Wednesday, December 26, 2012

All I want for Christmas is: A main floor honey house


Dad and I had been carrying our honey supers from the driveway down a flight of stairs to the basement. It’s a lot of heavy carrying. Sometimes we’d remove a few frames from a box to lighten it up a bit and other times we’d both take and end and carry it down together. Somehow no matter how many frames we’d remove those boxes would still feel really heavy.

The arms get tired after a few boxes and I was so nervous about falling forward down the stairs that I’d most often carry the supers down the stairs going down backwards. It actually worked well because if I was going to fall I’d fall forward into the stairs.

So I got to thinking about all this and how it’d be so very nice to have a main floor honey house. I did consider the garage for a bit. I could convert it or even close off part of it to create the honey house. I must say I’m the only family member that actually puts their vehicle in the garage—something I’m very proud of—considering the amount of organizing it took to accomplish. I didn’t want to put my truck out in the snow and hail AND I didn’t want to get gas fumes and exhaust around my honey. So I vetoed that.


Next I considered a small bedroom that is nestled between the kitchen and the master bedroom. That room had always been a bit of a junk room. When the niece and nephew were younger I used it for sleep overs but over the years it mostly stored stuff that I couldn’t figure out where to put. I’d kept some rabbits in there and foster cats over the years so the hardwood had some wet damage from spilled water dishes, etc.

The floor was a mess but the room had possibilities. I figured the floor should be torn out and redone. I was costing that out and then realized the best option was to refinish the hardwood. Even that was expensive. So, being a brave soul I thought I’d look at U-Tube to see how floors are refinished. After an hour of watching the pro videos I was certain I could to this myself.

And I did. First I bought paint, a nice terracotta colour. I painted the ceiling a bright glossy white and then I did the walls. It was July and it was right in the middle of this project that the lay off letter came. One good thing was that I had a major project underway, as well as the bees to keep my busy.

I rented a floor sander from Home Depot and bought floor brushes and Urethane. I chose a red mahogany stain for the floor to help cover up the damaged areas.  I can’t tell you what a feeling of achievement I got from doing this project myself. All through it I didn’t tell Dad what I was doing. I wanted it to be a surprise. His job is to sell our honey and to do all the extracting. So it was him who’d spend hours and hours tucked into the corner of our basement extracting. Now he’d be able to do it on the main floor.

The final part was to add patio doors. This would be the most important part because now we could walk straight from the driveway to the doors, up three steps and right into the bee room. My brother was home from Australia for the month of August and he built the stairs for us.

The project was done just in time for our fall harvest of honey. I did the reveal to Dad and he was really happy with the change.

[Photo - ignore the small loom sitting on top of the gray uncapping tank].

Through the summer I had increased from six to fifteen hives so we had a lot of work to do. We averaged from 100 to 125+ lbs of honey per hive, but more on that later.

2012 has been a good honey year for us.  We were fortunate not to have bee kills from corn planting like many other beekeepers did.  The summer drought did slow down the flow for a few weeks but the prolonged summer kept the bees busy.

It’s great to get back into the blog again. Sorry for the hiatus. I hope you had a great honey season this year.

Wishing you a blessed 2013 to you and your family and your bees.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Bee Dinner


This time it wasn't the bee having dinner.

The bee was the dinner.

The preying mantis is a skilled predator in the bee yard.

He/she is disguised to look like a twig.

She'll stay completely still until a bee comes within reach.

Then bam!  She lunges forward and grabs the bee in less than a second.

Next she'll bite off the bee's head.

That ends any arguing from the bee.

Now she can dine in peace.

Later that day I saw her again.

This time she was fifty feet away at the robbing table where I had put out supers of sticky frames.

This could only be described as an all you can eat bee buffet for this predator.

I must say her abdomen was looking kind of fat. 

That's why I think she's female.

She's certainly well fed.

Friday, September 14, 2012

A Beekeeper's Best Helper - a Bee Escape Board

The next best thing to have in the bee yard, besides a beekeeper friend to help, is a Bee Escape Board.

