How to Find Store Beekeeping Section

A sure sign of the store beekeeping section, bees flying overhead!

A sure sign of the store beekeeping section, bees flying overhead!

How to Find the Beekeeping Store Section

Busy, busy, busy this year, so busy that I barely glance around stores as I pop in. Our local hardware stores have picked up on the beekeeping interest but sometimes I have to check all of them before I find what I need. 

On this particular day, I had just heard the first winter 2018 forecast on the radio. I never quite know whether the bellybutton of Missouri falls into the northern plains or the east coast, especially when they don't even mention a state remotely close. I hope we have a little bit of a break, or more of a break than we had last year, I thought as I popped into yet another hardware store.

It's honey harvesting time, and a friend had told me there were some plastic bear jars locally in stock. Not a particular fan of those containers, I was going to give them another look before I decided if I would use them this year if I could remember what store he had said he found them.

 It's a personal thing. My bees work SO hard to make honey, I like to package their hard work in a way that honors the gift they give us. Actually we take it from them when they make extra but I digress.

So this particular hardware store had recently changed hands, and inventory. They were also transitioning from summer to Christmas so my usual aisle haunts were gone. Sad but true, I was lost.

Around one of the corners, a lady was stocking shelves so I decided to ask for help. Did she happen to know how I could find the beekeeping supplies?

She gave me a smile and pointed towards the ceiling. Several stuffed bees were hanging around a mannequin in a bee suit. Not quite a swarm but definitely a good clue!

Charlotte

Why Honey Frames Should Be Frozen Before Storing

This was the last honey frame in the bottom box from a pile of six, 10 frame boxes.

This was the last honey frame in the bottom box from a pile of six, 10 frame boxes.

Why Honey Frames Should Be Frozen Before Storing

It's always tempting to say it won't happen to me, or I don't see them, or not to concentrate on the warnings I pass on at our bee club meetings. See, I know some of you are snoozing when I talk about it but here's why I say honey frames should be frozen before storing.

I had six boxes of honey frames stacked in my cold basement utility room as I cycled the frames through my tiny freezer before storing them in plastic totes. The honey frames were beautiful, all drawn out across the foundation, some even foundationless, not a hint of trouble as I cycled through the boxes.

By the time I got down to the bottom box, it was easy to think I got through this honey batch without any problems until I pulled out that last honey frame. Up in the upper right hand quadrant of one side of the frame was the telltale signs of small hive beetle larvae, and it was apparent they had had some time to enjoy the fruits of the honeybees labor before I found them.

Close up of the culprits, small hive beetle larvae in empty comb.

Close up of the culprits, small hive beetle larvae in empty comb.

Needless to say, I wrapped the frame up in plastic and stuck it in the freezer to kill off the bugs.

I tend to leave small hive beetle larvae in the freezer for a good week before pulling the frames out, washing it off before it thaws out and letting the bees rob out the honey and clean out the comb.

That is one of the many benefits of having bees, they are meticulous housekeepers. If I have a honey spill of any kind, or leftover honey in a container, I take it outside and let the bees clean it out. They do fast work and leave it squeaky clean so that I can then easily wash it without sticking to it myself.

Now can you imagine what this, and the other frames of honey, would have looked like, and smelled like, had I stored it straight into the plastic tote?

I don't even want to think about it!

Charlotte

New Bee Syrup Feeder

My honeybees taking a drink of hummingbird sugar water at a hummingbird feeder.

My honeybees taking a drink of hummingbird sugar water at a hummingbird feeder.

New Bee Syrup Feeder

There are only a very few situations where I recommend feeding bees sugar syrup to supplement what they may find in nature; catching swarms and when making two-frame splits come immediately to mind. There may be other special situations but, in general, I try not to feed my honeybees sugar syrup.

My bees apparently don't agree. Right after hanging my hummingbird feeders around the garden, with a 4 to 1 water/sugar syrup, one of the hummingbird feeders was getting emptied out faster than the rest. Suspecting my resident raccoon may have been sipping the sugar water, I started watching the hummingbird feeder shortly after filing in.

No big visitors to the feeder but bees were constantly around it. Even when I took the hummingbird feeder down to wash out and replenish, bees were waiting for the hummingbird feeder's return.

