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Your host---Bee Talk---Days Gone By

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It seems like we are stuck in a huge rut here in Texas. Most of the agriculture in Texas has suffered because of the drought situation. Most of the farmers and beekeepers alike have already decided that this year has been a bust. 

Here in the Bryan area the large trees are dying by the droves. It is not a pretty picture and doesn’t seem to be getting any better. Between last years rain fall to date, we are 22 inches of rain behind and counting. Even if we can catch some rain soon, it is too late to save some of the trees and plants that have been stressed to the point of no return. 

I know several beekeepers in Texas and they have been feeding their bees for a couple of months now. The tallow flow was a bust this year as well. Honey prices may go up because of the shortage of honey in the Texas area. 

Most of the gardeners that I know have had trouble growing vegetables this year. Even though they have been keeping their gardens watered, the ambient temperatures have been taking a toll on the plants. I have had pretty good success with my tomatoes, bell peppers and onions but the rest of the crop struggled to survive.  

I have started to replace my plants that die with more drought tolerant plants. I believe that the weather pattern will keep us in a drought situation for a couple more years before we can get back to “normal”. 

My recommendation for the beekeeper in Texas is not to increase their hive numbers this year. Probably not next year either but we will see. Feeding bees is an expense that we all have to put out to keep our bees alive but don’t add to the number of hives that you will need to feed this year. 

Enjoy your beekeeping and gardening.     Dennis

Bee Talk

The month of june was extremely slow for the "Bee Talk" section of our news letter. I guess everyone has been on vacation or just doing summer things. It has been too hot and dry to work bees in Texas.

I will take this opportunity to share a personal note with all of you. Those of you who knew me back in the 1970's can remember me talking about writing a bee book. In the 1980's you can remember me saying that I had started writing my bee book. Then "life" got in the way and the years began to fly by.

Today, I would like to announce that I have finally completed my bee book. It should be on our website and in the classes in September. I have posted several clips of a few chapters for you to review. I am glad that "life" got in the way because this book turned out to be a mixture of techniques, passion and my lifes journey in the beekeeping world.

I hope that you enjoy reading these few bits and pieces and will eventually enjoy the book in its entirety.

Dennis

BOOK CHAPTERS 

Preface

Chapter One:                   My Bee Yard

Chapter Two:                  My Workshop

Chapter Three:                My Honey House

Chapter Four:                  Spring Management

Chapter Five:                   Keeping Records

Chapter Six:                     How to Unite A Hive

Chapter Seven:                The African Bees

Chapter Eight:                  Working With The Devil

Chapter Nine:                   Swarms

Chapter Ten:                     Mating

Chapter Eleven:                Queen Supersedure

Chapter Twelve:               Making Splits

Chapter Thirteen:             The Honey Flow

Chapter Fourteen:             Removing The Honey Crop

Chapter Fifteen:                Raising Bees Without Using Chemicals                                                   

Chapter Sixteen:               Fall Management

Chapter Seventeen:           Winter Activities

Chapter Eighteen:             The Beekeeper

Chapter Nineteen:             Bee Talk

Chapter Twenty:               The Honey Stand

Chapter Twenty One:       Odds and Ends 

                                                 Afterword

PREFACE 

Most books on beekeeping describe how to perform beekeeping tasks. These books talk mostly about the mechanical parts of beekeeping. There are many beekeeping books on the market for you to choose from. You could, in most cases, remove the title from one of those books and post it on another without noticing any difference. 

When writing this book I wanted to blend the mechanical parts of beekeeping with the passion beekeepers feel when working with their bees. This book is written not only for the hobby beekeeper but also for the commercial beekeeper. 

I have, over the many years, challenged some of the long standing techniques of beekeeping and have either modified some of them or created new ones. For me, these improvements have worked better for today’s lifestyle. In this book I share some of those techniques with you along with my own philosophy about raising stronger and healthier bees without placing any chemicals or pesticides inside the hive. 

I hope that you enjoy reading this book and that the information teaches you how to work your bees smarter and with passion.

Dennis Brown

MY BEE YARD 

As I sit nestled in my chair, I hear the hoot of an owl in the distance. The ground vibrates as a faraway train moves along the steel rails toward a distant place. Droplets of morning dew glisten on everything they touch. The dew on a spider web that stretches from one bush to another highlights a perfect pattern and creates a beautiful but deadly picture. Through the humid air comes a deep soft humming sound.....

I am in my bee yard………… 

I take pride in doing my part to make the bee yard as orderly outside the hive as the bees make it inside. It is very important to me to keep the bee yard uniform and clean. “A bee yard should not stand out against nature’s beauty but rather blend in unnoticed”. I have visited many bee yards over the years and seen some littered with trash and debris. I have seen the bees living in old broken down equipment. I have seen hives that were kept directly on the ground with ant piles nesting inside the bottom box and the hive leaning to the point of falling over. There is no excuse for a beekeeper to keep his yard in this kind of disrepair and clutter. A beekeeper should take pride in his vocation and maintain his hives and his bee yard in an orderly manner even if he chooses not to live that way for himself....... 

