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Friday, December 31, 2010

Final 2010 Wrap-Up

Today was a beautiful day at the farm.  The temperature was around 60 degrees and it didn't start raining until the afternoon.  Dawn and I went up to swap candyboards and store 11 cases that hold 260 deep and medium frames for the new hives next year. 

It tell ya, that West hive is the most aggressive swarm of bees I have ever encountered....yes, I used the word aggressive.  I normally call bees defensive, because that is how they react, but this hive is something else.  Dawn and I suited up to check the candy boards and see how much they have eaten.  The bees were taking advantage of the break in the weather and were flying around the entrance a little bit.  When Dawn raised the candy board we found the cluster right there, and it wasn't even 1 second before several score of bees took to flight and immediately started going after our veils.  They went after us like a gun shot!  Dawn was a bit unnerved, but held her own.  They had eaten quite a bit of the sugar, so I replaced the board with a fresh one.  I'm pretty sure I want to replace that queen this spring...This hive has been increasingly problematic since the late summer and I'm getting fed up with them.  A new queen sounds like the answer I need.

This Candy Board Started as 10 Pounds of Sugar on November 6th

 Up Close and Personal with the West Hive Bees

After Dawn headed back home, I worked in the wood shop and assembled a few more medium hive boxes.  I need to find a nice and warm location this winter where I can paint the boxes.

Boxes Ready for Painting

The Cluttered Worshop

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

End of the Year

It's hard to believe that today is the 28th of December and 2010 is coming to a quick curtain call.  What an adventure this year has been with my hives.  A year ago beekeeping was the farthest thing from my mind, and today we have a bee club in Effingham and I have plans to expand my bee operation to a total of 8 hives.  Who would have thought it? 

Well, I haven't seen the bees since the beginning of December when I swapped out one of the candy boards, and as soon as we have a little break in the weather, I'm gonna swap out the boards again for fresh candy. 

So, what does a beekeeper do during the winter months?  He reads about what other beekeepers have been doing, and he plans for next year with his apiary.  I have 6 hives to finish (assembly and painting) and I have assembled frames being delivered (don't want to have to put together that many!).

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Tucking in for Winter

Our neighbor at the farm, Matt Figgins, dropped off some straw bales so I could create a windbreak for the bees this winter (they had no cover from the north or west).  I had already installed metal entrance reducers to keep the mice out.  I hope this gives them good protection until the spring!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Memories from 2010

Assorted Photo Memories from the 2010 Beekeeping Season.  As you can see, it was a fun year!

The Bees Have Arrived!!!

Installation on April 17, 2010

Making Sure the Queens Are Released.

Jessica Getting More Comfortable Helping Dad.

A Proud Beekeeper and "His Girls".

Dang Girls!

The Extraction Party!  Smell That Honey!

Girl Scouts Learn About Bees.

Maybe I Need to Get Some Smaller Suits?

Preparing for More Hives in 2011.

Grandpa, Can I Help???

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Candy Boards

This week I have been continuing to feed the bees with a 1:1 sugar solution, but with the cold weather, they have not been using as much, so decided to made some candy boards.  I hunted up some recipes, picked apart the reviews and settled on this one: 5 pounds of sugar, 1/3 TBSP of cidar vinegar, and 1 cup of water.  Bring water and vinegar to a boil, then slowly add and stir the sugar until it's all in.  Raise the heat to 250 degrees F at the border between firm ball and hard ball, then turn off the heat and stir until it drops to 200 degrees and pour into the boards.  My boards are made from 1/4 inch chipboard cut 16.25X20 inches so they fit my hive boxes.  I then cut 2x4 pieces into 1.75X1 inch strips to made the sides.  I can easily made a double batch and put 10 pounds of sugar in each candy board.  My second board I tried getting to hard ball, but it didn't work that well; I boiled out too much water and it's is a bit granular on the surface.  I then placed them on the hives and I'll check in a week or so to see how the bees like them.  I plan on making another set of candy boards to keep in the ready if I need to swap them out.

Monday, November 1, 2010

100th Post

This morning I realized that I had submitted 99 posts to my beekeeping blog, so I decided to do a little reflecting for #100.  My first reaction was "WOW!"  It's hard to believe that I actually blogged this many entries...I have always abandoned any diaries or journals way before this point. 

