Dec 27

The Mathematics Behind Pouring Honey


Pouring Honey


Fluid dynamics was something I didn’t have to deal with as an electrical engineering student in college.  This is probably ok as the average beekeeper doesn’t need to know much more than it makes a sticky mess when you miss the bottle.

However, I did find this high speed video of pouring honey and it’s mathematical explanation pretty interesting.   I’ve been fascinated by the intricate patterns honey makes as you fill jars.   While I’m at a loss as to what the practical applications of understanding the exact physics of pouring honey may be, they have explained three different modes of pouring honey… Viscous, Gravitational and Inertial Regimes.  These have relatively simple explanations and equations.   The forth mode ‘Inertia-Gravitational’ is yet to be described mathematically (and may be the key to obtaining enlightenment, or not) and the best ‘guess’ is described as ’17th-order nonlinear two-point boundary value problem with two free parameters and 19 boundary conditions’.   Or in layman’s terms, ‘really, really complex’.

So until this mathematical problem can be solved, virtual reality beekeeping may have to wait.  It’s still a cool video.

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Dec 11

Hive Tool From Menards


The hive tool is used by nearly every beekeeper.   While it comes in a few styles, the most common version of the hive tool has made an appearance in home improvement stores in recent years.   It’s no real surprise as the hive tool has hundreds of uses and I always have one in my toolbox, even when I’m not working bees.

The standard hive tool makes a great pry bar for removing trim, tiles, etc.   A putty knife, scraper, and much more.  I’ve even used it to plant tomatoes and as a screw driver when I’ve been in a real pinch.  (I’m waiting to see one show up as a murder weapon on Bones or CSI)

I’ve seen them before in Sears (with the crow bars), Home Depot (with the paint scrapers) and most recently at Menards (on the right).  Red Devil makes one as well.  Typically they are more expensive than from a bee supply company by a few dollars.  The one from Menards did include two other small crow bars for $8.  Not a bad deal.  No idea if they are going to sell the hive tool/pry bar separately (but the carry the Red Devil brand for nearly the same price as the set by ToolShop). Note: The left most ‘pry bar’ in the picture is the hive tool.

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Dec 03

Cooking with Bees


Fried Bee Pupae, yum!  Ok, so it really doesn’t look that appetizing to me, but in the majority of the United States and other countries we have been taught that insects shouldn’t be found in our food.  Not so in other parts of the world where insects are either a staple or a delicacy.

In many parts of the world insects provide cheap and plentiful source of protein.  They are far more efficient source of protein (in terms of resource required per pound) than beef, pork and other meat usually found on or tables.  Nutritionally bee larvae are equivalent to a good lean stake and supposedly have a nutty taste (I’ll take their word for it).  Adult bees have somewhat less nutritional value than the pupae.

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Nov 15

Pollen on the Increase?

According to researches, airborn pollen has increased over the past 25 year and will more than double in the next 28 years.  According to the news article, temperatures and levels of carbon dioxide are responsible for the increase.   Other than the negative effect on those of us who suffer from hay fever what does this mean to beekeepers?

Unfortunately I could not find the news release referenced in the article mentioned above on the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology website (or ACAAI for short), so we can only speculate at the moment.  Increased pollen may mean more resources available to honey bees, particularly protein that is needed to raise new bees.   This may mean larger, more productive hives and less need to feed pollen supplements.  (Sorry, it’s unlikely to produce large chihuahua sized bees, only more populous hives).   There is no mention that there would be any increase in nectar to feed the bees or result in larger honey crops in the article.  The cause of this phenomena listed in the article may have other negative effects on bees as well related to general climate change. In some areas beekeepers have noted certain flowers are producing less honey in recent warmer years than they had in the past.  The only thing I can say for certain is, beekeeping will continue to be a new adventure each season.

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Nov 11

A Skyride for Bees

Old beekeeping articles always fascinate me, both for the knowledge and insight that often was forgotten and has been reintroduced as a new things,  and also for the ideas that apparently didn’t seem to make it off the ground.   This is an example of the latter.   I have yet to see any beekeeper with a skyride or ski lift system to move supers from their bee yard into their honey house as this clipping from the March 1916 issue of Bee Culture shows.   It might have been more practical if  several hundred hives could be kept year round in the same location, but the hives would likely starve and produce no honey because there would not be enough forage to support them all.  The cost of $200 in 1916 equates to about $4200 in 2012, which would be enough to buy an entry level or used ATV with a small bed to transport supers in the bee yard today.   The other option, and the one we went with, was to simply widen the path leading to the bee year so that we can drive the truck to the bees.   This would be fun to see in operation though.

