Tag Archives: Honey

Winter Hive Prep.

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Winter’s not here yet, but it is time to think about preparing your hives for winter here in the high desert of Central Oregon.  If you have staggered the hive boxes to help with summer ventilation, such as in the picture above, its time to close them up if you have not already done so.

Most importantly its time for a hive check to see if your bees have enough stores for winter.  Big strong hives will have put away plenty of extra honey making it possible for you to share in the bounty.  BUT WAIT!  Check your other hives first.  If you have made some late season splits or simply have a hive that has not done as well as you would hope, pull some frames of honey from the strong hives and share it with the weaker hives.  That way everyone is set for winter.

If your hives are low on stores and you need to feed, you want to feed a 2 to 1 mixture of sugar and water.  Two parts sugar to one part water.  Takes lots of stirring and hot water!

This is also the time of year the mite populations peak.  Do a mite count and see how your hives are doing.  One way to do a mite count is with a powdered sugar roll.  Collect one cup of bees and add them to a pint jar that is then capped with a screened lid.  Through the screen add a heaping tablespoon of powdered sugar.  Roll the jar to coat the bees and then let the jar sit for one minute.  After a minute, take the jar and shake out the powdered sugar (and mites) into a pan with a very shallow layer of water.  The water will melt the powdered sugar and reveal the mites.  Count your mites.

There is about 300 bees in a cup and you divide your mite count by 3 to get mites per 100 bees – or a percentage.  Anything over 5 percent and you may want to treat.  If you have been following along with my blog you know we don’t use chemical miticides in our hives.  Instead we create brood breaks to control mites and use essential oils.  If you must use a miticide, I suppose the Mite Away Quick Strips (MAQS) would be a choice to make as they are an organic acid that is corrosive, not toxic, thereby killing the mites physically and giving them little chance to build resistance.  Beware though!  A respirator is suggested use when applying this treatment and you would not want to apply the MAQS when temps are expected above 85 or you may harm the queen.  MAQS are effective but they are expensive and somewhat hazardous to apply.

If you prefer a softer, natural approach, use food grade organic essential oils.  Its not a silver bullet and not an immediate kill like the MAQS, but it is organic and will help to control your mites.  To make a concentrate, add 1 teaspoon of Wintergreen oil, 3/4 teaspoon Tea tree oil, a few drops of spearmint and a few drops of lemongrass oil to one cup of water in a blender and run on low for five minutes.  When done add this to a half gallon jar of water.  This is your concentrate.  When you feed this to the bees you add one cup of the concentrate to one gallon of 2 to 1 feed.

If your creating brood breaks during the season and following up with essential oils, you will lose very few hives to mites without using chemicals.

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Dog Days of Summer – And Honey Too!

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That’s the Burls!   And Burly Dog thinks its just too stinking hot to be doing much outside.  (over 100 the last couple days)  So I’m writing this little piece instead.

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That there is a beautiful jar of comb honey!  I’m about half way through my honey harvest this year and this comb is cut from a foundationless frame of honey comb.  Using a foundationless frame gives you a deeper comb.

It’s also time for some mite control.  If you’ve been reading this blog for very long you already know that Worker Bee Honey is entirely free of miticides.  (Insecticides used in the bee hive to kill mites – I mean really, who wants an insecticide in their honey?  Those who purchase store bought honey???)  Anyway, the best and most natural way to control mites is to split your hives, thereby eliminating the mites food supply for approximately 30 days and achieving nearly a 100 percent mite kill.  I’ve already done that with most of my hives this year but for those I did not split I am going to feed some essential oils.

I do this twice a year, spring and late summer/fall, but this time of year the yellow jackets are on the prowl and feeding a syrup can encourage robbing.  So I’m going to share with you an essential oil recipe for making patties.  You may wonder about feeding right now.  Well most people do wait until a little later, but think about it.  If you did a mite count right now you are likely going to find a high count in the hives you did not split.  Mites bring disease and sometimes the hive is succumbing to the diseases the  mites bring long before the mites bring down the hive.  No reason to let those little buggers run around in your hive any longer than necessary.  Even though everything used in the essential oil mixture is organic, food grade, I do this after I have harvested the honey I’m going to take from the hive.

