Winter and a New Year

By | January 6, 2013

2013 is here.  August since the last post.  So what happened since then you might ask.

I’m now at 8 hives, 4 hives + a nuc here at the house and 3 hives down at the alfalfa.  My plan was really for 10 hives, 8 + 2 nucs.  I lost one hive, more on that in a bit.  The second nuc I was trying to start never really took off.  It kept losing the virgin queens I was trying to introduce.  And then an opportunity presented itself.  The observation hive at Governor Dick had a massive die-off.  Their tube became blocked and they were trapped for a week or more.  Lots of starved bees, it was quite a terrible sight.  The queen was still alive though.  I brought them home and caged the queen and immediately fed her some honey.  She ate a lot.  I then used one of the German queen introduction cages with a big blob of queen candy to give her to the struggling nuc.  They had freed her in a few days and accepted her with no issues.  A refreshing success.  So with the observation hive modified to have a much larger entrance and a feeder, the nuc was dismantled into the observation hive and the bees were back at Governor Dick.

I used MAQs again this year.  Treated in mid-August.  It seemed to go well, no queen issues.  I had put two supers of comb back onto 5 of the hives  Two of them did nothing with it, so off that came.  Three of them really went to town on them, filled one and started on the other.  I left those three hives with four boxes for the winter, the rest of the hives have three boxes.  Late September was a lot of feeding.  This is when I lost a hive at the alfalfa.  I left the notch in the inner cover facing down and open with a bucket of syrup right on the top.  Of course they began to get robbed.  I didn’t catch it for at least 4 days, probably longer (I don’t remember) but it was too late.  The hive had dwindled to nothing and actually absconded, just gave up on the location with nothing left.  Lesson learned, which was pointless because I already knew not to do it, just stupid oversight.

I still have one hive, started by the Keeney package down at the alfalfa, that just seems to be a dud.  It may have snot brood.  If it survives the winter and into spring and doesn’t take off, I’m going to split it into two nucs and put it on a few frames of good comb off a different hive and make them draw new comb of their own.  I’ll ditch all theirs and start over.

At the end of October as the weather got cold the hives got their small attic boxes and all the insulation and wrap of last year.  Same tunnel-style mouse guards as last year as well.  As of today, 1/6/13, they’re all still alive.  But some are feeling awfully light.  The next two months will make them prove their mettle.

My biggest goal for the new year, assuming I have surviving hives, is to checkerboard them to prevent swarming as much as possible.  Last year I was just too timid in unwrapping them to checkerboard just to wrap them back up again.  I just didn’t want to disturb them.  Well, a lot of beekeepers who have been doing this successfully a lot longer than I have disturb them to checkerboard every year, so I really don’t want to put it off.  I want big hives and few swarms this year.

But for right now it’s winter.  Reading, workshop planning, maybe actually painting some boxes this year, we’ll see.  Cabin fever and missing bees until warm.



Labels and Signs and Honey, Oh My

By | August 1, 2012

So I’m sitting on a pile of honey.  It won’t go bad of course, but what am I possibly going to do with it all?  Sell it is what.

First I needed a label.  I found some nice ones at  One is an oval with a cut-off top and bottom that was actually listed as a honey label.  Those wont’ fit on 8oz jars though so along with those I bought some nice smaller ovals.  I designed my label in Photoshop.  I then made a full sheet of them to match the label sheet. has pdf templates which made this so much easier.  I expanded the ovals in both cases so they printed over the edge of the actual labels which gives a great full-bleed effect.  I’ll stop typing now, a picture is worth a thousand words after all.

Now these pretty labels won’t do a lick of good if no one knows I’m selling the honey, so I needed a sign to put out by the road.  I got a little crafty, or is that craftish, when it came to the sign.  I didn’t want anything vinyl, I just didn’t like any designs that I saw.  I wanted something that looked old and homemade.  Having a wood sign custom lettered though is a pricy proposition.  I figured there was some way a no-talent like myself could cheat a little at this.  I found an online tip about printing the letters on paper and then taping that to the wood, outlining the letters with a ballpoint pen, and then painting inside the indent left by the pen.  I tried that, but I’m just not that good at freehanding the paint brush, my letters looked a little too homemade.  So I decided to make a small change in the method.  I covered the entire surface of the board with masking tape.  I printed the sign on paper with the laser printer, and then taped the paper to the wood on top of the masking tape.  I then cut the letters out with an hobby knife which also cut the masking tape.  Once finished with the letters I removed the paper and peeled out the letters from the masking tape and had a stuck-on stencil.  I painted inside the letters but the tape let me be a little sloppy with it.  Two coats of letter paint and I peeled off the masking tape to reveal decent letters.  I did this on two board,s both sides.  I plan to hang this on a upside-down L shaped sign holder.  Here’s your thousand words.


By | July 19, 2012

The summer’s burning daylight and I’m already beginning to think about pre-winter mite treatments, but I did a quick look-through last night on the hives here at the house and figured I’d write a quick post.

I had 8 supers full of comb that I had extracted and I then put back on the 4 hives here at the house.  On three of those hives, the 2 supers are now unbelievably heavy.  Not as heavy as before I harvested of course, but I can’t believe how heavy the bees have made those in the month since I extracted.  One of the hives, the hive on the scale, hasn’t touched them.  Not sure what I should be doing with that hive at this point.  They might be queenless or simply need a new one.  When I inspected last night I found a capped queen cell.  I was doing all this in the late evening last night so the lack of light made seeing eggs impossible.  I’ll plan to check on that hive again in a week or so to see if that cell emerged.  I think very soon I’ll split those two empty supers between two of the other hives.  No use leaving them on that scale hive if they can’t fill them.

