Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Bee Yard Update

It looks like winter is here!  We have snow now and the bees have been "winterized".  Here is a picture from the Bee Yard this morning in Hinckley, MN:

My Bee Yard - December 4th 2013

We forgot to turn off the electric fence around the bee yard.  Hopefully the snow won't wreck the fence.  

Last weekend we were up north and we checked on the bees.  The hive on the right in the picture had a few bees coming in and out.  The hive on the left didn't have any activity but you could hear them inside.  When it gets cold out (less than 55 degrees F)  the bees cluster together inside the hive.  They also move their wing muscles to generate heat.  Somehow they are able to keep the temperature of the cluster between 65 and 75 degrees F and a constant 92 F in the center of the cluster (learned in my bee class).

Another interesting thing is that there are no male bees in the hive now (drones).  The female bees kick them out when it starts getting colder.  It isn't good to be a male bee in the winter.

I hope the bees will make it through the winter.  As long as it doesn't get really cold for a long time they should be ok.  They should have enough honey stored up for the winter.  If it stays really cold for a long time the bees could starve.  When it gets cold they form a cluster and they won't break the cluster to move inside the hive unless it warms up a little bit.  If we get a warmer day, the bees will move the cluster to other honey stores in the hive.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Winterizing the Hives

We winterized the hives this weekend.  We should have done it on Saturday but instead we did it Sunday.  It snowed about 2 inches.  Here is a picture of the bee yard in the morning.
October 20 - Bee Yard
We also installed mouse guards.  These are to keep the mice from getting in the hive.  They like to go in the hive because the bees keep it warm and it has honey in it.  There are holes in the guard that are small enough for the bees to get through but the mice can't fit.

Installed Mouse Guard

The moisture board is for soaking up moisture.  In the winter the bees make heat and cause condensation to happen.  The moisture board keeps water from dripping on the bees and freezing them.

Moisture Board Added
The winter wrap is like winter jacket for the beehive.  It is black because it absorbs heat better from the sun.  It also helps keep the wind from freezing the bees.  

Installing the winter wrap
Now we wait until February to check on them again.  Hopefully they can make it through the winter on the honey they have stored up.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Thanks for visiting!

Kelly, James, and Ted,

Thank you for coming up to visit the bees and for buying some honey.  I hope you liked seeing the bees and where I keep them.


Saturday, October 5, 2013

AFSA High School Fundraiser

Thanks to everyone who visited me at the AFSA High School Potato Hug event today.  I appreciate your support.  I hope you enjoy the honey and please let me know if you need more.

My brother Cole and me at the Potato Hug.


Saturday, September 28, 2013

My school is having a fundraiser.  I will be their with an Supervised Agricultural Experience (SAE) project selling honey.  My honey will be $6 for a one pound jar and $11 for a two pound jar.  I have both Clover and Wildflower honey for sale.  It is open to everyone. There will be food for purchase and lots of great vendors.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Extracting Honey

On Saturday we spent the day extracting honey.  First we took the supers off the hive and got all the frames we thought were ready to be extracted.  You look for most of the honey to be capped.  The bees know when the moisture level is right.  I think it is 18.6% or lower moisture for Grade A.  Jim from Nature's Nectar tested our honey for us and it was at 15.6%.  The lower the number the better.

We first put down a small sheet of plywood and then put an empty super on it with a screen on top.  Then we pull the good frames of honey and gently brush the bees off the frame.  It helps to do it quick because the bees will fly back onto the frames.  Then we took the screen off the empty super and quickly put the brushed off frame full of honey in and then put the screen back on.  We kept doing that until we were done.  The bees we brushed off ended up on the ground but they eventually flew back to the hive.  Maybe next time we should brush them off over other frames of bees.  They seem to stay on the frames better.

Sunrise at the apiary
Brushing the bees off the honey
Quickly putting the frame without the bees into an empty super with a screen

This is what a frame full of capped honey looks like.  The cells are slightly angled up which helps the bees keep the honey in.
Me and a nearly full frame of capped honey.
We used an uncapper and that was hard to use.  Next year I want to get a hot uncapping knife.  Jim had one at Nature's Nectar and that was easier to use.  It was like cutting butter.  
Uncapping the wax from the frame
Filtering the wax caps from the honey.