My goal is to get each of my hives strong enough to live in two brood boxes or deeps as they are sometimes called. This allows enough space for a colony of bees to live and prosper. In a hive this size, the queen has plenty of room to produce thousands of daughters, and the field and house bees have space to store enough food for the colony to live on during the cold winter months. It provides enough room for the bees to cluster together as the temperature begins to drop. The bees can protect their hive better when it is not oversized. When bees can cover most of the inside area in the hive, they are strong enough to keep it clean and control hive pests that might be lurking around outside waiting for a chance to slip inside....

Thunder rumbles in the distance, and the wind carries the scent of rain. A cloud moves between my bee yard and the sun. For the moment, the bees don’t seem to be affected by this temporary intrusion of darkness. Their flight activity doesn’t change. Off into the distance, a rainbow stretches across the skyline. Some people believe that there is a hidden treasure buried at each end of this colorful prism of light and have chased it across countless miles of landscaping only to be out maneuvered and left empty handed. The closer the treasure hunter gets, the faster the light seems to move and the dimmer it becomes. It suddenly appears and then disappears like some mysterious “sky ghost”. For the treasure hunter, it is the thrill of the chase that causes this uncontrollable behavior they display. Whenever you see a rainbow off into the distance, you can bet a “sky ghost” chaser is already closing the distance to reach that pot of gold before it evaporates and takes the treasure along with it......

REMOVING THE HONEY CROP 

It is interesting to learn all the different ways beekeepers can and do remove their honey crop. Some of these techniques are very primitive. Some bizarre and some are just plain ridiculous. All of the following concepts are still in use today. I will list a few of these techniques and let you decide which one works best for you. 

Blowing the bees out of the super. Given enough time beekeepers can come up with everything imaginable. The “Bee Blower” is a special device that has been developed to literally blow the bees out of the super. The way this method works is to remove the top honey super and stand it up on its end on top of the hive. Then you crank the bee blower up and blow the bees out of the top of the super from the bottom of the box. If there are other beekeepers in the yard working with you, be careful not to blow the bees directly on them. It would make for a much longer day in the bee yard. If this method sounds good to you here are a few things to think about. The cost of this nifty piece of equipment is in the neighborhood of six hundred dollars. The value of having a good working relationship with your fellow beekeeper? Priceless

Most of the bees in a honey super are house bees. The house bees have already taken the nectar from the field bees and are in the process of transferring it to the cells in the honey super for ripening. The house bees are not familiar with their hives outside surroundings. So, when the Bee Blower blasts them from the super with hurricane force winds they end up going into other hives or landing on the ground to perish. It is rare but sometimes the queen will be in the upper box and the beekeeper will accidentally blow her out of the hive as well. This method is also a good way to spread a disease to other hives if that hive you’re working is infected......

Driving around. I met a fellow beekeeper last year who has a unique way of removing bees from the honey super. He has a small flat bed trailer that he attaches to his riding lawnmower. He drives the lawnmower up to a hive and parks it. He removes the honey supers from a hive and places them on his flat bed trailer along with the bees inside. Then he gets back on his lawnmower and starts his long journey down the road. His patience and dedication to the task at hand pushes him to complete this long and lonely journey. He stays on the road until most of the bees have departed the honey supers before returning for more honey supers. He works one hive at a time and comes back to perform this procedure on each hive. Did I mention that he has ten hives? I hope that his real job offers him a lot of vacation days each year...

 THE BEEKEEPER 

Beekeepers can be entertaining to watch as they work their bees. I have a few of my own experiences that I want to share with you. 

THE BEE SUIT

Back in the mid 1980s, I had a friend come and work with me in one of my bee yards. He wanted to get started in beekeeping. What better way to learn than on the job training? 

When we arrived at the bee yard and got out of the truck, my friend began unloading his gear. He pulled out this bee suit that looked like paper to me so I asked him about it. He said that it was the new thing in bee suits. It was a disposable bee suit. You worn it over and over again until you could no longer take the smell, then you just tossed it into the trash and whip out another one. I have never heard of such a thing. He looked like a huge snow man. I couldn’t help but to laugh because the suit looked so unusual. 

I only put on my bee suit when I am going to perform a job that will agitate my bees. Bee suits are hot and they restrict my body from moving around freely so I avoid wearing them unless they are necessary. Gloves are just as bad in that they restrict my finger movement. But on this day we were going to remove the honey off the hives. If you only had a few hives that needed the honey removed, then the bees would usually be calm. I always ran between fifty and sixty hives in a yard, and there is no way the bees would be calm the entire time it takes to remove all the honey supers. So I put on my bee suit and my gloves and went to work. 

