Buzz

First Extraction of the Year!

  • March 27, 2017
  • beemindful

It may be too early yet for people to start thinking about bees, but they’ve been busy already this Spring!

Last Thursday afternoon I performed the first hive extraction of the year, and I was extremely surprised at how active the hive was so early in the year.  The hive was healthy with thousands and thousands of bees, I found capped brood, larva, eggs, and so much honey I didn’t know what to do with it all!

 

What is a hive extraction, you might ask?

Great question.

 

When hives of bees swarm in the Spring, they will collect in a cluster (or ball of bees) on a branch or other horizontal surface.  They hang out there for a day or so until the scout bees find a suitable new home for the hive.

In urban areas, this often ends up being a hollow spot on the outside of someone’s house. They seem to prefer pillars and overhangs, but I’ve seen them go into hot tubs, grills, cars, and even once, a Shop Vac!

When a swarm of bees is not caught before they move in, it is up to a skilled beekeeper to safely remove the bees from a house.  This involves carful planning, demolition, sometimes heights, sticky tools, and pissed off bees.

If the comb and bees are removed properly, most of the time the hive can be saved, and relocated to a proper home.  Quick work and due diligence are required for the bees survival, and not all of my extractions have been successful, but it is an incredible feeling when they do survive.

 

So, the first extraction of 2017 was (so far) a success.  There were about 8 sheets of comb that had brood in it, in all different stages of development.  As I carefully removed those sheets from the hive, I made sure to watch for the queen.  She was easy to find, as I traced the stages of the brood development from oldest to newest.

I was able to save most of the sheets of brood by securing them in empty frames with rubber bands.  As long as you put them in the right way, the bees will be able to fuse the pieces of brood into the frame, and continue to raise the young that were not damaged in the transition.  After saving all the brood I could, there were still two frames left, so I filled those up with a couple good chunks of honey comb and called it good.

 

 

It’s been nearly a week since the extraction and tomorrow will be a nice warm day to check on them – will update you when I do.

 

So long, and Bee Mindful!

Why do bees have trouble surviving Winter?

  • March 23, 2017
  • beemindful

This post will be the first of a series of posts to come entitled Types of Hives, Benefits and Drawbacks.  The series  will go into much greater detail on how each type of hive is suited towards different climates.

In this post however, we will focus more on the challenges that bees face during the winter months, how to over come them, when it is time to start prepping for Spring, and what steps should be taken at the end of Winter to ensure survival until there are flowers blooming.

Seeing as I am in Colorado, this post is going to be mostly geared towards people in climates that have good hard winters.  For these climates, it is almost always better to use a Langstroth Hive.  They allow the beekeeper many more options for giving the bees support in the winter.  If you are using Top Bar, Cathedral, or Warre, or Basket Hive, there will be certain troubles from winter that are more difficult to overcome than if you were using a Langstroth.

So, why do bees die off in the winter?

As you may know, the average worker bee will only live for 30-45 days.  This is obviously not long enough to live all the way through Winter – so bees do a sort of hibernation to conserve energy.  The bees that were born in September and October must do everything they can to survive the harsh cold snaps so they can keep the queen alive and help raise the first bees born in the Spring.

There are three main things that can cause a hive to die in the winter: starvation, freezing, and susceptibility to disease.  The first two are actually somewhat linked together…

When the cold starts to really set in, the bees will cluster (form into a ball) around the queen.  As the outer bees get cold, they circulate to the inside of the cluster for warmth, constantly switching places so that only few bees die of exposure (and certainly not the Queen)!

The bees also are not able to go out and forage for food in the Winter months, and so they live solely on their honey storage in the cells for energy.  As they uncap and suck the honey out of the combs, the bees need to move the cluster around the hive to access more honey.

In a hard cold snap, the bees wont be able to even move their cluster an inch, and if they run out of honey where they are at in the hive, they could starve with honey still in the comb literally right next to the cluster.

Like any living thing, the cold also presents a weakened immune system and a decreased ability to fight off diseases that may have crept into the hive in the Summer.  Taking proper care of your hives and monitoring their heath closely in the summer can do a lot to prevent the spread of disease, and die off in the Winter.

If you’ve taken proper care of your hives in the Late Summer and Early Fall months, left enough honey for the winter, and ensured good hygiene of the bees – you’ve already done a great job in getting the ready for Winter.

