Wednesday, April 11, 2007

"Gardening the hard way has its rewards"

Anne Brennan has left several comments on my blog so I followed the link to her name and found that she has a pretty neat gardening blog. There's also a section on beekeeping & Anne appears to be a new "beek" herself. I highly recommend you spend a few minutes browsing her blog. It will be worth your time.

Beekeeping Section

Queen shipment

The 6 Italian Queens I ordered from Rossman Apiaries several weeks ago arrived today. The "little brown truck" was at my doorstep about 9:30a.m. I immediately opened the package and inspected each and every one of the cages. I had 6 live Queens!

I decided to wait until after lunch to begin installing the Queens. I wanted the temperature to get above 60 degrees and also to see if it was going to rain. I have 3 hives with Queens of unknown age/viability that I want to replace. I also want to split each hive. This would require 6 Queens total.

Hive #1
This hive has a lot of "bee traffic" in/out and the population has increased a good bit over the past 6-8 weeks. I was amazed to find no Queen, no eggs, larvae, pupae, open or sealed brood in this hive. NONE. ZIP. ZILCH! Not even any Queen cells. There isn't any evidence of a Queen for atleast several weeks! I was also surprised to see the both 9 5/8" deep brood boxes are 70-80% filled with nectar/capped honey & pollen. Did the recent cold weather coupled with a lack of space for eggs prevent the Queen from laying? I re-checked and did NOT find a Queen. Oh Well! I removed the cork from the candy end of the Queen cage and placed it in the hive.

Hive #2
Several weeks ago this hive was by far my weakest. I'm certain this hive was Queenless for several weeks and decided to leave it alone and see what happened. Today I found little evidence of a Queen. I did find a couple of frames with eggs. No larvae, pupae, capped brood. This hive looked just like Hive #1. I did find a Queen! She appeared to be a bright golden brown and moved very quickly across one of the frames. Was this a young Queen that just recently mated? Would that explain the lack of brood and just a few freshly laid eggs? What is going on with my hives? I removed her from the hive and placed her into a nuc box. I placed a new Queen in this hive and moved to the next.

Same damn thing! Hive booming with population & full of nectar, pollen & capped honey. No eggs, larvae, pupae, capped brood. Can't find the Queen either. At this point my lower back is killing me. I checked again and didn't find the Queen. What is going on here? I placed a caged Queen in the hive and closed it back up.

As you can tell, today isn't going very well. I intended to kill the 3 existing Queens in each hive, replace them with 3 new Queens, split each hive and use the remaining 3 Queens. This would have been perfect. I used 3 Queens, couldn't find 2 older Queens, found 1 older Queen, and I have 3 left over. I couldn't find ANY brood in ANY hive so I can't make a split. I did put the one Queen I found in hive #2 in to a nuc. She's suspect at best. I don't know if she's a young, recently mated Queen or one of the older Queens. I suspect she's a new Queen. I don't know how viable she is. I will take her & the 3 other new Queens to my other beeyard and hopefully make splits. I really don't want to split them because of the Spring nectar flow....but oh well. Heck, I may get down there and find they're in the same shape as these.

How can these hives get in this shape so quickly? What exactly happened? Did I overlook 2 Queens? If so, why aren't they laying? Where's all the brood? Where is the current population coming from? What will happen if I did overlook a couple of Queens and the new Queens get released in to that hive? Who will win out? The new Queen or the old???

This beekeeping thing isn't as easy as everyone makes it appear to be ! ! !

I would love some input from some of the blog readers!

Monday, April 09, 2007's cold ! ! !

Wow! The warm weather disappeared just as fast as it came. The past few days the overnight lows have been around 30 degrees. This comes after 3 weeks of very warm weather. I've planted several varieties of Butterfly Bushes as well as a small garden. I'm hopeful the cooler temperatures didn't kill what I've planted.

I have a shipment of 6 Queens coming from Rossman Apiaries, they should arrive on Wednesday, April 11th. The forecast for that day is wet, rainy & cold! GREAT!!! I was hoping to be able to do some splits but the recent colder weather has me concerned. I will most likely bank the Queens until the warmer weather returns & not split any of the colonies until Summer.

I recently acquired some bee hives through a little horse trading. Jeff rode the 3 hours with me to South Georgia to pickup the hives. There were 4 hives mounted to a pallet that we needed to get loaded onto the back of a trailer. We got a late start and instead of arriving just after dark, it was well after midnight. Has anyone ever mentioned how testy honeybees can get when they're disturbed late at night? Well...we found out. Before it was over I sustained 3 stings and Jeff was stung about 12-15 times!!! Remember what I said about Jeff in a previous post? "Somehow Jeff managed to escape sting free. If you knew Jeff you would understand how miraculous this is! Jeff is usually the 1st person to get hurt or get into trouble."

It was quite entertaining to say the least. About an hour or more after we headed back, Jeff was asleep in the passenger seat and got a nasty sting to the inside of his right thigh. This caused Jeff to breakout in an epileptic type fit, jumping and squirming all over the passenger side of the truck. What was even funnier was his attempts to kill the bee(s) by punching himself in the groin area. This little frantic display by Jeff was more than worth the 6 hour roundtrip drive that it took to pickup the bees. Jeff also learned a valuable lesson about properly securing your veil! Overall, he sustained most stings to the lower legs when the bees crawled up his pants legs. This occurred because he was standing in front of the hives while trying to properly fasten his veil. He hurredly put on his veil and initially ignored my warnings to re-do the veil. I believe he stated "it'll be alright, we're only going to be a minute". Well....about a minute into the move he began dancing around slapping himself in the face/veil trying to kill the 2 bees that were trying to sting him in the face!

I have a new nickname for Jeff - "The Epileptic, Dancing BeeKeeper"

Chris - 11
Brian -5
Ronnie - 1
Jeff - 12....atleast ! ! !

Cost of Beekeeping

An Estimated Cost of Beekeeping for Your First Year.

One of the first questions to come up at Beekeeping classes is, “How much does it cost to keep Honeybees?” This is a very good question. Most hobby or back yard beekeepers will keep one or two hives their first year. I always suggest keeping two hives so you can compare the difference. You will gain more knowledge and experience with two hives. The following is a breakdown of cost for your first year based on purchasing all new equipment:

One Hive Setup ----------------------------------- $200
(Includes bottom board, 2 Deep supers,
20 Deep frames, 2 Honey supers, 20
Honey frames, queen excluder, Inner cover,
Outer cover, entrance reducer and feeder.)

Package of Bees----------------------------------- -$75
( 3lbs of bees with a queen)

Clothing and Tools --------------------------------$125
( Veil, gloves, smoker,2 hive tools, bee brush)

Medications and Feed---------------------------- $35
( Mite & Nosema medication, Sugar, and
Pollen Pattie)

Bee School------------------------------------------ $75
(School sometimes includes a text book)

Extraction ----------------------------------------- $15
(Some clubs rent extraction equipment)

Total First year with one hive------------------$525

Total First year with two hives----------------$835
(Additional hive setup, package of bees
And medication and feed)