Thursday, June 30, 2011

Recent Inspections and Observations

Went through a number of hives yesterday, mostly full size hives I haven’t been into in a while. I was worried about queenless mostly, so once I hit eggs and saw solid brood patterns I backed out and felt all was good. I saw no issues yesterday, hives are doing great with large amounts of brood, honey, and pollen. My largest hive and the one that has produced about 110lbs of honey this year must have swarmed, I thought it had but I hadn’t inspected it in a while. During the inspection I noticed a lot of new larva and only a small amount of capped brood, which means to me a break in the brood cycle i.e. swarmed.

The other thing I noticed was the full size hives are actually backifilling a little, not too much to worry about, but it shows we still have some nectar and pollen flowing, I assume due to the rain we have been getting recently. So this is really good as it will keep brood rearing going. However, not enough flow to draw out foundation on their own, so if you have foundation left to draw you need to feed… I was really impressed with the brood patterns and amount of brood in the hive.

I have also been please thus far with my Russians. Brood from corner to corner and fairly gentle. A little runny on the comb, but gentle. So we shall see how the do this fall, winter, and spring.

I also noticed my large honey hive talked about above is having trouble with varroa loads, I am seeing a number of bees with deformed wing virus. I assume what may have happened is that when the hive swarmed the last batch of larva to be capped received very heavy mite loads as they were the last round of brood to be capped so all the mites rushed in. So we will see how the hive recovers as more new brood hatches. However, this hive I have noticed a little more mite issues than others, but in its defense it has been VERY strong and has been the ONLY hive I have not split all year, so its been abnormally large compared to the rest and had more bees so my observation could very well be skewed due to this.

I believe in 2 weeks when I pull honey supers I will do mite samples and see where my mite numbers sit and make a decision from there regarding any possible treatments. I have been thinking about using Oxalic Acid Vaporization to “whiten my frames” using the JB200 from (you know i like pretty frames!). I have a friend in MA that uses it and recommends it and has used it in all temperatures. One side benefit to Oxalic is that not only does it whiten your frames (wood bleach) you also get the side benefit of mite control… BTW its illegal in the USA to use Oxalic Acid for mite control, but using it to whiten your frames is a legal use…

Well not much to do for your bee hives, just enjoy them and make sure nothing is going wrong. Please do inspections and not just assume everything is ok because “the bees are flying”. If you have foundation to draw continue to feed 1:1 syrup and I would add a pollen pattie to help with brood production. When you have 7 out of 10 frames drawn, move those 3 undrawn frames inward staggering them (foundation/comb/foundation/comb) etc in the middle to aid in building comb, then add another box of foundation above and continue feeding doing the same rotation as before.

As the middle o July approaches or maybe later depending on rain (nectar being produced), brood production will slow down due to lack of pollen coming in, so to keep your bees strong feed a ½ pollen pattie per hive per week, once they consume they ½ pattie in one week and its completely gone, add a whole pattie. This constant feed coming in will keep the queen laying and make sure you have a healthy large population of young bees going in to winter…

I hope everyone is enjoying their bees and keep up the good work!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Bee Flowers and a Good Laugh!

Well, this weekend was spent shearing alpacas, checking on some hives, and on sunday driving around on the fourwheeler looking at bee forage.

Here is a picture of Reggie our alpaca, with Rockie behind him... Kinda a cross between a poodle and a deer...LOL

Here are a few pictures of somewhat unknown plants my bees work like crazy. I believe the pink flower is spotted knapweed, the white things i have no idea but i have about 10 acres of it in the hay fields, and of course the ole sourwood!

The bees work the white field bell flowers like crazy in the evening as well as what seems to be the thisle all day. Im not sure about the Sourwood trees... i will be digging up some of the sourwood saplings shortly to relocate closer.

BTW DONT CUT YOUR WEEDS... they probably are bee plants...

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Sugar Syrup Pumps

I have been struggling for some time about the “sugar water” issue I have and will have on my hands this year. Making so many splits requires a lot of feeding, both pollen patties and sugar water. The pollen patties I will just buy, no issue here other than money… but the syrup is an issue. Not only do I have to buy the sugar, I have to mix it, haul it, and of course fill feeders with it.