No other feeders have regular bee visitors like this one. It is within the flight path of one of my hives so maybe that's what makes it a popular stopping point as they head out to find pollen sources.

And the hummingbird feeder?

It has little slits designed to allow hummingbirds access but supposedly keeps everyone else out, including bees.

Maybe they should promote it as a bee syrup feeder instead!

Charlotte

Sandy Bird Bath

Sandy bird bath gives my bees a safe place to land near one of my bird feeders.

Sandy bird bath gives my bees a safe place to land near one of my bird feeders.

Sandy Bird Bath

Over the years, I have experimented with a variety of bird bath additions to give my honeybees a safe place to land while they get a drink of water. Honeybees need water for a variety of reasons, from hydration to take water back to the hive to use in food production and to ventilate the hive.

From twigs and leaves to rocks and statuaries, my bird baths have gone from simple bowls holding water to virtual sandy beaches - literally.

The latest experiment is this bird bath at the front of my house lined with sand. I keep it saturated with water so bees can easily get moisture without having to walk into the deep end on the other side of the rocks. 

The bird bath is a little too close to the bird feeder. Sunflower seed hulls end up dotting the sandy edge but it doesn't seem to bother the bees.

One of my honeybees that lived through winter at the edge of the bird bath.

One of my honeybees that lived through winter at the edge of the bird bath.

One of the questions I researched last year was how far should the water source be located. According to Larry Connors, the water source should be no farther than half a mile from the hive. This bird bath is about halfway between my two bee gardens, maybe 200 feet from the closest apiaries.

Rocks in the bird bath help give honeybees a safe landing spot.

Rocks in the bird bath help give honeybees a safe landing spot.

Besides sticks, I also add larger rocks to my bird baths to give bees a safe place to land. If I have to choose between large and small rocks, I prefer smaller rocks so bees can still easily reach water but still be safe from falling in.

Sand also gives honeybees a safe place to land to take up moisture.

Sand also gives honeybees a safe place to land to take up moisture.

That's why the sand works well, it gives bees a safe place to land while giving them easy and safe access to moisture.

Charlotte

Canning Lid Disk Entrance

Two homemade swarm traps that both could use the metal disk entrance disks.

Two homemade swarm traps that both could use the metal disk entrance disks.

Canning Lid Disk Entrance

These are homemade bee swarm traps, the deeper ones honeybee colonies like. The one on the right has the metal disk entrance that is attached with a screw and allows the entrance to be closed while still allowing for ventilation.

I either never have those around when I need them or order extras and then can't find them when I am ready to use them. So I was very intrigued when one of our very handy guys came up with this nifty alternative, using the inner cover of canning jars to make these disk entrances.

Now this is very exciting for several reasons. I am not handy with woodworking but I do have canning jars. I can relatively safely manage a drill bit and who doesn't like to be able to say "I made this myself."

Here is the canning lid close up with the drilled holes.

Here is the canning lid close up with the drilled holes.

Looking at the canning lid closer, the design is simple enough: a larger hole, a collection of tinier holes,  and a tiny hole in the center.

Helps to have a wooden guide to get the larger hole the right size.

Here is a demo of how the holes are drilled using a wooden block guide.

Here is a demo of how the holes are drilled using a wooden block guide.

I also like the little screw on the left to keep the canning lid from moving during the drilling process.

Note the little screw on the left holding the canning lid in place for safety.

Note the little screw on the left holding the canning lid in place for safety.

Considering how expensive these can be to order all by themselves, and how easily available canning lids are, this is a great option for when one needs a metal disk entrance.

And I will never, ever complain again that I have too many inner canning lids again!

Charlotte

Minimize Small Hive Beetles

Joining my bee buddy David, left, at a first spring hive inspection.

Joining my bee buddy David, left, at a first spring hive inspection.

Minimize Small Hive Beetles

We have had a mild winter this past year, which means another bad year combating small hive beetles. 

