Sunday, November 18, 2007

It’s a White Thanksgiving

I set up the video camera to record how I opened the hive, and dusted it and the bees with powdered sugar. It is my last treatment for Varroa mites. I hated the video, actually hated the sound of my voice in the video. My wife agreed, she said I sound like a goober. So instead of video I’m did a slide show. (Link to slide show)

I do have some video of the hive after I dusted it today. Is a little boring, but is the best way to get a feel for the sound of the hive. It either captivates people, or it makes the hair on the back of their neck stand up.

It took the bees all day to clean the outside of the hive, and before dusk I gave them a hand by watering away large clumps of sugar. I didn’t want to feed the ants or any other animals over night.

This most likely is the end of the inspections until next February. I may inspect once a month from now on just to keep them used to my presence and the intrusions. I also want to keep the hive components from becoming glued together to the point where it’s going to take a hammer and chisel to get them apart. I need to ask the experts about this.

Mid Novemebr and pollen is still coming in, and today I personally saw them colleting it from my FireBush. There is red and yellow pollen been brought in. I have no idea where the yellow is coming from. There also seems to be a return of the Small Hive Beetle, not in the hive, but in the trap/drawer. I'm trying to see if the drawer is as effective with out the bait.

There were some local events that reminded me why I decided to be anonymous. Personally, I think both sides are a little irrational. First, trying to keep nine hives in a residential neighborhood is a little over the top, but the neighbor claiming to have had her children swarm by bees is an ……….(if you can’t say something nice about a person, don’t say anything my mom always said). Her ignorance on the subject is visible with statements like "We are concerned for our safety -- for the safety of our children and for our property value," neighbor Nancy Aumuller said. "Who would want to live next to someone who has bee hives?"
Nancy, bees don’t swarm children unless you roll them in honey. Local Channel 6 story , My local paper, and the world wide web

But, life goes on and this is an educational blog. Hopefully people may learn something new about honey bees that they didn’t know, andforget about Hollywood movies about killer bees.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

My Honey Label

I really didn’t put much thought into the label. It sort of fell together on its own. You may recognize the angels. They are part of a painting that is fairly well known in advertising and gift shop items among other things. It is a painting by the Italian High Renaissance artist Raffaello Santi, circa 1512-1514. (Wikipidia entry) What most people don’t know and you may have missed it a few lines above; the angels are part of a painting, a very small part of the Sistine Madonna.
Six years ago with the birth of my kids (twins), I had it tattooed on my shoulder along with the kid’s initials assigned to each of the angels.
Again, I borrowed the painting for my honey label. Photo shopped the mural option to the background, added the bee in the direction to which the angels are looking. The bee picture is one of my bees working the Hyacinth plant. I took it a few months ago, and photo shopped it until it looked more like a painting than a picture. The Pure Local Honey well …….. do I really need to explain ?? “A” & “B” are my kids initials. Yes, “A” was born before “B”. We live in Melbourne, and the number on the bottom right is my official Florida Beekeeper registration number. Voila – I have a honey label.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Sweet, Sweet Golden Mess

This was an exciting and slightly painful weekend. I’m going to first brag, and then I’ll document things from the beginning.

The weather has been incredible; pollen is trickling in at a slow but steady pace. So…… I robbed a frame out of the supper yesterday.
(Apology: If you know who I am, and I didn’t share one of these 8 oz jars with you, please don’t take it personally!!! There will be enough to go around next April - I promise!!!!!!)

Almost mid November!!!!!! This is awesome. The kids and I are hooked on comb honey now, and I found out my wife has never been a big honey fan!!!!! 17 years of marriage and now I find this out?????

Ok, now that I’ve bragged, let me document the weekend. First, I need to up the sting count to a total of eight. I had some spare time late Friday and wanted to take some really up close shots of the entrance. Well, I found out how close is too close. I got it right on my index knuckle while trying to retrieve the tripod away from the entrance. These are my hands today, yesterday it was slightly bigger. No biggie, swelling is my normal reaction to a bee sting. The reactions seem to be getting less intense, and shorter in duration as I reach double sting digits.

Late in the week I observed a half hearted effort by the hive to remove the drones. I mean half hearted because it seemed like there is just one bee assigned to dragging them out. The drones just try to hold on to anything they can as the worker drags them out. After a short struggle both bees hit the ground in front of the hive. The worker takes a break after the wrestling match. The drone turns around and flies back in passed the entrance guards. Every 4 minutes the sequence repeats itself. I can’t tell if the same worker is dragging out the same drone.