After much digging and research on the web I have found patty recipe that delivers approximately the same level of essential oils as the syrup recipe I have been using, with some minor differences.  This recipe makes 20 to 25 patties depending on how large you make each of them.

  • 3 Pounds of cane sugar  (Use cane sugar because beet sugar is from GMO beets in the US)
  • 1 Pound of Shortening (Organic Palm oil works well, but if you don’t have it available use an organic vegetable shortening)
  • Spearmint  5 3/4 teaspoon
  • Thyme  5 3/4 teaspoon
  • Tea Tree  3 3/4 teaspoon
  • Lemon Grass  7.5 teaspoon  (All of these are food grade of course)
  • 3 Tablespoons Honey (from your own hives)
  • 1 Tablespoon of Vinegar
  • 4 Tablespoons of Nozevit  (Produced from certified organic plant material)  It restores the natural PH and elasticity in the bees mid gut and contains probiotics that help bees digestion.)  Helps prevent and control nosema.

Mix the essential oils into the sugar, either by hand or with a hand mixer.  Then add the honey and vinegar.  (white vinegar or organic apple cider)  Vinegar brings the PH of the mixture closer to the ph of honey which makes it easier for the bees to digest.  Then add the Nozevit.  Finally, add the shortening.  Mix until the mixture is smooth and there are no lumps.  There should be just enough shortening to hold the mixture together.

I like to make the patties in the kitchen and lay them out between layers of wax paper, then take however many I need depending on the bee yard I’m going to visit.  Makes 20 to 25 patties depending on how large you make them.  If you don’t want to use syrup this fall, then give this recipe a try.

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That’s a frosty adult beverage.  It probably looks pretty good right now if your hiding out inside the house with the a/c on waiting for cooler temps before you mix up your patties and go to the bee yard.

Cheers!

Honey For Sale

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Every year I get requests for my honey long after I am sold out. Honey is generally harvested in August and I always have a waiting list of customers so it goes fast.

This year I am expanding my hives again, so if you are local to the Central Oregon area and want some of my all natural honey, then its time to think about how much you might want.

Yeah I know, it seems early, but there is a demand for honey that is chemical free. Let me explain. I don’t use commercial “miticides” in my hives. What’s a miticide? A miticide is basically an insecticide. It is used to kill the mites which can destroy beehives. Miticides leave a chemical residue behind in the wax and the honey. Levels vary, but do you really want an insecticide in your honey?

I can do this because I am a small producer and can take the time required to manage my hives without these chemicals. It is simply too labor intensive for a large commercial operator to manage his/her hives without using these chemicals.

Also, keep in mind that some of the brands of honey you are most familiar with at the grocery store are cut with corn syrup. Thats right and if you don’t want to believe that just go do a little research on the web. Its there.

So, if you are in the Central Oregon area ( I know there are many of you out there following my season of beekeeping blog) and you want some of this seasons honey, start thinking about how much you want. It always sells out fast. You can contact me at whalersman@gmail.com

Spring is just around the corner and the bees will be making your honey real soon. Think about that the next time you go to spray a dandelion. Dandelions are a favorite bee food, so if you have to spray, kick the flower off the plant first, then spray. That will keep most of the bees from coming into contact with your spray. Thank you.

A Beekeepers Short Story

The troops were all dead.  It was a killing field, or maybe the detonation of a small nuclear device, befitting the size of a bee, smuggled in on the back of some non-descript illegal; maybe a yellow jacket, or a hive beetle perhaps?  The top bars were covered with dead and not a single one stirred when their home was taken away by wheelbarrow.

A cool breeze sifted through the lifeless tan and bronze bodies and found none worthy of flight.  The weak sun, its honey colored glow serving only to highlight the disaster, failed in its effort to muster even one to attention.

It had once been a thriving city, this emerald in the desert.  Its Queen was held in the highest esteem and the little city was known far and wide for its royal jelly.  So cheerful and productive were its citizens that the city burst with growth, ever expanding until its walls hummed with the buzz of good cheer.  Guards were stationed at the front gate, ever alert and at attention, while the citizens came and went on their busy errands. Some brought nectar to honor the Queen while others brought stores of pollen for her workers.  The Guardian thrilled at the sight of them approaching the gate, laden with their weighty loads of plunder and landing heavily on the deck before going inside to present their gifts to the Queen.

