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Beginner Lessons in Feeding Hives Sugar Syrup

We have been blessed this spring with our hive count having increased by 900%. We began this year with essentially one hive when our second one didn’t make it through winter. That hive split into two and swarmed once. The swarm got away. Each of the splits each swarmed once. We caught them. Two random swarms showed up at the house. We boxed them. We installed 1 package at the beginning of spring as well. We then purchased a queen from a fellow beekeeper at the NCSBA Summer Meeting who won it as a door prize. We’re up to nine hives now. Completely amazing! This is exactly what we wanted. We want to get our hive count up to around 20-25. Thank the Lord.

The original hive has been struggling. After all the splits and swarms, I believe they went queenless for a while. They raised another and she was beginning to lay. The package hive and one of the splits from the original hive were the strongest.

The Beeks in our local club were aware that most of our hives were new and weak. The advice we kept getting was feed, feed, and feed. We were reluctant to feed. We wanted to see if they could make it own their own. But, early in the spring here in NC we had heavy rains that have really messed with the pollen and nectar flows. So on Saturday July 11th, 2009 I decided to feed the bees. I fed five of the weakest hives. It was about 5:30 PM and HOT! We had to promptly leave town for a family cookout. The next day, Sunday afternoon, I looked out the window towards the hives as I do so often. I saw bees all over the place. I went outside quickly and there were bees all over 2 of the hives I had fed the day before. It kind of looked like when they’re swarming or a very busy orientation flight. I looked closer and saw lots of fighting. They were being robbed! I had no idea how to stop it. I suited up and put entrance reducers on all the hives. I called a more experienced beekeeper and explained my plight. He headed right over. He took a look at everything and laughed a little. He said, “I’ve been where you are. In 5 years from now, if you’re lucky, you’ll get a call from someone asking for your help.” Ultimately, he took the strongest of the weak hives with him. It happened to be the ones that were being robbed out the most. He also told me that putting the entrance reducers on was the right thing to do. Our first hive that was struggling so hard to recover got frustrated and swarmed to an Oak branch nearby.

The robbing didn’t stop after he left. The robbers proceeded to the other hives with feeders. I was still at a loss for what to do. We were scheduled to leave town for a break that day as well. Finally I decided to pull the feeders from two of the other hives that were being robbed. That taken care of we packed up and took our new queen along with some frames of brood, pollen, and honey from a very productive hive to a new location for installation. Don’t forget there is still a swarm from a weak hive hanging out on a branch. But we left town, anyway, frustrated and somewhat defeated. We figured we would just let nature take it’s course.

Vacation was nice and I didn’t think about the bees much at all. On the way home we checked on the new queen. They had freed her but we are not sure if she lived or not. More to follow on that in a later post. After we arrived home and unpacked I took a walk around the property to check everything out. To my surprise the swarm was still hanging out on the Oak. I picked up a nuc and was able to retrieve them. The next day I moved the two strongest hives that were doing all the robbing to a new location in a different county. This would allow us to continue to feed all the weak hives with little fear of a repeat robbing event. We’re also not taking any honey off this year due to the low flow and the fact that are hives are weak. We want them to have as much food as possible going into the winter. With any help we’ll make it through to spring with what we have now. In which case the idea is to split them and we’ll be roughly around our desired 20 hives. That’s the plan anyway.

The lessons here were this. Be careful when feeding weak hives in the presence of strong hives. As the experienced beekeeper said, “Feed as close to dark as possible.” We have really had an awesome spring in only our second year of keeping bees. What happened that Sunday was a real shame and was so discouraging I was ready to throw in the towel. But with the help of an experienced beekeeper and some understanding family that have allowed our apiary to expand onto their properties we’re sticking with it. Always remember that bees are insects. They behave the way that God programmed them to behave. They are not malicious to the beekeeper. If there is a supply of weakly guarded food they will exhaust it till it’s gone and stored up in their hive. At first I was upset with the two stronger hives. But, honestly, that is what I want from a hive. Survivors. Strength. Growth. Population. They looked good. But I can’t have them here with so many weak colonies. It can be frustrating sometimes. But for me, working through it and finding the lesson is the reward. I love to learn. That is why I got into beekeeping. I wanted to learn something new. There is one more lesson. All the advice we received about feeding from all the other beekeepers should have had a disclaimer that we didn’t find out about until it was too late. Feed as close to dusk as possible.

