Tale of two hives

When I give new beekeepers advice, I always recommend starting two hives if they are able. I’m really glad I followed my own advice this year because one hive is doing really well and the jury is still out on the other.

I installed both hives the afternoon of May 9th, 2020. I checked both hives on Thursday May 14th to see if the queens had been released. In one hive, the queen who will henceforth be named Queen Quarantine, was released and I refilled the feeder.

The second hive the queen had not be released and was dead in the cage.

Time to call Miracle Max

I was able to get a new Queen the following Monday the 18th and got her installed. I’m going to call her Queen Calamity.

Queen Calamity

I checked both hives on Saturday May 23rd. I found Queen Quarantine and six out of the eight frames were drawn out with comb and eggs and larvae were present. They had also drained the feeder. Since a good majority of the frames were drawn out and Austin is also on a nectar flow, I added another 8 frames to the hive and refilled the feeder.

Queen Calamity’s hive is limping along. The good news is she was released and I found her in the hive. They had not drawn out a lot of comb probably due to being queenless for extended period of time. I did see eggs and some very young larvae which is consistent with a queen only being in the hive a short time. I also saw a few cells that had multiple eggs which is a sign of laying workers. Typically it is hard to come back once you get into a laying worker situation, but I’m going to give it a few days to give the new queen a chance. I also had emptied the feed and refilled since it had been in there for an extended time and I didn’t want it to start fermenting.

Next week’s inspection will be important. If Calamity’s hive is still lacking drawn comb and brood, I will most likely need to bite the bullet and combine with Quarantine to cut my losses. If it looks like she is turning it around, we will give her a chance and perhaps I will supplement with a frame from Quarantine to jump start brood production.

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Don’t call it a comeback…

So 2019 didn’t happen with starting my hives again. The house we were building wasn’t quite ready yet especially the area where the hives would go. So I had to punt on 2019 and wait until 2020, and I wasn’t going to let a little something like a global pandemic stop me. If you are interested in the house we built, you can head over to my other blog and check it out.

I have two hives set up on the far end of the area where we plan on having a small fruit orchard of twelve trees.

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On the opposite end is where our raised garden and green house is situated.

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The hope is our hives will help pollinate our orchard as well as whatever is growing in the garden.

The install was straightforward. Once again, the hardest part is just getting the dang syrup can out of the package. After that, it is just shake shake shake.

I haven’t named my queens yet and I’m open to suggestions although I’m leaning toward Queen Quarantine as one. I’m excited to have hives again, and I’m looking forward to chronicling their progress in our new home.

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Coming this Spring 2019

Can’t wait to start the hives up again in the new house!matt+fajkus+mf+architecture+descendant+house+rendering+rear

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Austin 6th Annual Beekeeping Seminar

It’s hard to believe it has been 2 years since my last post, but having a child certainly takes up a huge amount of your time.

While I haven’t been posting, I am still very active in the Austin beekeeping community and we have our 6th Annual Beekeeping Seminar approaching in January.

You can register at the following URL: https://aabaseminar2017.eventbrite.com

This is a daylong seminar offering 6 different educational presentations running
concurrently in each time slot throughout the day. This will provide many beginning and advanced subjects to choose from. A separate beginner track has been formatted covering a variety of startup topics for soon to be or very new beekeepers.

Afternoon sessions will include many different presentations including:
• Honey Bee Management 1 and 2
• Honey Bee Biology and Behavior
• Top Bar Management 1 and 2
• Varroa Management
• Brood Disease Control
• Swarm Capture Techniques
• Raising Queens
• Learn Honey Extraction Techniques
• Harvest Economics
• Beneficial Bee Flowers
• Texas Ag Exemption
• Ask an Expert
• Queen Finding and Requeening
• Honey Bee Reproductive Biology
• Colony Supersedure and Management
• Making Splits
• Nutrition Management
• Spring Management
• Cut-Outs
• Products of the Hive
• Equipment Building Workshops
• Increasing Hive Productivity
• Mead Making

Presenters:
• Professor Juliana Rangel- Posada Entomology Texas A&M
• Mark Dykes- Chief Texas Apiary Inspector
• Mary Reed- Texas Apiary Inspector
• Mark Hedley- Vice President Texas Beekeepers Assoc.
• Chris Doggett- President of the WCABA
• Tanya Phillips – Owner Bee Friendly Austin
• Elizabeth Walsh-Entomology Texas A&M
• Jay Poindexter-Owner of Poindexter Family Apiary
• Karl Acuri- Austin Area Beekeepers Assoc. (Co-organizer)
• Cameron Crane-Area Director Texas Beekeepers Assoc.
• Becky Bender-TX Master Naturalist
• Brandon Fehrenkamp- Owner of Austin Bees (formerly Eastside Honey Co.)
• Lance Wilson- Certified Master Beekeeper GMBP
• Chuck Reburn-Owner Bee Friendly Austin
• James and Chari Elam-Owners of Bluebonnet Beekeeping Supplies.
• Joe Bader- President of the Fredericksburg Beekeepers Assoc.
• Dennis Herbert-President of the Bell-Coryell Beekeepers Assoc.
• Dodie Stillman-Texas Master Beekeeper candidate

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Beekeeping Seminar a Success!

