Honey For Sale

There is still some of last years Honey available.  This year’s probably wont be harvested until August, so I may run out before then.  Also, last winter was rough on the bees so I’m not sure how much I’ll get this year


You can buy it at Brooklyn Fabric Company.  Open Tues – Sat 9 to 5.  116 Jackson St. next to the Flag Store.



Been a while…

Yes, writing for this site is something I should pay more attention to.

As we ramp up to spring, here is where my bees stand so far.

First, it’s been a cooler than average spring, unlike last year.  I finally saw my first dandelion last week, which is a couple weeks late.  We are having some days in the 70’s in Iowa that is really making things pop, but in a few days we’re going crash back down into the 30’s.

As I noted in a quick twitter post a while ago, all of my full size hives – 10 of them – survived the winter well and are thriving.  2 out of 5 nucs survived.  The other 3 unfortunately starved, which is making me rethink my winter nuc methods.  There is one of those nucs that looked very week earlier this month, so I may lose that one as well.

When doing a quick check and adding a 3rd deep to two of the hives, I saw sealed drone brood so I will start some nucs next week if weather permits.

I really can’t  be happier with the results.  The nucs were disappointing, but they were really only there to back fill if any of the main hives didn’t survive.  Fortunately they weren’t needed for that.  Two of the hives were really strong and seemed to hardly use any winter stores.  There was probably still 70+ pounds of honey left on those.  I’m going to make extra efforts to make sure those queen lines continue.

I can’t stress enough that I don’t use any treatments, or any other extraordinary methods for varroa or disease control.  I use screened bottom boards but no other method of IPM.   The only foundation I’ve used is plastic covered with my own wax in order to avoid contamination.  But, I am working my way towards foundationless because it is more natural, and frankly I’m cheap and lazy!

Two Queen Hive – Follow up

I checked my two queen hive yesterday (see previous post for details)

There was only old brood below the excluder, so that queen is no longer there. I believe that was the older of the two. Above the excluder was a lot of good brood in all stages. So I removed the excluder and allow her to lay in the full hive. Hopefully she will work her way down.

Nature has a way of working things out.

My Two Queen Hive

According to what I’ve read, there is about a 10% chance that you will have a hive with more than one queen.  I guess I’ve reached critical mass with the number of my hives to have found my first!

I normally don’t put queen excluders on my hives.  But earlier this summer I had a situation where the queen had moved into the 2nd and 3rd super and had completely abandoned the brood boxes.  I went through the process of finding her, putting her in the lower boxes and adding an excluder.  I figured I would keep the excluder on until the brood had hatched, and the supers had been back-filled with honey.

Just yesterday I went looking into the supers to see if there was anything ready for harvest and I found brood…lots of it.  I took off all the supers thinking that maybe there was a hole in the excluder, but it looked fine.  Digging deeper I found brood in the deeps where it should be.  So the only thing I can think is that I have two queens.  Either there had been a mother and daughter in the hive all along, or I have heard of virgin queens getting lost and entering any hive they could find.  I have upper and lower entrances on all my hives so it is possible this new queen could have come in through the top.

In any case, now I have to decide what to do.  Either I split them up, or leave them as is and see if they survive the winter, then potentially combine them in the spring.

No Regression to Small Cell

My bees aren’t behaving like they are supposed to.

To bring any new readers up to speed, I don’t treat my hives for mites.  I don’t use powdered sugar, essential oils, or anything else in my hives.  Do I have mites?  Yes of course.  Have I lost hives to mites?  Yes of course.  But, I don’t think I have lost any more hives than the beekeeper that treats their hives.  I have had hives overwinter with high mite counts.  In fact, I have even stopped counting mites, because I guess I just don’t care how many there are.

In my pursuit of finding the best management method that works for me, and to satisfy my curiosity, I wanted to see how a small cell hive performed.  If you don’t know anything about small cell, google it.  You will get tons of information both pro and con.  Take both sides with a grain of salt.  On the pro side you will find some that declare small cell is the answer to everything.  The con side will site studies that say it doesn’t work.  I think the answer is somewhere in-between.  I don’t think it solves all the problems, but I also think that the the studies that conclude small cell doesn’t work can be refuted.   If someone knows of a small cell study that is long term, genetically identical as possible, and uses survival-ability instead of mite count as it’s success metric, please let me know.