This simple board is designed with a small triangular maze on one side and a simple round hole on the other.

The clever idea of this contraption is that you slip it underneath a full honey super that you would like to remove.

How do you place it on the hive?  The round hole goes facing up under the super.  When the bees exit the hive they leave the box by going through the round hole.  As they come down there are three straight paths of the maze underneath that they exit through.

Later when the bee wants to return to the super and she tries to go up she won't be able to figure out how to get into the super.

Your job is to be sure to return the next day (24 hours later) to remove the super.

During that 24 hours most of the bees in the super will exit the box.  They especially will go down into the hive if the nights are cool because they'll want to cluster.

I do find if the nights are warmer that not as many bees will exit the super but using the escape board is still worth it to reduce the number of bees that will need to be swept off the frames.

Later when the bees want to travel back up into the supers they're faced with the maze which is too complex for them to figure out.


If you wait longer than 24 hours to return though the bees will have discovered where the entrances are to the maze and will travel back up into the supers.  So timing is important.

My success with this has been great.  Even on hives where most of the bees didn't exit (a warm night for example) there are still many less bees to sweep off the frames than there would be otherwise.

So be sure to add bee escapes to your list of bee equipment to get.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Stinky Bee Yard? Blame the Goldenrod

You can certainly tell when fall is in the air.  The goldenrod flowers are in bloom and boy does the bee yard ever stink.

It's true that flowers give honey its flavour so don't be put off by the smell of goldenrod in the yard as the bees process it.  The final product doesn't taste anything like the smell.

What does goldenrod smell like?  If you put your nose to a flower it has a faint but pleasant fragrance.  But when the nectar is being processed by the bees there's a very distinct and unpleasant smell that comes out of the hives.

It smells like stinky feet.  Image a hot day with lots of walking and you're wearing your shoes with no socks.  Then you pop off your shoes and within a few moments you've cleared out the room.  Everyone complains.

That's what golden rod smells like.

So don't panic and think you've got American Foul Brood (AFB) if it's fall and you get a whiff of something stinky.

Goldenrod is a plant native to North America and it grows abundantly in meadows and alongside roads and highways.  If you're lucky sometimes you'll get what I call a bird poop gift--a bird has eaten a flower seed and pooped it out in your garden where it catches and grows.  I have a goldenrod plants now in both my front and back yard.

I have to say that goldenrod honey is my favourite flavour of all the honeys flowers and bees produce.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

The Most Amazing Toilet in Beekeeping

I know.  You are wondering what on earth a toilet has to do with beekeeping.

Well a lot actually.

First I'll tell you that last weekend was Clovermead's Bee Olympics.

Proceeds for the day were given to charity.

Four men this year volunteered to wear the bee beard.  I had my turn last year to wear the beard so this year I got to be a spectator.

It was a fun afternoon for everyone.  The bees were poured onto the willing volunteers.
Audience cheers and judges helped determine the winners.  It was all round good fun for everyone.

But the highlight of the day for me came after I left.  Because I came back.

I was at the car waiting for Dad so we could leave.  We got in the car and he asked me if I'd been to the bathroom.  I told him no because I didn't need to go.

That's when he told me that I needed to see the bathroom.

So he drove to the main entrance and I went back in.

I got in the washroom line and waited.  I waited and waited and waited.  Some people can take more time than others when it comes to doing their "business".

Finally the toilet was free and I went inside.  This is what I had to see:

Frames and frames of bees set into the walls of the bathroom.

Now if you do a little math, while you're doing your thing each bee is watching you.

Each bee has 5 eyes and there would be around 70,000+ bees per hive.

That translates into a lot of eyes watching you while you're watching them.

I figure this is as close to a beekeeper's dream come true as you can get.

While you sit on the throne you can look for the queen.

I also finally understood why I had to wait in line so long for the bathroom to be free.

With so much to see people were certainly taking their time.

After all, the job's not finished until the paperwork is done!



Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Water Please!

Life can be a beach if you're a bee.

