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.
My Cup is 2/3 Full
This is the first day anywhere approaching the warmth of just above freezing, so I had to get out to check on the bees. It has been exceptionally cold. It was 18 below zero the other night, a high of only 6 degrees yesterday. Today it was edging above 35 and sunny.
I started with hive #2. This hive came through last winter very strong, so much so that I was able to do 3 splits from it and still take about 100 pounds of honey. We left probably 80 pounds of honey in the hive for the winter. When I did the final warm weather check, the queen was still laying and the bees looked very healthy.
I didn't see any dead bees on the fresh snow in front of the hive and none flying, though, which concerned me. As soon as I opened it, I noticed a lot of frost on the inner cover and this pile of dead bees. Pulling a few frames from the middle, though, there was no evidence the bees had eaten any of this honey. The top box was still full of food. Looking at the frames I pulled, though, I saw a lot of evidence of nosema.
Note the long brown streaks on the frame (with good, untouched honey). I'll need to do some research to see what I need to do to these contaminated frames. I did not treat in the fall for nosema and will need to study this as well. I hate to lose this queen, who was a fantastic layer.
This is hive #1 and those are live bees on top. I again saw frost on the inner cover and no sign of life upon opening, but as I began to work a frame loose bees began to crawl up through the frames. Top box is still full of honey here as well, but I placed a patty on top anyway just for good measure. This hive had no apparent laying queen when I last opened them up so I hope she was just not laying. This is the offspring of the queen from hive #2 so I hope she survives.
Hive #3, the 8 framer, also had no dead bees in front or actively flying bees. As soon as I opened it, though, there was a squirming mass in the slot of the inner cover. I took it off and the top of the frames were totally covered with bees. They were definitely not happy with being disturbed, and when I tried to peek a bit more at a frame to check on honey many took to the air, with quite a few striking me in the (veiled) face and buzzing angrily. I gave them a patty and gently closed them up. I had several follow me the couple hundred feet up to and into the barn. I don't use smoke in the winter, but may with this particular group of characters.
So, two out of three is probably better than I anticipated, and, if we make it through into spring, twice as strong as what we started with last year.
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…