Working the bees in the late evening

State Fair Results

Did good at the Minnesota State Fair this year.

Me in front of the Honey display.  Mine is the 3rd from the right.

Junior Division Honey at the State Fair.  I took 1st in the white/light honey.
Thumbs up!
I also entered a picture and got 2nd place for that.

Mom entered a picture and got 2nd place in the adult division for pictures of honey.

Wax Melter

Last weekend we built a Solar Wax Melter.  We built it so we could melt wax that we collect from uncapping and use it for things.  It can be used to make candles, chapstick, and soap. 

Here are 66 more uses for beeswax (from
1) lubricant for very old furniture joints.
2) Smooth movement for doors and windows.
3) Prevents bronze items from tarnishing.
4) Use as a rust prevention.
5) Furniture polish when mixed with linseed oil and mineral spirits in equal parts.
6) Covering cheeses and preservatives to protect from spoilage. 
7) Conditioner for wood bowls and cutting boards.
8) Coat nails and screws to prevent wood from splintering.
9) Used by NASA with an enzyme to mop up oceanic oil spills. - In case you have an ocean and an oil spill
10) Coat reeds for woodwinds to get a tight fit.
11) Egg painting in a Ukraine folk art of Pysanky.
12) An essential ingredient in Indian art of fabric dyeing called Batik printing.
13) Candles that don’t drip and have no smoke.
14) In candy like gummy bears, worms and jelly beans.
15) To water proof leather.
16) Molten beeswax to polish granite counter tops.
17) To make crayons.
18) With palm oil for soap.  The palm oil reduces scars and the wax a natural moisturizer.
19) Mix with palm wax for a natural hair remover. 
20) To reduce bow string friction.
21) on whips to water proof.
22) Wire pulling.
23) Sewing to strengthen the thread and prevent snagging.
24) To fill seams between pieces of slate when setting up a pool table.
25) As a flexible mold for a variety of mediums.
26) Clean your clothes Iron.
27) In glass Etching.
28) To make earplugs.
29) To make Dental floss.
30) For cracked animal hooves.
31) When making cosmetics.
32) When making chocolates.
33) Removing previous waxes.
34) In Blacksmithing.
35) To coat Baking pans for smooth exit of goods.
36) To make balms.
37) Barbeque preparation.
38) When making healing salves, creams and ointments.
39) Use in pharmaceuticals.
40) As a polish for shoes and floors.
41) To unsticking drawers.
42) Keep zippers moving smoothly.
43) To water proof boots and saddles.
44) To coat hand tools to prevent rust.
45) To relief pain, swelling (inflammation)
46) In fragrances in perfumes.
47) To seal documents.
48) Blended with pine rosin to serve as an adhesive.
49) In the embalming process.
50) As a stabilizer in the military explosive Torpex.
51) A natural Air purifier.
52) Glazing of fruits and vegetables.
53) Chewing beeswax can help quit the habit of smoking.
54) In the restoration of pictures.
55) Wax fly fishing lines so they float.
56) To keep saws sharp.
57) Grinding and polishing of optical lenses.
58) To seal and polish smoke fired pottery.
59) Used on snow skies for a good glide.
60) Used for base ring for toilets (in the past).
61) Saturate cardboard with beeswax and use as a fuel for a backpackers fuel for stove.
62) Beeswax candle as emergency heat when trapped in a car or small space.
63) Temporary filling until you can see your dentist.
64) To seal stick matches to stay dry when boating, fishing or skiing.
65) To prevent slippage for belts in vacuums and sewing machines.
66) As a wood filler

We built our melter out of two old screen door windows we had sitting around and some scrap wood.  We also spray painted the inside black to make it heat up faster.  It took most of the weekend to build because it was really hot and humid out.  We also were trying to use plans from the Internet and then we gave up and just started building.

Finished Solar Wax Melter

Wax melting

The wax melts at around 144 degrees F and gets discolored if you go above 185 degrees F.  Beeswax is very flammable.  Here are three one ounce molds we made. 


