I have two sons and it’s important to me to raise beekeepers. I mean this both literally and figuratively. Sure I’d love for the boys to grow up learning about and loving honey bees the way their father and I do, but more importantly, I’m interested in beekeepers of the figurative variety.Continue Reading
It is that time of year… the bees are coming, the bees are coming. Many will have already ordered your bees. Many of you will have gone the conventional and less expensive route of ordering packages. This is a choice I have made in years past, but this year I decided to invest the extra money by ordering nucleus hives, also known as nucs. There are a quite a few reasons why I have chosen to go this route and I am going to articulate them in this blog post.Continue Reading
I have (so far) a 50% overwintering loss (as compared to last year’s 70% loss.) I’m delighted, and want to kiss them all. However, they’ve already reminded me that they are stinging insects. And turns out that I still swell up when stung, doggone it.
Because last year’s loss of 70% still stings, I’m delighted with 50%, especially because the colonies seem to be strong. And starving.
If you have surviving bees, congrats. Please consider providing feed for them, because there’s not much out there for them yet. I have a handful of crocuses up in the yard. They’ll be really well-pollinated crocuses as the bees are lined up at them. They’re also lined up at my neighbor’s bird, er, bee feeder. Must be something in that feed that’s very appealing, and thanks neighbor!
Here’s what I’m doing about feeding our bees this time of year …Continue Reading
It’s March already and spring-like forecasts are just about here! For seasoned beekeepers, that means we should be out checking for signs of life in our hives and planning any necessary replacement orders. For new beekeepers, the time to order is probably yesterday – but there are still plenty of places to order from if needed.
Here’s What I Know About Buying Bees
First, you can buy them locally if you connect with people and ask around. Sometimes we order too many and need to sell a package. Sometimes we produce nucs to sell and they have actually survived the winter and makes them stronger survivor stock. So, checking out the club’s website offerings is a great starting point and a great way to connect locally.
If you do plan to purchase from a business, the bees are typically sold in 2 or 3 pound packages with a queen. The queen can be marked or unmarked. The marking on the queen is located on her thorax (the body part next to her head). The colors of marked queens are done by the year and it is an awesome system for keeping track of the age of your queen.Continue Reading
Last Saturday I taught two sessions at the Kalamazoo Club’s annual bee school. This Saturday I’m teaching two at Albion’s bee school. I’m glad I’m an instructor because I learn so much.
I know that’s likely not what you want to hear from an instructor—that she’s still in the steep part of the learning curve—but continued education is one of the blessings of honeybees!Continue Reading
We have one hive that is still alive. The Mountain Camp feeding method is working beautifully, but its success hinges upon a certain beekeeper (ahem, me) getting my butt out to the field to refill the sugar. Unfortunately, by the time life gave me the free time to do such a thing, two hives had starved out. I’m kicking myself daily for such an oversight.
The hive closest to our house, however, is still alive and strong. So this weekend, as we were watching the news report about sub zero wind chills and 45 mph winds, we started to worry about our remaining hive. I mean, we’re so close to spring! If only it could hold on a little longer!Continue Reading
Last year I lost 3 out of my 4 hives. Would having more information as to what was going on in the hive have helped? Perhaps, but how could I know real-time – the hive’s internal temperature, humidity, sounds, weight, number of bees going in and out, etc.?
Now we have the ability to see all these parameters, wirelessly, 24/7 on our home computer. This data can also be presented graphically.
Recently, the concept of hive monitoring has come into its own. Both commercial and home-built systems are available and plans can be found on the Internet. Some call it “hive hacking” or environmental monitoring.
The system has three major components: sensors, control computer, and output devices. Together they can monitor temperature, humidity, sound, motion, etc.
The computers are small, general-purpose machines. Today’s two major products are Arduino or Rasberry Pi (starting at $25 ). They have no keyboard or screen – these are optional add-ons (starting at $5). Programs load via USB and may be combined to make a sophisticated monitoring system.
The best place to get started is the Internet and Google. Read some of the tutorials. Adafruit has some good tutorials on Raspberry Pi and sells the system components. Arduino also has many tutorials.
And don’t forget Youtube.
Excerpts of a letter from Patricia Grupp …
After reading Eating Well magazine’s article on bees and a second article on the health importance of avoiding sugar in our diet, Patricia Grupp, a Kalamazoo Bee Club member (and beekeeper) wrote them the following letter. We are delighted to be able to offer her insights here as well. Thanks Patricia!
… I loved the article on bees. But there is far more to bees than just their valuable pollinating exercise. I tie that in with your article on advising people to reduce sugar intake. Honey, in that article, was included as a sugar to avoid.
I became a beekeeper three years ago because of my fascination with the insect. But I am finding much more to bees that often goes unsaid. Honey that is chemically free, unprocessed and unheated, and strained not filtered, is an extremely healthy product and should not be listed with sugars to avoid.
Personal Example: I am clinically hypoglycemic. I have battled with it all my life and have found myself in bad circumstances including completely passing out. Staying away from sugar and exercising is the answer.
Since becoming a beekeeper I learned about the health claims of honey—including sleeping better, having more energy, enhanced wound healing, eliminating coughs, etc.
But I can’t have sugar. Is honey different?
I started taking a teaspoon of organic, unprocessed honey three times a day. Taking a teaspoon of beet or cane sugar would be damaging and make me feel extremely poor, if not very sick! Instead to my surprise I am more energized, sleep better and concentrate better. Regular sugar would never do this for me!!
Honey as described above (not adulterated honey that which has been illegally brought in from China), is healthy and a valuable sweetener.
Currently my husband has honey and a bandage on an injured finger. I am using honey to heal his wound as the Romans did centuries ago. And it works! Honey is anti-microbial.
My grandchildren and aging mother uses honey at night for colds and coughs. My 92-year-old mother was very sick and up all night coughing. The next night she remembered to take honey before bedtime. She did and slept, cough free.
The girls are all tucked in warm keeping their queen cozy now that snow is flying. I don’t see them much these days, though there is a path through the thickest of drifts out to the apiary. It leads right up to my colorful boxes so that I can knock at their door and listen through the quiet of the snow for a responding hum, telling me all is well.
I don’t blame them for staying in where they can keep each other warm by generating their own energy. I too like to keep cozy when the coldest of cold hits our area.
Thankfully, there are plenty of “bee” things to do – even in the coldest of winter.Continue Reading
It’s great when your bees provide food for you, but every so often in a beekeeper’s career, she provides food for the bees. There are a million opinions about whether or not one should feed bees throughout the year and a million and one opinions about how this feeding should happen. I’m simply going to explain one feeding method that we have tried this year, the reason why, and our experience with it thus far.
As you may remember, none of my four hives produced very much honey this year, so my husband and I knew that we were going to have to feed throughout the winter if we had any hope of the bees surviving. When beekeepers feed in the winter, they generally feed a sugar-water mixture. This can be made and served in various forms:Continue Reading