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Beekeeping Questions and Answers

Photo credit: Christopher Campbell Photography Inc.
We have a new, free tool available for immediate use by all beekeepers the world over. It is a questions and answers site similar in functionality to StackExchange. You can find it at either http://bhiv.es/qa or directly at http://qa.beekeeping.cc. Read on for more information.

Q&A sites allow users to ask and answer questions. Both questions and answers can be voted upon using a +1 -1 system. The user asking the question gets to choose which of the supplied answers is the best or most appropriate. This Q&A site enables the beekeeping community to maintain a central repository of typical questions and the best answers. Over time this will allow beekeepers with questions to search the knowledge base to see if it has already been asked. If so they can read over all the supplied answers with the best chosen answer at the top of the answer list.

Beekeeping Question and Answers has some distinct advantages over the typical beekeeping forum site.

  • The question being asked is easily identified
  • The best supplied answer is easily identified at the top of the answer list
  • Users can vote up or down on questions and answers
  • Less valuable contributions get pushed down the stack reducing clutter
  • Users earn points for participation
  • Users can ignore all comments/answers that are not the chosen answer
  • Saves time when searching for an answer
  • Users can search through all asked questions
  • User can ask new questions
  • Beekeeping experts can be identified easily
Forums are a great place for discussions, but not very friendly to the internet user looking for an answer to a specific question. Often, users have to search through many comment threads on many forums only to discover that the question was never really answered fully. While comments are fun to read, sometimes beekeepers just want an answer. Beekeeping Q&A hopes to provide the answer to the question you're searching for as quickly as possible. Allowing you to get back to what you love, your bees.

Take a few seconds and register. Come back often to see what new questions have been asked. Pitch in by voting on questions and answers. Help us build the most useful knowledge base for beekeepers on the web.

Humans vs Nature

I subscribe to a lot of mailing lists. I like the discussions that take place there. I like that I can follow along, or jump in at any time, using my email client. My email is usually close at hand and I usually pay attention to it over other communication channels. So any time something interesting comes along, I read it pretty quickly.

Some of the beekeeping lists I follow are Bee-L, BackwardsBeekeepers, WarreBeekeepers, FeralBeeProject, and OrganicBeekeeping.

More Technology and Beekeeping

So some French employees of Cisco got into keeping bees urban style. They started three hives on the top of their Paris office. They harvested 220 pounds of honey the first year.

What I’m more interested in is finding out more information on is the monitors they installed and the data they collected.

Tech and beekeeping are something I have been interested in for many years. I want to know how expensive it was to install the monitors, what types of data they collected and what they learned from it.

This is very exciting times for beekeeping. If you know more about this project than what is published here, here, and here, please contact me and let me know. I am very interested in this. Thanks.

Calling it quits

It’s become painfully obvious to me by my lack of updates and posts to this site that it’s time to cal it quits on managing my own custom blogging software. My lack of updates are directly related to the unfinished-ness of that code base. It was a fun learning experience and I wrote some cool code for it, but all of that is hindering my time in actually writing about bees. And since that is the reason I started this, it’s time to focus on what really matters. So I’m calling it quits on writing my own CakePHP powered blogging engine. :-) What did you think I was quitting?

Just because I can write my own blogging software, it doesn’t mean I should.

I’ve moved the posts over from http://www.beekeeping.cc/blog to http://blog.beekeeping.cc, After a day of piddling, I decided I like the blog better at http://www.beekeeping.cc/blog/. A 301 redirect is in for that, and I’ve added a updated the feedburner feed, 301 redirected the old feed urls. So you shouldn’t have to update anything. Soon I’ll fix the theme too.

It’s time to move on and get out of the ditch I’ve dug for myself.

Please let me know if you have any trouble with the feeds, articles, or links.

Thanks.

