Beekeepers Friend

Peaches' Beekeeping Blog

February 20, 2014

Spring is Here!

Spring is almost here and it is time to get into gear. The bees will start swarming soon and you need to be ready to either split your hives or to catch the swarms.

I would like to be prepared to do both. Some of the colonies will be in the swarming mode. Even if you split them, they will still swarm. You cannot stop them if they are in that mindset. But you can prevent some from swarming if you split them early enough.

Now this is a good way to increase your numbers if you want more colonies. But on the other hand, if you have all you want, then you have to figure ways to get rid of the unwanted bees. 1) You can let them swarm and not catch them; 2) You can catch them and give to someone who needs or wants them; or 3) you can sell your excess.

If you let them swarm, then you either will have let them die because only kept bees survive, or they become nusance bees and someone else will kill them. If you give the bees away, you don’t get paid for your time and effort.

If you sell them, then you have to figure how much to sell for as you don’t want to sell at a low price and help bring the value of the bees down. Here is where you have to research and find how much is the average price in your area.Then you have to decide how many bees to sell at a time and do you want to make a business out of selling bees. WOW! lots of decisions to make isn’t it?

Some state bee organizations take bees and boxes in lieu of dues so that is another avenue to look at. I believe some of the local associations are starting apiaries for their groups and that is another way to get rid of your excess bees.

I am getting my new bees this Spring and will be making my apiary start up and will let you know how things are going.

Starting a brand new year with high hopes. Get your smoker ready and cleaned out. Stockpile your smoker material, and sharpen your hive tool. And don’t forget your veil. It should not have any holes in it, or at least have them patched up.

Have a very profitable Spring.

 

February 5, 2014

Burr—It’s Cold

Put your feet up in front of the fireplace and get a good book to read and relax. Also, I would think this is a good time to think what you need to be doing to get ready for the upcoming Spring Flow. Some things come to mind is do you have the amount of colonies that you want to start off the 2014 year? If not, then have you decided how many nucs you need and where you will be ordering them from? Do you have enough wooden-ware ready for the beginning of the season? Have you gotten the amount of frames and foundation you need? 

This is a good time to check the honey and pollen stores in your hives. The bees will be feeding much during this time getting ready for the honey flow and this is the time that most bees will run out of food.

Other things you should be planning for are there are a couple of workshops that are in the making for the first quarter of the year:

1) North Escambia Bee Association Workshop, 10370 Ashton Brosnaham Rd, Pensacola, FL

3) University of Florida Bee College at The Whitney Laboratory for Marine Biscience, 9505 Ocean Shore Blvd. St. Augustine, FL 32080-8610 904-461-4000

These are a good source of information for beginners and experienced beekeepers.

I have to go now and put the up graded rules of the honey show  on this site. Have a great day and enjoy your bees.

December 21, 2013

Tis the Season to be…..

What a wonderful time of the year. Most everyone you meet on the street, in restaurants, malls, stores in general, are mild mannered. However, sometimes you will meet or hear about someone who doesn’t meet those expectations. I saw an email, which I deleted before I really got the location information, that said someone took some hives with the colonies of bees from an extension office garden in the past month. They were even marked with all the information to show who they belonged to. The agent said that the perpetrators could have been new beekeepers or some one who has lost their bees and wanted to replace them.

Either way, this is not what the season is all about. This is about a promise that God made to his people. The savior of the world was born and is free to all people. Just like the bees when they swarm are free to all the people that wants to keep and care for them.

I guess what I am trying to say is have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

September 20, 2013

More Melting of Wax

The last post started the process of melting wax. I told you some of the ways to accomplish this. Now I will proceed to tell you some of the other ways to melt wax and clean it for other uses.

There is an electric wax melter with a water jacket that you heat up and the hot water will melt the wax in the tub and the hot wax will run out a port into a bucket or catch pan. It is thermostat controlled and since the melting point for wax is 144° – 147° F, I would not let the water get over 150° F.