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Nov 09

End of the Season.

Another beekeeping season has come to an end.   As some of our readers have notice, I haven’t had the time to keep up on the website and blog as numerous other things had to be done instead.   So I’m a bit relieved to have made it through the season but also a bit worried about the bees this winter.   I haven’t had the time to do everything I should, so have I done enough?

The forecast for this weekend is predicting unseasonably warm temperatures which will hopefully allow us to get the last of the winterization done.  

  • Are mouse guards in place (for hives with an entrance wider than 3/8″
  • Insulation in place under the inner cover (for those hives with all season inner covers.
  • Check the upper entrance so moisture can escape during the winter.
  • Bottom board trays in place to cut down on the draft in hive. (Screened bottom boards only)
  • Last check of hive weights.   If they are light now you might have to feed fondant.
  • Cleanup any trash and junk in the bee yard and trim back any trees or bushes blocking access or that threaten to fall on the hives.

I had also hoped to relocate the nucs we are trying to overwinter so that they can be grouped together to share heat and so that they don’t blow over, but since the bees still are flying it’s not safe to relocate them by a few yards without loosing precious fall bees.   This task will have to wait until the forecast shows no go flying days in the near future.

As a side note, I’ve finally pulled the plug on the old website and am working on updating the new one.  So it’s a bit of a mess at the moment but heading the right direction.

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Apr 03

First Swarm of the Year

Hard to believe the first swarm call was on April 2nd.   It shouldn’t be overly surprising though given our warm March weather.  Hives are bursting with bees and need room now.

You need to get out in your hives the first chance you get and reverse hive bodies or add supers to give them more room or your hives will soon be looking like this.

I manage to visit three of my yards this evening after work and most had a lot of activity in the top box.   The hives have lots of drone brood and honey plastered up against the inner cover in many of the hives.  I didn’t have time to do much so instead of rotating brood boxes I just added supers.   It was faster, and it let me hit more than one yard, but it does mean I’ll have to go back later when I have time and rotate boxes if they need it.  But when you have more than a few hives you need to make these trade offs.   Super all the hives, or rotate a few and chase the swarms from those you didn’t have time to rotate.

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Apr 01

April Has Arrived.

It looks like the long warm spell of March is over.  We should be starting our first grafts this coming week and the weather forecast only predicts one day that even reaches 70 degrees.  A big change from the last few weeks where nearly every day was in the 70′s.

With the use of an incubator to keep the brood warm, I probably will start grafting early this week, but what is of bigger concern is the extended forecast. puts it in the 50′s to low 60′s through April 25th currently which may make it a real challenge to populate the mating nucs in a couple weeks when the queen cells are ready, and even a bigger challenge for queens to mate.

The hives are raising plenty of drones however, so we’ll start and cross our fingers.

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Mar 22

First Spring Inspections

It’s hard to tell by the calendar that it is only March.  For the past 2 weeks we have had weather consistently in the 70′s to mid 80′s and mostly sunny.   This would be the norm for late May or even June.  Needless the to say the bees are very, very active and have plenty of flowers to forage on.   Blooms are easily running 3-4 weeks ahead of schedule.  Maples bloomed in late February and the tree to the right (a pear, picture taken March 21st) bloomed April 24th in 2009.  It’s the same tree that is showing in this post.

The good news….  The bees are in great shape.   Pollen patties went in last week.   I really didn’t need them this year, but they were already made up so I went ahead and put them on anyways.   A few hives are a bit light, but overall they are looking good and loss currently stands at around 5%.

The bad news…. ticks are already out, so are flies, mosquitoes (pests for the beekeeper not the bees), and small hive beetles look to be as strong as I normally see in fall already in some hives.   Normally this hasn’t been a concern in our area, but we will have to keep a close eye on them.   It’s quite possible we’ll have to do something about them this year.

So what does this mean?   The weather and the bees are telling me I should be out grafting and getting ready to split hives (I see a heavy swarm season this year).  But the calendar tells me the my earliest graft should be nearly 2 weeks away, and 3-4 weeks until I start splitting hives for mating nucs.  For now I’m waiting because I’m worried this weather will pass and if we have a normal April mating could be a problem if I start too soon.

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Mar 11

New Building – Framing

Just as the concrete was finished and our builders were ready to start with the framing, it started raining.   We sorely needed the rain because the honey harvest we poor and the golden rod and aster was the last chance to top off the  the honey supers for winter.

The builders used the time to pre-cut much of the wood off site so when it finally stopped raining, the walls started going up pretty quickly.

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