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Hal

Working the Bees

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Hal    218

A beekeepers work can’t be put on hold because of the excessive heat remember we have a dearth period coming on in a couple weeks ! We have three hives ( down from six ) and I have been putting supers on for  the last two weeks remember we need to keep the girls busy or they may swarm . Putting three on today it was 84 degrees by the time I got stuff around and man was it hot in that suit but it has to be done ! I also provide water close by from a chicken waterer with some stones in the tray to prevent drowning . Also during the dearth we may have to feed to keep the queen producing workers for the next nectar run so get your feeders ready and stock up on sugar to make a simple syrup , and watch closely for “robbing “  , believe you me it can devastate a weaker hive ! 

Another idea Adam suggested ; we had honey in frames from losing last years bees so not to waste it I put the box’s on a wagon on the other side of the field . Took about four weeks for the bees ( of all kinds ) to clean them of honey . Now , some of the frames were too dark and stained to use for new honey so Adam said he had heard of cutting all of the foundation from the frame except for a starter strip from which the bees would build down natural wax which we could use for “Cut Comb Honey “ and since we have had request for this treat I figure we will give it a try ! Let ya know how that works out ... 

Edited by Hal
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Hal    218

We are in full syrup feeding mode and the girls are a little more pissy so that and the fact we are feeding a gallon anda half per day for 3 hives is a sign of a dearth period . Will be about 2 to 3 weeks till nectar flow starts back up . Oh , and never ... ever try to change out syrup feeders in thin lounge pants , my fault took a sting to the side of my leg 😆! Best way is to leave the jar till completely empty , not so many bees to contend with in the feeder and on the cap . 

Edited by Hal
Had the wrong amount of syrup per day .
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Hal    218

Made it through the dearth with no robbing problems  checked honey super boxes estimating I would say a little over a hundred pounds in all . Getting ready for the last push I fed syrup just in case and they have taken very little . They are bringing back a lot of pollen from the Ester flowers and shortly goldenrod and knockweed so I have put on new honey boxes in prep for that onslaught of nectar ! We are going to be really busy in a few weeks ... I hope !! 

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Johnny Go    167

Going to be in the 40's on Sunday, I'll finally have the opportunity to apply sugar blocks to the rest of the hives I wasn't able to get to earlier this winter.  I have to figure out how to quit making so many bees, 16 hives are too many for me to be able to take care of effectively. 

Five of 16 are five frame nucs which I am trying to see how they winter over.  Four of the five were very strong in late December when I opened them to put sugar blocks on.  If any make it I plan to sell them this spring since I certainly don't need more full size colonies.  Of course, I shouldn't count my bees before they brood.

The sugar blocks I use are based on this recipe from beesource.com forums.  I don't use any essential oils, and sometimes substitute the citric acid with a tablespoon of Lemon juice.  I don't use any pollen or pollen substitute, given our long cold spells in which they can't cleanse they don't need the increased chance of dysentery that results from holding it so long.  I like getting about 6 pounds of sugar directly on the frames during the winter before they start brooding in late January and February, They consume virtually all of it by the time the flows start in April, very rarely have to provide any emergency feed in spring.  This is the only time I feed during the year, and the bees seem to love it.  Most years I get 90% survival rates.  I think the sugar helps, so does the oxalic acid vaporizer mite treatments in early August and November.

https://www.beesource.com/forums/showthread.php?290641-My-recipe-method-for-sugar-blocks

 

Edited by Johnny Go

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Hal    218

16 hives ... Wow , and I worry over three , one which despite efforts was a Dec. deadout . I also read your link to sugar recipe but will not have time to make that before this weekend . I have had Winter patties on and need to look in on them and hope for cleansing flights since those temps will be about right . LOL , count your brood all you want ... I’ll be looking for a couple nucs come Spring sooo... 

It’s OAV treatments starting this year for us ! Just no such thing as “ strictly “ non chemical beekeeping it seems . We did MAQs first time this year and mite drop on IPM boards were reasonable . Please recommend a good vaporizer for OAV treatments , Thanks 

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Johnny Go    167

I don't have any experience with commercial vaporizers.  I have a home brewed device.  It is a block of milled aluminum with a glow plug from a diesel engine.  I run it off my lawn tractor.  My only real complaint is the time it takes because of the mass of the block.  I have to leave it plugged in for 4-5 minutes per hive.  Thus it takes me about an hour to do six hives.  This gets to be a hassle for the August treatments which require three weekly doses.

