Archive for the ‘Beekeeping Stuff’ Category

November 10th, 2011

We finally were able to get out and pull the honey off the hives. It only took us four days to get it all done and we worked in all kinds of temperatures in those four days. The first day we pulled was cold and most of the bees were down which made it easy to pull the honey supers
off the top. The second day was cool and windy and the bees were really grumpy. The third and fourth days it was almost too warm to be comfortable in our bee suits…but we got through it. This year there were four of us working; Bill, Allen, Collin (my son) and myself and once the four of us got into the “grove” things went very smoothly. We did see 3 bears in a corn field only a stone’s throw from the last site we pulled honey from…hope they stay away from the hives!

Al has started extracting our stuff today, so in a couple of weeks we will have some numbers. Some of the hives did very well but because we started nearly half of our hives with packages this spring we expect the per hive average to be down from last year…we will see.

We have been working on extracting a lot of local beekeepers honey also. Some have done exceptionally well and others not so good, just like every year.

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Cleaning our observation hives

September 28th, 2011

Today I have decided to clean both of our observation hives. The last fall cleaning is always the worst! It seems that the bees collect so much nectar from the Goldenrod that they go into a super wax production mode and because they don’t need to build all that much comb this time of year they deposit it all over the glass…some of it is even full of honey.

I start out by taking the top part of the hive outside to open it up. Keep in mind that it’s never a good idea to open one of these up inside…lol. Once I have them outside and using as little smoke as possible I open the door and look for the queen. I like to capture her and place her in a queen cage for safe keeping. I would hate to injury her while removing and manipulating the frames. I was lucky this time and she was on the open side but if by chance she is on the other side you will have to remove some frames to get to her…”bee” careful!

I carefully remove one frame at a time, starting from the top and working down, with as many bees as possible clinging to the frame and place them in a 5 frame nuc box. You could also use an empty hive body for this. I place the queen cage right on the top so the bees know she is still around.

There are always some rebel bees that feel they need to stay and protect the honey that is dripping down the glass.

I have found the easiest way to deal with the rebels is to brush them off with a bee brush on to a piece of cardboard and then shake them off on to the nuc box. It’s a good idea to use your smoker while doing this as they usually aren’t too excited about being brushed.

It’s finally time to start cleaning off all of that wax and honey. Like I had mentioned before the fall requires more cleaning than any other time of year and in fact there normally is nowhere near this amount of wax on the glass. Our main observation hive has only been cleaned out 3 times this year and our second observation hive only twice. The honey and wax will not be wasted. I start by scraping the bulk of it off with a hive tool and placing it into a pail to be taken to the honey house to be processed.

After getting the bulk of the wax off I switch to a razor-blade scraper which gets nearly all of the wax off and this would be good enough in most cases but I like to get everything cleaned up to where it almost looks new. So after getting it scraped off I hose the hive down with hot water.


I then dry the hive off and clean the glass with some foaming glass cleaner. Looks so much better now!


Once the hive is all cleaned up it’s time to put the girls back in to their clean abode. I did scrape off the edges of the frames before putting them back in the hive. I like to start with the bottom frame and put them back in the same order as they were before being removed.

With all of the frames back in place it’s time to release the queen. Just pull the cork and let her out on the face of one of the frames.

After carefully closing the door to the observation hive I needed to take care of the remaining work force still in the nuc box. I just took them close to the hive entrance and shook them out on to the ground. They started heading up the wall to get back inside immediately so I had to get the observation hive back inside and open it up so they could get back in.

I set the hive back on the base and opened the sliding door and in comes a wave of bees anxious to get back to work. The whole cleaning took me about 1 hour per hive. I shouldn’t have to get into the hives again until spring now.

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Busy as a Bee

August 13th, 2011

The saying “Busy as a Bee” is reflected in the picture below. Notice the jagged edges on this worker bees wings. She has obviously been a busy bee! A bees wings beat at around 11,000 times a minute as they fly around collecting nectar, pollen, propolis and water for their hive. They fly around 15 miles per hour and will visit between 50 and 100 flowers on each trip. Working that hard is why they only live for around 6 weeks during the production season.  An entire battalion of worker bees will have to fly over 55,000 miles to collect enough nectar to make a single pound of honey.

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Dead Package Bees

June 4th, 2011

Unfortunately we are seeing a abnormally high death toll in package bees shipped via the Postal Service. For whatever reason Priority Mail shipping is taking longer then it should and the bees are not being handled properly by the Postal Service. Reports coming in from customers indicate the bees are covered in syrup which means the packages have been place on their sides or upside down. Some have been overheated  and some even arrived in plastic bags…common sense seems to be lacking at the Post Office. We feel very upset about all the bee deaths and wish there was more we could do about the situation but this late in the season we feel it is best if we just issue a refund to any customer that lost bees. I feel that I must point out that we are the only seller of bees that refunds the total amount including the shipping when there is a loss. We are very sorry if you are not able to get bees this year because they arrived dead but there is little we can do about the shippers negligence. I suggest trying to order earlier next year to avoid heat issues during shipping. Start checking the website for package bee information in November 2011. The earlier you order the sooner they will ship in most cases. Once again we are very, very sorry about the shipping situation this year!

