes and send them to another state. Working all day, 70 hours a week, rain or shine.

Friday, January 3, 2020

Solar Production - One Full Year

Graph of one year of solar production
  I wanted to get a post out about our year with solar power.
The first question that is always asked of us is, Was it worth it? The answer is yes.
 Our solar system has produced 16.28 megawatts of power. Or, to break that down, 16,280 kilowatts of power. If we are going to break that number over a day to day average. 16,280 divided by 365 days = 44.6 kilowatts per day.
 The average home in the United States uses around 30 kilowatts of power per day. This can change as some households use a bit more and some use less. We did get rebates for our overproduction of electricity from Xcel energy. We received energy rebates from April through August bill. Rebates ranged from $46.00 to $137.00. Xcel also used the rebates on our gas bill.
  Looking at the graph, solar collection is best in the month of June, with the longest days of sunlight. November and December are the cloudiest months of the year. February of 2019 had near record snowfall and affected the solar collection to a very poor performance. Solar panels need to be free of snow and shading by other objects to achieve their most power potential. We have been cleaning off the solar panels that are on our garage (18 panels).

We use a brush on a pole to clean off snow.
We also have 32 solar panels on our pole barn. The pole barn is too tall to effectively clean off the snow. The snow on the pole barn has been frustrating to remove and many solar owners don't even bother. The electricity production in the dead of winter is usually very low. Many solar owners feel the price of savings is not worth the effort of snow removal.
 We have put in a ground mount solar system for most of the solar panels on our pole barn. The ground mount will hold 28 solar panels. The ground mount is finished, but we are waiting for the solar company to move the panels. The ground mount will give us an easy opportunity to clean snow off the solar panels. The ground mount has an adjustable tilt. We will be able to angle the solar panels for maximum solar collection and different times of the year. This will lead to increased solar production on the 28 panels.
This ground mount is ready for solar panels. Once the panels are mounted on the aluminum rails, the attached rigging will pull the array to the top of the black pipe. The array will be clamped and rigging removed. At winter angle, the panels will be two feet off the ground at the bottom and 12 feet off the ground at the top.
This is how the ground mount will work. YouTube Video MTsolar pole mounts.