Saturday, February 13, 2010

Winter, Winter...Go Away

December 2009 - February 2009
Time for us to sit back, cross our fingers and pray that our bees make it through the winter months. Our work is done. In the winter bees form "clusters" that spread across several combs and are just under the stored food. Bees within the cluster generate heat by flexing their muscles, while cold, immobile bees on the outside of the cluster are periodically pushed to the center where they are warmed, rotating with the warm bees who are move to the outside. The temperature, at the center of the cluster will remain at approximately 93-95 degrees.
During warm weather periods the bees must break their cluster periodically and gorge on honey. It is this honey that provides the energy for warming the cluster interior. It is also necessary for the bees to take "cleansing" flights during the winter, as bees will not bathroom in the hive.
They will also tidy up and many older bees will be found dead outside the hive entrance.
On warm days you should see bees exiting and entering the hive, and if tapped on, your hives should give off a "BUZZ" sound.

Time To Feed The Bees

September 15, 2009
Time once again to start feeding the bees their sugar/water solution. It's our job to help the bees fatten up their winter stores. They need approximately 60 lbs. of honey to last the winter. Granted even this does not guarantee their survival...but we will do our part and give them a good head start, feeding right into October until they no longer take the solution. FEED, FEED, FEED!

Honey Makes The World Go Round

September 8, 2009
Being newbies, we weren't quite sure what to expect out of our first Fall harvest. Many beekeepers in our area reported having a poor honey yield. I guess we were an exception, our first harvest produced about 125 lbs. of delicious, nutritious golden honey. In fact, we ran out of honey jars. We also only extracted frames that were completely capped and gave back to the bees many frames that were partially honey filled. We were thrilled to say the least and very proud of our "girls". We also came to really appreciate and value the bees as vital beings. (The BEE MOVIE is right when it showed the bees getting very upset at humans for stealing all their hard work!)
Needless to say, pure honey is by far much better than store bought honey. Anyone who hasn't tasted pure honey will be pleasantly surprised....and will never buy anything but pure honey again.
One of the reasons is that pure honey is not heated (therefore it will crystallize over a long period of time) but it will also not loose any of the health benefits that your store bought honey does.
Research benefits of eating pure honey and I am sure you will be amazed at all the different things honey can do for your body!


September 4, 2009
Time to harvest!
Our two hives produced 6 supers of honey - one hive producing four and the other two. (It's a good idea for a new beekeeper to start with two hives - this way you can compare the two against each other).
We purchsed a used and older model extracter (cheap) and completely recoated it with a rubber food safe sealant before using it.
Each frame of honey was decapped using a hand decapping fork, since this being our first year we didn't really care about collecting the wax. Then frames were loaded into the extractor and spun until each frame contained only the wax comb remained. Any trace amounts of honey that is still on the frames will be fed back to the bees.
That first drop of honey was exciting to say the least. It took us most of the day, (always set aside a full day), to extract all the frames into 5 gallon, food safe buckets.

All Supered Up

Our hives, each with four supers on top of the hive bodies. Hopefull getting nice and full of delicious honey!

Busy As A Bee

August 5, 2009
The phrase, "Busy as a Bee", is an understatement. In just a few short months these girls, (yes, all worker bees are female), have been extremely buzy....the population in each hive has gone from 10,000 to approximately 60,000...making inspections all the more fun! (Gotta love our smoker).
The bees have filled the hives with pollen stores, brood (new bees) and an ample supply of honey.
In one of the pictures you can see the bees making a "bee ladder" - quite amazing!
Time for us to get our "supers" on and start collecting the honey for us!
Our job of feeding has ended. (Never feed your bees once you have put supers on - they will make a "sugar/water honey" and not a pure honey)

Taste Like Pollen.....

July 13, 2009
A bee working the yard - great for the bee and great for the flowers!

A Few Weeks Later....

June 6, 2009
We are starting to feel a little more at ease with our new bees.
It's very exciting when we inspect the hives and look at all the hard work these little creatures have been doing. just a few short weeks they have accomplished quite a bit. The Queen has begun to lay her eggs (up to 2,500 a day), the worker bees have been very busy building wax foundation, feeding the young, and keeping the hive nice and tidy. While the foragers have been flying back and forth from the hive collecting pollen and nectar from available sources.
You can see our beloved Queen in a picture above. She is the one with the blue dot.
Her ONLY job is to lay eggs. She does absolutely no work and has her own "court" of bees to take care of her. They feed her and clean her. Without her you would have not hive as she is the only bee that lays eggs.
Our job....FEED, FEED, FEED!

Our First Inspection

May 21, 2009
Our first inspection of the hives since installing the bees. Oh what will we see?
The bees have been busy beginning to build wax foundation onto the frames.
Our job....FEED, FEED, FEED!

Queen Bee

Some first time beekeepers make the mistake of releasing the queen from her cage. NEVER help release a queen. The bees and their queen must slowly become aquainted with each other so that the Queen becomes accepted into the hive. If after a few days, the queen hasn't been released, then and only then is it okay to remove the candy cork from her cage.

Bees NOT Beehaving!

After installing the bees we waited a few days for them to release themselves. One package of bees did exactly as it should, and we removed an empty package box. These bees were becoming aquainted with their new home.
The other package of bees....did not. These bees decided to begin making combs inside of the package box and not move into their new, roomy hive.
We made a quick 911 call to an experienced beekeeper and were told to go out and physically shake the bees out. RIGHT!
Trying not to stress or aggravate the poor young bees, we gave a few quick shakes and decided to leave the package of bees in front of the hive entrance and hope for the best. The bees didn't let us down and before the end of the day, most of the bees had found their new home. What a relief. Now it was time to sit and wait about a week before bothering them again. Let the bees do their job of releasing the caged queen and begin to build out the frames. Our job was to FEED, FEED, FEED the bees a solution of 50% sugar, 50% water - food they would need to get to work!

We're Newbies With New Bees

May 16, 2009
Our package bees arrive.
Each package contains approximately 10,000 bees. We are feeling excited and slightly nervous about what is next. Installing the bees into their hives. You can watch as many videos, see live demonstrations, and read as many books as you like about the proper way of doing this, but let's face it, actually doing it yourself is just a little bit different.
After removing the cage with the queen inside and attaching the cage to a frame, it's time to install the remaining 9,996 bees....tapping the entire cage down, sending the bees to the bottom, removing the feeding can and QUICKLY flipping the package over the hole in the top cover the of the hive. Now the bees should come out of the package and go into the hive by themselves.
NOTE I said should....