I have a nuc here at the house too.  I didn’t go through it last night but the last time I did it too looked great.  I removed two frames of brood from that nuc to start two little mating nucs with some of Jim’s queen cells.  That’ll be a different post.

The Harvest

By | July 7, 2012

I took off work on June 19th to pull supers and extract.  Jim allowed me to bring all my honey and use his extractor, knife, and lots of nice other facilities.  I acquired some nice food grade buckets at a local bakery and restaurant, and mounted a Maxant honey gate on one of them.  I also bought a 400 micron filter that fits over a bucket.  I pulled 10 supers, but a couple only had a couple drawn frames in them, and some others had uncapped frames that I didn’t extract.  All in all I got about 140lbs and it’s tasty stuff.  I’ve already given out honey to neighbors, friends, and family.  I’m working with the PDA to get registered in some way around bottling in a rented certified kitchen since I cannot get my own kitchen certified (due to the family pets).  When I finally get that registration complete I plan to sell it here at the house.  I’m not sure of the demand, but we’ll see.  I’ll certainly never turn a profit, hopefully I’ll recoup a bit of the money I’ve put into all of this.  A commercial beekeeper acquaintance said he couldn’t believe I wasn’t doing comb honey since I had foundationless frames.  That is something I’ll consider in the future, but right now I just don’t have enough comb as it is, so I need all that comb on the hives.

Well, without furthur ado, here are the pictures.  I had a load of fun, and they speak for themselves I think.

Where Did May Go?

By | June 1, 2012

May 2012 was quite the month which only partly explains why I haven’t written in so long.  Some observations and results for May:

As I predicted somewhere along the way, this year was incredible for swarms.  I read that some old-timers said it hasn’t been this good in 20 years.  Every single hive at the house save the nuc swarmed, and one swarmed at least twice, probably more than one hive swarmed twice.  This got to the point where I was almost afraid to go out and look in that general direction during mid-afternoons for fear of seeing yet another swarm hanging.  I got lucky in that I never found one hanging out of reach in a tree, then again I’m not positive I saw every swarm, I’m sure some just left.


As for the alfalfa hives, I only had two surviving hives there.  One of them I believe swarmed, I haven’t yet dug through it to find a new unmarked queen.  When I do I’ll be sure to mark her.

The Neffsville swarm from last year was one of the biggest swarmers.  It swarmed at least twice if not three times.  The prime swarm escaped me and moved into a barn less than a mile away.  I know that’s where they went because I tried to retrieve them but when I got there they had moved too far back for me to get them with my vac.  Jim Pinkerton came in later and was able to get them using solid (as opposed to corrugated) tubing on his vac for reach.  So he now has that original queen.  I’m going to ask him to raise at least a few queens from her.

Only one hive, the Keeney hive (more later on names, or lack thereof).  That hive just seems to be a dud and I’m unsure what to do.  It’s not really growing or shrinking, it’s just sort of sustaining, which is not what hives should be doing in a spring this good.

The hives right now are in honey mode.  Three of the hives that survived have two supers, one has a single super.  All of these are full or very nearly full of honey or soon-to-be-capped honey.  I should get a crop of at least 100lbs this year, maybe up toward 120.  That would be quite the haul I think.  I’m sure if I would be more skilled at managing hives specifically for honey production I could do much better, but I manage the hives just well enough to keep the bees healthy and hopefully booming in bees.  And speaking of booming in bees…

The drones are just everywhere this year.  The hives that are doing well are just awash in drones.  It seemed that when the hives were getting ready to swarm, the queen would forgo laying in worker cells but still lay in drone cells.  I don’t get it, but I’m not alone.  Others have reported the same.  I’ve made a drone trap but I haven’t yet put it to use.  I may try it out soon just to see if it’ll work, although once I harvest I don’t really care.

So the results of May as it pertains to hives?  I came out of winter with 5 full size hives and a nuc.  I now have 10 hives made up of 8 full size hives and two nucs.  This explains the lack of names, I just couldn’t keep up anymore with the names I had, so it’s back to the drawing board on that.  I’m planning to sell a full size hive which is really only just a single 8-frame medium but is doing well.  This hive is from one of my own swarms that I retrieved.  I have an outside swarm that’s overflowing a nuc.  I want to get those outside bees into a full size hive but don’t want to do so until I sell the swarm from my yard.  In downsizing a little I want to keep those outside genetics.  I like the idea of two nucs for winter though so I’ll start another soon after, maybe with a queen I raise here.

One other venture begun in May was the installation of an observation hive in the environmental center at the Park at Governor Dick.  I did this under the auspices of the PA Backyard Beekeepers Association.  They provided the hive and the package of bees that got it started.  They seem to be doing well and the hive will be dismantled in the fall.  The park was very happy to get the bees, it makes a nice addition to their center.

I plan to harvest in about two weeks.  I’m really hoping the honey that isn’t capped yet will be by then.  If not then I’m not sure what I’ll do.  I’d really like to set myself up to be able to label and sell some, and to do so I’ll need an outside kitchen/building in which to extract.  That’s in the works, hopefully I’ll figure something out.