I raised 5 frame nucleus hives in 2016 from Spring splits and allowed them to grow out to double boxes (ten frames). This year, besides using the Hopkins method of queen rearing, I’ll also be using the Coweta mindset and method (below) to make increase or to sustainably maintain a hive after the sale of a nucleus hive or queen. I always retain 5 frames with at least one frame of young larvae and notch the cells to raise a new queen as detailed in the following article.
Source: Coweta Sustainable Beekeeping Method by Steven Page
Coweta Sustainable Beekeeping
Most beekeepers are not sustainable; they purchase nucs or packages each spring to replace winter losses. This is expensive and prevents the creation of local, sustainable honey bee genetics. The true cost of a package or nuc can escalate when some die during the winter before producing any honey. If only half of these young colonies survive until next spring the cost per a nuc or package doubles.
A beekeeper with only a few hives may experience the disheartening loss of all their colonies. No honey will be harvested for a year and they must start over purchasing nucs or packages if they can find them.
The current or traditional methods that the beekeeping books teach do not account for the difficulties we experience. A book may teach Varroa mite control but not how to thrive in spite of Varroa. Most are teaching beekeeping from a time before the combined effects of:
· Varroa Mites
· Numerous diseases
· Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD)
· Small hive beetle
· Short lived queens
· High pesticide use
There has to be a better way.
If you have bees you can make more bees or more accurately, colonies can be used to make more colonies. All beekeepers have the resources in their colonies to become sustainable.
In the south, winter losses average one-third. During the summer make enough splits begin winter with one and a half times the number of colonies required for honey production in the spring. If six colonies are required for spring honey production, begin winter with ten. For example, begin the winter with six production hives and four nucs. After losing two production hives and two nucs during the winter, a 40 percent loss, the two remaining nucs are used to replace the dead colonies restoring production hives to six. There is no need to buy colonies because of winter losses. In May, splits can be started to replace the nucs bringing the total number of colonies up to ten again.
“Almost every emergency of management can be met by putting something into or taking something out of a nucleus, while nuclei themselves seldom present emergencies.” E. B. Wedmore, A Manual of Beekeeping
To read more of this article visit: Coweta Sustainable Beekeeping Method
Sitting inside thinking about the recent rains beating down on the hives, it occurs to me that I’ve not written about my experience using markers for writing on and identifying hives.
This may appear as an advertisement of some sort but I assure you it’s simply a suggestion for those that are tired of marking and numbering hives only to realize weeks or months later that your notes or numbers have long since faded away. I tried everything to simply number my hives so I could match up my notes with the hives. I tried permanent markers, sign markers, and every marker I tried let me down. It seems the sun and the weather is a lot more brutal and persistent that I realized.
At first I tried to use permanent Sharpies for labeling hives. They make a clear and nice looking mark for stencils and labels but they faded in sunlight lasting only a couple months in daily direct sunlight, rain, etc. I moved on to their marker designed for Signs (also designated permanent) with disappointing, similar results. Then my friend showed me a really permanent marker he uses to label his hunting equipment and other outdoor property. The trick to finding a really permanent outdoor marking pen is in the name. If it says SOLID marker then you are getting real paint and not ink. I can’t remember the name of the one my friend originally showed me but since that first Solid Marker Pen I have started using Deco Color ID: Solid Stick. The ID Solid Stick is the perfect paint marker for most surfaces and is thermal resistant to extreme temperatures from -10°C to 200°C. This paint stick is opaque, water proof, fade resistant, dries in 5-7 minutes, and can be used indoors or outdoors. Use it outside on glass, tires, concrete, garbage cans, street address identifiers, PVC Pipes and plastic tubing/sheeting and much more! Indoor uses include sporting gear, toys, bicycles, boots, pots and pans, ect. Available in 5 colors: Red, Yellow, Blue, Black and White. They are available at Hobby Lobby for under $5 which is a little more expensive than I’ve found online but worth the price. They are truly permanent it seems. I started using them two years ago numbering hives. Last year I started using the hive tops as my notebook making notes, writing dates, hive status, etc. and so far the numbering and writing looks the same as the day I first wrote on the hive covers. In fact, the paint pen is so permanent the only way to remove the marking is to paint over older notes. Truly a product that works.
Always eager to improve methods of hive assessment, I have now developed the non-invasive queenlessness test method, hereafter known as The Number 6 Method.
Step one: Suit up well. No, really well as in “rubber bands around your pant’s cuffs” well. An extra cap under your veil is also advised.
Step Two: Clear the yard of bystanders.
Step Three: Crank up your riding mower and proceed to cut a swath directly down the front of your hives at normal cutting speed. If the mower hits a stob or cuts off during this procedure be prepared to abandon ship.
Step Four: Do not stop but as you loop away from the hives take a brief glance at the front of the hives. If a hive appears to be swarming out the front entrance console yourself that they aren’t swarming.
Step Five: If this was the hive you suspected of being queenless, the final assessment should present itself almost instantly in the form of a cloud of 50 -100 bees now chasing you and your lawnmower.
Step Six: Feel good about not unduly disturbing the bees with invasive inspections to determine queenlessness. You deserve a pat on the back as you shift into Number 6 on the lawnmower’ s speed control. With any luck they won’t follow you more than 100 yards. Be amazed at how honey bees can stick to your veil like Velcro.
Step Seven: Properly performed, this test should be conducted at the end of your beekeeping day. Returning to the bee yard sooner that 12 hours is not advised.
Embarrassing as it is, the above is based on a true story.
Alright, so the title is a little cheesy. But the question does remain. Where would we be without bees?
The gardens of my childhood were filled with bees. Hot summer afternoons in gardens buzzing with their industry. Lying on our backs in the clover, we marvelled at their meandering flight paths, little back legs bundled with yellow pollen. Our raids on the strawberry patch were more deliciously dangerous for the possibility of being stung. When the inevitable happened we endured the pain of having the sting carefully scraped from throbbing limb with a knife. A paste of bicarbonate of soda and water slathered on the wound followed, to soothe the sting. After which we suffered a parental lecture about the poor bee losing its life as a consequence of our carelessness, since they die shortly after delivering that venomous barb.