Discussions about taking bees down to a small cell, normally talk about regression.  This means that it takes a few tries to get bees that are used to drawing larger cell foundation down to the smaller cell size.

Last fall I purchased some PF-105 Plastic Frames with 4.9 cell size from Mann Lake.  I wanted to try small cell for myself.  I thought I would take a found swarm or shook swarm and put them on the brand new frames.  But, the opportunity never presented itself or the timing wasn’t right, so the frames sat there all summer.

A couple weeks ago I needed to super the nucs I started for overwintering.  I didn’t have any ready frames on hand, so I used the small cell frames.  I thought they could draw them out anyway they liked and I would worry about it later.

So I have nucs with large size comb and small size foundation.  One nuc started to draw the new frames, and they are drawing the small cell to the correct size.  The queen is laying eggs in the small cells.

So I find myself in the position where I will potentially have a hive regressed to small cell in a matter of weeks.  I will move out the standard frames and put in the small cell frames as fast as they can fill them.

They aren’t supposed to do that.  But I guess they didn’t listen.

Grafting – FAIL

My latest attempt at grafting failed big time.

I didn’t really have high expectations.  I’m splitting some weak colonies into nucs and giving them better queens.  I would have been happy with 10 queens, but I didn’t even get close to that.  I did 25 grafts…only 2 took so far.

So what went wrong?  It probably wasn’t one thing, but a series of things.

  • I wasn’t as prepared as I should have been.  I really decided at the last minute to do the grafting last week.  I travel quite frequently for work, so it was hard to pick a time when I knew when I was going to be home.  It all came down to when I would have the time to pull the ripe cells and put them in splits, not necessarily picking the best time to do the grafting.
  • Too cool and cloudy on grafting day.  The day started out nice,  but the weather quickly turned.
  • Moving grafted cells from the outyard to home.  It was a 15 minute car ride, and I had them wrapped in a warm, moist towel.  None of those cells took.
  • The cells that did take were grafted on the site of the cell builder.  But, I was interrupted right when I started.  A neighbor was  walking by, saw me and came over and started asking me questions.  He’s one of my consistent customers, so I didn’t want to blow him off.  That left the frame of brood out in the open, probably too long.
  • I didn’t spend enough time getting the cell builder prepped.  I really don’t think that was a major issue, as when I pulled the queen cell frames out to check on them, they were covered with bees.  But, I didn’t spend the time manipulating the colony ahead of time.

So now what’s the plan?  I have been toying with the idea of small scale grafting: putting one or two grafted cells in a queenless nuc.  That way I wouldn’t need to graft and split on different days.

If you are interested in grafting you should try.  It’s not as hard as it sounds.  If you live near Minnesota, or can swing the travel, I would encourage you to take the queen rearing class put on by Marla Spivak and Gary Reuter at the University of Minnesota.  It used to be first come, first serve.  But it’s become so popular you need to apply by answering some qualifying questions.  The best part of the class is not only the queen rearing, but the wealth of other info Marla and Gary can pass along.

Getting Swarmy

I had a feeling I was going to be late inspecting my hives, but between work and the weather, I didn’t a chance to get to it until today.  As I had feared, one of my booming hives in the outyard had sealed swarm cells.

It looked like they hadn’t swarmed yet so I took a few frames of brood, a bunch of extra bees and found the old queen.  I moved them into a new hive in my back yard.

Hopefully they will think they have swarmed, and all will be good.  But, there’s always the chance of having 2 queens and I only removed one.  I doubt that is the case as I made it through 27 of 30 frames before I found the one I did.  There is also the chance that they have just made up their mind to swarm and once the cells start hatching they will leave with one of the virgins.

I reversed all the other hives and added supers.  There weren’t any swarm cells I saw in the other hives, so for those I hope I was early enough to do some prevention.

I’m trying some of the things Mike Palmer suggested in a presentation given to the Prince William Regional Beekeepers Association.  You can see it on line http://vimeo.com/20202284


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