Beekeepers Friend

Peaches' Beekeeping Blog

June 9, 2016


Now is the time to apologize to my readers for not posting  sooner, but I’m not. I have done that too many times before. My skills at blogging are not the best in the world on the good days. I am in Knoxville, TN getting ready to have a family reunion with my boys and their families. While the girls are gone to get the food supplies, I thought I might get caught up with my thoughts and get some of them down in print.

Spring is just about over in parts of the Southeast USA. It is now time to pull the rest of your honey and extract, use what chemical or natural treatment for the next 46 or so days before the summer and fall blooms arrives. You are checking for  Varroa Mites, you know, those little blood sucking bugs like ticks or vampires. When the mites are above the threshold of say two or three to maybe about 100-150 bees, then you must thin them out by any means (legal of course) that you have at your disposal.

You know that when you kill, trap, or knock off the mites that you can see, there are usually 2 times more mites that you cannot see in the capped brood area. That is why you need to treat for at least 3 times about 7 days apart. That way when the adult bees emerge from their cells, the mites will emerge with them and your treatments can get to them as well.

For those of you that are new to beekeeping, you will notice  that most of the treatments recommended by your mentors or in the directions of the chemical packages will be around 21 days or about 5-6 weeks.  This is because of the life cycles of most things. 7 or so days or multiples of 7 (generally speaking).

Now while you are cooling your heels while waiting for the days to pass so you can treat again, this would be a good time to check your wooden ware for abnormalities and fix them, or you could be putting some more boxes and frames together.

Thinking ahead to the fall time now, would be a great time to get ready for the autum and winter periods by checking your pollen substitute and sugar for sugar water for winter feeding should you have a need to.

If you think I have not given enough information or that I have not explained clear enough, please post a note at the bottom of this or any post and I will endeavor to elaborate to your satisfaction.

As always, keep your veil handy, your smoker lit, and you hive tool sharp.

December 18, 2015

Getting Ready for Spring

Howdy all, I have been working with a friend and his wife, getting my back yard ready for the spring roundup. We have made several racks on the fence to put my plastic frames in, to get them off the ground. Once I have time, I will melt some wax and, by using a very short napped roller, start re-waxing the foundation. Then I will get all the boxes cleaned up and put the new waxed frames in the boxes that are ready to go. When all the brood boxes are loaded with frames and foundations, then I will start working on the honey supers. I am quite sure that I will need to get some more supers from the supplier to have several on hand for the next honey season.

I will probably have some newbies come over and have a cleaning and building party. This way they can learn what to do for themselves when the time comes. This is also a great way to have a class on bees and equipment and have a question and answer period.

I have made it a rule to feed my helpers and have plenty of choices of water and refreshment drinks from which they can choose. It is important to stay hydrated during the summer months and also to drink plenty of water during the colder months as you can become dehydrated, because you don’t feel thirsty like you will in the summer months.

Now is a good time to go through your safety equipment and replace/repair the bellows on your smoker, check your veil—and if you have a pith hat or plastic hat that is broken or warped consider replacing it. Then there is your hive tool. It needs to be sharpened to be ready for the spring season. Do you need to replace your bee suit or gloves? How about your foot ware? If you live where there are poisonous snakes (hehe as if there is a place where there are no poisonous snakes), you need to think about thick hide, high top boots to wear in the beeyard. Do you have bears in your neighborhood? What are you planning to combat them with?

Don’t forget to read and read some more. Also if you have decided to start a journal, then you need to make a list of the information you want to include so you can make comparisons later in the years to come. Some of the things to consider are the time of day, weather, kind of queen, kind of colony (swarm, split, bought), treatments, feeding, how you do….? (whatever you do to/or with your bees, moving to another location and why), etc. These are just examples to some of the things you should consider. I am not telling you you have to use any of these examples. These are just suggestions to get you to thinking in the right direction of keeping a journal. I also use these for each on my colonies; this way I have a running account of each one so I can watch the trends of each one. Sometimes the same treatment does not do the same good for all the colonies.

