Did my Hive Survive? what you may see in the spring

We all check our hives several times throughout the winter, right? Well you should, but this is just a short paragraph or two about what you might see in the spring, particularly if you haven’t kept an eye on your hives.
The thing that got me thinking about this was a recent event when someone said they thought that a swarm had moved into an empty hive and wanted me to check it out.
When I did, at first I saw a fair amount of bees using both the main and upper entrances. Looked promising.
I stood by the main entrance, bent over, and observing the bees. There were lots of bees going in and out, butI didn’t see any bees carrying pollen. None looked heavy with nectar as they landed on the bottom board. There was no sign of guard bees scurrying back and forth, making physical contact with incomers to be sure they were hive mates.
All of these signs pointed to one conclusion. The hive was being emptied of it’s remaining stores by bees from other colonies.
I didn’t really have to open the hive to confirm this, but we did, just to take a look.
I have seen this happen several times with other beekeepers, and I knew all of this from experience because I once went to check two of my hives in the spring and was excited to see activity at both entrances. I smiled thinking the bees had made it through the winter, and upon opening them found one was doing quite well, but the other had died and was being robbed.
I would hate for you to have the experience of getting your hopes up, only to be disappointed. The best way to prevent that is to be sure the mite count is low in the fall, that they have proper ventilation and plenty of stores going into the winter. Here in the Berkshires, I am going into winter with at least 2 deeps and a medium super. We will see how it goes.

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September meeting and banquet

 

 

 

 

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                     September NBBA Newsletter & Meeting Notice

 

Next Meeting:   Tuesday, September 26, 2017, 7 PM  at the Adams Visitor Center, Adams, MA

  • Guest Speaker : Tony Pisano

Topic:  Making your own beekeeping equipment.

  • Raffle items are always appreciated.
  • See Sherry at the meeting for banquet reservation or if you want to buy t-shirts.

Other news:

1)  Annual NBBA Banquet:   Date: Friday, October 13.  Location: Bass Water Grill.

Attached is the RSVP form.  Please bring your RSVP form and payment to the meeting.

 

2) 2018 NBBA Officers:  At this point, we have candidates for all positions.  Unless, other members are interested in the President position, officers will be confirmed at the banquet and election ballots will not be needed.

3) Worcester County Beekeepers Assoc. All Day Conference Oct. 7 9am-3:30pm

The WCBA will be hosting our an All Day Conference on October 7 from 9am to 3:30pm at Quabbin Regional High School in Barre, MA.  Our speakers will be Dr. Eric Mussen from the University of California, Davis, and Dr. Jennifer Tsuruda from Clemson University who will be presenting on:

Nutritional Needs in the Honeybee Colony
The Future of Bees in Sustainable and/or Organic Crop Production
Behavioral Resistance to Varroa Mites
The Foraging Behavior and Other Behaviors of Honeybees Within the Colony

Cost is $10 for non-members, free for members (membership is available at the door for $15). Lunch can be ordered in advance for $10 using this form (must be received by Sept. 30).

4) Home in Williamstown with honeybees is seeking a beekeeper to remove them.  Email Sue @ jericho900@gmail.com for more information.

 

5) Bee Yard Locations available in:

  • Alford, MA,
  • Blackington area of North Adams are still available if anyone is interested in a new bee yard location. If you are interested, let me know and I’ll get you the contact info.
  • Washington. MA (Johnson Hill Rd)  Eric Vincelette,  ericvincelette@gmail.com  or

(413) 329-7207

 

Bee Well! Bonnie

Northern Berkshire Beekeeping Association
2017 Banquet RSVP

The 2017 NBBA Banquet will be held at the Bass Water Grill in Cheshire (287 South State Road/413.743.1911) on Friday, October 13th. Cocktail hour starts at 6pm, followed by dinner at 7pm.

Please return this form and a check for your meal to Treasurer Sherry by October 1st. Make checks payable to NBBA. You can hand this form and your check to Sherry in person at our meeting, or mail it to her via the club’s mailbox at NBBA, PO Box 2, North Adams, MA 01247.

Meal Options are: Chicken Cordon Bleu $25, Seafood Stuffed filet of Sole $25, or Prime Rib $35

 

Name: Menu Option: Cost:
__________________________ ____ Chicken  Sole  Prime Rib __¬¬____
__________________________ ____ Chicken  Sole  Prime Rib ______
__________________________ ____ Chicken  Sole  Prime Rib ______
__________________________ ____ Chicken  Sole  Prime Rib ______
Total Meal Cost: ______

If you pay your dues at the same time as you pay for your meal, the club will pay $5 towards your meal. A single membership gets $5 off one meal. A family membership gets $5 off two meals.