With the two strong hives gone we have begun feeding the weak hives again and I’m happy to report minimal to no robbing. There’s a little fighting but no more than normal. I filled the feeders at dusk and was careful not to spill any. So far so good. We’ll see in a few months if it’ll all pay off or not.

If you’re a new beek also, or have a story you’d like to share please leave us a comment. We’d love to hear from you.

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2009 North Carolina Summer Meeting

The Beekeepers of Wilkes County will be hosting the NC State Beekeepers Association 2009 Summer Meeting. It will be held at the John A. Walker Community Center from July 9 through July 11, 2009. The meeting begins at 1:00 pm on Thursday and ends at 12:00 pm on Saturday. For the official agenda for the meeting or to register please visit ncbeekeepers.org.

There will be many important topics discussed, including one of the largest threats to the honey bee, the varroa mite. Varroa mites infest the hive and attach themselves to the honey bees weakening them by sucking hemolymph from them also passing viruses such as deformed wing virus. The mites can be treated by using different chemical treatments and also non-chemical treatments will which will be discussed at the meeting.

Many experts from North Carolina will be holding workshops at the meeting. These workshops will be very informative and interactive. Some of the topics are Using your Own Wax for Foundation, Reducing Honey Bee Stress, Natural Queen Rearing, and Beeswax Candles and Other Wax Works. There will also be a tour of Perry Lowe’s Apple Orchard, Lithia Springs Vineyard, and one of the largest beekeeping equipment suppliers located right here in Wilkes County, Brushy Mountain Bee Farm.

Every beekeeper likes to show off their honey and they want everyone to taste it as well. For those beekeepers there is a honey competition including not only just the honey but beeswax, mead and photography. There is also a cooking with honey competition to show off your culinary skills using honey as the sweetener. Speaking of food, there is an awards banquet on Friday evening that is sponsored by and will be located at Brushy Mountain Bee Farm. There will be a chicken and beef BBQ, bluegrass entertainment and the awards presentations.

Each person that attends the meeting will be given a goodie bag when they visit the registration table. Local businesses that donated items for the goodie bags were: beekeeping.cc, Wilkes Chamber of Commerce, Elite Insurance, Miller Bee Supply, Wilkes Telecommunications, W. Kerr Scott Dam and Reservoir, Parkdale Mills, Sonic, and Blue Ridge Parkway Association. Attendees will also be entered into door prize drawings. There are some great door prizes that were donated by: Busy Bee Apiaries, Miller Bee Supply, Shurtape, W. Kerr Scott Dam and Reservoir, Dadant, Mann Lake, Key City Grille, YMCA, and the John A. Walker Community Center. A silent auction will take place in the ballroom of the Walker Center. Many items have been donated including a complete hive and a small extractor. If you’re looking for new equipment or just want to check out some different styles of equipment there will be many beekeeping vendors on site for you to browse and ask questions of.

There is also a Master Beekeeping program that is sponsored by NC State University, NC State Beekeepers Association, and the NC Dept. of Agriculture. North Carolina’s program is the oldest, continuously active, Master Beekeeper program in the U.S. There are four levels in the program, Certified Beekeeper, Journeyman Beekeeper, Master Beekeeper, and Master Craftsman Beekeeper. In order to achieve one of these statuses you must pass a written test, practical test, have a certain number of years experience, and acquire a certain number of public service credits. Each level has different requirements. Testing will be going on Thursday and Friday at the Summer Meeting. Wilkes County has our very own Master Craftsman Beekeeper, Howard Blackburn. He has been a Master Craftsman for many years now and is always helpful and full of invaluable information from years of experience with beekeeping.

With so much happening at this years NC Summer Meeting you would really benefit from attending. There will be information, discussions, and networking available for all levels of beekeepers. Comradery is an important part of beekeeping as well, since there is no right or wrong way to keep bees everyone can benefit from discussing and sharing experiences with one another.

