Archive for March, 2012

Spring is here!

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:

  • Dandelion – March 16
  • Pear – March 17
  • Cherry – March 19
  • Holly – March 21
  • Redbud – March 24

Apple blooms are just around the corner…


Make your own pollen patty

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.

8 Mar

Drone Layer

Posted by gmeadevt in Honeybee Equipment, Queen Issues. Tagged: .

Last Saturday I attended a meeting at our local honeybee keepers association, the Highlands Beekeepers Association.  It was perhaps the biggest attendance they’ve ever had, I counted over 40 people.  Local extension agent Phil Blevins gave a good presentation on spring hive management.  The presentation touched on pollen and syrup feeding, and swarm prevention.  Feeling invigorated from all this honeybee talk I decided to come home and feed my hives.  Any that were close to running out of food have been feed since mid-February, but I was ready to start stimulative feeding to kick start brood production!  Most of the hives looked good.  I’m still amazed at 3 of my small nuc hives that made it through the winter.  They only had 4 frames of bees going into the winter, and honestly probably never had more than 2 frames worth of bees.  But that’s a story for another post….

Ironically the strongest hive from last year was the hive I identified Saturday as having the biggest problem.  A drone laying queen!  I had expected to see brood on 4-8 frames based on my other hives.  What I saw was spotty brood on 3 or 4 frames, and it was all drone brood.  The bullet shaped brood was sprinkled all around the brood nest, with no worker brood.  Not to mention the abundance of emerged drones walking around on the comb.  I know the weather has been mild, but this is still far too early for drone brood to be appearing let alone walking on the comb.  If you back up from Saturday to the date drone eggs (unfertilized eggs really) would have been laid you get something in mid-February.  Clearly way to early for drone production.  I actually had one of my hives do this last year as well, so I knew exactly what I was looking at when I saw all the drones, and bullet shaped brood.

Drone in green circle, note the larger eyes than most bees on the frame.


So I plucked the queen off the frame, and replaced here with a queen from one of the three small nucs that had survived over the winter.  Another reason it pays to keep nucs around!  I placed her in an introduction cage and added a top feeder with plenty of sugar syrup.  I checked on her quickly today and you can see from the picture below the worker bees have certainly found her.  They didn’t seem aggressive, but I figured I wait another 2-3 days to release her to be on the safe side.  Queens are pretty tough to come by this time of year!  This introduction frame is probably a little overkill, but this is cheap insurance that colony accepts her.  You can wait up to 2 weeks if necessary before releasing her.

You can see the clump of bees in the green circle huddled up around the new queen. At this point the frame and new queen has been in the hive for 5 days.

I’m not entirely sure how good a queen she is, but I know at least she is laying fertilized eggs.  If she doesn’t have good brood production by early April she will be replaced.

7 Mar

Red Maple in Bloom

Posted by gmeadevt in Nectar Source.

Got a pretty good picture of a honeybee working the red maple that's just off my back deck. At any one time there was probably 100+ bees working the tree.


Got this picture on my back deck this afternoon after work.  It’s nice to see natural sources of nectar and pollen coming online!



5 Mar

Getting Ready For Swarm Season

Posted by gmeadevt in Honeybee Equipment. Tagged: , .

Put together a swarm trap today, or finished putting it together I should say.  It’s constructed from a Sono tub I picked up at Home Depot for $11.00.  I actually cut the tube in half so I’ll be able to make one more from the tube.  As you’ll see in the pic I rigged up the ends to hold frames so should a swarm find my trap they would be easier to deal with and move into another hive.  Cornell university put out an interesting study a decade or two ago regarding capturing swarms.  Worth reading if you’re interested in giving it a try.  Get the online PDF here.

All that’s left is to slap a coat or two of paint on this and get it baited up.

5 Mar

More new honey bee equipment

Posted by gmeadevt in Honeybee Equipment. Tagged: .

Here are some photos of recently made honeybee equipment.  Getting geared up for April!

I’ve found that some items (covers, bottom boards, mating nucs, etc) I can make much cheaper than you can buy them.  Other items such as hive bodies, honey supers, and frames I can’t even come close to competing on cost.

Most commercial beekeepers use migratory covers and no inner cover. I'm making about 20 of these for new hives and mating nucs. They are made out of 3/4 inch exterior grade plywood ($30) and you can make 9-10 from one sheet of plywood.



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