Quacking from Rappahannock (our blog)

Roasted Strawberry Ice-cream

Roasted Strawberry Ice-cream

I picked 42 lbs of strawberries at Green Truck Farms earlier this week. Granted 10 lbs went to Chef John MacPhearson and his hyper seasonal and really excellent restaurant Three Blacksmiths, and 4 lbs went to friends. That still leaves me 28 lbs. 10 lbs […]

Le Temps Des Conserves (My preservation calendar)

I am fairly serious about preserving food. In fact a few years ago, there was an article about me in the local newspaper.  Kay Beatty wrote it and took the pictures. There is a rhythm to it, throughout the year. One does not built a […]

It snows in March

It snows in March

We are all tired of the grayness and wetness that has been our unusual lot in the Virginia northern Piedmont over the last year. Our winter has not been particularly cold, the temperatures dipped below 10F ( -12C) only a few times, and briefly at that. But it has been grey, cloudy, foggy even when not raining or snowing – with too few sunny clear crisp days – and so it seems this winter is never going to end. Wet snow fell yesterday March 8 on ground already saturated.

Still… looking back at the last few years, snow in mid-March is pretty common.

March 18, 2013

March 6, 2014

March 8, 2015

March 2016.

No snow that I can tell the entire month. In fact so warm that we had good looking garlic on march 2, lunch on the porch on March 9, daffodils in full bloom March 16

March 2017: I did not keep good records!

March 21, 2018

A cold dry gray winter. Light snow the first day of spring, March 21. but forced forsythia blooming on March 15

Chilled Sorrel Soup

Chilled Sorrel Soup

French (or garden) sorrel is a super hardy perennial potherb with a bright pleasant tartness. It grows in my unheated hoop house even in the harshest  winters providing refreshingly tart leaves for our winter salads. It is one of the first vegetables I harvest outside: […]

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 […]