As I looked over my first blog postings, I thought back to the beginning of this year remembering my thoughts and emotions regarding beekeeping.  Back then I was amazed with the little creatures, facinated with the craft of beekeeping, but not sure if it was going to work for me and the family.  I remember starting this blog after attending the bee school in Henderson, Kentucky.  Hearing the fantastic presenters and talking with the rep from Dadant convinced me to call Dawn and tell her I wanted to actually do this crazy idea.  For some reason she agreed, and I bought some tools and two bee suits.  The next day I decided to document this experience for myself and others and the blog "Larry's Got Bees" was born.

Have I learned anything from this beekeeping experience?  Beekeeping is a bit like herding cats...they are intelligent creatures with a stubborn will of their own, and the best you can do is follow their leading!  But again, 8 months of blogging, 100 posts, and an amazing 2010 for my new craft of beekeeping...who would have thought it???

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Clogged Feeders

Dawn & I went to the farm to dump some yard waste and check the feeders, and my concern was correct: the feeders were severely clogged with sugar.  The 2:1 solution didn't work in the colder weather.  I cleaned out the crystals from the jars and lids and diluted them down with hot water and stuck them back out on the hives.  The bees immediately proclaimed a collective "Thank You!"  I'll probably run up Monday evening to check on them if time allows.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Bee Check

Today I was up at the farm again, but this time for Aaron's birthday party.  The bees haven't been working the water much, but also it has been cold the past two days.  Today was a warmer day and the bees were all over the feeders, and Dad even saw them buzzing around the farm house!  As we were getting ready to leave around 2:30pm I drove out to the hives and the water level had not changed at all....I didn't have time to investigate, so I need to get up there tomorrow.  I'm thinking the feeder clogged with the cold weather and the 2:1 solution. 

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Refill, AGAIN?!

Dad called throughout the day yesterday giving me updates on the water level in the feeders.  He said the bees were really working the feeders!  By the end of the day both feeders were empty!  So, this morning I headed up to fill again, but this time I used a 2:1 ratio of sugar to water and see how that goes.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Refill the Feeders

I made an early morning road trip to the farm and fed the bees again at the ratio of 2.5 pounds per half gallon.  They had finished off the half gallon feeders by the end of the day.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Inspecting My Hives

Today, Aaron and I went up to inspect the hives for winter and didn't like what we saw.  Of the 20 frames in the brood chambers we saw pollen stored around, but very, very little honey!  3-4 frames per hive, and they were not solid frames.  I slapped a feeder on both hives with 2.5 pounds of sugar per half gallon feeder.  It looks like I'm back to feeding them.  If I had checked sooner in the month I would have started feeding them then.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

All Bottled Up!

Well, I bottled up the last of the honey this season.  I had about 3 gallons of honey and filled 24 half-pound bottles and 24 pound bottles.  Jessica helped me fill the bottles this weekend; she thought the 8oz bottles were exceptionally cute!  Now I have to compile my order list to make sure I get my pre-orders filled before I sell to anyone else!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Great Bee Club Meeting

The Crossroads Beekeepers met tonight, and it was another great meeting.  We had twelve in attendance, with five new people, and three of them became new members.  Our program was on preparing your hives for winter.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Filtering Honey

Tonight I spent the evening in the kitchen filtering the last of this year's honey.  I was able to harvest 16 frames that is a mixture of wild flowers and goldenrod.  It definately has a different taste from the white clover earlier this year.  It is very sweet with what I would call a bright bite.  It has a character where generally store bought honey doesn't.  I have three honey filters that I used with my straining bucket, though this time I only used two filters, a 600 micron and a 200 micron.  Now I need to order some more honey jars and start packaging!  I had one lady call on Wednesday wanting to buy several pounds that she eats for treating her allergies.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Brought the Honey to Town