Everyone needs water.  Without it we don't last so long.  With quite the drought going on in my area I noticed how bees were quick to lick up every drop of water that I spilled in the yard.

They'd even land on the wet dirt after I watered the garden.  So I decided to set out some water for them.

The biggest problem for bees and water is drowning.

I put two small Tupperware containers full of water out, high enough up that raccoons can't mess them up.  I laid many pieces of grass across the surface to give the bees a landing spot.

So far I haven't seen any drowned bees.

I also put my Styrofoam hive feeder on the robbing table, but filled with water.  But so far I haven't seen bees making use of it.

An instructor from my bee course advised that the best way to build a water feeder for bees is to create a beach.  He suggested a plastic child's pool be put in a slanted position.  Then pour sand in it and finally water.

The tilt puts the water to the back and leaves a beach area for the bees to land on.  They don't even have to walk to the water's edge to drink.

I thought I'd try that next.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Summer Santa

Dearth:  Scarcity that makes dear; specifically:  Famine.  An inadequate supply:  Lack.

We're in a dearth in southwestern Ontario.

With our strange spring blowing hot and then cold the bees missed out on the nectar and pollen from the fruit trees.  There are no apples or cherries this year.

Then it got warm again and flowers bloomed.

But now it's as if the creek's gone dry.  Not too many flowers have been in bloom.  We haven't had any significant amount of rain for a long time.

I put extra supers on three weeks ago and most have only one or two frames of drawn comb.  I know the bees are workaholics so if they are able in any way, they'd be building combs and filling them.

I can feel for the bees.  They're feeling a bit unemployed.  You know bees:  They need something to do to keep them happy.  They're so much like me!

I had a large roasting pan that was full of wet cappings from the capping tank from last season. I could tell you that I kept them to give the bees in a time of dearth but I don't plan that far ahead.


Truth is I've been so busy that the pan sat forgotten.  Until now.

This would give the bees something to do.

So I played Santa Clause.  I spooned out some honey on the front porch of each hive.  Just a little appetizer.  Then I put the roasting pan on my robbing table.

The robbing table is covered with plastic sheeting and a piece of corrugated metal which provides protection from the rain.

[Photo - a leftover piece of granulated honey in the comb.  The bees certainly don't care].

They'll clean all the honey up and leave behind the nice clean wax which I'll use to make candles.

I did notice Queen Anne's Lace is coming into bloom though I'm not sure if they work that flower much... but I have tasted jam made from the blooms and it's quite delicious.

My friend Henry said that we might not get any honey this summer except from soya beans.

I think he might be right.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Beware the Queen Killer!

Sometimes we're so prepared for the 'big one' that it's a tiny little thing that takes us off guard.

My beekeeping friend Henry calls these little ones the Queen Killer.

So what is it?  When the inner cover is off and you look down at your frames often you'll see that the bees have built comb attaching the frames together.

To the bees, these are wax bridges that allow the bees to more efficiently travel from one frame to the next.  Just think, without the bridge they'd have to climb down the frame, walk to the end, cross the front or back of the hive to the next frame.  That's like taking the long way to work.  And you'd be late too!

The photo at the top shows several of these bridges that the bees built connecting the last frame in the hive.

The problem with them is that they stick out.  So when you lift out a frame the wax nub scrapes the adjacent frame while you pull it up.

The projecting bridge will kill bees as it scrapes along... and if the queen happens to be in the way, she can be killed.

Projecting bits of wax may seem innocent but keep an eye on them when removing frames, or scrape them away.

[Photo - a bee bridge between an old frame and a new one.  I find the bridges helpful when putting frames back - you'll know if you have the frame the the right way around because they fit back together like puzzle pieces.]

Bridges aren't so dangerous once a frame is removed, then subsequent frames can be shift over making more room to lift out frames without scraping.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Planting the Honey of a Garden

After reading the Honey Handbook I feel so much more informed as I prepare to put in a garden for the bees.

The Honey Handbook focuses on how to produce great flavoured honeys.  And nothing helps the bees do that more than right right kind of plants.

