Jul 24

Honey Stick Machine Update

With a change of jobs and being in the middle of bee season, I haven’t had much time to devote to much else, including working on the honey stick machine.

I have noticed however that Dunbar Honey Farm is now advertizing their honey stick machine in the American Bee Journal for $1900  (Phone 586-770-9953).  I suspect this is the same machine he had a year ago when my wife talked to him.  If so, it is a relatively manual system  that uses a specially made pump, a holder for a dozen or so straws and an impulse sealer.  It certainly beats filling them individually with a syringe, but isn’t yet the automated machine I’m hoping for (though I’m sure it’s far cheaper).  If anyone finds out differently please let me know.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.honeyrunapiaries.com/blog/honey-sticks/honey-stick-machine-update/

Jun 19

I quit, sort of…

I quit my job.  I never really thought that after 12 years at Kohli & Kaliher Associates I’d be doing anything else unless I could afford to do beekeeping full time.  But I had a good offer from a company I did some freelance programming work for over the past several years and could refuse.  It can be a little big unnerving to leave a good stable job and take a chance in a different line of work.  But the money is there and it lets me work from home and have a bit more flexibility with my schedule.  Will take a while to really get into the groove of things at Data Business Systems, but I’m sure in a few weeks I’ll be in the swing of things.   So it’s not beekeeping full time, and it is a full time job, but I think I’ll like it and it will give me more flexibility to answer phones, and beat the 4:00pm storm front to keep the grafting schedule.  It also got me one thing I’ve wanted for some time, an office where I can keep my records, do shipping, insemination, etc.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.honeyrunapiaries.com/blog/journal/i-quit-sort-of/

Jun 05

Beekeeping Goals for 2007

I suppose this should be something that is traditionally done around the near year, but everything seems to be running late.  Poor weather and lack of time with my wife staring her new real estate office, my day job, and other things that came up during the spring and summer that kept me from accomplishing what I had intended to do with the bees last year.  However, this year, since I’ve been forced to significantly reduce my commercial queen rearing, I should have time to complete my goals in regards to my bees. 

I’ve mentioned a few goals already, but though I should write them down more formally:

  • Build back to 100-120 hives.   – The winter (and summer/fall preceeding it) was hard on most of Ohio.  Losses here were significant and it will take some work to get back to the number we had.  On the plus side, we can see now which queens were really superior.
  • Requeen most of my hives.  Most hives will be requeend with the next generation of queens.  I’ve always found it hard to get rid of old queens, but for a successfull program I need to make room for truely superior queens.
  • Have 50% (or more) of my hives headed by II queens.  This goal is two fold.  First simply to take the best stock available and build a good base of pure stock to evaluate for next years queens.  And 2nd, to simply practice and perfect my instrumental insemination skills.
  • Stock improvement. – We can’t maintain a stagnant gene pool.  Bees thrive on diversity.  To that end I need to evaluate and bring in new stock and this year I’ll hopefully be adding stock from both Sue Cobey’s program and Joe Latshaw.
  • Harvest in early August.  – Havesting earlier will give more time for inpections, treatments (if necessary) and fall requeening of any hive that is no up to par.  Plus harvesting earlier may while the flow isn’t completely dried up may help avoid the severe robbing of the honey house I experience last year.
  • Try overwintering Nucs/10 frame hives.  – Another beekeeper locally had good success overwintering single deeps above full sized colonies separated by a double screen board.  I’d like to give it a try and possibly use it to make up losses in the spring or for expanding next year.
  • Inspect hives earlier in August and address mites and other issues earlier.  It may make little difference if we have a good fall.  But if the fall is cut short like last year, inspecting, requeening and treating earlier will give them the time they need to build up with young healthy bees before the weather forces them to shut down.
  • Feed pollen patties in the fall.  It may be questionable, but shouldn’t hurt.  In many years it probably wouldn’t make a difference, but with last fall it may have made a huge difference in overwintering success.  In any case I have the patties ready in the freezer so it won’t take much extra effort.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.honeyrunapiaries.com/blog/beekeeping/beekeeping-goals-for-2007/

May 25

Unintentional 2 Queen Hives

2 Queens in one hiveOne of my goals this year, among others, is to have all my queens marked.  So in the course of routine inspections I’ve been making an attempt to find the queen and mark her, because it is much easier to find them now than later in the season when their population is much higher. (or at least it was easier a couple weeks ago when this picture was taken).  I’ve also started the habit of always having my marking pen handy, especially when I go to an outyard just in case I run into an unmarked queen.

So during inspection of one week hive, I found the queen, pulled out the pen and was ready to mark her.  Then I looked down and noticed a white dot moving around on the adjacent frame (last year’s queen).  This apparently was one of those cases where mother and daughter live side by side happily.  So I marked the ‘new’ queen and put her back in the hive to let the sort it out.  This picture was taken a week later and both queens were found near each other on the same frame.  And just last week I found yet a 3rd queen in the same hive.

