Thursday, December 6, 2012

The ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM or ---------Shed ready

My Queen Bee and I live in a condominium in Charlotte, NC most of the time.  Our little slice of heaven does not have lots of room but is a very efficient place to live.  With the kids gone and the dog dead, we are reorganizing.  My old office is being converted into a guest room and our upstairs bedroom is now our office.  My old office used to house lots of bee equipment but with the reorganization, we moved the beekeeping equipment to our living room.  What a mess.  It is the elephant in the room.  We discussed what to do with all of the gear until we had an "ah ha" moment.

Living room mess.

Shed Ready - On Plan Bee we have about 23 1/2 acres.  One bright sunny day I asked myself why not take advantage of that space.  After all we use our beekeeping equipment almost exclusively on Plan Bee so wouldn't that make more sense??  So I have begun clearing out an area behind our Plan Bee Picnic Shelter.  Plan A for Plan Bee is to clear the area, level it up with dirt, pour a concrete slab, lay down some 6x6 beams and then put up a shed.
Area being cleared behind the picnic shelter.
The big tree in the back is about 3 feet in diameter but it was rotted away in the middle.  Interesting enough without proper felling, it would have fallen exactly where we wanted to put our new shed.  So we beat it to the punch.  So far I have spent 2 days of chainsawing and dragging away trees and brush to get this area ready for more dirt and a concrete pad.  Good news is there are few bugs this time of year and it is a great area to work on.
Fixed error with well head dusk to dawn light.  We have a regular 60 watt light bulb under our well cover.  During the winter it keeps it just warm enough so that the well head won't freeze.  I noticed the electric bill did not reflect electric useage but instead showed the same value on the meter.  Upon inspection, after removing the black widow spiders, I noted the light bulb needed a few more turns in to work.  Tested it again with the on setting and then the dusk to dawn timer setting and that seems to have fixed the problem.
 Chopped an irrigation pipe in two which is not good for water pressure in the line.  At first I was going to wait until next trip to repair the line as I didn't have my drip irrigation repair kit with me.  Then I remembered there was an end piece/ end cap to the line.  Used my machete to make a clean straight cut and repaired the line. Yea!!  Problem solved.
Bee Grim -- regarding my name.  I wanted to use my nom de plum (Pen Name) or "Bee Boy".  Alas, Google said the name did not comply with their naming standards.  I then thought, how about "Bee Happy", guess what, same deal.  Mr. Google has allowed me to use my desired first name, "Bee" but requires I use my real last name, "Grim".  Yea, I know.  So anyhow as I tell my friends and others I try not to bee Grim but alas, it is my name.  So Bee Grim I am as far as Google is concerned but I hope to either Bee Happy or bee a Bee Boy one day soon.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Langstroth Hive Stand Instructions

We just had someone ask about our hive stands and I thought the question would be of interest to a number of beekeepers.

Hello from Southwest Louisiana.
We have started keeping bees and were on the net looking for a bee hive stand that would work for us.
Ran across your blog showing the long hive stand that you moved a hive to.  On some property you had purchased.
Had about 8 hives on it in the photo.
Looks like you used several single post in the ground with y arms to hold double rails. 
Do you have plans or the details for the hive stand?   Looked on the blog but did not see dimensions, material, etc.
We currently have 5 hives.
Steven & Nola

So here is a step by step for building a hive stand for a Langstroth Hive.  This stand is designed for two (2) Langstroth hives with plenty of work space between them.  The hive stand referenced by Steven & Nola is not very functional.  It is difficult to get around to work on the hives.  We find a stand that supports 2 hives at a time to be the best.  When we take off the telescoping cover to our hives while working them, we place them in the open space between the hives on the stand instead of putting them on the ground. We work our hives one at a time. Convenient!!

Building a hive stand is best done in comfortable weather or just before the bees start flying.  Somehow doing this in the summer in a bee suit is just NO FUN.

