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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.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Bees Were Out Today!

I went to the farm today to check on the bees' food status before the big winter storm tomorrow.  It was 50 degrees and beautiful today.  The hives all looked good, and I only added sugar to one hive.  One section of the yard had a strong buzzing sound, so I went to investigate.  I found tiny flowers around the yard and was able to snap this photo of a busy bee gathering nectar.  I do admit that I was surprised at the amount of nectar the bees have been able to collect and store away this spring.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Bee Log Attempted Transfer

I checked on the log today and with the warm weather every bee in the area was robbing it!  I had Aaron's hive that died out but still had comb and honey in it, so I tried transferring the log to it.  Some bees I shook into the hive, the the others that were on the inside of the log, I decided to try sitting the log on top of the hive.  It's a long shot, but I figure that without a queen and a long winter they don't have much of a chance anyway.  Oh, I also found two emergency queen cells on a piece of comb in the log...unfortunately, there isn't a drone in a hundred miles!

UPDATE: On March 16th I checked on the bees and they were all dead...some in the log and others in the hive.

Friday, March 8, 2013

March Bee Call?!?!

Two days ago (March 6th) I received a bee call about a tree hive that needed removing.   A tree was cut down at Court 5 at Lake Sara, and about 20 feet up in the tree was a wild hive.  Of course, when the tree came crashing down, so did the bees' world!  I stopped by that night to survey the damage,but with light fading I decided to return the next day.  Thursday it looked like quite a few bees were present and it might be worth a try to put them in a hive with comb and honey that died out this winter.  So, today Aaron and I picked up the log and took it to the farm to see what happens.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Little Half-Bee

When I stopped by the bee tree on Court 5, I grabbed some loose honey comb to enjoy at home, and I found a tag-along bee.  However, this bee was a bit unusual in that it's abdomen was gone!  It was still alive and walking around on the table, and I had some fun playing with for over an hour.  By then she wasn't doing well, and my playing with a dying bee was not sitting well with my wife, so I took care of her.  But I did take quite a few photos of her, and this one looks pretty good!

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Thoughts for 2013

Well, yesterday I sold the last of my honey from 2012.  What a great honey year it was inspite of the drought.  I believe Aaron has a few bottles left, with at least one needing to be delivered.  I'm not 100% sure how much honey I harvested, but I believe I bottled around 260 pounds with profits going into more equipment.  Beekeeping can become an expensive hobby, especially when you look at buying frames.  While the wood to make a hive box isn't too expensive, the frames are over $2 a piece.  So, a beehive with two deep supers and two honey supers will cost just under $100 just for the frames!  At present, I am assembling 20 deep hive boxes to expand the apiary this year.  Next, I need to make 10 more bottom boards, inner covers, and telescopic lids.  That should give me the opportunity to expand to approximately 25 hives.  Next I need to build more honey supers to maximize honey production.  If all goes well, I hope to produce 40 gallons of honey in 2013.  So, what does one do with 40 gallons or 480 pounds of honey?  Expand markets!  Ah, but let's not put the cart before the horse, because it is still winter, it is actually snowing as I type, and the bees have to make it through winter yet, and now is the time that some face starvation....time to feed!

Friday, February 22, 2013

Hive Box Assembly

Prepping for the 2013 bee season.  The other day, my grandson Elijah was helping me cut wood for the new deep boxes.  Here you can see where my son Aaron and I have been assembling some of the 20 boxes to fill with bees this spring.

Winter Update

Well, I haven't written here for a while, and I need to give a winter update.  Unfortunately, two of my week hives died out earlier this winter.  Also, Aaron's hive died out is a bit of a mystery because he had lots of honey, but the dead bees were in a section where they had eaten all the honey.  I'm thinking they got stuck there when a cold snap hit.

Plans are in gear for this coming season with goals for expansion of the bee operation.  Elijah wanted to become a beekeeper this year, so we spent last Sunday building his two deep boxes, and cutting out the pieces for 20 deep boxes for me.  We are looking at expansion to around 20 hives through swarm captures, splits, and queen rearing.  I will need to replace almost all my queens this year, so a focus on successful queen rearing is a big part of the plan.  I also broke a gear on my extractor, so I will try to find a part this spring. 
In addition, with a larger operation I will need a honey house and an integrated honey processing system.  That will take a fair amount of financial investment, so I am counting on Queens and honey sales to help with that endeavor. 

With yesterday's snow and ice, Spring feels like it is many months away, but I am counting on an early Spring similar to last year.  According the US Farm Report we will have a continuation of the drought, but it is not suppose to be as severe.  We will have to wait and see how the nectar flow pans out.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

A New Beekeeper

Our grandson Elijah wants to become a beekeeper, so we made him a deal....we will help him, but he has to make his own hive!  Step one is completed...2 hive boxes cut and assembled.  Next is bottom board, inner cover, lid and painting.