Friday, January 30, 2009

2009 Pollen count - Blooming plants of Central FL

My Goal here is to track the local pollen count hoping to pinpoint ideal split times, ideal swarm season, best time to supper and rob honey. My two sources for the data in this page are and (UF Honey Bee and Research & Extension lab)

Central Florida Bee Blooming plants for January :
· Sand Pine · Maple · Willow

Central Florida Bee Blooming plants for February:
· Sand Pine · Maple · Willow · Plum · Cherry · Oak · Walther Viburnum · Sweet Clover · Blueberry · Haw · Fetterbush

February 2009-Pollen Count *32934

Central Florida Bee Blooming plants for March:
· Willow · Sand Pine · Maple · Willow · Plum · Cherry · Oak · Walther Viburnum · Sweet Clover · Blueberry · Haw · Fetterbush · Orange · Spanish Needle

March 2009-Pollen Count *32934

Central Florida Bee Blooming plants for April:
Orange · Sweet Clover · Wild Blueberry · Haw, Fetterbush · Spanish Needle · Galberry · Dog Hobble · Palmetto · Mexican Clover · Butter Mint

April 2009-Pollen Count *32934

Central Florida Bee Blooming plants for May:
Fetterbush · Spanish Needle · Galberry · Dog Hobble · Palmetto · Mexican Clover · Butter Mint ·
Palm · Gopher Apple · Joint Weed · Sandhill Prarie Clover · Spiderwort/day Flower

Central Florida Bee Blooming plants for June:
Spanish Needle · Dog Hobble · Palmetto · Mexican Clover · Palm · Gopher Apple · Joint Weed · Sandhill Prarie Clover · Spiderwort/day Flower · Mangrove · Red Bay · Cabbage Palm

Central Florida Bee Blooming plants for July:
Spanish Needle, Palmetto, Mexican Clover, Buttermint, Palm, Gopher Apple, Joint Weed, Redbay, Sandhill, Prairie Clover, Partridge Pea, Mangrove, Primrose Willow, Spiderwort/Dayflower

Central Florida Bee Blooming plants for August:
Spanish Needle · Mexican Clover · Weed · Redbay · Prairie Clover · Partridge Pea · Mangrove · Primrose Willow · Spiderwort/Dayflower

Central Florida Bee Blooming plants for September:
Spanish Needle · Mexican Clover · Redbay · Primrose Willow · Spiderwort/Dayflower · Spotted Mint · Goldenrod · Vine Aster · Sumac · Smart Weed · Brazilian Pepper · Bush Aster

Central Florida Bee Blooming plants for October:
Spanish Needle · Brazilian Pepper

Central Florida Bee Blooming plants for November:
Mexican Clover · Primrose Willow · Spotted Mint · Golden Rod · Vine Aster · Smart Weed · Bush Aster

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

I keep referring to “my NUC in the ten frame hive body”. When a beekeeper refers to a NUC (Nucleus hive), we are usually talking about a hive composed of 5 frames that are house in a hive big enough to just hold those five frames. A colony is usually placed in a NUC when is a new colony, and they are attempting to re-queen themselves or if their numbers are down for what ever reason.

In a five frame Nuc a weak colony can easily control the environmental temperature, and guard it against pests. Frees up bees from those duties to forage and raise brood. Not that a weak colony can’t make it in a ten frame hive.

Here is a good picture of my Nuc that is housed in the 10 frame body. From Left to right are 3 empty frames, then the next five frames the NUC, the last two frames on the right again are empty. I bought two NUCs late last year. This colony went into this ten frame hive because I was out of five frame NUCs.

The following video is a great demonstration of orientation flights by the bees. The 1st time I ever saw this I though the bees were getting ready to swarm away, when I came to the conclusion they weren’t leaving I though they were under attack by some other colony. The first 45 seconds of the video are of the entrance of my NUC in the ten frame hive. They are working hard and going about their business. Then I focused the camera on my eager NUC and the bees can be seen performing orientation flights. The tell tales of an orientation flight are simple to spot. First, there is no fighting at the entrance, so they are not under attack. Second, the bees are not swarming away. They are just coming out and flying while facing the hive a few feet above it. These are new bees and they are getting acquainted with their surroundings. Making a mental picture of what their home and the surroundings will look like when they go out on longer foraging flights. For some it may just be a bathroom break too. In the middle of this madness are the guards at the entrance checking for friend or foe, the workers returning from their foraging trips, and the workers on their way to forage.