Last year, the little black beetles devastated many hives, including strong ones, in the matter of a couple of weeks. Originally from sub-sahara Africa, the ladybug-size black bugs can lay up to 2,000 eggs a day in dark hive corners. If left undisturbed, the larvae will quickly slime the comb, honey and even the bees, eventually chasing bee colonies out of the hive.

There is a definite rotten smell to a colony infested with small hive beetle larvae.

What is worse, most beekeepers first dealing with this pest will scrape the larvae into the ground, where the worms will pulpate and grow into more small hive beetles. The beetles will fly up to 7 miles, infesting other nearby colonies.

As beekeepers start their spring inspections, it's important that they take a plastic container with a lid with them where they can scrape the bottom of the hive, sight unseen. The frass at the bottom of the hive will contain left over wax where  small hive beetle larvae will hatch. To try to control the beetle population, scrape that out of the hive and burn it.

Frass and debris off the bottom board was scooped into a plastic bag, not poured onto ground.

Frass and debris off the bottom board was scooped into a plastic bag, not poured onto ground.

Look at the photo above, can you see the small hive beetle larvae in the frass?

Initially, many beekeepers were telling me small hive beetles would die over winter. Inspecting colonies that died, we found that the beetles were wintering over inside the colony clusters and, in some cases, surviving where the bees had died.

Small hive beetles have been wintering over inside the clustering bees.

Small hive beetles have been wintering over inside the clustering bees.

So in addition to killing the small hive beetle bugs, beekeepers need to remove the actual larvae, often found in the bottom of frames and boxes.

Here is what one looks like:

Kill the black beetles, then look for the larvae growing in frass and hive nooks and crannies.

Kill the black beetles, then look for the larvae growing in frass and hive nooks and crannies.

In addition to killing the black beetles, and removing the larvae, make sure to use traps with lures to try to keep small hive beetle populations down and replace the lure every week or so.

Colonies also need to remain strong and packed in the hives to make sure there are few uncovered frames where small hive beetles can hide.

What are you doing to manage for small hive beetles?

Charlotte

Tying a Hive Down

Using bungee cords and ratchet straps to tie down bee hives at Bluebird Gardens.

Tying a Hive Down

Not that beekeepers have a derth of topics to discuss but if you want to start a lively conversation, ask a beekeeper how he/she ties down a hive.

When I first started beekeeping, I was told a rock was required to keep my hive lids on. I love rocks, I collect them on walks but having a big chunk of the earth sitting on top of my beautiful white topped hives doesn't quite fit with my hive aesthetic.

I did use rocks for my first years, then graduated to red bricks I had in my garden. The bricks were ok but I still wasn't too settled on the idea. Besides, I was short of red bricks and now I had a mish mash of rocks and bricks on my hives. Sheesh, that was worse.

Now I am a hobby beekeeper. I don't "run" my girls to make honey, I like having them in my garden and appreciate having a little extra honey but it wasn't my primary motivation to get bees. Which is another way of saying I do care how my hives look in my garden and I am willing to take the time to make them look nice.

Enter a non-beekeeping friend who prides himself on coming up with solutions. MacGyver has little on this man, and I appreciated his suggestions, especially about things I can't resolve to my own satisfaction.

On this particular visit, he noticed my hive rocks lined up on a wall. I told him I was trying to make them blend in better into my garden landscape. A few days later, he gave me a ratchet strap and suggested that may be the solution.

Do you know what I'm talking about? These are heavy duty straps with a belt-like contraption that helps tighten the straps. My challenge is how to make the straps loose, especially without breaking off my nails to pull back the little levers.

After several training sessions, my friend politely suggested this may not work. By then I had invested in several red ratchet straps and winter was just around the corner. No more time to play around with matching rock sizes or coming up with an alternative for holding down my hive lids.

During the same shopping spree, I had also purchased yellow and black bungee cords in various sizes. Yes, I bought them for the color to tie the black insulation I wrap around my hives to give them some wind protection.

I now hook ratchet strap ends to my bungee cords to hold my hive lids on.

I now hook ratchet strap ends to my bungee cords to hold my hive lids on.

Oh, I still use the ratchet straps, only instead of forcing the belt side I hook the ends onto the bunge cords. Easy to take off and put back on, and no further damage to my nails.

MacGyver would be proud.

Charlotte