  •      2 2"x8"x8' pieces of STRAIGHT pressure treated lumber
  •      4 2"x8"x12" pieces of  pressure treated lumber (we use pine)
  •      24 4" screws (galvanized so they won't rust) (Phillips head ONLY)
  •      4 cinder blocks (we use the small ones)
  •      1 or 2 bags of sand (optional)
  •      Wood chips or mulch (we have a pile of it so not sure how to measure this)
  •      Black plastic bags or black plastic sheeting (This will make sense in a minute)
  •      Wooden shims
  •      Level
  •      Tape measure

  •      Electric drill & screw driver
  •      Flat head shovel (Not the pointy version)
  •      Compass
  •      Beekeeper's assistant.
  •      Picnic table or other flat surface to support the stand under construction (optional)

Steps to construct & install hive stand:
  1. Be sure you have a sunny location to set up your hive stand.  If you have a shady one you invite hive beetles & other unwanted pests.  In North Carolina our bees like it hot.
  2. Your hive will face southeast so be sure BEFORE you start this does NOT represent a problem. We have our hives facing southeast to maximize daylight for the bees.
  3. Begin assembling the hive stand.

               a. Using your tape measure, measure roughly equal spacing
                   for your cross members, the 12" pieces.  Some
                   beekeepers want the support pieces to come under
                   the edge of each hive. Think through your strategy before
                   you begin the next step.
               b. With you cross pieces in place, drill 24 pilot holes in the
                   side of your hive stand.  This represents 3 pilot holes for
                   each cross piece on each side.
                c. Using your electric screw driver, screw in the 24 4" screws
                    to assemble the stand.  (Note - I tried 3" screws, they
                    were too short.  I also tried only using 2 screws per
                    support, not enough support.  I already made the mistakes
                    so you won't have to. But......)
               d. Your hive stand is now assembled

     4. Preparing your hive stand location
               a.  Using your compass, determine which direction is
               b.  Place your hive stand on the ground so that it faces
                    southeast and to determine what you need to do to
                    level the ground where your hive stand will be placed.
               c. Using your level, flat head shovel & beekeeper's assistant
                   to level the area where the hive stand will set up.

              d.  Place the 4 cinder blocks a foot or so in from the end of
                   the hive stand and the place the hive stand onto the cinder
                   blocks.  See above.
              e.  Relevel the stand that now is on top of the cinder blocks.
                   (2 cinder blocks per side)

               f. Remember I said straight pieces of lumber.  Chances are it
                  was not as straight as we had hoped. This is where the
                  shims come in handy.  Using the shovel, shims, level
                  and beekeeper's assistant, finish the leveling.  The
                  Beekeeper's assistant can stand back and eyeball the
                  stand to point out obvious mistakes.  My assistant is
                  excellent and finding my mistakes and not just with
                  the hive stand. Ha!

 Here is the finished project with hives on the hive stand.  At this point we were ready for yet another hive.  We ended up moving these hives to our property in Liberty, NC, Plan Bee.

Hope this is of value to you.  If you have questions we will try and respond.

 That's all  folks.  The Bee Boy out.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Bee Die In

Every time we meet new people and they learn we are beekeepers, other than do we sell honey, the next question is, "Why are bees dieing?" or "Have they figured out what is causing Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD)?"  At this time, no one claims to have all of the answers but evidence is mounting that we humans are killing bees through our use of systemic insecticides and in the process may be killing ourselves.  Some folks in Berkley stated their opinion a bit stronger when they staged a bee die in at a Bayer Chemical plant.

 Dressed like honeybees, one by one they dropped dead at the main gate to this Bayer plant.  You can read more about it in the story "Berkeley's Bayer Stung by Critics" in The Berkley Daily Planet.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Queen of the Sun

Here is a really great bee video if you haven't seen it yet.  They are trying to make a difference and save our bees.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Warre` Hive or What goes up will come down

My wife was listening to a podcast and heard something about a Warre` hive. (When going to Wikipedia to research scroll down a bit to find out about this type of hive.)  She reads and researches far and wide.  Once she thinks there is something of interest, she calls me in to discuss and do more in depth research.  So it was with a Warre` hive.  If you haven't heard of these before, you are not alone. 

