July 2017 Meeting

We will not be meeting this month to allow for reflection and observation of the Independence Day holiday.  There will also be several people out of town / traveling.

We were originally planning on doing a honey extraction demo this month, so in lieu of that, you should check out this nice overview video explaining the process of honey extraction:

 

Tennessee – Basic Master Beekeeper Course

Announcement:

The Smith County UT Extension Office will be holding a Tennessee Basic Master Beekeeper Course designed for hobbyist beekeepers June 29th-30th, 2017.  Full details are contained below:

Master Beekeeper Course 2017

Beekeeper Registration Form

Additional information can be obtained by contacting Chris at the Smith County Extension Office.  Contact information can be found on the Smith County Extension Office website.

June 2017 Meeting

 

Monthly Meeting: Our Regular monthly meeting will be Thursday June 1st – as usual the meeting will be at Collegeside Church beginning at 6:30PM – the doors will be open at 6:00PM, so come early to discuss how your bees are doing, and what’s happening next!

This month our primary topic of discussion will be wax processing.  If you have a solar wax melter or other equipment you use to process your wax, bring it and share.  I’ll be going through the system I use to process all of my wax.  We can also have a Q&A time at the end, and hopefully everyone can learn a little bit more.

We will also be raffling off a full Queen Rearing Kit this month.  If you have never tried making your own queens, this could be the time to start.

See you at the meeting!

Arlis Swafford – We’ll Miss You..

Our friend and fellow beekeeper Arlis Swafford passed away on May 23, 2017. Arlis was a very active and ardent supporter of beekeepers and beekeeping – participating in and helping to start and lead several associations in middle TN. He will be missed very much.

Arlis arranged for Susan Qualls to send the following out to the Overton County beekeepers email list, but I imagine that it applies to all of his beekeeping friends…

From Arlis

“Thank you  for  allowing me  to  learn  with you  over  the  past 9 years.   I’m at the  end of  my  beekeeping  life so I challenge  you  to  carry  on for the club .  We always need  more good  beekeepers.   My  life  has  been enriched by having  such a wonderful supportive wife and  good beekeeping  friends. If you could think of one good thing that I have done, that will  be  a good  way  to be remembered.  Continue to become better beekeepers and  please continue our community outreach.  Read, read read.

Goodbye
Arlis”

It saddens me to realize that outside of beekeeping I didn’t get to know Arlis better than I did.  But I do know this – he was a knowledgeable and experienced beekeeper, and he was willing to use his abilities to help other people, and he did so quite often.  He certainly earned my respect – as well of that of many others.  He was also just a Good Guy, friendly and good-natured, willing to lend a hand – a pleasure to be around.

The Swafford family is planning a private ceremony.

I have no other details whatsoever at this time – the listing on the Livingston Funeral Home website can be found here.

May 2017 Meeting

Monthly Meeting: Our Regular monthly meeting will be Thursday May 4th – as usual the meeting will be at Collegeside Church beginning at 6:30PM – the doors will be open at 6:00PM, so come early to discuss how your bees are doing, and what’s happening next!

This month we will be discussing two highly-related topics… swarm catching / trapping, and cut-outs.  If you have any equipment that you’ve found useful, and you’d like to share – please don’t hesitate to bring it so others can see & learn from your experience.  We’ll also discuss the techniques we’ve tried and found success with (or failed with), and hopefully everyone can learn a little bit more.

  • Equipment & techniques for swarm catching / trapping
  • Equipment & techniques for cut-outs
  • How to get on a swarm-list
  • Q&A time

See you at the meeting!

Beekeeping tasks this month – May

Tulip Poplar - one of our main nectar producing plants - just began blooming in our area.
Tulip Poplar – one of our main nectar producing plants – just began blooming in our area.

It’s May, the poplars are popping and the nectar is flowing… what should I be doing as a beekeeper this month?