Last Sunday (August 28th) we applied the last Hopguard treatment.  We used Hopguard to get rid of the Varroa mites.  Reducing the number of mites now will help the bees go into the winter stronger.  The bees don't seem to like Hopguard.  They get cranky when we get out the stuff.

Dad and I putting the last set of Hopguard strips in.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

State Fair

 We extracted 6 frames of honey so, I could enter it in the fair.  We drove to the fair grounds and entered 6 jars of honey and a picture I took of bees.  My honey took 1st in the Junior White Liquid Honey section.  My picture took 2nd in the bee photo junior section.  Thank you Furchner's for taking the pictures and letting me know the results.  We will extract all the remaining honey in a few weeks.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Mite Control and Busy Bees

Carl Noot and Dad helping me with the bees.  We added two Hopguard strips into each of the deep hives.  We will do the same thing for the next two weeks.  Carl and his family were up for the weekend and helped us out.
Carl, Dad, and me putting hopguard strips in.

Adding two more supers.

Added supers and strapped down the hive.
After we added two more supers the hive was getting really tall.  Dad strapped down the hive in case a storm comes through.  We will probably start collecting the honey in the next few weeks.

August 3rd

The bees have been hanging out by the pool and on the filter.  The bees use the water to mix with the honey and cool their hive.  We still swim in the pool because they don't both us.

Bees getting water that drips from the sand filter

The bees in the smaller hive were hanging out by the entrance.  They do this to keep the hive cool.
Bees at the entrance

Close up of some bees

Just hanging out

The two hives from our new Bee Cam that we put up.

Later today we are going to treat for varroa mites.  We plan to use Hopguard because we don't need to wear a respirator to use it.  It also doesn't mess up the honey.  We will need to do the treatment every week for three weeks.  The mites don't kill the bees but they weaken the bees and they are more likely to get diseases.  Also by treating now the bees will have a couple of cycles of healthy brood with less varroa mites.  That should make it more likely that they will survive over the winter.

I also earned my Insect Study Merit badge last Tuesday.  There were a bunch of requirements I had to do.  One of the requirements was to observe a beehive or an ant colony.  I also had to make a scrapbook of different insects I saw.  I learned a lot about bees and other insects. Like the order for bees ants and wasps is Hymenoptera.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Insect Study Merit Badge

Congratulations Zander on completing the requirements for the Insect Study merit badge!

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Teaching my relatives about beekeeping

We had several relatives and neighbors over at the cabin this weekend.  They were interested in seeing what beekeeping was all about.  Mom had a good idea to put the screen tent up near the hives so they could see the bees without getting stung.  

Dad and I lifting frames out of the supers.
In the picture below you can see everyone watching from the screen tent.  They asked quite a few questions.  It was fun showing them the bees, comb, and honey they are making.

Relatives and neighbors watching.
 They asked about why the hive boxes are different sized.  We explained that the bottom two boxes are the deeps and they are used by the bees for raising brood and storing honey and pollen for winter.  The top ones are supers and they are used to collect honey from the bees.

Us showing them a frame full of bees.
 The bees are doing well.  In the one hive we have a lot of capped honey.  In the other hive they are not doing as well.  I found a drone and showed it to the audience and as I put it back I noticed a varroa mite on it.

The varroa mite I scrapped off the drone.

Capped honey (the white stuff)

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Apiary Upgrade

We made a couple up upgrades to be bee yard this weekend.  Started with some cedar chips under the electric fence wires so we don't have to keep trimming the grass there.  The bees spent most of today and yesterday staying warm in the hive.  The high today was 55 degrees F and the low was 45.  

Amazon had a decent deal on a Wireless IP camera so we picked one up and decided to make it the new "Bee Cam".  The camera isn't outdoor rated so we got creative and made an enclosure out of the top to an old stereo that was in the shed.  The camera is powered by a 12 v deep cycle battery and an inverter.  We are going to try to add a link to the camera on the blog.  The camera can pan and tilt and so far it appears to take decent pictures.