That is all for now–I hope you have a very Merry Christmas and have a Happy and Prosperous New Year



August 9, 2015

Then There Were None

I am almost ashamed to write this post. As a person who has  obtained the rank of Master Beekeeper, I am not showing much promise in proving it. It really takes more than a piece of paper to make a master of anything without making some effort to “practice what you preach”. A Dr. of Philosophy doesn’t show much intelligence without philosophizing any. A Dr. of Medicine doesn’t elicit much trust if he doesn’t practice. A Master Mathematician doesn’t show much numerical ability without doing some calculations.

By the same token, a Master Beekeeper doesn’t generate much faith in his wisdom if he doesn’t show his ability to run an apiary with measured success if he keeps starving his bees, or letting the pests and parasites to decimate his colonies. I could say, “Do as I say and not as I do”, but that is a cop out of putting the blame onto someone else. I have no one to blame but myself. On second thought, I AM ashamed to write this post.

But the truth of the matter is, I have to do something to motivate me into action. I can tell everyone else how to operate their apiaries and how to manipulate their bees to help them to increase their numbers and health, but I don’t seem to be able to make myself do the same for me. I would make a good boss and maybe a fair teacher, but I am not a very good leader. A good leader will lead by example which I am not doing.

Now that I have no bees, I could use this time to clean up my apiary, equipment, get my boxes repaired or replaced along with the frames and foundations. This would be a good time to have a class on how to do this by having some wannabees and new beekeepers over to get that experience using my equipment. It would help both of us, but I find it hard to ask for help. I have always done things for me by myself. That is a failing on my part.

You wonder what this has to do with beekeeping? Well let me tell you. It is life in general. The ladies where I grew up would have a quilting bee by having a group meet at someone’s house and sew some quilts together to sell or give to the needy or to replace the old worn out bed covers. Then there are the ladies that have canning parties so every one can put up some fresh fruit and vegetables. I was a cowboy in my younger years and come roundup time for branding, moving cattle to another pasture, or getting ready for the market, the different neighboring ranches would send one, two, or more ranch hands to help. It was called being neighborly.

Beekeepers could do that, but being what they are, most beekeepers are solitary beings, unless they are commercials, then they have their employees to do the work. I would like to see the beekeepers be neighborly like that, but they are a afraid that if someone knew where all their locations are, they would soon be missing some hives, or that someone would move in close to their areas and cut down on the forage volume.

I personally have not problem with beekeepers calling me with questions, asking me to come look at their bees, showing them what the heck I was talking about, and explaining by using their bees as examples. But to me, being a self contained unit, asking for help is like admitting that I am not sufficient to complete the task. The mighty ego is the downfall of not just me, but a lot of people, not just beekeepers.

Maybe by the next post, I will have some better news as to my progress on the cleanup and getting ready for the next swarm.

In the mean time, keep your veil handy, your smoker lit, and your hive tool  sharp!

July 1, 2015

Frames, Frames, My Kingdom for Frames

Have you ever needed something and you had to stop doing whatever you were doing and either build, repair, clean, or even go to town to purchase it? That is my situation at this time. I have to clean some boxes and build new frames for them.

From the time I last wrote to now, I have lost my two new colonies. I will be honest. I neglected the bees and they got an abundance of Small Hive Beetles along with Varroa Mites. I have also neglected to clean the boxes and now I will see a bunch of beetle larvae unless they have gone to ground to pupate.

I am going to build approximately 25 frames and get them wired, then put wax foundation in them. That will give me two 10 frame boxes and one 5 frame nuc. Then I can either add a nuc to the remaining colony that is living in a 2 story  nuc box to a 10 frame brood box, or I can put another nuc on top and let them just keep on keeping on. During this time, I will need to start feeding them as we are going into a dearth.

Now would be a good time to make some more frames and clean some more boxes checking them first to keep the good boxes and get rid of the bad ones. There are two times that you will be slow and that is in the Winter and again in the Fall.

This is all that I am going to bore you with this time. Remember to keep your Veil close, your smoker handy, and your hive tool sharp.