The rear of a hive is the safest place to be, except for right now. Every single bee doing orientation will simply be facing you. There are always one or two bees with a chip on their shoulder. They don’t want to sting, they just want you to stop blocking the view. Anyone notice the five frame supper on top of the Nuc? Two of those medium frames are full and capped. If I have to feed anyone thsi year, is not going to be this Nuc.

Monday, January 26, 2009

New Beekeeping Year

Small article that made the wife remind me of why we want to stay in the bee closet. (Neighbors all abuzz about Palm Bay gardener's beehive) Now there are a few differences between the lady in the article and yours truly. Although she lives some 20 minutes south of me, I do live in a light agricultural zoned area. My neighborhood is all zoned to have one home of a lot of at least 2 acres. I am completely legal and allowed to have my hives, but you never know ……. I like my neighbors, they like me. There were bees in the area before I brought mine in; there will be bees in the area if I ever get rid of mine. I feel for her. A good beekeeper can be as responsible as owners of guns, or pit-bull dogs, but bees are more beneficial to the environment. Yet she is not been allowed to keep the one hive.

So 2009 will be my 3rd year beekeeping. After a typical Florida cold front, three/four days of cold overnight temps in the 30’s, the weather has return to a more seasonal upper 40’s overnight and low 70’s during the day. (Don’t you just love Florida?) There’s tons of activity around the hives… orientation flights and lots of pollen been brought in. The hives are ready to explode at the first sign of spring. There will be more cold fronts before then, but here in Central Florida it seems like spring begins the 1st of March for the bees. So I decided to do some cleaning around the bee yard. 1st, I needed to move the TBH out of the way. I want to make a few small modifications, and then place it on the bee stand next to my Lang hives. Therefore “Old Faithfull” (hive on the left) must move to the right. The Nuc (in the middle) must move to the right, and the Nuc that is housed in the 10 frame hive (all the way on the right) will stay where it is.

Is normal for me not to wear any protective clothing when I work around my hives, the rules are no walking close to the entrance, no sandals, and wear a hat/cap. A hat is very important. With bees flying in and out you never know when one will accidentally fly into your hair. Once in there it gets tangle in your hair, it panics, you panic …… This reminds me, up the sting count to 14. I forgot my hat a first, before taking this picture.
It was educational to dismantle and store (for now) the TBH. As the bees were collapsing, Wax Moths moved in to hasten their downfall. The collapse of the bees also means the end of the Wax Moths. What I didn’t know is how much damage the Moths not only inflict on wax, but also on wood. I found these un-hatch moths larvae between two Top Bars. After I scraped them off, I noticed that they actually dug grooves into the wood to make a nest.
Below are a few pictures of what they do to a drawn out frame. I mistakenly stored this clean drawn out frame in my shed. Nice dark dry place. I had completely forgotten I had put it in the shed, I don’t know how they found it in there but they did. Since the frame was clean of honey and pollen, there wasn’t much there for the moths to eat. The picture below shows the dead and dying moth larvae.

Here are pictures of the damage they create on a drawn out frame. Once the larva hatches it travels below the surface of the drawn out frame from cell to cell. In its path it leaves a paper/silk residue, and in the process of moving between cells it undermines the foundation of the comb rendering it useless and un- repairable to the bees. A huge advantage of plastic frames is that the foundation keeps the damage contain to one side of the frame. Had this been a natural drawn out comb, both faces of the frame would have collapsed.