As the supplies came in, waves of other bees would leave for the fields to gather from crocus, daffodils and hyacinth.  This golden pollen and sweet nectar would not be enough to feed the masses, but the season was early and it was only the first fruits of the season.  A cry had gone out from the Queens attendants that food supplies were running low and every available worker was needed to bring in the fuel that would feed and heat the castle.

Alas, their efforts failed.

On the eve of a bitter, frosty night, with temperatures hovering near 8 degrees, the heat had gone out in the castle.  All hands gathered around the Queen to protect her and keep her warm.  They worked their wings like they did every night, striving to maintain 90 degrees in the castle, but one by one, they fell away.  The food supplies were exhausted and the workers, already weakened from lack of nourishment, could not keep the heat on throughout the night.  As they perished, the remaining few worked harder than ever to maintain warmth in the castle, causing them also to fall aside with exhaustion.

Prowling, baying and ever present, the Queens greatest enemy crept through the unguarded door.  First to the far reaches of the castle, then down the halls and through the doors to the inner chambers where it’s cold, frozen fingers immobilized the guards and reached the young brood snuggled in their beds. Quietly it stilled them before proceeding to snuff out the workers and subdue the Queen herself.  The castle fell silent.

This is how the Guardian found them the next morning.  Searching throughout the castle, not even a single bee was moving.  It appeared all had been lost and the thriving little kingdom would perish.

Resting on a stump, reflecting on his loss, he watched the workers in a nearby lesser realm working the same fields of spring color the now perished kingdom had once worked.  They would have known workers from the lost kingdom and he was sure that word had already spread throughout the land.  It was then the Guardian felt the pangs of loss again.  He looked back toward the empty gates of the now silent hive.  No longer were heavily laden flights landing like newborn birds learning their craft.  It seemed impossible, that just hours before, this flourishing little empire had been silenced.  The Guardian mourned the loss of a dear friend, a friend closer to his heart than he had known.

The world could never know what he had celebrated with these miniature friends, for few can know the intimacy shared between man and beast, however small, except those that occasionally choose to leave this world and become part of theirs.  He had walked the halls of their castle, known the inner sanctum and shared its secrets like no other.  The weight of it all brought not just the tears to his eyes, but the burden of knowing he had broken the bond of trust shared with the keepers of this little fortress.  If only he had brought food to carry them through the spring until natures nectar flow filled the hive with nourishment.

The Guardian remained there on the stump, pondering his mistake and longing for another chance.  The incessant buzz of workers in the nearby realm coming and going on their busy appointments, digging at his reminiscence of the times he had shared in the now silent deep residing before him.  One worker of those workers, struggling under its load came to rest upon his knee.  It paused long enough to rest its wings and he longed to carry it to the deck of its hive and spare it the effort to finish its trip.  Instead he simply watched while the bee looked up and appraised him with suspicion, before adjusting its wings to absorb the warmth of the sun.  Then, after a couple short buzzes, lifted up and lumbered to the landing deck of its own castle, the bright yellow pollen gleaming on its legs.

As that single bee moved on with its life, the Guardian knew he must do the same and with one last glance at the still and lifeless bodies lying atop the frames of the bottom deep, he turned to go. The sun was gaining strength now and he felt its warmth reaching through his jacket as he passed the swelling buds on the peach tree.  Then, upon approaching the upper half of the castle he had brought back to the house in his wheelbarrow, he could not believe his eyes.  Surely he was mistaken, but the top of the hive, all along the top bars, was moving, slowly, but moving none the less.

Quickly he returned with this piece of the hive and restored the castle.  He found blankets to wrap around the castle in an effort to keep out the wind and restore warmth.  He brought feed in the form of warm sugar water and soon the workers drank deeply.  A quart and a half in one day!  Now the fight was on.  Were their enough workers remaining to heat the castle?  Would sugar water be enough?  Was all the brood dead?  Was the Queen still a live?  Long live the Queen!