In another hive in the same yard I found one of my breeder queens I thought had been superceeded last fall.  But I was happy to find both queens doing fine, having co-existed for nearly 9 months now.  It’s not somthing you see often, but it would be interesting if you could breed in the desire to maintain multiple queens on a regular basis.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.honeyrunapiaries.com/blog/beekeeping/2-queens/

May 17

Found, Your 2 cents at the Post Office!

Parcel post, wastefull packagingAs I’m sure  most in the US already know, the Post Office recently raised the cost of a First Class stamp from 39 to 41 cents.  They also raised the cost of most of their other services significantly.  This especially affects priority and express mail which in turn affects the cost to ship honey and queens.  (To the extent I’m now taking a loss on shipping for all pre-paid queen orders I still can fill).  In addition, they now are also charging by the size of the package (similar to what UPS does).  So your larger light weight packages will cost more to send.

Parcel Post Address I do understand the cost of labor, benifits (especially health), and transportation have gone up significantly.  All major costs to the post office.  So I do understand their need to raise prices.  But when I receive a package from the Post Office, like the one pictured at the right,  that contains plastic envelopes for international shipments, I begin to wonder.  For some reason they felt the flexible and virtually indestructible envelopes needed extra padding via on of those air bags.  It’s obviously extra cost, labor, a bigger package, and completely unnecessary (and something they didn’t do before the price increase).  I think I just found where my 2 cents went!

Permanent link to this article: http://www.honeyrunapiaries.com/blog/rants/found-your-2-cents-at-the-post-office/

May 09

The positive side of big winter losses.

Old dirty framesAt first it’s hard to think of a positive side of losing 55% (or more) of your hives.  It means lost sales of nucs, queens, expense and time buying packages and/or making splits and possibly a reduced honey crop because split hives aren’t as strong as they should be when the flow starts.

But there is a positive side.  In good years every scrap of equipment I have is on hives, unless it’s in such bad condition that even the bees won’t touch it (and that takes quite a bit).  This year, all the damaged, old dirty or mouse eaten frames from all the deadouts were piled up for recycling or burning.  Over the past week as I did an inspection of all my hives, I also pulled any (unused) junk frames from the live hives as well.  Most were positioned on the outside of the hive bodies so in most cases they weren’t really used yet.

The wax melter was first filled with frames, but with litterally 100’s of frames to process it would take all summer, with only a little bit of wax in these old frames.  So the rest went into the burn barrel.  Sort of a sad sight, but I’m sure the bees will be happier and healthier without all those old dirty frames harboring an untold number of AFB spores and other contamination.

The other upside is that I’ll have more time and can focus more on queen breeding rather than queen rearing.  The first batch of queen cells destined for instrumental insemination have just been placed in queenless hives and next week we’ll be inseminating them. 

Permanent link to this article: http://www.honeyrunapiaries.com/blog/beekeeping/the-positive-side-of-big-winter-losses/

May 08

It’s not CCD (Colony Collapse Disorder)!

Any other beekeeper out there sick and tired about hearing this ‘mysterious’ bee disease, CCD (Colony colapse disorder?).  The coverage has been overwhelming from national to local TV coverage (on every network including PBS), radio and newspapers down the small local papers.  And it seems to be increasing with attention from even the US congress.  The continuous stream of stories all saying the same thing with little or no new information is becoming unbearable.  Then there are the questions for everyone I meet and phone calls from reporters asking about the bees.

I don’t doubt CCD exists, someting with the same symptoms has been described as early as 1915 and in many different countries.  There are many beekeepers in the US that lost quite a few hives with symptoms matching CCD exactly.  Some of them have been virtually wiped out by it, and I understnd their loss. However, not all the bee losses this year were due to CCD.  Many were due to well known and explained reasons such as starvation, mites and other diseases.  It’s almost too easy just to blame the unknown than to really take a look at what is really happening in some of these hives.

CCD has been reported in Ohio, but from talking to many beekeepers thoughout the state, the state inspectors and my own observations, the majority of the 72% average loss in ohio was not due to CCD.  Rather it was ultimately due to weather.  The 2006 summer was poor for honey production and the following fall was no better.  This resulted in many hives that either did not have enough honey to survive the winter, or that simply did not have a strong population of young bees, or both.  This ment that hives either starved, or their population dwindled thought the winter until they were too small to sustain themselves though the bitter cold this past February. 

