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Posts Tagged ‘Beekeeping Supplies’

Jupiter's Beard

I couldn’t order my bees back in the beginning of the year because the date of our arrival in Colorado was constantly changing. I really needed to do it in January or February before the apiaries sold out, but up until a week before our departure I still wasn’t sure when we’d be in Durango. Once we decided, I started frantically emailing apiaries and Tweeting beeks to find out if anyone had any bees to sell. This continued while we were packing, loading the truck and into our cross-country drive. I got a few leads from Twitter folks, but nothing panned out and I resigned myself to the fact I would not have honeybees in Colorado this year.

But last Tuesday as we were driving across the country a small miracle happened. I got a phone call from an apiary and they told me they were shipping on a later date than normal because of the cooler-than-usual weather in the Northwest. They asked if I still wanted bees! Hell yes! What a wonderful surprise — pure luck!!

The bees will be here tomorrow and I’ve been getting my garden ready. I’ve been going over the plants that I have that will attract and feed my honeybees and making a list of what I’ll need to buy to have a diversity of blooms throughout the whole season.

Tip # 1: Plants for Honeybees

Here are the bee plants that I’ve bought so far with their bloom times:

Late Spring-Summer
Jupiter’s Beard (Ceranthus ruber)

Summer
Spike Speedwell ‘Royal Candles’ and ‘Red Fox’ (Veronica spicata)
Salvia ‘Blue Queen’ (Salvia x sylvestris)

Summer-Fall
Lavender ‘Munstead’ (Lavandula angustifolia)
Culinary herbs: Rosemary, sage, oregano, marjoram, dill, tarragon, etc.

Late Summer-Fall
Bee Balm ‘Jacob Cline’ and ‘Blue Stocking’ (Monarda didyma) Warning: this can take over you garden, plant it where it can be contained.
Russian Sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia)
Sedum ‘Rosy Glow’ and ‘Matrona’ (also called Stonecrop)

Fall
Aster ‘Wood’s Pink’
Golden Rod ‘Baby Gold’ (Solidago)

Tip # 2:  Attracting Honeybees

You don’t need a hive to support honeybees. Plant some bee plants following these guidelines and you’ll be helping bees and lots of other pollinators too.

  • Plant in clumps: plant 3 or more of the same species together in a clump. This attracts more pollinators than if scattered around the garden.
  • Flower colors: honeybees are attracted to blue-violet, blue-green, orange-yellow and white blossoms.
  • Plant a variety of flowers that bloom from spring to fall.
  • Don’t use herbicides or pesticides please! Once you invite honeybees into your garden, don’t kill them. All herbicides and pesticides are highly lethal to bees, butterflies and all the other beneficials in your garden.

Happy gardening!

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Mary Beth: It was a year ago that I got serious about beekeeping; I had just put in my order for a package of honeybees and I was so excited. But I really had no clue about what I was getting myself into (neither did my husband!). Sure I’d read a lot and spent countless hours learning as much as could, trying get a feel for what it was going to be like. And you newbies will do the same thing. Be forewarned though, all the research is very helpful, but beekeeping is really a hands-on kind of thing. No amount of research is going prepare you for the rush you’ll get when you see them for real in their screened box, or when you dump them in their new hive, or when they start to build the first honeycomb, or… I could go on and on.

As I went through this first year of learning to be a beekeeper, I kept reminding myself to make note of the important things I wanted to pass on to those of you who are thinking of getting your own hives — you’re going to make mistakes, you’re going to get stung, and there will be times when you’re going to feel seriously overwhelmed. But you are going to love those bees!

Here are more tips and some words of encouragement to all the newbies scrambling to get every piece of information you can before your bees arrive.