Currently last Sunday I fed 160lbs of sugar or about 40 gallons of syrup all by carrying a 5 gallon bucket and dipping a cup… this is time consuming, a pain in my hind parts, and messy at times which is not something I have once late July gets here… so I sent out a request for info per Bee-L and got some great responses some on-list and some off-list.

It boils down to TWO solutions for me, one more expensive than the other. Of course the most expensive one is the easier all the way around regarding mixing AND delivering. One solution a friend uses up North is a 5 gallon sprayer with the nozzle removed filling it up using a drummed pre-filled with sugar water via a spicket at the bottom. This is pretty cheap costing only for the morter mixer ($90), the drum and spicket (free?), and the sprayer (4 wheeler mounted or backpack ($90)). But this requires possibly heating water etc which is time consuming.

The other solution is using a gas powered trash pump, large tank, delivery hose and handle (like a gas pump handle), and a by-pass hose back into the tank. What this system does is recirculate the syrup to mix it via the bypass hose. I have been told even 2:1 will mix in cold water this way. These pumps range from the cheapest at $250 to about $1,000, then the hose, tank etc. I expect id have about $500-$600 in this system at least. But the time savings is a huge thing as I wont have to mix the syrup or heat the water!!!!

We shall see what I do this year, as I will be eventually feeding about 120 gallons a week at times to build foundation etc, so the gas system is more practical but more costly. I will also have to dedicate a truck to it as well for the most part…

Here are a few pics a friend Bill Lord in NC of his trash pump system, he eventually changed to a larger tank with the large “water” cap on top making pouring the sugar in easier.

Monday, June 20, 2011

A few updates and my new quick electric bee fence

If you didnt go to the VSBA meeting this weekend, you missed out. Some high points some low points, but overall worth the cost and two days. I went to two good friends, met up with a few more, and really enjoyed my time. I find it dishearting that there was over 200 folks there, the meetings only occur twice a year, but yet the highest number from any club was 16 attending, and these clubs have hundreds of members. Whats wrong with this picture? i understand people have things to do, but you learn so much from these meetings that help everyone, i even learned how to make soap!!! I just find it odd that folks seem so interested in doing better and learning more about bees, but are not willing to take the day and up to a 2-3 hour drive to socialize and learn far more than they can in a local club, just simply by talking to so many different people. If you go to these meetings talk to others and dont stay to yourself, you learn more by asking question and actualy being a part of these meetings than simply just going to them. It is what it is, but its ashame so many folks missed out. Maybe youl make it to the fall meeting in Wyers cave VA at Blueridge College...

Well after some discussions at the VSBA meeting this weekend, i decided i needed to get off my lazy rump and atleast protect my most expensive queens and 17 hives from bears, after all i have had everything to do it for a year now...

Anyway, i wanted to show everyone how i build a quick electric fence, this is by no means the only way. is this the best way? NO, its not, you should use strong wooden corner post with tensioners and porcelin corner insulaters for strength and a better solar charger. But i didnt have time to plant cedar post etc. NO fence will hold back a bear if he/she wants to get in, but this should deter the snoopper...

You can also see the quick and easy handle arrangments i use, they work great on low tension fences like this.

The charger i am using is not the best and i prefer a stronger charger, but its all i have right now. You really need a large solar charger usually around $300 or a good AC or DC battery charger, these are cheaper, especially the AC ones. The small one i have is better than nothing and is ok, but it doesnt stop or skip your heart, i can grab the wire bare handed, although not fun, not terriably painful, but should pop a bears nose good.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

June Splits

Well, i received my Russell Apiaries queens yesterday. They left MS Tuesday night and i had them in cumberland by 11:30 Wensday!!! Anyway, i recieved 3 Caucasians, 3 Sunkist Cordovans, and 4 English Buckfast. All were in great shape and were nice size for "mail-order" queens, anytime a queen stops laying for is young for that matter her ovaries shink and she gets smaller. In this case based on my limited experience these queens were laying and pulled quickly and NOT "banked" like many large producers do. So i was happy.