I've been thinking about getting another one which could cut time in half.  If I were to get another standard vaporizer one it would be the Varrox from Oxyvap https://oxavap.com/ .  Mine is similar to their VarroVap, which is half the cost, but the extra time is not worth the savings.  OF course, only part of the time the actual vaporizing.  There is also the time needed to leave the hive sealed, and cleaning and cooling the wand before it can be used again.

This is why I am seriously thinking about getting their ProVap 110 https://oxavap.com/product/provap-110-sidelinercommercial-vaporizer/ .  This unit will treat a hive is about a minute,  And, because the treatment is done through a small hole drilled through a box you can leave the seals in place as you work through the apiary.  OF course, being the um... frugal person I am, I have started to gather the parts to make a home brew version.

A great discussion of the development of a couple of versions can be found here: https://www.beesource.com/forums/showthread.php?332394-Band-heater-vaporizer  The thread is 40 pages long, but well worth the read during a long, cold winter evening.  Total cost of a full blown version is less than cheap wand since I already had an inverter.

 

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Johnny Go    167

Oh, one other thing about the treatment free type philosophy...

This might be fine for certain large operators who have managed to develop hygienic strains and have an operation which is large enough  in area to allow an isolated breeding environment.  There are some people make good progress on developing resistant strains.  But for us small time operations, unless we are willing to buy all of our queens that is not yet practical.

To me, failure to treat your bees when they have a disease or parasites is akin to failing to treat any livestock or creature in your care.  Letting a colony die from neglect is abuse of my responsibility to them.

I have settled on oxalic acid treatments for a couple of reasons. First, like formic acid, oxalic acid is an organic treatment.  It naturally occurs in nature, anyone who has tasted the tartness of rhubarb is familiar with eating a strong dose of this compound.  The added advantage of oxalic is that since it is naturally occurring in the plants gather nectar and pollen, it is also found in honey.  You can leave the supers on the hive during treatment, you just need to slide a piece of plywood, cardboard or corplast (yard signs) between the brood box and supers for a little while.  Tests have shown there is no increase in the oxalic acid amounts in the honey compared to hives which have not been treated.  This strategy has been approved the the US Government.

Since sticking a wand into a nuc is not possible I use Apiguard on them, which is a thyme based organic treatment.  Treating nucs is another reason I am looking at the ProVap.

.

Edited by Johnny Go

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Hal    218

Thank you for the info Johnny Go . I have looked into the Varrox , vaporizer and believe this is the best choice for our little operation . After losing too many hives ( disheartening as all get out ) I joined Soaring Capital Beekeepers last year . What an education I got in a big hurry from some very helpful folks !! We went to screened bottom boards with IPM boards , used MAQs at appropriate time and temps , checked mite counts and this year will have a OAV program in place for Spring . I will consider this winter a success if , with all the prep , I can bring just one hive through and will expand from there . Hives , the most we have had at one time was six and trying to balance them with a couple other hobbies was irresponsible on my part . But now concentrating on the bee’s since basically starting from square one last year , and networking with other more experienced Beekeepers I now have the tools to move forward . Now understand , this old fart likes his hobby and I spend hours watching the girls come and go fascinates and relaxes me no end , but ... any more than five hives is more than I or my son ( partner in crime ) can handle  LOL  ! Keep posting on the subject as I could talk bee’s all day ! 

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Johnny Go    167

It sounds like you are getting it figured out.  I'm sure those two hives will make it through to spring given what you have described about your program.  I typically have a hive or two die out by December.  Usually it is from late season supercedures where the hive decides to replace the queen, unsuccessfully, in September after the knotweed flow.  I had one hive this season die out in December, I think that was from a robbing session I set off during harvest in late September.  Although it was my weak hive all summer.  I should have just pinched the queen and combined it with another hive.  I have a hard time pinching queens.

My biggest problem is that I don't know how to stop making bees.  I don't want this many hives.  There is something about my location that I have had hives filling the brood area by the end of April and swarming shortly thereafter when they have barely begun making drones.  I think it might be from Maple flows from all of the suburban yards near me.  Because I live in a neighborhood swarms really concern me, I don't want to have bees moving into the neighbor's houses.