Today the family enoughed a junior high football tournament in Benton, Illinois, where our grandson, Elijah, played...they boys played some great ball and did exceptionally well for fifth graders!  We got home from the game late, and after getting Aaron and Jessica settled down Dawn and I took off for the farm to bring home the extractor, frames of honey, and storage container.  After yesterday's experience, I think it will be better to spin out the honey in town away from the bees at the farm.  By the time we got there it was around 9pm and the girls were all in their hives, so we grabbed the equipment, loaded it in the truck, and came back to town.  I'll finish the extracting this week after work.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Sadness & Lessons Learned

This afternoon, Aaron and I went to check on the new hive and to harvest honey.  We were both saddened and surprised to see that the new hive was silent and filled with dead bees.  I'm not exactly sure what happened other than a combination of capturing them late in the season with cold nights coming on and they were low in numbers.  I had placed a feeder inside the hive, which they had used, and there was plenty of goldenrod behind the hive, but unfortunately they didn't make it.

Good news was that I had 16 frames of honey that I pulled from the supers on the other two hives.  Aaron and I spun out over 2 gallons from one hive and we have the frames from the West hive to spin out later.  When I pulled the frames from the East hive they bees were very calm and polite, but the West hive was another story.  The West bees were upset from the beginning and just seemed to get worse.  Aaron was a great help in his bee suit as we smoked and brushed the bees off of each frame.

We drove the frames in the back of the truck to the old wash house by the farm house where we were going to spin out the honey.  It has water and screened windows and should keep any stray bees from being a pest.  Well, things didn't go quite as planned.  While Aaron and I were setting up the equipment in the wash house, the bees came a lookin' for their stolen honey....and found it.  When I went out to bring in some frames there were easily a hundred bees buzzing around the back of the truck.  I carefully grabbed four frames and we went to work on them.  There is sure a difference between working with honey when it is 85 degrees outside and when it is only 65!

After finishing those four frames, I sent Aaron out to get some more, but he returned empty handed....why? Because there were hundreds and hundreds of bees swarming around the truck.  It was also at this point that Aaron informed me that I had left the truck windows down...(great!)  I decided to suit up to get the frames and would pass them to Aaron who was guarding the wash house door.  I think we only had about 3 bees sneak into the wash house.  We spun out six more frames and drained most of the honey into a storage container.  Let me tell you, cold honey pours S-L-O-W!!!  As we were extracting the honey we heard a strong buzzing sound and discovered that the bees had found us and were buzzing all around the screen window.    Because we were on a schedule we had to finish up before getting all the frames spun out, so we cleaned up and went to the farm house with a tray of cappings that I was going to pack up to take home.  As soon as we got into the farm house the bees were buzzing at the screen door!  They were everywhere!  Aaron commented how it was like Alfred Hitchcock's movie "The Birds" but with bees.

I decided to suit up again and take the empty frames out to the hives so the bees could clean them up, and frankly I was not going to keep the frames anywhere near the farm house.  I headed out to the hives and sat the frames down for the bees to do their work.  At that point I decided to check the brood frames on the West hive...yes the hive that was upset with me a couple of hours ago.  They were bearded all over the front of the hive still, but appeared calm to my approach.  I popped the top and pulled a random frame that was filled with capped honey.  However, with that action the bees launched their aerial attack!  I don't think I have ever been swarmed like that before.  No stings through my suit, but it was quite an experience.  Aaron had a bit of an experience as well.  He was not suited up, but was standing back about 20 feet, when some bees started buzzing him from the West hive, so he backed up another 10 feet.  However, the bees started going after his hair, so he took off running.  Not realizing his troubles, I asked him to bring me the smoker from the truck, but when I turned around I saw him already about 100 yards away at the machine was later I learned about his encounter with the bees. 

Because the West hive was stuffed with bees, having taken the super off, I decided to put the super back on so they would have plenty of space to live and not try to swarm this late in the season.  I will just leave the super on all winter, though with their numbers dropping as the honey flow ends, they will probably not use it much in a few more weeks.

Too much fun with a smoker!

