Showing posts with label Beekeeping
While I was at Valley Natural Foods the other day I was standing behind a couple in front of the honey shelf and I overheard them discussing the quality of the various honeys.  The woman leans in towards the man to tell him that some of the honeys had gone bad "you can tell because they are crystallized" she said.
I figured if I can't have honeybees right now it doesn't mean I can't have another type of bee.  According to my beekeeping friend Dave  it is a little late in the season to get going with Mason Bees so I'm going to give bumble bees a try.  A while back, after my beekeeping course, my oldest daughter decided she wanted to try keeping bumble bees.  She's always had a fascinating relationship with bumbles.  When she and I took a class at a local nature center 14 years ago we learned the difference between bees, wasps and hornets, which ones are aggressive and which ones aren't, etc... After that time she's always handled bumble bees.  She mostly likes to stroke their backs when they are busy working a flower.  Since she is so brave and had a real interest we ordered Marla Spivak's book: Befriending Bumble Bees.




Maya, my daughter, caught a bunch of bumbles initially but we were unsure in our ability to determine which ones were queens so she'd always let them go.  Well, since I'm bee-less I've decided to give the bumbles another try. With bumbles I won't have to worry about swarm management and worried neighbors, I'll just be able to still enjoy having a relationship with bees.

Now all I need is a bumble bee to show up.  They are late this year.

Wish me luck! :D
We said goodbye to our hives yesterday.  It was actually pretty sad.  I didn't care so much about the yellow hive but I was really attached to the pink one (the one you see being carried away).  That was my very first hive after I took the U of M beekeeping course and we've managed to get it through two winters and this was our third spring having them, they were also our mild tempered and happy bees.  My husband said I looked pitiful, like a lost child watching them from the window being carried away.We discussed just keeping the one hive because they really were a great bunch of bees to have but we just couldn't get past the possibility that, even if we managed them well, they could swarm again and next time it might not turn out so great.  I kept having visions of them swarming during one of the neighbors many dusk til dawn lawn parties.

Hubby and I are already discussing other options.  We have a couple friends that live in the country and we might approach them about keeping our bees.  One of them has wanted to have bees but wasn't so sure she wanted to do the management part of it, so we're thinking she might be a good option.  Otherwise, we do plan on moving so we might wait until then to get another hive, we'll see.

For now, Jim at Natures Nectar took our babies away.  I feel good that he was the one to take them since he's the guy I orginally purchased my packages from.  Who better to have our hives than the man I bought them from, right? 

So anyway...a couple pictures to share:

Jim getting the hives ready to be hauled away.



and then carrying my favorite one out.


Middy (my middle child) is pretty mad at me.  She loves the bees.  We have spent every day since spring of 2010 checking them out each morning, watching them fly in and out throughout the day (aside from winter).  I didn't realize she had grown as attached as I did.  She kept trying to think of reasons they didn't have to go.  She thinks people around us should "suck it up and get with the program." lol!  She's already asking when we can get some more.  I guess her nagging will get me moving on finding someone to let us keep them on their property.

Did I ever mention how much I hate living in the city?
Today our second hive swarmed. We really didn't anticipate this one. Our neighbor came by around 1 pm to tell us that our hive was swarming and it was in her backyard AGAIN! I don't know what it is about her yard that they love so much but they do. I ran over to see where it landed and this time it was attached to a tree trunk about 7 feet from the ground smack in the middle of her backyard. I told her that I'd get someone to remove it right away.
but this one was far more interesting. I had just finished emailing Jim from Natures Nectar about the divide I was about to do, it was the perfect day for it; sunny and warm. Our bees were in a great mood. I was standing in front of the hive that we knew needed to be divided the most. The pink hive is our oldest but the yellow newer hive had a prolific egg laying queen. At the end of winter it looked as if the hive hadn't lost a single bee, it was insane. Just as hubby and I were standing in front of the hive discussing our plan of attack (we are new to this dividing business), the hive decided to swarm. Um... there they go not following the manual again. Minnesota bees aren't suppose to swarm until late June, early July but apparently these girls didn't get the memo. We watched as they moved around the yard, up into a tree, and then settled on our fence.