Technology and Beekeeping

For as long as I’ve been a beekeeper, since 2006, I’ve wanted to combine my love for technology with my love for beekeeping. This website is but one attempt of mine to do such a thing. It has long been my goal to offer a web based app to keep track of your hives. I’ve got most of it working and it’s pretty well thought out if I do say so myself. Why then haven’t I released it? I had a set back with a corrupted hard drive. It took months to duplicate the work. I now have several backups. Then my wife and I had our first child, a little boy. And since his birth I’ve spent a lot of time with him. Then I learned about Beetight and HiveTracks. Proof that I’m not the first to come up with the idea and certainly not the first to implement it.

Enough with the excuses already. I simply want to combine my two loves into one. I will do that if if takes me eons to complete. Why? Because my mind won’t give me a break until I do. So until that time comes, or our good Lord returns, please keep me in mind and ask me how things are going. Nothing would give me more pleasure than to make useful tools for others. I hope to have something to share before the end of this year, 2011.

So other than the hive records, what other ideas have I been cooking up? How about:

Ideas (apparently not unique to me)

A embedded linux system with sensors that monitors:

  • Temperature both inside and outside the hive

  • Humidity both inside and outside the hive

  • Hive weight

  • A sound monitoring device based on the apidictor that monitors for swarms, but digital by design

  • On board data storage

  • Various communication channel modules to send data to data processing computers (think sms,gprs,edge,hdspa,3g,4g,wifi,dongle,usb,serial,zigby)

Today I learned of even more kindred spirit out there known as the BeeHacker from friend Bryan Stalcup. Cool name BeeHacker! It appears he, as well as others if you read the comments, have also had similar ideas. There seems to be varying degrees of progress made by others. But one thing is clear, we all desire the same things.

There is one last idea, that as far as I’m aware of is all my own at this point in time. With progress being made on data collection for beekeepers and web apps reporting systems in place there are 2 things missing that I’d like to see.

  1. An open source data input API (XML-RPC, REST, SOAP) that these data collection units could submit data to these websites on your behalf

  2. A common open source data definition that these websites output their data (JSON,XML) that researchers could consume to glean important information about the state of the honeybees.

These two API’s would allow for various front-ends to be developed and data input into them using a combination of automation and manual human intervention. And various data reporting tools, feeds, and reports, that can aggregate all the data into one large picture.

What good is it to have all this data if it isn’t to make use of it? What good is it if the worlds beehives’ data is split between multiple store houses? Silos of information that leave holes. All this effort should be focused into one collective where the big picture can be derived.

I will continue working on my ideas and projects. But I’m tired of seeing others get mention for the same ideas while I sit idly by. I know I’m not the first to think of these things. I’m certainly not the first to implement them. But when these ideas come to me, they don’t come to me by way of another. Every time I hear of my ideas though I go “Shoot! Really?” Why didn’t I just speak up? So now I’m speaking up. I can not get mad at myself over this one. And if you’re reading this and you too had the idea of marrying the automated data inputs to the data stores, congratulations. It’s a good idea. It needs to be done. Please consider helping me in some way.

That’s a load off. These are exciting times for the Beekeeper. What with all the press and attention, bees are cool. They’re a heck of a lot of fun too. Beekeepers are a historically inventive bunch too. Most of the inventions are to scratch one individual’s itch though and rarely make it to a retailer’s shelf.

I’ve enjoyed sharing this and hope I can keep up the momentum. I have several other things I want to get on here. Poke me if you haven’t heard from me in a couple of days.

My beekeeping management plan

I have been keeping bees since 2007. Since that time it’s really been what I’d call a hobby. I have spent the time learning about bees and how to keep them. I don’t consider myself an expert on the subject matter, but I know a few folks that are.

Since the beginning I’ve felt that I needed a plan. Something that I could put into practice and tweak as the years go by. To a certain degree I’ve been doing this all along. But this year I intend to formalize my plan. One aspect of that is to talk about it. How better to gauge the plan’s successes or failures than to have it published and shared. Later, you can ask me how the plan is going.

