Monday, April 25, 2016

What Is Going On In Maria's Apiary: More Equalizing and Getting Ready for Splits

Bees are boiling over the sides while equalizing the brood
The queen bee, doing her best to populate the brood nest
As I mentioned last week, there are many ways to make sure that your honey bee hives are of the same strength. The easiest way is to switch the place of a weak hive with that of a strong one. Another technique is to equalize brood.

This weekend, I equalized brood. My goal was twofold:

  • I wanted to make sure that all the hives will have similarly sized population of foragers for the honey flow. 
  • I wanted to use the "extra" frames of brood for my splits this coming Wednesday.

To make sure that I have adequate workforce to make the best of the honey flow, I would like to see 6 frames of brood in each hive. Since I kept equalizing the foragers in the prior weeks, all my hives had their 6 frames of brood. In fact, six of them had anywhere from 2-4 extra brood frames. Perfect for my splits.

One of the most time consuming parts in making a split is making sure I don't transfer the queen by accident. I kept my eye out for her when rearranging the brood frames and got extremely lucky - I was able to spot her in every hive. A quick shake is all it took to make sure she's in the bottom brood chamber and under the queen excluder. The extra brood frames went on top of the excluder, so all I have to do on Wednesday is to grab the top brood box, put it on its own bottom board and place the new queen.




Monday, April 18, 2016

What Is Going On In Maria's Apiary: Equalizing

Quick expansion into the second brood box already
More brood
Of course, we have to have a Queen picture
Overwintered hives are a force to consider in the Spring. They build up fast and furious. Despite a week of snow and freezing temperatures that caught them in the middle of their Spring build-up, they already have anywhere from 4-6 frames of brood in the second brood box and the bottom brood box is packed. Drones are already emerging.

As a beekeeper, my job is to pace them until our main flow arrives in mid June. Since it is early, I still equalize by switching the places of the strongest and weakest hives. In this way, the foragers from the stronger hive pad out the population of the weakest. The goal is to have all the hives as even as possible, so the manipulations can be done at the same time. Of course, a good record keeping system is a must - you don't want to propagate a hive that is lagging behind.

Next week, I will equalize the brood frames between the hives. It takes 42 days to raise a forager. The brood that is raised now is going to be collecting the honey harvest.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

What Is Going On In Maria's Apiary: Spring Cleanup

It is a wonderful feeling to pop off the covers
and find a strong honey bee hive

Hives are strong and ready to go.
Strong hives in early Spring are both a delightful surprise and an incredible challenge. You have the promise of a wonderful honey crop, provided you can keep the bees in their boxes.

Every Spring, I am reminded how close to the edge honey bees overwinter. At the start of the Maple flow, the honey bee cluster is usually pushing at the inner lid. I like to check their status at the first break in the weather.

Last year's May splits and packages had around 4 honey frames left each. There was one exception - one hive had a full second brood box. Of course, I checkerboarded that one. I am also going to keep it in mind as a possible candidate for queen breeder.

The splits that I made in July had at most 1 frame of honey left and were making the best of the candy boards that I put on in the Fall.

I reversed the boxes on the rest of them, made sure each hive had at least 2 capped honey frames and plenty of candy board left and added fresh patties. I also swapped the weakest and the strongest hive positions in order to equalize the populations.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

What Is Going On In Maria's Apiary: Time for Pollen Patties

One of my July splits after driving the bees down
to make space for the pollen patty
I checked the hives and added pollen patties on 3/8/2016. The honey bee hives are looking great. The clusters are good and I have 9 out of 9 hives make it through the winter.

This weekend is going to be time for housekeeping in the apiary. Time to clean the bottom boards and reverse the boxes. Looks like Spring time is here :D

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Winter Bee Mites Treatment - Oxalic Acid Dribble


Varroa mite on a nurse bee
Warm winters are hard on honey bee hives. Instead of staying clustered, honey bees send out foragers any time the weather is warm enough for flight. This reduces the life span of the winter bees and quickly uses up colony resources. The colony might end up raising brood well into late fall and winter to replace foragers.

A prolonged and mild winter can play havoc with the varroa mite numbers within a honey bee colony.

The last few winters in Northwest Ohio came hard and fast. We did not get a reprieve until Spring time. This year, I had the perfect opportunity to try Randy Oliver's (Scientific Beekeeping) recommended winter mite treatment - an oxalic acid dribble.

I read through his power point presentation. Then I used the Oxalic Acid Treatment Table and made the 1 L batch that treats about 20 colonies. I used a handheld 2 gallon sprayer
(shown on left).
Handheld sprayer for bee mite treatment -
oxalic acid dribble

At the lowest setting, my sprayer dispenses about 2.5 ml per "pass". I made 2 passes per seam of bees. I also did not treat with more than 50 ml per hive, since Randy mentioned in his presentation that Europeans recommend not applying more than that due to the colder and longer winters.