May 4, 2015

Training Time, But No Students

Kinda spooky, now that good teaching opportunities are occurring everywhere, but without new beekeepers to learn, these are lost lessons. Right now, I am preparing my clothes and equipment to load up with my wife’s and leave in the morning to Orlando, FL to watch our youngest son graduate with his Doctorate in nursing. Then we will be off to Indianapolis, IN to watch our Number One grandson graduate High School. A flying trip (in the car) to Knoxville, TN to witness our Number Two grandson graduate from High School. After which we, my wife and I, will take a leisurely trip back to Pensacola, All this in the next three weeks.

In the meantime, I will not be able to show how to put frames and foundation together and make some supers to add to my hives. As of right now, some of the beekeepers on different forums are saying that their honeyflow is over and the bees are eating all the honey at a rapid pace and they are having to feed sugar water. I live in a housing area and the bees are still bringing in pollen and nectar. I am having to make more room for them to store their food. However, since I am a procrastinator, I have waited too long and now I will not be here to finish my work. Now the bees will maybe swarm and then I won’t have to add a supper. Oh well! That is my fault and no one else’s. Maybe someone will get the swarms and increase his apiary.

This is one of those times that you should “do as I say and not as I do”.

Until Next time, keep your veil close,  your smoker lit, and you hive tool sharp.

April 27, 2015

Back to My Apiary and Other Things

I have been going over in my head as to what to do with my colonies now that I have three of them. Do I leave them in my backyard,  or do I try to split and move some to the out apiaries. By the way, I don’t even know if I have any apiaries left. I need to touch base with the land owners and see if anyone has moved into my spots. That is something that needs to be taken care of sooner than later. You need to keep in touch with your contacts or you just might lose what you thought you had.

I was going to split my three colonies, but I really don’t have the bees or brood enough yet. I want each to split on their own without help from their neighbors. I will wait another two weeks to split. I need to get this done before the spring flow is over. I want them to be able to make wax to insure they have plenty of comb for storage.

I plan this way to split just before I start my may graduation run. I have a son that is getting his doctorate  degree in nursing in Orlando, FL. Then I drive to Indianapolis, IN. for my number one grandson’s high school graduation. Grandson number two will graduate from high school near Knoxville, TN. That means the middle two and a half weeks of May is taken up and I will be missing some of the beekeeping association meetings I regularly attend. You might say this will be a working vacation. hehe….

I am in hopes that when I get back, my bees will have gotten strong and I will be able to say with surety that they will be survivors and I will be able to loan some of the bees to a observation hive.  I have found that using an observation hive, will open lots of opportunities for bee talks to all areas of people. Show and tell always gets the attention of the young and old alike. I have also gotten some Newbie beekeepers interested in coming to the meetings and making our associations grow.

I am sure that by now that some of you readers out there have heard about two new types of bee hives. One is the Bee Barrel. This is a interesting article and the link I gave, is to the video. To download and read is easier for me as I need to see it in print to understand some of the concepts. I haven’t had the information as to how to extract the honey yet. Something about not having a patent on the extractor or the process to extract yet. I’ll keep you posted as the new information becomes available.

The second type of bee hive is the Flow Hive. There are several videos on the flow hive. there are several pros and cons about this type of hive. All discussions for both sides are valid and very thought provoking. I think that you, the readers, should research for yourselves and make your own decision.

I will leave you here as I am about 2 weeks late with the posting of this page.

March 20, 2015

Life Cycle Of The Varroa Mite

There are at least 30 different classes of mites that have been found living in a honeybee hive and at least three of those are considered vampire-like parasites. They live off the haemolymph which is the life blood of the honeybee.

One is the Trachea Mite that lives in the breathing tubes of the bee. These are not as much a problem as the other mites so we are not discussing them at this time.

Two are the of the more serious variety, V. jacobsoni and V. destructor until recently, were thought to be the same, but now DNA tests have separated them into two species. The most destructive is V. destructor, however, the life cycle is basically the same.

It starts with the adult female mite taking up residence in a beehive by riding in on the back of a bee that has robbed another hive and brought home, or the mite has ridden the robbing bee to the house that is being robbed and jumping onto a house bee there. Either way is the way the mites move from hive to hive and infesting the whole apiary.