Ray building the Top Bar Hive

  • Consider a Top Bar Hive, you’ll spend a lot less time and money preparing for your bees. Did I say a lot more money?!  I cringe at what I could have saved if I’d known at the beginning what I know now about the TBH.
  • Have your hive set up before the bees arrive.
  • The hive entrance should be facing the south to southeast if you can.
  • Bees will fly into and out of the hive in the direction that the entrance is facing, so make sure the bee flight path is directed away from sidewalks, streets, etc.
  • If you have to deal with close neighbors or walkways, etc., place a fence or a barrier a few feet away from the hive entrance. That will make the bees fly upwards and out of harm’s way.
  • Spray the right amount sugar water on your bees before dumping them into the hive. It’s not a soaking spray, but it should be enough that they will be too busy licking themselves off to start swarming around your face and distracting you as you get them into their new hive.
  • Use your protective gear. I tried not using any protective gear that first day. Although the bees weren’t aggressive — they didn’t have anything to protect yet — I got so nervous when I was dumping them into the hive that I had to stop what I was doing to run for my suit. The whole operation would have been much smoother if I hadn’t been so worried about getting stung.
  • If you’re using a smoker don’t rush preparing it. It’ll take 20-30 minutes to get it going and to have a decent amount of coals to get you through your inspections. There’s nothing worse than seeing the girls lining up to take a shot at you and finding that your smoker is out.
  • When it’s time to inspect the hive, think about what you’re going to be looking for BEFORE you open up the hive. Are you saying, “DUH, Mary Beth!”, right now? Well maybe, but I was often so fascinated, distracted, or rushed to get things done that I didn’t remember to check for important signs during the inspection. Write it down so you’ll remember. I stressed myself a few times, realizing after I’d closed the lid that there was something I forgot to do and you really don’t want to have to go back in again. It’s not good for you or the bees.

The most important thing to remember as you do your research is an old saying that goes, “Ask 10 beekeepers the same question and you’ll get 11 different answers.” Keep in mind that every region has different challenges be it pests, weather, nectar flow, or any number of other things. Your best bet is to absorb all the information you read and then use your best judgement and follow your gut. That’s the way to make sure you’re doing your best for the bees.

A lot of this information, plus pictures illustrating the process from building the hives to installing the bees and more, is in earlier posts on this blog, along with some great resources that I found very useful.

One thing I know for sure is that you are going to really enjoy this journey. Good luck and, please, if you have any questions, just ask. I would love to help you out.
The Hippie Shack Bee Update

I checked on the bees through the TBH window and found it was warm enough today for them to break cluster. I also noticed they still had food left. They were feeding and roaming around slowly, and a few were taking a cleansing flight. I was happy to see that there seemed to be quite a few bees in the hive. I went inside feeling very hopeful that they will survive this cold winter!

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MB: Wow! The last two days have been a jumble of excitement and nervousness. Even though I obsessively watched videos and read my books and websites over and over, I was still afraid I would do something wrong, like forget what to do in the middle of putting the bees in the hive. It felt kind of like those dreams you have about studying for a test in college, but then forgetting everything on test day — oh wait, that actually happened. You know what I’m talking about, same feeling. But mostly I was excited that the bees were finally here and I would finally be a beekeeper!

When I picked up the bees on Saturday night I was mesmerized, there were so many and they were one big ball of energy. They were all huddled up, clinging to each other, and their queen, making a lovely, low thrumming sound. There were even a few bees outside the cage who must have been left behind when the cage was nailed shut, but they held onto the outside of the screen the whole way to Block Island.  As we drove home, I held the cage in my lap. Oh! I love my bees already!

They spent the night in the workshop next to my seedlings. I thought the grow mat that was under the seedlings would give off some warmth, which it must have because they moved closer to that side of the cage.

This is how they were shipped.

This is how they were shipped.

On Sunday morning we were lucky to have an invitation to watch an experienced Island beekeeper install his bees into his new hives. It’s always good to get a visual and some great tips from someone who’s done it before. That said, it did not prevent me from making a small, but critical mistake when I went home to install my bees.