You can put the wax in a Solar Wax Melter and let the sun melt the wax. Be careful though, this can get up into the 200° + range and can ruin your wax or burn you if you get some of the wax on you.

Now here is the meat of the wax subject. The reasons and uses for wax. Up until recently 20 years or so ago, the Roman Catholic Church used only bees wax for their candles.  Candles are a large part of the ceremonies of the  Church. They have kept many beekeepers busy just producing wax for the candles.

The uses of wax candles are many, aside from the many shapes of candles, there are ornamental candles, wax for key impressions, wax for seals, wax for machinists to use to keep their dies and tools sharp and cool when in use, seamstresses dip their hand needles in wax to make them slide through cloth easier.

Then there is wax used to waterproof boots and rain gear,  wax is incorporated into waterproofing for tents and outside fabric structures, and finally beeswax is made into car wax and cosmetics (lipstick, lip balm, lotions and hand creams).

Some beekeepers gain a lot of their income from sale of wax, so save the wax and melt it into blocks. Again, it depends on what it is to be used for as to how you melt and package the wax.

The last bit of advice I can give is that if the wax is not looking the way you want it to, then put it in a solar wax melter again and again until it is clean and the sun has bleached to to the color you want.

Now, if you don’t mind, I need to get my wax melter heated up and start melting some of the seven 5 gal buckets of wax that I have accumulated. See you next time.

August 20, 2013

Melting Bees Wax

When working or, for that matter, storing bees wax, you must remember that wax is very flammable. It has a very low melting point 62 to 64 °C (144 to 147 °F). The flash point is 204.4 °C (399.9 °F). Keep the wax away from heaters, flames, or electrical wiring and sockets. When melting wax to clean and get it ready to pour into blocks, you need to be very careful of where and how you proceed.

1. If you use open flame, you need to be sure that the wax will not bubble over so the flames can get to it.

2. Either use a double boiler, or use water in the pan with the wax to keep the wax off the bottom of the container so it will not be in direct contact with the hottest point.

3. Make sure you are in a ventilated area to reduce the chance of breathing an overload of vapors.

4. Have a plan in case you have an emergency, like a FIRE, HOT SPILL, etc.

5. Use common sense.

There are several ways to melt wax. It really depends on how much wax you have to work with. If you have just a little wax, then you can use a double boiler usually a quart pan. Sometimes you can use a gallon pot with about an inch or two of water. Do not get the wax hot enough to come to a rolling boil. That is too hot and you will run the risk of ruining the wax. Put your wax on top of the water to melt. Keep adding wax until you either use up the wax you have on hand or until the container is about 2″ from the top. Remove from the heating source or turn off the heat.

At this point, you can let it cool to the solid state. Wax is lighter then most trash so the trash and debris sill sink to the bottom side of the wax. After it cools,  turn the pan over and dump out a solid block of wax. At this time you can scrape and wash the crud off the block. If it seems to still have some undesirable stuff adhered to the block then you can remelt it again using the same technique and clean the bottom again.

Another way is to strain the wax through terry cloth or screen wire while still in the liquid state. This is a better way of getting the wax cleaner, however it is a little messier. It really depends on what you are going to do with the wax as to how you clean it or how much to clean it in preparation of the end product.

One beekeeper I know uses a number 12 hardware cloth. This is 12 squares to a square inch screen. He uses a rectangle deep pan with about 4″-6″ of water and has the screen mounted to a rebar frame. The weight of the rebar will keep the screen and debris on the bottom of the pan away from the wax. When it cools all he has to do is turn it over and the, now top of the cake, is clear of debris. All he has to do is clean the screen for the next pan of wax.

Usually each cake of wax is about 25 Lbs to be shipped to the Bee supply companies to be banked (accredited) to his account and when he wants some supplies, they will subtract that amount from the banked credit and no money has to be exchanged.

You ask where this wax comes from—-Wellll, let me tell you. When you have frames of wax, sometimes you have to cut the wax out of the frames for various reasons.  Wax moths web the wax sorta like spider webs. Sometimes the bees will eat the foundation up for various reasons. Sometimes when you are extracting honey, the comb separates from the frames. Sometimes the foundation gets dry when you have it stored and it somehow gets bumped and out comes chunks of comb.