Langstroth Hive - It turns out the modern hive that most beekeepers use today is the Langstroth hive. 
In 1851, the Reverend Lorenzo Lorraine Langstroth (1810-1895), a native of Philadelphia, noted that when his bees had less than 1 cm (3/8 inch) of space available in which to move around, they would neither build comb into that space nor cement it closed with propolis. This measurement is presently called "bee space". During the summer of 1851, Langstroth applied the concept to keeping the lid free on a top-bar hive, but in autumn of the same year, he realized that the "bee space" could be applied to a newly-designed frame which would prevent the bees from attaching honeycomb to the inside of the hive box. This attachment of comb to the hive wall was a difficulty with frameless designs, such as Dzierżon's frameless movable-comb hive (1835). US Patent 9300 was issued to Langstroth on October 25, 1852, and remained valid despite numerous attempts to challenge it based on its alleged use of prior art.
Rev. Langstroth subsequently published a book called A Practical Treatise on the Hive and Honey-Bee[2], nowadays commonly known as The Hive and the Honey Bee or, under the title with which it was recently (2004) re-issued, as Langstroth's Hive and the Honey-Bee: The Classic Beekeeper's Manual. In this book, Langstroth described the proper dimensions and use of the modern beehive as we know it today. Prior to discovery of the dimensions of "bee space", bees were mostly hived in skeps (conical straw baskets) or gums (hollowed-out logs which approximated the natural dwellings of bees), or in box hives (a thin-walled wooden box with no internal structure).

When my wife and I went through bee school, we didn't hear or at least it didn't register about different types of hives other than skeps.  We were taught that skeps were bad and illegal because you had to kill all of the bees to harvest the honey. Not very ecofriendly

Back to Warre`. 

As you can read below, Abbe` Warre` researched 350 different hive systems before coming up with his own model.

Details here, you can skip read later.
Abbé Émile Warré (1867 - 1951) lived in France and kept bees in a wide variety of hives with the aim of finding the best hive for both bees and beekeeper.

L'Abbé Eloi François Émile Warré was born on 9 March 1867 at Grébault-Mesnil in the Somme département. He was ordained a priest on 19 September 1891 -- Amiens diocese -- and became the parish priest of Mérélessart (Somme) in 1897 then of Martainneville (Somme) in 1904.

He disappeared from the records in 1916 subsequently to reappear at Saint-Symphorien (Indre-et-Loire) to devote himself exclusively to beekeeping. He died at Tours on 20 April 1951.

Abbé Warré developed The People's Hive based on his studies of 350 hives of different systems that existed at his time as well as of the natural habits of the bee.

Resume Warre` (Great reference link)

We just became Certified Naturally Grown beekeepers and wanted to have a hive that does the following:
  1.  Have the bees build out their own comb to reduce chemical contamination found in bees wax from ALL commercial wax foundation.
  2. Have the bees build foundation that is bee size.  From our research, commercial wax foundation is 5.4 millimeters but bees normally build out at 4.5 millimeters.  This creates bigger bees that can't fly as far and some theorize allows external pests to enter the bees internally.
  3. Allow for a systematic way of cycling wax and honey that is friendly to the bees. We want to cycle out our wax over a three (3) year period.  Old brood comb becomes black and is more susceptible to disease and pests.
So, we decided to try this type of hive.  Below is picture from a friend's backyard of 2 Warre` hives.

Thank you Malcolm Campbell for the nice picture and woodworking.

Here are some specs for you to ponder:
  • Each box is about 12" by 12"
  • 8 top bars per box (really light)
  • We have a viewing window in the back of each box to watch the bees build down on the top bars.
  • Bottom box has a screen bottom with a solid slide-in option.
  • Top box is a quilt box filled with saw dust.
  • When adding boxes, they are nadired instead of supered.
Nadiring versus Supering

  Supering - When beekeepers place a hive body with frames on top of the beehive, this is called supering.  Supering is derived from the word superior (thanks Michael Bush) which refers to something or someone higher in rank or above you.  Hence, when we place a box above, we are supering the hive. 

Nadiring - When we nadir boxes in a beehive, we place them below.  Think of it this way.  If something is at its zenith, it is at its top/peak.  If something is at its nadir, it is at its bottom.

How nadiring affects the operation of the beehive

In Langstroth world, we are taught that bees always move up but in Warre` world we say they go down.  Which is correct?  As usual, we need to ask the bees.  In observing them I believe both are correct.  How so?

If we look at natural honeycomb it is teardrop in shape and is built from top to bottom.

Honeycomb built on the bottom of a warre`top bar

 Honeybees seem to go to the top, (go up), but build down.  In Langstroth world we add supers believing that bees will place honey in top boxes and place brood in the bottom boxes.  In Warre` world, boxes are nadired with boxes placed on the bottom as the bees build out each box.

Harvesting Langstroth & Warre` beehives

Langstroth harvesting - The supered boxes fulled of capped honey are removed from the top of the hive.  Honey is normally removed via extraction which requires a machine to spin the frames and remove the honey via centrifugal force and gravity. The brood boxes are not touched during this operation.  So the bees live in old comb until it is replaced.

