Quacking from Rappahannock (our blog)

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 

Locust Blossoms: Bottle Spring!

The black locusts enchanting blossoms are melting away in the rain as I write.  As everything else this year, they were 10 days to 2 weeks earlier than usual – I generally count on the 2nd week of May to be peak time for the 

Just Right Bread-and-Butter Pickles

As it turns out, when pickles are good, we eat lots of them. If they are too acid or too sweet, they languish in the pantry. I’ve tried many vegetables and many styles over the years and have concluded that we really only eat a few: “cornichons”, tiny tart cucumber pickles that are a staple of French picnic along with saucisson, baguette, butter, and a pot of “moutarde extra forte”; and bread-and-butter pickles… but only if they aren’t too sweet.

The pickling cucumber plantings are doing fairly well this year. Not well enough to make a lot of cornichons, but well enough to make bread and butters. So bread-and-butters we’ve been making, not too sweet, just right. We eat them with or piled in sandwiches, potato salad, sandwich between fried eggplants, with cold chicken or cold meat … you name it!

Happy to share my recipe below.

bread & butter 3

Continue reading Just Right Bread-and-Butter Pickles

Beet & Chocolate

Beet & Chocolate

I am firmly in the beet lover camp: a well grown garden beetroot  tastes of clean sweet earth. And that’s a good taste, intense, earthy, crunchy when raw, silky when cooked, deep garnet. But I know that the beet is as fervently disliked as it 

A Smoked Duck Breast & Blackberry Salad

A Smoked Duck Breast & Blackberry Salad

Blackberry time is here. The canes in the garden have started to produce, and should all go well, continue to produce for another 4 weeks. Which is good, because blackberries (and eggplants) are one of the consolations of a typical Virginia summer, especially the kinds 

A Perfectly Pretty Watermelon Salad

 watermelon salad, small

It took me a long time to accept the idea of fruit in my salads. Too gimmicky, if you had asked me! As a properly raised French child, the only acceptable fruit that was not dessert was an appetizer of charentais melon with port (or maybe Jambon de Bayonne, the French Basque version of Prosciutto).  But now? Now… I toss blueberries in massaged kale salad; I mix cantaloupes, canaries, and honeydews with purslane, shallots & jalapenos; I love peaches everywhere, including in salsa, or sliced thinly on a goat cheese open sandwich with black pepper & a drizzle of honey… and when it comes to watermelon, there is almost no limit.

Not only is this particular salad pretty, you can prepare all the ingredients ahead, keep them refrigerated in separate containers, and assemble at the last minute.. which makes it perfect for entertaining or even for potluck. Imagine the exclamations! Edible flowers bring a nice touch to the dish – in fact they are part of the WOW factor, something we can all relish occasionally. Continue reading A Perfectly Pretty Watermelon Salad

Beet-root Pesto and Beet-leaf Pesto

As one who loves beets, I have yet to find something made with beets that I don’t like. Raw beet salad, roasted beet and goat cheese sandwich, borscht, pickled beets (a favorite), beet ice-cream, savory beet tart, sweet beet tart (see Bar Tartine, by Courtney