Another Swarm

First swarm of the year from one of my hives, at least the first one I know of.  I was just thinking to myself earlier in the day had good a job I’d done this preventing swarms….I guess bees will be bees!

This was on the small side, but easy enough to get in a small hive.  I’ll give it a few days then check how they’re doing.  Most of my queens are marked so I’ll be interested to see if this “swarm” queen is one of my marked queens.

On a related note, yellow poplar, blackberry, raspberry, and white clover are all blooming right now.  We will probably see the strongest nectar flow of the year over the next 2 weeks.  Small Swarm

Early May Swarm

I think it was random where the bees decided to cluster after the swarm.  I’m fairly certain they are not from the hive they are clustered on.



First Swarm of the Season!

Got a call from a friend today telling me about a swarm of bees that I could have if I could go get them.  This is the first one I’ve had a chance to pick up this year, so thought it was worth snapping a couple of pictures and telling the story.

Bees typically swarm in mid – late Spring as a means of reproduction.  A swarm is usually accompanied by the mother queen and about half the rest of the bees.  A new queen cell is left behind to emerge, mate and keep the original hive going.  Usually there are multiple queen cells but in the end only one queen will survive.  The swarm then sets out to find a home.  While they are looking for a home (hollow tree, hole in an old wall, etc) they will usually gather on a nearby branch for a day or two.  If you’re lucky enough to find out about a swarm at this point it’s as easy as shaking the branch over a hive or bucket and the swarm is yours.

That’s exactly what I did today.  In about 15 minutes I had the swarm loading in my bucket and headed back to my house to put in a small hive.  It’s always fun and slightly unpredictable when you go to catch a swarm, but this one turned out lust like you’d want it to.  Hopefully it’s early enough in the year they can expand and actually produce some surplus honey as well!

14 Apr

New Queens

Posted by gmeadevt in Queen Rearing.

New Queen Cells actually.  On Friday I received some ready to emerge queen cells from a queen producer.  They were overnighted and I picked them up at the UPS Customer Service Center in Bristol.  The lady that handed them over to me asked “Are there really Honeybees in there?”  They were packaged very well with no chance of any escaping, so she had nothing to worry about.

Queens are really just worker bees that have been given the royal treatment, in fact the substance that all bee larvae receive is called royal jelly.  You can actually buy royal jelly in health food stores and is quite poplar in some cultures.  Queens are feed 100 times more royal jelly than worker bees, and therefore develop into specialized bees.  Knowledgeable beekeepers can manipulate hives to get them to produce queen cells on demand.  It is fairly time consuming however and careful attention must be paid.

I ordered these a while back and planned on using some of them in the new hives I wrote about in my last post.  Turns out the weather didn’t cooperate and I needed to pick the splits up earlier than expected.  So I ended up putting most of these in mini hives to allow the queens to emerge and mate.  I’ll check on them in 10-14 day to look for a laying queen.  That is usually long enough for the mating process to run its course.  I’ll use them to replace marginal queens, make a couple of mid-summer splits, and maybe even sell a few.

I was only able to make enough mating nucs for about half of the cells so I put the rest in the top of a strong hive.  I had to put a queen excluder (special screen to keep queen away) in to keep the queen from eliminating the newly emerged virgin queens.  I placed each queen cell in a special queen cage designed for just this purpose.  Then I surrounded the frames with nurse bees to help care for the newly emerged queens.  I will likely look to sell some of these as virgin queens to help defray the cost of purchasing them.





4 Apr

New Hives!

Posted by gmeadevt in Honeybee Equipment, Splits.

So me and the bees have been pretty busy over the past week or so.  Last Tuesday, March 27, I drove down to Stuart, VA to buy some splits and mated queens from James Sowers.  Those of you familiar with Patrick County will know where James’ is located even if you don’t know who he is.  His apiary is located on 58 at the bottom of the mountain.  He’s been keeping bees for 40+ years and has been selling his honey for probably as long.  He actually moved his house 1/4 mile further from the hwy because VDOT is supposedly going to make 58 four lanes up the mountain.  I’m not sure I’ll live to see it!

At any rate we opened up several of his hives (he has 70) and removed frames of brood from the strongest hives.  I got 24 frames of brood/bees.  Enough to start six new hives.  There are several strategies you can employ to provide a queen to the new hive.  In this case I opted for a mated queen which is the quickest method to get the hive up and going, but also the most expensive.  Mated queens cost $20-$30 each!  Since it’s early in the year and if things go well these hives should be strong enough by mid-May to hopefully produce surplus honey this year.  At least that’s the plan!

Here is a picture of my primary Apiary, the new hives are on the left side. I need to get my weedeater cranked up it's starting to get a little overgrown looking already!

Closeup of one of the new hives.
Nice color! I got the paint for next to nothing at Home Depot as a mistint.