And honey sandwiches! Who could forget the real honey of our childhoods?
Ahh, those idyllic bee-ful days of my childhood!
A dear friend started me on this path down memory lane recently when she suggested I look at the important role bees play in plant fertilisation.
So, where are they now? What’s going on? Even Spring in my tiny garden doesn’t deliver on the childhood promise of swarms of bees, nor butterflies for that matter, but that’s for another post. Why does it matter?
Bees and fertilization
It matters because bees are prolific pollinators, playing a huge role in the fertilisation of flowers, vegetables and other food crops. I’m sure I’m not telling you something you don’t already know.
But did you know that European honey bees (Apis mellifera) [introduced to Australia around 1822] are incredibly productive? A single colony can easily contain 10,000-60,000 working bees. Each female worker lives for roughly a month and is so effective at pollination that she may forage more than 500 flowers in a round trip. A single bee may range as far as 10km in the search for pollen and nectar. No wonder they say ‘as busy as a bee!’
Furthermore, the familiar European honey bee is not the only kid on the fertilisation block. More recently, attention is being drawn to our native Australian bees. I discovered to my amazement that in Australia we have over 1,600 species of native bee with endearing names like the Teddy Bear and Blue Banded bee, some of which I’ve seen around our local park Callistemons or Bottlebrush (below). They’re an important pollinator for our unique flora.
Increasingly our native bees, like the stingless varieties (genera Tetragonula – previously called Trigona – and Austroplebeia), are also proving to be valuable pollinators of crops such as macadamias, mangos, watermelons and lychees . Their impressive effectiveness as pollinators has even seen them employed by pollination services for commercial growers of these crops. Some native bees have the added advantage of being ‘buzz pollinators’ whereby the vibration of their wings facilitates fertilisation, a feat almost impossible for honey bees.
What’s the reason for the global bee decline?
It appears there’s not one single factor. Dr Les Davies, Chief Regulatory Scientist from APVMA, suggests ‘mutiple interacting pressures which may include habitat loss and disappearance of floral resources, honeybee nutrition, climate change, bee pests and pathogens [like Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) which has wiped out millions of bees in North America], miticides and other chemicals intentionally used in hives and bee husbandry practices, as well as agricultural pesticides,’ are possible factors in the decline of bees. He makes a strong case for being informed about what we spray on our gardens [if this is a path we choose], advocating ‘a need to ensure that a range of regulatory, industry stewardship and educational measures are in place,’ to reduce the risks from pesticides.
My role as a gardener
We all have a stake in maintaining our bio system. When it comes to ‘bee-ing’ a successful gardener, a bit of research has turned up a number of ways I can contribute. It makes sense to plant any garden with bees in mind. A mix of flowers among the vegies will ensure bees are attracted to the garden and will do their bit to ensure bountiful fruit and vegetable crops.
I will be even more mindful of using chemicals in the garden after reading up on bees. While I’ve always preferred natural pest control, heeding Dr Davies’ advice of being more informed about the sprays, fungicides and other chemical products for garden use seems crucial. Especially given I consume the crops I grow, along with a variety of other insects and useful micro organisms who dine on my garden.
“If the bee disappeared off the face of the earth, man would only have four years left to live.”
― Maurice Maeterlinck,
Read more at http://www.yates.com.au/healthy-gardens-need-healthy-bees/#r6Wma0Yg8TwPdexW.99
The travesty of imported honey http://www.tastyhoney.com/blog/honey/australian-honey-imports-from-china-hit-new-record-high/
How to attract bees http://www.yates.com.au/healthy-gardens-need-healthy-bees/#lwW0XsGMCMLsLbz9.97
Honeybee Research http://www.rirdc.gov.au/research-programs/animal-industries/honeybee
Medicinal Benefits of Honey http://www.abc.net.au/science/articles/2013/02/14/3689565.htm
Bee Biology Research
School kids need a new lesson about royal jelly.
The kids in the Grade 5 classroom knew all about royal jelly.
“The bees feed it to their babies and they turn into queens.”
And so it is. We think. Royal jelly – countless journal articles (and Wikipedia) tell us – stimulates the latent she-ness in a female larva. It removes her from a future life of weary drudgery as a worker destined to live six short weeks, then die wedged between some dusty stigma and anther. Royal jelly gives the lucky larva a future life as a queen employed in monotonous drudgery as an egg-laying machine destined to deposit progeny for three years in a crowded dark den, then die in a palace coup. There’s not much of an advantage in the queen’s life. But it’s longer. And there must be a crown or something that comes with the job.
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A few years ago I attended a presentation given by Florida Agricultural “Hall of Fame,” 3rd generation beekeeper, and now retired Chief Apiary Inspector Lawrence Cutts at the 2013 South Carolina Beekeepers Conference.
The audience groaned as he described all the negative parts of beekeeping: the viruses, mites, increased costs, various diseases. After each lengthy, gruesome description of a malady he raised his voice and proclaimed,
“Never before, in all my years, have I been so excited to be a beekeeper.”
Finally, after much more deliberation, he gave up the punchline: “Why be excited? Because never before in all my life has beekeeping enjoyed the attention it is getting today in the media and public eye.”
The point being, beekeepers are enjoying the attention and support as never before. Beekeeping organizations on all levels are being gifted with a wonderful resource of an ever increasing number of enthusiastic beginners eager to take on the tasks of learning both the science and the art of beekeeping. It is, indeed, an exciting time to be a beekeeper. Clubs and associations have won the lottery with the influx of excited newcomers and the many talents they bring to our organizations.
Can we as local and state organizations meet the needs of these beginning beekeepers and move them towards success in their new interest? Talking with some of our older association members, I’ve learned that at one time interest in local beekeeping was much less than seen today. Meetings were small enough they could be held in any small group room, and sometimes a beginner came. In those days a mentor usually coupled with a beginner and taught them the basics. I looked into this mentoring model of teaching and discovered that it wasn’t uncommon for a new beekeeper to visit the mentor’s bee yard for a season before getting their own bees. And once the mentee received their bees, either through a spring split or swarm the next year, they may have left them at the mentor’s bee yard to work in the presence of the mentor with appropriate guidance.
