Thursday, February 28, 2013

Science Project Ideas

Zander has started looking into some ideas for his science project next year. He would like to do a project that involves beekeeping. Here are some ideas he has for his project so far.

1. City Bee/Country Bee - He has two new hives and he will have two packages of bees showing up sometime mid-April. He was thinking about keeping one hive at our house in Roseville, MN and one at a farm up in Hinckley, MN. Over the course of the summer he wants to periodically check the health of the bees and see which hive is doing better. He wants to measure 1)overall health of the bees (based on the number of bees and the lack or presence of disease and 2)honey production. His hypothesis is that the country bees will be healthier and produce more honey.

2. Bee Memory - He wants to create a set of "cards" with different colors and pattern on them and then place the cards in a clear plastic bag and then cover one of them with a sugar/water syrup. Then he is going to change the card that has the syrup mix on it and see how the bees react. His hypothesis is that the bees will be able to recognize the pattern and/or color and go to the pattern at least for a little while until they figure it out.

3. Any other ideas?

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Books, Books, and more Books!

Happy Tuesday everyone!  Zander and I wanted to take a minute and thank several folks for the great book references.  Specifically, thanks to Dennis for sharing several of his books on beekeeping with Zander.  Dennis is a professional Entomologist is one of the main reasons Zander became interested in insects.  

Zander kept busy over this past weekend reading "The Hive and the Honey Bee".  This is an excellent resource and has everything you want to know about beekeeping in it and more.
The Hive and the Honey Bee
The next three books Zander just borrowed from Dennis and will likely read these cover to cover in the next 2-3 weeks.
Beekeeping in the United States

The Social Behavior of the Bees: A Comparative Study

The Life of the Bee
Also, thanks to Valerie from St. Jude Medical for the multiple informative links and articles on beekeeping.  Zander went through all 18 of the YouTube "Backyard Beekeeping" series videos last week and read all the articles.  See the bottom of the blog for links to the YouTube video series and the links.

Also, thanks to Zander's mom Nancy for supporting his "Bee" habit and purchasing/obtaining the following books for him:
Green Guides Keeping Bees

Beekeeping for Dummies
The Beekeeper's Bible

Monday, February 25, 2013

Hive Color

Zander is planning on assembling his 4 deeps and 4 supers this coming Sunday and I plan to take some pictures and share them.  We bought unassembled hive frames and he wants to paint them.  Here is a picture of one of the supers put together (still needs to be nailed or stapled together):
Traditional hives are painted white.  According to what we have read, white is used especially in warmer climates because it doesn't absorb as much heat from the sun and as a result the bees don't need to do as much work to cool off the hive.

Zander is planning to go with a light or pastel green.  Any other suggestions?  Here is what it might look like (done with Photoshop CS5):

So what is a super you ask?  A super is used to collect the honey the bees produce.  The supers are placed on top of the "deeps" or deep hive-bodies and are normally separated from the "deeps" with a queen excluder.  You generally start with a single deep which will eventually become the lower deep.  The lower deep is used by the bees as the nursery or brood chamber.  This is where they raise their young.  The upper deep will become the bees food pantry.  Each of the deeps contain 10 frames of honeycomb.  Everything the bees make in the lower and upper deep is for the bees to keep and will eventually help them get through the winter.  The queen excluder goes above the upper deep and the super sits on top of it.  As the name indicates, the queen excluder prevents the queen from moving up in the hive and creating brood chambers in the supers.  The worker bees can pass through the queen excluder into the supers and that is where the honey comes from that Zander will hopefully be able to harvest later in the year if all goes well.

Beekeeping Basics

Zander and Bill have read books, watched movies, and you-tube clips on beekeeping but, on Saturday they will take the real Beekeeping Basics course from Three Rivers Park District.  The course is perfect for beginners and will take them through two years of beekeeping, from purchasing and assembling equipment to producing and selling honey.  It is a two part class so, I assume they learn the basics at the first one and add to that at the second part in April.  They are both very excited to attend.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Zander picking up supplies at Nature's Nectar in Stillwater, MN

We visited Nature's Nectar LLC in Stillwater, MN this morning to pick up Zander's beekeeping equipment.  

Zander was originally going to go with one hive but based on suggestions from books he read and the owner, we ended up  going with 2 hives.  Having two hives allows you to better compare and contrast how the bees are doing.

Zander trying on his Beekeeper suit
Zander all suited up

We also decided to go with the un-assembled hives as they cost less and we felt that it would be more fun to put them together ourselves.

Here is the list of equipment and bees Zander has to start his adventure:
  • 2 packages of 3lb Italian bees (should arrive sometime mid-April)
  • 4 deep hive bodies, commercial grade
  • 4 medium supers, commercial grade
  • 2 screen bottom boards
  • 2 Telescoping covers with inner covers
  • 40 frames for the deep hives
  • 40 frames for the supers
  • 1 bee suit
  • 1 set of leather ventilated gloves
  • 1 hive tool
  • 1 bee brush
  • 1 smoker 
  • 2 gallon feeder pails
  • 2 pre-formed pollen patties

Nature's Nectar was busy this morning.  Met several nice and helpful people including David from Little Canada Minnesota who was kind enough to give us his number to answer any questions that might come up along the way.  Zander is excited about putting the hives together and painting them.  However, that will need to wait until his homework is finished.  :)