Back in the garden, I decided not to wear my bee suit or gloves. I was very organized and things were running smoothly until that moment when I realized that the bees were a bit more active than they should have been. I put the queen in the hive and began to empty the cage full of bees into the hive. (See the step-by-step pictures below.) Quite a few bees started to buzz around and some landed on me. They didn’t sting or even seem aggressive, there was just a lot of them flying around. When one landed on my cheek, I thought, “Oh boy, my face is going to look great if this girl decides to go for it!”  To my surprise, I wasn’t scared of them crawling all over me, but I was a little freaked out that I had spent too much time getting them in the hive. It was at this point that I realized that I had not sprayed enough sugar syrup on my little bees and I decided that it would be best to put on the bee suit. Doing that helped me concentrate on getting the job done.

It was a little overwhelming having bees crawling all over me and waiting to get my first sting, while trying to concentrate on getting the hive back together. Adding to the stress was the presence of my sister Pam (Yes, another sister!) who I’d asked to take pictures. She is deathly afraid of bees, but trusted me when I promised her that the bees would not be flying around that much, nor would they come near her. Oops!

She was a trooper, though. She toughed it out and took great pictures with a steady hand. That’s a primo example of sister love! Thank god she didn’t get stung! It would have been another family story told too many times!

The real lesson here is that I should have SOAKED the bees with sugar syrup, not just mist them a few times as I did. The syrup makes it hard for them to fly around and they are focused on cleaning themselves and their sisters, distracting them from what is happening. I strongly recommend giving those girls a good heavy spraying a few times. Believe me, this a must!

Something you should know about me is that I’m a worry wart and if something is in my care, I take it very seriously. All day long I kept going outside and to see if the bees that had lingered inside the cage had made their way into the hive. I worried that something had gone dreadfully wrong. It was a bit of a relief to see a few of the bees lined up at the entrance of the hive with their butts in the air. It looked funny, but I believe it meant they were releasing a pheromone that tells all the other bees that a safe home had been found and to come on in!  Towards dusk the bees seemed to be calm and almost all of them were inside the hive. I put my ear up to the box and it was humming — a very good sign.

It’s Monday morning. The sun is rising and, praise be, it’s shining on the beehive. On the other hand, there’s ice in the birdbath and it is very windy! Don’t you love April in the Northeast! Hopefully, the bees will get warm enough to want to explore their new surroundings and start building a happy and healthy colony!

Many thanks to all those who have helped me with this wonderful journey into beekeeping!

Things I needed to get started.

Things I needed to get started.

Taking the top off the bee's cage.

Taking the top off the bees' cage.

Taking the top of the cage off reveals the can of sugar syrup that kept the bees fed during their journey and the little box that contains the queen. You can’t quite see it, it’s on the far side of the can.

Punching a hole in the candy plug.

Punching a hole in the candy plug.

Beekeepers use a very ingenious method of keeping the queen, and a few attendants, in her little cage during the trip to the new hive — they insert a little candy plug in the end of the box. I poked a small hole in the plug before I put it into the hive. The worker bees will chew through it and release her.

Positioning the queen's cage in the hive box.

Positioning the queen's cage in the hive box.

I removed several of the foundation frames and hung the queen’s cage in between two of them. I’ll remove the cage in a few days after everyone’s settled in.

Spraying the girls with sugar syrup.

Spraying the girls with sugar syrup.

Here’s where I ran into trouble — though I didn’t know it quite yet. I sprayed the girls with sugar syrup for the second time, but I didn’t use enough. I should have sprayed a LOT more than I did. Note that I’m not wearing my bee suit or my gloves. That won’t last long!

Removing the feeding can.

Removing the feeding can.

Here I’m removing the feeding can. The bees are still pretty mellow, though you can see that they’re eager to get out of the cage. They’re wondering where their queen went.

Pouring the bees into the hive.

Pouring the bees into the hive.

The bees are supposed to kind of pour into the hive. They need a little encouragement. A shake or two should do it.

Bees are flying everywhere!

Bees are flying everywhere!

Whoa! I think we’re in trouble. Sound the alarm. Bees flying around — way too many!! Get the suit!!!

Safe inside the bee suit.

Safe inside the bee suit.

Pouring out the rest of the bees.

Pouring out the rest of the bees.

