Kathy, (aka "Bessie"), and I began our beekeeping experience in the fall of 2008, when we began a year-long course in beekeeping through the Indian Creek Nature Center in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. We got our first package of bees in April of 2009. At the suggestion of our daughter, Jessica, we are logging our beekeeping experience. Hope you find it interesting. It has been interesting, rewarding and entertaining for us as well.
39 degrees in January
Nice thaw we're having right now. It won't prove to be enough to clear more than my driveway of snow but still much appreciated. I went out two days ago to look at the bees when it was about 34 degrees and did not see anybody out flying, just dead bees, bee parts (legs, wings, etc.) and wax cappings. Today there were a number in the air.
The hives, looking south
Some were flying quite nicely. We saw several return from some distance out. A few, of course, had difficulty and were lying on their backs. We helped a couple get back up onto the landing pad (hopefully the correct hive). There were quite a few more dead in front of the hives, along with some brown spots from their cleansing flights.
A few of the dead. Note the brown stains.
I saw one come buzzing noisily out of the hive and tumbled to the ground with the body of a dead bee firmly in its grasp. She said a few words over the body then returned promptly to the hive with no problems.
A couple of the bees buzzed me, checking me out. I think my large, dark coat perhaps was not the best attire to be wearing but, well, it is winter after all. We peeked under the hood and saw a number of bees through the inner cover slot in hive #1 but Kathy saw none in hive #2, though she heard a fairly loud, solid hum coming from the hive. The cluster must be lower in that hive.
Click for a larger view.
I did tip each hive from the back and found that both are still quite heavy, which was reassuring.
Hopefully we'll start getting a few more days like this (or even better??) in the weeks to come.
This is a follow-up to my last post. Thanks to Barbara Beekeeper, whose blog I follow, I've now learned that the bad odor we experienced each of the past two autumns is not caused by the coincidental appearance of the wax worms but by one of the most abundant fall bloomers--goldenrod. When the goldenrod honey is curing in the hive, it gives off odors that can be quite strong and seemingly have a different effect on different people. After reading Barbara's account, I did a bit more research and found that a number of people mistake the odor for American Foul Brood, and tear their hives apart fearing to find the evidence that would indicate they needed to destroy their hives. Others liken the smell to smelly, wet socks (or feet), while others note the odor but don't find it unpleasant. In our experience, the odor is a sickly, sweet but sour smell, quite strong. Apparently, there are a number of varieties of goldenrod which could account for variance in the way peo…
In trying to decide how to go about removing the bees from the frames when we go to harvest the honey, we looked at options such as the fume board, brushing, blowing or shaking bees off the frames, or using a bee escape. We've chosen to try the last option. The fume boards work quickly, but we didn't like the thought of "fumigating" our bees or the honey. My experience with brushing bees off the frames has been that it does not make them very happy. I like to keep them happy. So we decided to go with the bee escape method.
There are a number of bee escapes available commercially and there are also plans for building a variety of bee escapes. Most of the commercial bee equipment outlets sell a simple bee escape that is oblong in shape and fits in the opening of a standard inner cover. It allows the bees to move from the honey super to the hive body below. These are quite inexpensive, costing only a couple dollars. You can also buy, from Dadant, a board which i…
Kathy and I recently returned from a wonderful trip to Costa Rica. It was basically an eco-tour, arranged by a former classmate of mine who has retired from Iowa State University and has taken groups to Central America for more than a decade. We saw beautiful scenery, many wonderful birds, reptiles and mammals, ate terrific food and made new friends. It was a great time, and with the slow emergence of spring I'm wishing I were right back there!
One side trip we took was to a huge pineapple plantation. It was very interesting learning how they are planted, harvested and selected for either fresh pineapple, juice, or what have you. As we were enjoying our treats at the end of the tour, I noticed some small insects very busy, coming and going, at the base of a column that supported the open serving area. I looked closer, and noticed many small insects flying in and out of a small tube going into a crack.
My guess was they were some type of bee. Jim, my friend and our guide, wh…