Looking back, the loss of bees this winter in Ohio shouldn’t have been a surprise.  I honestly expected a bad winter, with losses several times the normal level, but even that was underestimating the loss I did have.  Starting around June of 2006, hives did not build up as they normally would.  This really continued into fall and should have been a sign to all of us that we needed to do something.  Sadly most of us (including myself) didn’t do enough.  We treated for mite and feed sugar syrup so they would have enough for winter, but failed to reconize the lack of young bees in the hive.  I know hindesight is 20/20, but should I ever see these signs again I will be feeding pollen and pollen substitute to increase brood production in the fall.  Interestingly I just spoke to a beekeeper who use to know Don Cox, a longtime beekeeper whom everyone seems to know.  Don recommend feeding pollen in the fall because it boosted the strength of the hive going into winter.  That piece of advise may have saved many hives this past winter.  The one beekeeper I know of who did this lost 0% of his hives.  (Note: Doc Cox was instrumental in founding the Northwest Ohio Beekeepers Association and started the honey booth at the Allen County Fair.  He passed away just a few years ago and will be missed by those who know him.)

On the plus side, honey bees are finally getting a lot of attention.  I’m not sure it’s putting beekeeping in the best light with all the ‘doom and gloom’ talk, but at least it’s getting attention.  And more important it looks like it may be translating into dollars for research in beekeeping, something that is badly needed.  So I do welcome the attention.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.honeyrunapiaries.com/blog/beekeeping/its-not-ccd-colony-collapse-disorder/

May 04

Honey from Yellow Jackets?

Yellow Jackets selling honey?The image to the right is NOT, I repeat, NOT a honey bee.  Nor has anyone figured out how to get honey out of them.  It is rather a yellow jacket, a type of wasp.  They are the stinging insect that hangs around garbage cans at amusement parks and ball games, especially in the fall, and should not be confused with a honey bee.

With the blame honey bees receive for stings actually from yellow jackets (even in newspapers to the extent of calling them killer ‘honey’ bees), and the misidentification of the general public, this picture is especially troubling.  I already get calls about ‘honey bee swarms‘ in the fall that are really yellow jackets and don’t really need the public to have any encouragement in that direction.  I received a link to this picture on a honey manufacturers homepage (by the manufacturer soliciting their products).  What is especially annoying is that this manufacturer claims to run some 20,000 colonies themselves as well as processing honey from others.  You would think they know what a bee is.  (That said, the other pictures on their website showing ‘bees’ acually appears to be real honey bees).

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Apr 24

First Graft of 2007

Queen Cells 24hours after graftingI’m only running about 2 weeks late due to the weather.  On Friday I made up a strong queenless hive by removing a queen a couple frames of brood and bees from a hive, placing them in a five frame nuc.   Then adding a full medium of bees and brood to the now queenless hive.   Saturday afternoon I grafted the first batch of larvae from one of my overwintered NWC breeder queens. 

This particular breeder made it though the winter in great shape with a good strong population (you couldn’t tell it was a bad winter looking at them).  She was from the European stock (semen) Sue Cobey managed to import last year after many years of trying to get approval and cutting though all the red tape.  I must say the effort was well worth it as the 2 queens I have from this stock both look great and are probably the strongest hives I have.

A check this Sunday revield what I had hoped for, almost perfect acceptance of the grafted larvae.  37 of the 38 took.  I might actually be getting the hang of this.  Lack of recent practice in previous years usually made the first graft difficult and often with less than desireble acceptance resulting in having to regraft.   A picture of the cell cups, still well covered with bees after being removed from the hive to check it, is show to the right.  This picture was taken just 24 hours after grafting.  You can already see a good rim of wax being built on the cells and a good amount of white royal jelly in the bottom of the cups.

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Apr 23

The Bees are Here!

Package BeesAfter 2 weeks of delays, the bees are here.  110 packages of bees arrived around 7 and Saturday.  While I was eager to get them started, I really didn’t mind the delay due to all the bad weather, and even snow we had the previous weeks.  By 8 the first beekeeper had already picked up his packages and most of the rest of the beekeepers picked theirs up on Saturday. 

Most were in very good shape with only a couple with a lot of dead bees in the bottom of the cage, and only one queen was reported dead in the cage (a replacement was sent out this monday).  Timing couldn’t have been any better as the weather was beautiful, if not even a bit warm for the package bees.  We kept the last ones to be picked up on the cool concrete floor of the garage, and it was none too soon as Sunday got into the 80’s and the bees in the remaining packages were starting to get stressed running around the cages.

Those I had purchased myself to help make up for losses were installed on Friday and Saturday without incident.  They were relatively calm for being transported so far and being shaken out of a cage.  A few queens were released on Sunday, and the rest will be released today, weather permitting.  I watched the first queen released on the comb was very calm, and laid her first egg after only 5 minutes.  I’m hoping that’s a good sign of queens well taken care of (I’ve seen queens banked for awhile before shipping take a week or more to start layng)

Permanent link to this article: http://www.honeyrunapiaries.com/blog/beekeeping/the-bees-are-here/

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