Author: keith

2019 Honey Harvest

Laughing Duck Gardens in Washington, Virginia. Rappahannock Arboreal Honey Facts and a Printable Honey_Fact_Sheet Jump to Batches Scroll to bottom for Batches 2019 is shaping up to be a very intense year for honey. Winter ended mild with no late frost; temperatures and rainfall for […]

2018  Honey Harvest

2018 Honey Harvest

Laughing Duck Gardens in Washington, Virginia. [by Keith Rowand] Rappahannock Arboreal Honey Facts and a Printable Honey_Fact_Sheet Jump to Batches Scroll to bottom for Batches 2017 might have been a special year for honey; our harvest was about 900 pounds for 30 colonies. In 2018, […]

Honeybee Colony Record Keeping

Hive notes on a split colony
Hive notes on a split colony

The one tool I carry whenever I go to the bee yard is a Sharpie permanent marker.

As a “sideliner” beekeeper, I’m responsible for about 25 colonies.

A simple method for keeping track of colony health using a sharpie and spiral notebook.
A simple method for keeping track of colony health using a sharpie and spiral notebook.

There is no way I can remember all the details and needs of each colony, so recordkeeping and a system for reminders is essential. The basic tool for my system is a sharpie and the back side of each colonies bottom hive body.

Logged notes for 26 colonies, their health, and special needs.
Logged notes for 26 colonies, their health, and special needs.

A spiral notebook and highlighters complete the supplies.

On the back of each colony I make note of the age and source of the queen, a dated ‘score’ for Bees-Honey-Queen, varroa counts, and any other bit of information I think useful. As soon as I complete an inspection or chore on a colony, I pull out the sharpie and write down anything relevant. As part of post-work cleanup in any beeyard, I copy my notes into the spiral notebook.

Here’s my system. (more…)

Honeybee Colony Winterization: Wrapping in Northern Virginia

Wrapping colonies for winter is a THING. Some beekeepers wrap, some don’t. Catalogs and magazines have advertisements for wrapping products and even heaters. Before wrapping, the number one question a beekeeper has to address ‘WHAT IS WINTER LIKE HERE?’ Winter in Georgia is different from […]

Honeybee Colony Winterization: Feeding

During early spring, beekeepers feed 1:1 sugar-water solution to stimulate reproduction. In late summer 1:1 again is fed to stimulate reproduction to increase winter populations. In autumn, 2:1 can be fed if honey stores are light as winter approaches. Keeping with simple ratios, I provide […]

Honeybee Colony Winterization: Ventilation and Insulation

Two things kill honeybees in winter – moisture and starvation, not cold. Cold compounds the effects of moisture and starvation, but by itself, cold doesn’t kill honeybees.

For example, coming out of winter this past year, I had one colony lagging behind the others. The queen laid too few eggs and many of those were unfertilized (drones). I was willing to maintain the colony until I could requeen, but then deformed wing virus (DWV) appeared. Because of DWV, the colony had to be destroyed. I put the surviving bees – less than 4 frames – into a 0 degree freezer. After a week in the freezer, the drones and larva were dead, but the queen and the workers were mostly alive. (At that point I killed the queen and scattered the remaining workers.)

My winterization process includes covering screened bottom boards, adding entrance reducers, and arranging insulation WITH ventilation.

My inner top covers are ¾” plywood with holes for a feed jar and ventilation. I cover ventilation holes with “bee screen” on the bottom (bee-side), and window screen on the top (to keep out wax moths).

Inner Cover Bottom/Bee Screen
My basic top cover is 3/4″ plywood with a hole for a feed jar and holes front and back for ventilation. “Bee screen” can be gotten from your equipment supplier, or salvaged from empty package boxes.*

I then place an empty deep hive body above the inner cover, with a normal telescoping cover over-all. My deep hive bodies have a 1-inch hole in each side, screened with window screen. This arrangement provides ventilation as well as secured feeding. The deep will handle 2-quart mason jars and even 1 gallon commercial mayonnaise jars for feed.  I use this arrangement year round (except for during certain varroa treatments).

Empty Deep with Good Ventilation
The inside of a top-set deep hive body. Note the 1″ screened holes in each side. I store the empty feed jar inside hive body. The top cover ventilation holes are oriented perpendicular to the frames.*

 

Over the course of the summer, the bees will coat the bee screen with propolis, blocking ventilation. Come autumn I harvest the propolis while re-establishing the ventilation. Ventilation in winter is critical; breathing bees give off moisture. If the moisture accumulates inside the colony, water can drip back on the bees at the same time mold grows. On the other hand, too much ventilation results in the bees consuming more of their stored honey, leading to starvation.

Propolis blocking ventilation
The bees have almost completely blocked the bee screen. This pictured arrangement, where the ventilation holes are parallel to the frames, is not a good one. The best arrangement have the holes perpendicular to the frames.*
Mold inside a top cover
The gray-green fuzz by my thumb is mold due to poor ventilation.

I control the ventilation and moisture by adding loose shredded newspaper to the top hive body. The paper might absorb the moisture, but the inside of the colony is drier. During mid-winter checks I carry extra shredded newspaper to replace any that seems wet.

Newspaper filled top Deep

* Three different configurations of 3/4″ plywood inner covers are displayed.  The top most I inherited, the middle is my preferred format (slots perpendicular frames), the bottom was an experiment I won’t do again (slots parallel frames). The feedhole is off-center such that the cover can be rotated where the hole is oriented to the cluster.

Next: Winter Feeding.

2017 Honey Harvest

Laughing Duck Gardens in Washington, Virginia.   [by Keith Rowand] Rappahannock Arboreal Honey Facts Jump to Batches Scroll to bottom for Batches Inside a hive, bees store honey in frames that contain about 4 pounds of honey each.  When I remove the frames from the […]

Pig Roast – Part 3 “Day of the Roast”

(This the THIRD bonus post from Keith, the last one in the series about spit-roasting a whole pig. Read Part One here, Part Two here and see a couple of additional photos here) Wake Up Using backward planning, I rolled out of bed at 4:15 […]

Pig Roast – Part 2 “The Delivery”

(This the SECOND bonus post from Keith – me thinks he is having some fun with this. Read Part 1 “The Pig” as well as my own post for our Busy Weekend . Sylvie)

I wasn’t going to talk about the delivery of the pig, but I must. Let me begin by repeating that Belle Meade provided a wonderful pig, and stating that I understand how the following comedy occurred.

My biggest concern for the weekend was where to store the pig between its delivery and cooking. There are few worse sins than ruining food through incompetence, and while I could visualize the prep and cooking, I could not wrap my mind around what happens between delivery and preparation. (Have you ever had to worry about where you’d stash an inconvenient carcass?)

While our fire company kitchen has 2 standard refrigerators, it was no sure thing the pig would fit without damaging something. I decided that if the refrigerators wouldn’t serve, I’d arrange folding chairs in our shower and pack the pig with ice. (This would not make me popular with any member who wanted to actually take a shower, but sacrifices must be made.) Compounding my stress was that the fire hall was rented for Saturday night while deliver was set for 6 p.m. on Saturday.

The good news is that the pig fit in the refrigerator. The bad news (more…)

Pig Roast – Part One “The Pig”

(Bonus post from Keith, also read Sylvie’s post for our Busy Weekend) So far as manly man food goes, a pig roast has to be close to the top. To round out the event, let’s make it a pig roast for a volunteer fire company […]