The other day Aaron and I were working with the bees, and Aaron was taking photos.  Here was one of the photos capturing the dangerous fun you can have with your smoker after working with your bees!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Return to the Brick House

Dad and I made a return trip to the brick house east of Charleston to try and capture the remaining bees including the queen.  We had word that the bees were still there and hanging in a ball where we had removed the hive.  What Dad and I found was the remains of the swarm rebuilding honeycomb and raising brood.  Dad and I carefully vacuumed the bees and set them up in a hive at the farm.  The original swarm we captured had mostly died out.  I will check on them next weekend and look at adding some bees from another hive to their numbers along with some brood so they will hopefully build up supplies and survive the winter months.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Beekeeping at Old Settlers Day

The Crossroads Beekeepers had a great booth at the Effingham County Old Settlers Day today.  Myself, Dick, Len, and Cathy ran the booth and had a fun time talking with all the people who came by to see what we were up to.  I brought my bee suit, smoker, and a display board on the history of beekeeping among the settlers.  Len and Cathy brought antique bee equipment and an observation hive of bees.  Several people took information home about the club and expressed an interest in becoming a beekeeper.  What a fun day!

Dick getting ready for the day.

Cathy showing off her and Len's bees.

Nice looking display!

The focus point of the booth....BEES!!!

Len's antique bee equipment.

Kids of all ages love bees!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Crossroads Beekeepers

We had a great turnout for the second meeting of the Crossroads Beekeepers.  We met tonight at 6:30pm at Joe Sippers Cafe in Effingham, and had 16 in attendance.  There were 9 beekeepers at this meeting plus those interested in feeding bees or wanting to learn more about beekeeping in general.  There was a wealth of experience at the meeting and it was fun to listen to all the tips offered from those with decades of beekeeping under their belt.  I also gave a short presentation on bee friendly gardens.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Wild Hive Capture: Charleston IL

This afternoon Dick Loy and I met up with Craig Clendening of Lerna and drove to a farm in rural Charleston to capture a wild beehive in an old brick farmhouse slated for demolition.  We met up with the farmer, Paul, who explained how the house was built around 1865 and had been in his family for years.  He believed the bees had been in that part of the house for 30 years.  The house had a double brick wall construction, and last Fall when he started initial demolition work he discovered a large hive between the brick walls.  Today we found a large hive with tunnels throughout the comb as well as tunnels through the rotting mortar.  While we found brood, I don't think we found the main brood chamber, but we didn't trust the old walls enough to knock out more brick.  We quickly wired up the brood comb and some of the honey comb to empty frames and placed in the brood box, then we vacuumed up as many bees as possible.  Dick and I then transported the hive to the bee yard and dumped in the vacuumed bees after dark.  I don't think we got the Queen, so I plan to go up later this week to check them over and order a Queen if needed.

Building Hives at the Farm

Yesterday and today I've been building hive components at the farm in the woodshop.  So far I have one brood box hive completed for hopefully accepting a wild hive I hope to capture.  Regarding boxes, I have five brood boxes assembled and painted.  I also cut out the parts and made all the assembly cuts for 7 more brood boxes and 14 honey supers.  Now comes the time of assembly!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Workers Laying Eggs

I came across this video from TheOhioCountryboy regarding how to tell if a hive is without a Queen and the Workers are lay eggs.  This may be what Dick and I saw the other evening.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Bee Updates

Lots of bee activities over the past few days...let's see if I can remember everything!
  • I have been working on building six more hives up at the farm for expanding the operation next year.  So far I have all the wood bought, have built 5 bottom boards, built and painted 5 brood boxes, and have cut out the parts for 7 more brood boxes. 
  • I also spent some time getting into their hives this past weekend, and the Queens are still going strong.
  • While up at the farm (we were camping with the extended family) I drove around the conservation acreage and saw lots and lots of Golden Rod!  Probably 50 acres of Golden Rod!  It was thick and ready to start blooming.  I'm hoping that this will finish off the honey box on the East hive.  Also, the West hive has been very active with a lot of bees (only two brood boxes with no honey super), so I decided to throw the honey super that I spun out the other day on top of the hive to see what the bees do with all the Golden Rod.
  • On Saturday and Sunday I met up with my cousins from Texas who came for the Baker Reunion: Woodward, Woody, and Tim Baker.  Woody is a beekeeper and brought up a jar of East Texas Wildflower Honey to swap for some of my clover/wildflower honey.  His honey had a full and complicated flavor...very unique and good!
  • I also met up with Dick Loy last night to check out his bees and to look at a super of bees left over from an extraction.  It was rather I pulled out a few of the frames all I saw were Drones!  Hundreds and hundreds of drones with only a few worker bees mixed in.  We were wondering if the hive this box came from had a False Queen, a Worker who takes on the role of a Queen but since she is not fertalized she can only have Drones.
  • Finally, I received a phone call last night from Lance Faulk, an old friend from Altamont, who told me that I beat him to the punch.  He apparently was getting ready to start a bee club and was even going to name it Crossroads Beekeepers, but hadn't started it yet.  While reading the news on WXEF he read about our club and decided to give me a call....he hopes to be at the next meeting.
  • Oh, I almost forgot, but I have bottled and labled 48 8oz bottles of honey.  I gave one bottle to Mom and Dad, and sold 2 bottles to Pastor Wallace.  I guess now it is time for some financial returns on the investment!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Honey Updates

