Sunday, June 23, 2013

Mass Bee Field Day 2013

On June 22 the Mass Bee Association held their annual "field day." This is a day full of bee-related expositions and demonstrations, held out at the UMass Agronomy Farm in South Deerfield, MA. Think of it as the "Comic Con" for beekeeping, but with not quite as many weird people :-)

I went last year, and had a good time, so I decided to go this year as well. I learned a couple of things based on last year's field day: 1) bring sun screen, and 2) bring lots of water. You literally spend the whole day out in farm fields (they have some covered areas, but the demos are all in the fields).

Here is the flyer from this year's field day (both sides) so you can see how the day lined up:

The demonstrations were targeted at both new beekeepers as well as experienced ones. Because there are only 4 sessions, I wanted to make sure I didn't pick the "how to spot your queen" type of demonstrations. Like last year, I was able to pick activities which interested me and where I may learn something new.

This year I picked the following:
  • First session - I split my time between "Queen Rearing" and "Nuc Management"
  • Second session - "Doolittle and Harry Cloake Queen Rearing Technique"
  • Third session - "The EAS Master Beekeeper Program"
  • Fourth session - there wasn't anything here that I particularly wanted to listen to, so I watched Ken Warchol do "Hive Inspections" and talked with some of the other beekeepers (networking).
Here's a view as I was walking from the parking lot:

The agronomy farm is just that - a real farm. As I was passing one of the wooden barns, that farm animal smell wafted over me, and brought me back to when I was a little child and visiting my grandpa's farm in rural Utah. Amazing how smells can do that!

One of the nice things about field day is that there are a couple of beekeeping supply vendors that show up selling their wares. You can pre-order ahead of the field day, and they will bring your order with them so you don't pay shipping. Or you can buy stuff directly from them that day. It's quite a savings, considering a lot of the beekeeping equipment is wooden, and therefore heavy and expensive to ship.

There was a big tent set up, and people could rest, talk, and get out of the sun.

You can see that there was a lot of people in attendance, around 250 I heard, coming from in some cases many hours travel away (from PA).

Here is Dean Stiglitz talking about queen rearing:

Daniel Barry from the Franklin County Beekeepers was giving a demonstration of Nuc Management:

As with most beekeeping demonstrations, the audience gets up close and personal with the bees!

Dan had a nifty dual Nuc arrangement in a full size box. I took lots of pictures to be able to make one myself. Here's an audience member checking it out:

Oh, by the way - the box she is checking out is full of live bees. Just thought you should be impressed! :-)

One of the problems here in the northeast is getting quality queens. Most of the queens come from the south (Georgia), and can't handle the colder weather up here (really!). You really want to have bees which are hardy and they aren't easy to find.

The Plymouth County Beekeepers recognized this problem, and instead of complaining about it, created a Queen Rearing Initative in their club. They have members do grafting and queen rearing as a group, to increase the quality of the queens in their club. That'd be something nice to have in our club.

Here is Bob Hickey giving a presentation on the Doolittle/Cloake method and the QRI.

And some pictures from the QRI:

Someone brought a big blow-up skep (traditional looking bee hive). It was hollow inside, and people were sitting in there during lunch. Not sure of the purpose...

During lunch there was the annual Smoker Contest. People vied for the honor of being the winner of the contest. This was my first year, and I thought I did well, but the choice of the winner was a little arbitrary...

Here I am taking a lunch break. I had someone take a picture of me since in most of the pictures I am absent.

And finally, here's Ken Warchol, the Bee Whisperer, giving a demo of a hive inspection. He is in his usual garb for such a thing (no veil, etc.)

All in all it was a good day. I enjoyed it, got to meet some new people, and talk to some of the regulars I usually see.

Monday, June 17, 2013

The Price of Laziness...

So back at the end of May I installed a new package of bees in Sutton. It had the typical queen in a queen cage that I sat on top of the bars. Then I had a 2" shim under the inner cover so there was room for the cage.

What you are supposed to do is go back in about 3-4 days and make sure the queen has been released, and then set the hive right (remove the queen cage and shim, etc.).

Well... it was a little more than 3-4 days that I made it back to Sutton to check the hive. It was... 20 days.

So I was thinking the bees may have made a mess of the extra space under the shim. I was right. Here's what I saw when I removed the inner cover:

You can see that the bees had built burr comb (and none too straight!) in the space between the tops of the frames and the inner cover. You can't blame the bees - that's what bees do.

The comb just had nectar (or sugar syrup) in it. What I ended up doing was smoking the burr comb pretty much to get the bees away from it, then I scraped it off with my hive tool and set it out in front of the hive, so the bees could reclaim the food. You can also see a larger-than-normal gap between a couple of the frames - I had to scrape down a little burr comb there too to put the frames together.

Other than that little surprise, the hive is doing very well. Here are a couple of frames where you can see a good pattern:

This second picture is especially good - you can see a solid field of capped brood, with very little missing spots. The next time I visit that hive, there are going to be a lot more bees!

So far there is just the one have. I plan on making a second one, by making a "walk-away split" where I let the bees make a new queen. The next time I visit I'll do that, as well as add the second brood box for the hive that's there.

On a different note, I am mentoring a new beekeeper in the next town over. He's a retired vet, and this is his first year. He's had a difficult time with a hive which went queenless. He finally got a queen a week or so ago, and he is concerned she isn't laying. Since his hive has been without a queen for so long (weeks), any bees left are all foragers. and there aren't any nurse-age bees to tend the eggs.

I decided to take a frame of capped brood from my hive to put in his hive, to give it a jump-start so to speak. So Saturday I got up early to go to my hive to find a frame in the Brown hive. I took off the outer and inner cover, then went to lift the top super.

Uff.... It was heavy!

Wait - heavy? That means HONEY! The bees had pretty much filled up that super and I hadn't realized it! I was thinking that with all the rain we've had, the bees wouldn't have much nectar to gather. Shows how much I know!

After I took the frame, I decided to add another honey super. Hey, who knows - maybe the girls will fill that one up too!

So without a lot of work on my part, I have one super full of honey. Here's what the hive looks like now:

I'll add a super to the Green hive too. You never know - I may get lucky!
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