Sunday, November 15, 2009

A Bee-Thanksgiving

Earlier this month was the Worcester County Beekeeper's Association annual Thanksgiving day banquet. It was interesting to note that one year ago I attended the same banquet, and it was my first time attending the WCBA. A lot has happened in that year!

This time I convinced my wife to go with me. It took a bit of convincing, because she has attended a few bee functions, and knows about the ... ahem... "interesting" personalities of the members of the WCBA (and you won't find a one to disagree with her). But, being the supportive wife that she is, she decided to take one for the team and go with me. We got a babysitter, left the kids at home, and made an evening of it.

A year ago I sat next to a couple of friends from the club, and this year I looked for the same people. I saw Michelle again and steered her towards our table, so we got to visit with her and her husband and 2 children. They were very well behaved, and so were their children! :-)

One of the things which convinced my wife to go was that the featured speaker was going to speak on companion gardening, the idea you plant companion plants together to naturally keep pests away, thus reducing your need and dependence on chemical pesticides. Usually it is a combination of some kind of an aromatic herb paired with a vegetable. As beekeepers we try to be as naturally possible. When we do use chemicals, we use the bare minimums we can to achieve the desired effect. I've learned the goal of pesticides with bees is not to eradicate the pest, but to reduced the population to the point where the bees can manage the load. You'll never eliminate 100% of the mites in a hive, for example, but if the number of mites is low enough the bees can manage it.

One of the fun things of that evening is that people bring in items to donate to a club raffle. The club itself puts together large gift baskets (there were 4 this year), and everyone gets one ticket to be drawn to win one of the baskets (we didn't win any of those). For the items that others bring in to raffle off, people buy multiple tickets and you put as many as you want in each cup in front of the item you want to bid on. Depending on how bad you want the item, you can stack the odds by putting more than one ticket in the cup.

My wife had her eye on a cute pumpkin ceramic centerpiece, and between her tickets and mine, she won it!

I put in for a few things, but I saw and won this neat jar of honey. It wasn't clear like most honey - it was a type of crystallized honey.

It isn't like what happens at your house where the honey becomes solid like a rock, and you have to heat it up to liquefy it. No, this is done on purpose and the honey has very fine crystals in it, too small to see. The honey is still spreadable, but a little thicker and opaque. This honey was from New Hampshire, and was absolutely delicious! Before getting into beekeeping I never knew the different tastes of honey (plus, the honey you buy from the store is usually pasteurized, which affects the taste). Too bad I couldn't have any of my own honey to taste (maybe next year!).

Fall, but not quite...

The weather hasn't decided it if is Fall or Winter yet, so we are getting some ups and downs. It rained a bunch the past couple of days, and today it was dry and 65 - go figure! So I decided it was a good day to remove the Apistan strips (medication for mite prevention). It was right at the recommended time, and I don't want to leave them in too long.

Due to the warm weather, the bees were out buzzing around the hive today. It was good to see that - during cold times, you never know what is going on in the hive.

I also decided to mix up another batch of sugar syrup to feed the bees. I had checked on them last week, and they had almost emptied the jars. I noticed one jar apparently leaked, and there was a bunch of syrup puddled on the top board. Today when I checked, the syrup was gone - the bees took care of it.

When I mix up a batch, I use a 10# bag of sugar (I am making concentrated syrup, 2 parts sugar to one part water). A bag of sugar fills up my six one-quart jars plus leaves about 1 1/2 quart left over.

The Green hive was doing well - saw lots of bees when I opened things up. But when I opened the Brown hive, I didn't see the same strength of bees (almost no bees greeted me when I popped off the top inner cover). I don't know if the hive has lost her queen or not - I guess time will tell (even if the hive is queenless, now is not the time to do anything about it). If it turns out to be queenless, it'll probably die off during the winter. If that's the case, I'll see what I want to do in the spring.

I took the picture at the top this afternoon. The hives look a little lonely just sitting there among the leafless-trees...

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Sugar baby...

We are in the feeding mode - during the fall weather, it's my job to get the bees stockpiled in food to survive the winter. You do that by feeding 2:1 sugar syrup.

I got some new quart jars, and I put three jars of sugar on the bees at a time. I've already fed them the medicated syrup, so now it's just straight sugar.

Someone asked the details of how I have my feeder, so I took some pictures.

I put the top cover on the hive, and put a couple of sticks (cut from some scrap wood) on top:

Then I upend three jars of sugar syrup. I had already drilled about 10 holes in the lids in basically a line, and I line up the holes in parallel with the sticks (you can see the dark marks I made with a marker on the side of the jar lids to help me orient the lids). I didn't want holes touching the wood rails, because that might cause syrup to leak.

I did a quick inspection this last weekend, since the weather was nice. I noticed that the bees hadn't taken much of the pollen patty I put on a few weeks ago, so I just took it off (it was very moist and mushy, and I noticed a lot of moisture on the top cover of the hive). Obviously they weren't eating much of it.

I didn't look for the queen, since as I mentioned before, there is a lot of propolis holding things together, and I didn't want to break that up and disrupt the hive. I did look and didn't see any brood on the frames I took out, so I have no proof there is a queen. I am going on faith that she is there - there were lots of bees around.
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