Once in the hive the mite will jump into the cell and hide under the larva and hide until the  larva turns into a pupa and the nurse bees puts a cap on the cell. That is when the mite will lay 3 to 5 eggs with the first egg being a male. The brother in this case will mate with his sisters then die. The female mites will latch onto the pupa and emerge with the full grown worker bee then start the cycle over again.

At this time, I should point out that the mites prefers the drone cells as they are larger and easier to move around in and also the drones have a longer pupation period than the worker bees by 2 – 4 days. This gives the mites that much longer to develop.

This is the reason that we have to treat for the mites several times at a treatment time to be sure to get the majority of the mites. The treatment for mites is a contact type of chemical and the mites that are exposed are the only ones to receive the chemical. The mites in the enclosed cells are protected until the caps are removed and the bees emerge from the cells.

The treatments and types of chemicals will be another post. But in the meantime, keep you veil handy, your smoker lit, and your hive tool sharp.


March 12, 2015

Split Survivor Colonys

A young beekeeper and his wife called me about several swarms he had hived. He ran out of complete boxes and asked what to do with one that was boxed but had no bottom board. Well since I am in the early stages of rebuilding my apiary, I said that I probably could take it off his hands. With them being new beekeepers, the swarm looked larrrrge so I loaded a 10 frame box with drawn comb along with top and bottom boards. I also put a nuc in the truck just in case the swarm was not as big as he thought.

When I arrived at their apiary, there were the beekeepers, his mother, and their son and daughter-in-law ready to watch and learn. The first thing I asked about was the sheet draped over the hive of  one of the swarms. The answer was that they didn’t want the bees to leave. I explained that the bees were looking for a home and when they were put into the box, they found a home and unlike humans, didn’t need to rest. They needed to get to work and with the sheet blocking their way, they couldn’t forage for nectar to start producing wax with which to start building comb.

With the bees uncovered, we took the top board off and dumped the adhering bees on the ground in front of the landing board. When Tom, the new beekeeper, and his wife, Gena, asked about the bees flying away, I showed them how the bees were going back into the hive.  Then, as the frames were not in the brood box, I had him put the frames in to give the bees the incentive to start building cells.

Next, we went to the swarm that was to go home with me. The brood box was sitting on a flat piece of cardboard with a top board jacked up so the bees would have a way in and out of the box as there was no bottom board. We proceeded to take the brood box to the truck and dumped the bees in the 10-frame brood box with the thought of putting them into a nuc the next day as a training session.

Next, we went into the two colonies he had on stands. First thing out of the hatbox, was do we need a smoker? Yes. Always, when going to the apiary, you should have a smoker, hive tool, and have your veil. Always, always, always. You never know when you will need one and going back to the house to get you equipment is not always a convenient time.

One was a European breed, the other was of Russian ancestry. From the European colony, we took a frame of open brood and put into the colony with the sheet just to give the bees a reason to stay, “There’s babies here and we need to feed them”. I told Tom and Gena that the bees have not had time to orientate to that spot on the ground yet, so he could move them tonight after the bee meeting to their stand that he had prepared. At night, the bees are all home and waiting for the sun to rise in the morning. That is the best time to move them to their new location. You want as many bees as you can get.

The Russian colony was filling up the brood cells with nectar. No brood, no eggs is an indicator that it was queen-less and he would need to get another queen or put some eggs in the hive so the bees could make their own queen. In that case, the bees would in all probability would end up being European. He asked why were they putting nectar in the cells instead of making another queen. The answer is simple. The bees cannot make a queen without a 1-3 day old larva. Can’t have a larva without an egg. So the bees without any direction, will do what they know the best and that is to make honey.So they forage – forage – forage.

At this point in time, we were needing to get going as our association was having a meeting and I would be late if I stopped by my house to drop the bees off, so I took them to the meeting. As it was approaching dark, the bees would be fine to leave in the truck and not blocked up. I forgot to say that I hardly ever plug the hive entrance when transporting bees unless I am going a fair distance in the daytime with several stops. Plugging the entrance in that case would keep me from losing very many bees in transport.