The Sunkist Cordovans are a nice "blond" color as well as the Buckfast queens. The Caucasians were solid black queens, the darkest i have seen, i fidn this funny since us Caucasian folks are white...LOL of course the breed comes from the Caucus Mt region...

So i left work early knowing i would need time to make the splits,and boy am i glad i did, i didnt make the las split until the sun was behind the trees at 8:30!! I had already inspected all my hives a few weeks ago to identify "splitters" so i had that on my side.

I decided to do what i call a 50/50 split, where i laid two boxes beside me on the ground and placed one frame in one box and then the next frame in the other box, deviding the brood, honey, pollen, etc up evenly between the two boxes. Since i was installing queens i absouluty had to find the existing queens, the box that got the existing queen usually got one less frame of brood and in its place i made sure was an empty comb. Either way its not scientific just one here one there. The i placed the existing queen box back at the same location moving the split for the Russell queen somewhere else.

So i did this on 10 hives and thus made 10 single deep drawn comb splits. So each hive had are now a single deep. These are EXTREMLY strong splits and should build up and draw wax VERY quickly, which is my intent. I then placed a 1/2 Bee Pro pattie on each old and new hive. I then placed a second deep with 8 foundation frames and an empty (until sunday) 1.5 gallon Mann Lake cap and ladder feeder on top of both single deeps.

Once i got through doing all that, i then went back i then got my queens ready by removing the cork at the candy end and went to each new split. i removed one foundation frame in the new upper deep and placed the queen cage in the center of the hive NO TOP OF the top bars of the bottom frames with the SCREEN SIDE UP. This provides easy installation, release, etc for the queens and me. The key is to always make sure the exist hole is not blocked and the screen is not blocked so the bees can feed the queen etc.

I will go back on sunday and check for release and if so i will then reinstall the one remmoved frame and add sugar syrup to the feeder. The reason i didnt add syrup yesterday is two fold. For the existing "parent" hive i could have added syrup but i ran out of time. For the new split since i had an empty frame space in the middle for the queen cage i didnt want them building anymore odd burr comb than they already will, so holding the feeding off for a few days limits this issue, also i didnt have time anyway...

So thats my story. I was pleased with the splits and the brood levels, i did notice the hives slowing a bit which is expected now the nectar flow is over and less pollen is coming in. I will be keeping an eye on the pollen levels in the comb and possibly add patties to all hives starting the middle of july or slightly earlier depending on weather etc, last year i added them middle of july, but the weather and rain has helped recently so we shall see.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Bee Equipment, Small Hive Beetles, and Cows

Well, Bees, SHB's, and Cows are not related and they dont go together. But i wanted to update everyone on a few things.

First here is a wondeful article about Small Hive Beetles...

Second, The Virginia State Beekeeping meeting is being held on June 17th & 18th, i will be going both days...

Third and MOST Important, i have made some WONDERFUL friends since i started keeping bees. Recently i had some timing issues with some queens that were expected to arrive (they havnt yet) and i was lacking bottom boards. I havnt had a chance to make them like i had planned. Well i sent out an email asking for a few able bodies to help me build them. Many responded and i truley appreciate everyones willingness to help. But in the end i asked 3 gentlemen come over to help. We had a great time even if it was a little hot. It just goes to show how great of a community and world we still live in!!!

Well the way i was cutting my screen for my bottom boards was not all that effcient or great. So one of my friends took it upon himself to build me a wonderful "screen cutting jig". Its awesome. Not only that he and another good friend came over while i was at work this week and cut 50 pieces of screen with it!!!

I hope to one day pay all my friends back for everything they do for me. I do truely appreciate them all! Thank Yall!!!

