Monday, July 20, 2009

Late Swarm

Greg was mowing today and saw what looked like a swarm of bees in one of the oak trees in the apiary. The swarm was very small and it is late in the season-- which is not necessarily a good sign-- but it is good to catch them! A late swarm will most likely not survive through the winter without special care (extra feeding, close monitoring, etc...). We like to use these swarms to combine with other hives that maybe small or weak.

So to catch this swarm, since they were only about 8 ft up, it was easy to climb up, shake them in a bucket, and pour them into their new home-- a nucleus hive. We don't pass up swarms if we can do anything about it.

School Days!

This weekend we had a visit from two young ladies who wanted to learn about bees. Hannah, Catalina, and their dad, Bennett, came over to check out the hives and learn more about bees and being a bee keeper.

We went through one hive entirely to see if we could see the queen, but she was elusive that particular day and we didn't find her. We showed them the different stages of development and the different types of bees. The girls seemed to think it was "so cool"! Well, we thought Hannah and Catalina were pretty cool themselves. You are welcome back anytime girls!

The girls got some honey to take home for sampling and also got a birdhouse. Greg has been building birdhouses with the scrap wood left over from building supers and gives them away for donations of materials or free. They have a lifetime warranty-- the builder's life time, not the life time of the owner. If it breaks or you are unsatisfied, we will give you your money back. :)

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Something Smells......

We caught a perpetrator who has been suspected of eating bees. Skunks are a common nuisance for beekeepers. They visit the hives at night and eat any bees that come out of the hive to see what is going on. You know you have a skunk if the area around the bottom of the hive is scratched up and muddy.

We caught this skunk on Saturday and proceeded to engage in the "skunk removal" process (for all of you skunk rights activists that is all you need to know). We have not seen further evidence of skunks (although we did catch a raccoon, who we suspect has been a prisoner of ours previously) but we plan to proceed with skunk preventative techniques.

The way to keep skunks away from the hive is to put a piece of 1/2 in piece of hardware cloth between the hive and the block or the base. This keeps the skunks from feeding on the hive bees and hopefully will send the message that is best for them to be on their way. You can see from the pictures the tell-tale signs of skunk scavenging and the perpetrator himself.

Monday, July 6, 2009


Today we robbed most of the bees (the Byrdstown hives and the ones here at the farm) using the brush method as well as the blower method. We prefer the blower method if things are set up just right. The brush method is very suitable for just a few supers if you only have a couple. We decided not to use the fume board to extract the frames because it was a cool day. Fume boards work better in the hot sun. We were happy about the cool weather today especially as James and Greg were trying to pull the heavy, honey laden supers up the hill!

We found one hive that was interesting. In June, we found brood in the top of the hive, so we shook all the bees down to the bottom and inserted a queen excluder. Upon our arrival today, we were surprised to see that the brood had been maintained and the bees on top had created their own queen. So we ended up with a complete functioning hive on top and bottom.

Also, we noticed the dire need for some new equipment. It seems the bees have conspired to find every hole in the bee suit and gloves. Greg came away with no less than 25 stings today. Perhaps if the sun would have been shining, there would have been less bees in the hive on the attack!

So with several rogue bees still hanging around the basement, we began to spin the honey. This season we got a new uncapping knife, which all in all works pretty well. To make the knife worth our while next year, we plan to put only nine frames in the super rather than ten. Nine would allow the bees to build the comb a little deeper allowing us to uncap it easier. Also it seems to burn a little hot (by the looks of Greg's finger anyway!) . Then we used the fork to uncap what didn't get uncapped with the knife. Then we put them in the spinner. The key is to uncap them REALLY good. If not, it seems no amount of spinning will get that honey out.

The Byrdstown honey is darker and is most likely poplar honey. It is slightly stronger than what we have here in Cookeville. The Cookeville honey is lighter and most likely a mixture of locus, clover, and popular. It has a much milder taste.

We still have several frames from the Cookeville apiary to spin out tomorrow. We have three more locations to rob before the honey flow is over.

In the pictures you see the super transport (a full super can weigh over 50 pounds), the new uncapping knife, and the spinner at work.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Bee Removal Techniques

We received request from interested parties about the cone method of bee removal. We are happy to describe the process in more detail.

A simple but time consuming way of removing bees from a natural nest is to plug all entrances but one, and put over it a cone of wire mesh with an opening at the tip of the cone just big enough to allow one bee at a time to escape. A nucleus colony ( a small colony containing a thousand or more bees, and some brood ) is placed within a foot or two of the cone . As bees come forage from the natural nest and are prevented from reentering their home , they will join the small unit. After several (6) weeks the bulk of bees will have been captured . Then you can remove the cone, put some honey on the entrance, and the captured bees will then rob the natural nest of honey, after which you can carry the hive to a new location.

Generally this is more trouble than it’s worth but it’s a good way to save the bees with out destroying the building or wall. Every beekeeper should try this at least one time. I find it interesting . Every time I do this I swear Ill never do it again, but I can’t seem to turn down a request.