Bees


In the spring of 2012, we got our first bees. We took a fabulous class on beekeeping from Roger Graham [though we can no longer recommend the shop because of the shop manager].  Then we jumped right in. So far, it's been a real trip!   Stay tuned and we'll keep you posted.

That's me in the bee suit.  I do not wear gloves when I work the hives.  Yes, I've been pinged a few times, but it's easier to work things gently without gloves on.

For all of my posts on bees, click here.

Our Hives: 

Flower Lang (2012)


Our bee yard:
We're in a hollow, which means a lot of the worst prevailing winds go right over us.   We have 40 acres and a lot of choices for where to put stuff.   The first hives went at the top of a small hill just below a much bigger hill.  They faced east. They were too far away to manage easily during the fall dearth when I had to feed a lot.   In late 2015, we moved them a short distance away from the studio vegetable garden. It's an area with gravel base and surrounded by blackberries and raspberries. Well within reach of the hose [to discourage robbing] and an easy distance to carry loads of syrup and the bee inspection gear.   It's a terrific arrangement....but there is only room for 6 colonies.  We're looking for new places to set a few more hives.

We doubled the size of the apiary in the summer of 2017.  There is room for 12 hives now.   If I get that many, I am assured that I will be reminded that I can sell some to make room for more.   Wouldn't that be exciting!

CURRENT number of colonies [October 2017]:  4

History


2017
    • Overwintered from last year: 4    
    • Goals:  
      • Raise big hives with lots of bees.  
      • Manage varroa by letting them swarm or giving brood breaks somehow.
      • Get some honey. 
    • Splits: +1 April [blue diamonds], +1 May[green nuc], +1 June [beard, pink]
    • Swarms:  +1 June [deep garden].
    • Honey: 9.5 quarts
    • Colony losses:  Late summer, lost 4 hives.  [Nectar dearth and probably beekeeper error]
    • Hives going into winter: 4  [including 2 very small colonies]
    • Winter losses:  

    2016
      • Overwintered from last year: 1 colony [pink box] Russian cross.  Tiny cluster, but under a quilt box.     
      • Goals:  
        • Raise big hives with lots of bees.  
        • Get them through the winter. 
        • Get some honey.
      • New hives ordered:  2 nucs from Stuart Ratcliff, Bedford, IN. Arrived first week June, 2016.  Very small!   Just a couple of frames of brood each, if that.  
      • Swarm#1 [from Russian hive]:  June 10, 2016
      • Split [from Russian hive]:  June 13, 2016 post swarm. Found backfilled brood nest and 3 1/2 boxes overflowing w/bees.  Did a split.  Original hive swarmed anyway June 20. Lost that swarm.
      • Swarm#3 [from Russian Split]:  June 24, 2016.  Heard queens piping early in the day.  They swarmed that evening.   Caught the swarm and put it in white nuc.  Nuc box later went nasty and I transferred them to 1/2 medium in July.   Still small colony in Oct, but brood in all stages and eggs.  Beautiful queen.
      • Notes: The Russian queen seems swarmy, make splits often from her when she builds up super fast.
      • Combined last little swarm with one of the Bedford nucs that went queenless.  Oct 8. They all died.  
      • Honey: 1.34 gallons  [10.75 pints]
      • Hives going into winter: 4 [as of November 15]
      • Winter losses:  0

      2015
        • Overwintered from last year: 0.     
        • Goals:  Raise big hives with lots of bees.  Get them through the winter. 
        • New hives: 2 packages installed April 28, 2015
        • New hives: 2 nucs installed May 10, 2015
        • New hives: 5 nucs split off from pink hive July 12, 2015  [from 26 queen cells in that hive]
        • Summer losses: All 5 nucs failed.  Most absconded back home to pink hive.  No extra/new queens made it.
        • NOTES:  1 nuc and 1 package went queenless in July.  Package discovered mid July with 26 E cells.   Gave one extra frame of eggs/young larvae for support.  Requeened fine.  Nuc discovered early August.  No brood/eggs/Qcells.  Gave 1 frame of older brood and one frame of eggs.
        • Combined 1 queenless nuc with 1 package in October.   Whole thing failed probably due to beekeeper error.  
        • Honey: none
        • Hives going into winter: 3
        • Winter losses: 2 hives in November/December [Combined hive and 2nd nuc]

