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.

 

The Distance a Bee Travels

It is truly amazing how far a bee will travel to find pollen, nectar, water and propolis. They will travel 3 to 5 miles in search of sustenance for their hive. When you have a bee hive you can’t think of what is blooming in your yard….rather you need to think what is in bloom in your part of the countryside. I live in Seabeck WA and as you can see my bees travel quite a bit of our zip code.

A 3 mile travel distance creates a 6 mile in diameter circle around your hives. A 3 mile radius covers 18,110 acres of ground. A farmer would be proud to be able to cover that many acres and as you know the honey bee is the fraction of the size of a human.

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.

Honey bees in the snow

Beehive, beekeeping, seabeck, bees, honeybees, overwintering bees

Bee hives like snow

It is December in Seabeck Washington. While our winters are very moderate compared to much of the country we do get snow from time to time. We just had two days of snow and our neck of the woods had over 10 inches. The days now are upper 30s and might get into the mid 40s this next week, the nights are in the lower 30s….in any case the snow will not last long.

A friend asked me today about the bees. What do they do when it snows? Do they hibernate?

This is the 6 million dollar discussion. How do you get the bees through the winter. This is the crux of what so many beekeepers struggle with each year. It is not unusual to have a 30 to 50% loss each year.

The bees do not hibernate. I consider hibernation like a sleep state. Bees remain active throughout the winter. They generate heat with the same muscles they use to fly. They flex or pump their mucsels in such a way that they maintain a core temperature of about 89 to 97 degrees F.

During warm weather bees come and go from the hive. Collecting and returning with pollen, nectar  water or sap. They also leave for cleansing flights as they do not defecate in their hive.

At about 64 degrees F the bees begin to cluster, that is collect closely together to preserve heat. There are two basic parts of the cluster; the core which uses its muscles to create the heat and the outer layer that acts as insulation for the core. As temperatures drop the cluster tightens. The bees rotate from the inner part of the cluster to the outer, taking turns generating the heat. The energy they use is fueled by the honey they eat or the sugar the beekeeper has given them if they do not have sufficient honey stored.

The queen slows down egg laying and stops all together for a short time all to preserve energy and make it through the winter. Some think that the winter solstice is what keys the queen to begin to slowly build up the brood again.

Beekeepers in areas with harsher winters may actually wrap their hives to better insulate them, making it easier on the bees. The typical advice when it snows is to leave the snow on the top of the hives, it acts as an insulator.

My goal now is to just check them on warmer days and ensure they have plenty of sugar….and hope I don’t suffer the 30 to 50% loss that others have.

Thank you Lee for this great question.

 

Resource for information in this post came from here: http://www.capabees.com/main/files/pdf/winteringpdf.pdf

My favorite nucs from Brushy Mountain, Free Shipping on Black Friday

Many of you may have heard me commenting that though I love Brushy Mountain Bee equipment I don’t like the expense of having it shipped. Well now is the time to buy. Free shipping on Black Friday. I don’t get any benefit from passing this on, I just think it is important to tout good quality and I think their western nucs are the best on the market:

Beekeeping equipment

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Link to my favorite Nuc click here.