We were about half way through working the yard when I heard this ripping sound. When I turned towards the sound I noticed my friend in a squatting position. He was looking at this huge tear in the crotch area of his bee suit. By now the bees in the yard were really aggressive from all the banging around we had done the past few hours. Before he could even stand up there were bees flying into his bee suit by the dozens. I have never before seen a 6’ 4” guy run so fast all the while screaming and grabbing himself. To show you how good a friend I was, I basically had to crawl to the truck and removed my bee veil so I could wipe the tears from my eyes. I was laughing so hard that my body was paralyzed. When my friend was about 100 yards away I could see him tearing that paper bee suit from his body and jumping each time he was stung. From my perspective it was a great day in the bee yard.

BEE TALK

Q> I was wondering what you all do to get rid of wax moth.  I cleaned the super/brood chamber & frames with hot water with a very small amount of Clorox.  Will this be enough or is there something else that needs to be done. We are hoping to rescue a local bee hive and need to use these components for the hive to place the rescued hive into, but did not want to endanger rescued hive. 

A> The easiest and safest way to take care of wax moths in a few frames would be to place the hive parts in a freezer for 24 hours. This will kill the larva and eggs. Then you can place these parts into a hive and the bees will clean it out for you if the damage is not too great.

Q> How do you treat using powdered sugar?

A> For the powdered sugar dusting to be most effective, you should dust once a week for 4 weeks instead of every 2 weeks for 6 weeks like some  books tell you to do. When you dust once a week for 4 weeks you are able to cover all the hatching brood during that period including the drone brood. This will catch most of the new mites before they move into a ready to cap cell. If the queen laid eggs for a couple of days and then stopped for a few days, then the dusting every 2 week period would be more effective. But as we all know, the queen lays all day every day so dusting once a week for 4 weeks will cover the whole brood cycle and then some thus eliminating more of the mite population. After the treatment cycle, check the mite level again. It may be that you will have to repeat the cycle.  

My experiment was to find out if powdered sugar was really effective and I found that if it is applied once a week for 4 weeks then it is effective. However, here at Lone Star Farms we are all about raising bees that can take care of themselves without any chemical treatments or any extra work. Powdered sugar treatments are really nothing more than putting a band aid on the problem. It is good for a short period of time. Hopefully long enough for you to purchase and replace the hive with a hygienic queen.  So we are convinced that using a hygienic queen from the start and making sure that the queens are marked so that we know the queen we placed into the hive is the right queen is the way to go. If the bees replace the queen or if the hive swarms then we replace the new queen with a hygienic queen. 

Q> How do I know if my bees are robbing each other and if they are how do I stop it? 

A> Your hives should have an entrance reducer on them already because that's what we do for winter time. If you have a screen bottom board and bees rob your hive, they tear open the honey cells and the wax bits fall through the screen to the ground (or onto the floor of a solid bottom board) making it easy too see. There will be a lot of fighting going on at the entrance as well. 

To stop robbing is "very" difficult. You should reduce the entrance just big enough for 1 bee to pass through. If that doesn't work than you should probably move the hive a couple of miles away for a couple of weeks then you can return the hive. Sometimes none of this works and you end up losing the hive. 

Q> Can you tell me how I should move a large piece of tree trunk full of honey bees?  We have kept it near our garden for a few years but have now moved and want to move the bees with us. Should we cover the opening with something and will the bees stay inside or will they all fly out during the move?  

A>The down side to owning a bee tree hive is that you cannot go into them to inspect for bee diseases. If those bees have a disease they could be spreading it to other bees in the area. As a matter of fact, all states prohibit the use of owning a tree trunk hive or any other type of hive that can not be inspected.

Because I am a beekeeper with modern hives that I can inspect for diseases on a regular basis, I would recommend that you purchase a modern bee hive for you pollination needs. I can assure you that where ever you are wanting to move these bees to if there is another beekeeper in that area, they would not want a hive near them that can't be worked on a regular bases.

Q> During the fall and winter I left at least one super on each hive with honey for the winter,  This spring as I have gone through my individual hives I still have bees but 2 of them have built brood in the super and all of the brood is drone. Both boxes had what appeared as queen cells and one had larvae last week but none today.  Also,` I always use queen excluders. I removed the excluders last week but I don't think that there was any worthwhile amount of bees in the bottom.  Do you think it is too late to place a normal frame of brood in these hives just to save them?

A>Was that brood above the queen excluder? Sounds like that you have a drone laying hive. They tried to make a queen but it did not work. The other possibility would be that they produced a queen but it was too early in the season for any drones to be available for the queen to mate with so she lays drone eggs only. I would look for a queen first and kill her if she is there and then I would find another hive that could use some extra bees and place a queen excluder on top first in case there is a queen that you missed and stack that hive on top using the newspaper method. The bees will kill a drone laying queen if she still exists. It is hard to get a drone laying hive to except a new queen. Use those bees in another hive and they will have a better chance to make you a honey surplus……….

Days Gone By

 

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