Times change and nowadays we find ourselves needing ever more mentors to serve our new members. Ironically, as pointed out by Lawrence Cutts, the new beekeeper today has been drawn to a hobby that has increased in difficulty due to an increase in pests, chemicals, lack of forage areas, and increased costs.
Simply stated the job of mentoring is getting bigger and bigger, beekeeping is ever more complex, and new beekeepers are joining and needing our support more than ever before. While periodically refreshing and increasing our mentor lists is a good and worthwhile goal, the need for mentors is outpacing the supply.
To complicate matters, not only has there been in increase in beginning beekeepers, most new beekeepers wish to start their own hives at their homes. I do find the occasional member that started by visiting a mentor’s bee yard for their first year but that now seems to be the exception to the rule.
This mentee/mentor dilemma needs a better solution and there is one available.
In part two of this series I’ll offer my thoughts on what mentors can do to assist our new beekeepers and newest members. In part three, I’ll discuss what your club is doing to help you succeed. But since spring, package sales, and classes are upon us I decided to first focus my attention on the new beekeeper and their role in getting themselves through that first year in the learning process involved in beekeeping.
Surfing the web, and various discussion boards, the prospective beekeeper looking for advice is repeatedly told, 1) join a club and 2) get a mentor. That’s pretty good advice but it falls short. Joining a club is great but sending in your $10 won’t get you any closer to becoming a better beekeeper. And just finding a mentor won’t either unless he’s a good friend or neighbor that’s willing to swap lessons for apple pies. First of all, most experienced beekeepers have bees to take care of also, limited free time like most, and finding one that is close enough and willing to teach a new beekeeper may be a challenge – finding one that has the heart and willingness to make home visits is GOLD.
I’m going to suggest a new angle towards getting the new, prospective beekeeper everything they need to find success in this challenging mix of science and art we call beekeeping.
- The new beekeeper should find a local club or association and start attending meetings. Your goal is to see if the club is a fit for you. Are meetings educational? If you don’t feel it’s a good fit then look elsewhere for a club that fits you.
- Start your search for a good beginning beekeeper class. Half-day or single day classes are good for determining if beekeeping is something you’d like to learn. Better introductory beekeeping classes span multiple evenings or weekends and offer Certified testing. If your local club doesn’t offer one, look for a class at the next closest club. Attend their meetings too. The drive may be worthwhile.
- Sign up and take the next beginning beekeeper class offered. Read the handouts; read the book. Don’t be satisfied to be spoon fed the information and don’t limit yourself to only the information in the class. Consider this class your foot in the door, your introduction, the beginning of your adventure.
- Visit your local library and check out books on beekeeping. You will find some entertaining, some are scientific, and some are histories. Read all that you find helpful.
- Decide right now that coming to monthly meetings is an important part of your continuing beekeeping education. Miss one at your own risk. Many club meeting topics follow the bee’s annual cycle through the seasons. Important things to do and observe are discussed at meetings. The meeting you miss may be the one that offers the information you needed to hear that month.
- Volunteer for club activities. If your club offers community outreach at festivals and events talk to your club’s event coordinator. Volunteer to work with someone else “talking bees” with the public. If you took the beginning beekeeper class you know 100% more than the general population. Listen to the experienced volunteer you are paired with and learn from them. Talk with them during breaks. If you enjoy speaking to children there is real need to visit with elementary classes. Senior centers also appreciate visits and often contact clubs to schedule brief talks.
- Watch your bees. Even if you aren’t going inside the hive. Get a chair and sit and watch them coming and going. Soak it in. At first you’ll not have anything to compare their coming and going with. As the seasons progress, nectar flows begin and end, temperatures change, their behavior will change as well. Soon you will notice subtle changes in their behavior on the landing board. With time you’ll know when something’s wrong and needs further inspection – just by watching them.
- If your club has social events like pre meeting dinners, occasional social events, or days in the bee yard, attend them. Beekeepers tend to want to talk about bees – exhaustively. Only other beekeepers want to talk about it as much as you will. You will learn a lot talking with others at these events.
- Find a bee buddy. A bee buddy may be another first year beekeeper in your neighborhood or a second year beekeeper that lives close by. Your bee buddy is the one you call when your hive swarms and you need to borrow a box. A bee buddy is someone to visit and look at their hives; they come over and look at yours too. Bee buddies show you how to do new things with your bees. Find a bee buddy at meetings, events, or during meeting fellowship time.
- Enter your hives as often as is prudent. During some seasons the bees are docile and tolerant of your intrusions. In the spring visit them often – even every week. When you enter the hive go in with an idea of what you wish to accomplish in mind. What do you want to observe? The first few times you will be so filled with excitement you’ll forget to look for those things you set as your goal. That’s okay, look on your next visit. There are other seasons when the bees are best left alone such as when they are arranging and securing their winter home or during colder months. Take every opportunity to observe them.
- Join your club’s online discussion group if it has one. You’ll find quick answers to questions you have. Often a photo and description to the group will result in helpful responses or allay your anxiety about something you’ve never seen before. If you do have an emergency often a club member can swing by after work and take a look. Both girls and guys participate in forums and sometimes you find that you’re neighbors!
- Read your club’s newsletter. Local happenings are listed. Important dates too. Sale ads and articles of interest as well as your clubs minutes and scheduled speakers and topics keep you informed. Often the club will have an article directly related to seasonal beekeeping letting you know what to observe and do in your hives that month.
- Attend local educational offerings. Some clubs bring in out-of-town speakers for special topics of interest. Other times clubs or local beekeepers offer day classes on specific topics of interest: Queen rearing, Moving hives, Making Splits, Africanized bees, oh my!
- Attend state conferences. Even if you can’t stay for two and a half days at least go for a single day. The information you hear will be from the scholars in bee research around the country. They have a knack for breaking it down for us simple beekeepers though so it all works out. Have lunch with fellow beekeepers. If you overnight, find out where your club or neighboring club will be having dinner and socialize. Carpool with your bee buddy. Hang out in the hotel lobby and talk bees until late.
