Sunday, March 25, 2012

First weekend

So Wednesday I installed my packages (there is a video I may post later) and I definitely feel that it could have gone better. At the same time however, I also felt it could have gone a lot worse and I would have almost certainly made a lot of the same mistakes if I had gone to a class. When/if I post the video I will edit it to be more of a blooper reel to show what NOT to do while installing a package. Here are some pictures I took that first day.

I know a lot of people do not recommend boardman feeders since they can cause robbing, but I don't plan to feed except during package installation (plan to leave the bees plenty of reserves so that I wont need to except in emergencies). I feel that the boardman feeder is a cheap and easy way for a beginner beekeeper to keep track of the amount of sugar syrup their bees are taking in. Additionally, it is a lot easier to refill and causes far less problems than opening the lid to add more feed. I will probably have to refill each hives jar tomorrow for the second time so they are really gulping it down.

Yesterday I also went ahead and took the queen cages out of the hives and pushed the frames together. I tried not to disturb them too much and it was hardly a full inspection but  both hives had released their queen already. Oh by the way, I found out pretty quickly that you absolutely need to use a smoker once they have made the hive their home - even moving one of the frames a little bit got me lit up. Was not fun (although my camera woman was laughing pretty hard). 

Well I hope that next weeks more full inspection goes well. There are a lot of things that I am worried about (such as them killing the queen because I messed with them too much). I still have a lot of frames and hive bodies to assemble and I am kind of holding off until I make sure that they are ok using the foundationless frames and that they are going to make it. I just hope I can wait another full week to inspect them again - I have to say that it feels like a kid knowing where his parents keep his christmas presents. 

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Its been a long time coming . . .

I finally got "the call" last night! That is right, I got the call letting me know the date that I could come by and pick up my two packages of bees - tomorrow! So in celebration for this I decided to do a section on some of the less commonly thought of tools and practices for beekeeping. So without further ado . . .

1) El' Cheapo Extra Veil. Everyone should at least own one good quality veil (I myself purchased a very high quality bee suit from my good friends at HTK) but almost as important is the ownership of a second veil for someone else to use. Unless you are the world's loneliest beekeeper, you will almost certainly have someone show enough interest in your bees to want to be out there with you while you are working the hives. But since such occurrences are uncommon and the extra person may not be a priority target for the bees, there is absolutely no reason to spend too much money on an extra veil. The one I have above is a white "boonie" cap (i.e. the "old man hat") that has sewn around the edge a mosquito net. Both of these things can probably be gotten from friends and family members who don't mind giving them up or from thrift stores and yard sales for practically nothing. Pretty much this is 98% elbow grease and not even a whole lot of that.

2) Homemade Smoker Inserts. I am always reading stories and watching videos where the people talk about how to start a fire in a smoker. While I cannot claim credit for the idea to just have an insert you could light on fire then insert into the smoker, I will say that I found information on the internet woefully lacking. These are pretty much just old cans that I have stuffed with a roll of cardboard and some packing paper (all of which is free and plentiful). Just light them on fire with any lighter (although obviously long stem lighters will work better) and drop them in the smoker. To get extra thick black smoke put some green grass over top of it once it gets going. NOTE: some people have problems with the use of cardboard to smoke out the bees since it often contains a lot of chemicals. I however first got the idea from reading "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Beekeeping" which is all about the organic, treatment free aspect of beekeeping. You can use whatever fuel you want - it is the can that is the important part of the insert not the fuel itself (make sure it is well packed in the can though).

3) Fishing Line. Fishing line is mainly used in beekeeping for wiring frames, but it works for anytime you need to tie things together in the hive. I am not exactly sure if it will work but I plan to tie my queen cages to the side of the frames when I install my package since it will be easy to remove and not leave a residue. It is also pretty much free (anyone who fishes will have no problem giving you a few feet of fishing line unless they hate you). 

4) Homemade ledger. Many websites and people will tell you to go out and buy a ledger of some sort to keep track of your hives, but that is silliness. While it is far more important than someone might initially realize to keep good records, making your own ledger is not only more effective (since you can design it to suit your needs and style) but cheaper. Just use any word processor program (Microsoft Word or Writer) and make one. This is just a centered line of text and a table underneath of it that I created. For information on table creation google your word processor program and table creation. Print off 10 or 20 copies of it and they should last you awhile (you can always make more copies). Anyone with kids probably has an old three ring folder lying somewhere that their kids aren't using. It might be troublesome to find someone with a three hole punch however but you can always just use a pencil in the right spot to make your own holes. This is also something that is practically free.

5) Marked frames. Take a sharpie and mark an arrow (or anything as long as it is uniform and not symmetrical) on all of your frames. The purpose is to make sure that when you take a frame out it is easy for you to tell which way to put it back in. It takes very little effort and it is probably better for the bees to not disrupt their hive design too much.

6) Marked Bottom Boards. In the future you will probably move frames and even hive bodies around so it makes no real sense to put identifying marks on them so you can keep track of which hive is which. The solution? Mark the bottom board! I mark my bottom boards in the back (since I will be working from the back) so I can tell which hive is which. I know it may sound silly since I only have two hives, but it is better safe than sorry and later on if I have hundreds of hives it will surely come in handy. 

I know I promised a great video but there were technical difficulties with the filming. So instead I will just wait to post my video of my installations. As recompense however I will post a picture of my apiary. Enjoy and stay tuned for future updates!