 

One thing you can do to help the bees survive the cold January and February Months, is to wrap the hive in 3/4 inch foam insulation.  Ive seen this keep bees warm enough to survive the Winter in high elevations where there are long winters and low food supply – and it also may help get them through hard cold snaps that happen for weeks at a time.

The trouble with the foam insulation is that there is a possibility condensation could build up between the insulation and the hive causing too much moisture and actually cool the hive down more.  If you use foam insulation, take the time to check the hive on warm days and make sure the insulation is dry, and still well secured to the hive.  Also, the foam insulation is only necessary in the coldest of months – after February comes and goes, it will be time to take the foam back off.

Another good thing to do, if you are concerned about the bees not having enough food to get through the Winter is add some extra food to the hive.  This can most effectively done by filling a mason jar with simple syrup, putting VERY SMALL holes in the lid, and then turning the jar over – sitting directly over the opening of the inner cover.  Another (empty) deep will be need to be added to shelter the jar, with the lid of the hive covering the empty deep.

The placement of the jar is crucial – sitting it directly over the cluster.  This way, when it gets too cold for the bees to move to get more honey, they can draw off the 1/2 gallon or so of simple syrup that is directly above them.  This method also provides a nice boost in the Early Spring when bees start to become active but there are not many flowers yet in bloom for food.

All in all, there is nothing better than a strong, healthy hive of bees for getting through Cold Winters.  Many beekeepers will put too much effort into making sure their bees get through winter – and one could say this is akin to coddling a child.  I have seen many, many, many hives that are several years old completely untouched by man.

 

The bees know what they are doing, and if you have a strong hive they shouldn’t need help at all.

Remember that.

 

If you have concerns about whether or not your bees will make it through the winter, by all means, provide some assistance for the girls.  But know that (unless you are at a high altitude)  if you end up needing to help the bees through every single winter, you’re not doing yourself – or the bees – any favors.

Beekeeping is a great hobby, but the purpose of keeping bees is for keeping bees – raising good, hardy bees that can endure our current environments and proliferate – spreading their good genes.

Welcome To Bee Mindful!

  • March 21, 2017
  • beemindful

Bee Mindful was created from an insatiable curiosity for the bee’s way of life.

My passion for bees was ignited in the Winter of 2013, helping to build six wooden Langstroth Hives in preparation for a set of six packages that were to come in the Spring.

At that point in time, even the detail on every piece of those hives we were building was mesmerizing to me; the bottom board, screened bottom board, entrance reducer, inner cover, queen excluder… “bees need all of this…?” kept running through my mind.

Like many parents, building a crib for their first child, we went overboard – spent way too much time and money building lavish bee homes – a Martha’s Vineyard of Apiaries.

 

Oh the things I would learn…

 

My first year of beekeeping was a total loss – all six hives eventually died out.  Some hives were lost to beginner mistakes and some to “natural” issues.  Either way the feeling was devastating – a year’s worth of hard work and money spent with nothing to show.

To say the whole project was a total loss though, is a bit discrediting I suppose… many things were learned, and throughout the year of sharing what we were doing with our local communities we got TONS of positive feedback.  Many friends and family members wanted hives of their own and to become beekeepers as well!

So instead of quitting after that first year, we upped the ante and ordered 10 packages of bees for the next Spring.  We already had a lot of the equipment built from the last season, so instead of focusing on building the best hives we could, we turned our attention to better locations where we could keep our bees.

As momentum built toward our second year, three people had enough interest in bees to purchase hives from us.  That Spring a bee business was born, and in the process of teaching people (what little I knew) about beekeeping my passion for bees intensified.

Watching someone go from being skittish and largely hands off with their new backyard hive, to cracking the hive open and diving in without a bee suit by the end of the Summer is a feeling like no other.  I had created a tangible bond between a human and an insect that would last a lifetime.  Even more than gaining a level of comfortability with the bees, I got to see my friends develop a sense of intuition and true understanding with them.

For me, this was it.  After 28 years of searching, I finally knew what I was put here to do.

Things have been looking up since those first two summers; I’ve learned a lot and changed my perspective a bit.

Instead of trying to sell hives, bees, and education as a business, I decided to create a non profit that could facilitate the free dissemination of bees and education for everyone who desires to take on this craft, and ensure there will be bees in our world.

 

Welcome to Bee Mindful, and thank you for visiting!

We have some really exciting things in store for this coming Spring and Summer.

Buckle up and hold on tight, it’s going to be a fun ride!

© 2017 Bee Mindful, Inc.