While I haven’t been posting updates on a regular basis, I’m still very active in the Austin Urban Beekeeping Meetup Group. We had an excellent Beekeeping 101 class in January with over 100 people in attendance, and we just had our February meeting this past Monday where we discussed swarm prevention and capturing swarms.
Our Meetup members also requested we start a monthly “What should I be doing now?” column so that new beekeepers have a sense of what they should be seeing or doing with their hives. I ran through this in the meeting, but thought I would also start posting it to my blog as well. So here goes:
- Check honey stores in your hive. A healthy hive has started to ramp up brood production in preparation for Spring, and this is a dangerous time when your colony can starve. We’ve had a crazy winter in Central Texas, and we can’t rule out another prolonged cold snap. If stores are low, you can feed a 1:1 mixture to keep your hive alive until the nectar flow really gets going.
- Observe the entrance to hive. Red Buds and Dogwoods are starting to bloom and you should notice bees bringing pollen back to the hive.
- Swarm Prevention. There are lots of techniques to prevent swarming, but now is the time to put those in practice. Once a colony decides to swarm, it is often too late to stop it. At this point, techniques to make the colony think it has already swarmed can be used, but these usually involved splitting your hive which may not be ideal or practical for some people.
- Get signed up for swarm e-mail lists. Swarm season is right around the corner so if you are interested in picking up some free bees, get signed up on a swarm mailing list and have your equipment for capture said swarm in your vehicle.
I’d like to introduce Akash Arcuri born October 4th, 2013 at 1:54 AM.
He’s keeping us busy so the blog may not be updated as frequently as in the past, but the plan is still to start over in the spring with a new hive and hope for better luck in 2014. We are finally getting rain in the Austin area which I hope will spark an amazing year for wildflowers starting next March. I already see Bluebonnet seedlings starting to emerge from the ground after these rounds of heavy rains so maybe it is a sign of good things to come.
Flat Stanley decided to stick around in France and help with the honey harvest. The sunflower honey is so golden, and I bet it tastes amazing.
Originally posted on Stick To Plan Bee:
Howdy – its Flat Stanley again, reporting in after an exciting day’s honey extraction! We collected the honey from the hives of Dallas and Jean-Philippe – three hives in all. I was asked to help out in the Extracting Room.
Flat Stanley and a frame dripping with honey
Firstly we had to make sure that all the equipment was spotlessly clean. It is after all a year since it has been used. You see me here atop the centrifugal extractor, surrounded by uncapping trays, buckets, sieves and honey tanks.
All was fine and dandy, so we installed all these bits and pieces in the so called Extracting Room. When Dallas’ house was used as a farm in the olden days, this room was part of the area where they kept cows and horses. There is a massive vat in the corner which some say was for water for the animals…
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Last week I was lucky enough to be invited to a special tasting event to try out the new ice cream Round Rock Honey will be producing. The ice cream will be called Bees Freeze and will use liquid nitrogen to instantly freeze the ice cream base right before your eyes. It is an impressive setup even before the liquid nitrogen is turned on.
Here are the tanks of liquid nitrogen.
The real show is when the ice cream is being made. Here is their in-house chef Aimee Chauveron and Konrad making up a batch.
A close up of the process.
They made vanilla, strawberry, and chocolate that evening for tasting. It wasn’t all fun and games as we filled out data sheets for each flavor around texture, color, and taste as they continue to tweak their recipes leading up to the official launch. I like the fact they are using grass fed milk from Full Quiver Dairy and of course, they are using their own honey as a sweetener. I was a little skeptical at first since I’ve used honey in making my own homemade ice cream at home and sometimes the honey will overpower the other flavors. However, they have managed to strike the right balance so the honey compliments the other flavors instead of overwhelming them.
They will be making their debut at the Cedar Park Farmers Market on August 31st and Mueller Farmers Market on September 1st. If you are in the area, I would highly recommend checking them out.
I’m now officially a beekeeper without any bees. It is amazing what can happen to hive in less than a month. I finally thought I got my remaining hive straightened out with a new queen producing gentle bees, and the hive seemed well on its way storing honey for the lean late summer months we have in Austin.
I went from a hive filled with frames that look like this:
To a hive of frame after frame of empty comb:
The interesting thing is there were still many frames of honey in the hive. As I initially approached the hive, and my stomach sank at the sight of little to no activity at the entrance, my first thought was a I had yet another hive get robbed. However, there were at least twelve frames of capped honey still just sitting there. Granted the pests were starting to move in, but the honey was basically untouched. So it didn’t get robbed.
I went through all the frames to see if the queen was around, and I didn’t see her. If she was in there, she certainly was laying. I would say there were a little more than the numbers of bees you would get in a package scattered throughout the hive. I was greeted with this fun sight when I finally got all the way down to the screened bottom board.
I squished as many as I could to prevent them from flying off and finding another hive to invade. I also found and squished a few wax moths during my inspection as well.
I consolidated all the bees down to one super with 6 drawn frames of comb and 2 of capped honey. I’m debating whether to try and put a queen in there to see if I can save it, or get a fellow beekeeper to give me a few frames of capped brood to see if I can jump start it.
As for what got the better of this colony, I don’t have a clue. It certainly wasn’t robbed, and I didn’t see any evidence of disease in the frames. The hive was also pretty clean with no dead bees on the bottom board. Perhaps a population boom of varroa mites?
On a happier note, Flat Stanley should be arriving soon to the Isle of Wight before heading off to the south of France and then Australia. I wish him well on his journeys and hopes he finds healthy and productive hives in his travels.