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!