I have been pretty stubborn about maintaining a single 10 frame deep brood box as my standard set up.  Double 10 frame boxes are just too much work to give more than a cursory inspection, and they are getting too heavy to lift to get to the bottom box.  The problem is there are not many options for swarm management with a single box colony.  Last year I started some double 8 frame boxes, yet still had problems preventing swarms.  This year I am trying  a couple of colonies as one deep and one medium of ten frame boxes.  I might also go back to two 10 frame deeps, but those suckers are heavy and getting heavier every year so probably not.

When I find swarm cells I can't help but make several splits to prevent swarming and angry neighbors.  I move the queen to a nuc colony, leaving the original colony with a swarm cell.  If I have the resources and multiple frames with swarm cells I make additional nucs with the swarm cells. Thus, one becomes three or four.  This is how an apiary goes from three hives to a dozen or more by the end of summer.  It is also why I tend not to get much early honey.  It seems to be a choice between making bees or honey, and if I don't manage swarms at all I get neither.

I made and used Snelgrove boards last year to try and improve my honey harvest.  This delayed swarming so I managed to get a somewhat decent spring harvest.  But, by the end of June, they swarmed anyways and I ended up with two or three hives from the original one.  I will probably use the Snelgrove boards again this year, with just one colony in the top split, and merge the two colonies back into one during the July dearth.  Hopefully this will work well with the double 8 frame colonies, providing a decent honey harvest and no expansion.

There is so much to learn in this hobby, and the turn rate for experimenting is so slow, that I think a lifetime is not enough to really have it figured out.

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Chris    951

Last I knew my bees were doing well. Ya know, the ones that live in a huge pine tree across the creek. 

:D

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Johnny Go    167

You have a bee tree?!?

Then it would make sense for one of the beekeepers near you to put out a swarm trap.  Free bees are good.

I did that about a 200 yards from a bee tree I knew of last year and had a swarm move in within weeks.  I didn't have time to recover them last year, especially with all of the rain and flooding impeding access.  I forgot about them.  Given they survive, that makes me at 16+1 hives. ugh...

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Chris    951
1 hour ago, Johnny Go said:

You have a bee tree?!?

Then it would make sense for one of the beekeepers near you to put out a swarm trap.  Free bees are good.

Yep, for a few years now. Can't remember I checked on them this past summer or not. Guessing I didn't since the creek was flooded more often than not. 

If we see rain like last year, it'd be nearly impossible to get over there. But I'd be okay with someone helping to propogate "native" bees. 

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Hal    218

I can put a swarm trap down there this year if you like . I figured you liked the idea of having a bee tree on that hill  .  

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Hal    218
5 hours ago, Johnny Go said:

I made and used Snelgrove boards last year to try and improve my honey harvest.  This delayed swarming so I managed to get a somewhat decent spring harvest.  But, by the end of June, they swarmed anyways and I ended up with two or three hives from the original one.  I will probably use the Snelgrove boards again this year, with just one colony in the top split, and merge the two colonies back into one during the July dearth

I must admit I had to google the Snelgrove board , dang there is so much to learn and so little time ! Oh wait you already said as much  LOL ! I am really trying to get it figured out and yes it looks as though we are on the right track , don’t want to get cocky though those girls are finicky . Pinching Queens ... nope did it once didn’t feel right somehow . I was going to pinch the queen in my weak hive and combine with another stronger hive , let’s call it hive #2 , so as not to lose all those workers then do a split this season . Something told me not to do a combo , glad I didn’t ... hive #2 was my Dec . Deadout and the “weak “ hive is ( not to jinx it ) going strong ... at least before the minus temps at any rate . We run two broods and leave a full shallow super on them for winter and yep they are heavy buggers aren’t they ! 

We did one pull this year in earl Sept , just after knockweed was done blossoming and white clover was in blossom right up till then as well weird season for keeping track of blossoming , we didn’t even have a dearth up here , white clover carried them through. A little over 200 lbs spun out was bottled and Adam made some into creamed honey , my favorite . The honey for me is just gravy on the taters my satisfaction comes from working the hives and getting in there inspecting to see just what they do . And , this is weird but I find being able to get closer to the hives working around them and just standing beside them an exercise in self control when they are buzzing around bumping my hat . 

Varrox oxidizer on order this week ! 