Then there is the main reason, when you use a knife and cut the caps and part of the wax cells, you have an abundance of wax cutoffs. Your wax will start piling up. I have about seven 5 gallon buckets of wax cappings that I accumulated when I used a scratcher to decap my honey for extraction.

I have more information on wax processing for various reasons. That will come at a later date, soon, I hope.  Until then, watch your honey and pollen and feed when needed. You are in a dearth along a parallel line level with the panhandle of Florida from east to west. Save your bees. I will personally have to start over this next Spring as I have no bees at this time.

Talk to you soon.

June 20, 2013

When is a Beekeeper not a Beekeeper?

I have had some medical problems lately and with the help of Drs., Surgeons, and Hospital rooms, I am on the way to recovery. However, I have not been physically able to manhandle the boxes so, I have to depend on other beekeepers. I finally had one to be able to break off of his routine and come over.

Unfortunately, by the time I had help, the bees were driven out by the Small Hive Beetles. When the top board was removed on my only surviving hive, the top bars on the frames were covered head to tail, shoulder to shoulder with beetle larvae and no bees were in attendance.

All my bees are gone! Does this make me not a beekeeper any more? I personally don’t think so, however, since I am still considered a student of the Master Beekeepers program at the University of Florida and one of the requirements is that I have to have bees continuously without a break, what does that say? I would believe that I now have a break in my beekeeping and that will disqualify me for the program. I still have one level to go, Master Craftsman Beekeeper, and the prerequisite for this level is to have bees for two continuous years at the time of testing this coming November.

Now is not the time to get bees unless I intend to feed them through till Spring. I don’t know what I will do at this point. I need time to heal and get my strength back before I tackle more bees. I also need to contact the head of the program, Dr. Jamie Ellis and get a ruling.

I will let all ya’ll know as soon as I get an answer. If it stops my education, then I will probably not start up again next Spring. I will still have the rank of Master Beekeeper.

Until next time, get ready for the last honey pull and extraction. All the honey after that, the bees should keep for their winter stores.  Remember to keep your veil close, you smoker lit, and keep your hive tool sharp.

June 7, 2013

Master Beekeepers College

This is from our Girl Friday, without whom the college would not operate as efficiently as it does:

Greetings Beekeepers and friends!

Have you heard about South Florida Bee College? Our popular beekeeping extension event is expanding! We are hosting this 2-day educational event, filled with food, fun, and plenty of hands-on learning experiences at the Ft. Lauderdale Research and Education Center in Davie Fl (Broward County)( http://flrec.ifas.ufl.edu/). There will be live hives, beekeeping gear, and multiple classes to choose from that throughout the day.

Our speaking line-up includes Dr. Malcolm Sanford (http://www.apisenterprises.com/) a UF emeritus professor and life-ling beekeeper, Dr. Ernesto Guzman (https://www.uoguelph.ca/ses/users/eguzman) Head of the Bee Research Centre at the University of Guelph , Ontario Canada, David Westervelt, the Chief of Apiary Inspection at FDACS,  Keith Councell, the president of the Florida State Beekeepers Association (http://www.floridabeekeepers.org/), some of our talented and knowledgeable Florida State Bee Inspectors, and the staff at UF’s Honey Bee Research and Extension Lab!

There will be a 22-class Honey Show where you can enter your honey and products for awards, vendors selling bee equipment and lunch and dinner are included in  registration. For the first time, we will be offering a Spanish-speaking track to serve the needs of the growing beekeeping community in South Florida. Many of our speakers are fluent in both languages and will be delivering classes for both.

The full schedule will be announced shortly, be sure to check http://entnemdept.ufl.edu/honeybee/extension/SFbee_college.shtml for details. Please see our registration page here: http://southfloridabeecollege.eventbrite.com/

Please feel free to pass on this information to whomever you wish! We hope that you decide to join us for this one of a kind event.

Thank you and have a great day!

