1/2 Garden Shed, 1/2 Bee House

So I finally got to the point that I could hardly park my truck in our garage….and that breaks one of our prime directives….garages are for vehicles…not stuff. Deep boxes, warre boxes, frames, smokers, bee suits, empty feeding jars, smoker fuel, saved comb, cinnamon, vinegar, sugar, supers, swarm traps, nuc boxes, and a myriad of other bee related items were taking over my garage….add to this all of the garden equipment one collects over the years and it became apparent that I needed more space.

After much research we decided on a Tuff Shed from Home Depot. So we ordered and had built a 10 x 20 shed designated to be 1/2 garden shed and 1/2 bee house. We chose this size because in our area this was the biggest one we could get that did not require a permit. Here is a time lapse video of its construction.

One of the first places I went to for ideas was Pinterest. Here is the pin board I created. Not being a big wood worker I collected ideas that I thought I could accomplish. Here are some of the results, pictures of our new garden shed/bee house.

Tuff Shed 10x20

10 x 20 Tuff Shed

You can see my 4 hives off to the left. It is really great having everything close to where I need it when I’m working in my little apiary. It is also nice to have a place for everything and everything in it’s place.

I added this loft to allow me to store all of my unused boxes.

Loft in garden shed

Shed loft

I used quite a bit of peg board so that every tool would have it’s own spot in the shed.

peg board used in garden shed

peg board helps to organize

peg board on garden shed door

easy access, peg board on door

peg board in garden shed organizes tools

organize all your tools

IMG_0941I found some cool plastic covered wire baskets that fit into the peg board that is great for small items: gloves, hose fittings, bee gadgets etc….

properly spaced shelves in garden shed

Shelves for garden shed

work bench in garden shed

work bench and storage shelves

Building shelves, a work bench and shelves under the work bench was a lot easier than I thought it would be. The shelves are measured to accommodate the rubbermaid containers that are ideal for storing stuff.

I found this LED solar light that is perfect so that I don’t have to run electricity to the shed. Easy to mount solar panel on the outside and then a light on the inside that can be set for 48 lights or 24 lights. I leave it set at 48 LED’s and it lasts a good hour or so. My neighbor gave me a hard time, accusing me of setting up my large screen TV inside my “garden shed” LOL.

LED Solar lighting on garden shed

LED solar cell

24 LED light for garden shed from Amazon.com

24 LED light

Couple of upgrades I’d recommend: 6 window pane man door, windows on each end, double swing door for larger stuff and an upgraded floor. This model, TRS-800 Sundance,  came with a steal beam base which we really liked for durability and getting it up off the ground and provide ventilation under the building.

I still have a ramp to build and will put hardware cloth around the base, to prevent critters from getting under, and will put in some kind of block base to cover the steel frame….should look pretty good when it is done.

All in all I’d highly recommend having a building of some kind near you hives. It makes life a lot easier and more enjoyable.

One of many options to treat for Verroa Mites

To treat or not to treat for verroa mites is a big discussion….even bigger is the type of treatment to use. Opinions and judgement run high when a group of beekeepers have this discussion. Some feel that any treatment is a foul against nature, others take it as just part of what it takes to successfully raise bees. The good news is that you get to choose for yourself how you work with your bees. The point that I want to make is that you need to know your options before you can make an informed decision. Choose what is good for you and don’t get too judgy about what others are doing.

Hopguard® II revisited

By Dr. Elina L. Nino, Extension Apiculturist. UC, Davis, reprinted from the current newsletter

Every time I talk to beekeepers here in CA, I hear, “Boy do I wish we had more options for

treating Varroa”. Well, the good news is that this February, California has re-approved Section 18

emergency use of Hopguard® II. Eric Mussen has briefly written about this product in the past,

but a couple of papers that came out last year have prompted me to revisit this topic. Hopguard®

II is basically an “old” product developed by BetaTec Hop Products Inc (developed in

Washington state – Editor) but it has an improved delivery system. The active ingredient is the

Potassium salt of hop beta acids at 16% and yes, these are the same hops you would use for

making beer.

Hopguard® II can be applied to both packages and colonies and since it can’t reach the mites

on brood, the suggested timing of the treatment is when there is minimal brood in the hive so the

mites can’t “hide”. It sounds to me like packaged bees might be an ideal time to treat. If your bees

are already in a hive try to treat early in the season when the brood is just building up or late in

the fall when brood starts tapering off (BUT don’t wait too long as you don’t want your colonies

to succumb to Varroa).

2- or 3-lb packages should be treated by attaching 3 half strips inside a package so they hang

from the top and should remain in the package (with bees, of course) for at least 48 hours. Hives

need to be treated at a rate of 1 strip per 5 frames covered with bees and the treatment should only

be applied in a BROOD CHAMBER. The strips are easy to apply. Just hang them over a frame in

the middle of the brood box. If using 2 strips, the other strip should be placed on a neighboring

frame but 4 inches away from the first one.

