Thursday, January 12, 2017

2017-01-11: What's New?

Well I had hoped to make some posts from time to time about any new bee info out there and I've finally read a few things that piqued my interest so I thought I'd share:

Always some interesting articles this website but quite a bit of the information in this particular post that I had never heard of before!  Both of these articles are very timely since we are in the middle of Winter.

Cool stuff about what a winter bee is and how they are formed

Perhaps another piece to the puzzle as to why winter losses have skyrocketed since the mid 1980's (besides Varroa Destructor).

I hope all your bee efforts are going strong out there and I do miss having the bees.  On the other hand, I haven't spent all winter worrying about them!  =)

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

2016-05-17: Fond Farewell

I have really enjoyed this journey of discovery working with honeybees for the last four years.  Sadly, as some readers may know, I became allergic to bee stings at the end of last Summer.  I was stung behind the ear and broke out in hives across my waist.  Having a severe reaction in the area of the sting is common but having a reaction in a different part of your body is generally considered anaphylaxis.  Since I didn't really want to give up beekeeping, I began allergy shots.  I did that for a few months and at the end of December "something" happened.  Not positive it was a reaction to the shots or not but lets just say I've been to the doctor(s) more times this year than I have my entire life.  To top it all off, we decided to move and we are downsizing significantly by moving to a condo.  No room for even half of our stuff, let alone any bee hives!  So, now I'm moving on to a new phase of life.

Although I won't directly be keeping bees anymore, I will still be working with them from time to time because my friend Keith has taken the two hives that I had survive the winter.  I can still observe and help advise while in my full bee suit, bee gloves, duct taped ankles and armed with my Epi-Pen. We moved the hives to Keith's house this past Sunday and I'm glad to say it went off without a hitch!  I have to thank Chris at Show Me The Honey for the idea on how to move the hives.  All we did was quickly cut some strips of #8 hardware cloth and staple them over the hive entrance, make a frame out of 2x4s and screw it around the hive, put a few ratchet straps around the hives and we were able to easily move them all the way from the back corner of the property and up to where the trailer was.

The fact that the temperature was in the mid 40s while we were doing this also helped since the bees weren't even flying by the time we suited up.  After we loaded up the hives and the cinder blocks that they were resting on, we strapped them down to the trailer and headed off to Keith's house to deliver the girls to their new home!

We started at 7 PM and we were unloading them right when it was getting dark.  We used a small trailer and a lawn tractor to move them to their new location.  Much to my chagrin we learned how light the hives really were as we EASILY picked them up by the ratchet straps as we transferred them onto the small trailer.  We probably didn't even need the 2x4 frame at all.  Oh well, at least it worked well and we didn't drop a hive!  I was glad to get a text the next day saying that the girls had already adjusted to their new home and were flying and bringing in stores.

I am very thankful that God gave me the opportunity to experience one of His fantastic and marvelous creations in this way.  I hope to share that experience with others and continue to go to the  State of Michigan Beekeepers Spring conference with Keith.  I think we'd go just for the Michigan State University cafeteria food across the street!  =)  I also hope to make a post to the blog every now and again as I come across interesting new bee topics.  Perhaps someday I'll even have the ability to get back into beekeeping.  Who knows what tomorrow may bring?  Not sure what else to say in a sappy "goodbye" post except for:

Until next time, thanks for reading!


Monday, March 14, 2016

2016-03-14: Michigan Beekeeprs Association Conference

It must really be Spring time with the annual Michigan Beekeepers Conference here again.  My friend Keith and I went on Saturday as usual.  The keynote speaker was Gary Reuter from the University of Minnesota.  He had two sessions and talked about what the general public think is wrong with bees (CCD) and what beekeepers think is wrong with bees (Varroa).  The general theme I found throughout the conference was "test and know your mite levels" and "varroa are killing your bees".

Breakout sessions:

Our first breakout session was on swarm traps done by Matt Tannana.  He was a very good speaker and managed the class questions very well.  He does Top Bar hives and his swarm traps were all Top Bar style.  His information followed the book Honeybee Democracy by Tom Seeley and he referenced the book a few times.  I've read it before and I highly recommend it.

Our last session was Pests and Pathogens by Dr. Megan Milbrath.  This is the same person from the Northern Bee Network that I bought queens from this past summer.  She is also a very good speaker, natural and funny.  She tried to be upbeat about a subject that can really be a downer for sure!  My biggest takeaway from her session was a new approach to Varroa control.  I have always been against treating the bees with chemicals and instead using Integrated Pest Management tools and looking for a genetic solution to pest problems.  Well, she opened my eyes to a bit more of a middle ground that seems acceptable.  The approach: If a hive has out of control mite levels, treat and then re-queen.  The benefit here is: the hive doesn't die, you cycle through genetic combinations quicker to find the ones that work and you aren't creating a "mite bomb" when your hive crashes.  So the remaining question is, if I decide to treat a select hive, what do I use?  I think one of the Organic Acids is probably the way to go.  I need to do more research.


It seems like every year there is some new gadget that shows up for beekeeping.  This year it was the package funnel.  Basically a piece of corrugated plastic that folds out into a funnel of sorts and instead of roughly dumping a package of bees into a hive, you gently invert the open package on top of this funnel on the outside of the hive and the bees just move down into the hive on their own.  I suppose that would work just fine but I guess I've never had an issue installing them with the shake method, so whatever floats your boat!