- Placed last because you may never need it if you’re working all of the above. Visit your club’s mentor list and find a mentor close to you. Preferably one that also attends meetings. Sit with them, or watch and listen to them teach at the front of the room. If you don’t understand something ask after the meeting. Offer to help your mentor do hard work like pulling supers, rotating boxes, or extracting honey. Tell them you’ll gladly help with their next swarm retrieval. Ask them tough questions that show your enthusiasm and that you’re making every effort to learn. If they know you’re dedicated to learning, attending, and making an effort it makes all the difference in the world.
In the end it’s all about learning about bees, their biology, behavior, and management. Along with that come the seasons, foliage, the bees’ cousins, and foes. Today’s prospective beekeeper has more resources that ever before: face to face education, fellowship, books, YouTube videos, discussion groups, community outreach, conferences, and more. Take advantage of every offering available and you will succeed. Now, get to a meeting!
Caught in the middle with bees!
Starting out, the first two or three years, it seems easier, safer, and more financially prudent to simply buy queens from the local association prior to making spring splits. If you have 2 or 3 hives that need splitting it’s not too costly and ensures a greater degree of success to buy the queens and make splits installing the purchased queens. It almost always results in a good outcome.
Then, if your bee fever grows, you begin to have more colonies and the check for those queens adds up to serious cash – cash better saved for other beekeeping toys. Additionally, aren’t we suppose to be selecting breeding stock and rearing our own queens that survive our climate and the mites? Plus, raising my own allows me to drop that cool word, “sustainable.”
I’ve been resistant to rearing my own queens for the past couple years although I know I should have been doing so. I’m not quite sure if I’m just lazy, busy with other bee projects, afraid of failure, or just not interested in queen rearing. But, at last, it’s time.
I’m not sure if my eyes are good enough anymore for grafting. I thought about buying some of those jeweler’s or watchmaker’s glasses. But then I’d also be buying more dedicated queen rearing equipment as well. Cell punching helps and I’m waiting for a class which may convince me to adopt a simple grafting method. Regardless, most all the grafting methods neccessitate multiple boxes, transfers, more bee stuff and can be a bit pricey. Simplier (non grafting) equipment like the Nicot or Jenter systems are also costly.
On the other extreme is the walkaway split, making sure the queenless split has larvae of appropriate age and allowing the bees to make an emergency queen. Additional methods of cell crushing can be added to improve the outcome but making multiple walkaway splits is a bit scary – what if half of them don’t make it? I’m a little OCD and looking for a little more control and perhaps even better outcome.
So, remembering the low tech methods of our forefathers, and with a mind to keeping costs at a minimum, I decided on using one of the throwbacks like the Miller or Hopkins methods. A mentor once suggested the Hopkins method to me and it sounds easy enough and promises to raise more queens than I’ll need. Basically it involves taking a frame of appropriately aged larvae and placing it horizontally over a densely populated queenless split. It’s low risk as well, if all goes poorly, such as a sudden change in the weather, the worst that can happen is I re-unite that split with their parent colony. So that’s what I’ve decided to attempt this year. Another adventure in beekeeping! Above are pictures of the 2″ shim I’ll be using to place the frame over the colony. Also a link below if you’re interested in reading more about the Hopkins method of queen rearing.
The rule of 72 and mite control.
The rule of 72 is a financial rule of thumb that says that 72 divided by an interest rate will tell you how long it takes for any given amount of money to double.
There are a lot of factors involved but this is also true with many other things in life. For example, we could determine a similar calculation for mites in honey bee hives.
How is this relevant? The relevance is in the doubling effect. A financial planner will tell you to start saving early for this reason. No matter how much, or little, it matters to start early. Why? To get more doublings.
Your first year’s savings may take 7 years to double. That may be doubling from $1000 to $2000. Not much in the big picture of retirement, huh? But remember there’s another $1000 you saved the year after your first. And so it goes. Compounding takes effect and the total grows.
In ten years you might have$15,000. That $15,000 doubles in another 7 years plus any additional you added. By the second doubling you’ll start to see an effect.
So, here’s the kicker. By the time you actually are ready to retire say you have $500,000. That’s great but what if you had started 7 years earlier? Think about this. The answer is you’d have another doubling in the equation. That’s right, $1,000,000. The big One Million. Or an additional $500,000 in just seven years.
And to the point of this post. A mite population has a rule of 72 which can be calculated by it reproductive rate. What does that mean? It means that it isn’t the first doubling that kills the hive, it’s the last doubling. Now doesn’t this explain some things that seem unexplainable? Like sudden hive crashes and what appears to be abscondings? That last doubling is simply overwhelming. The viral load becomes unsurvivable. Of course the rule of 72 with mites in beehives has a limiting factor – the survivability of the bees.
For decades, scientists thought an excess of something special, a substance called royal jelly, elevated a regular honey bee larva to a queen. New research suggests we had it backward: It’s what future queens aren’t fed that matters.
Royal jelly, which also is called “bee milk,” looks like white snot. More than half of it is water, the rest is a combination of proteins and sugars. Special glands in the heads of worker bees secrete the stuff, which gets fed to babies.
A developing queen bee is fed royal jelly exclusively—not pollen and honey like her proletarian sisters. Some describe withholding royal jelly from worker bees as nutritional castration. These bees don’t get the special Food of the Gods. Or, perhaps, food of genetic monarchies. And so, we thought, their ovaries shrivel, and they don’t become a queen. Read more here.
Source: Gwen Pearson at www.wired.com
After reading about the Russian Scion last year I have been eager to make and employ one in my own bee yard. Having used swarm traps with great success I know that swarms can often be retrieved before flying off. However, sometimes issuing swarms choose high ranches or remain out of sight of the beekeeper. The scion adds another opportunity to the beekeeper prior to the swarm trap. Since I am home most days and walk my bee yard daily, hopefully I’ll be able to attract them to the easily retrievable scion, and hive them instead of relying on the traps which are also located on site. Below is a good post found on http://www.beesource.com posted by DocBB with some nice pictures:
I found a almost unknown device for us but which is of a common use in every Russian apiary is the “Scion” – (Привой и роевня)
It is a trap or a shelter to catch the swarm as early as possible without (may be) climbing trees.
