Introduction:

BEEKEEPING IN THE NORTHEAST - An account of my beekeeping, not a treatise of expertise, but for friends & family who wish to keep bees vicariously through me, and for the occasional apiarist passer-by.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Weather Permitting

Well, there was at least 5 inches ice on the duck pond and what do you know, we woke up to 50 F on the porch yesterday morning!

All the bees were flying...some more than others. I'm not sure if I may have been seeing some robbing going on in the back yard hive as there was so much sugar on the porch step to the upper entrance when all the excitement calmed down.

I went out to the hay field and both hives still seem to have some life, but just a few bees were trying to get in and out amidst the those that had lived out their existence and begun to clutter the floor.

I removed the mouse guards and swept out what bees I could reach to make coming and going a little easier.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Fall Beekeeping

Camera on the fritz...propolis and honey finally got to it.

No fall honey harvest. 

I tried to "help the bees" not "fight the bees" and am trusting they know what they need the hive to be for winter. 



I left the Hive Deep and the two supers in place where they had sealed them up very well. I replaced the cleaned out honey super from on top of two of the hives with my insulation super; one hive, however, had filled the frames from the honey extraction with mostly goldenrod pollen so I left it and used an 8 frame slatted rack to hold my insulation instead of a super since I'm out now of 8 frame boxes.

Mouse guards went on October 2nd. Mice started showing up in our house the day after. Good timing.

The girls were throwing the boys out! It was like watching a couple of bouncers hoisting a drunk cowboy out of a saloon. 

This is not my video but is a good one from another beekeeper.

I made lots of notes and drawings in my bee journal.

PINE NEEDLE INSULATION
 
I made baskets out of 1/4 inch hardware cloth to slide into a super and rest on some nails I put there. It was easy...just cut slits at the corners as shown and bend into a basket.


This basket holds my newly collected pine needles from the local woods as insulation and moisture absorption on the top of the hive inner cover. 

I banged it out to get rid of any falling debris, but I noticed still a few days later there was a lot of debris that fell through to the ground through the screened bottom board.

Sugar: Michael Bush's book suggested using sugar as a back up feed because the bees will eat, not store it. 

These hives seem to have plenty of honey and pollen stores for winter but last spring was so devastating even though I did not harvest any honey at least one hive died of starvation while it was in my power to feed them through the worst of spring.

So I sprinkled white cane sugar on top of the inner covers.



Still in conflict about whether to seal up the screened bottom board or leave it open. 

The bees had propolized so well the entrance reducer that I decided to leave it on and put the mouse guard - also hardware cloth - over it on my two roadside hives. 

My backyard hive mouseguard is properly installed.



 


Still need to do some sort of wind guard. Do not want to do hay bails again...messy and too much of a chance for mice and moisture. 

Will not wrap the hives this year....

Monday, August 27, 2012

Honey Harvest

My girls came through....5 gallons and I only pulled about 1/8 of what i saw capped! Pretty amazing experience.

A long time beekeeping friend who has stopped for awhile to pursue other talents, lent us her old extractor. We had a bit of a time putting it together but it turned out so well in the end.

Nice to save an old machine from the dump.

Pulled four medium frames from a honey super on top of my 10 frame hive in our garden.

Pulled three shallow frames each from honey supers on top of two hives on the hayfield.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Annual Organic Beekeeping Conference


I went with a beekeeping-friend to an Organic Beekeeping workshop… in Leominster, Massachusetts. It was quite something and we stayed in a nice hotel but for some reason I couldn’t wait to get home. Long drive to Massachusetts and a very intense workshop, but very loosely organized. It was hard to tell who was in charge or what the agenda was with no handouts, however they did an amazing job of pulling together an eclectic group of beekeepers who had gone treatment free and were having no big issues with mites or bee disease. I’ve been to every seminar NH has had in my four years as a BK but never heard such things spoken about the way they did. It was remarkably refreshing. It turns out Beekeeping has become a very controversial subject and most of what I have learned from NHBA has been a different view. The conference went all week but we could only do this workshop and it is possible that ducking in on this two day part of the event in the middle of the week is why we felt so out of the loop on what was happening.

It was information overload – so new and intense - and I have a whole new direction to go to in my reading, but it is closer to my heart and instinct than what I’ve been taught. Like, why do folks smoke the heck out of their bees? I learned I usually don’t need to at all only because I could never get the stupid thing lit! The bees were always so gentle anyway that I’ve gotten this far without. It just helps to sort of move them out of the way gently so you don’t crush them when putting the hive back together. None of these guys blow smoke in their hives like I’ve been taught. I guess the more aggressive bees in the south may be another story.