Now just a couple of cautionary notes. Even though the product is safe to use during nectar

flow, DO NOT apply it in the honey supers. And please don’t be tempted to use honey or wax

that is in the brood chamber! If the bees do not remove strips after 30 days, you should remove

them from the hives. Hopguard® II can be used up to 3 times per year but it shouldn’t exceed a

total of 6 strips per year per colony (including package and hive application). You need to wear

chemical-resistant gloves when you’re working with the strips and since the material is pretty

sticky you’d probably want to wear them anyway.

So how do all these recommendations fare in the real world? A study by DeGrandi-Hoffman

and colleagues (2014) investigated the effect of Hopguard® on Varroa counts in commercial

colonies established from packages or splits. They used a mathematical model to determine the

timing of Hopguard® applications and at the end they compared Varroa counts predicted by the

model and what they actually found.

To show the timing of the applications I thought it would be best to do this in a table, so here

you go:

aa Table for Hop Guard2015-03-08_1739

All of the mite counts were done with a sugar-shake method and reported as # mites/100 bees.

For packaged bees, the final mite counts were done after the October treatment and significantly

lower mite counts were recorded for groups 2 and 3. For colonies made from splits, the lowest

mite counts in November were recorded in groups 1B and 2B.

Interestingly, the model predicted a much more effective mite knockdown by the fall than what

was actually seen in the field. The authors hypothesize that these difference might have been due

to various other factors not taken into account by the model or various model parameters not

following what was recorded in the literature, underestimation of initial mite population numbers,

and/or a suboptimal mite removal during sugar-shakes.

So it seems that the most effective mite knock-down was in colonies that received 3 or 4

treatments during the year and particularly important were the late season applications. I do want

to remind you that the California regulation for Hopguard® II states that no more than 6 strips per

colony per year may be used. Because of this you might want to stick with one initial application

earlier in the season and two later in the season if starting from packages, or, if you are splitting

your colonies, you should be able to get away with 3 consecutive applications towards the tail end

of the season, although I would have liked to see the authors take another mite count the

following spring and record colony mortality.

The results of this paper also highlight the importance of using the product when there is no or

little brood or for 3 consecutive weeks to cover the entire brood cycle. Drift between colonies

might play a role in increasing mite numbers in a particular hive. And while you can’t control

what your neighbor does, you should make sure you treat all of your colonies that need the

treatment.

Another word of caution — you don’t want to wait until your mite populations absolutely

explode in the hives in order to treat. A possibility would be to follow an IPM approach by

applying a different miticide around Hopguard® II or, if you have fewer colonies, try utilizing

physical or mechanical control such as use of screened bottom boards, drone comb removal or

creating a break in brood cycle by caging the queen or splitting your colonies. Going with Varroa

resistant/tolerant honey bee stock is yet another possibility so think about it when you’re

purchasing your next batch of queens.

The last thing I wanted to mention is a study by Vandervalk and colleagues (2014) that found

Honey Bucket and My First Honey Collection

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Last year I left all the honey in the hives for the bees to use over the winter. This year however, early in the season I found almost a whole box of honey plus some more stored in the box below....so, some for me and some for the bees.

Typically beekeepers use a langstroth type of hive with frames that either have wax or plastic foundation on them. To collect the honey they use a hot knife to slice off the thin cappings on both sides of the frame, then put several frames in a spinning machine to use centrifugal force to spin the honey out of the comb.

In my case however I'm using Warre hives. The bees start with nothing more than a top bar from which to hang their comb, so I use the crush and strain method to separate the honey from the comb, not nearly as pretty but it gets the job done.

Step one is getting the bees out of the box of honey you want to collect. I put a bee escape below the box I wanted to collect. Check out this blog post for more details on that. I left it in place for about 10 days. Most of the bees were gone but there were some die hards that just would not give up the honey. No worries I was able to gently encourage them out as I pulled the frames.

honey comb smashed up

smashed comb

Next I found a big white bowl (color doesn't really matter) and a wooden spatula to do the smashing. I cut the comb off into the bowl (I did this away from the apiary as once the bees get the scent of honey you will be over run.) and began smashing it up. It really looks like a mess.....this is the "Crush" part of crush and strain.

Next I poured this sticky mess of honey and smashed wax into my separating system or you could also call it a Honey Bucket, not the kind you see on a construction site.....a real....honey.....bucket. This is two buckets stacked on one another. The top bucket has a nylon straining bag in it and has holes drilled in the bottom. the bottom bucket has a lid with the center section cut out of it to allow the honey from the top bucket thru. It also has a honey gate....or valve at the bottom. This system is the most natural way to collect honey as there is no filtering of the honey which could filter out pollen or other great nutrients the honey might contain. Here is a link to a couple of similar systems: Mann Lake - Brushy Mountain Bee FarmBeeThinking. I got mine from BeeThinking.

