Beekeeping Information

Keeping Bees with Honey Bee Allergy

Here is a post I was not hoping to have to write. The entire summer was an uneventful beekeeping season. I made several splits to manage colony sizes which worked perfectly and none of my production colonies swarmed. As is in the past two years, I suffered the occasional bee sting during hive inspections. Most of the stings happened when bees found their way into my protective clothing and some stings went right through my gloves. I never thought much about getting stung, sure it hurts a little, but for the most part the swelling disappeared within a couple of days. However, early in October I got stung while preparing the hives for winter, one lonely bee must have landed on my shoe and walked up my leg (of course under my jeans), I could feel the tingling on my leg and as I tried to shake her out, she got me into my thigh – ouch!

I walked away from the hive and removed the stinger, as I was walking back to continue my prep work I thought to myself, this one really hurt, but I ignored the pain and continued my work. About 10-15 minutes later I felt like I was coming down with an ear infection and shortly after that my arms and neck started itching. I closed up the hive and went into the house, I could not believe what I saw when I took of my protective gear, I had hives all over my body and I quickly realized that I had a full on allergic reaction to that bee sting. My wife rushed me to the doctor and an Epi shot later and after some antihistamine cocktails the swelling and itching slowed down. After keeping bees for three years and having been stung several times each season, could I have just developed a honey bee allergy? Is this the end of my beekeeping carrier? I just managed to build up to 11 hives this year and I was looking forward to adding a few more next year, but what now?

Last week I got tested by an allergy specialist and he confirmed that I am allergic to honey bee venom, it does not happen often, but he said that I am the 4th beekeeper he has seen over the past 10 years who developed a honey bee allergy after keeping bees for a few years.

I love keeping bees and I love the reward of sweet honey and full fruit trees in our yard, giving up beekeeping is not really an option, the hobby just became a little bit more challenging. I am investing in more protective gear to ensure that bees can no longer get into my clothing and I have also recruited my wife to assist me with handling the bees. Fortunately, my health insurance is covering the honey bee venom immunotherapy which I am going to start this month. It is a three-year treatment plan and it will reduce the risk of ever getting another allergic reaction by about 85%. In addition to the immunotherapy I am now always carrying an Epi-Pen with me and solo hive inspections are a thing from the past. I love keeping bees and with enough precautions I am sure that I can keep the hobby going without putting myself in harms way.

Beekeeping Information

Creating Nuc Colonies

Usually spring is not a good time for beekeepers to go on vacation. However, with proper planing and some luck with the weather patterns it is still possible. I had new queens on order for several weeks, but with the bad weather in California the delivery got pushed back by almost two weeks. I ended up receivig the package with my queens on the day before we left for vacation.

Fortunately I had received an email prior to delivery from the queen breeder which allowed me to get a head start on the splits. As soon as I knew the queens were going to ship I created my nucs. By the time the queens arrived, the nucs were queenless for 2 days and they accepted the new queens without any problems.

I had a couple of colonies which overwintered really well and they were booming with bees. I was able to create two nucs out of each strong colony and still left plenty of bees behind for the colony to grow strong again.  Each nuc has received 2-3 frames of eggs, brood and capped cells. In addition, each nuc received two frames of food (honey and pollen). Last Friday I inspected the now smaller hives and the queens have already been super busy filling several frames with eggs again. I also inspected the one nuc I kept for myself, the queen was released and busy laying eggs.

Even though I was able to balance the beekeeping duties with our vacation, I will try to avoid taking vacation during the important spring beekeeping season next year.

Here are some pictures of the process:

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Hive Inspection

First Frame By Frame Inspection for 2018

Looks like spring is slowly arriving in the Pacific Northwest. Last weekend the temperatures made it into the 60s and I was finally able to check on my seven colonies, which all made it through the winter. Looks like my mite, food and moisture management has worked another year!

Even though I had no complete losses, it is normal to find many dead bees inside the hive once you open the boxes for the first time after winter. Especially the bottom boards are filled with dirt and lots of dead bees. During the winter I did clean out the entrance and bottom board through the front entrance, but you can’t get it completely cleaned out.

So if you have never opened a hive after winter, get ready for a big mess. I can tell you, the bees seemed very happy after I went through all the boxes, removed all dead bees and other junk which had accumulated during the past few months.

Only one of the seven hives had a very small cluster. All others are covering at least eight frames. Every colony has a laying queen, I spotted one to two frames with eggs and I also spotted the queen in almost every hive. With the current temperature in the 50s the hives should keep building up for spring.

Most of the hives have several frames of honey left, however, I have kept the dry sugar on the hive to supplement their resources for a few more weeks.

My Nuc boxes are ready, queens are on order and if all goes well, I will do my splits during the first or second weekend in April.