Warre` harvesting - The top box is removed and the comb is crushed and the honey strained.  Only gravity it used.  Since the hive is nadired, the comb at the top will be darker than a Langstroth hive but the brood comb will always be fresh.  Hence a natural recycling of wax in the hive just like when bees swarm and establish a new colony.

Today we visited our Warre` hive and are happy to report that are bees are building out the top bars just like Abbe` Warre` said they would.  Below are some pictures of what our current hive looks like.

Above is a view of comb being built out from viewing window in the back of the Warre` hive.

Current Warre` hive with 2 boxes and interface Langstroth nuc.
Thanks Dietlinde Zipkin for taking these great pictures

Looking down into the Warre` hive with one frame removed. See the fresh comb being built out by the bees on frame 2.
This photo is looking up at the BOTTOM of a warre` box.  Note the comb hanging down.  We believe the bees had built out 6 of the 8 bars so we nadired the hive to give them more space.  Our hope is that by the end of this season we will be able to remove the Langstroth nuc and have the hive be totally warre`

We would like to thank our friends at Center for Honeybee Research.  We purchased our nuc of bees from them this year and their quality was just fabulous.  Our bees are really building out VERY nicely.  You can see the marked queen above.  The colony seems vibrant with lots of bee activity.  Of course we are also fortunate to have a great bee yard with lots of great bee food.  If you are interested in obtaining nucs of bees, please reach out to Carl Chesick or Stuart Van Meter located in Hendersonville, NC.  When we picked up our bees, we spent the night at the Pisgah Inn and arrived the next morning to pick up our screened bees.

Here are some great Warre` links if you want to investigate more on your own:

Bee Boy out.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Swarm - 03/12/2012

So it was about 2:00pm, the temperature was right and the bees were in flight when the call came. "There is a swirl of bees!!!"  After a brief discussion and being happy I had just purchased the necessary equipment to make yet one more hive, I headed to the action. 
When I arrived, I could see the bees were in a very neat cluster.

We proceeded to ready our new deep brood box to receive the swarm.  To ready our brood box we did the following:
  1. Positioned the box near the swarm.  The box had a screen bottom and was up on cinder blocks so when the process was completed it could easily be picked up.
  2. All of the 10 frames were sprayed with sugar water.
  3. A hint of Lemon Grass was rubbed over frame # 5.
  4. A screen inner cover was within arms reach.
With everything ready we just had to get the swarm into the box.  Fortunately the beekeeper with me had a wonderful ladder that was just the right height.

So I climbed up the ladder and simultaneously clipped the branch with one hand and held it with another.  The trick is to gently lower the branch until you are ready to get the bees into the box and then you shake them in with one or two shakes.  The bee boss showed me this a few years back.  It is interesting to watch.  The one bee we want in the box is the queen.  She naturally goes down into the box looking for a dark spot.  Note there is a bottom screen under the box so no bees fall through.

The next part of the process is timing.  When we looked at the swarm on the tree branch they were debating.  We learned this from Dr. Thomas D. Seeley in his book "HoneyBee Democracy".  The bees were deciding where to go.  If we snag them before they take a vote, we can move them where we want.  Well, that's the theory but, of course, the bees didn't read Dr. Seeley's book.

With the bees in the box we wanted to give as many as possible a chance to join their friends.  So a pause of a minute seemed prudent.  Too long of a pause and they will orient themselves to this new location and the beekeepers rule of 2 feet  or 2 miles comes into play.  Also I put a screen top on the box to keep bees in and encourage them to cluster in the box.  Seems to work.

So if we have our timing right and a nicely prepared home for them, hopefully our new little bees want to stay. If we treat them nice we can get the bees to send out their little pheromones in front of the hive to tell their buddies, this is where we go.  A cinder block and ladder had some lost bees so we brought that over to the hive. They left their cinder block, the ladder and finally the screen to go inside.

We poured a thin sugar water solution into the Mann Lake hivetop feeder to stimulate wax and cell building.

Finally our new hive "Chet" is in for the night.

Here's hoping we got it right.

A special thanks to Dietlinde Zipkin, the beekeeper behind the lens, for all of her great photography.  In addition to taking all of the pictures, she was busy working with me in many ways to pull this off.
Bee Boy out.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Confusing Bees and installing a Hive Stand

Just returned from the NCSBA (North Carolina State Beekeepers Association). Great meeting and learned lots.  My wife and I have enjoy watching Gold Rush on the Discovery Channel.  This is about some common American guys that make lots of mistakes as they try to strike it rich by mining for Gold in Alaska.  Turns out to get an ounce of gold takes sifting through tons of material. 

