Dec 10

Honey Stick Machine – Part 4a – DC Driver

Solinoid control board

Given the unknowns  developing a machine such as this, I’ve opted to build much of it in smaller functional blocks.  This certainly won’t be a cost effective way to produce machines if we end up marketing it, due to the increased cost of parts.  And assembling circuits on these generic prototype boards is quite time consuming.  But it is just about ideal for this stage of development.  I’m happy to say the DC Solenoid driver board is completed and working.  It’s basically just 8 of the mosfet driver circuits wired on a single board.  It is fairly simple but should be much more reliable than mechanical relays, and it’s one step closer.

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Dec 06

Honey Stick Machine – Part 4 – Circuits

Mosfet control circuit

It’s winter again, or at least it looks like it out the window.  We had several inches of snowfall Tuesday night and it looks like it’s going to stick around for awhile.  So it’s time to get back to the honey stick machine.  It’s been over a year now since I designed the simple MOSFET solenoid driver circuit, and I’ve finally constructed it on the prototype board and tested it. I’m happy to say it worked flawlessly.  It’s probably overkill for the lower power solenoids, but keeping them all the same (the project calls for 7 drivers) will allow significant flexibility.  This is good since I don’t know what I’ll get into once I get into the mechanical side of things.

The picture, from left to right, shows the power supply, Phidgets USB interface, and the prototype board with solenoid on the right side of it.

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Nov 29

Last Mowing of the Season

It’s getting quite late in the year for mowing lawns, but I’ve been putting it off for several weeks waiting for the leaves to fall so they would be mulched up.  Of course most have fallen a fe weeks ago and I couldn’t even use the ‘bee work’ excuse as to why it hasn’t been done.   So this past weekend I finally got around to it.  Pumped up the now completely flat tire on the tractor (another item on the needs-fixed list).  The day was cool in the low 40’s and overcast, promising rain later in the day.  So the bees were all tucked in quite nicely and weren’t likely to get stirred up by the exhaust from the tractor that blows out the side of the engine cover.   A good time to mow the bee yards.

Not a good time, however, to zip though the bee yards not paying attention where the ends of the landscaping timbers the hives were sitting on are.  The bees quickly let me know that they were less than happy with the new orientation of their hive, flat on it’s back.  Fortunately the hive boxes were firmly stick together with propolis so it was a quick matter of setting the hive upright  as hundreds of bees pored out the front entrance.  Given the temperature few took to the air and were back in the hive as nothing had happened a few minutes later.  Sorry, no pictures.  It’s just not the kind of thing you run back to the house to get a camera in the middle of.

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Nov 26

The Sticky Machine Makes Another Appearance.

The Original Sticky MachineNow you can own your own ‘non working’ orignal Sticky Machine.  Only $430 right now on ebay, a fraction of the original $3000 price tag.  Unfortunately it sounds like the seller had as many problems with the machine as others I’ve talked to about it. 

Having filled quite a few honey sticks by hand, it’s not really surprising there are some problems with it.  The viscosity of the honey can vary significantly from jar to jar, at least enough to throw off any sort of timing for filling and sealing.  Temperature of the heating elements plays a big part in sealing time.  Too cool and it seals slowly, too hot and it may melt though the plastic breaking the seal.  It’s really a pretty tricky operation to get right, even by hand.  So with apparently little or no feedback in the system I’m not sure how one would get it to consistently work.

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Nov 20

Rothenbuler Bee Lab to be Destroyed

Simply closing the bee lab in Columbus was apparently not enough for the Ohio State University.  The University has now decided to destroy the Historic Rothenbuler Lab located on the Ohio State University property in Columbus.

Dana Stahlman from the Ohio State Beekeepers Association is organizing a " Save the Building" project.  Dr Tew is checking to see if he can place the building near the bee lab in Wooster.   Meanwhile, a group of volunteers are organizing to remove the building from the OSU property to a location for safe keeping until a "New" home is found.

Funding is needed for this project and some clubs have already made their pledges.  The purpose of the building relocation in Wooster will be to house the OSBA Queen Project activities. 

Any monies donated and not used in the moving will be earmarked for the queen project from which we all benefit.  All donations should be sent to OSBA Treasurer, Bob Hooker,  100 Pyle Rd, Oberlin, OH  44074, email,  ask Bob to "earmark" this for the bee lab relocation.


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Nov 08

Photo Gallery

I have a fair number of beekeeping photos taken over the past several years but only have posted a small handful of them on the website because it’s generally been a pain to do so because they were static pages. Not easy to change, add to or search. So this past weekend I added a feature that’s been long missing from this site, a Photo Gallery.

It is a fairly basic photo gallery, but integrated fairly well with the site. Currently I only have pictures from this year’s queen rearing class posted, but I\’ll add more periodically now that it\’s fairly easy to do. You can view it here:

I should also note, the queen rearing class pictured was done in conjunction with the Ohio State Beekeepers Association‘s queen program. As part of the program, classes on queen rearing were given by 8 of the regional coordinators at various times thought the summer throughout the state. I believe they intend to hold these classes again in 2008 and if you think you may be interesting in attending one of them, and I\’ll make sure you get on the announcement list for the classes.

