Friday, April 23, 2010

Problem with counting hives

I originally only wanted 2 hives in my back yard for the first year. I built a stand that can accommodate 3 hives comfortably, and 4 a little cramped. This was placed on the back deck because the flowers and bushes I purchased are too short and not grown in enough for where I will eventually have the hives.

I started off with two carni hives from Larry. Then we made arrangements to for me to take a third. This one was a Kona Queen from Hawaii. I took it in place of getting paid for helping the Tates.

I went over there today with 2 mediums full of frames for me to do a quasi-frame exchange and have a few of his bees draw comb for me, and at the least put my 8 frames on his 10 frames with a shim and let them work up into them so I could give my bees a head start and he could keep his from swarming. win-win for everyone.

We pulled up to the yard with the intention of swapping a few frames, and out came a swarm. It started boiling out of the hive as we pulled up. Larry hopped out and started banging rhythmically on the metal of the outer cover he grabbed. An older beekeeper we talked to told us that it causes a swarm in progress to hurry up and land low. If it works, who knows? I do know that the swarm started gathering on a fence post out in the open. This is the 3rd time I have seen this happen.

All we had were my supers and the frames. No bottom. We put a 10 frame top on my 8 frame body and put it over some of the bees that were gathering on the ground at the fence post in a bucket size hole. We raced back to Larry’s and grabbed a bottom and some shims. When we got back they were already marching into the hive body. We put a 10 frame top and bottom board on my 8 frame supers with a shim to make it fit right and threw everything together. The bees just marched right in.

We did some work on the yards (for 6 hours!) and Larry told me to just close it up and take the whole thing home and keep it.

So here I sit now, 3 hives on the back porch that look very nice. One cobbled together mess of a hive with a bottom board and top too big on 4 cinderblocks where the hive stand will go next year and 2 Kona queens and 2 carni queens!

I now have to make another brushy mountain order for a full hive because I am using what were going to be my honey supers, as brood chambers now...

I will try to take a picture of this mess tomorrow for everyone to see.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Racking Mead and fruit trees/bushes

I am racking both of the strawberry meads today. The strawberry chocolate and strawberry vanilla are both going to be racked into new carboys topped up a tad and have some more strawberries added to the secondary. In another month, I will rack again and wait a month or two and bottle.

The pure chocolate I am not going to touch. I am going to top it up a bit with some water. For the most part it will sit in the primary for 6 months to a year bofore I do anything.

The Joe's Acient Orange has one more month (or two) to go before racking into a secondary to separate the gunk, then immediate bottling. Ready for consumption in May/June until christmas (if it lasts that long).

I am adding 2 lbs of strawberries to the secondary with 1/8 tsp Pectic Enzyme to help clear it a tad by breaking down the suspended pectin.

Fruit trees/bushes

The whole peach tree is covered in young peaches like this! I am thinking that I might have to thin them out some because they will not have enough room to grow without becomming squished and ugly/deformed. This is a Georgia Belle white peach that is supposed to be awesome. I will have to give some away and freeze some. I should have gotten another when I had the chance.

This is the top down view of one of my 7 blueberry bushes.... they all are still putting out blooms and the blooms that have dropped are almost all starting to get baby berries in the crown... If I can keep the birds and squirrels out of them it will be a miracle.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Certified again!

This morning I took the written and practical exams to become a NC Certified Beekeeper. I passed with flying colors. I would have passed the Journeyman test as well, but I didn't have the experience/time requirements.

I am hoping that I will find out soon if I won a hive and bees from the Brushy Mountain give away that the Forsyth County Beekeepers do for a lucky few who take the class.

Went into the hives and they look great. about 4 frames left in the top box and I can add the next one! Both queens are laying well.

Friday, April 9, 2010


This is the waterer I got for the bees in the event neighbors start complaining about bees drinking from their birdbaths or pools.  It is a simple pet waterer with rocks in the drinking area to keep them from falling in and drowning.


After the weather being in the 80's for the past week, the temps have taken a nose dive. Last night it was 48 and the temps in the day are going to be in the 60's all week. At night they are going to be upper 40's lower 50's.... That is going to throw the girls for a loop and cause breed heating issues.

I will go ahead and tell everyone one trick I have been trying. On the days and nights where it drops below 60, I have been running a red flood 100 watt light in a heat lamp socket under the screened bottom board (SBB) until it reaches 70 outside airtemp, then I turn it off. I have found that it raises the temperature on the SBB inside the hive by 25 degrees, no matter what the outside air temp is. This allows the nurse bees in the bottom brood chamber to not have to work so hard at keeping the brood warm. Wax production happens at 95 degrees, this keeps them closer to that range with less effort as well.