I'll never forget lifting the lid off the extractor after our first extraction.  The smell was like tomatoes and sweet chilly peppers.  Not what I thought honey should smell like.  The taste was different too.  I wondered what on earth the bees had gotten into.

The honey did mellow in flavour and it soon became my favourite.  I think the flavour came from Garlic Weed, an invasive plant not native to Ontario.

Plants give both flavour and colour to honey.  Stronger colours indicate a stronger flavour.  Think of Goldenrod honey from the fall and it's dark golden colour and then Buckwheat honey which is dark brown.

If you haven't tried these other honeys you should visit a beekeeper who carries this range of flavours and try them yourself.  If like to do that with friends and do a taste parade.  I set out each flavour and let them try it.  Some of these flavours I've purchased, such as Buckwheat.

The top plants recommended by the Honey Handbook to create a lovely light minty tasting honey are: Sunflowers, Thyme, Lavender, Peppermint and Borage.

The photo shows my small start.  I've learned to keep plantings close together to discourage weeds.  I left the large clumps of golden rod and asters.

I also planted Russian Sage.  I have no idea what its honey will taste like but every summer when it blooms the honey bees in my area go crazy over it.  It has a very fragrant sage aroma.  I wonder if it may help deter mites.
At my office downtown there's a shrub across the street which at this time of year is completely covered in little white flowers.  It's very fragrant and can be smelt from yards away.  I like the smell.  It's common privet.  So I cut some clippings in spring and put them in water and they have put out roots.

I also bought a couple shrubs to plant in my yard.  Any foraging bees in my area would be welcome to come and forage from it.  But the book says that common privet, although bees love it, produces an awful tasting honey.

I've heard this same thing about the almond honey produced in California.  That honey is inedible--or at least tastes terrible.  So California is all about pollination.

Mono floral honeys can be sold for more money and because bees practise flower fidelity--sticking to the same flower while foraging--it's possible to collect these precious honeys.

Plants can mature very quickly and peppermint is an herb that can be invasive which is great if you want a lot of it in a short period of time.  And I do.

Friday, June 29, 2012

The long and winding road

Today the Beatle's song is going through my head.  The long and winding road.  It often leads to unexpected places.

In this case my mind is saying, "back home."  In truth I don't know where I'll end up.

Today I join with millions of other Canadians and citizens around the world that have or are experiencing the terror and uncertaintly of unemployment.

For many of us the future is uncertain to a degree.  Will I get sick with cancer?  Will the economy in my area totally collapse?  Will my investments go bust?  Will my reduced pension be enough to live on?

All I can say is that I have been especially blessed in life with a job for 31 years.  I thank God for that.  I will do my best to look to a bright future and stay positive.

That's where the bees come in.  They help me.  They keep me going.  They don't necessarily need me as we know--they're pretty good at taking care of themselves--but they allow me to dip into their lives every so often and watch as this social insect works together for the common good.

In so many ways they exemplify how I think humanity should work.  But it doesn't.  That's when I hold steady to those folks out there that I've met that hold the same ideals.  And most of them are beekeepers.

They say that when one door closes another will open.  I believe that.  I hope I choose the right door.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Middlesex, Oxford, Elgin Beekeepers Association Annual Bee Yard Meeting


Every year in June the "MOE", Middlesex Oxford, Elgin Beekeeper's Association (moebee.com) meet at a beekeeper's yard.

It's a chance for the experienced and non experienced to get together where we can get some hands on the bees and learn from those that have been beekeepers for years.

[Photo - Albert Devries holding up a frame of queen cups]
I remember a couple years back when we held the event in my bee yard that I learned more in 10 minutes with an experienced beekeeper than reading all kinds of books.

You just can beat some good old fashioned hands-on training.

This year we met in Elgin County at Albert Devries' home where he raises Buckfast bees.

He was trained as a beekeeper in Guelph but for a while other occupations kept him busy.

Recently he's started working for Clovermead Apiaries.  He was quick to recommend following your dreams and was very content to be doing work that he loves.