It’s been a week since our beekeeping seminar at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower center, and I finally have some time to write about it. We sold out our 250 seats we had available and had a waiting list of yearly 100 people wanting to get in. There is clearly an interest for this type of information so we have already started looking for a venue to accommodate at least 400 people for next time.

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All in all, it went very smoothly and our feedback was very positive. The Beekeeping 101 class was packed. Here is Lily explaining the difference between Langstroth and Top Bar Hives.

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Our more advanced class was also very well attended. Here is Lance explaining a method of combining two weak hives into one using the newspaper method.

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One of the best speakers we had was Dr. Juliana Rangel who is the Assistant Professor of Apiculture in the Department of Entomology at Texas A&M University in College Station, TX. Her research program focuses on the biological and environmental factors that influence the reproductive quality of honey bee queens and drones.

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I was fortunate enough to attend both her lectures, and learned a great deal. While I’ve always suspected that the new generation of pesticides are contributing to declining bee health, her research is showing that even sub-lethal exposure to pesticides is causing fertility issues in both the queens and the drones.

I’m very happy how everything turned out. We had a great group of volunteers from the Austin Area Beekeepers Association to keep things running smoothly, and got lucky with some beautiful weather in the middle of January. I’m looking forward to next year, and I count myself lucky to be part of such a great organization.

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Austin 4th Annual Beekeeping Seminar

I can’t believe it has been so long since my last post. One of the things taking up my time (other than a small baby) is helping plan our annual beekeeping class. We’ve greatly expanded the number of classes beyond our traditional Beekeeping 101 course, and I hope that it will continue to grow and become a great annual event for Central Texas Beekeepers. Here’s the scoop:

Date: Jan. 17th 2015
What: Austin 4th Annual Beekeeping Seminar
Who: Sponsored by The Austin Area Beekeepers Association
Where: Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center
4801 La Crosse Ave, Austin, TX 78739
Cost: $40 Pre-registration (https://aabaseminar.eventbrite.com)

Why: The mission of this daylong seminar is to educate people of all experience levels in sustainable bee husbandry and to provide funding for The Texas A&M Honey Bee Lab.

Description:
This is a daylong seminar offering 3 different educational presentations running concurrently in each time slot throughout the day. This will provide many beginning or advanced subjects to choose from. Morning sessions will include two separate and thorough presentations on Beginning Beekeep-ing and Advanced Beekeeping Management.
Afternoon sessions will include many different presentations including:

  • Honey Bee Foraging
  • Varroa Management
  • Brood Disease Control
  • Swarm Capture Techniques
  • Taking Advantage of the Texas Beekeeping Tax Exemption
  • Colony Examination and Frame Reading for Beginners
  • Learn Honey Extraction Techniques and Alternative Hive Products
  • Beneficial Bee Flowers
  • Queen Finding and Requeening Techniques
  • The Latest in the Texas Bee Lab Research
  • Colony Supersedure and Management
  • Keeping Bees in an Africanized Zone
  • Nutrition Management
  • Spring Management

Presenters: 

  • Professor Juliana Rangel- Posada Entomology Texas A&M
  • Mark Dykes- Chief Texas Apiary Inspector
  • Karl Acuri- Austin Area Beekeepers Assoc. (Co-organizer) and natural beekeeper.
  • Dennis Herbert- Author of original bee tax exemption bill.
  • Fred Hall- Williamson Co. Extension Specialist and 2nd generation beekeeper
  • Lily Rosenman- Austin Area Beekeepers Assoc. (Co-organizer) and natural beekeeper
  • Becky Bender-TX Master Naturalist
  • Brandon Fehrenkamp- Natural Beekeeper Activist and owner of Austin Bees (formerly Eastside Honey Co.)
  • Lance Wilson- Certified Master Beekeeper GMBP

This organization is non-profit and all proceeds of this event will be used to promote sustainable beekeeping practices and provide support to our much appreciated Texas A&M Honey Bee Lab. This should be a lot of fun, everyone please come out and see us.

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February and March Tasks

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:

  1. 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.
  2. Observe the entrance to hive. Red Buds and Dogwoods are starting to bloom and you should notice bees bringing pollen back to the hive.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

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