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Become a fan of our Facebook page

Just wanted to let everyone know about our Facebook page. If you’re on Facebook please become a fan of our page.

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The Life Cycle of a Queen Honey Bee

One of the topics beginner beekeepers find helpful and educational is the life cycle of the queen honey bee. Each bee’s role is very important to the survival of a hive, from the nurses, workers, and drones, but there’s just something about the queen. So here’s her story.

A fertilized egg is laid by either a queen or a laying worker (will make a post later on laying workers). The egg is laid vertical in the cell, parallel to the cell walls. The cell that the queen’s egg is laid in is special and is called; yep you guess it, a queen cell. These cells are shaped different from any other cell. The bees draw this cell out and down so it’s shaped like a long upside-down cup.

On day 2 the egg begins to move and is now at a 45 degree angle in the cell. Day 3 the egg is horizontal, lying on the bottom of the cell. The queen is an egg for 3 days, then it hatches and becomes a larvae From day 4 through 8 the queen larva is fed royal jelly by the workers. Only the queen larva is fed royal jelly. Each day the larva molts and by day 8 the size has expanded to fill the cell. Then the cell is sealed. The larva is now pro-pupa for 2 days, spins a cocoon, and molts one time 3 days after the cell is sealed. Now the queen is a pupa for 6 days and her color changes from white to her golden brown and black colors. The pupa molts one more time just before the queen emerges from the cell on day 16.

So, the day that the queen emerges from her cell she then goes hunting for other possible queens still inside their cells. She calls out to them by making an interesting sound. They reply to her so she can find them and kill them. She wants to make sure she’s the only queen in this hive! After that she takes her orientation flights from days 3 through 5. In her first three week she takes her mating flight(s) It may take more than one for her to become completely inseminated. When she is mated she will begin laying eggs 2 to 4 days after that.

The queen honey bee also produces pheromones to inform the colony of her presence so they will stop trying to raise a new queen.

A new queen will be reared if the current queen is old, dies, or is removed from the hive.

I was able to find a helpful timeline at britishbee.org.

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It's Sourwood Time

We are located in the foothills of North Carolina and one of the most desired types of honey is Sourwood. The Sourwood tree (Oxydendrum arboreum) is most common to the lower chain of the Appalachian Mountains and can be found anywhere from Pennsylvania to Florida. The tree can grow from 40 to 65 feet tall and has dark green leaves in the summer that turn to a bright red in the fall. The flowers form in clusters and are a white, bell-shape that bloom in late June through about the third week of July. The honey that the bees make from Sourwood nectar doesn’t actually have a sour flavor, but the flavor is very distinctive and the aftertaste to me, has sort of a twang to it. Sourwood honey has a light amber color that is easily recognized.

The Sourwood honey flow only lasts a short period and if the weather and other factors have not been favorable the flow will not be as productive as hoped for by many beekeepers. Since this type of honey is so sought after in our area it sells very quickly and is usually sold for a premium.

Since our hives are fairly new this year, we are not counting on a Sourwood honey flow for profit. We are hoping that our bees will be able to store enough honey to get them all through the winter. It would be a nice benefit if we were able to take a little for ourselves, but I’m not counting on it. It is much more important for the hives to survive the winter months.

Every region in the US is different. Do you have a special type of honey in your area that is more desirable than other types? If so, please leave a comment about the type of honey and when the flow usually occurs. We’d all be interested in hearing about your prized honey!

More references on Sourwood Honey: slowfoodusa.org mtnhoney.com

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What Is Propolis And What Are It's Uses

As a new beekeeper you go into your hive to check on things and find this sticky, brownish colored substance all over everything! The inner cover is practically glued shut, the frames are stuck to each other and either the super or brood box, and if you have a super or queen excluder it’s stuck down to the brood box. You have to pry everything apart just to get in to check on your honeybees. This “glue” is called propolis and the bees make it. It would seem they put it everywhere, and to a beekeeper it feels like they’re trying to keep you out.

