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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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, others say it was for wine making –…
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While the temps are finally hitting the high 90’s, we’ve received well timed rain showers that have kept Austin mostly green and in bloom.
Tending to our plot at Sunshine Community Gardens, we noticed bees everywhere. We let our mint go to flower, and the bees really seem to favor it.
We also let our fennel flower in the hopes of attracting butterflies that use it as a larval food source. No signs of any butterflies yet, but the bees are working it.
The purple coneflowers this year have really been spectacular.
One of our neighbor plots have huge plants of oregano that flowered.
In August, I’m sure Austin will be brown and dry, but with our rather chilly spring this year, I’m glad to see so much in bloom which will hopefully allow bees everywhere to get their hives strong.
On Friday, my two Italian queens arrived in the mail. They are hard to see through the cage, but here they are.
I installed them Friday after work, and it was certainly a learning experience. I attempted to do a quick release into the hive that has been queenless for several weeks. I’ve heard from other beekeepers that you can put the cage on top of an open super and the hive will come investigate. Supposedly, if you can easily shake those bees off the cage, and you don’t see them trying to bite through the mesh to get to the queen, the hive is pretty much ready to accept the queen right away.
It didn’t really work out that way at all…
After I watched the bees investigate the cage and even observed a worker feed the queen through the mesh, I thought this hive would have no issues welcoming a new queen into their home. I removed the mesh and the nearby workers immediately tried to ball and kill her. Luckily, I was able to quickly intervene and get the queen back into the cage and re-attach to the mesh, but not before she got stung once in the thorax. I ended up installing the other queen into this hive.
We observed the stung queen for 15 minutes and she didn’t really seem that worse for the wear after her ordeal. I went ahead and stuck her into the other hive and will just hope for the best. In hindsight, getting the queen into they hive and laying a few days earlier is not worth the risk of her getting balled and killed. I’ll check back later this week and will keep my fingers crossed that both hives accept their new queen.
On April 7th, I did a late afternoon inspection of both my hives at Baab-Brock Farms. I first checked the hive I moved from Sunshine Community Gardens and found no evidence of a queen. No eggs, larvae or capped brood were present. I’m not sure what happened but without any eggs, the hive is unable to even make a new queen.
I then moved over to the queen eating hive that I attempted to requeen twice last year. The last queen was one sent from sunny Hawaii in late October in an attempt to chill out an aggressive hive. I actually found the queen very unexpectantly near the top of the hive, and it was not the marked queen I had dubbed “Aunty Lilikoi”. The hive was also more aggressive than from past inspections a few weeks back so I don’t know if the hive swarmed with my Hawaiian queen leaving me with a queen mated with the local drone population. Trying to find a queen in an aggressive hive is one of the least fun things a beekeeper will do, so I made the snap decision to remove her right then and there.
I now have two cordovan queens on the way which should arrive in the next day or two. Since I feel the location of my hives are in a AHB influenced area of Austin, having a queen that produces distinctive coloring on workers and drones will help be an early indicator that the queen has been lost or replaced.
I really meant to get this going when Flat Stanley visited our hives a few months ago, but better late than never I say.
Since Gitanjali took so much time drawing out Flat Stanley as a beekeeper, it seems like a shame not to send him around the globe. So if anyone is interested in hosting Flat Stanley at their own hive, please leave a comment and we can exchange address information. If you are interested, I’d only ask for the following things:
- Be willing to have a blog post with some pictures of Flat Stanley at your hive with some interesting facts about beekeeping in your state or country.
- If you don’t have a blog, send me some photos and a little write up which I’ll post to my blog
- Be willing to mail Flat Stanley on to the next beekeeper
Flat Stanley is looking forward to visiting all of you.
Filed under beekeeping, Fun
Flat Stanley arrived courtesy of my niece Riya shortly after the holidays. Part of the instructions suggested “dressing” him to reflect either the season we were in or an activity he performed.
We took these instructions to heart and got Flat Stanley all suited up and ready to do a hive inspection complete with cowboy boots since we are in Texas after all.
We had a nice break from the cold weather this past week. It was perfect for a quick peek into the hive I requeened with the Hawaiian queen at the end of October 2012. The hope was the hive was still full of bees with plenty of honey to make it through spring. It would also be a plus if they didn’t try and kill me.
To calm the bees before the inspection, Flat Stanley first smoked the hive.
After smoking, we opened up the hive and started inspecting frames in the top most super. All 8 frames were all mostly drawn out combs of honey.
The next two supers after that were still all honey as well. The bees were also calm and only started getting a little annoyed towards the very end of the inspection. I didn’t go any further into hive because it was late in the day and the temps were starting to go down. If we have another warm weekend this week, I’ll do another inspection and go straight to the 2nd super now that I know the top three are all honey. I’ll hopefully see some activity of brood meaning the queen from Hawaii was accepted.