Let’s get creative with those hives!

I have decided to spruce up my apiary.  Why go with plain, simple, solid colored hives when you can paint scenes and designs on them?

I have joking told my husband, that as more woman get involved in beekeeping, the more decorated bee hives there will be.   Not that men are not creating amazing hive designs,  I’m sure there are many wonderfully painted hives done by men.  If you are one of them, post a picture below in the comments!

Here’s a few that I have painted….

 

A few that I am working on….

 

 

and a few that I am thinking about…

If you would like to see more, or how I transfer my designs onto a hive for painting, let me know.

~ May all your wandering take you to many wonderful places……   and, show me your painted hives, post a picture in the comments below.

Lisa

1st hive inspection of 2017

Last weekend, on January 21st (my husband’s birthday), my husband and I checked on our 4 hives. It was 53 degrees, partially sunny and the bees were out flying. The front hives have larger colonies and enjoy the full force of the sun, which keeps them warmer than the hives in the back and therefore more bees, in those hives, were out on a cold day.

Over the last couple of years, I have been saving up medium frames of honey, to be used to feed my bees in winter. I had 1 full super that I was planning on splitting between my 2 back hives. My 2 back hives were created in 2016 and were a little light on stores in the fall.

My 2 front hives were purchased/caught as a swarm in 2015. They overwintered between ’15-’16 and last year produced over 315# of honey, twenty 12oz honey combs and 16 ½ pints of creamed honey. For those two hives, I made 2 fondant blocks (fondant recipe below) in case they needed something extra.

1st 2016 created hive:

I went into the 1st 2016 created hive and noticed the bees were just starting into the top honey super, there were around 40 or so bees at the bottom of the middle frames. I carefully removed the bees and placed in a new frame full of honey and repeated this 4 more times. I also cleaned out the bottom board, finding only a handful of dead bees. (This tells me that the hive is doing well. They were still in their 1st honey super, they are not having a large die off and the colony is healthy enough to successfully remove their expired workers.)

2nd 2016 created hive:

I then opened my 2nd 2016 created hive; here I found the bees cluster at the top against the quilt box. My 1st thought here was that these bees are in need of feeding, my 5 frames of honey, that I was splitting between the two 2016 hives, was just not going to do it. For starters how would I even be able to replace the frames in the box with frames of honey?

I closed up the hive and took a few minutes to think through my options. I’ve been keeping bees for a full 3 years now, going on my 4th. I have many deep frames of honey, produced by my bees over these 3 years. Some of the frames were made using sugar syrup and some by the bees collecting nectar.

I returned to my honey house to collect as many deep frames of honey as possible. I was surprised to find that I had 3 full 10-frame deep boxes worth of honey. I hadn’t realized I was such a deep frame honey hoarder.  J   I was planning on using these to feed Nucs when creating colonies with grafted queens, but keeping my bees alive and healthy is my number 1 priority at this time.

I returned back to my apiary and placed a full deep worth of honey onto the hive.

This hive also had the most dead bees on the bottom board. Not a number that is too concerning (I know what it looks like when a complete hive dies and all the bees are sitting on the bottom board – this was nothing like that), but more than I would like to have seen. (In summary, this hive was running out of stores and probably was dying off from lack of food.  It was a good thing that the weather allowed me to take a peak.)

My 2015 caught swarm hive:

Next I peaked in on my hive that I caught as a swarm in 2015. There were bees collected near the top, near the opening and very few bees on the bottom board.  I don’t believe they needed food, I believe the bees were gathering near the upper opening so they could take cleansing flights.  But to be on the safe side, I gave the hive 1 full deep worth of honey.

My 2015 purchased hive:

This hive was in the same shape as the 2015 caught swarm hive. So, like the other, I gave this hive 1 full deep worth of honey.

Lastly, the 2 fondant blocks and all the extra medium honey frames I could find went onto the 1st hive that I had opened. This gave the hive 13 full frames of honey and 2 fondant blocks.

Once all hives were fed, I sealed up all cracks using duct tape.

final-config

The next time I hear that we will have temps in the 50s on a sunny day, I will make more fondant.

I hope your bees are doing as well as mine are.

~ May all your wandering take you to many wonderful places!

Lisa

Fondant for bees

Tomorrow we are expecting temps in the low 50s. This will be my 1st hive check of the year, beyond laying an ear to the hive to listen for the nice soft hum of the colony.

In preparation for this hive check, I have made fondant incase the bees have reached the top and are in need of food.

 

The recipe that I followed contains corn syrup. I prefer not to use corn syrup, but it’s needed in the recipe to make the fondant pliable.  The 2 fondant pictures above, were made using the same recipe, just two different finishing methods. The 1st method gives you a hard firm candy.  The 2nd method gives you a softer Fondant.

