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

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

 

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!

Overwinter Config

~ Wandering Creek Acres ~

Before you start your hive autopsies, you should first take some time to list how you prepared your hives in the fall for winter.  After each autopsy you can review that configuration and determine how you can make it better for the following year.

Here are my 8 hives that entered the new year alive.

Each was prepared for winter as follows:

Excel - winter config

As an experiment (ok, I’m an engineer and engineers love experiments), I overwintered 3 Nucs to see if I would have greater success in overwintering smaller colonies.

The five hives marked in red died before we reached April; 3/5ths of the 10-frame hives and 2/3rds of the Nucs. (60% and 67%, respectively). So not much of a difference.

Now that I have listed how each hive was winterized, I can easily review the autopsy results as I perform each autopsy and determine how I can improve on my overwintering plan for the coming winter.

As you can see from my overwintering plan for this last year, I do not wrap, how about you?  Do you find that wrapping helps your hives survive the winter?

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

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Spring Inspection

Early in the year, when the weather permits, it is time to assess which hives survived winter.  For those that did not make it through the long winter, a hive autopsy should be performed to see what you can learn from what remains.

Last fall, I had ten colonies being prepared for winter, 7 in my Carniolan apiary (picture on left) and 3 in my Italian apiary (picture on the right).

Before we even reached December only eight remained. My Italians struggled all summer long, re-queening and one succumbing to laying workers. It was a struggle keeping them alive.  My Carniolan apiary was the opposite, I captured 2 swarms near them and was able to make 3 hives from one that was attempting to swarm.

However, by mid February, 3 more had perished, leaving us with 5.  We are now sitting at the end of March with only 3 hives remaining.  During each of the last 2 cold spells I have lost one additional hive.

Now is the time to perform autopsies on these hives, to see what I can learn from them, and determine what I could have done differently for next year.

Follow me on this journey and learn about hive autopsies and what signs to look for.

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

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Egg to Bee

Not all honey bee eggs are created equal.  Did you know that the length of time it takes a bee to hatch is dependent on whether it is a worker, drone or a queen?

A queen will hatch in 16 days, a worker in 21 and a drone in 24 days.

Egg life 2

Honey bee eggs are very tiny and look like tiny grains of rice.  At only 1mm in length, they are very difficult to see. The best way to see the eggs during an inspection is to lift the frame up and have the sun shine over your shoulder and into the cells.

Eggs1

After 3 days in the egg stage the egg will hatch into a larva.  The pictures below show larva at different ages.

Larvae2.pngLarva

Once the larva reach the right stage, as determined by the nurse bees, the larva will be capped. Below the nurse bees have begun to cap the larva as noted by the rough edges on the cell.

Larvae being capped

In the picture below, the flat capped brood are worker bees and the bullet shaped cells are drones.  Drone cells are normally found along the edge of the  brood pattern.  The picture on the right is a capped queen cell. The bees build a nice big cell for the queen to fit in.

CappedQueen cell

These pupa shown below are drones which were accidentally ripped out of their cells during a hive inspection.  The bees had created burr comb between the upper and lower box, and when frames were removed the cells were ripped apart.

Pupa

Once the bees are ready to be hatched, they will eat their way out of the cell. Here are two bees being hatched, one is almost all the way out of its cell, while the other is still deep in its cell, but has removed most of the cap that covers it.

Hatch1

Being able to observe bees in all states of development is a wonderful thing.

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

 

 

DIY Sugar Block Recipe

I checked on my bees today and they are doing great. I’m not sure if my 1 Italian hive has any occupants anymore, I did not hear anything or see any bees near the entrances of the hive.  My 7 Carniolan hives are doing very well.  6 of the 7 are noisy when I listen to them using my stethoscope, but I have 1 hive that is very weak.  I made sure all hives had ample sugar stores, since it will be a couple of weeks before I will be able to take a peak.  We are due for about a week with lows near zero.

Here’s my recipe for making Sugar blocks.

Ingredients:

  • 4# of sugar
  • 6 oz of water
  • Few drops of essential oils
    • Lemon grass – mimics the Pheromone scent
    • Spearmint
    • Wintergreen – helps control tracheal mites
    • Tea tree oil

Directions:

  1. Measure water and mix in essential oils.
  2. Add water to sugar and mix until combined
  3. Using small aluminum pans, divide sugar and pat down.
  4. Place in 250 degrees F oven for 20 min or so.  You just want the sugar partially melted.  Since ovens vary, keep an eye on your sugar so it doesn’t brown.
  5. Remove and let cool.
  6. Use or store until use. – Keep in a sealed container, away from mice.

I place these blocks directly on top of the top frames, with a shim or upside down candy board sitting above to give it the space it needs to be able to close the top securely.

Do you have a recipe that works well for you?  I would love to hear about it.

~ May all your wandering take you to many wonderful places

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Have my bees run out of winter stores?

Being in northern Illinois/ southern Wisconsin, late January or early February is the time to start thinking about this.

I dislike the thought that my bees would make it into the new year only to die of starvation before spring arrives.

Here’s a frame showing what is left of bees that starved and the bottom board with all the bees that fell to the bottom of the hive.  This was a sad sight during my spring hive inspections last year.

Picture1

Pile of dead bees

A few weeks ago, on a warmish calm day, I took a peak into my hives.  Only lifting the top, a couple of inches along the back edge, to see if the bees had been eating the sugar blocks that I had placed on the top frames in late fall. I found one hive with a softball size area of bees, but sadly they were nowhere near the block of sugar.  I took my hive tool and gently moved the sugar block directly over the bees.

When we have a nice day in February, I will peak in again to see if they need more sugar. Knowing that as time moves closer into spring, prior to any nectar flow, more of my hives will be in need of a sugar block to survive.  Therefore, I am in the process of making a couple of sugar blocks a week.

