Don’t let your bee hives starve

In our area of the country, queen bees start laying a few eggs in January and increase the number in February. And hives start consuming more as brood rearing begins in late winter/early spring. Make sure your hives don’t starve.

Starvation

With no forage in our region, hives often starve in February, March and April. So we check our hives and make sure they have enough honey. And if they don’t, we can give them emergency feed. There are many options for feeding: commercially purchased winter patties, fondant (which may be easier for the bees to digest) or sugar either in a brick or loose dry sugar form.

Sugar Brick Recipe

This year I made some sugar bricks using Lauri Miller’s recipe, which she posted on the Beesource website and the Bee-L email list:

25# cane sugar
one scant quart cider vinegar
About 1 tsp of electrolytes with vitamins
1-2 T citric acid or ascorbic acid blends
splash of pro Health or other scented essential oil of choice

Mix with a 1/2″ drill and paint paddle until well blended. Mix should be soft have the texture of  snow..not wet. Fill pans and compress with roller.DO NOT cook. Allow to air dry, dry about 100- 110 degrees in food dehydrator or dry in slightly warm  oven for several hours.

In my climate my bees can get out fairly regularly in winter for cleansing flights. I top my bricks  with dry bee pro. I do NOT mix protein into the block, only sift it on top so they are not forced to eat it when they are not rearing brood.

My only comment is that I mixed too much Honey Bee Healthy in mine. So they smell delicious, but I’m also pretty sure they could start some robbing.

Hive check video

Here’s a video of me checking hives in the home beeyard the other day:

Happy beekeeping!!

Honey and Pollen For Sale

BA’s Bees LLC is now beginning to sell  honey and pollen! The number of out hives has been growing for a few years and with all the honey and pollen our hardworking bees have collected, we are going to start sharing the (delicious) bounty.  If you are interested in pricing information, please email us at BAsBeesAndHoney at gmail.com.

Sorry, we’re not shipping at this time: only local pickups and deliveries. But email us – if we get enough requests, maybe we’ll reconsider! 

 

Best beehive location, Part 2.

Welcome future (or current) beekeeper! If you are really considering keeping bees, you have to figure out where the best beehive location is in your situation.  The rule of thumb in beekeeping is that you can “move a hive 3 inches or 3 miles” but anything in between is more challenging. While those numbers are not an exact science, it is true that bees orient by the sun and landmarks to where their home is. So if you move a hive 50 feet in a day without some special manipulations, your foraging bees are going to return to empty space, where their hive once was. And now your hive just lost hundreds or thousands of foraging bees. Also, moving a hive full of thousands of bees is not for the faint of heart. It’s almost impossible to have every ideal criteria met when locating your hives, but consider all the factors and pick the best place for your hives within the constraints you have, before you get those bees in the spring.

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Where is the best beehive location? Part 1

So you’ve committed to beekeeping and picked out your hive style, you now have to figure out, “Where should I put my beehive?” There are actually a surprising number of factors to think about when choosing a site for your bees. Your location may have many limitations, but even in a small space, thinking this out ahead of time may save you the headache of having to move them later or even the heartache of losing your bees. It is much easier to start with your bees in the best beehive location than having to move them later.

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What are the pros and cons of a Warré hive, the “People’s Hive”?

Vertical top bar hive, Warré:

Cute Warré hive on a porch.  Photo credit: blumenbiene via Flickr  cc
Warré hive on a porch. Photo credit: blumenbiene via Flickr cc

Pronounced “war-ray,” these hives were designed by Abbé Émile Warré in France. He called this hive the “People’s Hive.” It’s a vertical  hive, so the boxes are stacked on top of each other like with a Langstroth, but instead of adding a new empty box on top as with a Langstroth and the bees build up into it, the empty box gets put at the bottom of a Warré hive and the bees build their comb down, as bees would more naturally do in a bee tree.

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What are the pros and cons of Kenyan and Tanzanian horizontal top bar hives?

Kenyan and Tanzanian top bar hives

Kenyan top bar hive - horizontally oriented with sloped sides, narrow at the bottom.  Photo credit: CIFOR via Flickr cc
Kenyan top bar hive – horizontally oriented with sloped sides, narrow at the bottom. Photo credit: CIFOR via Flickr cc
Peeking under the cover of a Kenyan top bar hive - the inner "roof" is made of top bars.
Peeking under the cover of a Kenyan top bar hive – the inner “roof” is made of top bars.

Would you like an inexpensive bee hive that you could build at home and work without a lot of back strain?  Kenyan and Tanzanian top bar hives each consist of a horizontal cavity with strips of wood called top bars that form the roof. The bees live in the cavity and build their comb off of the top bars. A cover usually goes over the top bars to keep out weather and reduce temperature fluctuations.  Although these hives originated in ancient Greece, they are often used in East Africa due to their low construction cost. Some beekeepers believe that this hive style may be more suited to hot climates and bees that swarm often (African bees) than to colder climates with European honey bees, but there are beekeepers in Maine, USA and Canada who successfully keep bees in them. There is a difference between the two: Kenyan top bar hives have slanted side walls and Tanzanian top bar hives have straight side walls. The Kenyan style is more common in the US as the comb is reputed to attach to the walls less than in a Tanzanian hive, but that’s debatable. (Most states and localities in the US want hives with inspectable frames. Research your local beekeeping laws before you invest in one of these hives.)

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What are the pros and cons of a Langstroth hive?

Are you wondering, “Should I run a Langstroth Hive?”

Two Langstroth hives. Often they get painted white or various colors.
Two 8 frame Langstroth hives. All  medium hive bodies, except the top box is a deep (to accommodate a feeder bucket inside).

If you’re here reading this, you must be considering keeping bees. How exciting! And if you live in the United States, it’s likely you’ve already seen Langstroth hives, either in fields, on tractor trailers or (sadly) on the news when CCD is discussed. This hive may may be the style you want to start with. It is a vertical frame hive. One of the nicest things about this hive is that there are many books and beekeepers who can help support you as you begin to learn about beekeeping.

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What kind of beehive styles are there?

Thinking about beekeeping? Once you decide to be a beekeeper (woo hoo!), you get to decide what kind of hive you want to run. The only thing the bees want is a dark cavity, about 40 liters/10 gallons in size, that stays dry and has a small entrance they can defend. We as beekeepers want a little more. We want something easy to work with, that we can expand in size, that generates maximum honey production or is portable for pollination services or is “natural” for the bees or is inexpensive or is easy to manage or is light, or all of the above. We humans have a lot of wants. Make sure you’re familiar with what your state and local municipality want too, since inspectable frames are usually required in the US.  And while you’re going through this decision phase, if you aren’t already, find some local beekeeping meetings and a mentor(s)! It’s good to do a lot of research before you make your decision. And start slow so you don’t invest a lot of money buying hives you don’t like. Here are some beehive styles that you can choose from when deciding how you want to keep bees.

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