One of the nuggets from the NCSBA meeting we rediscovered is the idea of confusing honeybees.  Turns out that honeybees are three dimensional navigators and when returning to their hive they don't check out the box the way we humans would.  Instead they fly to the 3 dimensional coordinates they remember and go in.  If you have been following along with us you will remember we recently captured a swarm off a rock in front of our Charlotte hive.  The swarm is a small one and the bees are just a small cluster. 
  • So how to beef up the hive? 
  • Wouldn't it be a nifty thing to get a larger hive of bees to help out the smaller one?

The plan called for us to swap the location of the larger hive with the smaller one.  When the bees from the larger hive return to their old location, the smaller hive would be there to welcome them in.  The theory goes that returning bees with pollen, nectar or propolis are welcome.  Lots of bees, lots of comb built out in a hurry so the new hive's progress is accelerated.

STEP 1 - Build and Install a new Hive Stand

STEP 2 - Confuse the bees

The reason for the new bee stand is we have larger plans for the bee yard and want to have extra room on the beehive stand.  We have gone from a 4' hive stand to 8'.  To make life easier, we put the longer stand in front of the old one. 

Once we had the larger stand in place, we proceeded to swap beehive locations.  Moving Tzion, our new swarm hive, went well.  The bees seemed to be reading their manual and nicely flying into the new hive at the old location.

Vav Hive and the problems begin - Our old hive consisted of 1 deep (brood), 1 shallow (brood), 1 shallow (honey), 1 medium (wax foundation - hey, this was all we had).  When we bought the hive about a year ago, we hated the wooden ware.  A nice warm spring day seemed like just the opportunity to move our bees into clean new wooden ware and a screen bottom.  We went from 9 frames to 10 deep frames with 2 new frames installed and 1 old frame removed. Spotted 3 supersedure cells but didn't have the gear to split the hive.  UGH!

The deep move completed - We moved, shook and brushed bees into the new box praying we didn't roll our queen.  Thinking about it, with all of the queen cells, this was an okay time since we had tons of bees and new queens on the way. Few hive beetles and no mites to speak of.

The bees hated us.
      Smoke and a blizzard of bees.

You will probably disagree with our decision but we added a deep with new frames above the old deep.  We like deep brood boxes and think shallows don't provide enough room for the bees.

Shallow of brood, shallow of honey and an medium to build out for honey and we were done.

Did we kill our bees in both hives?

Time will tell.

Bee Boy Out.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Simply Bee

Not lots to say here. A new beekeeper and great photographer sent these my way and thought you might like to see them as well.

Finally found the maple trees
Look carefully in the middle of the picture to see our little honeybee closing in on the maple tree blossom.

Myrtle Spurge

New & Older colony of bees
Sure hope our new swarm makes it.
Photos are courtesy of Dietlinde Zipkin.

Bee Boy Out

Monday, March 5, 2012

500 mile warranty or the life of a Honeybee

As my wife and I go into our third year as beekeepers, we continue to not only learn but to relearn about beekeeping.  We have gained some new beekeeper friends that are just starting out and have wisely chosen to take a class from our local bee club. (Mecklenburg County Beekeepers Association) As we discuss beekeeping with our new friends we find ourselves saying, "Yea, we learned that a few years ago but some of the details aren't so fresh."  My wife, my queen bee, is always on the lookout for more bee knowledge and brings me along to add another set if eyes and ears.  Recently we have started to listen to podcasts that are extremely helpful to both refresh and expand our beekeeping knowledge.  Below are my notes from a recent podcast.  Feel free to go over and listen to it for yourself.  Any comments or things I misheard are welcome.

So what are the numbers again on a honeybee?
American Bee Journal Feb 2012 pg 131

21 Days - It takes 21 days on average for a worker bee to become an adult.

3   Days in the egg stage    Day 0   - Day 3  (Queen determined here. Best on day 1.)
6   Days in the larva stage   Day 4   - Day 9
12 Days in the Pupa stage  Day 10 - Day 21

Honeybee warranty beegins (About 38 days in summer or 500 miles) 

If you listen to the podcast, Kevin Inglin does a great job detailing the life of a honeybee once she emerges until her final flight. 