Surely honey would be better than sugar water and the Guardian knew just where to find it.  Off he went, but before he could return the weather turned sour, the wind grew strong and pulled the cold northern air down across the desert.  As the flower blossoms closed, the Guardian made sure the castle was wrapped tight so no drafts were allowed inside.  Were there enough bees remaining alive to fight off the cold?  He did not know if their diminished numbers could accomplish the task.

The following day the weather continued to deteriorate and the Guardian dared not open the hive lest he release any heat the bees had managed to sustain.  Once again he adjusted the blankets, making sure the little castle was protected from the wind and returned to his own castle to wait out the storm.  The wind brought with it dashes of snow and a light rain.  The odds were working against the keepers of the deep and he feared for their lives.

But in the morning blue sky had broke free and the wind abated, the Guardian approached the front of the hive where the sun now bestowed its warmth.  They were there, busily making their trips to the field and in greater numbers than he had dared to hope.  Still he restrained his hand from opening the hive and allowing in the cold.  Hope was alive and he dared not kill it for lack of patience.  He busied himself in the garden for much of the day while making frequent trips to the palace of the Queen to watch in amazement at the life now returned to these once lifeless bodies.

Late in the day the sun burst forth in a brilliant display of its strength and beauty.  Its golden glow brought life to all living creatures who now reveled in its warmth, shaking off the cold damp chill that had ruled the land.  The Guardian rushed to the castle with a frame of pure golden honey in his hands.  After removing the roof from the top of the castle he was thrilled and amazed at the activity within.  The killing field had returned to life.  Though mountains of dead bees lay upon the bottom board in the basement of the castle where the workers had cast them aside, it appeared enough of the once lifeless forms had returned from the dead to make a go of it.

Gently he removed an empty frame and replaced it with a full frame of the honey he had acquired.  Now they would have the fuel they needed to run at full strength. A number of the workers and guard bees bombed him and dove at his head, causing the Guardian to smile.  He had not used his smoker to subdue their activity as surely they had been through enough and instead wore only is protective suit, happy to see them alive and doing their jobs.

As the days passed, a procession of even more dead bodies consisting of workers bees and many, many young, killed in their slumber by Jack Frosts icy blue hands were added to the growing graveyard at front of the castle.  But the surviving bees, once brought low by the same winter cold, carried on.  They ate the honey, fed the Queen and she produced more young.  The workers brought in the abundance from the field.  Soon the glory of the old kingdom returned and with it so did the glow of satisfaction in simple things, return to the Guardian.

A New Hive at this Time of Year??????

Been a while since I’ve posted anything and wanted to get out a little update.  Been very busy working on the sequel to my fiction book “Truths Blood”.  Writing is my winter time passion and as I wrap up the work associated with my bees I turn to writing.

It is also election season and while I rarely get political on this blog I cant help but mention one thing.  We have a ballot measure her in Oregon that would require food products containing GMO’s to be labeled.  If you’ve read my blogs you know how I feel about GMO’s and how detrimental they are to honeybees.  But my comment here comes from another angle.  This is a Citizen-based initiative established by people who genuinely care about and want to know what they are eating, while the opponents – largely massive conglomerates – counter with a LOT of money, tens of millions of dollars, and baseless statements that scare people into believing things that simply aren’t true.

I find it disgusting that citizens who simply want to know what’s in their food can be prevented from doing so by giant corporations spending massive sums of money.  My only comment folks is that we as a nation are far too complacent about our food supply and we are foolish to think these huge conglomerates care about what we eat.  It is worth your time to become more familiar with these issues.

Ok, nuff said.  GMO’s are hard on bees so its difficult for me to let his issue go.

So what’s going on in the beeyard?  I always make an in depth inspection of every hive, late in the year and just completed that recently.  I found one hive with no queen, absolutely no brood or larva and another hive (which was a new package this season) doing the re-queening thing.  If you read my earlier post about the poor quality queens coming with the packages from California you know what I’m talking about.  So I ordered up two new queens to install in the problem hives.

When the queens arrived I did another complete inspection of both hives.  In the one with no brood or larva I found a queen this time.  The hive is stuffed full of bees and I simply over looked her the first time.  She’s a big fat healthy looking queen too.  So even though it seems way too early for the queen to quit laying (that usually happens in Dec/Jan) I decided to leave the queen alone figuring she knows best.  This left me with an extra queen.

