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Monday, June 9, 2014

Beeyard Buzzing with Beekeepers!

Things have been buzzing at the Quicksall Honey Bee Farm since my last update. 

Dawn & Aaron went on a swarm call at International Paper in Shelbyville on June 3rd to capture a swarm in their parking area.  Nice size swarm with a Big Queen!  This was the first time that either of them went on a swarm call without me present, and they did a great job together!  I'm proud of both of them.

I also found an interesting situation in one of my older hives.  I had wintered them with 3 deeps, but when I put the hive together after inspection last fall, I apparently left a frame slightly ajar leaving an unintentional upper entrance to the hive.  Well, to my surprise, when I did a deep inspection about 2 weeks ago I found two colonies: one in the top box, one in the bottom box, and nothing in the middle box!  I split the hives into two, and we will see how they fair this summer.

Finally, yesterday was a Field Day for the Crossroads Beekeepers hosted at the Quicksall Farm.  We had between 25 and 30 in attendance and the day included visiting, a trip to the bee yard, fishing for the kids, and a grafting demonstration.  Below are a couple of photos of the event that was enjoyed by everyone!!!

Sunday, May 18, 2014

First Swarm Call

It is hard to believe, but due to this horrible Winter and crazy Spring, today (May 18th) we received our first bee swarm call.  It was on our answering machine when we got home.  I spoke with a gentleman from Neoga who said the swarm came down the street, buzzing their yard sale, and landed on a tree.  Unfortunately, by the time I received the message the swarm had moved on, staying their only a few hours.  But hey, at least we had our first swarm call of the year!

Challenges for 2014

Well, I checked on the bees last weekend, and I didn't like what I saw.  The losses this winter was pretty bad...apparently the long, hard cold took it's toll, and I only have 8 hives out of 23 that survived.  I am starting to removed dead hives from the yard and put them into storage to prevent wax moth infestation.  In addition, I have not received a single swarm call this Spring, and at our bee club meeting only 2 members caught swarms that were not from their own hives.  Apparent, the winter was even worse for the wild hives in the area.

So, 2014 is looking to be a recovery year for my apiary.  I plan to check for swarm cells in my hives tomorrow and hopefully split some hives.  We'll see how this week plays out.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Back in the Saddle

Good Morning Everyone!

Well, Spring is almost here, and it is time for me to start posting again about my bees.  I just noticed how long it had been since my last post, so my new commitment is to be more committed to this blog.

What a long, hard winter we have had in Central Illinois.  I haven't seen this much snow since 1978, and sub-zero weather even started to seem like the norm.  Unfortunately, my bees haven't cared too much for the winter. Back at the end of January we had a break in the cold, so I check on the hives.  Sadly, at that time I had lost 9 of 23 hives.  All but 1 of the losses were weak hives, so I wasn't too troubled, but in the six weeks since I have been worrying about additional losses.

Winter has been hard on other beekeepers as well.  My friend Dave Dhom from Newton reported at our last Crossroads Beekeepers meeting that he was looking at an approximate 40% loss this winter, and Dan Wright, apiary inspector, is seeing similar losses this winter.

So, what is my plan?  I am hoping to take advantage of one of the Spring days in the next week to assess the individual hives and start Spring feeding.  I have pollen patties that I plan to cut into strips and lay on top of the frames, and I plan to start feeding sugar water in feeders that sit on top of the hives.  I don't want to encourage robbing by using entrance feeders.  Speaking of robbing, about 3 weeks ago, my son Andy and I were at the farm on a warm day, and the surviving hives were raiding the dead hives for any food stuffs they could find....I was crazy!

Thursday, July 18, 2013

I've Been Robbed!