Friday I received two boxes from Dadant which included a honey bucket and microfilters, honey storage jug, retail bottles and caps, and parts for making some hive boxes.  It was like a beekeeper's Christmas!  I gently warmed the honey that I extracted the other day to help it flow through the microfilters, and tomorrow I hope to start filling little bottles with the golden goodness!

Dawn & I also took a truckload of summer items to the farm for storage, so I checked on the bees to see how the honey super was coming along.  They have three frames capped, but the others are a long way from capping.  The major honey flow has passed, so I image these frames will take a bit longer than I hoped for.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Tips for Fast Hive Growth

Another video by TheOhioCountryBoy on his tips for quickly growing a strong hive after installing package bees.

Video on Splitting Hives

This is a brief video on splitting hives in the Spring.  OhioCountryBoy splits four hives into a total of 10 hives for honey production the same year.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Radio Interview Today

his morning I was interviewed by William Bence on the morning show on WCRA in Effingham regarding beekeeping and the Crossroads Beekeepers.  It was a fun time with William and we talked about bees for over 20 minutes.  You can hear the interview by clicking on the link below.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Draining Honey & Building Hives

This afternoon I drained the honey from the extractor, mainly because it was making a puddle in the garage.  I haven't measured how much honey we got, but my guess is over 2 gallons.

Later in the afternoon I went to the farm to continue working on building more hives.  So far I have 5 bottom boards and 5 brood boxes ready for painting.  Once I figure out what I'm doing in the workshop, it kind of turns into an assembly line.  By the way, Menards is running a sale on lumber this week!  WooHoo!!!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Girl Scouts Learn About Bees

23 Girl Scouts from Troop 2032 in Effingham learned about honey bees and were able to see them up close and personal today as a part of their Friday/Saturday campout at "Camp Quicksall".  My wife's Girl Scout troop was out at the farm for a fun campout in the country and part of their experience was coming out to the bee yard, trying on a bee suit, and learning about the bees.  While the human girls had a fun time, the bee girls were getting a little testy after being messed with for about 2 hours! 

One facinating thing took place with the West hive.  While I had the top off a moth landed on the brood frames and the bees attacked!!!  I was amazed how they covered and repeatedly stung the moth.  I don't know if they lose their stingers with the soft body of a moth, but one particular bee appeared to be repeatedly thrusting its stinger into the moth.  While the attack was taking place I kept the Girl Scouts back because the bees were definately in a fight mood based upon how they were going after me as well.  After a short while I removed the moth and the bees calmed down within about 2 minutes.  That was amazing to watch!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Honey Extraction Party

Tonight we had a great time at the first ever Honey Extraction Party!  At 6:30 pm we had people start rolling in to see the show.  I had set up a couple of tables with bee equipment on display, and of course the honey extractor and box of 8 frames needing extracting.  The extractor worked great and everyone had a turn at turning the crank and trying a taste of the honey.  Those in attendance were Larry, Dawn, Aaron & Jessica Quicksall; Edward & Eileen Quicksall; Dick & Kim Loy & their two children; Brad & Dana Garbe; Jennifer Rodman & Elijah, Nicolas, Joshua, Zachary, & Benjamin; and Jim Kline.  I will let the honey sit in the extractor for a few days to let it drip down the sides and collect in the bottom before draining.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Swarm or No Swarm

