Frames Revisisted

In beekeeping catching swarms is the most exciting thing I do. It’s pretty much all I want to think and talk about because it’s interesting.  It has been a LONG time since I have discussed tasks I don’t like as much. I will say it….  The repetitive “boring” task of building bee-ware is my least favorite beekeeping activity. I have been spending a lot of time building frames lately and after hours and hours (and hours and hours……) it hit me!  I hadn’t ever discussed time savers I use to make the process run more smoothly. Continue reading

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Animal Husbandry – Understanding Vigor

2012-09-27 Bee White Asters and Entrance Reducers 38 1211Being a TREATMENT-FREE / NON-FEEDING beekeeper is EASY when everything is going well. The gut-check comes when pests show up, weather conditions are poor, stores are low, or it’s apparent that something just isn’t right in one or more of your hives. I have seen this a lot in Facebook groups and e-mails over the years. It normally goes something like this: “I know you are treatment-free, but how do you TREAT <insert bee malady>?”

Beekeepers, particularly new ones, are always worried about their bees dying on them.  Oftentimes their worry leads them down the path of treatments.  I discussed this in Fear-Based Beekeeping.  Your anxiety can be alleviated by remembering one simple thing…. Nature’s got this $%^& covered! It doesn’t mean your bees won’t die at times.  It just means it’s NOT the end of the world.  You’re a human you were MADE to do this!

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Propolis Caps

2014-09-22 13.21.08 scraping propolisAny time I find an aspect of beekeeping where a yield can be realized I try to maximize it. Financial viability of a bee operation by honey alone seems like it could be difficult. Wax is a common product that people think about when they think BEES, but propolis is one of the products most new beekeepers may have never heard of. You definitely know what it is after you rip some top-bars off some frames that are glued in a box, or get it on some clothes that will forever afterwards have a dark resinous stain on them. Many beeks have the typical beekeeper response. They scrape it, put it in a container and then store it somewhere….. forever…… Others scrape it off and discard it. If you aren’t utilizing it as a marketable product it is a waste. I didn’t really know what to do with it the first several years I kept bees. My wife will attest…. I had one common “beekeeper tendency” way before becoming a beekeeper. I DO NOT throw things away! Continue reading

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Smoker Fuel Time

Part of being a beekeeper is becoming aware of the yearly cycle of the Seasons. It’s amazing how disconnected humans have become from nature. I am reminded of this every time a friend or co-worker asks me in January or February if my bees are, “……making any honey?!?” It doesn’t take long to determine that activity within the hive is totally dependent on the time of year and Season. Bees have seasonally dictated routines.  Being aware of this routine and adapting routines of your own will help increase efficiency in your beekeeping methods.

20151120_103450One of my yearly rituals is deer hunting so I spend a lot of time in the woods every fall. It’s an important time of year for us to stock our freezer’s with wild game AND since I’m out in the woods anyway it’s also a time for me to collect smoker fuel. My fuel continues to be a mixture of TWO components, Punk Wood and Pine Needles. I did posts and video on lighting a smoker several years ago (See How to Light a Smoker and Deer Stand and Smoker Fuel). It is easy to light a smoker when it is filled with pine needles and punk. When done correctly the smoker will stay lit, smoldering for hours and you will not have problems with it going out.  Continue reading

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Goals and Methods – part 2

If you haven’t read GOALS AND METHODS – PART 1 might wanna start there.  This is part 2 of 3.

Methods 150Your individual beekeeping plan is going to depend a lot on scale.  A gardener will have a different plan for managing production on 2,000 square feet than the 10,000 acre farmer. If you’re doing this as a hobby you should NOT utilize methods of industrial or migratory beekeepers. Their goals, methods, and resources WILL be different than yours. A novice utilizing methods practiced by industrial beekeepers will be fraught with misery. A migratory keeper will be continually stressing their colonies each time they are moved. That stress has consequences that necessitate frequent inspection. A “hobbyist with a plan” is less likely to be repeatedly stressing their colonies so the need for frequent inspections is just not there.