Can you find it here on the plan?
There are many “designs” but it is commonly settled not far and in front of the hives entrances , one or several of them according to the size of the apiary
The traditional model is a 20-30 cm wide and 30-40 cm plank with one cleat fixed vertically in the middle , more or less rolled with burlap and coated with
alcoholic solution of propolis and flavoured with essential oils (lemongrass, etc.)
It seems to work !
and the use of one or more old frame is not forbidden
or an old propolised burlap
Yes, it really is National Popcorn Day!
5 cups Popped Popcorn
1/2 cup Honey
1/4 cup Sugar
1/2 tsp Sea Salt
1 tbsp Butter
(plus more butter for your hands)
- Place popped popcorn in a large bowl and set aside.
- In a large sauce pan, combine honey, sugar, salt and butter. Over medium heat, stirring frequently, bring the honey mixture to 275oF.
- Pour honey mixture evenly over popcorn and stir to coat with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula then set aside to cool enough to handle but still be pliable.
- Butter your hands and shape popcorn into 6 balls. Let them completely cool then eat. Eat lots and lots of them!
Makes 6 popcorn balls.
An article by the Northeast New Jersey Beekeepers Association
Note: All beekeeping is local. Here in South Carolina we are able to use syrups both longer and sooner than those in more northern climates. Adjust your use of according to your climate.
I had some help stirring some syrup today! This time of year you want to feed close to the cluster yet not introduce too much moisture into the hive. A 2:1 sugar to water mix is best.
To get it close to the colony you an feed above the cluster via a bucket placed overhead on top of the frames or a similar setup with a jar through the inner cover hole.
Source: Two Wonderful Podcasts
Winter is a quiet season for beekeepers, so what better time to make yourself a steaming mug of cocoa and settle down to two great podcasts about bees!
The first podcast is a public discussion held at LSE by the Forum for European Philosophy, titled Hive Minds: Collective Intelligence in Humans and Other Animals. The panelists are Christian List (philosopher, LSE), Elli Leadbeater (social insect biologist, Royal Holloway), and Larissa Conradt (evolutionary theorist, Max Planck Institute for Human Development).
Leadbeater opens the discussion brilliantly, asking us to picture a swarm of honey bees who have just left a hive. So now they are clustering on a tree branch, with about three days to find a new home before they run out of food. Scout bees fly off in all directions looking for nesting sites with certain desirable features – large but not too large, protected from the elements, free of ants, and so on. These bees fly back and report their findings through the famous waggle dance, and other scouts fly off to verify their findings. Gradually a consensus emerges. In this way, thousands of bees with no central decision-making authority prove to be surprisingly effective in choosing an optimal nest.
This paves the way to discuss broader questions, such as, is there collective intelligence in bees and other social insects? If so, what is the evidence for it, and what form does it take? Do we also find forms of collective intelligence in humans? And what can humans learn from bees about the best ways to make collective decisions? The discussion encompasses philosophical questions (the nature of intelligence), historical anecdotes (Galton’s ox) and current developments (Brexit, Donald Trump).
Source: Two Wonderful Podcasts
The queen cells had been torn down. A worker crawled out of a gaping hole in the side of a cell as I wondered who had given the order – a new queen or rebel workers? The old queen, Melissa, had disappeared in early June. Her last public appearance (to my mother) had been just before the May bank holiday. A week later she was mysteriously gone and a single, small queen cell on the middle of the frame – most likely an emergency cell or supersedure – had been left in her place.
It wouldn’t have been a surprise if the workers had decided to supersede the queen. She was going into her third year and had been struggling to build up the colony after winter. This may have been because the spring was wet and cold, although I had constantly fed and kept the hive clean and warm, or it may have been due to nosema, because both hives had some spotting on the entrance coming out of winter. However, both hives had been treated accordingly with good husbandry and any sign of disease had been very brief and long since passed.
All that being said, the fate of mine and Emily’s longest-standing colony had rested in a single, rather stunted, queen cell. It was like living on a knife edge for the next three weeks as I visited the apiary daily to feed the hives during a month of unsettled weather and patiently waited for the new queen to emerge and mate.
The June gap was very poor this year, in our area at least, and the feeders were drained dry of syrup each day with desperate tongues poking out below the rim at the bottom. On the last Monday in June the weather was fair for an inspection. Peppermint’s colony had been growing steadily stronger and the queen had been spotted and laying well. As all seemed fine in our larger hive, I decided to check the nuc colony first and find out whether Melissa’s heir had emerged.
The bees were content inside the nuc. They were purring. Kitten bees. I went forwards and backwards through the nuc to inspect each frame twice. The queen cell was gone, but there was no sign of a new queen or brood. Every frame was packed full of honey on both sides. If a new queen was present and if she had mated successfully, she had nowhere to lay. Frame by frame, I carefully moved the nuc colony into a full-sized hive then closed up and fed syrup to help the bees draw out fresh comb on the rest of the frames.
Peppermint’s colony was starting work on a super and I was proud of their progress after a slow start in spring. Going through the frames forwards and backwards, I couldn’t find the queen. The bees were as good as gold and shiny eggs at the bottom of cells suggested the presence of a queen at least three days ago. However, I did find four queen cells across two frames and one was still unsealed. A rainy Saturday had delayed an inspection till Monday – had I just missed Peppermint flying off in a swarm by a couple of days? I went forwards and backwards again through the frames in the hope of finding her and making an artificial swarm in the nuc that was now conveniently empty. The queen was nowhere to be found, although I could see the nest had doubled in size since my last visit a week ago. Perhaps it was supersedure despite Peppermint being a young queen in her second year? She too had been quite slow to build up the nest in spring.
Swarm or supersedure: there was little point in worrying about it as it wouldn’t change anything. I decided to take out a frame with two of the queen cells and put it into my other hive. This might help prevent further swarming, if this was the case, in Peppermint’s colony and it might possibly help Melissa’s colony, if queenless, to requeen.