 

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Johnny Go    167
2 hours ago, Hal said:

I can put a swarm trap down there this year if you like . I figured you liked the idea of having a bee tree on that hill  .  

Putting a swarm trap down there will not bother the bee tree.  That hive will probably produce multiple swarms over the summer, you'll just be catching the ones looking for a new home anyways.

I caught a conversation about how wild hives that have occupied trees or walls for decades must be naturally varroa resistant since they have survived so long.  Turns out that studies have shown those hives tend to die off frequently and then get replaced quickly by a new swarm.

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Hal    218

Hmmm , free bee’s ! And another thing to learn to do , where’s the downside ... 

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Hal    218

Thanks for the link , interesting and very doable with an old brood box with some modifications. Link saved for future reading and reference ! 

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Johnny Go    167

They state shape doesn't matter, just volume about equal to a 10 frame deep.  I used two well used nuc boxes stacked and the bees moved right in.  I put a couple of frames with new foundation in each box, laid a few pieces of old comb with the wax scraped off on the floor as an attractant, and used a few drops of lemon grass oil and the q-tip dipped in LGO in there for additional attractant. 

Like I said, didn't get a chance to check them last year.  I'm really curious as to what has been built in all of that empty space.  I imagine it is going to be quite the mess to get into a real hive box.  I am thinking next time I try this I'll still use a frame or two of foundation but I'll fill the rest of the area with empty frames and starter strips.

I also want to install some around my apiary and see how many of my marked queens I capture.

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Hal    218

I keep a couple nuc boxs handy so will probably use them with a couple frames with foundation as well . Lemon grass oil seems to work for quite a few purposes around the bee yard ... Which here is now down to one hive as of this morning ! The weak hive i believe just didnt have the numbers to sustain them through the last couple days as i checked them before the temps and there was bee noise . Last hive sounds strong and are just where they should be as far as season and weather on a two deep hive . Probably going to order a couple pkgs of bees shortly before the last minute rush , at least get placing on the list . but yes i am going to try the trapping as well . 

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Johnny Go    167

Checked the girls today.  Lots of activity and the snow was yellow.  Found five dead outs, two of the nucs and one single deep.  Lots of dead bees in them and the sugar blocks I put on in December were well worked.  Also, both of the 8 frame double deep hives were dead.  What was weird is there was hardly a bee in them, like they just moved out lock, stock and barrel.

Down to 10 hives now, plus that swarm trap which I don't know about.  The ones I opened up today were all very strong.  They now all have sugar blocks on them.  Obviously I didn't dig into any of them, but I assume they have started producing brood which is how they maintain their population until spring and why they start consuming their stores quickly.

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Hal    218

Lots of action and yellow snow here as we . Mortician bee’s also doing the cleanup chores . I didn’t get to open the last hive today but will check them tomorrow . Wild shot on the 8 frame double deeps ... absconded ? Like I said wild guess . My first dead out this year was a huge mystery to me , a large thriving colony checked everyday for sounds suddenly dead like overnight dead ! All dry and vented as the others . Inspection showed few on frames and a couple inches of dry dead bees on the bottom screen and rack like they died all at once . Now this hive was setup exactly as the others but for the fact it was faced S.E and the other two S, westerly ish , good windbreak etc. just a mystery ! 

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Hal    218

Getting to play with another hive from the same sycamore tree that gave me a small hive to mess with back in Dec. . They were taking the 50 ft butt of the tree down today and found another hive on up the butt about 30’ . We cut out a six ‘ foot section to get it manageable covered the upper hole on the log . The bee’s that strayed were coming back after a bit , put my ear to that top hole and a good strong sound of many pissed off bees . So tomorrow it comes here and instead of a dig out I’m leaving everything intact , now as to orienting up in its natural position or laying down I need to consult some folks that I know who have done this before . I’ll at least give the bee’s a fighting chance ! 

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Hal    218
18 minutes ago, Johnny Go said:

Original orientation otherwise the comb could sag.

Normally I would say that as well but this was the top portion that fell ( they just cut and dropped it ) about 30’ and i should think it’s messed up already inside from the shock of that fall ?! I wish they had lowered it but these guys are not bee people ! I’ll know more tomorrow and will post pics . I learned a lot from that last hive from the same tree and look at this one in the same light , And as you said before ... free bees ! 

 

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