Jeanette

Laboratory Manager/Extension Technician
Honey Bee Research and Extension Laboratory
Department of Entomology and Nematology
University of Florida
Bldg 970 Natural Area Drive
PO Box 110620
Gainesville, FL 32611-0620

Phone (352) 273-3932
Fax (352) 392 0190

www.ufhoneybee.com
www.afbee.com
@UFhoneybeelab
@UFNativeBuzz

June 7, 2013

Wanted: Information

I have been thinking about what honey bee related subjects to write about and I have come upon a blank wall. I need some help.

If any of you beekeepers or non-beekeepers have any questions that have not been answered, or have not been clear in the answers, then this is a good time to voice them. You have the questions, and I have some of the answers. If I don’t have the answers, then I might just know where to go to get them.

Please, help me out with some questions, so I can at least get back into the habit of writing again. This slump is just about to do me in.  Let me hear from you and maybe we can get something started.

Thanks in advance.

 

May 26, 2013

Road Map for Keeping Bees

Once again, I was asked, “What is the right way, or, the best way to keep bees?” The answer is simple, but they wanted to know the complicated answer. So here goes…

The right way to keep bees is the best way you know how to. The best way to keep bees is the way you have found that is the easiest for you. Until you get to the commercial point with your bees, you need to have fun working and providing for your bees. You have to enj0y beeing with your bees and smiling as you work your way through all the hives and making sure that the bees want for nothing.

You need to enjoy reading about bees and stuff that you can visualize sitting in your honey house. You have to eagerly anticipate sitting and listening to your mentor and all of the other beekeepers you come in contact with and learning more and more about how to work your bees and apiaries and equipment to the fullest.  You also have to visit and join all the different beekeeping associations that you can in your area. It is important that you absorb as much as you can about the bees and equipment as you can.

Now for the short version of how is the best way to keep bees. Dedicate so much money to your bees. When that money is gone, wait till the next payday to dedicate so much money to the bees. Don’t over spend. Do as much as you can afford at this time and no more. If you have spent your allowance, then don’t use you fuel to keep on going to meetings. Use the telephone to call for answers.

What I tell my young beekeepers is, “there are several ways to get to Miami from here.” Some ways take longer and are rougher roads than others. You can even fly or take a boat to get there. Do what is easiest for you. My way may cost more than you can afford, and some of the other beekeepers may do things that is harder for you. Take the advice from all the experienced beekeepers and then choose those things that you are comfortable with and make your own system.

Remember this is something you want to do and have fun in doing it. If you really want to work, then go commercial and make the profits to pay for the apiaries and to support your family. Even that can be fun if you hire some good people to work your bees with you or for you.

Another thing you can do is enroll in the Master Beekeepers College to learn more about bees.

May 18, 2013

Honeycombs and Answers

Robert Krulwich did such a great job with this article, I decided to let you have it as is. I cannot improve on the information. – Peaches

What Is It About Bees And Hexagons?

Solved! A bee-buzzing, honey-licking 2,000-year-old mystery that begins here, with this beehive. Look at the honeycomb in the photo and ask yourself: (I know you’ve been wondering this all your life, but have been too shy to ask out loud … ) Why is every cell in this honeycomb a hexagon?

honeycomb

iStockphoto.com

Bees, after all, could build honeycombs from rectangles or squares or triangles …

Bee with triangles and squares

Robert Krulwich/NPR

But for some reason, bees choose hexagons. Always hexagons.

Honeycomb

iStockphoto.com

And not just your basic six-sided hexagon. They like “perfect” hexagons, meaning all six sides are of equal length. They go for the jewelers’ version — precise, just so. Why?

Bee with hexagon

Robert Krulwich/NPR

Well, this is a very old question. More than 2,000 years ago, in 36 B.C., a Roman soldier/scholar/writer, Marcus Terentius Varro, proposed an answer, which ever since has been called “The Honeybee Conjecture.” Varro thought there might be a deep reason for this bee behavior. Maybe a honeycomb built of hexagons can hold more honey. Maybe hexagons require less building wax. Maybe there’s a hidden logic here.