Once the TBH was out of the way my next task was to remove the Queen Excluder I placed early last year on “Old Faithfull”. A Queen Excluder keeps the queen from moving up passed it to lay, so anything above it becomes storage for the bees. Now some people like to call it a honey excluder. They seem to think that bees don’t like to make their way passed it or that it slows progress too much. I don’t know!!!!! I am removing it this year to make my own conclusion. I can’t make any of my own claims until I see it for myself. Since this was the only productive hive I had last year, there was no side by side comparison. It is going to have to be last year’s performance versus this year performance. Allowing the queen to move freely creates the problem of having to select frames in this supper when is time to harvest honey. At any given time the queen may move up here to expand the brood nest. Here is a picture of the Queen Excluder in place. The holes are just the right size for workers to pass thru, but small enough to hold the queen back.
Pop quiz, there is something missing in the picture below. Yes, the queen excluder is missing, but no ….. That's not it. Something else is missing
A: There are only 9 frames. I removed the 10th frame. One frame always has to come out to allow more room to work with the other frames, and it usually sits on the ground by my feet. Always wear socks and no bell bottom pants to keeps out those ladies that decide to walk up your pant legs.
Why not always leave more room to work in there?? Simple, bees live and die by their bee space rule (3/8 inch), any space larger than 3/8 means there is room for more cells. This usually creates the problem seen below known as bridged comb. Instead of drawing out comb on the plastic foundation they draw out comb between this frame and the adjacent one.The problem with bridge comb is that it gets very messy when the frames are pulled apart. Last time I was here I probably didn’t push the frames tightly together. Some say that this is a good example that bees prefer to build their own cells with out the aid of the plastic foundation, but that wouldn’t explain why the rest of the frames look as nice as this one. In my short bee experience there are many explanations for bridge comb, but every one has one. All I do know is that by breaking this comb, and pushing the frames together, the bees will fix the problem and eventually draw it out correctly.

In conclusion: Here is how the bee yard looks as of today. To the left, and moving a few inches to the right every week “Old Faithfull”, in the middle my Eager Nuc. These ladies are hard workers and I think they have the potential to embarrass all the other hives this coming year with their work ethic. Their Ten frame hive body and base is in the mail. To the right …….. Yet to have earn a name: the Nuc in the ten frame body. They are doing OK, nothing to write home to mama that’s for sure.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Observations and Lessons of 2008

What did I learn on my full second year of beekeeping here in East Central Florida? I really don’t feel any wiser, but not as uninformed on the subject as in the previous year.

Main lesson of 2008 - you may have a plan as a beekeeper, but nature and the bees may have a dissimilar plan. Don’t despair; I have to admit I did for a short while this past year when things went south.

My goals for 2009 – Four or five healthy hives by next September would be ideal.

My beekeeping observations and FAQ:
Q: Have I noticed any benefits around the yard because of the bees?
A: Yes, most definitely. Here are a few pictures (2 weeks ago, Mid December) of my Herb garden. The front pot in this picture has Chives. The chives have replenished themselves faster than we can bake potatoes. I have never had Chives be this prolific. Reminds me, I need to look for some more recipes that use chives. The plant in the back is a blackberry, I just purchased it late last summer so I missed its flowering season.

This next picture shows Chive seed pots that I cut from the plant above. Not sure why I’m trying to get more, but I felt like I should take advantage of all these seeds

I usually have to pull weeds after the growing season, this year I pulled Basil plants that began growing on their own all over the area. Have never had new Basil plants just sprout like weeds. I usually just buy seeds or small plants in the spring. These plants didn’t grow on the pot, I transplanted them into it.

Here is my Parsley and Oregano coming back. It actually never went away; new plants have just re-grown to replace the dying ones.

Q: Have you noticed more fruit in your fruit trees?
YES, but there is a very important lesson I would like to share here. The bees help with pollination which means every bloom will most likely turn into a healthy fruit. But the bees can’t make fruit trees bloom. I picked a record crop from my 2 citrus trees that bloomed last year, but nothing from the 2 trees that decided not to bloom for what ever reason. I still have not been able to figure out why my mango trees refuse to bloom, they look perfectly normal and healthy. One is about 6 foot tall and the other about 8.

