Saturday, July 19, 2008

We have honey!

Well, we didn't do it last year but this year it was clear there was a lot of honey mountain up in hive #1 so we took the plunge and decided to harvest. First step was getting the honey off, this didn't seem like too much of a challenge after all I already had a bee escape - easy right? Well it seems not, I added the bee escape (a board that sits below the honey supers and acts as a one-way door so bees can go down below but not back up) but they seemed the just come and go as before so both boxes still had plenty of girls in. I got the top box off by brushing the bees off the frames one by one and putting them into a big plastic box. The hive is an 8-frame setup and the box yielded about 6 complete frames. 

Next was extracting the honey, I rented the Chatham County Beekeepers extractor last week and set to work. The whole process is reasonably easy but very messy (and the uncapping knife is lethal!). The first box yielded about 1.5-2 gallons and really nice. Feeling flushed with this success I got a fume board and Bee Go from Busy Bee Apiaries and set to work getting off the second box. This stuff worked really well but it's reputation for smelling foul is well justified - I would run from it if I were a bee. The total harvest ended up just about 3 gallons and we spent a few evenings filling a mix of nice 8oz squeezy honey bottles (like the ones you get from the supermarket) and some 1/2 pint and pint Mason jars. 

All-in-all we had some fun but now have more than enough to keep us going and give to friends, and I guess there will be more in the fall to look forward to.

State Beekeepers Meeting

The North Carolina State Beekeepers Association held it's summer meeting July 10-12, at the Sandhills Community College in Pinehurst. We went down on Thursday and Friday and it was a great meeting, very interesting and some really good speakers. We particularly enjoyed the talks by NC State's own David Tarpy, University of Georgia's Jennifer Berry and Penn State's Maryann Frazier. David's workshop on the bee dance was particularly interesting - even if the bees didn't play along. We picked up some interesting stickers and I bought a really nice filter/bucket set from Brushy Mountain ready to harvest some honey. 

All in all a great event and will make every effort to get there again next year. Also took the opportunity to take the practical part of the certified level of the NC Master Beekeeper Program.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Two new packages installed

Well, at the end of April two new packages arrived and installed. I must have had beginners luck with the first package as these two were a little more "active" than the calm first hive last year. But everything went OK, I checked them and removed the queen cage, have fed them twice now only to get the comb started - the nectar is flowing here so they shouldn't need feeding for long unless we end up with another drought here.

Have to get a few more hive parts as one package went into a nuc, which at this rate they'll outgrow soon, but apparently the plastic foundation is hard to get hold off so not a good time to be putting new boxes together!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Pollinator links

There are a number of web sites out there listing alternative pollinators I've found recently. A number of friends and colleagues have asked about colony collapse, the news coverage has been quite valuable in having people think about the value and importance of bees in pollination. But, as a beekeeper, it's sometimes easy to forget that there are other pollinators - and that in countries like the U.S. the honey bee is not native and it's introduction has suppressed a number of native pollinators.

The kids love the new Bumble Bee house, but there are kits for Mason Bee

Interesting bottom board "muck"

I took some pictures when I took the plastic board out from under the hive after the winter. The board had a pretty good covering of "muck" which I decided to have a good look at before I cleaned it up and put it away for the spring/summer. I found a bunch of interesting stuff, remains from the Api Life mite treatment, pollen, some dead mites, a bee leg or two and wax flakes. The picture below shows some of this, the green fluffy stuff is Api Life, the yellow and orange blobs are pollen - but the things that fascinated me are the neat round brown seeds. They seem to be millet seed, and indeed some were even starting to sprout - but where did they come from? I wondered if there had been a mouse or something in the hive over winter but I could see no evidence. Right now it remains a mystery :-)

The next photo was more interesting to the kids (and me), it shows the wax flakes the bees produce as well as a few bee body parts.

New bee "home"

Last time we had my parents visit my father built a Bumble Bee house (plans from which we painted and put out a week or so ago. I got a (poor) picture, and thought it should be up here among the more common bee home/hive pictures :-)

It's kind of hard to get a feeling for size, but the grass along the bottom gives some idea.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

New packages ordered

At the end of the year I ordered two more packages from Rossman, due on April 30th, so have to get busy. I brought in a truck full of mulch to finish off the bee yard, the last lot (laid over weed fabric) was successful in keeping the weeds and poison ivy at bay. This gave me a whole lot more space and I put out some concrete blocks ready for new hives. I'd like to keep the hives close-to eventually but need to check on an appropriate distance to start them off at (any ideas anyone?)

I have one Brushy Mountain hive ready painted from last years adventures so that's all ready to go, and hoping I can get another in shape before they arrive - if not then I guess it's the nuc for a temporary home.

I'll see if I can get some pictures of the yard together, I did take some of the board from the IPM screened bottom, it had an interesting collection of things stuck to it from the cold weather.