I requeened the other hive with queen issues and a strange hive it is.  Three queen cells had hatched.  (Usually the new queen chews through the side and the queens yet to hatch are stung to death by the first queen that hatches)  There was also a perfectly formed and soon to hatch queen cell and on the same frame right next to it was another queen cell in the process of hatching.  This hive is even raising drones, but there are no drones out and about this time of year as they are all tossed out of the hives by now and there is no way a new queen would be properly mated.  I dispatched with all cells and queens and installed the queen I purchased.

What to do with extra queen.  Well, what does a queen need?  She needs workers and stores to make it through the winter.  I went to my strong healthy hives that have lots of stores and borrowed five frames of stores to create a new hive in a nuc box.  I also added many “shakes” of bees from those different hives to the new nuc to create a workforce.  These bees wont be missed in their old hives as most of them will soon be dead  anyway.  Then I shut down the entrance to the smallest opening and installed the new queen cage.  I also put on a top feeder on the nuc in hopes of keeping the new bees around with the feed.  By not moving the new hive out of the beeyard the bees that leave this hive would likely return to their old hive.

I have not yet disturbed the two hives while they accept and release the new queens.  There is never a guarantee that new queens added to a hive will be accepted but the best success is had by not disturbing the hives.  This is a fun experiment to me.  I have never even dreamed of creating a new hive this late in the season.  I will update soon on the condition of these hives and let you know how things are going.

Take care, I hope all is well with everyone.

 

Don’t Bee That Guy!

Have you been thinking about keeping bees? Its all the rage you know, why not jump in – and therein lies the problem.

Today I was at the Quickie Lube place in town getting the oil changed in my car. I always get there early and there was just one other person in the waiting room when I arrived. This old boy was reading some “Hollywood people” magazine – gotta keep up with all those trendy people you know – NOT!

A few minutes later a woman came in and sat down between the two of us. It just so happens that I know her because I have beehives at her place. She’s a lovely lady whose dealing with some tough issues and we soon began a conversation. Before long the conversation turned to the bees and the honey we can expect to get from the hives at her place. That’s when “Mr. Hollywood” puts down his magazine and joins the conversation we were having. “Oh, I had bees. Damn things died on me. I put them in my greenhouse and they died.” He went on to express his frustration with the bees and then added that even the plants in his greenhouse had died. Couldn’t have been any neglect involved here now could there? NAW!

Later on the fella working at the Quickie Lube place came in and began running through the issues with “Mr. Hollywood’s” car. I overheard enough to know there was virtually no coolant in the radiator (not the reserve tank but the radiator itself) and the oil level didn’t even register on the dipstick (the one in the car).

Does that not tell you all you need to know!?

Folks, if your thinking of keeping bees please take stock of the time commitment it requires. Read, read, read and learn about what you are committing to before you jump in. Don’t be this guy.

A few years ago I was at a local bee club meeting and the old timers were expressing concern over all the folks jumping into beekeeping. While they wanted to see more people keeping bees they were concerned it was a fad and that the resulting abandoned hives would soon die out and be left sitting abandoned in a backyard somewhere. The problem with that is it wont be long before other bees find the hives and begin to rob them. If disease was the reason the hives died out, its likely the disease would be transmitted back to healthy hives simply because the “fad owner” couldn’t be bothered to be responsible with the care of his bees or even the removal of the deadout hives.

As much as I want to see more folks involved with bees, please take stock of what it takes to be actively involved in the management of your bees. If your honest with yourself and realize you cannot commit the time required then don’t get them. Our bee populations have enough issues to deal with. On the other hand, if you don’t have the time required to responsibly manage your bees, find someone who is looking for another beeyard and let them hive bees on your place. You’ll get some honey out of the deal but wont have to commit to the time and work required to properly care for your bees.

For the bees sake, don’t bee Mr. Hollywood.

In the more down to earth world of bee keeping, I’ve just about finished the harvest of my first two honey supers for a total of 4 gallons of the best honey around! I say that because it is chemical free and the bees draw from so many sources of nectar around our place that the result is the most unique blend of flavors you can imagine. The process I use to extract the honey is called crush and strain. No heat is used and no filtering to remove the pollen takes. Many people don’t realize both of these actions occur with commercial honey. Some where down the line I will try to find time to cover just what crush and strain is. There is no need to buy that $400+ extractor to get the honey your bees make for you. Until then enjoy your summer and remember – Don’t Bee That Guy described in this article.