Two blocks

There are many recipes out there for making sugar blocks where you stir 25# of hot, near boiling melted sugar on the stove.  This does not sound like a good idea to me, so I’ve been searching and experimenting with no cook recipes. However, the problem with recipes that instruct you to mix the water and essential oils into the sugar, pat down into a pan and let dry, is that if they do ever dry they don’t hold their shape.  Then, if you stack them, the ones at the bottom crumble.  At least this is my experience.

Crumbled

While making one of these recipes, I had placed the sugar blocks into my warm oven, which was at 170 degrees, to dry.  My oven must not be very accurate, since it partially melted the sugar in the pan.  (Sugar melts at 185 degrees F).

The partial melting of the sugar held the complete block together when the sugar block cooled. So far I have made 4 blocks with this method, and I have 3 more sitting in my oven now.

Four blocks

Check back later this week for the DIY Sugar Block recipe.

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

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Hive location

Where should I place my hives?

When I decided to get bees I thought of all the possibilities of where I could place them. I am very fortunate, I have 32 acres to choose from and I have no neighbors within spitting distance.  Not that I would spit at my neighbors.

Here’s is what the lay of the land looks like for me and a few of my thoughts:

Lay of the land2

My next step in the process was to research what bees prefer.  Keeping in mind that beekeepers don’t always agree, but when it comes to location it is pretty anonymous on what bees like.

First thing to keep in mind is any ordinances that might place restrictions on you, for instance:

Ordinances

Second, where will you have the best access to your bees?  Taking into account if it is easy to reach, distance wise, and if you have room to do inspections.

Easy access2

Third, is water. Your bees need access to water and preferably not to your neighbors swimming pool or their birdbath.  Some neighbors will not be happy when this happens, but hopeful you have neighbors that will work with you and not just complain about it.

There is a commercial beekeeper that has around 30 hives about 1/2 a mile from me.  They sit up on a hill looking over a large area with 3 ponds. My friend, who’s directly across the street from those hives, was having problems with the bees visiting his swimming pool, he would have hundreds of bees in his water a day.  He politely spoke to the beekeeper and the beekeeper waved his magic wand and convinced the bees to go elsewhere.  I’ve been think about how he might have done this, perhaps he placed some sweet sugar water close to the ponds and that trained them to go there for their water.

Here’s a picture of my hives and the stream they have access to. I liked this location for it is close to water, I have easy access to the hives and it’s in my orchard, but it is not good for my bees in the winter and I am in the process of moving these hives to a better location.

Water

The forth consideration is the sun.  Here is where beekeepers may disagree. Some think full sun is best, other partial shade.  I think you need to decide based on your climate.  If you live in the south where you get 100+ degrees F days for most of the summer, you might want your bees in partial sun.  The hotter it is in the hive, the more time they will spend attempting to cool the hive down.

Here I show hives in 2 different locations, the left is in full sun, the second is tucked into my grove of evergreens and provides a little shade for them, but mostly for me.  I use a full suit, since I’m slightly allergic to bee stings, and when I’m working in my full sun apiary I am way too hot. In my evergreen apiary I can just back up into the trees to get some shade.

Sun

Fifth, is the winter winds.  The only protection my hives, in the left picture above, have is the plastic that I placed on the fence.  The west winds shoot up the hill from the stream and strike my hives, all winter long.  The north side has no protection.  My hives on the right are protected  from the north and west by the evergreen trees.  Out of the 3 hives on the left, only 1 made it through winter last year.  So far, all 7 hives on the right are alive.

Sixth, is traffic pattern.  In which direction and at what altitude will your bees fly to forage for food?  Bees have a tendency to fly straight out of the hive and across your open area. Is this where you, your children and neighbors “play”? Placing the opening of your hives toward a fence or hedge will cause the bees to fly up and above the fence/hedge, hopefully keeping them out of the direct path of people. Bee also don’t care for loud, vibrating machines, like lawn mowers, if you are mowing directly in front of your hives, you are likely to get stung.

Traffic

Seventh, goes with number six, but is more difficult to predict, it has to do with bee spotting.  Bee spotting is when bee poop falls on your car, house, etc and leaves a spot of poop.  Worker bees (the female bees in the hive that do all the work), must go on cleansing flights, for they will  not go to the bathroom inside the hive.  The bees will leave the hive, follow a path and then come back into the hive. With a little warm water, and some soaking the spots will come right off.

If the hives are sick then the spotting will be even worse. Here’s bee spotting from a sick hive:

Bee spotting

As long as you have a variety of flowers in your area throughout the season, your bees should have everything they need.

Flowers

You can find a nice consolidated list of considerations here.

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

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Equipment

It can be overwhelming trying to figure out what equipment, tools and clothing you need to get started in beekeeping.  Here is what I recommend for a Langstroth style hive, which is the type of hive that I am using.

Hive Components

The inner cover and frames are hidden within the above picture, but here is what they look like:

InnerCoverFrames

This is just the minimum you will need.  As the bees grow in population you will need to be adding an additional hive body. When the nectar begins to flow and the bees are ready to produce honey you will need to start adding honey supers.  Normally, a 1st year colony has not grown big enough to produce honey, but if they have, you will need to have honey supers at the ready.

Let’s now review what clothing and tools are needed:

Clothing and Equipment

This is a picture of my husband and me working one of our hives.  As you can see the hive on the right is strong enough to be adding honey supers where the hive on the left is not. The queen had stopped laying and the hive had to supersede her. During that process the bee population decreased significantly and they struggled to protect their hive, therefore we added a robber screen to stop other honey bees and wasps from robbing out the hive.

Here’s the recommended list of equipment for 1 hive:

Hive Component List2

If you have any questions, please comment below.

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

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