Send me an email if you are local and interested in one of the Nucs.

Nucs are only available for pickup in Stanwood.

Here are some pictures from my inspection:

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Hive Inspection

Lots of happy bees!

Today was the first day in the Pacific Northwest with temperatures close to 60 degree Fahrenheit. It was a good day to cut back some of the blackberry bushes to get the bee yard ready for the 2018 season. Got to make some room for more colonies. All seven hives have made it through the winter and they were already bringing in pollen today. Looks like I will have to split at least three of the colonies in April to avoid swarming.

The weather forecast for tomorrow looks good as well. We might get into the 60s!

It will be a perfect day for my first full inspection of the hives. Stay tuned for updates.

Today – Lots of happy bees!

 

Beekeeping Information

Becoming a beekeeper?

Warre Frame Inspection
Warre Bee Hive Inspection

Have you ever thought about keeping bees in your backyard? Would the bees and their pollination help with your garden and fruit trees?

Beekeeping is a fun and very rewarding hobby and I am not talking about the sweet reward we call honey. Honey is an additional bonus when keeping bees, but it is not the main reward.

Just like any other fun hobby, beekeeping can be expensive. Most experienced beekeepers will recommend that you start beekeeping with two hives, which I agree with. You will learn twice as much and you will be able to spot problems much sooner if one of the colonies does not perform right. However, starting with two hives also doubles the startup cost.

Usually bees are not free, unless you can catch a swarm, which is very unlikely if you have no experience.
In addition to purchasing bees you will also need the proper equipment. Just to get the basics for 2 hives you are most likely going to spend between $800.00 to $1,000.00.

If the answer to my first question is yes and you have not taken the plunge, it might have a couple of reasons:

  1. You are not quite sure if you will really enjoy beekeeping
  2. It is cost prohibitive
  3. You are worried about getting stung
  4. You are not sure if you know enough about beekeeping
  5. You do not have enough time to manage the hives

I am sure there are many other reasons why someone might not take the plunge and start keeping bees. Honestly, I was one of you, I had many of those reasons as well, but eventually decided to make the investment and I ordered my first two packages of bees.

I have a busy office job which requires me to put in 50-60 hours every week and the bees are a perfect balance. No computer and no internet required when I work with the bees. Unless I am typing up a blog about beekeeping while sitting in an airplane on my way to the next conference.

You have probably heard about or even seen a bee swarm. Swarming is a natural behavior of bees to grow and multiply. A queen bee can lay up to 2,000 eggs a day during peak season, which means your hive will grow very fast in bee volume. A regular hive has about 40,000 – 60,000 bees. Once the hive gets too crowded, the bees start raising a new queen and the old queen takes off with about 50% of the bees. They will find a new home in a tree cavity or any other space the bees find appropriate.

Beekeepers like to control swarming and a lot of times this is done by manually splitting the hive before the bees decide to split themselves. By splitting the hive manually, the beekeeper does not lose 50% of their bees and the honey yield will be bigger.

My bee yard has grown from 2 colonies to 8 colonies within 2-years and now going into the third year, I will have to split several hives again, I am looking at a total of 12-15 hives in 2018. This will be more than I can manage and therefore I have decided to sell a few Nuc colonies.

If you are interested in a 5 frame Nuc please send me an email at sales@sevenlakesapiary.com.

In addition to the Nucs, I am also offering a rental and mentor program to a few beekeepers. If you are not quite sure if beekeeping is for you, but you would like to give it a try for the season, I will rent you one of my hives for the 2018 season and also provide support for your beekeeping endeavor. This will be a smaller investment than the $800.00 – $1,000.00 I mentioned above.

At the end of the 2018 season you will have a couple of options:

  1. Return the hive and keep all the surplus honey (if there is any)
  2. Purchase the equipment and make the hive your own (bees will be free)

If all goes well over the next few weeks, my Nucs will be available in mid to late April.

Please drop me a line if you are interested in becoming a beekeeper.

Michael

P.S.: If you start keeping bees you will get stung!

Beekeeping Information

Timing is everything!

In beekeeping timing is everything! There is no right or wrong in beekeeping and no one ever stops learning when working with bees – every season/year is different.

However, the biggest mistake one can make in beekeeping is losing track of time or not paying attention to personal schedules, bee schedules or just the weather forecast.

This weekend was a good example. I knew I had to check on the food supply for the bees and I had some pollen patties ready to be added. Good thing I checked the weather forecast, this week weather has been more spring like and I was surprised to see snow in the forecast for Sunday.

I ended up looking at all my colonies on Saturday, added pollen patties, made sure they had plenty of dry sugar on the inner cover and I cleaned out the entrances and bottom boards.

The sun was out and it was a mild February afternoon.

