Mite Away Quick Strips (MAQS)

This is a great write-up by Randy Oliver regarding the new Mite Away Quick Strips to treat for Varroa in the hive.

I have been using Api Life Var with pretty good success, which is concentrated essential oils (mostly Thymol), but I am really excited about the prospects of only applying treatment for 7 days instead of 21 one days.

MAQS is formic acid, which naturally occurs in honey. The product has recently been approved for use in organic hives by the USDA:!documentDetail;D=AMS-NOP-11-0058-0027

I just ordered some for spring and will post my results as time progresses.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Best software to track hives

I have used a few different programs to track the progress of my hives, but nothing compares to Hive Tracks

Give it a try and let me know what you think.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

An end to Warre Beekeeping? Well, kind of…

Let me explain. I have a deep respect for Dr. David Heaf, who brought to light the Warre beekeeping concept to the English speaking world. He did the translation work of Warre’s book and I have had the privilege of exchanging correspondence with him. I spent a great deal of time making my Warre hives, but in the end, I realized that I could achieve similar results by using all 8 frame mediums. Since I switched to this system, I have found it to roughly follow the principles laid out by Warre.

Now that beekeeping supply stories like Mann Lake are carrying 8 frame equipment at reasonable prices, it is my opinion that those looking into alternative beekeeping practices will find a compromise between a Warre system and 10 frame Langstroth hive.

My two hives made it through the winter and I was able to produce a decent sized honey crop this last summer. It is too early to tell if my girls will survive this winter, but as of yesterday, they were still buzzing when I did the ‘knock’ on the hive.

I will try and update this blog more often now that I see many people responding to my beekeeping thoughts.

Posted in 8 Frame | Leave a comment

Winter Feeding: Fondant

In a earlier post, I describe how I use a one gallon paint can from Lowe’s as a top feeder and set it on the hive on Jan. 16th. I didn’t check the hive until February 6th and the can was empty. I see a lot of what looks like diarrhea on the front of the hive and read up on feeding syrup in winter. As it turns out, it is not the best idea, even if you use a 2:1 ratio which is much thicker. The water in the syrup is not good for them during the winter which is probably why I saw so much diarrhea on the hive.

I had read about candy boards for Langstroth hives using fondant, so I did some research. As it turns out, fondant is the best type of feed for bees in winter and/or emergency feeding situations. Using Cream of Tarter, one is able to make invert sugar which are smaller crystals that produce a smooth texture to the sugar. Here is a basic fondant receipe:

Basic Fondant Recipe

2 cups sugar
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar or 1 Tablespoon glucose syrup
1 cup water (reduce to 1/2 cup if using glucose)

Over medium heat, bring sugar, water, and cream of tartar to the boil. Stir until sugar is dissolved.

Cover and let boil for 2-3 minutes. Uncover and boil until mixture reaches the 238 degrees (soft ball stage) on your candy thermometer.

Remove from heat and pour syrup on a marble slab or cookie sheet that has been sprinkled with cold water. Allow to cool for about 10 minutes.

Use a metal scraper or palette knife to begin working the mixture over and over onto itself. This is called “spading.”

The mixture will begin to thicken and whiten. Eventually, you will be able to work it with your hands by kneading. Continue working it until it is white, creamy, and too stiff to knead. (If it crumbles too much, just sprinkle a bit of water on it and knead it in.

Don’t worry. Unlike pastry, you can’t over-knead the fondant.

Cover with a damp cloth and refrigerate in an airtight container for at least 12 hours or until needed. It is actually better if you let it rest for a couple of days before using. This allows it to mellow and ripen.

I found this recipe to work very well. Although I only brought the mixture up to 238 which really is ‘soft ball’ as they say. It was a bit too soft. Next time, I will heat is up to about 245-250 for a ‘medium ball’ which will be a bit harder. You don’t want the fondant that is too hard though. After scraping and scraping, the fondant will turn white and become thicker than frosting. Upon cooling, I poured the fondant into a 6×6 in mold which consisted of a box lined with tin foil. It works very well. I then mixed some Mega Bee Diet pollen supplement into the fondant and made a couple of pollen patties as well.

