Saturday, September 18, 2010

The Drama Continues

While the weather hasn't truly begun to cool, the bees are preparing for the long winter, when they must eat what they've stored. Part of keeping bees is determining how much honey you can keep for yourself (or to sell) and how much they need to survive the lack of nectar until spring. I wanted to share a photo of what their pollen stores look like. Whereas earlier in the summer frames would be solid with honey or a combination of honey and brood, they now have frames with bright yellow deposits of pollen. It's the bees' protein source and is essential for rearing brood. For the record, bee pollen is considered by some a health food that cures all ills, but that's a story for another time.

While I was returning from a work trip to Tupelo and Booneville, Mark installed a new queen in Hive 1. He ordered her from Georgia, because the idea of losing that hive due to queen problems was driving him crazy. The lady in Georgia told him to leave both ends of the queen cage corked for three days, then go see how the bees are behaving and see if he can find a queen existing in that hive. If he finds one, and eggs as proof of laying, he can requeen another hive, for instance, 2 or 3 -- he thinks one of the two is not active enough but can't remember which one. If the bees in Hive 1 aren't aggressive and he can't find a queen or eggs, he can take one cork out to begin the candy-eating-release process.

In other bee news, we received $180 as part of the grant from MBA, as well as a receipt for our conference fees. I've already determined that if a vendor at the conference(October 28-29) has a queen marking pen and cage, we're getting it to make our lives easier looking for queens. Here is a photo of a marked queen from Ebert Honey in Iowa. You can imagine how much easier it would be to see her among the rest! You can pay extra to have the vendor mark the queen, but so far we've forgotten to request it.

And I use the term "we" liberally here. ;-)

Last but not least, our entrance reducers arrived. Did you know that mice love to build nests in bee hives during the winter? Bees tend to congregate together in the center of the brood box and "flex their bee muscles" to keep the temperature up; therefore, mice, if not prevented by some sort of entrance reducer, can sneak in and build a nest in a corner with little fear.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Painting Hive Bodies

Last night while I was home alone, I finally painted two hive bodies Mark allowed me to have. I couldn't find any real brushes for the first one (Bloom), so it's not as well done as I'd like. I was using one of those sponges on a stick. Out of frustration, I went through what felt like every drawer in the house until I found some actual paint brushes. I'm more pleased with the second one (Shine). Most importantly, I had fun and relaxed. It reminded me of being in high school, getting home on Thursdays and telling Mom, "I'm not going to art class tonight. I'm too tired." She'd say, "You are going to class because you're cranky!" I'd always feel better when I went. These hives in no way indicate that I had skill 20 years ago. Maybe Mark will let me have more so I can practice!

In bee-related news, Mark filled the feeders on Hives 4 & 5 on Sunday afternoon while I canned jam. On Monday, he looked for a frame of eggs to put in Hive 1 so they could grow their own queen, but had no luck finding eggs. Apparently they're reducing their laying in anticipation of the coming cool weather. So, the problem of Hive 1 remains unsolved. It's bugging Mark that we might lose that hive -- it's loaded up with bees, by far the largest population. He was told that some hives simply won't take a queen other than one they raise themselves, but the queen they had was one we introduced because the original queen was in the tree. So we'll look again this weekend for eggs and hope we can find something they can turn into a queen they'll accept, or, in lieu of that, we hope we'll see eggs in Hive 1, meaning there is a queen and she's laying.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Interested in starting a hive in MS?

The Mississippi Beekeepers Association (MBA) has a grant program for people in MS who are interested in starting hives. No one in your immediate family can currently keep bees, you must take a beekeeping course within 12 months of starting up, and you have to show proof of purchase of certain hive components and/or equipment. The information is available in PDF format, and is a cost-share for either 2 or 4 hives. Although the form says 2009 is the deadline, we were assured there is still money available. So, local readers, give it some thought. We're happy to talk about our experiences and help you get started. There's a steep learning curve, but it's fascinating, and getting some help financially is a great incentive!

We sent in our paperwork yesterday, after going through our receipts and tallying up how much we've spent (gulp!). It's hard to believe we have enough hive components at this point for at least ten more hives. We're going to be busy next spring!

The picture shows Bee Hill last weekend with all six hives. We've come a long way in a short time!