Fondant for 1 hive

  • 4c sugar
  • 4T corn syrup
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon in a 1 cup measuring cup
  • Water added to lemon juice until the 1c mark is reached

Directions:

  1. Place all ingredients into large pot
  2. Bring to boil over medium-high heat.  Be careful not to brown/caramelize the sugar, this is bad for the bees.
  3. Place top onto pot and let boil for 3 minutes – this melts all sugar crystals, any sugar crystal left will crystalize the fondant
  4. Remove top and boil until the sugar mixture reach 248 degrees.
  5. Removed from heat and place into mixer
  6. When sugar mixture reaches 180 degrees
  7. Beat mixture until it is white and cool.
  8. At this point, Method 1: scrape fondant/ candy into a pan lined with wax paper
  9. OR, Method 2: wet your hands and knead the fondant on a board sprinkled with water

Making fondant is very hard on your mixer and will heat up the motor. In addition, the fondant is difficult to get out of the bowl, since it has a tendency to stick to the sides. If you have any suggestions on how to deal with this, please let me know so I can give it a try.

I think you will find this recipe easy to make and it’s also deliciously sweet.  But beware if you are not careful, it will probably remove your fillings.

If you give this recipe a try, let me know what you think.

~ May all your wandering take you to many wonderful places!

Lisa

 

Winterizing

Here in Northern Illinois, winter weather has finally arrived.  Yesterday ~3″ of snow fell upon my farm and my hives.

My bees were all tucked warmly in their homes, which were winterized a month ago.

If you haven’t winterized your hives, there’s no time like the present.  Here’s a list of things to consider.  Decide for yourself, which ones work best for you!

winterizing

May all your wandering take you to many wonderful places.

~Lisa

How to make honey comb

When I was young, my mom bought honey comb for my brothers and I to try.  I remember, as you bit into the comb, the pockets of honey would burst open and it would be oh, so sweet.

Honey comb

I wanted to see if I could bring that memory to life, using my own hives.  However, I didn’t want to over do it, but just to make a few frames of comb for the family to enjoy and to share with friends.

The method I used, was to take a plastic foundation and cut it into 5 strips.  I placed each of these strips at the top of an empty frame.  I didn’t need to pin the strip into place, it fit snuggly into the grove at the top.  In fact, I had to use a hammer to set it into place.

I placed each frame between 2 already drawn out frames, which helps to give the bees a pattern to f0llow. The bees drew out each frame, filled the cells with nectar and when they had made honey, they capped the cells. In this picture, you can see the small strip of plastic cell at the top of the frame.

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The bees filled this frame with a mix of very light honey and a darker honey.

Using a small sharp knife, I cut each frame into 4 combs that fit nicely into my containers.

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I found this quite easy to do, however the bees don’t always build a nice straight comb, especially when there is a frame missing foundation.  I was lucky that they didn’t build crossways between the frames on either side of the honey comb frame.

I hope you find this inspirational and, perhaps during your next nectar flow, you will give this a try.

~ May all your wandering take you to many wonderful places.

Lisa

 

 

 

Happy World Honey Bee Day!!

Today is World Honey Bee Day! In honor of this day, take the time to enjoy some honey. Place honey on your toast, over your ice cream or make a honey infused mojito (if it wasn’t so early I would go make one of these) . Perhaps, go to your farmers market and show your support of your local beekeeper by purchasing some of their products.

Enjoy your day and thank all your local beekeepers for making the world a little sweeter.

~ May all your wandering take you to many wonderful places.

Lisa

Happy with hive 4

This last weekend I inspected Hive #4.  Hive #4 was created on June 5th, where I took 2 frames from hive 2….IMG_5407

and placed them in a Nuc box, with a frame of honey, a frame with pollen and a frame of drawn comb.

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I left this Nuc alone until June 19th, where during a quick inspection I found an open queen cell, no eggs, didn’t spot the queen, but the bees seemed calm. Calm, quiet bees are a sign of a queen right hive, therefore, I closed up the hive and decided I would check again at a later date.

It wasn’t until the end of July that I found  the queen, she was busy working on the frame below.

Hive 3 Frame of bees

In this next picture you can find her in the middle. She has a long black abdomen, short wings and a black thorax and what a beautiful queen she is.

Hive 3 Queen

Again, after seeing that the hive was calm and busy, I closed them back up to let them be.

During my recent inspection, I found many frames with a very nice laying pattern.

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I am very pleased with this hive. If they keep building like they have been, they will be ready for winter when it arrives.

~ May all your wandering take you to many wonderful places.

Lisa

Creamed Honey

Making creamed honey is simple and, oh, so delicious.

Creamed honey is not made by whipping honey, but by controlling the crystallization of it. When honey naturally crystallizes, it produces crystals, which when rolled across the tongue, feel rough and gritty. Creamed honey is made using smaller crystals and these smaller crystals roll nicely across the tongue, giving a smooth creamy feeling.

The easiest way to make creamed honey is to purchase an already made creamed honey, to use as a seed.

Over the weekend, I went to our local farmer’s market to scope out the different creamed honeys produced by my local beekeepers.

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I ended up purchasing from 2 different beekeepers and brought it home for the family to do a taste test, to identify a winner. We thought the one on the left was smoother, but only after you got through a top layer that was not as smooth. The sugar grains, in the one on the right, were not as smooth, but were consistent from top to bottom. Remember that you are looking for smoothness and not taste,  once you mix the “seed” into your honey, it will be your honey flavor that shines.  Since we couldn’t make a decision on which one we liked best, we made 2 batches, 1 from each.