It took us about 1 hour to treat 9 hives. We should be able to see the effect in the Spring.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Changes to my Candy Board Recipe for Winter Feeding

Modified bee candy board with a diagonal rib
to stabilize the sugar block
It is the time of the year when I like to make sure my honey bee hives have plenty of resources for the winter. Even though I check their resources continually through the late summer, this time of the year I provide insurance in the form of sugar blocks.

In past years, I was able to put the blocks on in late October or early November. This year, in part due to El Nino, flying weather is extending well into December. In fact, next week still has highs well into the 50s and 60s. Yep, it is still flying weather even though it is December.

Sugar blocks are a little bit tricky to put on in this kind of weather. I want the bees to think of them as surplus and not as “flow”. For that purpose, this year I am skipping the pollen/patty part of my recipe. I am also adding a diagonal “rib” to my sugar block board that will stabilize the sugar block and prevent it from crumbling due to the temperature swings. You can see the “rib” on the picture.

Finally, in order to make the sugar brick harder, I reduced the sugar in the final phase of the quick-set method from 15 lbs. to 10 lbs. It makes the mixture set slower and as a result, the brick is more uniform.

Here is my updated recipe (original recipe is here):

Candy Board Recipe for Winter Feeding 


Equipment needed:

  • Pot (I use a 21.5 quarts canning pot)
  • Drill with metal plaster stirrer attachment (optional UNLESS you use the quick-set method)
  • Cooking or candy thermometer
  • Scale
  • Gloves
  • Bee candy board forms | bee fondant forms
  • A wooden spoon | spatula to fill the forms and pat the mixture into shape

Ingredients needed:

  • 4 parts by weight sugar (I start with 15 lbs.)
  • 1 part by weight water (3 lbs. and 12 oz.)
  • 1/4 tsp. vinegar for each pound of sugar (1 Tbsp. and 3/4 tsp.)
  • Additional ingredients for the quick-set method:
  • 2 2/3 parts by weight sugar (I use 10 lbs.)


Preparation

  1. Mix together 4 parts sugar, 1 part water and the vinegar into the pot and set it on high.
  2. Once the mixture starts boiling, start checking the temperature. We are aiming for the soft-ball candy stage or 242F.
  3. You are done once the mixture reaches 242F. Turn off the heat. The mixture is ready to pour when it cools down to about 180F.
  4. If you don't want to wait, you can proceed with the quick-set method:
  5. Make sure you have your power stirrer, your spoon | spatula, your forms, your gloves and the extra sugar set out.
  6. Dump the extra sugar into the mixture, mix it thoroughly and let it cook for about a minute. Spread it into the forms. 

Friday, May 8, 2015

Spring Splits | Splitting Beehives | Kids in the Apiary

Splitting is so fun!
Early splits can be especially nerve-wrecking - you need to order your queen bees months in advance and hope for nice weather to put them in. Miraculously, this past week has been wonderful for making early splits. Lows were in the high 50s and the highs are touching 80s. Apples just started blooming on Monday and the dandelions have been going strong.

Our queen bees arrived on Tuesday 5/5 and we were able to make up our splits later in the day (after 7 pm Eastern).

I made up my splits with 2 capped frames of brood with adhering bees and a frame of open nectar. I also added a patty and filled the rest of the box with drawn frames. Since those splits are in my back yard, I did not remove the cork from the queen cages. I am planning on releasing them on Saturday, 5/9. I left the entrances small for the time being.

Everything went according to plan and my kindergartner assistant was very excited.

The shipping package
Spring queen bees
Filling out the boxes with old brood comb
Here is how it went:
  • Opened up the donor hive and selected 4 frames of capped brood.
  • Transferred the frames into the new boxes, making sure I did not grab the queen.
  • My assistant wanted to see the donor queen, so we went hunting for her. Any guesses where we found her? Yep, she was in one of the freshly made up splits.
  • We ooh-ed and aah-ed over her splendor. And yes, an overwintered queen looks decidedly majestic and ginormous (this is a scientific term ;)) compared to a new spring queen.
  • We moved the donor queen back to her hive, after explaining to her that her kids were missing her (and they were getting angry). 
  • We placed the queen cages on top of the brood. We surrounded the brood the honey frames and placed the patty right on top. Finally, we filled up the remainder of the box with drawn comb.
  • We moved the splits to their new location
  • We experienced a short delay in setting them up while my husband removed a "cute baby mouse" from my hive stand. I don't see anything cute in the little heathens, but oh well...
  • Finally, we filled the feeders and called it a night.

Do your kids want to help out in the apiary?