Hard Lesson Learned #354
Today, in the 100+ degree heat factor, I donned at bee suit to try and find some honey to local seller is needing more of the sweet stuff!  I found some hives had not even drawn comb on the plasticel, so I pulled those supers off the hives.  I did find some honey frames in assorted hives ready for extraction, and combined I had a full super.  Unfortunately, by the time I found the ten frames I was getting quite over-heated, sweating profusely, and getting a funny feeling in my head that says "Larry, get your but into the air conditioning NOW!"  By the time I drove the truck to the house I was feeling worse, so I quickly went inside, took off the suit, drank some cold water, and sat down in the recliner to you might imagine a nap soon ensued!  I woke up an hour or so later, feeling refreshed, and looked out the window only to find the back of the truck engulfed with a cloud of tens of thousands of bees!  Yes, the bees had found the capped honey and were going after it like a shark frenzy.  In the time that I was in the house the bees had managed to carry off all of the honey!!!  How much honey???  Between 2-3 gallons which had a retail price of over $200!!!  So, what have I learned???  25 hives has a lot more robbing potential than 2 or 6 or 10 hives, and in the future I had better protect my honey a bit better if I want to extract any!

Saturday, June 15, 2013

The Big Move!

This week I spent most evenings after work at the farm.  Between mowing, fixing the mower, and painting bottom boards, I have been moving bees.  I had been setting up the captured swarms around the farm house area, and it had been getting a bit congested.  Not the mention, the neighbor who helps with some mowing really doesn't like mowing that close to the hives!

I had 14 hives around the house including 1 on the old tree stump by the house, 3 on the picnic table, a swarm trap that now has a swarm in it also on the picnic table, 4 on a long stand against the old car shed, one on a bee log, 2 stacked upon each other, a mating nuc behind the car shed, and 1 on log by the machine shed entrance....that's a lot of bees.  Not all were 2013 swarms, as some were nucs from last fall and a couple of splits. 

This week I mowed around the primary bee yard and decided to set these hives on the south side of the yard facing the others.  I also plan to add a few to the east edge of the yard to make a horseshoe shape.  Our neighbor at the farm, Matt Figgins, suited up Thursday night to help with the move...I think he had an interesting experience and a good time!

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Yet Another Swarm

This afternoon, while painting bottom boards and working around the machine shed at the farm, I received a message from Dawn to call Ken Wolf regarding yet another swarm.  Ken reported that another hive had swarmed (about 1 1/2 gallon size) and went up into an apple tree.  I quickly found a stopping point on my painting, called for the boys (Aaron, Elijah, and Arpon) to wrap up their fishing and boating on the pond, and headed over to Ken's farmstead.  I was a good size swarm, but the backhoe wasn't an option this time.  I carefully placed the medium ladder up into the apple tree, balanced the bee vac on a board sticking out of a step ladder, and ventured up to capture the swarm.  Everything worked well, and within a few minutes I had a box of bees ready to be hived at the farm.  Now, to get more bottom boards finished!!!

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

What a Crazy Swarm Season

Things have been a bit crazy since my last post.  We have been getting quite a few swarm calls that have taken Dawn and I all over the area from Casey to Altamont to Effingham to Newton to Neoga.  One day we had four calls and captured three swarms (the other moved on before we got there).  I'm not sure how many swarms we have captured but the farm looks like the making of a science fiction movie...Invasion of the Hive Boxes!  At last count we have 3 hives in the north beeyard (however, two somehow lost queens, so something has to be done there), 10 hives in the primary beeyard, and 11 hives around the house area.  Like I say, it's been crazy.  Yesterday's bee call was from Kenneth Wolf near Neoga.  They have had multiple swarms from the hives in their apiary and have run out of empty hives, so they have called me twice to collect swarms.  The swarm was way up in an apple tree, and Keneth's older brother, Herman, a 91 year old WWII vet lifted me up in the bucket of a backhoe!  That's a first for me!!!

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Casey Swarm Capture - Take 2

Yesterday I had the please of taking my lovely wife to Terre Haute for the I could get a root canal.  The procedure went well and on the way home we stopped by the Ramsey's to look at their bee situation.  We had removed a swarm the other night, but the day before they had another swarm come to the same tree.  Well, this swarm moved into the same hole as the first swarm, were building fresh honeycomb, and the foragers were bringing in nectar and pollen.  I vaccuumed up the bees that I could (actually quite a few bees), and I sprayed the remaining bees and inside of the hive with insecticide to hopefully end this nusance bee problem.  I always hate having to kill a swarm of bees, but the location was not going to work being it was 10 feet from their garage door and a few yards from a school yard. 

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Up Close and Personal

Here is a photo of a bee from last night's swarm capture....a bee in mid-flight.