On February 6th, it was just warm enough that the bees were making some cleansing flights. So I quickly removed the roof, the quilt, and added a short box the same size as the quilt box. This allows for some space above the top bars, to keep the bees from heating too much space. I very lightly smoked the top bars and placed the fondant directly over the frames that had bees. I did the same with the pollen patties.

Today was a bit above 40F so I took a quick peek and sure enough, the bees were eating the fondant. There is no diarrhea to speak of either.

My bees basically ran out of food in mid-January which is why I had to resort to emergency feeding. If at all possible, you should leave them alone and allow for enough stores, but my hive didn’t have enough time to build up their reserves for winter and I didn’t take any of their honey.

If you must feed your hive, fondant is the way to go.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Beekeeping suppliers

Out of the many beekeeping suppliers out there, I have found Mann Lake the most reasonable in terms of price, but I had no idea what kind of quality I would be getting when I placed my order. I did an extensive price comparison of the big suppliers out there and I also compared local suppliers. What separates Mann Lake from the rest of the pack is free shipping! When you are shipping 60lbs to 90lbs for beehive supplies, the shipping really adds up. With Mann Lake, the price you see is the price you pay. I thought maybe they would just add the shipping costs to the products, but after comparing, I found their product price much less expensive as well.

My all medium super, 8 frame hive supplies arrived today. There are a few chips in the supers, but for the most part, all cuts are clean. The wood used looks like a ponderosa pine, which is superior to the Eastern pine or Southern pine in my opinion. I bought commercial grade supers and I was quite surprised at the quality Mann Lake provided. Many of the supers would pass select grade. The boards that did have knots were very small and tight.

I will be putting them together in early February and will document the process. I know this is a plug for Mann Lake, but the quality is good and you can’t beat their prices with free shipping!

Posted in 8 Frame, All Medium Supers | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Winter Report

Over the last few weeks, I have inspected my one remaining Warre hive. This was the Minnesota Hygenic package that I installed. The other hive I had with Carnolians, died out. They were from a nuc I had purchased. From now on, I plan on buying package bees from Lee Knight of Knight Family Honey. He gets his bees from a reputable source (OHB).

Upon inspecting the bee yard, I found a lot of dead bees on the ground. I believe this is normal as it is an accumulation over the winter months, but it still makes on worry. When I looked inside (through the insulated windows), I was able to determine there are bees on 5 of 8 frames and the cluster reaches down about 3/4 of a frame in the middle. Not a large cluster by any means, but this measurement was taken on 1/15/2011 so my hope is that we have enough in there to survive the rest of the winter.

I was a bit alarmed at how close to the top of the upper box they were. I went out and bought a one gallon paint can (coated with plastic on the inside so it won’t rust) and used an awl to punch very small holes into the lid. I then made and filled the paint can a 2:1 syrup which is thick enough not to stimulate the queen to lay eggs. I took some burlap and cut a small square in the middle and then sewed the square piece next to the hole at a hatch. It reached 42 degrees on 1/16 and I very briefly opened up the hive, took off the quite and put the new burlap onto the top of the bars. I then quickly inverted the can with syrup onto the square hole and put small pieces of wood bars on four sides so the can would sit above the bars slightly. This allows for the bees to get up under the can to feed. I then put a box on and filled it with wood shavings and shredded paper.

I checked the weight of the can on 1/21/11 and it feels like it is about 3/4 full which means the bees are feeding off of it.

Still, it is only 1/23 and I have at least a couple more months to go before I can say my bees survived the winter.

Posted in Hive Reports, Lessons in beekeeping | Tagged | Leave a comment

Bayer CropScience acquires varroa mite for bee health product-Bayer CropScience, crop protection, thymol, bee

This is quite depressing really.  The same company that has poisoned our bees now hold a trademark technology for bee health.  I am sure they will figure out a way to patent Thymol and then make everyone pay to use it!

Bayer CropScience acquires varroa mite for bee health product-Bayer CropScience, crop protection, thymol, bee.

Posted in Bayer Kills Bees, Corporate Wall of Shame, Varroa Mite | Leave a comment

Call to ban pesticides linked to bee deaths worldwide | Mail Online

Call to ban pesticides linked to bee deaths worldwide | Mail Online.