People came from Montana, Colorado, NY. There was even a child beekeeper…very cute. That was another thing…the attendees were very interesting and had enough experience to ask great questions. No question was sidelined, but thoroughly explored, unlike my NHBA meetings that avoid controversial subjects, like not using any chemicals at all, even miticides for varroa or fungicides on their crops, or herbicides through our state forest where lumbering is happening. At those meetings a state expert told us to register our hives so we’ll be notified when a new insect was requiring a new chemical spray. When asked why spray when even a non-scientist can tell you it is not a long term solution – the questioner was treated like an enemy to farmers. All these things contaminate honey and wax and damage or kill the intestinal microbes in the bees and corrupt their ability to function properly and feed the new baby bees nutritiously – not to mention creating an increased inability to dependably pollinate our crops, if at all.

Four experts conducted our workshop and all of them let their bees draw their own comb rather than supply them with a base of wax:

From New Mexico's Les Crowder, Michael Bush, Nebraska author …AN ACTIVE, EXPERIENCED NORTHERN CLIMATE BEEKEEPER AT LAST! Eye opening logical methods to keeping bees free of pesticides and chemicals – turns out the starter wax we all buy has been testing positive for many other chemicals. Yikes! He’s written some marvelous books, but offers the info all for free on his website at http://www.bushfarms.com. Sam Comfort of NY and Florida; and Dean Stiglitz and Laurie Herboldsheimer of Massachusetts.

Thanks to their example and others on the case, there is hope for the honey bee and the future of our lands to continue to produce our valuable foods.



Monday, July 2, 2012

Adding Supers

July 1st, Sunday, I spent the day preparing all I would need to add a super on each of the hives. Shallows, except for a medium 10 frame on my backyard hive that is much deserving. Funny, they are in the most shade of all and seem to be the most robust hive.

I wrote in my bee journal the details but basically it was just routine, with this exception: The stream-side hive was creating some sort of rope of bees from the top of the hive lid, through the empty shallow I use for placing feed, and attaching themselves to the inner cover. When I took off the lid, they dropped in a plop to the grass. I did not see any evidence of the queen and they had not built up any wax on the lid...however, when I went back to pick up the hive pieces I'd left out so the bees could find their own way home, there was one single bee left and actually stuck with propolis to the lid! Was this on purpose? What were they doing? They almost looked like a swarm but too small. It took a long time for them to get out of the grass and move on. - I realize now after going to the organic beekeeping conference that the bees were building their own comb. There was a natural start to this on the inner cover at the end of the rope and pollen was already stored in it. They were telling me it was time for a super. In the future I will try letting them draw their own comb.

The middle hive was again not very robust. I could have left the super off but a nectar flow is on....none of the hives ate the syrup I left a few days ago...and just thought I'd error on the prudent side. I'll go in and take a good look in a week or two.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Feed The Bees

June 1st as recorded below

June 5th All bees ate all their syrup

June 8th All bees ate all....

June 11 evening feeding....Cold front coming, Rain. Center 10 frame hive did not touch the syrup. All other hives ate all.

June 17 Sunday - Some swarming type activity at the backyard 10 frame hive but too early for there to be a change over?? All ate all syrup. Beautiful sunny days but cool weather.

June 27th Ten days...but nice weather. All bees ate all....8 frame hives are bubbling up but was seeing them at 8 in the evening last night. One bee landed on me full of pollen...at 8pm! Getting dark about 8:15...sun up about 4:30 but days will get shorter now. Next time I go in I'll add a super.

July 1st - 3.5 days - bees did not seem to touch the syrup. See next post for super tasks done.

I think it rained when the apple blossoms were in bloom so maybe not a good crop this fall. The wildflowers are just now all coming into bloom...all hives bringing in a lot of pollen when they can dodge the raindrops.

They've been at the hummingbird feeder and hanging on the kayak clothing that was not rinsed well from salt water.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Counting Bees & Feeding - June 1, 2012

June 1st 2012 -

Several days of rain predicted so I went out this evening to visit all four hives and filled their feeders. 1 to 1 sugar water with Pro Health essential oils. Did not make the usual bee-tea recipe found in my other posts as there was not time. I found I could heat some water, four cups, and before it boiled combined with four cups white sugar, Domino, and it was cool enough by then to add the essential oils. By the time I took the pitcher out to the hives it was room temp.

Backyard hive downed a 1 quart bag o' syrup in five days since the first fill.

A colony of ants had moved into the top hiding under a piece of wood I used to hold the original box's feed can. Took it out and sent them scurrying. Sorry, anties.

Ferncroft hive 10 frame did not finish 8oz in that time. This hive also did not finish the can that came with the box o' bees.