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Boy was the forecast right, today I would not have been able to open the boxes at all. During our 12 years in the Pacific Northwest I have not seen that much snow on the ground.

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Of course, this is just one example of making sure you get the timing right. If the bees run out of food they will die within a very short amount of time. So don’t put off important tasks like this. Always stay on schedule!

Same is true with your management throughout the year. For example, come spring you want to keep an eye on your colonies and prevent any swarming. If you inspect your hives at least every 7-10 days during swarming season you can find and remove any swarm cells. If you skip one of your inspections during this time you might lose half of your bees and if your new queen does not return from her mating flight you might have to purchase a new one.

I am not suggesting to open up your hives all the time, but frequent inspections can certainly help minimize bigger problems like swarming or going queenless for too long.

Once you become a beekeeper you need to include the bees in your already busy schedule, but don’t worry, it is a fun and rewarding hobby.

Michael

Beekeeping Information

Did you know?

World Bee Day

  • Bees pollinate as many as 170,000 species of plants.
  • Without bees, there would not be so many different kinds of fruits and vegetables, or such beautiful colors on the lawn.
  • Every third spoon of world food depends on pollination.
  • Bees and other pollinators substantially contribute to the world’s food security. Pollination is worth annualy between US$ 235 billion and US$ 577 billion.
  • A bee colony is as big as a small town. There are from 30,000 to 60,000 bees in each colony.
  • The queen bee is the only one that lays eggs. She lays up to 2,000 eggs per day.
  • Out of 20,000 species of bees, only one is widely used for commercial honey production.
  • Honey bees’ wings stroke 11,400 times per minute, thus making their distinctive buzz.
  • Honey bees are the only bees that die after they sting.
  • To make one kilogram of honey, the bees have to visit 4 million flowers and fly four  times the distance around the world.
Source: www.worldbeeday.org
Beekeeping Information

A must-read for every beekeeper!

L.L. Langstroth’s the Hive and the Honey Bee is valued as an extremely important text in the world of bee keeping. Beekeeper enthusiasts and those just wanting to gain a little more information on the small creature buzzing around outside your window. While the book has been updated and revised many times, the original written […]

via The Hive and the Honey Bee by Langstroth and His Bees — Beekeeping365

Beekeeping Information

Hiving a Package of Bees

It has been almost two years since I installed my first two packages of bees.
While I am preparing equipment for a new beekeeping season I was going through some of my old notes and pictures. I never intended this video to be a training video for new beekeepers, but I thought it might help a few people along. I had several pictures and videos and I edited them to create a somewhat decent video of the entire installation process. Again, this is not a step by step instruction of the installation process. If you have never installed a package of bees I highly recommend the book “Beekeeping for Dummies”. I have started with the same book and they explain the entire process down to the last detail. 

Two years after I started with two packages I am now up to 7 hives and I will not have to purchase any packages this year. However, if I ever do install another package I will try to create a better training video.

Note: The most important part of the process is to replace the cork on the queen cage with a marshmallow. Do not open the hive for the first 7 days after installation and make sure the bees have enough sugar syrup and a pollen patty.

Beekeeping Information

The Honey Bee’s Enemy #3 – Starvation

At the end of my last post I showed you following picture:

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This has been a common theme in all my hives when I opened them this January. The bees have overwintered well this year and colonies look strong and healthy.

There are many more risk factors which might affect your bees in a negative way. However, for now I will limit my posts to the three main reasons why beekeepers keep losing bees every winter. I have posted reason #1 and reason #2 over the past few weeks and today I am going to conclude this series with the Honey Bee’s Enemy #3 – Starvation!

Bees eat honey! Yes, this is for real, they are not producing honey as a treat for us humans, they need honey to survive! Fortunately for us, during a good summer a colony can produce much more honey than what they will consume during the winter. We call this surplus honey, this is the extra honey beekeepers get to harvest. The amount of honey bees need to overwinter varies by region, however, here in the Pacific Northwest I try to leave them about 80 pounds of honey. This is a full deep brood box of honey. I overwinter most hives in two deep brood boxes.

I do check the weight of the hives throughout the winter and I also add dry sugar as previously discussed in the moisture post. In case you missed it, here is another picture of the emergency sugar sitting on the inner cover.

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All my colonies are doing well and I have not lost any yet. That being said, winter isn’t over and we have two more months to go before the first flow of nectar will come into the hives. Be aware, if colonies are strong in January, they will also consume more honey, the queen will start laying more eggs, larvae need to be fed, etc. If you don’t keep an eye on your hives during the next couple of months your bees might starve to death. Look at sugar as a cheap insurance policy. Your bees might have enough honey to get by until the next nectar flow, but that extra sugar can be their life insurance in case they do run out of honey.