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For the 1st batch, I measured out 4.5 pounds of honey and mixed in half the creamed honey, from the jar purchased from the farmers market. As you mix, be careful not to mix in any air.

Once thoroughly mixed, I then poured the mixture into jars. 4.5 pounds of honey, plus 4oz of creamed honey resulted in 7 half pint jars.

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All jars were then placed into the refrigerator in order to set. After 2 weeks we removed them and gave one a try.  My husband remarked that it was the best creamed honey that he’s ever had.  (What a wonderful husband I have.)

Next time I would like to make a flavored cream honey.  I’m thinking of lemon infused creamed honey. I have fond memories of drinking tea with honey and lemon juice when I was young.  Or perhaps cinnamon creamed honey, I love putting cinnamon sugar on my toast. This might be a good way of further transitioning from sugar to honey in my diet.

I would love to hear what flavor of creamed honey is your favorite.  Please leave me a comment.

~ May all your wandering take you to many wonderful places.

Lisa

Early Extraction

It’s been a while since I have posted, I took a new job in January and have been so busy from learning and doing that I have been exhausted in the evening. If I wasn’t having meetings with my global counterparts at night, I was sleeping by 7pm. My poor family was being to miss me.

This year I took a different approach to beekeeping. Last year I inspected my hives almost every weekend, with up to 12-14 hives it took a huge amount of time away from my flower gardens. This year I did not buy anymore hives, but worked only with the 2 that overwintered

The 2 overwintered hives

My philosophy for this year is:

  • Let the bees do their job – minimal inspections, get in, get out
  • Super early and super often – don’t let them get honey bound, which may be a signal to the hive to swarm
  • Build up colony to max – do minimal # of splits, if any
  • Give them plenty of space – don’t let them get overcrowded, we want no swarming

This philosophy seems to be working very well, by mid June I had 4 honey supers on each hive and by July 1st, all 80 frames either capped or in the process of being capped.

4 supers each

On July 3rd, I pulled off all fully capped frames, 48 in total, and extracted the honey from them.

Honey capped frame

My setup for extraction is quite simple:

  • A homemade extractor, which holds 7 frames
  • A homemade capping bucket, which holds wax cappings from ~50 frames
  • 5 gallon bucket with honey gate
  • 2 strainer system that sits on top of the 5 gallon bucket
  • Hot knife for uncapping frames
  • Bucket of water to rinse hands
  • Cardboard for the floor of my garage

The extraction took many, many hours for we had to do a modification to the extractor to keep the bottom of the frames from slipping out of the spinner and hitting the wall of the barrel. Once we fixed that, things went much faster and we were able to pull all of the honey from the cells and not just 50% or so.   During this extraction we extracted over 11 gallons, > 132 #s, of honey.

Here we have 6 gallons bottled in 1/2 gallon jars, 4 gallons in the 5 gallon bucket and, to date, there is over 1 gallon in the uncapping bucket.

Once extraction was complete, we put the supers back on the hives so the bees could continue to create more honey.

I leave my supers on until the goldenrod begins to bloom, and at that time I will pull all frames capped to do another extraction. For the uncapped frames, I will leave them on for the bees to continue to work. However, when we reach the end of the goldenrod flow, I will need to decide how much to leave them for winter and what to pull for the purpose of extracting a dark goldenrod honey.

I hope your honey making bees are doing as well as mine are this year. Comment below to let me know how things are going.

~ May all your wandering take you to many wonderful places.

Lisa

 

Autopsy 1 – Italian

My Italian hive had survived the winter of 2014-15, but didn’t make it through this last winter, dying late February. They had worked their way from the bottom box to the top of the top box and didn’t move from there, even though there was plenty of honey stores around them.  As you can see the cluster was about the size of a softball and they could have died due to their population size and their inability to keep the colony and queen warm.

Italian - frame

Just below them is capped brood and perhaps with our teeter-totter of a winter, where it went from warm to cold and back again, the Italians began brood rearing.  When this happens the cluster will not move from the brood for food.

Within this small cluster I found the queen, frozen in time.

As shown in the frame below, I found evidence of varroa mite feces. The white specs found lining the cells are from the mites. I treated this hive late in the fall with OAV, 2 times in August and 1 time in Sept, with one week intervals between. I find that even after treating, a very populous hive will struggle with mites.  I believe I might need more experience with using the OAV method.

Italian - Varroa feces

Observations:

  1. The colony was unable to reach the honey around them
  2. They may have started brood rearing during late December/ early Jan, which would of caused them to not leave the brood area
  3. Varroa mites may have weakened the hive.
  4. It appears to me that they became small due to Varroa, they reached the top of the box and were unable to move to honey, thus ultimately starving to death.

My plan from this analysis is

  1. to research more on using the OAV method, and to figure out a good method for determining it’s effectiveness.
  2. consider adding a medium super of honey to each hive.

Have you had success with using OAV?  What process do you follow to determine if it is effective?  Do you retreat again in December or January?

Would love to hear from you!

~ May all your wandering take you to many wonderful places!