2 Ferncroft 8 frame hives finished 8oz each.

I suspect I still have the original 10,000 or so bees and that the new bees are beginning to come out of their cells to the count of about 1,000 to 1,500 per day. Soon the original bees will die off then numbers will climb to, I guess, about 60,000 or so. I'm keeping the feeding on until I can judge whether to add a shallow super. I figure this will be in mid June.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Friday, May 18, 2012

Spring Activities 2012

Reviewing this book for my spring bee count. I have four thriving hives all happily bringing in pollen from the wonderful assortment spring brings to our neck of the woods. My goldenrod hive is rather small, but all are bustling. This is the first time I've ever purchased package bees...all Italian...and will never do it again! What a traumatic experience for me and the bees! Maybe because I've always enjoyed from the beginning the gentle transition from nuc to hive.

I started the season helping out at the Forest & Farm Fair booth for the NH Beekeepers Association. It is always so much fun to talk to other beekeepers. We are a humble lot....knowing the longer you keep bees the more there is to learn. I learned there about a Bee School course I had to take so all this activity was accomplished before a family spring trip, my first time abroad. The week after I returned it was time to pick up the bees and the timing for our particular area was perfect: 1st week of may. The dandelions had hardly shown themselves and now, May 18, they are in full bloom for my girls.

  • Bees installed May 4th 2012 - about 10,000 bees. Should take 21 - 25 days for new brood to start their lives.
  • Orientation flights start as their duties take them toward the entrance...maybe two weeks.
  • Queen lays 1,000 to start to 2,000 a day as she matures. Then maybe 1,000 new bees a day as the original bees die off.

That's ten days for a new 10,000 bees so should not see much increase until after the 10th day....then they should be bubbling out the hive. A super shallow frame can hold about 1,900 bees per side so maybe about 3,000 brood on each hive deep frame? Need to work on my math skills.....but exciting to anticipate are the newbies....or new bees.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Looking Back on lost hive

I looked at my photos from November 2011 and the evidence of sugar fondant I provided the hive that died this February 2012. Could they have starved? I fed in November and their were five frames of honey in the hive. Perhaps they fed themselves into a corner...but I think the queen must have died.

Perhaps I let them down, but their work will not go to waste. The comb fortifications they labored all last season to build will start another hive off with a boost in the spring; the beautifully molded octagon cells will house brood from a new queen, nectar from a fresh harvest, pollen for future generations…and their healing honey has already flowed on our home made bread. Normally you don't reuse comb and honey from a dead hive, but I hear this advise and see my neighbor beekeeper use nothing but and her hives thrive...so I'll learn for my self this year.

Left: November Feeding Right: February Dead

February Feeding

A lament - from a poem The Bee by C. B. Langston:

"No idle, vain, voluptuous life,
Nor one of useless toil and strife,
The busy creature led;
Active, loyal, clever, brave,
A patriot free, not crouching slave,
She earned her daily bread."


We still have six inches of ice and snow so I've put off checking on the hives until Feb 16th. I've lost at least one: The 8 frame Canadians, Fuchsia hive on Ferncroft. They were in a nest up at the top on several frames with honey stored here and there on at least five frames. No wing deformities. All bees very furry and complete specimens of healthy bees...just all dead to the last one.


No brood or evidence of a laying queen. She may have normally started laying in late January. These are cold weather bees so I have to think that the queen died and they muddled through this far into winter alone.


The other Canadian hive in my backyard seems fine. Also 8 frames, also at the top and feeding on a new batch of fondant.

The Italians are no where to be seen on top but I believe I heard them down in there.

No evidence of mice except a little path made to clean up the bees at the entrance of the mouse guard. Not bad as with the ice build up on the front of the hives this has opened up some circulating air for them. Considering we are in an area heavily populated by field vermin of every kind, and the hives themselves are packed around with hay bails...I'd say that hardware cloth mouse guard is doing its job.


I didn't take a picture of the mouse path....this is after I chipped the snow away.

All hives were dry on top...the pine needles stapled into burlap on the homasote board did their job.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Winter Reading - The Honey Trail

I've been enjoying the book "The Honey Trail" by Grace Pundyk, an Australian author who traveled around the world looking for the source of the honey on our supermarket shelves. She has a way of taking you right along with her from the jungles of Borneo to a boardroom in China...it is fascinating informative reading. I had to stop reading now and then to give in to the feeling I should be joining her in a spoonful of honey or a cup of honey sweetened tea along the way.

A question was posted here about where I had learned that High Fructose Corn Syrup is bad for bees. HFC is spoken about in this book as a byproduct of GM or Genetically Modified mono crops, in this case Corn. The systemic pesticides in GM corn not only effects the honey bee that forages on it, but also carries over into HFC products. Commercial beekeepers routinely use HFC to feed bees. It is one of the highest probable causes of Honey Bee troubles. The largest colony losses are found in bees foraging on GM crops. Of course, there are many man made factors influencing the demise of honey bees around the world. I had no idea what big business Honey is. Pundyk does a great job of explaining it all to the honey lover in all of us.

The Honey Trail by Grace Pundyk