The next day I went back to the apiary to see whether Melissa’s workers had accepted the queen cells. If Emily and I were to lose our longest line of queens then I wanted to know for sure. The cells had been torn down suggesting that Melissa had left an heir or that the workers hadn’t been queenless for long enough to accept the new queens. It can sometimes take a new queen almost a month or more to get into her stride. This had certainly been the case with Melissa after she emerged in summer of 2014. I had been patient with both hives since March and with the colonies only now getting on their feet, I could be patient a little longer.
It was a happy day in early July when I finally saw Melissa’s heir. A healthy patch of brood and eggs heralded her appearance when I saw her climbing across the comb. A long dark abdomen sprinkled in light gingery stars, she was very pretty. I couldn’t get a picture while holding the frame and so I put her carefully back inside the hive and closed up. After discussing with Emily, we decided to break the tradition of names inspired by essential oils and call the queen Patience because the bees had needed a lot of patience this year. And it seemed they would need to be patient a while longer.
The following Saturday my mum, Ronnie, came to help with the inspection and to take a picture of the new queen. I went slowly through the small hive – it wasn’t difficult as the nest was still only five to six frames strong – and couldn’t find the queen, which was disappointing with my mum poised to take a photo. We smoked and cleared the bees from each frame looking through the hive again, and still no Patience although I did see eggs, larvae and sealed brood. I closed up the hive.
Seven days later, yesterday in fact, I opened the hive again and this time found a cluster of queen cells in the middle of the frame. I was disappointed. The cells looked like emergency cells made and sealed very quickly, because they had certainly not been on the frames the week before. What had happened to Patience? How had she disappeared, or why had she failed, barely a month after she had emerged? I felt disappointed for my bees too. They had persevered to recover after spring and I had felt so pleased for them when I had seen Patience on the comb and the brood nest start to grow. But worrying would again change nothing. I let Thomas remove one of the queen cells at John Chapple’s request for a beginner’s hive which had gone queenless. I was glad at least to give one of our lovely line of queens to another hive.
Inside Peppermint’s hive all was well. This week I had a small gathering around the hive of familiar and new beekeepers. Peppermint’s heir was spotted climbing over a frame and I quickly caged her to do some manipulations to the hive, which included taking a frame of brood and a frame of honey to donate to Patience’s former colony. I hoped this would help to sustain the queenless colony while waiting for a new queen to emerge.
I could have marked the new queen, but I had just recovered from a small operation and was starting to feel like I had done enough beekeeping for the day. As I closed the hive, I decided to pass on Patience’s name to Peppermint’s daughter. It is too good a name to waste and it seems both myself and the bees will need a little more patience before the hives can be ready for winter.
Inbetween hive inspections there has on occasion been time for cake for both beekeepers…
… and bees.
I’ve enjoyed every moment spent with my bees in spite of the challenges this season, though I’ve spent less time blogging about the bees in favour of spending time in the garden. That’s a story for another post.
Source: Honey, I’m Home
It’s no mystery that, at the age of 49, Sherlock Holmes retired to the Sussex Downs, gave up being a detective, and devoted himself to beekeeping. What we don’t know is what he did with all that honey?
The enigmatic Mr. Holmes is unlikely to ever divulge the answer, though he did let slip some of it went in little pots to the house of Dr. Watson, as Christmas presents for the doctor and his wife. Sherlock himself was surprised to learn that honey can be used as a form of expression. Dorian Gray told Holmes about the artist Blake Little and his most unusual photographs, taken between the years 2012 and 2014. Mr. Little, a portrait photographer, used over 4,000 pounds of honey, drenching his subjects–including a dog–with the golden elixir then capturing their images forever. All of these delicious photographs, which have been compared to primordial beings trapped in amber, can be seen in Little’s book Preservation.
Sherlock is a bit dumbfounded by the waste of it all. In his day one ate honey on scones, and was grateful for it. Ought the product of the industrious bee wind up exploited in such a decadent manner? Is this art or mere frivolity? And exactly how long does it take to wash all that honey out of one’s hair?
Source: Honey, I’m Home
I found this interesting. She says many things that I say to new beekeepers – listen to and watch your bees. They’ll tell you when they’re not happy! The frame pictures are excellent and well worth a look at from a healthy honey bee perspective.
It’s quite long at 44 minutes, but worth a watch!
When it comes to the current bee crisis, artist Matthew Willey sees the writing on the wall – and has chosen to paint over it. “I want to put bees in the front of everyone’s mind” the North Carolina-based artist says. He has committed to personally paint 50,000 honeybees – the number necessary for a healthy hive – on the walls of communities across America.
“As an artist I figured I could take these small, misunderstood creatures and paint them really big so people will notice them,” says Willey.
His initiative, called The Good of the Hive, uses art to highlight amazing honey bee behaviors and their connection with humans, all while raising awareness about the current honey bee struggle.”We need them, it’s not a maybe.” Willey says.
The artist was inspired by a honey bee that had flown into his NY apartment last fall. “It was moving really slowly, like it was sick,” says Willey. When the honey bee died a few hours later, he turned to google for answers.
Bees live in highly organized colonies, each with an important task. When feel they cannot perform said tasks, due to age or health, they exit the hive and do not return. “I think this behavior is amazing” Willey says, “When they feel sick, they’ll remove themselves for the good of the hive.”
This explains the phenomena of colony collapse, the mass disappearance of bees from their hives. Where typically a handful of bees would regularly leave a hive in this fashion, now thousands are, and the entire colony is left defunct. With no signs of slowing down, it’s raising red flags for the beekeeping industry and the global economy it supports.
Willey paints with the same dedication the honey bee brings to it’s hive. He understands the power an individual holds. His murals generate buzz, which ultimately lead to conversation and education about an issue that affects everyone. “We’re all connected” he says.
Willey has been shown overwhelming support for his efforts from coast to coast. His nationwide-hive “flies” along on the walls of an apartment building in Washington, elementary school in North Carolina, and on the brick facade of the Burt’s Bees headquarters. His most recent bees are painted on the blank canvas of a truck cargo trailer – you might even see it on the road. “Bees are in every community,” Willey says, “so that is where I am going to paint them.”
Stay up to date with Matthew Willey and The Good of the Hive community on Facebook and Instagram. Followers can expect to see day to day progress on his current projects, and be the first to know where he’ll swarm off to next.