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Nov 02

October is Here!

Bees at the hive entranceFrost has been on the ground the past couple of mornings and the trees are turning from green to gold and red.  Not a hard freeze yet, but enough to kill the more delicate plants and some trees have only just started changing color.  At least it looks and feels like the the beginning to middle of October.  By the calendar its November 2nd.

As of just a few days ago, the hives were still bringing in a fair amount of pollen and were collecting propolis from any unoccupied equipment they could get to.  The hives are looking much better than this time last year and most are very heavy with honey.  If anything they may be too heavy and I’ll have to pay special attention to the amount of empty area they have for brood this spring.

I’m hoping this is a good sign for this coming winter and spring.  The hives still are quite populous and busy once it gets warm.  The picture to the right is from 1 1/2 weeks ago, but they were still just as busy mid afternoon today.  It’s a big change from their condition this time last year.

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Nov 01

CCD, What can we do Now?

So we don’t have many answers yet when it comes to CCD.  We know several things it is not (cell phones, power towers, aliens…), and know a few things that may be a symptom or part of the cause (most notably IAPV and nosema).  But at the end, the only thing that we really know for certain is the name assigned to it, CCD, and that it has brought more media attention to beekeeping that I think we’ve ever seen before.

But what can we do to prevent CCD from making our hives disappear now?  The 10+ step lists published in newsletters and beekeeping magazines should leave most beekeepers asking ‘is that all?’.  In short it’s simply ‘Be a better beekeeper‘.  The slightly longer version is minimize stress, monitor and treat disease, re-queen frequently, and keep strong healthy hives.  Isn’t that what we were trying to do already?  Of course the bee-havers out there are probably staring at the list in disbelief wondering how they could possibly start doing even a 4th of what’s on the list.  I shouldn’t be to harsh.  These people make good regular customers for package bees.

The only thing possibly new is that given the possible connection with nosema, treatment for Nosema (with Fumadil-B) is considered important.  Personally I’ve never treated for it and have not had a problem with it.  The samples our bee inspector sent in to Beltsville found no nosema this past spring and I really don’t expect to see any difference this winter. So for now I’m taking my chances.  This is about the time it started being noticed last year and so far no disappearing bees here.

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Oct 30

Rothenbuhler Bee Lab Closed?

The official word is that the scope of the beekeeping research on the Columbus (Ohio State) campus at the Rothenbuhler Bee Laboratory has been ‘reduced’ for the present.  While the OSU Entomology administration recognizes the importance and contributions of the lab, restricted funding is a fact within university systems across the US.

From those I’ve talked to, that’s short for: the Lab is closed until we can find someone who can bring in the grants to fund the lab.   The sad fact is much of beekeeping research and breeding programs simply don’t bring in the big corporate grants because there isn’t a product at the end of the research that can be sold to millions of people, directly at least.  While the high-tech science brings in the dollars with it’s promise for new drugs and treatments down the road (and only a few hives are needed for that).  Much of the research wanted by beekeepers involves the labor intensive and sometimes tedious task of running 100’s of hives.  All to develop a bee that doesn’t need treatment or inexpensive treatments that only 10,000s of people will buy.

It’s disappointing, but really not surprising.  The bee scientist position at the lab has been vacant for several years and Sue Cobey who ran the NWC program at Ohio State left for the Laidlaw Bee Laboratory at the University of California at Davis.  Sue will be a great asset there, and I have a feeling the Lab may still have closed eventually even if she had stayed.  The days when the university will do research for the public good even if a particular program can’t generate the direct income are gone.  Even with bee research in spite of the fact we all benefit every time we eat an apple, almond, blueberry, pear, or 100 other fruits and vegetables.

Now, if you could train bees to play football, then you would have a nearly endless stream of money.  The average coach in the BCS conference has a 1.4 million dollar salary.  Couldn’t we take just 10% of that and hire someone to do real research.  A fraction of the profits from football would fund the entire research program.  Are our priorities in the right place?

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Oct 29

Breeding and CCD, the big IF.

Among the many interesting pieces of information the speakers talked about at the North Central Queen Assembly was a piece on the Israeli Acute Paralysis Virus or IAPV for short.  Recently scientists claim to  have found a significant connection between IAPV and Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD).  It is still a great matter of debate if IAPV causes CCD, is a contributing factor, a symptom, or something else. 

However, Greg Hunt of Purdue University, who does research on the genetics of bees stated that they have found that some honey bees have incorporated some of the DNA from IAPV into their own DNA.  More interestingly, these bees that have part of the IAPV genes copied into their DNA seem immune to IAPV.  Thus, IF IAPV causes or is a major contributor to CCD, and IF someone with the money , time and the expertise to run a real breeding program, and IF someone contributes the funding to test the DNA of bees in a breeding program with all the fancy new and expensive machines, then it would be possible to breed a line of bees resistant to CCD.  And that’s assuming CCD is even a concern a year or month from now (another matter of considerable debate).   And that’s an awful lot of IFs.  We’ll have to wait to see how the first big IF turns out.

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