So, where does propolis come from? Honeybees collect substances from tree buds, sap flows, and other botanical sources to make a resinous mixture. Usually propolis is a dark brown color but can vary depending on the plant source and region your bees are in.

Why do honeybees propolize their hives? Resin is in trees to seal wounds and defend against bacteria, fungi, and insects. When honeybees gather this to use in their hives they get the same benefits as the trees. Propolis also reinforces the stability of the hive and reduces vibrations from outside causes. I’m sure you’ve also noticed that propolis fills every crack and hole in your woodenware. Having all possible alternate entrances sealed, the honeybees are defending their hive using the propolis. One more use for propolis that isn’t too pleasant to think about is honeybees use it to mummify the carcass of an intruder, like a lizard or mouse that may have found it’s way in the hive. Since the bees aren’t able to remove such a heavy object from the hive they attempt to seal the carcass to make it odorless and harmless.

What are the medical uses of propolis? Some health food stores sell propolis for consumption, and it can be found in traditional medicines as well. Various medical conditions can be treated with propolis such as: inflammations, viral diseases, ulcers, superficial burns or scalds, promotion of heart health, strengthen immune systems, and reduce chances for cataracts. It is believed to have antibiotic and antifungal properties as well as anti-tumor growth properties.

Although propolis can be aggravating to a beekeeper trying to get into a beehive it seems there are many advantages to propolis not only for the honeybees but us humans as well. Read more detailed information at wikipedia. It is a good idea to scrape off the excess propolis from surfaces that we attend to frequently. I suggest that you save the propolis and make a ball of it or put it in a container for you to use later. Keep in mind that if your propolis gets cold it will become brittle, so just warm it back up or keep it at room temperature.

If you know of any other good uses for propolis, or have any other questions please leave a comment.

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Best Conditions to Work in Your Hives

It seems that there are many people that are terrified of honey bees along with other types of stinging insects. As beekeepers we understand the importance of honey bees in the pollination of flowers, vegetables, fruits, and other plants, as well as the production of honey. Surprisingly there are still a lot of uneducated people who don’t understand the significance of honey bees. Fear and apprehension of friends, family, or visitors to your apiary could potentially cause problems for you, the beekeeper.

Once people learn that you are a beekeeper they tend to ask lots of questions about honey bees and beekeeping. Thanks to their questions you get the opportunity to educate them on this very important topic. Hopefully, after conversations with folks they will be less frightened and less likely to kill a swarm, or even random bees.

Some honey bees have aggressive personalities, others seem to be gentle, but no matter what your bees are usually like when a visitor comes around they’re likely to “show-off” for them! If you get visitors to your apiary when you are working in them, there are certain actions you can take to help your bees from being aggressive. I came across this information on outdoorplace.org today. Here are some of their suggested best conditions to work in your bees:

-When most of the field bees are out in the field collecting nectar (my opinion: most are out around 3:00pm)

-When there is a nectar flow from flowering plants

-When the colony is not under stress from predators, such as wasps

-When colonies are in direct sunlight

-When the temperature is not very hot (95°F or higher)

-When neighbors are not having a lawn party or mowing their yard

Another good tip that I personally found very interesting is to have your hive(s) near bushes or trees, or to even put a flag or other object that will move in a breeze in order to get your bees accustomed to movement around their hive. We walk around our hives practically every day and they hardly take notice to us anymore. A few might buzz by to check us out, especially if we get in one of their high-traffic paths, but they generally leave us alone. One more very important thing to remember is for you or any of your visitors to never walk directly in front of a hive. That is a sure way to make the bees angry and puts you at a much greater risk of being stung. So I’m sure you’re thinking how close can you get to a bee hive without getting stung? I’m interested in your opinions, please use the comments form below and let us know what you think.

Hopefully these tips will help keep you and your visitors out of harms way and help calm some fears and apprehensions about honey bees.

Happy Beekeeping to you all!

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Great tips from Linda on preparing honey for a contest

Linda has some great tips on preparing your honey for entry in contests. She has really spent some time thinking it through. It’s not clear weather this knowledge has come from experience of if she gained it from other beekeepers. I would guess that she learned this from her own experiences. It’s especially useful because it prepares the honey for a contest at the time of extraction. So there is really no additional work on the beekeeper. Pretty genius.