Departing from the nuts and bolts of beekeeping, today’s post asks the reader to insert his or her own thoughts on the matter of beekeeping as an art, science, or both.
I came across this article while brainstorming some approaches to teaching newcomers to the world or beekeeping. I’ll leave my thoughts out of the matter for now and simply say the student may need to be cognizant to the approach taken in their instruction.
Accepting What Is
As the association Secretary I get lots of email and often it involves a request from non members wanting to get involved in beekeeping. They’ve done their homework which, mostly, has consisted of surfing Facebook and Youtube. They’ve asked lots of people how to best get started in beekeeping. After polling the answers they start to see two particular suggestions rising to the top: 1) Join your local association and 2) get a mentor. From there they deduce that they can most likely accomplish both by sending an email to the local association asking for a mentor to help them get started.
I have a very nice, polite email I send back moving them in the right direction to accomplish both getting them in contact with experienced beekeepers and a course of action to increase their likelihood of success.
As beekeepers here know, it takes numbers to be successful. If you don’t believe me make a split with insufficient nurse bees or capped brood. Timing is essential as well, start a task at the proper time and all goes easily. Success with a swarm in early April is a piece of cake; success with a swarm in August is difficult. And so it is with folks not yet knowledgeable of the mechanics of beekeeping. They want bees and a mentor not knowing the amount of effort it will take nor the proper timing in order to increase the chance of success that first year.
You too will get inquiries from friends and people you come in contact with once they know you are a beekeeper. Be prepared to help them get off to a realistic start if you want them to be successful. And that’s what it’s really about isn’t it? One hundred new beekeepers joining the association is great but not so impressive if half fail their first season because they had unrealistic expectations.
Let’s look at the “getting a mentor” concern. The old school model of getting a mentor went something like this: The mentee sought out a mentor and agreed to spend the first year helping the mentor in the mentor’s bee yard. The mentee would show up at an agreed on day and time and look over the shoulder of the mentor as he went through his hives, talking as he did so. Watch, listen, learn. Move boxes as needed and help the mentor as the tasks necessitated. This would go on for a season and the next Spring the mentor would make a split and give it to the mentee to take care of at the mentor’s yard. The mentee would work his new hive and the mentor would look over his shoulder to make sure he didn’t make any mistakes and was able to correctly comment on what he was seeing and the correct action to take. At the end of that season the mentee took his hive home and became a beekeeper.
Somewhere along the way we have deviated from this model. Now we take new comers into the hobby, put them through a 20 hour course and expect them to survive. It’s like making an early March split – risky. Nowadays the mentee wants the mentor to make visits to the mentee’s yard for instruction. And inasmuch as the clubs and associations have promoted getting the newcomers’ bees perhaps that seems reasonable to take some responsibility for assisting with issues that will naturally come up.
If we are going to move to a new model then perhaps we need to clarify and revise some terms. As it now stands we’re mixing and matching old school and new school. The new beekeeper wants a mentor, bees, and instruction. That’s reasonable. The problem is one of numbers though (remember that early Spring Splits analogy?). Most clubs can’t provide a 1:1 mentor for 100 new beekeepers every year nor should anyone expect mentors to volunteer to run around town visiting mentees weekly. So we must marry the expectations of the new beekeeper and the club acting as mentor. Each side gives and gets a bit and both walk away with more.
We do that by returning to the old school model whereby the mentee gets his/her education by visiting the mentor, but no longer at the mentor’s beeyard nor by a single mentor. The new model has the mentee visiting many mentors at events like 1) monthly meetings, 2) local educational events, 3) dinner before meetings, 4) online discussion groups 5) State Conferences, 6) connecting through fellowship with bee buddies, community outreach, etc. The list goes on… The mentee that wants to learn this art, like historically, has the resources offered and available and they go to learn – as before. The club or association organizes monthly meetings, presentations, events, newsletters, club library, allows for face to face fellowship time monthly, and online discussion groups. All things considered, the new beekeeper has more opportunity nowadays to gather knowledge than they used to with the old school model AND they get their bees their first year.
If you’ve suffered through my ruminations this far, I commend your endurance. I gave two similar presentations at this year’s state conference. I encourage the new beekeeper to take advantage of what is. There are multiple opportunities available to new beekeepers – more than enough to succeed. I also push the concept of bee buddies and fellowship for those that need a 1:1 relationship. Occasionally I hear someone complain about not having a 1:1 mentor for more personal, individual instruction as they had hoped. That’s unfortunate because they are cheating themselves out of the good of what is while wasting time wishing for the unlikelihood of what they envisioned. The fact of the matter is they have a room full of mentors at every meeting, at every gathering, at every conference. My mom used to say, “Go do the very best you can with what you’re offered. You do everything You can and You’ll succeed.” Mom was smart at marrying “what is” with success.
One of the first things that will present itself to us in the spring (actually late, late winter) is swarms. And they are great fun too (unless they are your bees). There are many ways to capture swarms such as trapping and climbing ladders. But one device I have learned to appreciate more than any other for getting me up where I need to be is the extendable pole bucket swarm catcher. A couple years ago we featured an article in our local bee association newsletter and linked to this blog which has some nice pictures. I made mine after seeing someone else’s and they aren’t difficult to build using an old bucket and a painter’s pole. Oh, the reason I’m posting this today is because this is a great winter project and one you don’t want to be wishing you had built when you see that swarm hanging in a tree.
It is time for the much-anticipated annual post on my plans for the coming year. I did one for 2016, so this will be my second such post.
There is a difference between knowing something and experiencing something, perhaps theory versus practice. Agriculture, including livestock, is seasonal. There is a time for planting, a time to feed the cows hay, a time to keep the horses in the barn overnight, and a time for all the other activities that happen around a farm. We know this.
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To a carpenter with a hammer everything is a nail. And so it is with me. Registered Nurse with close to 30 years of inpatient hospital unit management, a few graduate level Public Health courses, and 60 years of observation. And so everything looks like a health care management problem (well not everything). Anyway, I thought I’d preface the following comments with a… warning that this is just my perspective.