The following list was published by Dr. John A. Skinner (Professor & Apiculture Specialist @ UT) in the Beekeeping in Tennessee publication from UT (PB 1745), and is available at the following URL: https://utextension.tennessee.edu/publications/documents/PB1745.pdf

Seasonal Management: May

• It is time to add another super when the honey super on a colony is one-half to two-thirds filled (six to seven frames). A few drawn frames can be moved up into an empty foundation super to encourage the bees to move up.

• Supers of cut comb honey foundation should be added on top of the honey super, which is on top of the brood chamber, to reduce the amount of pollen in the cut comb honey.

• Continue to check for swarm cells every seven to 14 days. Raise the super just above the brood chamber and check for swarm cells along the bottom bars of the frames. If developing cells (not empty cups) are present, a swarm is imminent. Either split the hive to artificially swarm it, or watch for an issuing swarm in coming days.

• Keep empty storage space in the supers on all colonies until the honey flow has ended.

• Remove and extract capped supers from your colonies if you need additional supers.

 

Tulip Poplar - one of our main nectar producing plants - just began blooming in our area.
Tulip Poplar – one of our main nectar producing plants – just began blooming in our area.

It’s May, the poplars are popping and the nectar is flowing… what should I be doing as a beekeeper this month?

The following list was published by Dr. John A. Skinner (Professor & Apiculture Specialist @ UT) in the Beekeeping in Tennessee publication from UT (PB 1745), and is available at the following URL: https://utextension.tennessee.edu/publications/documents/PB1745.pdf

Seasonal Management: May

• It is time to add another super when the honey super on a colony is one-half to two-thirds filled (six to seven frames). A few drawn frames can be moved up into an empty foundation super to encourage the bees to move up.

• Supers of cut comb honey foundation should be added on top of the honey super, which is on top of the brood chamber, to reduce the amount of pollen in the cut comb honey.

• Continue to check for swarm cells every seven to 14 days. Raise the super just above the brood chamber and check for swarm cells along the bottom bars of the frames. If developing cells (not empty cups) are present, a swarm is imminent. Either split the hive to artificially swarm it, or watch for an issuing swarm in coming days.

• Keep empty storage space in the supers on all colonies until the honey flow has ended.

• Remove and extract capped supers from your colonies if you need additional supers.

 

The Honey flow is ON!

A Black Locust tree in bloom…

Flow is a somewhat confusing term that beekeepers use to indicate that there is enough nectar forage available for bees to not only satisfy their immediate needs but to also store the excess as honey.  Flow, Nectar Flow, Honey Flow – they all mean pretty much the same thing.

Sometimes a flow happens in Early September when Goldenrod blooms, and occasionally there is enough good weather in March for the bees to store some maple honey, but here in Cookeville TN our only reliable honey flow is around May 1st when Tulip Poplar and Black Locust trees bloom.  In many years both of those highly productive blooms happen at the same time – which is unfortunate because the bees just can’t gather all that nectar at once.  Based on my informal survey of trees in my area Black locust is nearly in full bloom right now – April 21, 2017 (suddenly in just the last 2-3 days) but Poplars are not yet in bloom.  This is actually good because with a little luck the main flow will last longer than usual.

Show Time!  This is it – the main beekeeping season.  So, what does this mean for you the beekeeper?  What should you do to help your bees make the best of this short, but crucial period?  Several things…

Add Honey Supers – if you have supers of drawn comb you are going to want to start adding them to productive hives right away.  If you don’t have comb then you need to add supers of foundation, and be aware that swarm prevention is going to be more of a challenge for you.

Remove Mite Treatments – As a general rule you should remove mite treatments before you add honey supers.

Prevent Swarming – A hive that swarms usually does not produce much of a honey crop.

The first line of defense against swarming is to provide lots of room in the form of drawn comb.  Also transferring bees and brood from very strong hives to weaker ones can help to prevent the strong hive from becoming swarmy, while also making the weaker hive more productive.  Aggressively splitting a hive may or may not prevent it from swarming, but it’s worth a try if a hive is obviously swarmy – indicated by dense populations and the presence of many queen cells along the bottom edge of frames.