        2014
        • Overwintered from last year: 0.    
        • New hives: 2 [nucs] installed June 5, 2014 
        • Goals:  Raise big hives with lots of bees.   
        • Brood:  Good for both hives [8-9 solid frames]
        • Honey: none
        • Wax:  left in hives for next year.
        • Hives going into winter: 2
        • Winter losses:  1 hive in November 2014, 1 hive in January 2015

        2013 
        • Overwintered hives from last year:  1 hive [lang]
        • Splits: May 1 
        • Added cutout hive: August
        • Replaced queen: 0
        • Hives to winter: 3 hives
        • Winter losses: 100%.  3 hives. 1 weak hive died December, 2013.  Other 2 hives probably too small and died during the polar vortex early 2014.
        • Honey harvest, late winter 2013-14:  10.5 lbs from deadouts
        • Wax harvest, late winter 2013-14: +2 lbs from deadouts

        2012 
        • Start number of hives: 2 [packages]
        • Replaced queen in lang
        • Honey harvest:  37.5 lbs
        • Wax harvest: 1 lb
        • Hives to winter: 2
        • Winter losses: 50%.   1 hive

        List of pollen colors: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pollen_source
         
        Great bee record keeping apps:
        Great bee books:

        Great bee websites:
        Great bee blogs:   [There are others on my sidebar, too]
        For videos of all things related to beekeeping and bees, go to YouTube and do a search for your topic.   You'll find more than enough to keep you occupied...and then some.  Beware that not everything that you see people do is a good idea.   Check it through with the folks at Beemaster or the like.

        Some definitions of things that had me really confused when I got started:
        • beek:  beekeeper
        • brood:  the eggs and larvae
        • brood box:  the parts of the hive that have the brood in them.  Usually they are the bottom two boxes.  Excellent hives have both boxes full of brood.
        • brood frame: The brood is in the center 70% or so of the frame.  The bees put pollen and honey around the edges of the frames so that it's close to feed the larvae with.  
        • cluster: The group of bees, especially in the winter.  They cluster together around the queen to keep warm.   The cluster should be big enough that you see dozens of bees at the tops of the frames.  If the cluster is too small the bees will freeze.  This is what happened to us in one hive our first winter.
        • frame:  rectangular wooden frames that the bees build comb in.  They fit side by side into a super and can easily be lifted out and checked. 
        • foundation: wax or plastic sheets of 'comb' that you can put in your frames to show the bees what to do.  The bees finish drawing it out for brood and honey.  Foundation was developed to manipulate the size of the cell that bees draw.  Larger cells make larger bees which make more honey.  The problem is that larger cells also encourage varroa mites.  Also, the wax used in much of the world's foundation is contaminated with chemicals because it's gathered from mega operations which use a lot of chemical intervention.   [see http://www.bushfarms.com/beesfoundationless.htm]
        • foundationless: the choice to use empty frames for your bees to draw their own comb on-the way nature intended.  They draw the size they want from their own clean wax.   The problem is that they don't always follow the guides on your frames.   You have to learn to deal with burr comb, make repairs, etc.   Our hives are all foundationless. 
        • hive boxes:  the lower boxes that contain the brood and stores for the bees.  I've seen this used to mean any box used on a hive for any reason.   Check the context. 
        • nuc: nuclear hive.  A small/mini hive.  One small box with only 5 frames.   Used to start brand new colonies with a new queen or used to house a very small swarm. 
        • supers:  the boxes that hold the frames.  They have no top or bottom.   I have heard some folks call only the boxes for honey that are on top of the brood boxes supers.   They make a distinction between the brood boxes/hive boxes and the honey supers that the beek will harvest from.
        • top bar hive:  hives that have no frames, but only bars that fit side by side across the top of the box.   The bees draw comb down from these 'top bars'.  These hives are inexpensive to build and are most often seen as horizontal hives that will have no supers added to them.  Remember: horizontal hive bodies are a separate issue from top bars.   A lot of people talk about them as if top bars can only be used with horizontal hive bodies and horizontal hive bodies can only have top bars.  Not true.  It's a mix and match kind of deal.

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