Q: Any draw backs to having bees?
…………Yes, but I can live with it. Just as the good stuff has become prolific, so has the bad stuff like weeds, and crawling/chocking Georgia vines. It just means a little more maintenance around the yard. I think the worst side effect, and I will have to maybe give it another growing season to confirm it, is what seems to me like an unusual amount of seeds in the citrus. The picture below shows the seeds from one orange, just ONE. I don’t recall the oranges having these many seeds in previous years.
Q: How can your neighbors still not know you have bees?
A: Here is a picture of house and the lot. The Purple line depicts my property lines. It may look like it be impossible to walk around, but 80 percent of the lot is just covered with a nice mature canopy of live oak trees and pine. There is a driveway in there going straight from the street to the front of the house, and it forks to the right towards the garage. I swear there is. The bee yard is the middle of the black and yellow circle. Is buffered by a wall of Palmetto palms to the bottom (towards the road), to the right (towards the driveway), and the empty 2 acre lot to the left. I have a post and rail fence that divides the property in half, so there is really only one way in or out of the bee yard.
The neighborhood kids have been coming around since last summer to play with my kids. My wife and I though the jig would be up the minute they began playing around the lot, but so far no one has noticed the big yellow boxes. I keep thinking one of these days they are going to slow down enough to notice them and ask, so I want to come out of the beekeeping closet, but my wife would rather have me wait until someone asks about them. So here I am still in the closet.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Slacker Apology and Update

I have been a Lazybones, loafer, and Slacker Blogger / beekeeper. I have tons of bad excuses for it all, but I prefer my one good excuse. I was letting nature take its course, and letting the bees work their magic under an occasional watchful eye. Not only have I not kept up this blog, but I’ve ignored my email also. My apologies to those of you that emailed with questions and offers for me to come and get hives/swarms you found in your yards. I guess missing out on free bees will be my own punishment. I promise this will not happen again.

My last Blog was in September right after I did my honey harvest of my only remaining hive. “Old Faithful” is the name I think it has earned. This is my first hive and it has managed to overcome my mistakes as a beekeeper, the environment of my yard (lots of shade and ants), and all the flooding from this years tropical storm.

Soon after that harvest I placed the empty frames, for protection and cleaning, on top of “Old Faithful”, and went out to purchase a couple of NUCS from my local bee dealer. My setup was: “Old Faithful”, a new healthy NUC (5 frames), and one healthy NUC in a 10 frame hive. They have all been thriving in the bee yard for almost 3 months now. It may be due in part to my decision that there would be nothing to gain or lose by inspecting them this late in the year, so might as well let things “bee” (beekeeper joke)

Mid December I decided it was time to do a quick inspection to confirm every hive had good winter stores. Much to my surprise “Old Faithful” did not only have enough, but was suffering of an excessive amount of honey stores. The 9 frame supper I had placed on top of it for cleaning did not only get cleaned, but 6 out of 9 frames were refilled.

So going into this Florida winter (November was unseasonably cold, December has been mild) I have “Old Faithful” in a 10 frame Lang hive, queen excluder, and a full 10 frame supper (after I robbed the top supper). I want to remove the queen excluder before spring, to allow the queen to partially use this supper for laying. More on this idea later. The activity is normal for this season, and I can see Pollen coming in even now.

My 5 Frame Nuc in the standard NUC hive now has a 5 frame supper on it. Two frames are full courtesy of “Old Faithful” and three are ¼ drawn out.

My 5 frame NUC in a 10 frame box looks good and I decided it was in a perfect stage to try an experiment I never got to try this summer. I removed the outside plastic frames, (3 on east side, 2 on the west) and replaced them with my modified plastic starter strip frames. Natural beekeeping aided by an invention of modern beekeeping. I find plastic frames easier to pull out of the hive. The humidity doesn’t expand them or warp them, but I like the natural wax foundation on wooden frames so bees can build the size they want to build. To me, if it works, this would be the best of both worlds. If I see good progress, I may take all my plastic medium supper frames and modify them this way. Right now I’m not sure what is going to happen, check back and find out.

So what became of the 5 capped honey frames I found in “Old Faithful”? I placed 2 Full frames in the NUC's supper; a third frame broke apart when I attempted to pull it. It had been badly bridge to adjacent empty frames. I threw the mess on the ground and let the bees clean it. The other 3??? Well, there was a December Florida honey harvest. I kept the 16 ounce jar, for Christmas I honey baked a ham with the 2 cups of honey in the Tupperware, and the rest were sold or given away as stocking stuffers.

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