How often and HOW should you inspect?  It depends on your goals.  If you are inspecting because, “……someone else said you should……”, SEND ME MONEY!!  Just kidding… It was worth a shot.  If you care enough to GET bees determine whether certain methods are beneficial and or necessary. Continue reading

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Goals and Methods – part 1

save the beesBeekeeping has gotten a lot of media attention in recent years and interest in beekeeping has increased. In the last 5-10 years there has been an influx of new beekeepers, many with no previous experience in agriculture or animal husbandry. A lack experience caring for animals with productivity as a goal can be a stumbling block, but conscious observation, focus and planning are all tools that we as humans have to overcome inexperience. In the last several hundred years many humans have become disconnected from agriculture.

Going through GroceryToday most people in the US at least take food and its production for granted. When low on food stores all that most have to do is go to a grocery. This is an illusion. Most have never thought or cared about the preparation, months in advance, the physical WORK, the pests and weather conditions that threaten, or any of the other trials and tribulations faced by individual producers to PUT THEIR FOOD in the grocery. That food would NOT be there if SOMEBODY did not formulate a goal based plan.  Becoming an Aparian is an important step towards a better understanding of food production and Agriculture in general. If nothing else it will give insight into all of the worries of a producer.   Continue reading

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Trapping Quick Reference

2014-05-27 11.00.00 Trap04It’s been good getting back into the swing of regular posting. In doing so I have discovered a couple things that need updating on this site. I have been talking about different aspects of swarm trapping for several years now. One thing I have failed to do is give a guide in one easy location for those wanting to get started.

Therefore I have put together a Page called the Trapping Quick Reference. It will be accessible from the HOW TO… menu on the Main Page. It starts with building traps and goes through pretty much every aspect of the process.  When reviewing this reference remember that it is NOT the definitive plan for everyone everywhere. I have only been doing this since 2011. I’ve just begun to scratch the surface on understanding of swarming behavior. Every year as I have made hypotheses, tested them, and modified my practices to become more successful. That is what beekeepers have historically done. This reference is intended to get you STARTED. Take what you can learn from here and begin experimenting on your own where you live. If you observe something profound don’t be a chump cricket about it. Pass it on!

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Nuc Box Plans

Nuc will look like this WITHOUT the hanging bar.

Nuc will look like this WITHOUT the hanging board on the side.

A while ago I posted New Swarm Trap PlansThis post was about a set of plans for 4 traps out of ONE – 4 X 8 sheet of plywood.  Sometime later a question was posed to me about the plans.  In response to further discussion those plans have been renamed as NUC plans.  This was written about in Evolution in Swarm Trap Logic back in April.  Jason from AllMorgan.com raised concerns that those traps had a total-volume that was SMALLER than the optimum cavity size especially for some of the large swarms here in Eastern and South-Eastern Indiana.  Hardy productive colonies could potentially choose larger cavities over the traps due to this aspect of bee biology. Continue reading

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Mouse Guards

20151014_104153 CROPPEDFall is coming quickly. Trees are already turning colors and we’ve experienced a couple cool nights. A form of selective pressure is on its way in the form of Winter. Many beekeepers are frantically checking their hives, fretting about varroa thresholds, stores and whether they still have time for feeding. Having feral sourced bees makes it easier to sleep at night and not worry about those things….. as much. Winter is gonna come, and I’m probably gonna lose some hives, but it’s not keeping me up at night. Losing hives is like just like making mistakes. If you’re gonna call yourself a beekeeper you’re gonna need to lose hives and make mistakes.  Sometimes a lost hive is NOT a mistake on the beekeepers part, but poor utilization of mouse guard technology IS a mistake and will contribute to colony loss.
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Extraction Flash Mob

20150920_1357582015 is turning out to be a memorable beekeeping year. There’s been late night mishaps with cops and several angry dog incidents, but I must remember it’s not over yet! I have always invited some close friends to honey extraction ever since I started keeping bees. It’s a good time for me to visit with people because it’s one of the few times of year I am in a fixed location long enough to have a conversation. This year I said something to several people about extraction Sunday, but everybody was busy this year. Over time I had asked more and more people over, but thought it was just gonna be my father-in-law and a potential co-worker “maybe”.

About 11:30 Sunday morning the text messages started rolling in…
– “Are you still extracting honey today? Be there this afternoon”,
– “Need help doing honey? See ya sometime after lunch”,
– “Our plans fell through, we’ll be there at 2… we’ll bring some appetizers and wine”.
When this started happening I knew I had better relay the message to Holly ASAP, “We’re just about to have a bunch of people over……”  It is a good we keep some mead around. We didn’t know it yet but we were getting ready to experience an impromptu BASH!  
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