I wanted to remove the medium supper, inspect the brood in the deep body, remove a frame from the supper and dust everything with confectioner powder sugar. It was a good plan but poor execution on my part. I was able to break the seal between the hive bodies, but I couldn’t take them apart. Too many of the frames on the super were stuck to the deep frames. As I tried to lift the super, I could see frames on the deep pull out too. So I decided to rob the honey frame I had in mind and rearrange the super for the 3rd time. I replaced the frame I took with a plastic foundation frame, and grouped liked frames with each other. This WILL be the last time I reconfigure the super. Rearranging the super broke enough burr comb between the deep so that I could now remove the super. This is how the super is configured, and will remain till next spring
(Picture on the left is after the inspection) I noticed that the bees were busy closing the top entrance. So I did away with it. I'll try next summer to see if they want or need it.

I inspected half the frames in the deep body. It appears the middle frames have a lot of burr comb under them, as seen in the picture. This is frame 6(E). Inside the red circle is the brood. Typical football shape. Between the yellow and the red lines are the pollen stores. Outside the yellow line are the honey stores. Below the blue line is the burr comb. All burr comb seems to have honey stores.This is the west side of the same frame. There is a good laying pattern but it seems like it is finally slowing down. If it wasn’t for the burr comb on the bottom of the frames, things would look almost perfect. It was time to button things up, and go try some honey. It wasn’t until I was putting all my tools away that I noticed the powder sugar sitting inside the shed. DO’H!!!! Oh well, next week. I won't inspect, just dust them with the confectioners sugar.

Once I figure out a good method to get honey I'll post my steps. Things went OK, but it could had been much better and faster. Here is the comb from the frame I took. Why are there two slabs??? It seems like the comb was started on each end of the frame. Instead of meeting in the middle both ends were overlapped by at least 6 inches. From the slight stomachache, and what I bottled, my guess is that we got 80 ozs from the one frame. Two of those jars are comb honey per the kids request.
Cross view of the honey comb
Crush and strain.
Bounty for the day.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Another Learning Week

1st, check out fellow beekeeper and co worker Mike. Early November and he's extracting honey. I'm so jealous I may rob one frame from mine next weekend.

Anyway, seems like there is something to learn every week. This weekend I took half a day on Saturday to attend the Florida State Beekeepers Association 87th convention in Winter Haven.

I took a couple of classes on the proper methods of doing a hive inspection. It was kind of neat to have the inspector pull out a frame loaded with bees, point out the queen, and pass the frame around to everyone. When it was handed to me all I could think was: "Lord, please don't let me drop this frame in front of everyone, look like a fool, and make the bees angry". The time we all took to make sure we had a good grip during the hand off makes me think we all felt the same way. I learned that I shouldn't inspect the hive as I dismantle it. Instead, it should first be dismantle down to the brood chamber, inspect it and then inspect the suppers as the hive is reassembled.

I also took classroom classes on Nucs and splits . Follow link for the best paper on The Advantages of Using Nucs, by Jamie Ellis, PhD. Also took his class on how to wisely use the Florida Management Calendar, and finally a class on the Migration of Africanized Bees in Florida.

The agricultural dept of Florida recommends that beekeepers not catch swarms of feral bees. The explanation is long and I don't think I could do it justice, but I'm a convert. Africanized bees are slowly diluting the feral honey bee population and slowly converting it over. They are completely adapted to do it.

Only disappointing thing from the convention was the lack of interest every one seems to have in organic beekeeping methods. Not that I want to be Mr. Organic. After all, I use plastic foundation instead of natural comb and BeeMax Polystyrene Hives instead of wooden hives. I just think a balance between the two methods would be more advantageous for hobbyist.

Speaking of organic treatments, yesterday (Sunday) I went ahead with the last of my tobacco smoke outs. Before smoking the hive I cleaned out the collection drawer and the mite average was still one/day, but the Small Hive Beetle number jumped up again. Below is the four day catch (Wed -> Saturday). From top to bottom: Four Mites, looks like seven but after zooming in three of the spots turned out to be just debris like the toothpick I left there, I used it to moved things around.Fifty Small Hive Beetle, give or take a few. That was a normal number during the summer and luckily they never seemed to get up in the hive.They are laying on some left over window screen that I use as a filter.

I checked the trap today, and after two days the SMH are down to normal (just 3). Since the weather has turned cooler I'm not sure if that has affected their reproduction cycle, or the tobacco smoke sort of camouflages the smell of the hive and they can't find it. That’s something to keep in mind and investigate later.The Mite count from Sunday night to Monday afternoon was 6. So obviously the tobacco has some effect on the mites. Below is a close up of one. I have gotten pretty good at spotting them in the tray, but I still use the macro lens to confirm.

Next week, inspection, and powder sugar shake (last step of treatment for Varroa Mite ).

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