A closer look at the bees in the frames.

A closer look at the bees in the frames.

Even though some of the bees were flying around, it’s pretty amazing how all they really want to do is get in the hive to be with the queen.

Replacing the frames.

Replacing the frames — very carefully.

Positioning the feeding pan.

Positioning the feeding pan.

The bees need to be fed sugar syrup until the nectar begins to flow and that won’t happen until the weather warms up.

Pouring in the syrup.

Pouring in the syrup.

Putting on an empty super and the hive top.

Putting on an empty super and the hive top.

Some bees remain in the cage.

Some bees remain in the cage.

Not all of the bees wanted to leave the cage. The only thing I could do at this point was to place it close to the hive opening and hope that they would find their way into the hive.

Bees gather at the hive opening.

Bees gather at the hive opening.

And there you have it.  The next step is to do nothing. I’ll need to leave them alone for a few days to get acclimated, to get settled in and to build out the combs so their queen can begin laying eggs. Life in the hive begins!

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quincebud

MB: Before I give you an update, I thought this picture of almost-blossoming quince buds would cheer you up. Spring really is here, it’s just been a little hard to believe.

hivestand

Ray made a slatted bottom board and a hive stand. So now the hive really is ready for its new residents.

I just finished making a batch of sugar syrup for the bees. They’ll need to eat it when they first get here. I had five pounds of sugar for the first week and thought that’d be fine, but I just found out they can consume up to ten pounds in the first week. I don’t remember reading that in the books — and it wouldn’t be the first time some important piece of information was missing. Thank heavens I’m such a freak and keep reading everything on the web! I only hope that there’s nothing else I’m missing.

In the meantime, I had to order more sugar on Peapod so I can make another batch of syrup. The mix is a 1:1 ratio of water to sugar and add 1 teaspoon of Honey B Healthy for every quart of syrup. I wonder how much more I’ll need. I guess it’ll depend on what is blooming and if it ever warms up here.

Barring any unforeseen circumstances, the bees should arrive tomorrow. And if you think writing that didn’t set off a swarm of butterflies in my stomach, you’ve got another think coming!

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Things in Bee World have been a little quiet. We’ve had other distractions — birthday parties, out-of-town relatives coming to visit, and, the biggest distraction of all, working to pay the bills. But here’s what’s happened in the last few days.

Kea approves.

Kea approves.

The lower deep hive body — the brood chamber, and the upper deep hive body — the food chamber, have been painted with milk paint in the most beautiful shade of sky blue. The shallow honey supers are painted a lighter shade of blue. The cinder block foundation for the hive has been set level into the ground. Mary Beth chose this location because it’s near the garden and a water source, facing south so the rising sun wakes the bees.

This is where the hive will live — a pond in front and the garden behind.

This is where the hive will live — a pond in front and the garden behind.

Mary Beth ordered the things she forgot in the first round. (I have a feeling that’ll happen a few more times before we get it all figured out.) The big oops was neglecting to order the foundation pins. They’re what she’ll need to hold the wax foundations in the frames. The bees will build them out with their combs which will hold the honey and the baby bees. (Larvae really, but baby bees sounds so much cuter.)

And, yes, those of you who actually know what you are doing will probably have noticed that she ordered the wrong size foundations for the supers, so the right ones are in this order, along with a hive tool and some Honey B Healthy, a feeding stimulant.

MB: That brings us to the next important detail — what will the bees use for sustenance? Since I have new hives and it’s early spring, the bees won’t have any stored honey for food and it’ll be too early for flower nectar. So I’m going to feed them sugar water until nectar begins to flow. And to keep the hive as healthy as possible in this first year, I probably won’t harvest any honey, leaving it instead for the bees to eat.  On average a hive can produce about 100 pounds of honey, but this is my first year so who knows? The hive will need 60 to 80 pounds of honey to survive the winter and tide the bees over until the nectar begins to flow the following spring. Anything beyond that will be ours to enjoy and share with friends and family. And believe me, they’re already lining up.