4   Days - New bee                            Day 1 - 4
8   Days - Nurse bee                          Day  5 - 12
9   Days - Middle Aged Bee (MAB)      Day 13 - 21
17 Days - Forager bee                        Day 22 - Day 38

Please note these are average days and are subject to change depending on the environment. (temperature, abundance of food, abundance of workers in the colony, overall health of the colony)

New Bee jobs -  New bees mostly hang out continuing to develop and cleaning their cell.  They spend time sleeping as they develop.

Nurse Bee jobs - Nurse bees feed the queen, brood and foragers.  Turns out that in addition to Queen pheromone, there is also Brood pheromone.  According to Kevin's information, it acts as the fountain of youth for bees.  The closer to the brood pheromone, the longer they live.  That is one explanation for the length of life of a winter bee which can bee as long as 200 days.

Honey bees deposit vitellogenin molecules in fat bodies in their abdomen and heads. The fat bodies apparently acts as a food storage reservoir. The glycolipoprotein vitellogenin has additional functionality as it acts as an antioxidant to prolong Queen bee and forager lifespan as well as a hormone that affects future foraging behavior.[1] The health of a honey bee colony is dependent upon the vitellogenin reserves of the nurse bees - the foragers having low levels of vitellogenin. As expendable laborers, the foragers are fed just enough protein to keep them working their risky task of collecting nectar and pollen. Vitellogenin levels are important during the nest stage and thus influence honey bee worker division of labor.
A nurse bee's vitellogenin titer that developed in the first four days after emergence, affects its subsequent age to begin foraging and whether it preferentially forages for nectar or pollen. If young workers are short on food their first days of life, they tend to begin foraging early and preferentially for nectar. If they are moderately fed, they forage at normal age preferentially for nectar. If they are abundantly fed, immediately after emergence, their vitellogenin titer is high and they begin foraging later in life, preferentially collecting pollen. Pollen is the only available protein source for honey bees.

Middle Age Bees (MAB) jobs -  These bees are best at comb creation, guarding the hive and receiving nectar.

Forager Bee jobs - Finally we get to the last stage of a worker bee's life.  They literally work from sunrise to sundown gathering pollen, nectar and propolis.  They also act as guard bees after they return to the hive at night to sleep.  Foragers literally work themselves to death.  As their wings wear out, it works their little flight muscles more and more.  According to Kevin's information, the muscles last about 500 miles worth of flight. 

Push pull phenomenon - According to Kevin's information, bees can change jobs to a certain extent.  If there are insufficient foragers, MABs are drafted.  Too many foragers, they can revert back to a MAB.  The closer to the brood, the more of the elixir of life.  So adult bees are pushed through the different stages of life but can bee pulled back as needed, to a certain extent.  I don't think a bee can go from forager to new bee.

Wow, how miraculous.

Final question for beekeepers to debate.  Design or Chance?  If you are a Darwinian evolutionist I would love to hear your explanation of all of this. If you believe in a supreme omnipotent being, I think I know your answer.  According to Occam's razor the simplest approach is usually the correct one.  Guess we could ponder this for quite awhile.

Bee Boy out...

Oh, for more information, here is a great book.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Honeybee wrestling or our first swarm

I have worked with the Bee Boss over the past two years and have watched him wrestle bees.  I guess for real beekeepers the term would be going on a "swarm call".  So yesterday was a nice 75 +  degree Fahrenheit day and I wanted to check out our Charlotte bee yard which is located in the backyard of some new friends and new beekeepers.  I put the call out to our friend and she said "sounded good".  A short time later I received a happily frantic call with the news that there was a swarm in one of the nearby trees.  The bee wrestling/wrangling had begun.

It took me about an hour to load up the bee mobile. A second call from her indicated there might be 2 swarms so I had to come up with additional gear for a possible second swarm.  The good news was that everything was close to the ground.

When I arrived to assess the situation, one of the swarms had vanished.  Upon closer inspection it appeared that perhaps the bees had been overzealous and gone out on a limb so to speak on one of the swarm locations. My wife and I discussed theories as to why bees would swarm on a warm stone on the ground rather than in a high tree branch.  Perhaps, once again, those darn bees had not read their bee manual and were not swarming the  "right way".