The next day arrived and I had a call from a couple that has had bees for about three years, but didn’t work them much, mostly had them for their own enjoyment. Richard and his wife, Barbara has just recently decided to get really involved with their bees and have been calling me for advice. The questions involved swarming and splitting. Well-wellll-welll- well! Guess what?! “Bee at my house at 4:30 pm and we will have a class.” I’ll have help rearranging my bees and maybe splitting a hive with freeee help. Hehe

I have a two-story nuc that I think is ready to split, and a 10-frame brood box that I just might be able to split. So at 4:30 all three showed up at my house and we (they) got suited up and with veils, went outside to start the smoker with whatever we could find for fuel. The best free fuel is Pine straw. However, some leafs and wood shavings, chips, pressed sawdust will work.

Having smoked the swarm in the 10-frame box that Tom and Gena gave me, the class as a group, set up the nuc and transferred five frames and all the bees into it. Then they moved the big box out of the way and placed the nuc in the space that it had occupied. This way the foraging bees would go to the nuc where their queen was.

My over wintered 2-story nuc was moved over and the 10-frame brood box was placed in the same spot and all 10 frames, honey, brood, and bees, were transferred into it. Not enough brood yet to split.

Then we went to the last overwintered swarm box and checked. It was weak and we took a frame of  bees that had two queen cells and put it in the weak hive to either replace the queen or at least strengthen the colony.

That frame had three queen cells, so I gave one to Tom for his Russian colony, and while I was looking for a queen cage, she had chewed her way out of the cell but was kept in cell cup by a finger until I could get the cage to her. In this case, I didn’t have any fondant for a plug so I got a small marshmallow. It works just great.

Now we all will just have to wait to see if all the bees make it. Just a side note, during all this maneuvering of the bees, I only say three Small Hive Beetles which I promptly killed.

As always, keep you veil handy, your smoker lit, and your hive tool sharp.

March 4, 2015

Life Cycle of the Honey Bee

The honey bee is the most versatile insect in the world. It pollinates, makes medicinal products, food, and shows us how the insect world works (in a way). This is a post on how they operate from conception to death, (my own opinion).

First of all, the virgin queen goes on a maiden flight to the Drone Congregation area to get impregnated by 3-4 up to 20-28 drones. Then she goes back to the hive and starts laying eggs in the center of the cells. One egg to a cell. The egg is standing up on end. By day 3 the egg has laid down in a bed of royal jelly.

Day 4 the egg has hatched into a larva. From that day through day 6 all the larvae are fed royal jelly then on day 8, all male and female larvae, except the female larvae that have been designated to be the new queens, are fed beebread which is a form of baby food. It is made of pollen and nectar (honey). At this point in life, the baby larvae eat 90% pollen and 10% honey. Later, the adult bees will eat 10% pollen and 90% nector.

The worker bee will be in the larval stage for 6 days. On day 10 through day 21, she will be in the pupal stage metamorphosing into a full adult. On days 10 and 11 the nurse/house bees will top the worker cell with a flat cap or roof on her cell. On the 21-22 day she will eat her way out of the cell as a full grown adult and will then slurp up some honey and then get to work on cleaning up her cell so it will be ready for the next egg. Thus begins the workers work life until she dies which is about 40-45 days in the spring and summer. For those bees that live in the northern part of the U.S. and southern Canada, the workers have a shorter spring period in which to work with a longer winter period in which they can rest so the bees can live for a much longer period of time.

The drone will be in the larva stage for 7 days, and on the 11th day will elongate and start his transference into an adult. On days 11 and 12, the workers will build a dome-like cap on the cells that will look like a rack of bullets standing up ready to be boxed or loaded in a gun. The reason for the high roof on the cell is because the drones are so much longer than the worker bees. On the 24th day the drone will start chewing his way out of the cell and will then start begging the workers to feed him as he cannot feed himself.

The drones are the only bees that can go to any bee hive with impunity and get something to eat. If a worker goes to another hive, she will either needs to be bringing food (nectar or pollen) to be able to enter, or she will be treated as a robber and either killed or driven away.