I like this idea — that below the flux, the chaos of everyday life there might be elegant reasons for what we see. “The Honeybee Conjecture” is an example of mathematics unlocking a mystery of nature, so here, with help from physicist/writer Alan Lightman, (who recently wrote about this in Orion Magazine) is Varro’s hunch.

The Essential Honeycomb

Honeycombs, we all know, store honey. Honey is obviously valuable to bees. It feeds their young. It sustains the hive. It makes the wax that holds the honeycomb together. It takes thousands and thousands of bee hours, tens of thousands of flights across the meadow, to gather nectar from flower after flower after flower, so it’s reasonable to suppose that back at the hive, bees want a tight, secure storage structure that is as simple to build as possible.

So how to build it? Well, suppose you start your honeycomb with a cell like this … a totally random shape, no equal sides, just a squiggle …

Bee with random shape.

Robert Krulwich/NPR

If you start this way, what will your next cell look like? Well, you don’t want big gaps between cells. You want the structure tight. So the next cell will have to be customized to cling to the first, like this …

Two bees with random shapes

Robert Krulwich/NPR

And the third cell, once again, will have to be designed to fit the first two. Each cell would be a little different, and that means, says Alan Lightman …

… this method of constructing a honeycomb would require that the worker bees work sequentially, one at a time, first making one cell, then fitting the next cell to that, and so on.

But that’s not the bee way. Look at any YouTube version of bees building a honeycomb, says Alan, and you won’t see a lot of bees lounging about, waiting for their turn to build a cell. Instead, everybody’s working. They do this collectively, simultaneously and constantly.

So a “squiggle cell plan” creates idle bees. It wastes time. For bees to assemble a honeycomb the way bees actually do it, it’s simpler for each cell to be exactly the same. If the sides are all equal — “perfectly” hexagonal — every cell fits tight with every other cell. Everybody can pitch in. That way, a honeycomb is basically an easy jigsaw puzzle. All the parts fit.

Bee dreaming

Robert Krulwich/NPR

OK, that explains why honeycomb cells are same-sized. But back to our first question: Why the preference for hexagons? Is there something special about a six-sided shape?

Some shapes you know right away aren’t good. A honeycomb built from spheres would have little spaces between each unit …

Bee on spheres

Robert Krulwich/NPR

… creating gaps that would need extra wax for patching. So you can see why a honeycomb built from spheres wouldn’t be ideal. Pentagons, octagons also produce gaps. What’s better?

“It is a mathematical truth,” Lightman writes, “that there are only three geometrical figures with equal sides that can fit together on a flat surface without leaving gaps: equilateral triangles, squares and hexagons.”

Bees in shapes

Robert Krulwich/NPR

So which to choose? The triangle? The square? Or the hexagon? Which one is best? Here’s where our Roman, Marcus Terentius Varro made his great contribution. His “conjecture” — and that’s what it was, a mathematical guess — proposed that a structure built from hexagons is probably a wee bit more compact than a structure built from squares or triangles. A hexagonal honeycomb, he thought, would have “the smallest total perimeter.” He couldn’t prove it mathematically, but that’s what he thought.

Compactness matters. The more compact your structure, the less wax you need to construct the honeycomb. Wax is expensive. A bee must consume about eight ounces of honey to produce a single ounce of wax. So if you are watching your wax bill, you want the most compact building plan you can find.

And guess what?

Two thousand thirty-five years after Marcus Terentius Varro proposed his conjecture, a mathematician at the University of Michigan, Thomas Hales, solved the riddle. It turns out, Varro was right. A hexagonal structure is indeed more compact. In 1999, Hales produced a mathematical proof that said so.

As the ancient Greeks suspected, as Varro claimed, as bee lovers have always thought, as Charles Darwin himself once wrote, the honeycomb is a masterpiece of engineering. It is “absolutely perfect in economizing labor and wax.”

The bees, presumably, shrugged. As Alan Lightman says, “They knew it was true all along.”