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.
Queen Right! and other things
Whew. Our near catastrophy at doing a direct release of the queen into the new hive seems to have been averted. We introduced her last Thursday, 4 days ago, and weren't sure whether or not she made it into the hive. We filled the rest of the medium super with frames and closed it up, hoping for the best. Today, I opened the hive and noticed all the bees were clustered on one half of the hive. I guessed, correctly, that if there was a queen and eggs or very young larva, that's where the bees would be concentrated. I did not find the queen, but did find a good number of eggs, some sticking straight up, which would indicate one day old eggs and a number of 2 to 3 day old eggs laying on their side. I looked carefully, since I couldn't locate the queen, to make sure they were centered in the cells and there were not multiple eggs in the cells. It looks good, and I will look to see if they develop properly into worker cells in about a week. Bees looked happy and busy and I saw some with pollen, which is another good sign.
The new hive is shown here. The little nuc contains five frames. One of the frames had several queen cells and they should have emerged one or two days ago. I'll give that another week before I go peeking around in there. The queen right hive will be moved into a new 8 frame hive, as soon as the new ones arrive from Mann Lake and I get them assembled and painted. If a queen develops in the nuc, I will likely give this one to a friend who lost most of his bees this winter. In a couple of days I will check hive #1 to see if that queen is laying as well. I've been busy cleaning up old frames and have used up my supply of foundation, so I'll need to order some or take a day trip down to Dadant and pick some up.
White clover is beginning to go strong, but I saw few honey bees on it. Last year, which was a dry summer, the bees were all over the clover. I think this spring, being late and quite wet, has provided a variety of blooming plants and the bees can have their pick at this time. As summer progresses and choices narrow, I'm sure they'll go strongly to the clover.
Aside from all the rain, which has created some minor flooding in the area, it has been a nice spring. We have been able to get all of our gardening jobs done. Here are Kathy's tomato plants, which are looking very good. At the far end of the garden is a row of black raspberries, and the bees were definitely on their blooms.
The vineyard is looking good. This is my favorite time with the grapes, when they are just setting on and I don't see any signs of disease yet, no Japanese beetles yet, and the vines looks clean and fresh. The winter was very hard on my vines. I lost two completely, Cayuga whites, and had dead shoots on a number of vines. Harvest will be much below average this year.
The late, cool spring has brought a bumper crop of fruit in our area. Our blueberries look fantastic so far, and we look to have a great harvest of not only blueberries but apples, cherries (sweet and sour) raspberries, and peaches. The rhubarb has been wonderful as has the asparagus this year.
Unfortunately, with all the spring chores of bee care, gardening, home maintenance, etc., I haven't even uncovered the sailboat or our power boat for some water fun. It'll happen--summer isn't even officially here yet!
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…