Friday, August 18, 2017

Bees Hanging out on the front porch: Bearding

New beekeepers can get a little worried on hot summer days when they see a thick mass of bees that resembles a swarm hanging off the edge of the hive or hive platform.

That's not a swarm because when swarming the bees fly out away from the hive and land somewhere else close by and then gather together with the queen in a mass.

On hot days when the fanning bees are busy cooling the hive, the other bees that are home and not doing chores stay out of the hive.  Sometimes they hang out on the front porch.  Other times they gather in a mass.

Bees create air conditioning by bringing water into the hive.  They coat the water on the combs and then fan it.  You can try this at home by spraying water on concrete and then setting a fan on it at a safe distance.

Having the extra bees out of the way gives more room so ventilation is greatly improved.

And who doesn't enjoy sitting on the front porch on a nice day?

The bees will go back inside when they're ready.  Sometimes they'll stay out all night.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Something Really Simple to have on hand: Water

I keep any large water bottles and refill them with tap water.  I keep a couple in the bee vehicle and also in each beeyard.  Here's why:

  • in case of a spark or fire from the smoker
  • to poor on myself to cool off
  • to wash hands
  • to wash the bee brush which gets stuck up with honey as I sweep the bees off the combs
  • to rinse off a bee that's covered in too much honey
  • to refill any water dishes set out for the bees
  • to drink in case I don't have anything else with me

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Maybe we need to rethink how we keep bees

Here's a really interesting article on how beekeepers in Slovenia keep their bees:  Slovenian Beekeeping

The article lists the advantages and disadvantages of keeping bees this way.  Major advantages are that there's no lifting of boxes.  It's designed so that the frames slide out from the back.  That alone makes my knees want to swoon!

You work inside the hut and from the backs of the hives.  There's ventilation, bottom screen boards, etc.  And there's no wind or rain inside so you can work any time.

A disadvantage could be that the frames aren't Langstroth size... but if you build an outfit like this yourself you could build it to Langstroth size.

I'm an older beekeeper with really bad knees and a sometimes bad back.  I must admit that this set up is super appealing.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

We Wear Socks in the Bee Yard for a Reason

One thing I know for certain: Bees will never go up your pant legs when your hands are empty.

It'll always happen when you're holding a super so flowing over with bees that you can't set anything down quickly to deal with the little runner going angrily up your leg.You won't even have a hand free to (God forbid) squish her.

When Dad was new to the bee yard he wore the bee gear to use the whipper-snipper to clear grass from in front of the hives. But he forgot one minor detail. To put the socks over the pant legs.

The bits of grass where like shrapnel on the fronts of the hives (I got him to stop and to only use the lawn mower out front) but it was too late for him. Angry bees had gone up his pant legs. He ran to the car and the next minute his pants were around his ankles while he shooed no more than five bees out of his pants.

For me, it happens frequently when I'm shaking bees off something over the hive. There's always a few that hit the ground and often they end up my pant legs. I try stamping my feet really hard which can often knock them down. Then I raise my leg and shake. But more often than not they're still there.

This frustration is easily avoided by pulling your socks up over your paint legs.

One time I had bare feet in my work boots and I ended up later in the day going up a ladder to collect a swarm. This kind of unexpected activity is where you get caught. I had no socks to pull up over my pants. So put an extra pair of socks in your bee vehicle.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Washboarding - Housework for Bees

If you've taken up beekeeping then it won't be long until you see a chore bees do outside the hive.  It's called washboarding.

The bees will be next to each other with a bit of space between then and they will appear to be moving in a rhythmic movement back and forth.

They don't always move in sync but they can often appear to be.

What are they doing?  They're using their tongues to clean the outside of the hive.

They'll mostly do this outside the entrances of the hive.

This is a task that I often see bees do once the population is built up so in a lot of ways it's an indicator of a strong hive.

See the video of the bees washboarding below.


Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Best Homemade Protein Patty Recipe for Honey Bees

A couple years ago our bee club had a presentation by one of the Tech Team members of the Ontario Bee Association.

The team had done an extensive study  to find out what is the best protein supplement to feed bees.

They used all of the well known brands available on the market and also visited the USA to find out what the commercial beekeepers were using as a supplement.

They tried them all and studied the results on the hives tested.

The winning recipe came from commercial beekeepers in the USA.  They've posted the easy homemade recipe on the Ontario Bee Association's website (Ontario Bee Assocation) and you can view it at:

Homemade Protein Supplement Recipe for Honey Bees

Friday, June 30, 2017

Visual Cues for Bees

I'd read about visual cues for bees and I started to put different stickers on the fronts on my hives to help bees get back to the right hive.

Ever since I lost a queen who I found dead from a sting outside a hive I've added visual cues for the bees.  She had been on a mating flight and even still had drone parts in her rear.  I believe when she returned from her mating flight she went into the wrong hive.  At that time I had both hives identically painted and sitting side by side.

[photo - stung dead queen after returning from mating flight]

Now if the hives are side by side I change the orientation of the front, even if it's only by 10 degrees because the differences aid the bees in returning.

A few weeks ago I collected a small swarm from Home Depot.  They had landed on patio furniture at the front door.  As I swept the bees into the box I could tell these were young and inexperienced bees with a virgin queen because the swarm was small and that they were home scenting in multiple locations and took longer to figure everything out.

[photo - original first two hives with identical painting sitting side by side]

I wanted this hive placed in my yard with lots of drones so the queen could get mating done safely and get to the business of laying eggs.  I put a piece of black gorilla tape about 1 1/2" to the left of their top entrance as a visual cue.  I especially wanted their new queen to get back into the right hive after her mating flights.

Black tape on green super to the left of the entrance & new purple super on top[Photo - green super was the top box with tape marker to the left of entrance.  New purple super added and tape moved up to the new entrance]

A few weeks later I checked and the queen was busy laying and they had capped and opened brood.  I went to add a super and I removed the tape from the lower box and moved it up to the same position on the new super.

What was really cool was to watch how the returning foragers focused on that black tape.  They flew to it, hovered for barely a second and then glided 1 1/2" to the right and went right into the hive.  They had instantly found the new adjusted entry without confusion because of the tape marker.
video[Video - original marker near entrance on top green super]

video[Video - After new purple super added and tape marker moved up as a visual cue for the entrance]

That day was a really busy foraging day so the bees were returning in large numbers.  So, sorry I didn't video that day but on another swarm hive I videoed the same thing so I hope you can see how they use the tape as a locator for their entrance.

Each piece of tape on the front of each hive is placed differently so avoid confusion.