The Healthy Honeybee

Learning about Beekeeping

uncaged

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queen

She’s out!! I set up the ob hive today so friends could have a look at the bees, and I noticed that the queen is out of her cage. Didn’t take long – everybody loves candy. She’s the one with the white dot in the picture. Hooray! Now we’ll have eggs and larvae to watch too.

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new momma for the girls

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uncorking the queen

Many thanks to Ken for helping me yesterday with my queen and observation hive! The hive is a bit of a beast – it’s so much easier with two people and more experience (Ken’s, not mine).

Anyway, here’s the queen cage with queen and attendants – same one we saw yesterday, only in this pic Ken is uncorking the end. You’ll notice the white bit – that’s the ‘candy’ that the bees will need to chew through in order to free the queen. The cork is a precaution – there’s so much candy there that Ken also made a wee hole through it to get them started.

Figuring out where in the observation hive to put the queen, that was a bit of a challenge. There’s really no space big enough to accommodate it. Hives are built like that on purpose  – any empty space would get filled with comb anyway.

We tried mushing the cage into the frame, as you can see in the pic below:

queen in the comb

You can see the hive bees all over the newcomers, checking them out! It’s a good thing there’s a screen there, or the battle would be epic.

This configuration wasn’t going to work, though, because we couldn’t get the glass on due to the cage in the way. We left them there for a bit while we thought about it, so they could get used to each other.

Finally I decided to just get out my wrecking ball and make a space:

queen cage in the hive

I managed to snap a bit of the plastic and mangle the comb before Ken stopped me and got some tools that were better suited to the job. Now it fits just right! There’s space for the hive bees to inspect the newcomers, and there’s space at the top, where the candy hole is, for the queen to come out once they’ve eaten through the candy. AND – most importantly – the glass is back on.

What a day. A sweaty, sweaty day. Filled with defensive bees. There’s nothing like being in a cloud of buzzing bees, courageous defenders pinging off the screen in front of your face, then suddenly feeling drops of sweat trickle down your chest and back. Oi!!

So glad we got the ob hive running, though. I want to show everyone! I’m running some honeybee workshops in late July and early August, where I will use the ob hive, so hopefully that will help with the urge to show and tell.

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she’s here!

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queen package

I received a phone call this morning from a lady at Canada Post – they had a buzzing package for me. The queen bee and her attendants have arrived already! I was very thankful she decided to call me to pick it up, rather than sent it out with a letter carrier. It’s been so hot, and she was worried that the bees might overheat, as was I. Not worried anymore, I’ve got my queen!

Let’s take a look:

open package

Bees plus receipt.

And here’s the queen cage – it’s hard to see the bees inside due to the lighting, but there are a bunch of them there to take care of the queen. She has attendants for everything – grooming, feeding, carrying away her feces… she’s just an egg-laying machine, can’t stop for anything!

queen cage

The little block of wood on the end is covering up the candy, just in case it gets eaten through. The candy is there to provide a nice slow introduction of the queen – otherwise the hive will reject her and sting her to death. Having a common goal – eating through the candy – allows them to be in close proximity and get used to each other. The hive adopts the queen’s scent and takes her as their own queen as the hive and the queen’s attendants eat through both ends of the candy.

Now, I need to make some introductions.

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2 more stings

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beekeeper

In spite of the sweat-inducing oven of a coverall you see me wearing, I did manage to get 2 more stings yesterday at the beeyard. Right through the coverall. So I ask myself again, ‘why do I wear this?’ Hmmm.

I want to thank Ali, a brand-new beekeeper who came with me yesterday, for taking pics and being an awesome sport – she also was stung by one of my bees, but she kept helping me with the daunting task of trying to find another brood frame for my observation hive. In the end we were not successful – once the bees go kamikaze on me, I put them back together and leave. As quickly but gently as possible.

I’ve decided to just buy a queen for the ob hive. Much simpler. She’ll be coming through the mail, express, so should be here in a few days. I’ll keep you posted.

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wacky house day

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diagonal comb

Here are the results of yet another experiment: I thought I’d try putting honey frames into the hive without foundation. Other beekeepers suggested rubbing beeswax along the top underside of the frame, to encourage the bees to start the foundation along that line. Sounded like a great idea. So I tried it. I put wires in the frames:

frame with wire

I rubbed beeswax along the top underside:

beeswax on frame

Then the bees made a glorious mess of it. Sigh.

I have to admit, there is something really beautiful about honeycomb that is not constrained by frames; however, I would really like to be able to spin the honey out of the frames, so I will need the comb to be in the frames. This stuff, I will likely be pressing out of the comb. Candles, anyone?