From the evidence in her side bar, she may know a thing or two about entering and winning honey contests. She has six first place blue ribbons and four second place red ribbons for her honey.

I have not entered any contests to date, but I will revisit her post if I ever considering entering a honey judging contest.

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Basic Beekeeping on dealing with a Queenless Hive

How to tell when your hive is queenless over at Basic beekeeping by David & Sheri Burns is a very informative post containing various explanations as to why a hive might end up queenless, remedies, and probably the most valuable…time-lines. You can use them to determine what course of action is the most appropriate for your hive when you find yourself queenless.

When you find that your hive is queenless, it is important to know how long it has been without a queen. This will tell you how long you have to obtain a new queen. For example, if you see only…read more

Highly recommended. Take the time to check out the rest of the series as well.

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Welcome to Beekeeping.cc

Hi, and welcome to beekeeping.cc’s first blog post. This is very exciting for us. We’ve been working very hard on this for several months now. We could have just used blogger or Wordpress as our blogging engine rather than building a custom one, but where’s the fun in that? Besides, I don’t care for upgrading a WP blog, and once this proves itself, all of our blogs will be rebuilt.

We’re using CakePHP as the framework. I’ve done a few websites now using CakePHP and find it easy to work with and to get the results I’m looking for.

The design of the site was handled by my graphic designer, wife. I think it’s just a beautiful and useful design. I’m especially fond of the tab bar.

I’ve wanted to build this site ever since I got my first hive last year. Initially, I see it as a place to collect interesting stories, articles, how-to’s, links, videos, and research as it pertains to the field of beekeeping. I’m still new to the hobby and find tons of information on the subject. My hope is that new hobbyist beekeepers and seasoned commercial beekeepers will find the site useful and informative. I’m open to feedback and welcome your comments, either on individual posts, or one of the contact methods mentioned on our contact page. If you have things you think should be added here, make a suggestion and we’ll see about adding it. We already have a few ideas of some additional features we’d like to add to the site to make it a little more “social” in nature, but those will be just a little while longer. For now though, the main way for interaction is here and on Twitter.

On a personal note, we currently have 5 hives in our apiary. To my knowledge, they’re all Italians. Hive one’s bees were a gift from an experienced beekeeper to help us get started in late spring of 2008. Hive 2 was purchased as a complete hive at the end of summer 2008. They did not make it over winter. Hive 3 is our first package purchased at the beginning of spring 2009. Hives 4 and 5 are splits we did early spring 2009 from Hive 1. Hive 6 is a small swarm that showed up looking for a home in April of 2009, so we gave them one. In 2008, from our one hive we were able to extract approximately 15 quarts of honey. I don’t think that is too bad for a new hive and new beekeepers. This year, 2009, we have had a lot of rain, and all of our hives are “new” which has resulted in low honey production. But, the hives are looking good in terms of population growth. Maybe not surprising to many, is the fact that the best-looking hive we have is the one that we’ve intervened with the least. We have fed most of the hives using top feeders. But Hive 5 was a split that we just left alone. The ones that were top fed stored a lot of the sugar away since they couldn’t get out and forage. As a result they wound up a little honey bound. But the hive we left alone built up their stores and population naturally. It’s only a small experiment from a second year beekeeper, but it appears that human intervention isn’t always necessary.

We currently use Langstroth style hives exclusively, but I’m interested in other styles of hives. Most of the experienced beekeepers in our area are commercial beekeepers and they all use the Langstroth hive. Many of them depend on the money from beekeeping as their sole source of income. Many of the methods they use are designed to maximize earnings. So a lot of the advice we get is geared towards maximum honey production and ease of work on the beekeeper.

Again, welcome. Thanks for taking the time to visit the site and read our first post. I hope you come back often and tell others about the site. If you have something you’d like to share, please drop us a line to webmaster AT beekeeping DOT cc, or connect with us on Twitter. We’d love to hear from you. Thanks again and God bless.

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