On another depressing note, since I became allergic to bee stings this past summer and recently had an issue/reaction to my allergy shot AND we may be moving in the near future, I will be getting rid of my bees this Spring.  Originally I thought I'd just sell everything and quit but I think I may decide to just move the hives to some friend's houses that have bees and at least I could live vicariously through their beekeeping and see how they progress.  Lots of changes coming up but I guess that is what happens in life!

As always, thanks for reading.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

2016-02-20: We're not dead yet!

On a balmy 55 degree February day I went out to see how the hives were doing.  I'm happy to report that at least three out of the four are alive!  The bees were using the top and bottom entrances on Yellow, Green and Split Hives.

Two items of concern came up and I walked around, both on the Split Hive.  First, they were showing signs of possible Nosema or Dysentery, although I suppose it may have been their first cleansing flight of the winter.

The second odd thing was that the mouse guard that was stapled across the bottom entrance appears to have been torn open.  I guess a skunk or something could have been clawing at it trying to get at some dead bees to eat?

Anyway, it was really good to see that most of the girls had made it this far.  Hopefully White hive was just really sleepy and none of the bees wanted to come out to play!

Hang in there just a while longer girls!!

Thursday, January 7, 2016

2016-01-07: Honey Bee Pollination

I'm a little late to the party but I came across this animation from National Geographic today about where honey bees are transported to do pollination across the country.  Very impressive!

The overall article is about building a "super bee".  Make sure to click the "featured article" link at the top to read more.

On the home front there isn't too much going on.  I put a "Winter Bee Kind" candy board that I received for Christmas on my Cutout hive.  The cluster was at the top of the hive and they were moving around slightly in the 30 degree temps.  I also put a home made, no cook candy board on the Nuc hive but I could not see the cluster in the top box and didn't have a light to shine down into the bottom box to see them.  Since I left honey supers on the other two hives I am not adding candy boards to them.  I continue to see new dead bees on the landing boards of the hives so that is a good sign.  If there were no alive bees inside the hive, then there wouldn't bee any dead bees brought outside the hive!

My BroodMinder's continue to monitor and collect data from the hives.  I had the battery die on two of them so far and I've replaced one of the batteries but haven't put the BroodMinder back out on the hive.  The producers continue to work through the issues and make progress on the software so that is a good thing!  They are starting work on a similar device that is a hive scale.  That would be super useful!  If it is anywhere close to the price of the BroodMinder then I'll be all over it!

Happy New Year readers!

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

2015-12-08: BroodMinder Has Arrived

I'm very excited to say that my electronic hive temperature and humidity monitoring devices, aka the BroodMinder, have arrived!  If you've been reading this blog you know that I've been playing around with my own electronic hive monitoring electronics using an Arduino.  Although it worked, I couldn't really find a good way of deploying it and keeping it powered.  Well, some very talented people have done a lot more (and better) thinking about this and have made it a reality.  The weather is looking good this weekend and hopefully I will have them installed!

You can read all about how they work in the link to their Indiegogo page above, but basically you place the device right below your inner cover (above the brood) and using low power blue tooth it transmits the data to an app on your smart phone.  Pretty sweet!

BroodMinders ready to go!
I bought three of them and plan to place them on the cutout hive, the split (combined) hive and either the Green or White hive.  They both have the same number of boxes but one has an Italian queen and the other has the queen I bought from the Northern Bee Network.  I guess you'll find out which one I decided on after I deploy them.

The App
Hopefully these little gems will help me to monitor the hives over the winter without opening them. 

Until next time, thanks for reading!

Monday, November 23, 2015

2015-11-21: Winter Is Here

I guess there is no avoiding it now.......Winter is here.  Our first real snow that stuck started today and hasn't stopped yet.  Not sure if the snow will last but there is no denying that we are sliding into the cold.  Some of the things I wanted to do to the hives before Winter set in for good was to add mouse guards, windbreaks, candy boards and/or ventilation boards. 

Cold hives!
After searching around on the interwebs and seeing many different schemes for windbreaks, I decided on using burlap.  It was cheap and could be used for other purposes once Winter was over.  I picked up two rolls, hammered some posts into the ground and rolled out the burlap using zip ties to attach it to the posts.  

Wind break added
The idea isn't to surround the hives, but to address the prevailing wind directions.  Typically this is wind from the North and West so I built it in those two directions.  With my cutout hive and my combined nuc hive being short, the three foot tall roll seemed adequate.  But for the two established hives with two deep boxes and one honey super on, it seemed too short.  I think I'm going to pick up a few taller stakes and two more rolls of burlap to complete the job.

My next task was to put on some mouse guards.  I took some #4 hardware cloth, bent it into an L shape and stapled them across the entrance to each of the hives.

Cut out hive with mouse guard added

White and Green hives with mouse guards added

Combined nuc hives with mouse guard added
All in all I think it turned out well, didn't take too long and was inexpensive.  I sure hope it helps the bees get through the next four months of Winter!

Until next time, Happy Thanksgiving and thanks for reading!