The tried and true old school method of swarm prevention is to remove queen cells manually every 7-10 days (7 is much better than 10) – this works, but it’s a lot of hard work and requires you to be very fastidious.  On the other hand, if you can prevent a strong hive from swarming for 20-30 days during the main flow it might be the difference between a large honey crop (worth as much as $3-400.00) and none at all.

Make Increase – This is the main reproductive season for bees, and the abundant availability of nectar minimizes robbing, and generally bee stress is at its lowest and health is at its peak.  All of these factors make April 20 – May 20 (more or less) the absolute best time to make increase by splitting or any other means.

Combine Weak Hives to maximize honey production – 2 or 3 weak hives individually might not make any honey for you to harvest, but if you combine them at the beginning of the main flow the resulting strong hive very well might.  This has been very successful for me in the past.  “To make a lot of honey you need a lot of bees.”

Do Your Inspections! – Especially monitor hives for queenlessness. What to do when you think a hive is queenless…

A new Option for treating Varroa Mites

As you know varroa mites cause some of the most difficult challenges for bees and beekeepers.  No matter what methods you choose to deal with mites they all have some kind of drawback and/or limitation.  Some don’t work when it’s too cool others are dangerous to bees if it’s too hot, others aren’t effective if brood is present in the hive – etc.   All of them are extra work and expense.  So anytime a promising new method of treatment becomes available it is worth our time to look into it.

As you may know, Oxalic acid was made legal by EPA regulations as a treatment for varroa mites on honey bees about a year ago.   This is not to say that using any old oxalic acid in any old way is now completely OK – technically any EPA-regulated substance must be used according to the label directions.  So first of all the OA you use is supposed to be labeled for treating mites, and you would have to follow the label directions to be in complete compliance with the law.  What I am about to describe would potentially be an off-label use at this time.  But it is still worth learning about.

In the past Oxalic acid (an organic acid which naturally occurs in small concentrations in many foods) has usually been applied either in a liquid form (the so-called dribble or trickle method) or as a vapor by using a special piece of equipment to heat it up.  Both of these methods have similar advantages and disadvantages – if done correctly they are both easy on the bees, not temperature dependant, and fairly effective.  The big disadvantage to them is that they don’t kill mites that are inside of capped brood – That is a big limitation.  Because of this limitation, OA treatments have only really been useful on hives which have little or no brood at the time of treatment.

Randy Oliver – http://scientificbeekeeping.com/ – reputable author and honey bee researcher.  Has been experimenting with a simple way to apply oxalic acid in an easy to make time release form. Basically, he mixes oxalic acid with glycerin (a food safe substance) and saturates paper towels with the mixture.  It takes the bees about 30 days to remove the treated paper towels from the hive – resulting in an effective time extended treatment which does kill mites inside of capped brood.  You really should read the entire article for the complete info.

I first read about this work by Randy Oliver in this article on HoneyBeeSuite – which also contains good information on making oxalic acid – glycerin sheets.

Making Lotion Bars

While our honeybees produce many different products for us, one of the most precious is wax.  If you have kept bees for very long, you have probably collected at least some of it.  There are many different possible uses for bees wax, but one very common use is making lotion bars.  Many people suffer from dry skin in the winter and need a moisturizer that is a little more durable and long-lasting than lotion.  Here is a recipe that I have found to be a good balance between hardness (not melting) in the heat of the summer, and softness (you’re not rubbing your skin with a rock) during the colder months.  You’ll need the following:

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Ingredients:

  • 3oz BeesWax
  • 3oz Shea Butter
  • 3oz Coconut Oil
  • 15 drops Vitamin-E Oil (optional)
  • 12-20 drops Lavender Oil (or your favorite essential oil for aroma)

Kitchen Supplies:

  • Wide-mouth Mason Jar or Large Pyrex Measuring Cup
  • Spoon
  • Kitchen Scale (to measure out the ingredients)
  • Silicone Cupcake Pan (needs to be flexible to pop out the lotion bars)
  • Dish Towel or Pot Holders
  • Microwave
  • Some kind of packaging (I use parchment paper & jute twine)

Step 1

Measure out 3oz each of beeswax, shea butter, and coconut oil and place them all into your melting container (mason jar or pyrex measuring cup). Melting the components in the microwave.  I’d recommend starting with 2 minutes and check it, then add an additional 30 seconds at a time until everything is completely melted (the wax will melt last).

