Tuesday, May 8, 2018

OTS Queen Rearing gearing up!

With our West MI "winter" in April this year, the bees are behind in brood rearing and drone production. I normally pull my overwintered queens from the hives the last week of April. It is May 8 and I still have not started OTS, On The Spot Queen rearing by Mel Disselkoen. Why? Because I like to see 8 frames of brood in my  hives prior to starting and I like to see drones flying. In most hives I  have neither yet. I could pull the queen early but it is doubtful that the daughter queens would have a successful mating because of the lack of drones. Also, if I only have 4-6 frames of brood, I can't make as many splits as I would like to. With On The Spot Queen Rearing, by Mel Disselkoen, I can  on an average hive get the "artificial swarm" (the overwintered queen and 2 frames of capped brood plus 2 shakes of nurse bees off frames) and 3 additional splits. That is 4 hives from one. I am preparing nuc boxes and getting equipment ready to start pulling my overwintered queens next week. The weather has been good for foraging and lots of pollen has been coming in.
Beautiful frame of pollen, nectar and some capped honey.

The colors of the different pollens are so vibrant and diverse!

Little gymnast collecting pollen from a willow.

Honeybee on willow collecting pollen.

Honeybee on Purple Dead Nettle. I am told this is a source of red pollen for the bees, but I didn't see any red pollen this day. 

Beautiful Spring day finally!! 15/15 made it through the winter in this yard!

Friday, April 27, 2018

OTS Queen Rearing and making successful splits in the Bahamas!!

Many beekeepers I come into contact with are amazed that I am able to make so many successful splits with my honeybees. They frequently ask how I do it. I tell them I use Mel Disselkoen's method. On The Spot Queen Rearing. I was mentored by Mel himself so I have a pretty good handle on how the process works. I was recently invited to the Bahamas to assist a Bahamian newbee split her 3 hives. A fellow beekeeper and myself took the challenge and spent a little over a week on the Bahamian Island of Andros, North Andros to be exact. While there we were able to take her 3 hives and multiply them into 12. We also did a couple cut outs to give her a total of 14 hives prior to returning to the US.
Our hostess wants 50 hives, she is prepared with ALL the equipment already!

The dark brown area in the middle of the building is the entrance for the colony that we are preparing to cut out.

Power tools come in handy :-)

Beautiful comb and colony!

Removing the comb piece by piece.

Bottom row removed, now for the top combs.

Our second cut out. This one was much simpler as we didn't have to remove walls to get to it. The bees had made themselves a lovely little home in the field in the empty boat motor cover.

We decided it would be easiest to work at it if we moved it away from the site by 20ft or more. Less foragers to deal with this way. We put a sheet under it before we moved it because it was 88 degrees and we were worried the combs might detach and fall to the ground when we lifted it up.

Inside the boat motor cover. No combs came detached during the short move :-)
Cutting the comb and rubber banding it into frames. They honey combs were kept separate. We used a bee vacuum to suck up the bees into a hive body.

The queen of the boat motor cover!! Beautiful Big Bahamian Queen!! Bottom edge of the comb. She is twice the length of the other bees and very dark.

Mmmmmm....the bee vacuum. I am not mechanical, but we figured out how to get it together. Uses a shop vac motor and sucks the bees right into a deep body hive box. Very convenient for cut outs. Much easier to work with the combs once the bees are out of the way.

Putting together the bee vacuum.
Walking through the jungle trail  in North Andros, Stafford Creek.

The locals call this a grape seed tree. The bees were all over it, what a contented buzz in such a beautiful setting. This was on the beach at Forfar Field station, across the road from where we were staying.

Honey bee on bloom of Grape seed tree.

Some of our splits at "base camp" The weather was incredible. Never dropped below 70 degrees at night and was up to 90 degrees during the day. Love me some sunshine!!
The dangerous terrain we had to work on.  These are small holes, some so large we could fall in. The locals told us crabs live down in the holes and when it rains in May, all the crabs come up on to land and they have a big Crab Fest on the Island.

A virgin queen in the middle of the comb.

Beware of you screened bottoms. This virgin queen ended up on the underside of the screen and couldn't figure out her way back to the entrance. We had to help her back into the hive.

My helpers, Linden and El Torro, gathered dry pine needles for my smoker.

My best bee buddy, Mary and myself.

Riding in the bed of a truck on the highway holding a hive together from the cut out we did. It's totally normal to see people riding in the back of vehicles here. No laws against it. That was fun.

Getting ready for our last day of bee work in the Bahamas.

Our code names are Heather Bee Blond and Mrs. Bee Mizzle! Yup, we're nuts and loving it!

Never thought I'd be pulling honey frames on April 3!! Only in the Bahamas!! This was our first evening there at dusk.

For fun, I never get to wave palm fronds around in Michigan!

A good morning from our Michigan mitten, our first Bahama sunrise.
Me photographing honey bees working the palms before the sunrise. These bees in the Bahamas have it made!!

What it looked like when I returned home to MI on April 13. Love Michigan!

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

February Honey Bee Cleansing Flights and Almond Bloom!!