On his property was a lovely ravine with a creek.  Multiple hives were nestled there among the trees.

Dappled sunlight was lovely, mixed with just enough shade to make it comfortable.

We geared up and formed groups of beginners and queen rearing wannabees.

I was asked to mentor a group of beginners and so we gathered around a grouping of hives.

Albert breeds and sells queens too.  He demonstrated queen breeding, showing a frame filled with queen cups.

This is when I learned that when grafting tiny larvae into the queen cups that they cannot be flipped.

They only have breathing spiracles on one side of their body.  So if the larvae is flipped in the pool of royal jelly it will drown.

Everyone took turns prying frames from hives and holding up the bees.

We saw queen cups (empty), drone cells, drones and workers.

[Photo - new beekeepers try their hand at grafting larvae into queen cups]

Frames were passed around and even my mother got in on the act and held up a frame--with no veil or hat on!

Afterwards we returned to the shade trees and our lawn chairs and enjoyed some cool drinks and sandwiches.  Of course the talk was all about bees, naturally.

It was a good day.

If you're interested in purchasing Buckfast queens you can contact Albert at 519-868-9429 or via email at devriesfour@gmail.com 
[Photo - my Mom holding a frame of bees.]

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Book Review: The Backyard Beekeeper's Honey Handbook: A Guide to Creating, Harvesting, and Cooking with Natural Honeys

The Backyard Beekeeper's Honey Handbook: A Guide to Creating, Harvesting, and Cooking with Natural HoneysIn the first two minutes flipping through this book I got the perfect answer to how to warm my honey up slowly without using too much heat (how to build a warming box which I will report on in the near future).

[Photo - of the book on Amazon.com]

This book would be enjoyed by a beginner, giving them information they can use but I think the perfect reader for this book is a beekeeper with a couple years experience or one who is preparing to expand their business.

There are many large colour photos throughout which add to the written descriptions.

The primary focus of the book is giving pointers on how to preserve the flavour and quality of the honey right up to point of sale. The secondary focus is on how to produce artisan honey - those lovely unique flavours from mono floral sources.

The third focus is a review of all the equipment and techniques used to remove frames of honey from the hive, and covering all the equipment used for extracting--showing hobbyist equipment right up to equipment used in a large commercial operation.

Honey house layouts are pictured and explained from a small corner in a room to a warehouse sized operation.

Flowers that provide great tasting honey and also not so great are covered. (I knew bees loved common privet but I had no idea it made a horrible tasting honey).

The back of the book has numerous recipes that include honey.

The author is a bit repetitive about not overheating honey and mentioning the value of artisan honey but the rest of the book has enough information to satisfy the reader.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

A Little Echo Swarm


It was 7:30 at night and I was packing up my bee tools out at the bee yard.  I had a date at the drive-in.

While loading the truck I noticed there were bees in odd places.  I hadn't spilled any honey or sugar syrup so there was no reason I could think of why bees would be investigating the crooks and crannies of the truck.  No reason--except one.

House hunting.
I looked up and that's when I saw the air swirling with bees going in wide loops.  They weren't going home or going to the field.  They were swarming.

Now who on earth would swarm at 8:00 at night?  My bees, that's who.

I've learned from watching swarms that the bees point in the direction they intend to go.  At first they were pointing at the truck but then they changed their position.

They were pointing at the pear tree.  I waved a goodbye.

The swarm was small and they were looking to land about 20' up.  I couldn't be bothered.  Besides these bees looked like a little echo of a previous swarm.

I was suspicious that they had come from the infamous Hive #7 which had already put out a huge swarm which I finally got... but the hive was growing again rapdily.  Maybe there's a strong swarming gene there that's better left out.

Then the bees came down to hover over a brand new platform that I had just finished setting up.  They circled and circled around it with great interest.  I think they were sending me a message.

video
So I set out a super with frames.  I didn't even have a bottom board so I used an inner cover for the bottom.  They certainly weren't fussy.

