Decapping Honey with a Heat Gun

I just ran across that video and thought that it might be interesting to some.  According to discussion on a beekeepers forum surface tension draws the melted cappings open so that your honey can be extracted without heating the honey or tearing up the combs – also without the wasted honey, wax and mess of the usual way of knife decapping.  Might be worth a try.

 

 

Are My Bees Swarming?

Help! My bees are SWARMING! Well, maybe they are – bees do that, and it isn’t necessarily a bad thing. However, if what they are doing looks like this video, they are not swarming, they are orienting, and it’s completely normal for them to orient any (or every) nice afternoon this time of year. Your queen can lay thousands of eggs a day. So once she gets rolling that means that on any given day all of the eggs that were layed about 3 weeks earlier hatch out. Those bees hang out, clean house, feed babies for two or three more weeks – and then they all leave the nest to start gathering nectar. Since they have never been out of the hive before, the first thing they do is fly around and get their bearings. It sure looks like they might all be getting together to leave for good. But they don’t – usually.

A swarm puts a lot of bees in the air too, and it could be hard to tell the beginnings of a swarm from an orientation, but here’s the thing – once a swarm gets to this point you can stop worrying. The train has already left the station. As a matter of fact, swarm preparations start weeks before the actual swarm, and can be very difficult to stop.

Experienced bee keepers remove queen cells to prevent swarms, but unless you KNOW what you are doing you can cause a hive to become hopelessly queenless by removing cells.

A hive swarms because it is healthy and has lots of bees, brood and food – it is how honey bee colonies reproduce. The swarm will leave behind a hive that is full of food, brood, plenty of adult workers, and queen cells which will soon hatch out into new virgin queens. About 3 weeks later more or less one of those queens will be mated, and you should be able to spot brood.

If you have a hive which you think has swarmed, and you have another hive, it is a good thing to give the queenless hive a frame of mixed brood once a week until you know it has a mated queen. Even if you plan to requeen it with a store bought queen it may be best to let them make a new one first or there is a very good chance that your new expensive queen will be killed because the hive already has a virgin or newly mated queen.

It's too hot inside - these bees are only bearding. It does not mean that they are going to swarm.

This time of year bees do things like orientation flights, and bearding on the outside of the hive that makes new bee keepers worry that they are about to swarm – which they might – but it isn’t a disaster if they do. It’s just time to be a bee KEEPER instead of just a bee HAVER.

What Should I Do Now?!!

Honey bees bearding in hot weather
Are these bees going to swarm? Probably not. First year package hives usually don't swarm unless you completely neglect to give them room.

When the weather gets hot your bees might hang out on the outside of the hive – this is commonly called “bearding”  it doesn’t mean that they are going to swarm – even when it’s as extreme as in the picture above.  It just means that it’s hot and they would rather be outside of that hot little box than inside of it.   It isn’t really a good thing though either.  If you have a screened bottom board and you haven’t already, then you should go ahead and remove the mite count sticky board and leave it out for at least the rest of the summer – if not always.  Keep it though because you might want to use it to do a mite count.  It will probably stow inside of your telescoping cover.  Also open up the entrance some – if not all the way.

When you remove the sticky board you might see what looks like maggots infesting the debris on the board – I don’t know exactly what they are, they could be Small hive beetle larva or they could just be fly larva of some kind.  Just dump them away from your hives or feed them to your chickens.  I’ve seen them under some of my hives too, and once you get rid of them it doesn’t seem to be a problem.

If you started your hive in March with a package from Wolf Creak like many of us did, you also probably need to go ahead and add a second box of foundation.  If 7 out of 10 or 6 out of 8 frames are mostly drawn then it’s time to add more room.

You also might want to add some Small Hive Beetle traps – there are lots of different traps, but a really simple one that works is to just put 3-4″ squares of coreplast – AKA old political signs –  in your hive.  On the top bars and on the bottom board.  The bees will drive beetles into the tunnels in the plastic and you can remove them once a week when you inspect – just drop them into a coffee can with some oil in it to drown the beetles.  The trap on the bottom board will be more convenient to put in and out if you put a long piece of wire through it to act as a handle so that you can just put it in and out of the entrance without removing the bottom hive body – that will also help to keep the bees from pushing it out of the hive.  There is wide agreement that the best way to combat beetles in our area is to keep the hives strong – dense populations of bees – and keep them in pretty much direct sun.

If you’re still feeding your package bees sugar water they are probably taking it slowly if it all because our main nectar flow is on right now.  Plain 1-1 sugar syrup will ferment pretty quickly in this warm weather, and then the bees won’t take it at all, so if you want to continue to feed you need to use small containers that the bees will empty in 3-4 days or add some honey-b-healthy or other essential oil concoction to it to help keep it from ruining.  Be aware that you should never feed anything to your bees if there are honey supers on that you intend to harvest honey from.  Feeding new packages all season long is probably a good thing to do because you need them to draw out as much comb as possible before next fall.  Drawn comb is like gold.

If you’re a beginner you need to put on your gear and inspect your hives every week – you’re looking for either the queen, eggs, or young open brood which indicates that the queen is still there and doing her job.  You also are assessing how much food they have in the hive, and if they need more space or not.  But most of all you need to get comfortable working with your bees while the hives are new, small and relatively docile.  Later when they get built up they will be a lot more intimidating, and you need to get some experience now – no one else can do it for you.  You’ll probably make some mistakes, kill a few bees, and you’re sure to get stung sooner or later, but you probably won’t hurt them very much, and you’ll get better and more confident at it every time you go in.

Have fun!