Bloom? In February? Yes! California Almond bloom!  I have a friend who is employed by Bee Informed Partnership (beeinformed.org), who was able to be in California working with honey bees just before and at the beginning of the Almond bloom. Millions upon millions of bees are trucked into California every year to pollinate almonds. It is a massive undertaking. Thought I'd share these pictures that she shared with me.  I am insanely jealous of her job! To be in California in February working with honey bees!
On the bright side it was sunny and 41 degrees F in MI today and the bees were a buzzing out on their cleansing flights. I was able to get out, check sugar brick supplies and shovel snow away from the fronts of the hives.
Honey bee on Almond Bloom, Feb 10. California. Photo cred. Anne Marie Fauvel

Rows upon rows of Almond trees start of the bloom. Feb 12, 2018. California. Photo cred. Anne Marie Fauvel

Almond tree bloom. California, Feb. 2018. Photo cred. Anne Marie Fauvel
Pulling my sled with sugar bricks to an off the road yard. Bribed my daughter into helping me today. Feb, 14 2018. Dorr, MI

Bees flying, dotted snow.....a wonderful thing to behold in February. The dog seems immune to the stings as he was lapping up any honeybee he came into contact with. If stung, he would run his nose through the snow and then get back at it, undeterred.  February 14, 2018. 41 degrees, honey bees out on cleansing flights. 

Inside the hive. Nice looking winter cluster up on their sugar brick in the milder weather. Feb. 14, 2018. Dorr, MI.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Got Snow? Honeybees in Michigan Winter.

When you think of a MI winter, what images go through your mind? Sleds, Plow trucks, mittens, hot cocoa, snowmobiles, skis, a warm cozy fire perhaps? What about honeybee hives?? For the general population, images of bee hives are not on that list.  But for us MI beekeepers out there, those hives are always on our minds. During the winter months we can't work our bees, we can't see them gracefully flying in and out of the hive, but we can think and plan. Plan what new method we'll try this year, plan to improve our current skills or learn a new one.  This past season I learned how to mark my queens and use baby nucs in my queen rearing.  I hope to sharpen those skills this upcoming season. What new knowledge or skill in beekeeping will you learn this year?
I hope you enjoy these winter scenes of apiaries. 
Bentheim, MI 8 degrees F, Jan. 4, 2018

Bentheim, MI.  Jan 4, 2018

Bentheim, MI. January 4, 2018. 8 degrees F.

Hives tucked in the back left corner. out of the wind. Dorr, MI.

Hopkins, MI. January 9, 33 degrees. With the slight warm up,  the snow had slumped off the top covers  and down the fronts of the hives. This covered some of the top entrances and bottom entrances on the hives. Had to clear it off. Top left, there is always at least one bee that has to come out and see what's happening.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Easy Sugar Bricks for Honey bees

 Easy sugar bricks for you to make for your honey bees to help sustain them during the cold Michigan winter months.
The finished product of sugar bricks. The larger ones made in foil roaster pan are about 3 1/2 pounds, the smaller ones around two pounds. See below for directions on how to make.
I've had a lot of questions about sugar bricks so here is a picture demonstration.

Ingredients needed:
Water 3/4 cup
Vinegar 1/4 cup
Honey B Healthy or equivalent. 1 tsp
Granulated Sugar 10 pounds

Items needed:
5 gallon bucket
Paint mixer paddle to attach to drill
Foil pans
Measuring cup

Many ask what type of sugar to use.  I've heard arguments on both sides whether it should be beet or cane, organic or non organic, etc... I use white granulated cane sugar from Costco.    A 50 pound bag is $20 bucks. So if I make my bricks to be about 2 pounds each, that is 25 bricks, about 80 cents a brick.
It is worth the time and money to make the sugar bricks for your bees. It only takes a couple of minutes to pop one on to the top bars above the cluster. Yes, you can take the top cover off in the winter in cold temps without hurting them. Just do it quickly, less than a minute or two.  Even if they have honey stores all around them, it may be too cold for the cluster to move to the full honey frames. A brick on top of the cluster will get them through until temps increase again and allow them to move. Don't let your bees starve!  It would be a shame if they survived viral infections from varroa,  pesiticide exposure and other challenges they face to die of starvation when it could have been easily prevented.  Not to mention the cost of a few sugar bricks is way less than having to purchase new bees in the spring because yours are all dead.
Bucket to mix the sugar, drill, paint mixer paddle. I mix it up in the garage.

3/4 cup water (sorry that is a 4 cup measuring cup  that is why it doesn't look like 3/4 cup) add 1/4 cup vinegar and 1 tsp Honey B Healthy into it.

After you've added the 1/4 vinegar to 3/4 cup water, add a teaspoon of Honey B Healthy. The Honey B Healthy is a feeding stimulant with essential oils (mainly spearmint and lemongrass).  It is not essential to making the bricks so if you don't have it that is OK. I like the smell, but according to my husband it is nauseating and overpowering :-)  And it will fill your house with the aroma while you're baking the bricks.

I don't mix the whole 10 pounds of sugar all at once. I use 5 pounds first and about half the liquid mixture, I blend that up very well first and then add the remaining 5 pounds  of sugar and last half of the mixture.  Make sure you mix it up thoroughly, about 3-5 minutes with the drill.

Mixing for 3-5 minutes with paint mixer attached to power drill.

Tinfoil pans to pour mixture into when finished mixing. I use a variety of sizes.

Dump the mixture from the bucket into your tins.

Use your hands or a rolling pin to really compact the mixture into the pan, making sure it is dense.

If I use a larger tin, I score the mixture with a knife so I can break it apart easier when it is done baking. When transferring the pans into the oven, the mixture may get a few cracks in it, pat these down or roll then back out so it is nice and uniform with no cracks. Set your oven on low 140-180 degrees  and bake for 5-6 hours. Remove and let cool. Place on hives when needed.

Your oven temp for the bricks should be around 140-180 degrees Farenheit.