Honey Straining Bucket

Now, time to put the buckets out in the sun. Warm honey flows much better to the bucket below. ***Big note here --- When I do this again I'm going to wrap saran wrap around the seam between the two buckets. There is just enough space for bees to get in and I had to scoop several out who got in and could not get out**** By the next day all of the honey had moved to the bottom bucket leaving all of the crushed wax....and other goodies in the mesh bag above.crush and strain honey collection

Honey Bucket in the sun
Filling jars of honey the best part of beekeeping

Filling the jars

Now the fun part, pouring the honey into the jars. There are lots of choices when it comes to honey containers, jars and bottles which you can buy from most of the beekeeping suppliers. From here just make sure each jar has its cap screwed on tight and wiped down so there is no stickiness on the outside. Design and place a cool looking label on the outside and we are ready to roll.

Couple of notes; I did wash all of the jars before using them. Honey attracts moisture so if you can do much of the work in an air conditioned space the better. Too much moisture in your honey and it will spoil.

All told this first harvest was about 17 pounds of honey. The first of the jars filled with honey from seabeck farmshoney went to our bee friendly neighbors. That sounds like a lot of honey but as you can see not many jars.

I took the wax and melted it down and turned it into candles....I'll share that process in my next blog post.

 

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The language of bees

For the past 9 or 10 years we have been sponsoring a girl by the name of Kadiatou, who lives in Mali Africa. We make a small monthly donation through World Vision which helps to improve her quality of life and the overall program supports schools in her village. We receive updates and pictures a couple of times a year and we are encouraged to send her items that will fit in a small envelope as well as to write letters to her.

World Vision, Mali Africa, Beehives, Beekeeping, African Bees

World Vision helped me get hives to a family in Mali.

We often find these letters a bit difficult to write. We have very little in common and     are careful to not include a lot of detail about material items. Lets face it….the average American can not relate to the daily struggles that the average African villager has to face, nor could an average 14 year old girl from Nonsombougou, Mali have any concept of what it is like to live in our world. We are not only separated by half a world but by language (she speaks French), religion, polotics, currency, life style, terrain, weather, education and basic daily concerns. As a result our letters are pretty generic. She writes to update us on her education, what her interests are and usually draws a picture….our letters include topics about the weather, animals, and encouragement. Each letter from us has to be translated from English into French…..and each letter from her needs to be translated from French into English. We did learn, however, that her Dad is a farmer. They plant sourgum and have a goat and a cow……which leads me to why this story is on my bee blog.

A couple of months ago I sent over an inquiry through World Vision asking if Mr. Traore, Kadiatou’s Dad, would be interested in adding bees to his farm. To my delight his answer was yes. A phone call and a couple of months of waiting we just learned that their bee equipment has arrived. I immediately sent out a letter to Mr. Traore congratulating him on his new arrivals. As I wrote the letter it occurred to me that now we have something in common, something we can both relate to on every level. We will have the same concerns, want to know the same things and will try to solve the same mysteries. We now share a common language……the language of bees.

If you are interested in sharing the investment in a hive click here….or you can click the beekeeper below to donate/invest in the whole set up for a new beekeeper. Your investment will change lives.

As I get updates from Mali I’ll post them here. In this way you can get a glimpse into beekeeping in the Pacific Northwest from me….and beekeeping in Mali Africa from Mr. Traore…..the newest beekeeper in our family.

World Vision Beehives

World Vision Beehives to Donate Click Here

 

 

 

Bees going into their new beehive

A quiet bee installation

April 20th was bee day at Stedman Bee Supplies in Silverdale. The members of our bee club, West Sound Beekeepers Association, were out in force, helping to carry bee packages, answering questions and doing live bee installation demonstrations throughout the day…..a bunch of busy bees.

This year I ordered 1 package of bees to bring me back up to two hives. The Italians came in the earliest so I got those. With our short season even two or three weeks can make a big difference.

We decided to do what I call “a quiet installation”. Instead of turning the bee package upside down and dumping the bees into their new home, we instead gently turned the package upside down on top of the hive bars after having placed the queen cage between two frames in the middle of the hive. We added two boxes over the travel cage and then put the top on. It starts out looking really tall but once the travel cage is removed we are back to two boxes deep.

After 24 hours all of the bees had migrated out of their travel container and into the hive. Another 24 hours later I checked the queen cage and the marshmallow had been eaten and the queen had been released.

I think this method would work well in bad weather too……Granted, this method is not as dramatic as having a cloud of a thousand bees buzzing around you, but it worked just fine.