I received a call at the end of work from Dick regarding his bees.  It seemed they were balling underneath his hive, and he was concerned they were getting ready to swarm.  I came out to look at them with him, and it was rather amazing...they were hanging onto the screen on the bottom of the bottom board.  They were hanging onto each other and were at least 2-3 inches thick all the way across the bottom of the hive.  I would guess, basing it upon what my 3 pound package of bees looked like when I installed them, that there were 20,000 under there!  We decided to check the hive for the Queen and for swarm cells to determine if they were preparing to swarm or just too crowded or hot in the hive.  In going through the hive we found the Queen and did not find any swarm cells. 

We also checked the hive of bees we captured a week ago.  As we looked in the hive we didn't find any Queen and we didn't find any brood.  Dick said he saw these bees carrying off the brood over the past week and we could figure out why.  They also weren't building comb on the frames but appeared to be destroying it.  * I later found out from Dave at Long Lane that it is a challenge to keep brood alive when taking them from another hive, especially the capped brood.  He said you have to keep the brood at 92 degrees or they will quickly die.  He usually brings along another hive to install them in with bees who will keep them warm.  So, it looks like the bees were carrying off their dead.  Dick and I discussed the need to get a new Queen to install and save the colony.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Bought an Extractor

Saturday was a fun day for beekeeping.  I was up at the farm with Aaron and two of his friends for a campout (of course having a heat factor over 100 degrees makes camping a challenge).  While at the farm I checked on the bees and found the new queen in the West hive is still laying eggs and some of her capped brood looks ready to hatch out.  The East hive is making honey, though the honey flow has greatly slowed.  Hopefully, I will have 10 more frames to harvest by the end of the month.

I then made a trip to rural Shelbyville and had a lovely visit with Len and Cathy Chandler.  Len and Cathy recently retired to Shelby County having moved from St. Charles, Illinois.  Len has been beekeeping for 40+ years and has a wealth of knowledge.  At this time he has about 20 hives, is fixing up a honey house, and likes doing things the old way.  Recently he purchased a nice, big new honey extractor and had a couple of antique extractors to sell.  When I finally left their homestead I had picked up several times to try with my bees, a couple of homemade nuc boxes, and a 4 frame honey extractor.

Later that afternoon, back at the farm, I started working on hive components and have 5 bottom boards ready for assembly.  Unfortunately, I didn't bring along wood glue, so assembly will have to take place on another day.

Monday, August 9, 2010

1st Meeting of Crossroads Beekeepers

Tonight we had the first meeting of the Crossroads Beekeepers at Joe Sippers in Effingham.  There were eight of us in attendance, and I can safely say all of us had a great time.  Many fun stories and tidbits of information was shared among the new members.  Those in attendance were myself, Dick and Kim Loy from Effingham, Michele Robertson of Effingham, Danny Rodman of Effingham, Bob and Janet Clark of Edgewood, and Jane Ries of Effingham.

The next meeting will be on Monday, September 13th, from 6:30-8:00pm in the back room at Joe Sippers.  All are invited!

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Wild Hive Removal

Dick Loy and I removed a wild bee hive from under a potting shed today at the home of Theron and Peggy Kuhn.  This was a first time doing it and boy was it an adventure!  It was a huge hive (at least by what we initially believed) resulting in us filling 8 of Dick's frames with brood comb.  We divided the honey comb between the Kuhns, Dick and myself.  I processed over a quart of honey from my share.  Below is a video of our adventure.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Honey Harvest!!!

Today I went to the farm and checked the honey super on the East Hive, and they had all but one frame capped off; the other one was mostly capped off but could use a day or two more.  Also, the frame I harvested on Sunday had honeycomb drawn out again and the bees were busy filling it with honey. 

I checked the West hive and the remaining bees still haven't done anything with the honey super, so I did a big rotation.  I took the honey super off of the West hive and removed all but two of the empty frames.  I then pulled the eight capped frames from the  East hive honey super and put them in the empty honey super from the West hive.  I then replaced the East hive with the empty frames from the West hive.  I'm hoping that the East hive will fill out those frames in the remaining days of August.  When September comes I plan on removing both supers and letting the bees have the remaining nectar of the fall for their winter stores.