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Package Bee Day 2011

April 23rd, 2011

We got in 270 packages of bees on Friday morning and today is package bee pickup day for local beekeepers.

3 lb. Packages of bees

We split them up into 1 of 3 groups: packages with unmarked queens, marked queens or clipped and marked queens. Each package of bees has around 10,000 bees in it.

A close up of the bees. It’s a good thing that they aren’t claustrophobic!

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Things you need as a beginner beekeeper.

February 4th, 2011

I thought I would post a list of items that anyone getting started in beekeeping will need. Some of these items are optional depending on how much you want to invest in your new hobby.

I believe it is best to plan ahead for and order all the items you will need for the entire season. That way you have everything you need on hand when the time comes.

A bee hive itself is made up of many components as pictured below.

The things you will need for sure are:

1 – bottom board
2 – 9  5/8″ hive bodies (brood boxes)
20 – 9 1/8″ frames
20 – sheets 8 1/2″ foundation
1 – inner cover
1 – telescoping cover

The above are what makes up the area where the bees and queen will reside throughout most of the year. The hive stand pictured is an optional piece of equipment that is used to raise the bees up off the ground and to keep grass from growing directly in front of the hive. You can just as easily put your hive on blocks or and old oak pallet. The next list is of  items that you should have and will hopefully use during your first season.

1 – queen excluder
The queen excluder is used to isolate the queen in the bottom hive bodies, thus keeping brood out of the honey supers. Some people use a queen excluder and some don’t. I have heard it referred to as a “honey excluder” as some think it slows the bees down when transporting nectar within the hive. We do use queen excluders on our hives and for us it makes pulling honey faster because we know (most of the time) that the queen is in the bottom hive bodies. An easy way to allow the bees quicker access to the honey supers is to simply drill a 3/4 inch hole in the honey super above the excluder. They come in wood and metal bound designs. The wood bound gives you a tighter seal but the metal bound is more durable.

1 – honey super or maybe more
Honey supers are  placed on top of the queen excluder above the hive bodies. You can use the same 9 5/8″ supers that you used for the brood boxes or you can use a smaller 6 5/8″ super or even a 5 11/16″ super for honey collection. We like to use all the same size boxes so we are using the larger 9 5/8″ supers however when these boxes are full of honey they can weigh in at over 80 pounds each, therefore if you feel that is going to be too heavy - you should consider using one of the smaller supers. A 6 5/8″ super will require 10 – 6 1/4″ frames and 10 – sheets of 5 5/8″ foundation each, the 5 11/16″ super will require 10 – 5 3/8″ frames and 10 sheets of 4 3/4″ foundation.

1 – syrup feeder
I feel that a syrup feeder of some kind is necessary when you are first starting out and that you should continue to feed your bees as long as you have new foundation in any of your frames. The extra sugar will help the bees to “draw out” new combs more efficiently even on a rainy day when they cannot leave the hive to forage. Feeders can be found on our Miscellaneous Supplies page. We use a 2 parts sugar to 1 part water mixture.

Next are the items you need to protect yourself.

1 – bee suit with veil
1 – pair gloves
1 – hive tool
1 – bee brush
1 – smoker

Bee suits come in all kinds of styles and price ranges from just jackets to full length suits. I really recommend getting a suit that has a zippered veil. We carry some very nice jackets with zippered veils that start at $ 39.95. I use the jacket most of the time just with boots and jeans but if you are at all concerned about being stung you should get a full length suit.

I rarely use gloves but there are times when they are needed so it is a good idea to have them on hand. They come in canvas, plastic coated and leather. The leather gloves are the most durable but are more expensive.

I hive tool is essential in beekeeping and will help you pry supers and frames apart. Another tool that is handy is a frame grip that makes pulling frames out of the hive easy, but it is not a nessacery piece of equipment.

A bee brush is used mostly when you are ready to take honey from the bees and makes it easy to gently remove bees from the honey frames.

The smoker is a must have! The basic 4 x 7 smoker is all a hobbyist beekeeper will ever need and since they are all made of stainless steel now it will last for a lifetime.

The last thing you will need is of course the bees. Now is the time to order your package bees to be shipped directly to you or to be picked up here at our location. Order 1 – 3 lb. package of bees for each hive you want to set up. You can choose to have your queen marked, clipped and marked or just plain. Marking the queen will just make it easier for you to find her when you get into the hive. Clipping the queen does prevent her from flying out of the hive but doesn’t prevent swarming as many people think.

If you have any questions whatsoever feel free to email or call us.

