Friday, May 27, 2011

Brief Updates from the Farm

I think I may have forgotten everything that was hot on my mine to report; maybe you all will settle for bits and pieces from this old bee mans memory. If not, maybe you should bring up the The Bee Man's Daughter blog; her mind is still nearly new.

First, I would like to bring you up to date on the Shook Swarm from my last blog. Like many of other things I do, I'm not for sure it worked out so well. The original hive was left weakened and the new hive looks very well; the amount of comb honey we get will tell of our success or failure. We have also finished a resent graft and have another underway, yet the weather has not been good for breading queens, as we hit somewhat of cold snap.

May 7th, we had our Cookeville Beekeeping meeting here at the farm and about 20 or 25 people were in attendance. Mike Haney, president of the Cookeville club, did a great job showing some of our "new-bees" what to look for in a hive. The info he passed along should be helpful to them, as well as to the more seasoned bee keepers. Refreshments were provided by Carolyn, and they were great as usual. I enjoyed meeting new members and talking bee stuff with all who attended, and I would like to thank them for coming. Our door prize, a new swarm that came out one hour before the meeting and rested 65 feet up in a pine tree, was rejected by everyone . The swarm now has been added to our local feral stock. We wish them luck as they will provide good breeding stock for our queens. I'm cutting this short as not to bore you with our day-to-day bee stuff (just a few swarms and what not). I really need to learn to keep better notes.

Enjoy a few pics from the recent bee meeting!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Shook Swarms, Brother Glenn, and May Update

I think I have checked all our hives and most everything is doing well; we have experienced growth this year more than expected. I have done almost everything I know to stop the bees from swarming, sometimes I think it would do better just to let them go, but that would cut down on our honey production. I’m sure some have swarmed unnoticed and added to the feral population in the woods.

I watched a video last winter, “Making Comb Honey” with Ken Lasing of Windermere Farms and Apiaries, using the “shook swarm” method I've been dying to try. Here is a link to the video. It is about half an hour long. Also, here is a page of bee keeping videos that may be of interest. (Note: while we attempt to stay "apolitical" in this blog, the editor must mention that this bee keeping video selection page seems to support a certain political candidate.)

What you do is move the parent hive to a new location nearby, place a new bottom board than a medium super with foundation, than a queen-excluder, then two supers with thin foundation. Place a sheet in fount of the old location for a path into the new hive at the old location, than take all the frames of bees and the queen from the old hive at the new location give them a good shake over the sheet. Then place them back in the old hive with the bees that did not fall off. I think the idea is to make the bees that you shook on the sheet in front of the old location and all the bees returning from the field think they have swarmed. This is just what it takes to make good comb honey-- a lot of bees with nothing to do, but make comb and honey; no eggs or larva to feed, no more ideas of swarming and you (hopefully) leave some bees in the old hive to feed and take care of the brood and maintain the hive. After the honey harvest, you can combine the two hives or use them for increase.

So, that is just what I did after being inspired by this video. James assisted, but with that look in his eye he gets when he thinks I have lost my mind. Let me tell you, it was a sight to behold—mass confusion for the bees and James. I was not worried because I know God takes care of drunks, little children, and damn fools. When we were doing the shake down, I had all the confidence of a fool! Now, I wonder…

Last but not least, a year ago we took some bees to Crossville to Brother Glenn's house for the sour-wood flow and did not bring them home. Carolyn and I went up to do a spring inspection and Brother Glenn was waiting with his new bee suit, all white with no spots or dirt; a perfect picture of a new-bee.

We found the bees had done very well without me to bother them; in fact, one of the hives was one of the best wintered hives I’ve seen, but they were about to swarm. Something had to be done, but perhaps a little too late to prevent them from swarming. I used a double screen board on each of the hives, a device we use to temporarily separate the boxes for re-queening and swarm-prevention. In about 30 days, we will put them back together after assessing the queens and leaving the best one to head the colony. We also made a couple of splits; these were really strong hives. Saturday, Glenn was concerned the bees were confused and disorientated. Carolyn, who took the pictures while Glenn and I worked the bees, said who wouldn't be after that treatment? If they don't swarm, we can say what good bee keepers we are; if they do swarm, we will just say that once the bees get swarming on their minds, nothing can stop them ( I should be in politics). By the way, Glenn did very well and seems to have a feel for the bees, after I convinced him to stand closer and stop backing up.

A queen cell: a sign of intentions of swarming

I hope somewhere out there on the WWW, there is someone that that enjoys reading this blog half as much as I do putting it together. Also an update on the job posting for a new blog editor: we are no longer looking for a replacement. Jess is doing a fine job and despite her attitude. In fact, starting next year she gets a 100% raise (education pays off). Farewell until next time!

Happy trails to you!

(A letter from the editor- The job posting/contract renewal negotiations/attitude adjustments may have delayed the posting of this blog a couple of weeks... ;)