Bees going into their new beehive

The new package of bees

queen bee, Italian queen bee

Queen in her travel cage

queen cage, putting marshmallow in queen cage

Marshmallow in the end of the queen cage

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Place queen cage in center

Place queen cage in center

Queen bee in her cage

Placing the queen cage between two frames

Turn travel cage over

Turn travel cage over

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

installing a package of bees into hive

Gently turning the travel cage over, hole down

Place an empty over travel cage

Place an empty over travel cage

feeding your bees, sugar water for bees, beehives

They need plenty of sugar water for now

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

place jar off to the side

place jar off to the side

Use up the rest from travel feeder

Use up the rest from travel feeder

Place the top on

Place the top on

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Langstroth western beehive

All done for now

 

West Sound Beekeepers Association Hive Installation Demonstration

Joining a local beekeeping club provides lots of support, information and education….all making you a better beekeeper. The West Sound Beekeepers Association each year on bee arrival day puts on demonstrations throughout the day. This makes it easier for newer beekeepers to understand the process of moving their new packages of bees into their new home.

A 3 pound package of bees contains about 10,000 bees and one queen.

You will find other bee package installation videos here and here.

David Mackovjak does a great job not only installing this package of bees but also fielding questions from the onlookers.

 

Apprentice Beekeeper, A License to Learn

Apprentice Beekeeper

Beekeeping Certificate

A new beekeeping season is upon us. Last year at this time I was just starting the beeginners beekeeping class. I had done a lot of reading, a lot of asking and had no real idea the adventure I was stepping into. Now, a year later our club is once again assembling those folks who would like to learn about this fascinating hobby.

This was probably one of the most important steps I took to prepare myself for beekeeping. Not only did I learn a lot about keeping bees but almost as important is that I was able to meet others who have been where I was. Our local beekeeping club, West Sound Beekeepers Association, puts on the class each year. We covered everything a new beekeeper needs to get started; equipment, bees, bee anatomy, bee pests, different types of hives, swarming, working with the bees, inspecting your hives and growing your apiary. This is also the launching point for becoming a master beekeeper. Above is my apprentice certificate, I’ve started work on the journeyman level and finally…after many years and lots of knowledge you can become a Master Beekeeper.

Additionally the club offers advanced classes, mentors, and specialized equipment to check out. Our club also has an extensive library of books and DVDs that we have either purchased or have been donated to us by our members…..a real treasure trove of information.

This should be one of your first steps, finding and joining your local bee club. If you can’t find one locally contact your state beekeeping association, they will have a list of local clubs in your area. In my area that would be the Washington State Beekeepers Association or WSBA.

This was me a year ago. I was chomping at the bit to get my first bees. This year I’m a little wiser and have the experience of one season. So much more to learn and regardless of your goals, to be a back yard beekeeper with a hive or two….or have dreams of a commercial operation….we all start here……at the beginning, what kind of bees do I buy, what kind of equipment do I use and where do I put them. And soooooo much more to learn; grafting and raising queens, splitting a hive, catching a swarm, and expanding my apiary……..Its going to be a great beekeeping season!!

Warre bee hive in Seabeck WA

Keeping the Beekeeper alive through the winter

We are in the middle of winter and have been in a cold spell. Dry days and clear nights have lead to temperatures in the teens and 20’s. I’ve used a flash light to look in the windows of the two warre hives to check on the bees. Green roof hive is looking good but I’m afraid flowers hive might be dead. I can see the bees all clustered together but no movement at all. Also seeing quite a bit of furry mold on the comb. The nuc is still a mystery as I don’t want to open it up to check….I hate this part of beekeeping.

At our bee club meeting last night we had the discussion about overwintering our bees. One lady suggested that perhaps it would be a good idea to move the hives into a warmer, protected area like a carport or shed. While this sounds good it was pointed out that what is really better for the bees in general is to let the stronger ones survive the winter then try to graft some queens from this stock. In this way we are promoting bees that are stronger and that can deal with winter in the Northwest.

Three things affect our bees in this area

  1. Food
  2. Moisture
  3. Wind

If each of these are kept in check the bees should make it.

My goals for this year:

Have at least 2 of my 3 hives survive.

If my nuc survives move it into an 8 frame western

Capture one swarm

Graft a queen from my healthiest hive

End the season with 3 or 4 full hives and 1 or 2 nucs

I do have quite a bit of work to do on equipment. I need to build the nuc boxes I bought from Brushy Mountain when they had their sale and I also need to build a lot of frames so that I’m ready to stock the western, and I hope to build a jig that will help me to glue and nail straight frames……Can’t wait for the next day that is in the 40’s so I can take a closer look at the hives….Til then all I can do is worry.