Monday, July 30, 2012

Summertime and the living is ... slow ...

No denying it, I've been a very lazy blogger as of late.  Although, to be fair, I was on a vacation for a week.  I know, tough right?

For the most part, the bees have been doing well and are going about their bee business with ease.  Hive beetles have still been an annoyance, but they seem mainly to be on the bottom board and in the first brood super.  For the most part, my bees seem to be keeping the beetle population in check, and they don't seem to be ruining any honey.  Still, they are annoying ... probably more to me than to the bees, but I'm still researching other methods of dealing with them.  The beetle jail I had previously purchased is working, and to my surprise, has also been good for controlling any ants that sneak into the hive.

The bees starting to chase a small hive beetle.

The same beetle a little further down the bottom board.  Many more bees have come to help take care of the intruder.

The weather has been hot.  Really hot (100-104 degrees) and at times, has lasted for several days in a row.  Making sure that the bees have water has been imperative.  Luckily I have a two-tier bird bath/fountain and am less than a mile from the Ohio River.  The hot weather has also made hive activity slow waaaaaay down.  It has been very interesting to see how sensitive honeybees are to the weather.  Earlier in the year it was too cold, now it is too hot, however I suppose that if I was flying several miles a day, I'd also be picky about the weather.  Hot weather also means more bees in the hive which inevitably means there are more bored bees on guard duty (thus more stings).  I did get stung once when I was breaking down the hive before vacation, but I haven't had a problem since.

The hive about 10:30 pm on July 17th. The bees hang on the outside to stay cooler.

Although I still think that my hive is somewhat under populated, my queen bee, Catherine the Great, has continued to lay in a relatively regular pattern and steady rate.  I'm sure that as we go into August and September her laying rate and pattern will be heavily dependent on, what else, the weather.

Brood frame.
Finally, many bee keepers harvest a bulk of honey in July.  This is because the honey is still fairly light in color and taste, and (if you've done good hive management) Varroa mite population hasn't peaked.  Over the past weekend I took a single honey frame by using a bee brush to sweep off the bees, but if I were to take any more honey this year, I'd certainly use a fume board with a natural bee repellent spray.  I personally like the spray offered from Brushy Mountain Bee Farm.  The frame of honey that I took contained early nectar flow and is relatively light in color and flavor.  It also has the slightest taste of lavender, which is really cool since we've got several lavender bushes in our yard, and you just can't get any more local than that.  Some of the frames have honey from two different nectar flows, which is also really interesting to see.

Inspecting a honey frame.
Light honey in the middle, with darker honey on either side.

Capped honey in the harvested frame.
No fancy bottling or extracting for this frame.  I simply cut the comb out into a pan with a lid and have been smashing/spooning out the honey as I want.  I gave about half of the frame away, but even with keeping the other half, there is still plenty of beautiful honey.  Now if I could only catch up on my bee reading!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

When Hive Inspections Go Bad

Wow.  Today was a stressful hive inspection!

First, it is about 91 degrees outside, so that made wearing long sleeves, long pants, bee hat and gloves HOT.

Second, the bees had yet to even start drawing out comb on the super that I put on a week ago.  Granted that I did put a queen excluder between the second and third super, but I figured there would at least be a few curious bees working away.  Nope ... nothing.

Third, have you ever dropped a box of bees? Yeeeeeaaaahhhh.  I had removed the third super and was in the process of taking off the second super so I could check the main brood box.  The second super weighed at least sixty pounds (and I was all, "No way will my supers get that heavy!").  I was placing the second super on top of the third super (which I had placed in the grass beside the hive) and must have misjudged my placement because as soon as I let go the box began to tip.  As I did NOT want eight frames of brood and honey to smash into the lawn, I quickly righted to box and undoubtedly crushed several bees in the process.  I suppose I didn't "technically" drop the box, but wow were the bees angry!

Finally, I had to move the main brood super to modify my hive stand  That, apparently, was the last straw.  There were about 200 bees angrily buzzing around me telling me exactly what they thought of my hive inspection skills.  Each time a huge bead of sweat rolled down my face I thought, "Oh God they've gotten in my bee hat!!!"

Between silent freak outs about possible bees in my hat, trying to avoid crushing any bees that may have fallen onto the lawn, moving some cinder blocks and being super hot today's inspection was stressful.

However, I remained calm, got done what I needed to do, and did not get stung, so I still view today's inspection as successful.  Plus, when moving the brood super, I noticed a few beetles along the bottom board being mercilessly attacked by the bees.  This is a good sign because it indicates my colony is strong enough to fend off pests.  I still have the hive beetle traps in place, but really haven't noticed much in them which means the bees are killing the beetles before they get a chance to get too far up in the hive.