Posted in Bayer Kills Bees, Corporate Wall of Shame, Pesticides, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Beekeeping: One year later

As I mention in my previous post, I have learned a lot over the past year as a newbie beekeeper. As we enter 2011, my interest in this wonderful craft as been renewed. I will try and post more of my thoughts, but for now, suffice it to say I have come to the conclusion that 8 frame hives can be used in a similar fashion to a Warre Hive.

I have just purchased my first 8 frame hive and will post pictures when it arrives. I am only using medium supers across the board, and I plan on using a quilt box, just like a Warre Hive. The advantage of this set up is that one is able to use standard frames. All of the boxes are interchangeable too so only one size frame is needed for brood and honey. An 8 frame hive box full of honey is less heavy than the typical 10 frame hive. There are many reports that 8 frame hives overwinter as well.

I am looking forward to this experiment.

Posted in Hive Reports, Lessons in beekeeping | Leave a comment

First beekeeping season coming to a close: Things I have learned

I have not updated here in ages. The last you saw, I was installing my second package of bees from a Nuc. Well, a lot has happened since then and now that my first beekeeping season with the Warre Hive is coming to a close, there are some pointers, thoughts, etc. that I would like to share.

1) Installing nucs into a Warre hive is not recommended: In order to get the frames into a Warre hive, they must be cut to size. This kills lots of brood, is sticky, and messy. In the future, I will stick with packages unless I plan on getting Langstroth hives

2) The Warre hive that contained the nuc frames eventually died out. There were a lot of Varroa, the overall health of the hive was much weaker, the queen left within a couple of weeks, and I had to combine the remaining Carnolian bees with my stronger package hive. I tried everything to keep the colony strong, but I believe the initial shock of cutting frames from the nuc to install into the Warre was too much.

3) Forget about fancy feeders. The bag feeder does the trick. Just make sure you put it on top of the bars of the top box, then put on the quilt cover followed by the quilt box. I put a special blend of essential oils into the 1:1 sugar syrup mix (for spring only) into a strong freezer type ziplock bag and then laid it gently onto the top bars so I didn’t squish any bees! I then used a razor and cut a 1.5 inch slit horizontal from the top bars. It works really well.

4) Inspect the hive: There are differing opinions about this and I am not going to argue with the ‘live and let live’ crowd who say we should just leave the bees alone. In theory, I agree with their logic. But, I think a thorough inspection every two weeks is essential to the beginner beekeeper. It really helps us understand the different cycles of the bees and gives us a better indication of the bees overall health. I don’t think you should inspect more than twice a month, but recently, I found wax moth larvae in my hive and had I not inspected, I am sure the colony would eventually die out. The colony is strong right now and they have done a pretty good job of removing wax moth larvae, but I was able to cut out infected areas which will help them in the long run. Basically, I think it is essential to inspect your hives from time to time.

5) Treat for Varroa: I am still chemical free, but I have applied Api Life Var to my hives now that the temps are starting to cool down. The drop count after just a couple of days of applying the Api Life Var is amazing. Even if the mite load is not wiped out, it feels good to know that I am reducing the number considerably before going into winter.

6) Feed in the fall: There has been a dearth of nectar here. I can tell by how much the comb building has slowed down. I am now feeding the bees a 2:1 ratio of sugar and water along with some essential oils. I have also made patties which consist of Crisco vegetable shortening, sugar, a bit of mineral salt, and some essential oils. This is suppose to help with tracheal mites.

7) Learn from your mistakes: I have made a lot of mistakes over the last few months, but I have learned from them and know what to do in the future. To have a colony fail is depressing, but the more I learn, the better I will be at beekeeping.

8 ) Do not be greedy: I have seen lots of honey in those combs, but it is still not enough for me to rob them of their food this first year. If you want the colony to survive, don’t extract honey unless they truly have enough resources to get them through the winter. I think it is an unethical practice to take honey and then try and supplement the loss with sugar syrup. Only take when there is honey aplenty.

Posted in Hive Reports, Lessons in beekeeping, Uncategorized | Leave a comment