Tomorrow we are going to inspect both hives to see how the bees are doing.  Zander is hopeful that the bees will have capped the honey in the supers.  We plan to setup a screen tent temporarily behind the hives to show our weekend guests what the bees are doing without worrying about anyone getting stung.  The bees have also found the pool. We have a steady stream of bees coming to and from the pool now.

The BeeCam setup

Night in the apiary

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Long Live the Queen

I did a quick hive inspection on Zander's behalf of the weaker hive and confirmed that the Queen lives.  She might be royalty but I think it is fair to say that she is a bit of a slacker when compared with the queen in Zander's second hive.  Here is a picture of her:
Her Royal Highness

While inspecting the frame I heard a strange high pitched buzzing like cross between a bee and a mosquito and then noticed that there were a couple of bees emerging from their cells.  The other bees seemed to be helping them out.   

Baby bee emerging

We also spotted a bumble bee on a nearby flower.  Good to see them around as well.

Catching up on other news, Zander and I attended the Minnesota Honey Producer's conference a couple of weeks ago in Walker, MN.  We had a good time and Zander especially liked the tour of the Mann Lake facility and the presentation from the U of M's Raptor Center.
Zander with his new clock from Mann Lake LTD.

Friday, July 19, 2013

We have been busy and haven't been able to post for awhile.  There is a lot of news to tell.  The bees in the hive farthest away from the cabin swarmed while me and my dad were at camp.  Once I got home we contained the swarm and got rid of the queen cells.  They swarmed into a tree about 30 feet away and 6 feet in the air.  The swarm measured about 1.5 feet long by 1 foot deep by 6 inches wide.  There was probably around 8000-9000 bees in the tree.  

My mom and another local beekeeper caught the swarm because me and my dad were at a camp in Wisconsin (Tomahawk).  They found an empty super and then mom cut the branch while the beekeeper shook the bees into the super.  They left them below the tree until we got back.

My bees swarmed in a tree

Then we carried the supers full of the swarmed bees over to the hive that they swarmed from.  We had to decide if we were going try to move the swarmed bees to a new hive or try to put them back in there old hive.  We decided to put them back in their old hive because the swarmed bees wouldn't have enough time to gather honey and pollen before winter and would likely not survive the winter.  Also we didn't have any extra hives and we would have had to buy more.  

Dad bring the swarmed bees back to the original hive
When we brought the swarmed bees back to their old home we put a piece of newspaper between the two hives to prevent them bees from fighting.  This turned out to be a bad idea because the bees would just tear through the newspaper.  Once they saw the queen cells in the old hive they would probably swarm again.  We called Jim from Nature's Nectar to ask how he would do it.  He was very helpful.  He suggested that we combine the bees back into the same hive.  To do that we needed to switch the newspaper with plywood to keep the bees separated.  He also thought we should turn the hive around to try to fool the swarmed bees into thinking that they were in a new hive.  

Our first attempt at bringing the swarm back to the old hive.
Then we were to leave the swarmed bees on the plywood and give them an entrance facing the opposite way.  Dad made up a couple of boards to lift the hive so that they have could come in in and out.  About a day later we replaced the plywood with paper to to slowly unite the hive.  The paper had a small slit in it to let the bees go into the old hive.

Swarmed bees are on top of the old hive
Slit to let the bees into the old hive

Before we could put the swarmed bees on the newspaper we had to go into the old hives and look for queen cells and destroy them.  If we didn't the bees would probably swarm again or the new queens would come out and fight and kill the good queen.  There can been only one queen in a hive.

This is a queen cell on one of the frames.  The workers feed a larvae royal jelly to turn it into a queen.

More queen cells.
Jim from Nature's Nectar thought the reason the bees swarmed is probably because they were hot in there hive so we made them a bigger entrance by taking out the entrance reducer.

Taking out the entrance reducer

Bees coming and going from the old hive that swarmed

Hopefully the bees won't swarm again.  When the bees swarm they gather in huge numbers outside of the hive.  They also pig out on honey before they leave the hive to hold them until they find a new home.  That means less honey for me.  It also could mean less honey for the bees for over wintering.