28 Mar

Spring is here!

Posted by gmeadevt in Nectar Source.

OK, no surprise there, unless you’ve been living under a rock!  Spring officially started March 20, but it was looking like Spring in Abingdon at least 10 days before then.  Over the past few days I’ve snapped some photos in my yard of bees on the current blooms.  I also scribbled the bloom dates down just for good measure.  It will be interesting to see how they compare with next years bloom dates….

Bloom Dates in my yard in Abingdon VA:

Apple blooms are just around the corner…

12 Mar

Make your own pollen patty

Posted by gmeadevt in Supplemental Feeding. Tagged: , .

It’s a well known fact that honeybees need pollen just as much as they need nectar to thrive.  If you want your population to build quickly and produce a surplus of honey it’s a good idea to feed them in the early spring.  Not only sugar syrup, but also a pollen substitute or supplement.  There is a dazzling array of options out there, and readily available from every beekeeping supply store.  Pollen is generally fed in patty or dry form.  By far the most common is the patty form.  They are easy to apply to the hive and you can walk away from them and not worry about it.  There aren’t many downsides to feeding pollen patties.  If the bees don’t need the extra pollen, they’ll just ignore it.  About the only negative I can think of, other than the cost, is that small hive beetles like to hide under the patty and you could be providing a safe harbor for them.  For most beekeepers that’s not a major concern.

Pollen patties are actually very easy to  make yourself and a bit more economical than buying them as well.  The hardest part of making them may be finding the ingredients!   There are dozens of recipes available on the web, but here’s what I used:

1.5 cups soybean flour

1.5 cups sugar

.5 cups brewers yeast

1/4 cup honey

2 tsp Honey B Healthy

Left to Right Ingredient List: Brewer's Yeast, Soybean Flour, Sugar, Honey, Honey B Healthy

It’s probably worth noting that I also brew beer so the brewers yeast you seen in the glass jug is leftover yeast from a recent brew.  If you don’t brew beer you’ll need to buy some brewers yeast, generally available at health food stores (look at the same place you look for the soybean flour), or better yet start brewing beer!

It will be stiff and that’s ok.  Add a little more honey if you can’t seem to get it pliable.  But be careful you want if more stiff than not.  Note: If you are using dried brewers yeast you will likely need more honey or a few drops of water.  The moisture in my recycled brewers yeast largely eliminated the need for any additional wet ingredients from my batch.

After your happy with the consistency you simple press some between waxed paper.  They should be stored in the freezer if not adding to a hive immediately.

Here is a pollen patty just pressed between some wax paper.

All that’s left is to trim the excess wax paper and add to the hive.  I usually peel the wax paper off one side of the patty before placing the hive to let the bees have more access to the patty. One last thought, these need to be placed immediately adjacent to the brood rearing area of the hive.  If the pollen patty is more than a few inches away the bees aren’t as likely to utilize the patty.  Generally speaking if you just place dead center across the top of your frames you’ll be fine, since that’s almost always where the brood rearing is taking place.

11 Mar

Nosema ?

Posted by gmeadevt in Queen Rearing. Tagged: , .

I noticed the other day some evidence of a light Nosema problem in one of my hives.  You’ll see in the photo there is some brown speckling on the outside of the hive, which  is one indication.  Nosema is a fungus that causes the bees to have something similar to a stomach ache.  They won’t eat as much, they can’t process pollen properly and generally don’t do as well.  The only way to know for sure is to have a bees gut analyzed, but according to a 2005 study by Virginia Tech, around 50% of the hives in Virginia had Nosema when tested.

Luckily it is treatable, with an antibiotic, Fumagilin-B, which is widely available through any beekeeping company.  I happened to have some so I mixed up a half gallon according to the directions and gave the medicated syrup to the colony.  It so happens this was one of the overwintered nucs, so there are only 5 frames of bees.  A larger hive would require a full gallon of medicated syrup.  I also went to the trouble to mix in a bit of Honey B Healthy, as that is supposed to help and also make the syrup more attractive.  According to some online research I did spraying the bees directly with the medicated syrup seems to be effective, so I went the extra mile and did that as well.  The theory is that they will clean the syrup off each other and get the medication even if they aren’t actively feeding from the feeder.  Makes sense, but seems like the dosage would be very small.  I’ll let you know if I see an improvement.

I'm fairly sure the stained front entrance you see here is a result of Nosema.

On a brighter note I moved two of my overwintered Nucs into 10 frame hive bodies as they are doing well, and I anticipate them growing rapidly now.  While I was moving them I snapped a couple of photos of the queens.  You’ll see a white dot on their thorax, which I placed there last year.  These are two of the queens I raised in August 2011.  They came from different lineage, which explains why they look a little different.

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