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.
Jess helping with a feeding
Our daughter, Jessica, completed the work for her PhD in entomology last summer. She and her husband, Matt, who is also an entomologist, live in upstate New York where Matt works on his research with crane flies for Cornell University. Well, Jessica has now gotten a post-doctorate position, also with Cornell, that will allow her to research the importance of bumblebees in pollination of the pumpkin crop in upstate NY, which is a major crop in the area. One of the variables she will be exploring is how the bumblebees compare with honeybees in their ability to pollinate the crops. I will be very interested in following her work to see what she discovers. Here in eastern Iowa, I clearly see bumblebees as being very important in the pollination of so many things. I think they cover much more territory, as far as kinds of plants, than my honeybees. The honeybees really seem to me to be much more selective (translate "picky"). So, we're excited for her in getting the position and also excited because of the nature of the study, a subject we're quite interested in as well. Good luck Jess!
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…