Paying Dues?
 Yes – Individual ($10) Yes – Family ($15) No

 

Total Cost of Meals: $_______

+ Dues Included: $_______ ($10 Individual, $15 Family)

– Discount from paying dues now: $_______ ($5 if Individual, $10 if Family)

Total Enclosed: $_______

 

Questions? Email Bonnie at bhfrank1@gmail.com /(518) 794-8450

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A Honey mini-Farm Stand

I’ve had bees for over 10 years now and I’ve sold honey at farmers markets, craft fairs, colleges, contra dances, and special events. One of the best places to sell is right from home. After a while you start getting repeat customers. I wanted to make it as easy as possible for people to buy my honey, so I thought, “why not a mini farm stand”

My first thought was something like the Little Free Libraries that some people have in their yards. The problem with that would be with no sidewalk, the snow gets plowed fairly deeply in my front yard. I decided to go with a box mounted directly to the house by the front door. It would be easily accessible and visible from the road.

I had a few unassembled deep hive bodies from Betterbee in my workshop so I thought, why not use one for my honey stand. I figured that would be the easiest way to go, but it still took a bit of work to come up with a finished product. Often, when I do a project like this, I don’t have a set plan. It just kind of evolves, which usually works out okay, but sometimes there are things you miss.

 

I started out by dry assembling the hive body to see how I would need to alter it to serve the purpose. I determined it would work best horizontally and should be angled on top for water runoff and have one shelf. I set one end piece on the saw at what looked to be a good angle, then clamped a few boards on the saw table to act as stops. This would allow me to cut both end pieces to the same size and angle.     Cutting the angle on each end piece. Mine ended up around 8 degrees. Be sure to do a mirror image so that both handholds end up on the outside.

The ends are originally rabbetted about 5/8 ” deep for frames to set on. I decided to make them 3/4″ and also rabbett the sides to match so that 3/4″ pine boards would fit recessed flush in the back of the box.

 Once the rabbets were cut I reassembled and measured for the back boards which ended up being 19 1/8 inches long. I cut those to fit from some pieces of pine and set them in place, then marked the angle and cut on the table saw to match the roof slope.

Marking the end piece for angle cut

Next I took the various honey jar sizes I would be selling and marked the sides for shelf placement. Larger jars would fit in the bottom and smaller ones on the shelf. I set a 3/4″ thick piece of scrap on top of the tallest jar, then made a mark on top of the scrap piece. This would be the bottom of the shelf slot, leaving 3/4″ clearance above.

Measuring for shelf placement

I cut dados in the end pieces to accept the shelf. The shelf was 8 inches deep which was recessed about 13/16″ from the front to allow for the doors to close flush. After test fitting the shelf I cut a piece 9 3/4″ by 23″ for the roof. Before assembly, I also cut 3/4″ deep rabbetts in the ends for the doors, and a slight angle along the inside front of the bottom piece so any water would run off. This step was probably not really necessary.

Shelf and roof

End view showing a slight angle along the inside edge of the bottom for water runoff. It also makes sure there is room for the doors to close.

These parts, with the exception of the roof could now be assembled. Time to make the doors and a money box. My opening ended up being just about 18-1/4″ by 13-1/4″ I cut two doors 12-7/8″ by 9-7/16″.   Yes, 2 times 9-7/16 is 18-7/8 inches, but after cutting a 3/8″ deep by 3/4″ wide rabbett in one side of each door, they would overlap when closed and there would be plenty of clearance space for opening and closing.

Rabbett cut on one side of each door allows for overlap when closed

I cut a couple of scrap pieces to make the money box. The side attaches throught the back and the shelf. The front hinges down to open, and a small hinge on the side allows for locking. You could also just place a small box on the shelf for money.

Top view of money box. Roof will cover opening.

1/4″ x 2 1/4″ money slot. The front opens down for retrieving cash and checks.

I cut a strip of wood 3/4″ by 7/8″ to place across the top inside to act as a door stop. Finally we will put the roof on and paint.

I bought a roll of the white aluminum trim you see on houses to make outer covers for my hives. I’ve discovered it comes in handy of a myriad of projects. I used it to make the electronics box cover and pulley guard when I motorized my extractor. It’s easy to cut and bend. I cut a pc big enough to bend  over on the back and completely fold over in the front and sides& so that there were no sharp edges.  It is attached on the sides and back and the front overhangs to box by about 2-1/2 inches. I did all of the painting on my box before attaching the metal roof.

Folded overhang for the front

 notches for the back and sides.