I didn't try to brush them or do anything but within a few minutes they were clustering outside the super and going in and out of it.  Then the scouts were dancing at the cluster.  They were pretty excited.  They were flying up to the branches too and encouraging the others to come down.

The clump in the pear tree was growing smaller by the minute as they moved down.  It was a democractic moment.  The dancers were very convincing.

This was definitely a teriertary swarm because it was quite small.  If they had a queen she'd be a virgin and inexperienced which might explain why they thought the truck might be a good new home.

They were entering the hive.  The dancers had done their job.

It was getting dark when I left.  And I missed my movie.

But I got another swarm!

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Let your bees do the shopping


Like many shopping excursions, this one branched out a little more than I expected.

The plan was to go to the local Home Depot and buy large cement bricks.  I use them as the feet to set skids on to create a platform for the hives.

[Photo - Cat Mint plant]

Two cement blocks stacked up in each corner raises the platform enough to help deter skunks.  They'd have to stand on their back legs to reach the hives, baring their tummies.

And the bees know what to do with bared skin.

Just outside the store were racks of flowers.  I'm a huge fan of perrinials.  In fact, I don't have grass at home any more--just flowers.

I also have just about every flower going.  I stick with hardy perennials that can handle a dry summer and come back year after year.

[Photo - Dwarf Cranesbill plant]

When walking by the flowers I saw a foraging bee.

She was visiting the tiny purple blooms of a catmint plant.  Then she flitted to a purple cranesbill flower and fed there too.  I realized that that would be my bee since my hives aren't that far away.

I scooped the plants up and into the cart.  I had plans to put in a small garden out at the bee yard.  I wanted to plant flowers that bees like.  And these had been taste-tested by a pro.

Back home, I've been observing my plants as they bloom and I've been disappointed to see that most of the plants don't seem to attract the honey bees.  I regularly see bumble bees foraging in my garden.

Maybe I'm not watching at the right time of day.  I do have many well known plants that bees prefer but I figured most flowers would offer pollen and/or nectar of some sort.

[Photo - Obediant Plant]

Today I watched a bee waddling with a huge load of orange pollen.  She may have got them from tiger lilies which are just starting to bloom now.

Next time you go to buy some plants for your bees, take them along to help you choose the right ones.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Fourteen ... and a Half

So I went cold turkey.  No more swarm collecting.

The decision wasn't that hard--I was forced to quit because I had no more equipment left to put them in.

With splits from my own yard I had planned on only collecting one or two swarms and end up with about 10 hives.  Now I have 14.

Well, 14 1/2 ....

[Photo - the bottom entrance of a hive feeder was beckoning to some bees to make themselves at home]

I discovered a very tiny swarm had moved into a hive top feeder that was sitting in the yard.  In early spring it had sugar syrup in it so out for robbing but now it was empty.

I shook them out of the feeder and sure enough, just like a swarm, they all gathered in one spot on the table edge.  So I set a nuc box where the feeder had been.

It took about five democratic bee minutes for them to decide to move in.

The next day I found a honey super and put them in it.  I suspected the bees didn't have a queen but I'd wait and see.

There was only about 150 of them - so tiny is the word.

This exact thing happened last year and that tiny swarm didn't have a queen at first and then a few weeks later they had a queen.

What I found touching about these bees was that they were such a motley crew.  They were an assortment of ages and bee races.  Several bees had damaged wings and were unable to fly but they were still part of the family.  It was like everyone was accepted and belonged.  Maybe the hive feeder became a place where stragglers gathered together and became a hive on their own.  A motley family.

So I'll give them a bit of time.  I haven't seen a queen yet.  When inspecting another hive I removed a queen cup with an egg in it and gave it to this Motley Crew swarm.  When I checked the cup a few days later there were about 10 eggs in it.

They definitely have a worker laying drone eggs.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Hit the Ground Running


The last three weeks have been a blur of activity.

After a couple days deployment volunteering for Red Cross, driving a 26' U-Haul across the province from city to city, I sat in the a hotel room.

I realized I couldn’t remember what city I was in. We had hit the ground running that morning and had been to many cities, loading shelter cots to take to northern Canada where wildfires blazed. It was hot and sweaty work.