Here are two pics of the jig:

BTW, i also have a steer calf now i bought from some of my good bee friends... Here are some pics i took recently.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Grafting Success

Well, checked my grafted cells after 48 hours and 6 out 0f 16 look text book!!! They are slam full of royal jelly and the drawn wax is text book (i checked the books afterwards...). I am very pleased with this as this is my first attempt ever at grafting. I felt very comfortable while grafting after the first attemps and now feel confident i can produce enough queens for myself if not more.

However, we are not out of the woods yet, the queens i produce still need to be mated and tested to make sure they are carring traits i want. That said all the queens i have let them make on their own have been excellant.

I did increase the nurse bee numbers yesterday in the starter/finisher, it was weaker than it should have been, but thats my fault. After all really i was only playing with my grafting skills and not really anticipating actually making queens to finish...

Monday, June 6, 2011


So its been a while since i last posted something and alot has been going on atleast in other areas of my life... But back to bees which is what this blog is about after all...

I currently have 32 viable hives, was supposed to have recieved 10 queens from Russell Aparies this past week but have not recieved them so my plans are beginning to be pushed.

In the lack of timely queens i have 14 hives that are fully ready to share 5 frames for a split and more if i wanted to. So since i have hives ready i decided to start grafting for the first time off my Glen Aparies AI VSHxCarnolian queen. I recently recieved two AI'ed queens from Glen's one Pure VSH and one VSHxCarnie. They have been accepted and laying great!

Anyway, i felt pretty comfortable with my grafting especially as i got near the later larva i grafted, i grafter a total of 16 larva and i am sure messed that many up i left in the cells. So today i will pull the cells and see how they took...

My overall goal is to be at 50 splitable hives by the end of July. What this means is that i have 50 hives that can be split into at bare min. 5 frame nucs. but hopefully more drawn frames than just 5. I plan to overwinter these in a total 0f 8 deep frames with a 1.5 gallon Mann Lake cap and ladder feeder in a single 10 frame deep box all pushed together on a pallet.

I have also been very very very pleased with the Queens i got last year from Zia Queens, i recieved 5 of their Rocky Mt. Reinas and they have been my top preformers all year, whether its honey production, comb production, or split production. Since they have met and far exceeded my expectations i have decided to purchase 13 more of them to add to my genetic pool.

The Russians are doign very well so far. They are just hatching their second round of brood so the hives are what i call Russian. They are building great. I do notice a little runnyness on the frames but nothing i havnt seen before in Italian hives... the queens can also be elusive. They are by far my hardest queens to find, whether its from the darker brown color or maybe they hide. Either way i have trouble finding them and usually dont have any trouble finding other queens even unmarked...

One last thing i wanted to mention is the fact that this week has brought major change to my hives i have been feeding. Before these new hives have been taking syrup but at a slow pace, in some cases slow enough to ferment even with HBH. I feed them last weekend all 1.5 gallons and now less than one week they sucked it dry!!! This means as i had expected with the dry weather and heat the nectar flow is over. So for all those new beeks or new hives if they havnt been taking syrup before, you better "test" them and see, because from what i am seeing across about 15 hives i am feeding things have changed for the worst and they will need feeding or else they will starve.

I would also watch the frames and make sure they have ample pollen, currently i see atleast one solid frame of pollen plus the normal bands around brood. What i do is watch for this extra frame of pollen to be eaten, once i no longer find a "pollen frame" i start feeding pollen patties. Last year i started mid july feeding 1/2 lb of pattie and once they consumed 1/2 lb in 7 days i would give them a whole pattie. I continue until i see them storing it like real pollen (most patties are consumed by nurse bees and not stored until they have access). Once i start seeing the brown looking patties stored in the cells in abundance i then back off and use this "storage gauge" to tell me when to start back feeding. After all i dont want to cause them to become honey or pattie bound. But this assume bi-weekly inspections, so if you dont like doing inspections frequently i would feed patties once a week until they slow down taking it. Patties are by far cheaper than buying bees (packages are $80 something...)...

Well i think thats it. If i have viable queen cells and cant use them i will notify everyone and first come first serve can have the cells. I just dont have the mating nucs to be able to produce mated queens for sale right now. Maybe next year on that...