 

Now it’s time to paint. Use an exterior primer and a couple coats of your finish color. It will have to stand up to year round weather.  I had some yellow left over from another project. It stands out well on my brown house. I painted the entire box, inside and out with an extra coat anywhere there was end grained wood exposed, such as the top and bottom edges of the doors.

Once the paint dries, mount your box in an appropriate spot. Mine fit nicely right underneath my “Pure Honey For Sale” sign.  Be sure to post pictures and a message on the social media of your choice. I used facebook and asked my friends to share. Within a few days I had my first customers.

Also, be sure to keep your honey store stocked at all times. You wouldn’t want someone to make the drive over, only to find an empty box. I also tell people if they see my car here, don’t be afraid to knock on the door or walk around back. I’m always willing to chat and share a cup of coffee or tea. After all, one of the best parts of selling honey is the social aspect.

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Extracting: From hand crank to motorized

Motorized extractor

Motorized extractor on stand

This is my current extracting setup. I’ve made improvements over the years. It started out as a used Maxant 3100H hand crank extractor that I bought from a fellow beekeeper and friend. After a few years of handcranking, I saw a post for a free treadmill that someone was giving away that had a bad belt. I took it apart, scrapped some metal and saved some for future projects. I salvaged the motor and controls and eliminated some wires that I wouldn’t be using, like the ones going to the motor that raised and lowered the treadmill angle.

I got a pulley from a Saturn motor in the junkyard. The center hole was larger than the shaft on my extractor so I inserted a bushing in the pulley from the collection I’d saved over the years. Next, I welded up a bracket from some flat pcs of metal to make a pc of angle iron.  After taking some measurements and considering different options, I decided to mount the motor hanging down for easier use. I drilled some holes, put everything together and had myself a motorized variable speed extractor.

Salvaged junkyard pulley from a Saturn engine replaces the original v-belt pulley.

Salvaged junkyard pulley from a Saturn engine replaces the original v-belt pulley.

Top view of motor and angle bracket installed with new pulley and belt.

Top view of motor and angle bracket installed with new pulley and belt.

The angle bracket that I made mounts right to the existing red center support on top of the extractor and has some adjustment for belt tension. For this use, the belt doesn’t have to be very tight.

For the first few years the transformer and circuit board were set on the kitchen table in a plastic bag during use. It was one of those, “someday I will build a case for them”, but when I took the extractor out during honey season I would want to get right to extracting and by the time I was done I just wanted to get everything cleaned up and put away. Finally before one season rolled around I took everything out and made a small wooden box to house the electronics and bent up some aluminum sheet for a cover, drilling holes for ventilation. While I was at it I replaced some of the individual wires with a three wire piece of cable I had saved from an old heavy duty extension cord.

Here is the transformer and motor speed control circuit board mounted in a box.

Here is the transformer and motor speed control circuit board mounted in a box.

The finished power and circuit box in use.

The finished power and circuit box in use.

Last year, I raised up the stand so I could use taller buckets and also consolidated the wiring some. This year I made a guard for the drive pulleys. (should have done that at the start). I spent 30 yrs working in machine shops so I am aware of the dangers of moving motorized parts so the guard is an important addition, especially for the sake of people who come to watch or help with extracting.

Motor with belt guard attached.

Motor with belt guard attached.

This is the control panel from the treadmill. The red tab is the safety key which can be pulled to stop the extractor in the event of a frame blowout

This is the control panel from the treadmill. The red tab is the safety key which can be pulled to stop the extractor in the event of a frame blowout

Here is the control for the extractor. I considered taking the electronics out and putting them into another box, but the way they were mounted inside would have made that difficult, and this panel provided a good level of protection. When in use, I put a plastic bag over the speed control to keep it from getting sticky when adjusting.

Last year I added some 2 x 4s to raise the stand up to accept taller buckets.

So, what are my overall thoughts? I love my powered extractor. We used to crank anywhere from 150 to 400 pounds of honey by hand. Now it is so much easier. Since I am a take-aparter and saver, I had all of the materials on hand for this project except the pulley and belt. I did have some of those around too, but not the size I needed. The motor is compact for its power (1.3 hp continuous duty, 2.25 peak) The pulley sizes are 1-1/2 inch diameter on the motor and 5-1/4 inch diameter on the extractor.  The new wiring is long enough so that I can place the speed control panel on the table next to my uncapping tank and adjust the speed as needed while I’m uncapping the next set of frames.

I hope this post will inspire you to take on a project of your own. The more you do, the more you will learn.