There is a beekeeping saying, “Take your losses in the Fall.” That doesn’t necessarily mean let them die. I think it means combine hives as needed. The economist in us tries to take the least hit possible and combine all of the weaker hives thus at least salvaging one hive out of the mess. My limited experience has been that combining 2 or even 3 weak colonies in the fall still results in a loss. Better to add each of them to a strong hive and take the hive numbers hit right then in the fall. But from a public health or infectious disease standpoint how can we do this safely? If the queen is simply weak that’s one thing, but if an infectious agent or Varroa is the issue you may be causing yourself more anguish by combining an infected hive with a good strong colony. For example, if you were in a hospital room how would you like it if the person in the next bed was being admitted because he/she was weak with an infectious disease? Hey, anyone want to share a room with a TB patient? Back to beekeeping… My beekeeping answer is to treat first, pinch the queen, then combine them and even then only if I suspected they were not sick. If they appeared to have succumbed to an infection and are in steep decline then I wouldn’t add those sick bees to another hive, period.
I got to the point of cringing with every Varroa lecture at conferences. But somewhere along the way after looking at the evidence left in combs, hives, and other symptoms I became convinced of a few things. Varroa explains most of the unexplainable in most cases. I think successful beekeepers treat early and often. Now, if a hive crashes, I suspect Varroa first. Yeah, maybe they absconded but it was probably secondary to Varroa infestation. Maybe they were robbed but it was probably after they became weak and crashed due to Varroa. I believe Varroa to be the primary cause in most cases. The other events are secondary but that’s what we can see so that’s what we believe happened. We humans are visually oriented to a fault.
But how does it happen so fast you may ask? Ever worked on a hospital ward or lived in a dormitory type housing situation where a flu outbreak occured? How many sick individuals did you see prior to the epidemic putting everyone in the bed with symptoms? Probably just a few. That’s how it happens. A few sick individuals carrying a potent virus and BAM! Overnight everyone is vomiting with fever and diarrhea. The viri take over and, in the case of bees, a seemingly healthy colony crashes suddenly and we find ourselves perplexed. But why are we perplexed, have we not seen the flu virus in humans close schools? Or cruise ships turn around to return to port after a sudden virus puts all of the occupants in their cabins too sick to continue. Have we been too long without a world plague to have forgotten the infectious disease process?
If you’ve ever read a death certificate it states cause of death. It also allows the physician to state medical factors affecting death. So, cause of death may say “esophageal hemorrhage” but the medical factors might state, “chronic alcoholism.” And so it is with Varroa. Cause of death is “robbing post abscond” while the chronic illness would be listed as “Parasitic Mite Syndrome with high virus loading.”
Moving on, so when a colony crashes and robbers come in to clean up the honey guess who takes home something they didn’t ask for? Your other colonies, that’s who. Once the robbing starts the Varroa get distributed among the other hives.
First, in my opinion, don’t get into beekeeping if you’re not willing to treat for Varroa. But then, that’s me. I also take my kids to the doctor when they are sick and don’t let my dogs walk around with ticks in the hope they build a resistance. If you want to be treatment free at least give the bees a chance and buy property 5 miles away from the next closest beekeeper and get clean bees to start. Do your splits, queen caging, small cell, and sugar shakes and have fun.
Me? I’m going to treat them early and often after a preseason mite level assessment to establish a baseline. As a primary offense to prevent outbreaks, I’m going to treat every spring before honey supers go on the hives. Then I’ll do a series of 3 weekly OA treatments in June after pulling supers. In the summer or fall if a colony starts to weaken I’m going to treat that single hive. If a hive fails and gets robbed everyone gets a treatment. During December broodlessness everyone gets a single vaporization or dribble. Treatment methods will be primarily OA but I will replace one of the above with a different method. That’s the two pronged plan of 1) Primary preventative treatment and 2) Aggressive Secondary post infection treatments.
Hey, look at your hands right now. How many bacteria and viri do you see? Count them. You can’t but if you get sick you may have wished you had washed your hands a little more frequently.
It’s viri spread by Varroa killing our bees. You don’t see the viri, rarely see the mites that spread the viri, and frequently don’t see the symptoms until it’s too late.
Picture above credit to: Bee Somebody blog.
Beekeepers are frequently asked about honey crystalizing, what it means, if it affects the quality, and what can be done to prevent it, and can it be reversed. The short answers are: It simply means the sugars in the honey have come out of the liquid state and formed crystals. Honey is a product of the nectar of flowers which vary in their ratios of types of sugars. Nectars with high glucose to fructose ratios tend to crystalize quickly. Here in South Carolina cotton honey is often sought after however it crystalizes quickly, sometimes in just a couple months. Tupelo, on the other hand, may last years. Regarding quality, crystallization is not a reflection on quality one way or the other. In some countries crystalized honey is sought after and used as a spread. Crystallization is simply a process that occurs based on the ratio of sugars in the honey. To prevent or delay crystallization keep honey at room temperature or in a cupboard. Never keep honey in the refrigerator which is close to the ideal temperature to promote crystallization. Finally, to reverse crystallization, simply place your jar of crystalized honey in a pan of warm water. The warming process should be a gentle and patient warming. I tell people to do this at night just prior to going to bed and they will wake up to a jar of liquid honey ready for use at their breakfast table. Never rush the process or attempt microwaving the honey or enzymes and other healthy properties are destroyed, or worse, plastic bottles can melt and contaminate your precious honey.
More information can be from found on the web page Benefits of Honey.
When I was much younger, my brother and I visited a world-renowned bee breeder who produced thousands of queens every spring. I don’t remember much about that trip to the north-Florida panhandle where every town had some elegant white clapboard homes shaded by mossy live oaks. The place was steamy and humid. Bee season was almost over for the year. I don’t remember the five-hour drive to see the beekeeper or the way he greeted us. But there is one thing that stood out on the visit.
Even Humpty had his moments.
The north-Florida queen breeder reached for a basket that held a half-dozen caged queens, knocked over a smoker, and dropped the queens. The reason that this stood out for me is easy to explain. Queen rearing is a very fine craft, requires great dexterity, and insists upon smooth gentle motions. It’s a very precise job, demanding keen observation…
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