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new ideas

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business card

Here’s the thing about beekeepers: put any two together, and you’ve got five different ways of doing things. My mom was talking to a beekeeper at the Port Colborne Market and happened to mention that her daughter was a beekeeper. Well, there’s another thing about beekeepers: once you get them going, it’s hard for them to stop talking about bees. And if there’s more than one beekeeper, then they’re talking about methods of beekeeping. In this case, my mom was getting advice for me. On the back of this business card are a number of tips on getting the most honey from my hives:

1. Don’t use a queen excluder. I’m not sure how the honey stays brood-free in this case, but I have a number to call so I might just use it and find out the details from the beekeeper himself.

2. Ventilation! Using a vent-box on top of the hives is supposed to help out the bees. I remember something about this from a beekeeping meeting awhile back, and I’m thinking I should check this out.

3. Bees from New Zealand. Well, I don’t think that will be happening, but I might look into it anyway just for kicks. Because I like to look into things….

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hornets and honeybees

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hornets on parsley

I don’t think I’ve ever seen such beautiful hornets – a deep metallic blue, so shimmery and sleek. Very sexy insects. Unfortunately they’re all over my sister’s garden, so they will have to be taken care of at some point. My two little nephews don’t need to be stung by these gorgeous pollinators! Here you see them on the parsley flowers, doing their part to ensure that my brother-in-law has viable parsley seeds for next year’s crop.

I also ran into some honeybees while we were away visiting family:

honeybee

I’m not sure if this is a wild one or if it’s from a domesticated hive, but I saw it out on a trail when we went for a bike ride. Definitely a honeybee! It’s good to see them – it’s getting more and more rare to see them these days. Fortunately they’re not the only ones able to pollinate flowers: the hornets above, and the solitary bees like mason bees and leaf cutter bees, are also able to do the job, along with hummingbirds and butterflies (and others). Honeybees have the advantage of sheer numbers and determination, as they are the only kind that are trying to bank a surplus of food for the winter, but it’s nice to know that we’re not depending on them alone. Because that’s a scary thought, given the decline in numbers these past few years.

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seabee v8

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sea bee logo

sea bee logo

This was a very shiny airplane that we saw at the airshow on Father’s Day weekend. Our family went to see the Snowbirds – you can see one of my munchkins in the reflection – she’s got her pink cowgirl hat on!

Anyway, I thought it was cool that a plane was named after a bee. I’m told they have a distinct noise to them. The weird thing about them is that the propeller is mounted in the back. Here’s a link to a better pic. Bizarre-looking planes.

Someday soon hopefully I’ll get out to check the bees – the poor girls are on their own this year, for the most part. Life is so busy for me these days. I’m not sure whether to call myself a lazy beekeeper or cite various sources that recommend staying out of the hives as much as possible. That’s one thing about beekeeping – there’s never a shortage of advice, and there’s a good portion of it that’s directly opposite all the other advice! Some say every 10 days, others say stay away. Hm. Well, I’m thinking next week sometime. Stay tuned.

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beautiful bee

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green bee

green bee

The other day when I was walking my children to school, I noticed this gorgeous bee. How could I not stop and take a picture? She had pollen in her hind leg pockets, and was working away at collecting the nectar from this flower. I think it’s a mason bee, which is a type of solitary bee. Some masons are green (if you do a quick google image search you’ll see some crazy metallic green bees!) and others are blue. Some look more like honeybees.

Mason bees don’t make honey, though – they collect the pollen and nectar to supply the eggs they lay. They’ll find a deep horizontal hole in which to stockpile food, then lay eggs on top of the food and seal the hole with mud (where they got the name ‘mason’) and find another place to start stockpiling more food for more eggs. The larvae will hatch out of the eggs, eat the food, then spin cocoons around themselves, where they will mature into adults and hibernate all winter. In the spring they’ll push their way through the mud blocking the entrance.

You can attract solitary bees by providing them with favourable nesting locations. Drilling deep holes of varying sizes in wood will attract different kinds of solitary bees. You could also use hollow bamboo poles. Here is a blog that mentions leaf cutter bees, and shows great pics of a bamboo bee house. Leaf cutter bees are solitary bees like masons, only they use leaves to pad their nests and block the hole, as you’ll see in the pics.

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luxury

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London has an interesting idea – Luxury Hotels for Bees. There are a few different designs. I like the one that looks like a Joseph Cornell box.

Thanks Darren for sending me the link.

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