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Storing Honey Supers

December 30th, 2010

We have finally started sorting honey supers that we finished extracted last month. We sort them in to 1 of 3 groups; #1′s – that are almost perfect combs that we can use for brood production, #2′s - that may have some drone comb cells or that has a little bit of burr comb damage, and foundation supers which are just that all new foundation. Any combs that are badly burr combed or too old to be used are broken out and processed to retrieve any beeswax we can get to trade in on new foundation.

Once the supers are sorted we move them out back to store them for the winter. We stack them on oak pallets on top of a bottom board with an old queen excluder (pictured below), using the excluder prevents mice from getting into the supers during the winter. Having the supers up on bottoms also allows air flow which is needed to prevent wax moths from infesting the supers while in storage.

We stack the three different types, #1′s, #2′s and foundation, in separate areas. The picture below is of the #2 supers. Next season we will pull them off as needed and place them on the hives to be filled with honey. All of the #2′s are fully drawn combs so the bees will fill them quickly during a good honey flow. Once we get done sorting we will have hundreds of supers stacked up here.

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Bee Tree

November 12th, 2010

Today we got a call to collect some bees that were in a maple tree that was being cut down. The logger already had the tree down and in 2 sections by the time we got there.

The loggers were great and put the sections in the back of our truck. Neither them or myself got stung during the move, none of us had suits on, but my son who was watching from about 10 feet away got stung right next to his left eye…ouch! When we got home we unloaded them with the forklift and set them right between the entrances for our observation hives. I would guess that the bees had just moved into the tree around mid-summer because there wasn’t a lot of comb and all the beeswax was light in color which indicates they hadn’t been there for that long. It is a small colony and their chances of getting through the winter aren’t that good…but we decided to help them by filling the rest of the cavtiy up with a broken sugar block (pictured below).

I put their original entrance facing out from the building and I built a lid out of plywood to cover the cavity. Now we just have to wait and see if they can survive the winter. If they don’t make it I will clean up the inside and we just may shake a swarm in there next spring. Good Luck Girls!

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Pulling Honey

November 3rd, 2010

We are still pulling honey from the hives. We have been really busy this year and it seems like it is taking a long time to get done. We had a nice day yesterday so we went out in the afternoon and got one site done. Below is a picture of the site before we did anything. Believe it or not that seven story hive was full of honey all the way to the top! 

Pictured below are the after shots. This is one of our best wintering sites as it is in the basement of an old home. You can see what remains of the stone foundation behind the hives. Being here really protects them from the wind and helps keep them warmer as the stones hold a lot of heat. Many of these hives were rather large colonies so we left more honey for them, however the third boxes are not totally full, we usually take out 5 frames to extract and just leave the other 5 in place.

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How I light my smoker

September 11th, 2010

I thought it may be helpful, to some out there, to talk about how I light my smoker. It’s quite simply really…pictured below are all you need: ½ sheet of newspaper, matches, some kind of fuel and of course your smoker. There are a lot of different fuels that can be used including corn cobs, burlap (washed to remove pesticides), baler twine (natural, not plastic), pine needles, fine wood chips, small twigs, dry rotten wood, dry tree leaves, untreated straw, uncolored paper (rolled), corrugated cardboard (rolled), sumac bobs and even the wood pellets used in pellet stoves. I really like to use baler twine because it starts easy and is easy to acquire in our area…whatever fuel you use it should be dry.

Before attempting to start the smoker I will clean out the ashes from the bottom and ball up the baler twine ahead of time so it will fit into the smoker easily. I place the newspaper in the bottom and light it up then quickly place the baler twine on top, but I don’t push it down in all the way into the smoker until I get it going (as pictured below). I like to pump the bellows until I have a little fire coming out the top then I push the twine all the way in and it’s ready to go. The entire process only takes few minutes.

Update: October 26, 2010 – I learned something from my uncle about lighting smokers, when I helped him pull honey from his hives not too long ago, if you don’t have any newspaper handy and you are using baler twine as fuel, just cut the twine and pull the individual strands apart and light that with a match. Honestly I think it works better than using newspaper! 

Caution- Treat your Bee Smoker with respect. It can cause fires, destruction of property, burns, and injury. Do not let children play with a Bee Smoker-lighted or unlighted. Never puff a Bee Smoker in anyone’s face. There is always danger of sparks, dust, etc. in the eyes and setting a bee veil on fire. Handle a Bee Smoker by the bellows only. Do not allow loose embers or sparks to blow or fall into grass, leaves, pine needles, etc. If flames appear, stop puffing the bellows. Keep away from and never place a hot or burning Bee Smoker near flammable or combustible materials, such as gasoline, paint, benzaldehyde, gloves, veils, etc. When you dump a Bee Smoker make sure that the burning or smoldering fuel is completely extinguished. When transporting in a truck or car, make sure the fire is out or nozzle is plugged to stop draft from igniting smoker fuel or something else in the vehicle and make sure smoker is in a metal container that can not tip over. Be sure to extinguish a Bee Smoker before storing in any building or vehicle. Use good judgment and common sense.

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