Creating Mating Nucs

No swarm calls was all about Queens.  I received a call from Michelle Barnick, Treasurer for the Crossroads Beekeepers, and relatively new beekeeper.  She had two hives going into winter, but one died and her surviving hive lost it's Queen.  My grandson, Elijah, and I met Michelle at the farm this evening and swapped a frame of drawn comb for one with eggs and day old larva on it.  Hopefully her hive will grow a new queen from some of the larva.

Next I tore into my Buckfast hive that I received from Lonnie Langley last year.  I removed the Queen last Wednesday, and the hive started raising new Queens with many cells on five frames.  I divided the frames and hive into five groups: four I placed into mating nucs, and the fifth I left in the original hive.  We'll see how they do with raising their Queens.

I also took a photo tonight of my top-bar swarm trap.  We'll see how it goes!

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

It's Swarm Season!!!

It is finally here...Swarm Season!!!  Bees have been building up their numbers and are swarming.  I received two phone calls yesterday resulting in both swarms being successfully captured.  The first was over my lunch break; I received a call from Brad Hibdon about a swarm on a bush in Effingham.  Brad and Amy were there to watch, and it was probably the fastest swarm catch with the vaccuum ever!  Dawn ran the swarm to the farm and placed it in a hive, but when we checked on it in the early evening it had moved out of the hive and back into the bee-vac box...apparently the queen was one of the stragglers in the box.  We put it back in the hive where it belonged!

Next received a call from Casey regarding a swarm trying to move into a tree.  Dawn and I got there after dark and vaccuumed the swarm from the side of the tree and from the inside of a small hollow area.  Somehow I managed to get stung on my left arm....what a surprise!?!?  I wonder if there will be any calls today?


Monday, May 6, 2013

Baby Queens on the Way!

Last Wednesday, May 1st, I attempted to graft Queens with what I thoughts was poor success; however, today I discovered my efforts had some success!  Grafting entails using a special tool to remove 1-day-old larva from a cell and transfer it into a special cell cup for the bees to finish off into a queen cell.  You have to have good light to make this work, and both my flashlight and the sun were not cooperating.  I attempted to graft about 6 cells and gave up.  I had moved the queen to a nuc box with 3 frames from her hive, placed the grafts into the original hive and hoped for the best.  Today when I checked on the hive I found one of my grafts took and is capped off, and I have multiple queen cells on 2-3 other frames!  I plan to return on Wednesday or Thursday of this week and divide the hive into mating nucs.  Sadly, the original Queen from that hive is on an apparent protest, because she has not layed a single egg since the move.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Terry's Bees Get New Home

Today I received a text from my friend Terry Hopper and decided to call to get an update on his nuc that he overwintered.  He stated that they were busting with bees, so I strongly encouraged him to get his new hive and get them transferred before they swarm due to congestion.  At 5:30pm he texted stating "Got a hive.  On my way home."  I met up with Terry and we transferred them into their new home.  They look strong and healthy; the Queen has a good laying pattern.  Terry sure looked like a proud beekeeper!!!

Grumpy is Gone :-(

It's been a few weeks since my last post.  Spring "appears" to be here and the bees are very active gathering nectar and pollen.  Eleanor, a bee inspector with the Dept of Agriculture, came out and gave the apiary a clean bill of health, but noted that two hives were without evidence of queens.  I checked back a couple of days later and placed a frame with young larva in one hive, but when I came to the other there was only a small number of bees remaining.  This was a very sad time for me because that hive was "Old Grumpy", one of my two original hives.  When I started beekeeping in 2010 I started with two hives, known as the West Hive and the East Hive.  The West Hive had much more of an attitude than the other and as my number of hives grew and fondly referred to her as "Old Grumpy".  Old Grumpy had an important role in the development of my apiary.  The Queen was a great layer, and I routinely pulled frames of bees out of her to help start or build-up other hives.  I also used her for bees when I created my starter hive for queen rearing a couple of years ago.  So, goodbye old friend (whom I cussed more than once for the stings she gave me).  I divided her two deep boxes and added them to two other hives. 

I was up at the farm yesterday, and I can't believe the large quantities of drone cells!!!  It's incredible how much crazy comb is between the boxes or going wild on fresh foundation.  They must be up to something!!!  I also set up a top-bar style swarm catcher with pheromone in it.  We'll see what happens.