[Photo - a secondary swarm on a cedar hedge].

And after relaxing and washing off the sweat I couldn't remember where I was.

Back home bee swarms were happening like wildfires too. Every day the phone would ring and I’d be running. A swarm hanging on a branch, the person would report. It’s only six feet off the ground.

Who could resist free bees like that? It’s like picking apples.

I learned from a fellow beekeeper to ask the caller if the swarm was tennis, baseball, football or basketball sized. This would help a lot over the phone for me to determine if this is a first swarm (large) or a smaller secondary or tertiary swarm.

[Photo - two new hives set up].

The second or third swarms would have virgin queens. The best producing swarm is that first one with the mature mated queen.

I think it was the first three swarms that I lost out on that fed this new swarm collecting addiction. I just couldn’t let them go. I caught one off a cedar hedge, a secondary swarm 6’ off the ground. Easy as pie.

I got another in a man’s backyard. Football sized and after being clustered for 3 or 4 days it only took two small shakes of the tree branch to fill the nuc box. I left the box until dark and came back to pick them up and take them away. So easy.

Then back at the bee yard I was hitting the ground running every free minute I had doing inspections and splits, painting equipment and setting up new platforms.

I decided to change the orientation of the new hives from east to south facing.

After a couple weeks on the run after swarms I had a moment to relax in the bee yard.

I found myself looking at all these new hives. There were so many I couldn't remember which hive came from where.

I had six.  But now I have 14.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Recycle Bees

Every time I set my hive tool down bees would collect on it.

I had not had the tool in honey and so I stopped to watch to see why they were so interested in my hive tool.

They were collecting the propolis.

On a table I had a hive feeder sitting on end, waiting to be scraped down with my hive tool.

But the bees had got there first.

This time I could see they actually were attaching the comb to their back legs.

This wax is what some people call burr comb--a mixture of propolis and wax.A few days later I actually witnessed a bee with proplis on both hind legs.

She also grabbed a piece in her jaws and tried to fly off with it, but she dropped it.  I witnessed this behaviour again on another day.

I believe these are my bees from swarms I collected.  They need propolis to seal up those frames and what better place to find it than the discarded bits I scrape off in the yard.

I discarded them but to the bees they are like gold.  So now I put the scrapings on a table and the bees collect there to gather it.

video

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Shunpiker Tour Stop at Pioneer Village, London, ON


On Mother's Day this year Dad and I had a table at Pioneer Village in London, Ontario.  It was one of the stops on the annual Shunpiker tour and admission was free.

Over 7,000 people came to the village to see the heritage buildings, crafts and walk down the streets of the village-- no cars.

The Marketing Manager, Dad, was in full swing telling the bee story, showing off our bees which we had put in an observation hive.

We borrowed this amazing hive that a fellow beekeeper made.  His workmanship is top notch and he did a beautiful job.  It even has a feeder at the side where sugar syrup, honey or water could be feed to the bees.

Sales were quite good and we gave a commission to the village.

At our sales table I usually have an empty hive, beekeeper clothing for the kids to try on, smoker, hive tools--I wear my shirt and bee belt and hat.

I also have some frames with photos of bees which look very real when the kids hold them up for a photo.

[Photo - Dad in full swing in charge of sales].

If you have combs you must have them in a clear container.

Mine is in a box with saran wrap over the top and of course I watched as a young child pressed down on the wrap, trying to touch the comb. They just can't resist.

No matter if you tell them not to squeeze comb, they just want to feel it's texture.

I also have some empty queen cells in a clear container, labelled, and queen cage to show how queens can come in the mail.


I find it's easier if we refer to the tasks that bees do and their hive like our own homes.... 

We tell them the bottom frame is the nursery; the top frame is the kitchen.

Sometimes the bees need a snack a little closer so they keep some food around the edges of the nursery.

People understand these explanations much more readily. 

I think it helps to demonstrate too that bees aren't too much different than us, wanting a roof over our heads and food to eat.