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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Mar 06

New Building – Credit and Funding

Before I get too far into the building saga.   I should give a hats off (which is saying a lot coming from a beekeeper) to Farm Credit Services.   Without their help we could never have started this building project.
We had attempted for a couple years to get a business loan, SBA loan, personal loan or anything we could do to get the funds to make it happen.  And while every bank we went to liked our credit scores, the significant amount we had to put down, and saw that the business could pay for the loan (I do have a full time job as well), none wanted to do anything more than refinance our home.   Even the banks that claimed they specialized or were the biggest SBA lender in Ohio gave us the same song and dance.  We had all but given up and though we would have to simply save up the money for the next many years before we could start.

But after reading an ad in the Farm Bureau newsletter,  I looked up Farm Credit Services.  They only work with farmers, but we qualified based on our beekeeping.  I contacted our local office in Delphos, took in the paperwork I had given to all the previous lenders (literally everything they would ever need), and in 2 days I received a call telling me I was approved and to let them know when we had started building and when I wanted the check.  Not only was I approved, but it was the easiest loan process I’ve ever been involved with (that’s including 2 home purchases and several refinances).  It was also much cheaper than a refinance and the interest rate was far less that what I was previously quoted for a business loan.

So thank you Farm Credit Services.  You have made this project possible.

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Mar 03

New Building – Foundation

Our contractors started digging the footer for our new storage building in August.  That part went smoothly.   Their backhoe that was much bigger than our small Kubota BX22 made short work of the remains of the one tree stump we just couldn’t remove.  We had been chipping away at it for nearly a week with chain saws, axes, pick axes, shoves and the Kubota.  We did manage to get 2/3rds of it out, but it was once a huge tree and was going to be in the corner of the new building.

The concrete contractors moved in to start the walls and floor much quicker than I had anticipated.  I was planning on having a week or so to install drainage and dust collection pipes under the floor for future use but that didn’t happen.  Fortunately my small Kubota was able to ‘hop’ the foundation with wooden ramps and I installed what I needed to while the walls cured, just in time for the floor.   Still I missed the Allen County Fair completely this year to get my part of the job done.

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Feb 29

February 29th – 69F and Sunny

The weather forecast was calling for rain, but it cleared out early and the day was warm, humid and sunny with a light breeze.   The bees were very, very active.   Unlike yesterday, the bees were virtually ignoring the dry pollen substitute I had put out for them.   A quick inspection of the activity told me why, they were gathering real pollen from somewhere.  I was a bit surprised because the silver maple outside my door was not yet blooming.

Later in the day, activity at the pollen substitute had increased somewhat, but was not the thick cloud they would have been if no real pollen was available.   I though the picture below was pretty cool as it caught most bees in flight as they had just flew up in response to my breath while I was taking the picture:

The source of most the the real pollen, probably a few maple trees that had started blooming.   I did find one on my property that was humming, but not all of them.  I’m hoping the others hold out till we have another warm day next week.   This is the earliest I recall silver maples blooming in recent memory.  In past years it has been mid to late March when the maples bloom.  Normally I start putting pollen patties in the hives the first week of March, a week or two before the maples begin to bloom.


Nearly every hive in my yard had activity today,  Including most of the nucs I am attempting to overwinter this year.   I put most of them in groups of 4 to help provide a windbreak for each other.  It will be interesting to see which ones did well when it gets a bit closer to spring.

Still, activity at the hive was not always a good sign.  This following hive had a lot of activity.  But it had no pollen gathering and the activity was more frantic and disorganized.  It also had the waxy residue near the top fo the white box that is a sign of robbing.  I’m not 100% certain, but my experience tells me this particular hive didn’t make it and had a lot of unprotected honey.

I’m not sure what this incredibly early start means for the bee season this year.  It looks quite promising with a lot of live hives.   But it’s still very early and we’ve been fooled before.   At this point I’m most worried about starvation.

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Feb 25

Old Barn Cleanup

We were able to clean up most of the wood on the barn in the fall.   The foundation took a lot longer.  In part because bee season had started,  but also because of the weight and amount of the flagstone and brick foundation and concrete floor.   The good news was that there was no reinforcing steel and years of groundhogs living under the floor left much of it cracked and broken.   Still it was fairly week concrete and the larger pieces quickly yielded to the sledge hammer

The yard doesn’t look the same without the old barn.   I rather miss is and the old shade tree that was on the south side of the barn that came down several years prior.  The picture below is taken from the 54 foot hill (or reservoir) the city of Lima built across the road from the old barn.

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Feb 15

New Products – The Ultimate Hive Stand

Honey Run Apiaries now carries The Ultimate Hive Stand.  With snow on the ground today we haven’t had a chance to try it ourselves, but it looks like a well though out stand.  It’s lighter than the concrete blocks, and more rot resistant than the old pallets we  tend to use.  It’s easy to assemble and gets the hive off the cold wet ground.   It’s available for standard 10 frame, 8 frame and beemax size hived and has an optional frame rest built in.

In addition to looking great and the long list of features and benefits the manufacturer claims, I’m betting it will help with skunks by making them bare their underbelly and should be easy to trim around with the weed wacker.  It’s perfect for the hobbyist with a few hives in their garden.  I’m looking forward to the warm weather and trying it on our queen cell builders.  The extra height should make them easier on the back to work with.

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