Now the drones will live until they mate with the new queen at which time they die from an explosive ejuclation and fall to the ground dead, or the workers will kick them out during the winter so the food will last longer. Side note: The drones don’t like the idea that they will either freeze or starve to death, so they try to get back into a hive. This is when the workers decide to gang up on the drones and drag them back outside (kicking and screaming???), rips their wings off, pulls their legs off, throws them on the ground and says,”Now, you will stay put!”

The queen cells are also a special type of cell. The queens are so much longer than the workers and even longer than the drones, that the cells will be drawn out and folded down atop of comb some cells to the extent that it looks like some peanuts hanging down the side of the comb. On day 10, the larva will start elongating and will fill up the longer cell as she turns into a pupa. Day 11-12, the bees will close the end of the cell for the remainder of the pupa stage.

Just about an hour before starting to chew her way out of the cell, the new virgin queen will start singing or “piping” as some of the older beekeepers would say. This lets the workers know that she may need help chewing the end off the cell. Also, it lets the other potential queens know that the fight to the death is imminent.

When the queen emerges, she goes around to the other queen cells and enlisting help from the workers in the area, to start chewing the side of the queen cell so she can stick her stinger into the side of the trapped queen before she can get her stinger out to sting in self defense. If a queen gets out of her cell before she is stung to death, then may the best, quickest, luckiest queen win. Sometimes they will sting each other and both will die. That is another story.

The location of the queen cells is important to the bees and beekeeper. If the cells are at the bottom of the frame or comb, then this signifies to all that the bees are getting ready to swarm. This means that the old queen is getting ready to leave the parent hive and take approximately 50-60% of the population with her. When they hear the first piping, then all heck breaks loose and the exodus begins.

Another side note: At this time the bees will either die for lack of finding a shelter, or they will either find a suitable location or they will start an open air hive. Again, another story.

If they make the right decisions and live, then usually, the bees will make some supersedure queen cells in the center of the beeswax sheet or frame and the same formula as above applies with the exception that the bees are not going anywhere. They are simply replacing a queen that has been injured, got sick and is dying, or has stopped being proliferate by not being able to lay fertile eggs.

These are some of the things you need to know if you are going to breed queens for sale or raise them for your own use.

Check your supers and add as necessary. Until the next time, keep your veil handy, your smoker lit, and your hive tool sharp.


March 1, 2015

Getting Ready to Pull Honey

Now that the bees are set and making increases of the workforce and the splits are working to build comb, it is time to get some more supers ready to put on the hives and maybe to replace the honey supers that you will need to pull soon.

Make sure that all the corners are in good repair and the new foundation is in the frames. You won’t have much time to do that when you need to place the supers on the hives to give the bees more room to store honey.

Last of April, you need to get ready to pull your honey and get some replacement supers, if you are going to get a speciality honey, such as Tupelo, Gallberry, or Privet. You have to keep the wildflower honey separated from the speciality honey so you can sell it as a one-nectar source honey. This also means that you must clean your extractor, pump, and lines so that only the  speciality honey is in the extraction equipment.

Use to in the old days, 20 years ago, we could store the honey in the supers and wait until we had all the honey ready to extract, then start with the most expensive (Tupelo) honey and clean the equipment, then go to the next Gallberry, clean, then Privet and then without cleaning, on to Wildflower because Wildflower is a mixture all all the different honey anyway. Still it was work to be a specialist in honeys. Now we have to extract in 1-3 days of pulling the honey before the Small Hive Beetle larvae hatches and slimes the honey.When we strain the honey, that separates the SMB eggs from the honey and when we melt the wax (if it is in one or 2 days) the heat will kill the eggs and larvae.

In the meantime, we need to strain the honey through a paint strainer to clean all the non honey elements, then you have to have the containers to pour the honey into for retail. At this point, I would make sure the jars, bottles, and pails are clean and have lids ready to put on the tops as soon as the containers are full.

I usually have 2-6 different sizes of each of the honeys for the customers to choose from. [12 oz., 1 lb., 1 1/2 lb. (pint), 2 lb., 3 lb. (quart), 12 lbs. (1 gallon)]. Sometimes I even have a 6 lb. (1/2 gallon) container. It gives the customers control of the amount they purchase.