And speaking of how much honey weighs, lifting the supers won’t be easy. A medium super can weigh in at 50 to 60 pounds and I’m definitely going to need help. I may have to get a bee suit for Ray. (Shh! I haven’t told him yet.)

In the meantime, I’ve been working in the gardens. I’ve planted 3 kinds of carrots, 2 varieties of chard, spinach, broccoli, watercress, arugula, onions, leeks and 3 kinds of lettuce. I used some old windows over the raised beds for makeshift cold frames to get things going. I also got my indoor flats set up with grow lights and a heating pad. Mmm, I can smell and taste those tomatoes already!

As I opened the seed packets and started the tedious task of planting, I remembered helping my father prepare the gardens for the coming season when he no longer had the strength to do it himself. He dug the first of these garden beds more than 40 years ago and they were his pride and joy. He taught me so much as I worked in the dirt beside him. It feels good to carry his legacy on another year and to relive those happy memories. I know he would’ve been as excited as we are about adding a hive to his gardens. He would have enjoyed watching the bees. The garden will make the bees happy, and the bees will make these gardens happy!

Thanks, Dad.

Dad in his garden.

Dad in his garden...

Watering seedlings.

watering seedlings.

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The bees need a home. They arrive on Block Island around April 10th and they’ll need a place to live. There’s a lot more to this than you might imagine. Not that it’s not doable, but whooee.

chair

The hive will go near the pond.

The brush needs to be cleared from the area where the hive will go, but that will have to wait until the snow melts.  In the meantime, crank up the space heater. We’re going out to the workshop to build a Langstroth Beehive. Mary Beth will build the frames  — 50 of them. And her husband Ray, an extremely talented carpenter, will build the deep hive frames and the supers.

The man can work a hammer!

The man can work a hammer!

The picture shows one of the supers with 10 frames inside. The bees will build their honeycombs on these frames. When it comes time to place the hive, we’ll have to be careful to get it exactly level or the combs won’t be straight and we won’t be able to pull them out of the supers.

MB: I started with every intention of getting all the frames done today, but I forgot to factor in the dogs, Ray and the fact that I’m always trying to figure out how do things quicker. Never mind that there is usually a reason to do it the other way.

First there was the carrot cake I promised Ray — bribed is the word — if he would go get the finish nailer from the job site. Then the dogs got bored and I had to run them so they wouldn’t drive me crazy while I was working with sharp objects.

Kia & Sage

Kea & Sage

Finally, there’s the realization that if I had actually built the jig for the frames, things might have gone a LOT faster. So much for my time-saving ideas.

Some other things that gave us pause as we worked:
• Do we put the rough side of the recycled cedar that we’re using for the hive bodies in or out? Decided out.
• Is the spacing between the frames in the hive bodies and supers right? It seems like a lot of space. Measured it all again and it’s what it’s supposed to be. The problem is we’ve never seen the inside of a hive before.
• Do I nail all those little nails in myself or should I use the nail gun? Curse words begin to fly. Decide to use the nail gun.

I’m starting to think that a top bar hive might be less expensive, less labor intensive and easier to take care of. Maybe I should do both kinds of hives so I can compare. I wonder if it’s to late to add to my bee order?

Here’s a list of the supplies I’ve gotten so far:

1 – Queen excluder wood bound 10 frame

2 – 1 lb. Thin surplus 4 3/8″ X 16 1/2″
3 – Frames 6 1/4 WTB GBB C/10
2 – Frames 9 1/8 WTB GBB C/10
2 – 10 SH. WIRED 8 1/2\” X 16 3/4
6 – frame spacers
1 – cotton/poly zipper veil hooded suit
1 – Hive Top Feeder
1 – leather vent gloves
1 – Smoker 4 x 7 with Shield Stainless Steel
1 – Wood Entrance Reducer
1 – Bee Brush

Total so far is a little over $200.

Oops! Forgot to order the hive tool. Oh well, I’ll get it when I order the equipment for the honey extraction, later — much later. Had to hold my breath when I placed this order.

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