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Swarm Time

This won’t be an in-depth talk about swarming. There are entire books addressing the subject. It’s so easy to always be a little bit behind, but at this time in the Berkshire bee season, it pays to be ready for anything. That means having an empty nuc box or two, or even a few deeps, with some frames, drawn and undrawn. When you check your hives, if you have 2 deeps, use your hive tool to pry between them. Standing behind the hive, lift the back end of the top box and slide slightly toward you, then tilt up to view the underside of the frames. That is where you will usually find queen cells. If you do, it’s an indication of swarming. If cells are capped, your hive will almost surely swarm, so keep a close watch and hope you can be there to capture it when it happens.
To determine if the hive has already swarmed, you may notice a much smaller population (about 50%) than you saw last time you looked. That is one sign. Another sign is queen cells that are open at the bottom but have a round “hinge” of wax still attaching the capping to the cell. This means a virgin queen has chewed her way out and is hopefully still in the hive.
If the situation is uncapped queen cells, or capped cells with no newly hatched queens, you can use some frames with queen cells to start new 5 frame nuc hives. Before you know it, you’ll have more hives than you know what to do with. One other benefit of swarming is that it breaks the brood cycle of Varroa.

 

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Old Henry and the Painted Hives

Old Henry was a beekeeper. Well, actually he was a farmer who also had bees. He kept a couple of hives along side the barn where they got sun most of the day. Henry lived in Western Massachusetts in a little town called Clarksburg, in the county of Berkshire.

Henry got his first beehives and all the fixin’s from the same place most everyone relied on for the things they didn’t make themselves, and that was Mattie’s general store. Mattie had the one and only Sears and Roebuck catalog in town. People would place their orders and in four to six weeks it would arrive, either by train, or through the US Postal Service. The general store also served as the post office.

Anyway, Henry’s hives and bees both arrived and Mattie rang him up to have him come get them. It was in the spring which was one of the busiest times on the farm with plowing and planting and calving to do, so Henry didn’t have time for painting or building any fancy stands for the hives. He set them on a few stacked up boards to get them off the ground, put the bees in, and that was that. He would put empty honey supers on, and take full ones off. Over the next few years, Henry got a few more hives, caught some swarms, and sold some of his extra honey, but he never got around to having enough time to paint those hives. The wood had weathered to gray and the bees were doing just fine.

There was a  teen-aged  boy named Zeke who lived just up the road from Henry. Zeke was Henry’s unofficial helper. He seemed to have a knack for showing up at the right time to lend an extra hand. Henry could always rely upon Zeke when it came time for haying, maple sugaring, or pulling honey supers and extracting honey.

One Thursday evening Henry told Zeke he had to go away for the weekend and asked Zeke to watch over things while he was gone. On Saturday morning Zeke came over bright and early and did the chores he could see needed doin’.  When he was caught up and looking for something else to do, he happened to walk past the bees hives and thought “They could sure use a good painting” After rummaging through the barn he found some red paint and an old brush and got to work.  Before you new it, those two old hives looked as good as new and Zeke gave himself a pat on the back for a job well done.

On Sunday afternoon, Henry came home and seemed pleased with all of the work Zeke had done, but when he got to the hives there were bees buzzing all over the place with many resting on the ground. He noticed the newly painted hives. At first he thought they were swarming, but many had baskets full of pollen and the ones resting on the ground were doing so because they had stomachs full of nectar. When Henry looked closer, he saw that the bees had puzzled looks on their little bee faces and then he remembered something he had read in a past issue of American Bee Journal.  The article was about how bees see colors much differently than humans do and it also said that bees can’t see the color red. Henry had his answer. The bees couldn’t find their hives. When they came back from foraging, they thought their homes had disappeared.

Henry knew just what to do. He and Zeke went to the barn and found a couple of old cans of paint. One was blue and one was white. They painted a stripe across the front of each hive near the entrance and the bees immediately began to fly in with looks of relief on their faces. Henry and Zeke both learned something new. Don’t paint your hives red or they will be invisible to your bees.

 

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Selling Honey and other stuff

It was a good season for honey this year. We are currently selling several sizes.
1/2 lb jars $6 (sold out)
1/2 lb decorated gift jars $10 (sold out)
1 lb round jars $10
2 lb Classic jars $20
2-1/2 lb square jars $24
All of our jars are glass. Some of the honey is crystallized partly or fully. The beauty of the glass jars is that you can warm them in a pan of water if you want to re-liquefy the honey. Many people preferred crystallized or creamed honey, so it’s nice to give them a choice. If you’d like to pick some up, give a call at 413-663-9288.

We’ve done several craft fairs and have re-incarnated some of the items I used to make when I sold wooden crafts, years ago. We feel that the combination works well. Some people are drawn to our booth by the games and toys, and then ask questions about bees and honey and make a purchase. For others, they see the candle and honey display and also pick up a ball and cup game or other wooden item. And I feel good getting into the wood shop again.

Pine Cobble craft fair

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