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Step 2

Once completely melted add in 15 drops of vitamin-E oil (optional), and between 12 and 20 drops of lavender essential oil (depending on how weak or strong you want the aroma to be).  You could also substitute a different essential oil if prefer another aroma.  Stir the hot mixture together thoroughly.

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Step 3

Now carefully pour the mixture into whatever mold you have chosen (the melting container will be very hot… use a towel or pot holder).  I highly recommend some kind of silicone or flexible plastic mold so that you can pop them out once they cool & harden.

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Step 4

Once they cool & harden, you can pop them out and package them.  I use parchment paper squares along with jute twine to keep everything snug.  I also add a logo sticker for branding.  They make great gifts and a good add-on item to your regular honey sales.

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Winter Feeding – BeeCakes

Keeping your bees alive and healthy during the winter is a very important and sometimes challenging task.  One very effective method of feeding is putting sugar directly on the top-bars of the top box of the hive.  When the cluster is in direct contact with sugar (even solid sugar), it is very difficult for them to starve.  Below I have outlined a recipe I have found to be very useful in keeping my bees healthy and happy during the winter.  In order to make Bee Cakes, you will need the following:

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Ingredients:

  • 4lbs sucrose (while table sugar – beet or cane is fine… just needs to be white)
  • 2cups water (tap water is fine)
  • 1tsp white vinegar (acid + heat inverts the sucrose into fructose & glucose)
  • 1+1/4 cups pollen substitute (I use UltraBee from Mann Lake)

Kitchen Supplies:

  • 2x 9in. cake pans (or something similar)
  • Aluminum Foil
  • Large stock pot
  • Wooden stirring spoon
  • Candy thermometer
  • Measuring cups & spoons (1C dry, 1/4C dry, 1C wet, 1tsp)

Step 1

First,  you will need to line the 2 cake pans with a single sheet of aluminum foil each.  You’ll be pouring the hot liquid sugar mixture into them, so the aluminum foil needs to be as high-up as possible on the edges of the pan.  You’ll also want to make sure the aluminum foil is as flat & “wrinkle-free” as possible so that the cakes are easier to unwrap when you put them on the hives.

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Step 2

Mix the 4-lbs of sugar, 2-cups of water, and 1-tsp of white vinegar together in the pot, and stir until it makes a thick white liquid.img_2829

Step 3

Put in your candy thermometer & turn on the burner to start heating the sugar mixture.  Stir constantly to keep even heat distribution.  The mixture will eventually start boiling & will expand a lot.  This is why you need a large stock pot… if  you use a small pot it could overflow the top & cause major problems.

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Step 4

You’re looking for the mixture to get up to the “Soft Ball” stage… this is aprox. 238-242 degrees.  Once it reaches this point, most of the water will have boiled off, but you’re looking to get a bit more water out of it (maybe 1-2 more minutes)… just don’t let it get much over 242 degrees.  You’ll know it’s ready because a lot less steam will be coming out.  Then take it over to the sink, pull out the thermometer, and add the pollen substitute.

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Step 5

Stir in the pollen substitute making sure that you get most of the lumps out (doesn’t have to be perfect).  Then pour the mixture into your foil-lined cake pans to cool.  Note… once you take the mixture off the heat you’ll need to move pretty quickly.  You have to get the pollen substitute incorporated & the mixture poured before the sugar cools enough that it starts hardening.

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Let the Bee Cakes cool & harden, and then wrap the foil over the top of them & store until you’re ready to put them on the hive.  When you do go to put them on the hive, remove the foil & set the cake on the top bars of the hive.