I have also been trying a 25 watt reptile aquarium heater with less success. I have placed it on the counting board inserted just below the SBB. It only heats anywhere from 5-20 degrees above outside temp. And it closes off the SBB. It is too wild and variable for regulating the temps in the hive.

Right now the temp inside the SBB on the bottom of the hive reads 66.5 degrees. That is without the heat lamp on.  With it on, stabilized and running for 15 minutes it is reading 85.7. The wind is blowing and lowers the temp a little. 

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Nectar flow in NC

I guess that it is holly and wisteria along with some hard wood or something, but the bees are definatly bringing in nectar and curing it down to honey. My back deck for the last few days has smelled FANTASTIC! It is wafting around the house to the front and all I have had to do is open the windows when it cools off to get the smell throughout the evening. To describe it would be like being able to smell the color purple... Kind of crazy, but that is how I could best describe it.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Orientation Flights

Below is a video of the girls doing orientation flights this afternoon in the 85+ degree weather.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Hive inspection

The pictures above are what I have spent my weekend doing. Building garden boxes, planting flowers and general yard maintance. The blueberry bushes I planted last fall are all blooming now and I hope my bees can get to them and pollinate. 

This past saturday Mark from Marks Bee Haven came by to give me a hand with the inspection. It was after 6pm when we were finally able to go into them, so I was worried about them being upset.

This is a picture Mark took through the railing about 1' away from the enterance. Not one of the guardss flew up to investigate. You can also see the cable on the left. It is attached to a probe which is resting on the Screened Bottom Board (SBB) so I can measure the temp on the screen. Every night the lowest I have seen it is 78 degrees.

As usual, Watson hive (with the green roof) was calm as could be. I usually do not use smoke when doing anything with them. Just a few mists of sugar water with a drop of Honey Bee Healthy if they start scrambling for the exit. This queen is great. I had to move some frames around because the workers were trying to store so much pollen and sugar water that the queen didn't have much room on the frames to lay. This is a frame of only 1/2 weeks work:

They are still trying to draw comb to be able to lay and store in. These bees took the syrup from the boardman very well, but the hive top feeder is hardly touched. I won a boardman style feeder from brushy mountain at the beekeeping class a few weeks ago and have been feeding from both. It is now on Holmes doing double duty feeding them.

This is another frame from Watson:

The only issue I have with the Watson bees is that they are so gentle, they like to crawl on your hands from the comb to check you out. I am switching to nitrile gloves because I am killing about 15 bees every time I go in just for the meer fact that I have them sitting on me and cannot feel them with the gloves. No biting, no stinging, just crawling around. I think it has to do with the scenting. I placed a used t-shirt in the top feeder side that was empty to see if they would get accustomed to my smell. I think it worked. After a week, I removed it and they seem to love me like I am one of their own...

Holmes is a differenty story. The queen was from very gentle stock and is the cousin of Watson's queen. They were in the shade for about 1/2 of the day at the last location and were not very well built up. The bees have been taking down the full boardman every 2 days and I am concerned they are overfilling the combs.

The queen does not have very much area to lay in due to them filling cells with the syrup. They also have begun building burr comb in the hive top feeder on the inner cover as big as my hand. I figured this was an indication of needing to add a super, as the bees are pretty thick in there. This is a picture of one of the pierco frames I was given....Quite a few bees and every frame in the 8 frame brood box had this many if not more.....

We didn't see either queen but did see eggs in both. Watson had every cell filled. Holmes had a few eggs. I am not sure about her. The Tates and I are going to graft and collect drones for Instrumental insemination from the Watson hive very soon to see if we can get another couple of fantastic queens going.

My bees have found the drain off hose from the dehumidifyer in the basement I installed this past winter. They seem to like this water better than the water feeder I made for them.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Alarm Pheromone

While working the bees at the Tates, I have discovered when to just walk away. If you have a keen nose you can smell the alarm pheromone and then things get crazy. If the bees are a bit upset, and one decides to mark you, all hell breaks loose and about 100 guard bees will start headbumping you for quite some distance.

I know this because I went to pass off a frame to Janice and it bumped the hive hard enough to get them all stirred up. They seem to go after Larry and me more than Janice. I dont know why. Maybe testosterone or sweat?

They can actually spray the pheromone to get more bees after you. It smells just like Bananna Runtz or the way Bananna popcicles taste. Sweet and bananna like. If that happens, no amount of smoking will help. I am wondering if Febreeze might help. I will give it a try and see.