I rolled into town and stopped by Mom and Dad's house and showed them the honey super.  Mom was really surprised with the amount of honey; it brought back memories from when she was a child and her dad kept bees.  I weighed one of the frames and my guess is that each frame has about 4 pounds of honey on it.  On these eight frames I believe I have approximately 2.5 gallons of honey!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Building a Bee Vacuum

While on vacation last week I received a phone call from a family who have a feral bee colony on their backyard shed and would like to have the bees removed.  I knew this day would someday come and went about figuring out the best way to capture the bees.  I found plans for a bee vacuum and began working on the project with Dad this week.  Hopefully, we will have the vacuum completed today or tomorrow and will be able to get the bees captured this weekend. 

Monday, August 2, 2010

Article: One Honey of a Summer

Here is an article regarding the outstanding honey harvest in Maine this year!  Just click on this link >>> One Honey of a Summer!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

First Honey Harvest

We just returned from a week vacation to the East Coast, and after a bit of resting from the long drive today I received permission from my sweetie to check on my bees. 

West Hive Update: The surviving workers and their new queen have been busy working in the hive.  During the bees' time without a queen they were filling the brood chamber with lots of honey and pollen; and since they had no queen they didn't bother leaving any honeycomb cells open for the raising of brood.  Now that they have a queen they have been moving or eating honey to make space for the new brood.  I pulled a couple of frames for a quick inspection and found larva, so I know the queen is working.  As before, no honeycomb is being pulled out in the honey super.  I will give them a pass since they workers are low in number and they are busy with the new queen, but I believe there is something about that super they don't like.

East Hive Update:  I checked on the honey super and the cells on all the frames are 80-90% capped honey!  I found one frame that was nearly complete and decided to harvest the honey.  I took one frame to the farm house and got to work.  My plan was to decap one side of the frame and let the honey drip out of the honeycomb cells.  I used my decapping knife, but found it did not easily decap and tore apart much of the honeycomb.  I then tried using another decapping tool that looks more like an old fashion hair pick.  That tool worked much better for removing just the caps.  I flipped the frame over to let the honey drip out and guess what?  Nothing dripped out!  I wound up just scraping out all of the honeycomb and pressing it through a wire screen to separate the wax from the honey.  I also heated up some of the comb in the microwave to get the honey out of the comb more easily. 

The first frame of honey!

Bees cap off the honey with wax when it is ripe, which is 17% moisture content.

Since the honey was too thick to drip out, I had to scape out all of the honey comb from the frame.

Using Grandma's sive to separate the wax from the honey.


My first frame yielded 5 half-pints of honey.

I was quite an operation, taking much longer than I anticipated.  I was most surprised at the wax...this stuff is quite sticky and it gets over everything you use!  However, I did have some sweet rewards.  I filled 5 half-pint jars with beautiful honey!  It is a translucent yellow and the family describes the taste as different from what they buy in the stores.  In describing the struggles I had with getting the honey out of the frame, my wife gave me permission to get a honey extractor to do it right.  While on vacation we also talked about expansion of the bee operation, and I plan on buying assembled frames from Dadant and building five more hives.

Another interesting thing happened while on vacation.  I received two phone calls regarding bee colonies in an old house and in a backyard shed.  I am planning on making a bee vacuum this week and seeing if we can remove the colony and transfer them into a new hive.  I already have Dick talked into the idea (it didn't take much arm twisting).

Thursday, July 22, 2010

West Hive Accepts New Queen

Last night Dawn, Jessica, and I went to the farm to check on the new queen which we placed in the West hive on Tuesday.  Upon openning the West hive we found what we were hoping for: an empty queen cage.  The hive has accepted their new queen and she was busy checking out her new home.

Dawn & I also noticed how much calmer the West hive was today compared to recent visits.  I think the new queen brought everything into a "bee balance" and they were least that's my theory!

We also checked the East hive which is in full honey production.  They have had the honey super on top for just 10 days and they are just starting to cap honey.  I was suprised at the weight of the box when I took it off to check the brood chambers.  Jessica also had her first opportunity to taste honey fresh from the hive!  Below are a few photos from tonight.