The Queen of Hearts, Hives and Frustration

What a terrific weekend we had at the Meadow of Lavender in Colton Oregon this weekend for the Oregon Lavender Festival. There was an excellent turnout and I’m sure everyone enjoyed themselves as they learned about the lavender products and how they are made. We also had excellent attendance at the bee classes I held and in each class people suited up in the spare bee suits that were available and had a look in the hives for themselves. My thanks to all those who attended.

In the first class the attendees had the opportunity to see first hand how a hive requeens itself in a process called supercedure. At the bottom of one of the frames we removed from the hive were two queen cells, about four inches apart. One cell was opened at the very bottom, the other was opened from the side. The first cell was the one the queen hatched from. When a new queen hatches the first thing she does is dispatch with any other queens in the hive. The other queen cell demonstrated how that is done. The new queen chews through the side of the cell and stings to death the queen that has yet to hatch.

After looking the queen cells over and discussing what happened we continued our inspection of the hive and found lots of newly laid eggs and tiny larvae. Though we did not see the queen herself, it was apparent she has been very busy since hatching and completing her mating flights.

This brings me to the point of this post. There has been a lot of trouble with queen failure this year. This is an issue that has been building for the past number of season and appears to have finally landed with a crash this year. In reading the various forums it appears to be a fairly widespread occurrence. My own experience with this has even been greater than most are reporting. In April I purchased 9 new packages of bees. Six of nine packages, have lost queens, some more than once, as in the hive we inspected in class. The queens that came with the packages are soon replaced and then the new queen fails and is replaced again. This leads to weak hives and I am about to lose one of my new hives because they have grown weak and failed to raise a new queen.

Of course there are a number of different view points, but one that makes a lot of sense has to do the problems queen producers have had with insect growth regulators that have been put on during the bloom with fungicides, mostly in California. All of my packages came from California so I don’t believe its a coincidence my new packages are failing. There can also be a lack of genetics and diverse drone sources in the large commercial producers that contribute to the problem.

With nearly $100 dollars invested in each package I have reached the conclusion it is no longer feasible to purchase commercially available packages. If you are considering acquiring bees next season I would recommend against using a commercial outlet to get your bees. There is simply too much at risk and if your just starting out who wants the trouble and disappointment of losing hives. Many newbees would be left thinking it was something they did. As I stated in my classes this last weekend, I am interested in new beeks (beekeepers) having success, therefore, after having lost nearly 70 percent of the queens that came in the new packages I purchased this year I can only suggest that you avoid the commercial outlets. I mean really – who wants to spend all the money it takes to set up new hives and acquire the equipment you need, just to get inferior bees that don’t have a good chance of making it.

So what’s the alternative? Go with locally produced nucs. Nuc is short for nucleus hive. Normally you get four frames of bees and a frame of stores, but the fours nucs that a friend and I purchased this year came stuffed with five full frames of bees. All four are doing well and have not experience the requeening/supercedure issues that the packages have experienced. The advantage of a nuc is that you have a queen who has been laying and producing for weeks, if not months, before you purchase it. This miniature hive is established and well on its way with a queen that has proven she is healthy. Yes, nucs often cost a bit more, but the premium you pay is well worth it if you are getting a healthy queen instead of a poor commercially produced queen that will be replaced nearly as soon as you put her in the hive.

So if you are looking at beginning beekeeping next season or if you want to add to the hive or hives you already have, now is the time to begin to locate local beeks that will have nucs to sell next season. Find out about their practices and the success rate of their nucs. Get to know them and their products. Ultimately you should come out far ahead with a nuc over a package of bees.

And for you beeks with a season or two under your belts, learn to split your own hives and make your own increase. Splitting a hive is not difficult and far less expensive. If you have yet to do it, then consider it your next step along the path of beekeeping.

Until next time my best to all of you and may you only know the queen of hearts when it comes to your own hives.

Meadow of Lavender link – http://meadowoflavender.com/