I have been reading some reports on nectar flow failure, but it appears that my hive is still going fairly strong.  They've got honey stored around the brood and at least two frames full of nothing but honey.  Now if I could only get them to start storing in the third super ...

Thursday, June 14, 2012

I'm Published!

Our local newspaper, The Campbell County Recorder, published the article I wrote about National Pollinator Week.

Apologies for the low quality cell phone picture!

Here is a link to the text in the article: Kentucky Celebrates National Pollinator Week

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Heeeey Youuuu Guyyyys!

I snapped this photo when I was doing a powdered sugar shake on June 7th.  I thought it was pretty funny to watch this drone wandering around aimlessly as the workers furiously capped honey, tended to brood, and made wax around him.  Poor guy! (He's in the middle left of the photo ... all eyes and stepping on a nurse bee)

Monday, June 11, 2012

News Article for National Pollinator Week

Since I was successful in securing a state-wide proclamation for National Pollinator Week this year, I wanted to go a step further and spread the word about it.  I decided that writing a basic article and submitting it to the local newspaper would be an easy way to do this.  Below is a copy of my article that should appear in the local community press and possibly the NKY Enquirer.

Kentucky Celebrates National Pollinator Week
Becky Anderson
Bellevue, KY

When you hear the word “pollen” what is the first thing that comes to mind?  For many people, seasonal allergies are a common answer.  However, pollen is much than an allergy producer; it is an essential part of our food system.  How essential?  One in three bites of food we eat depends on a pollinator.  That’s why five years ago the U.S. Senate unanimously approved and designated the last week in June as National Pollinator Week.  The goal of Pollinator Week is to raise awareness about the importance of pollinators to plants, animals, and humans.  This year we celebrate National Pollinator Week June 18th-24th.  This is also the first year that Kentucky has officially proclaimed National Pollinator Week throughout the state.  Governor Steve Beshear officially declared Kentucky’s support for this important issue on June 4th

Pollinating animals such as bees, bats, butterflies, and birds make up a large variety of pollinators in the United States.  In fact, there are more than 200,000 animal species that pollinate.  As they gather nectar and pollen for their survival, these animals are responsible for the reproduction of seventy-five percent of all flowering plants and two-thirds of crop plants!  Some crops, such as cocoa harvested for chocolate, depend solely on pollinators for their reproduction.  If you’ve enjoyed chocolate recently you can thank a midge, a tiny two-winged fly.  Pollinators also contribute to biodiversity as they travel.  For example, a typical worker honeybee visits an average of two thousand flowers in one day.
A rise in problems such as pesticides, diseases, habitat loss, Colony Collapse Disorder, and a lack of education mean that pollinators need our help.  There are many easy ways that we can ensure pollinators remain happy, healthy and productive.  Here’s how you can help:
  • Reduce your impact. Reduce or eliminate your pesticide use, increase green spaces, and minimize urbanization. Pollution and climate change affect pollinators, too!
  • Plant for pollinators. Create pollinator-friendly habitat with native flowering plants that supply pollinators with nectar, pollen, and homes. Even a small container garden can make a big impact.  For information on what to plant in your area, download a free ecoregional guide online at
  • Tell a friend. Educate your neighbors, schools, and community groups about the importance of pollinators. Host a dinner, a pollinated food cook-off or other event and invite your friends.       
  • Get closer.  Visit your local zoo or Cooperative Extension office to see pollinators up close and learn more interesting facts about their important contributions.  Also, there are several great books for both children and adults available at your local library.
  • Join the Pollinator Partnership. Go to and click on “Get Involved.” Be part of a growing community of pollinator supporters.  
I hope that you’ll take a few moments during the week of June 18th-24th to learn some more facts about pollinators, enjoy a perfectly ripe piece of fruit, or do a few of the simple actions above.  

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Powdered Sugar Shake

Although Varroa Mites don't seem to be a problem in my hive, today I decided to do a powdered sugar shake as preventative maintenance.  Basically, the powdered sugar shake is easy, inexpensive, and very effective at preventing and controlling varroa mites.  Additionally, it's amusing to watch the bees fly around covered in powdered sugar.

Here's a short presentation I put together on the pro/cons and how to do a powdered sugar shake.

Stephen Colbert on Pollination

The following short video is worth a watch.  Only Stephen Colbert could make plant pollination this funny!  Just click on the link below and enjoy.