So with assistance from my new bee assistant,  we shook the stones and bees over a new hive body.  I had prepped the hive body by spraying the frames with sugar water.  There appeared to be a flurry of bees but they started clustering in the hive. I put a screen top over the hive but to the bees, screen schmeem.  I gently attempted brushing them into the box to no avail.  My next plan of attack was to spray them with sugar water and gently use a dust pan and escort them one by one into the new hive.  My thinking here was that if we got enough bees inside the hive, their little pheromones would kick in with the come home scent and the rest of the swarm would join them.

When I left, there were a few bees flying in and out but not enough to convince me we had a queen, the bees were happy and they would stay.  Give it a day or so and we'll see.

Bee boy out.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Heresy - Let's not always smoke the Honeybees

Haven't stirred the pot in awhile so I thought I'd ask the unaskable question. 

Do we always need to smoke the honeybees before entering the hive?

For those of you that may be just joining us, this is considered heresy.  Let's go to Wikipedia to get a full understanding of heresy.

Heresy (from Greek αἵρεσις, which originally meant "choice") is an accusation levied against members of another group which has beliefs which conflict with those of the accusers. It is usually used to discuss violations of religious or traditional laws or codes, although it is used by some political extremists to refer to their opponents. It carries the connotation of behaviors or beliefs likely to undermine accepted morality and cause tangible evils, damnation, or other punishment. In some religions, it also implies that the heretic is in alliance with the religion's symbol of evil, such as Satan or chaos.[1] It is distinct from apostasy, which is the formal denunciation of one's religion, principles or cause,[2] and blasphemy, which is irreverence toward religion.[3] The founder or leader of a heretical movement is called a heresiarch, while individuals who espouse heresy or commit heresy, are known as heretics.

Efficiency asks "What is the best way to do something?"
Effectiveness asks "Do we need to do it at all?"

Clearly we are in the realm of an effectiveness question.

Above is a picture of the smoker I currently use.  From an efficiency point of view it is great.  I can load pine needles and smoker fuel and go about my business with my bees.

  1. When smoke is blown into the hive first, however, the guard bees' receptors are dulled and they fail to sound the pheromonious alarm.
  2. Conveniently the smoke has a secondary effect in that it causes the other bees to instinctively gorge themselves on honey — a survival instinct in case they must vacate the hive and recreate it elsewhere. This gorging has a tendency to pacify the bees.
Cons for using a smoker:
  1. It is a bad idea to dull the senses of one of natures most sensitive olifactorily endowed creatures.  Honeybees can smell a flower burp a mile away.
  2. Like the idea of smoking? Let's go to your house and light up.  Bet you'll run for the exits and gorge on honey too. :-)
Observation of an astute mechanic:

If the only tool you have is a hammer, every problem better be a nail!

So how about this for middle ground?

Let's not smoke every time.
  • If we are just putting in sugar water in a Mann Lake hive top feeder and not going into the hive, why smoke?
  • If we are putting on sugar fondant on a cold day, let's not smoke.
  • If we are doing a quick inspection, the bees are happy and not pulling EVERY FRAME, let's not smoke.
So what is smoke good for?

  • When you need to move bees from something, smoke clears them out/away.
  • If we are going deep and need to do a detailed inspection and the bees are cranky, smoke can calm things down a bit. (Really it just confuses them and covers the attack pheromones. )
Can we still be friends even if I ask the unaskable?

If you have a different opinion, I'd love to hear from you.

The Bee Boy out.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

New Trees on Plan Bee

We are still working our forest plan and after having an official NC State Forester visit Plan Bee we were told we were an acre short of the required 20 to become a forest for tax purposes.  As luck would have it, we took our Bee Mobile for routine maintenance @ the local Subaru dealer and discovered they needed to get some extra trees planted for the "Share the Love" event.

The folks @ Subaru were kind enough to provide lots of trees that needed a new home.  We took them to our humble abode in Charlotte, NC and asked our planting team to look over the trees.  Below you will note that in addition to my wife and I, our local planting team consists of a fairy and rock frog.  They both quietly approved of the trees.  Fairies are some interesting creatures anyhow.

So as soon as possible, we drove the trees up to Plan Bee to find them a new home.  After a quick stop at a local supply store for good dirt, we had them planted in the ground.

It took us hours but by the setting of the sun our new trees were sharing some love on Plan Bee.

We will keep you posted on the progress of our new trees.  By the way, these are Eastern White Pines.  As a boy scout years ago I have a fond memory of finding a dry place in an Eastern White Pine forest during a rainy camping event.  The needles are fairly long and soft.  My wife and I look forward to having our very own Eastern White Pine forest.