Needless to say I was in full panic mode (readers: you do sort of see me as the high anxiety type already don't ya?! - cuz I am). I hate having to tell my neighbors that they can't let their dogs out to potty because my bees are on the move again. I feel like I'm being rude... I am rude. Sorry, but your annoying neighbor purchased a bunch of bees and because they like to swarm all the time you need to keep your dogs stuck inside until the bees move on and who cares if you pooch piddles on the carpet. It's rude, it really is.

When I told the neighbor how I was feeling about the swarm she told me to calm down and stop worrying. Apparently she and her husband think the bees are interesting and a worthy cause. That's a relief! Sadly though, we are getting rid of one hive. There have been waaaaaaay too many bees in the yard. Aside from the swarms making me nervous when it comes to neighbor relations the bees have gotten a bit territorial. The girls in the family (ours, not the queens) have to tie their hair into a bun and wrap a scarf around their heads to keep the bees from getting caught while outside playing (we have that many bees flying around the yard). We are keeping our pink hive though because I've grown attached to that one :)


Onto the swarm.


I called about 5 beekeepers to come and get the swarm and the lucky winner was the man who said he'd be at my house in less than an hour. He came, gathered up our little bunch that attached themselves to the fence and he left.


Funny how smart bees are. Once he boxed up the bees and put them in the van he came over to talk to me, which was 30 feet from where the bees were and the buzzy girls still managed to find him and bop him in the head. I was standing in front of him, no further than 2 feet away, and they didn't mind me at all. They wanted to get the guy who stole their sisters and mother. Smart little suckers.

HIVES ALIVE!

9:32 AM, in
My third spring without treating my bees for ANYTHING and they are still going strong. I've read where other beekeepers have gone 7-10 years without mite treatment and their bees did just fine so I'm going to keep doing what I'm doing and hope for the best. Since both hives survived the winter I have to decide what I'm going to do about the splits. I cannot have four hives. 
Thank you to Dave from Daves Bees for sharing the video above on twitter.
When I took my beekeeping course two years ago there were a few beekeepers on hand to show us treasures from the hive. One man and his young daughter had a tiny beehive candle that I fell in love with. I asked if they sold the mold, which they did not, but they said I could purchase one from a bee supply company and make my own once my bees started giving me some wax to use.
It has been a while since I talked about my bees so I thought I'd share something new about my awesome girls.

MITES.

Honeybees get mites. The actual term is Varroa Mites.

What are they?

They are itty bitty insects that attach to and weaken honeybees by sucking hemolymph from their bodies, which serves as both blood and intestinal fluid. Once the honeybee has been weakened they become susceptible to certain viruses.

Varroa are destructive and can destroy an entire hive. If infestation is caught early the hive can be saved. Treatments vary depending on the preference of the beekeeper. Some treatments are more effective than others.

We were told in class that ALL bee hives get varroa mites and research has shown that some types of honeybee are better at protecting themselves from infestation than others. Example: Africanized bees tend to protect themselves better than Italian bees. MN Hygienic bees have been raised to defend themselves better against certain illnesses, diseases, etc... including mites.

The key to controlling the mite population is #1 testing your hives mite count and #2 checking for hygienic behavior

(there are other ways to check for mites)

If you know how many bees were in your sample, you can
estimate the number of mites per 100 bees. If there is
brood in the colony when you sample, you should double
this number to factor in the amount of mites in worker
brood. For example, if there are 5 mites / 100 bees, the
total infestation is probably 10 mites/100 bees. If your
colony has over 10-12 mites/100 bees, you should consider treatment. ~University of Minnesota


So... that is the mini scoop on varroa mite.

I have not treated my bees for mites and yes, I may live to regret it. My first year keeping bees I decided to see how well they'd do "naturally" over the winter. They survived and flourished. I have a new hive that I did not treat but I believe it won't do quite as well. Ya see, we were told something in class that makes me worry. Marla Spivak said "if you can see mites with the naked eye then you have a serious problem." Well, I scraped some brood from between hive bodies and this is what I found:



Now, I know not treating the bees probably isn't the best choice I've made as a beekeeper but I have two issues with treatment. #1 is I would only use a natural treatment like Thymol but the problem has been getting the thymol and the weather (beekeepers will know what I mean about the weather). #2 I've wanted to see how well my bees do (or how long they live) without treatment. Is that wrong? I've read where other beeks have had hives survive years without treatment and I'm hoping mine do the same. Although the 2nd hive being so obviously infested has me worried.

The only option now would be a treatment I'm not comfortable with so I'll wait out another winter and see how they do.
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