Starting this year I’ll likely have around 10 hives starting in spring. Each hive is scheduled to receive 3 standard deeps for brood, pollen, and honey. I will not use a queen excluder. I will bottom super the hives, meaning that when I add a new super it will go under all the existing ones. In fact there will be two empty deeps below the super containing the brood. One for them to expand onto and one for protection and hygiene. The box directly below the brood will contain frames. Yet the one below that will not. By bottom suppering, I’m encouraging them to build downward as they do in trees and most other spaces. I’m told queens won’t usually lay eggs above the honey line. So harvesting the top boxes once full should contain little to no larva.

I will not provide foundation to the bees. The bees must draw their own comb. This should cut down on wax moth. As well as allowing them to expand the comb where and how they see fit. I will provide a bead of wax in the groove of the topbar for the bees as a guide. This bead of wax will come from naturally made comb from last year. I believe that bees need to make wax and I need not be so greedy and impatient by depriving them of the task.

I will not use any chemicals, treatment, pesticides, miticides, fungicides, antibiotics, or fumigants. I do not want to consumer or sell honey that might contains any such thing. I will not artificially feed the bees with sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, pollen substitutes, or anything else. If they are unable to collect enough food to store and sustain themselves resulting in death, then so be it.

I will split each hive into two after the second major honey flow, but before it gets too late in the year. July or August should do nicely. I will take each 10 frame deep down to two five frame nucs. I will split each hive in two. They will each get two five frame deeps, one for brood, one for honey. In this way I will double my hive count going into winter. If I loose a few over winter, I’ll still be ahead come spring. The idea of wintering in nucs came to me by accident. I had wintered one hive in a nuc last year. They consumed less over winter. They were also the fastest to build come spring. I split that hive 4 times last year. I believe it’s because they have less area to cover and warm. All the resources are within easy access to the cluster. I’ve seen hives that starved during winter that had stores all around the cluster. I’m told that this is fairly common. I’m also told that the cluster moves up to access additional resources. Not out. By giving them a tall narrow area to work with this should suit their desire well.

What honey isn’t used to supply the nucs with 5 frames each of honey will be harvested via the crush and strain method. This should be the second and final harvest of the year. I will bottle and sell what I get.

Come spring I will do inspections and decide which ones and how many hives I’d like for that year. Any nuc above that number will be sold. The remaining hives will again be expanded to ten frame deeps as the above starts over again.

I will market the fact that the honey I’m selling is supplied by chemical free bees. I expect to charge a fair bit more for chemical free honey as I believe it is worth more. Be able to get a higher price will depend on educating the consumer what makes my honey different and special. If they don’t want to pay the price they will have plenty of other choices among cheaper honeys.

That in a nut shell is my 2011 Beekeeping management plan. Along with that I intend to practice queen rearing and possibly selling queens at the local level. We’ll both know this year what worked and what didn’t in this plan.

If you have experience with anything I’ve mentioned above, please leave a comment. Thanks. God bless

Buckwheat Honey Butter Biscuits

One of my favorite treats is home made honey butter. It’s better when made with buckwheat honey. It’s best when served with home made butter and biscuits.
Here are some pics of me making honey butter.
  1. Cut a pad of butter and pour honey on top.
    Homemade Buckwheat Honey Biscuits
  2. Get a fresh homemade biscuit
    Homemade Buckwheat Honey Biscuits
  3. Mash the butter and honey together with a fork.
    Homemade Buckwheat Honey Biscuits
  4. Rip off a piece of the biscut and dip in the honey butter, Eat and Enjoy!!!
    Homemade Buckwheat Honey Biscuits
If you’ve never tried any of the darker honeys, I suggest you do. The flavor in a darker honey is out of this world. Much more complex than many of the lighter honeys I’ve tasted. When combined with butter, it’s causes a flavor explosion in my mouth. Writing this is making me want to ask my wife fix more biscuits. Mmmm, mmm.