Thursday, April 28, 2011

Here's my brand new three hive stand!

So it was in March that I ordered a new custom built hive stand from a local welding and machine shop. With my backyard apiary expanding (the girls are doing it on their own) - I had to order a durable stand that could hold multiple hives. With the help of Wesley Amos of Amos Welding and Machine Shop in Reidsville, we put our heads together to come up with a large enough stand to hold multiple hives and stand up against time and the elements. Wesley built my first hive stand two years ago, so I knew he was up to the task. This new hive stand will hold three booming colonies.

This past weekend was nice enough that I could get out and get my new stand ready. So with brush and roller in hand, I made sure there were no rust posts anywhere, then applied multiple coats of Rustoleum paint to seal the surface. I used the same paint on my first stand, which holds two hives, and with the exception of a few minor spots thats popped up in two years, the metal paint works like a charm.

Once the paint was fully dry, the task was to dig the eight holes to plant the legs in the ground. Each leg has a "foot" or metal plate on the bottom to keep it from sinking deeper into the soil, but to keep it from sinking at all, I poured Quikrete (concrete) around the legs and let it set for 24 hours to make sure it cured. After the concrete is cured and hardened, you can then put the dirt back to fill in the holes.

Let me add that you need to use a carpenter's level to make sure everything is..level. You want a slight decline in the front so any water from rain or snow or hive moisture will drip out the front and stay out of the hive. Other than the slight decline in the front, the stand is level side-to-side. That took me awhile to get it that way since the stand is so wide, but once I finally got it set, I poured the Quikrete around the legs and then the water and left it alone.

Once the concrete set up and the dirt was filled in, it was time to move my first hive to its new home. Since the yellow hive had a brand new package of bees who were basically building comb and little else, I decided to move them. I picked up the light hive and made the short trip to its new home. When I first hived this colony, I used a solid wood bottom board, but really like using screened bottom board. So I moved the hive, transferred the frames over to the second yellow hive body, and got ready to close eveything back up and leave the girls alone. After all, they already had a busy week of being hived and now moving to a new location. Talk about confusing!

Being that the girls were moved, and thinking that some of the foragers may be confused, I placed a piece of bamboo over the entrance. That's so they would re-orient themselves to their new location. And to catch any that may have gone to the old location, I put a carboard nuc there and sure enough, I caught about a handful of them and took them over to their new abode. The "obstruction over the entrance" trick works. I've used it a couple of times with great success. It forces the foragers to re-orient themselves to the area (after all..there wasn't a tree in the front door before) -- so chances are they will find their way back home. Try it if you have to move a hive.

So here it is, my new three hive stand. You can see that its close enough to my other hives so I can just go back and forth when needed. That should really come in handy when having to transfer frames and supplies between hives. And its very close to my storage building where I keep all my beekeeping supplies. I intentionally set it at an angle to keep the bees from the green and orange hive from slamming into the new bees when crossing flight paths. Will it work? I don't know, but in my head it will. Guess we'll see!

Here's the dimensions of my new hive stand. Remember it will hold three hives (especially heavy hives in winter when packed with honey). Each hive will sit in a 2 foot by 2-1/2 foot square on top of the stand.

Side to side length: 6 feet wide
Depth: 2-1/2 feet deep
Leg length: 24 inches (I bury mine. You could make them shorter.)
Top: Heavy gauge grated steel mesh (Proper ventilation.)
Body: Heavy gauge angled steel
Construction: Welded
Paint: Rustoleum

Feel free to use my plans or tailor them for your own bee yard. And happy beekeeping my friends!

More coming on my adventures with a "piping" queen in my own hive!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Waste not, want not (especially syrup spills)..

Never let it be said that bees will waste a free trip to the snack bar. While filling up the Boardman feeder for my new package of bees, I accidentally spilled some sugar syrup on top of one of the hives. And when I turned around, some of the ladies were already working on the cleanup detail. Glad they could get to it before the ants did.  

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Georgia bees find a new home in the Tarheel state!

The first "bee day" arrived on Monday, April 18th, at Dadant & Sons in Chatham, Virginia. Actually the first shipment of bees ended up being a week late, but that wasn't a problem for me since I had some things to get ready anyway. So Monday came, and with receipt in hand, I headed north for 44.5 miles to Dadant to pick up my new bees. Once I arrived, the staff handed me a really healthy looking 3-pound package of golden yellow honeybees. A loud, buzzing box of bees! Mine was just one of around 550 packages that arrived in Chatham from an apiary in Georgia. Knowing that they were stressed from the long ride through four states and they were probably thirsty, I rushed them to my house back across the North Carolina line to get them to their permanent home.

To help them settle down, I kept the package in my garage overnight, and I occasionally misted the package with water from a spray bottle to keep the ladies refreshed. And I have to admit that it was hard to sleep Monday night because I was excited to finally get my new bees in the home. So Tuesday finally came and it was beautiful! It was the perfect day to install my new package at their final destination. And although I have a brand new hive still in the box, I decided to recycle the yellow hive which held my first ever colony of bees.

Like all packages, the queen came in her own cage complete with attendants. Unlike my other queens, ths one wasn't marked, but she was easy to spot among all her daughters. After popping off the cork that protects the fluffy, white candy, I took a small nail and punctured the candy to make it easier for the bees to access. And while I was getting everything ready, a passing bee dropped by to meet her new neighbors. There you see her as she pays a visit.

Since there was no wax to embed the cage in, I snugly wedged it between the tops of two frames. The screened side of the cage is facing down (which allows the bees to feed the queen and her attendants too) and it is slightly pointed downward. That's so the queen can simply walk out when she's released. I've also been told to never point the candy end completely down (vertically) because if the attendants should die in the cage, they may jam the hole and the queen will not be able to get out. I have used this same method before on two other occasions and it works just fine.

After the queen was put into place, I gave the bees a good spritzing with sugar syrup, then poured them over the queen and into the empty hive. The bees began making a higher pitched humming, and what bees didn't end up in the hive, soon became a cloud over the hive. Although I've seen it before, it was amazing to watch the bees as they started a slow, steady march in between the frames in the hive. It didn't take long before all the bees you see in the picture started covering the frames.

Although I planned to use my Boardman feeder anyway, I also decided to use the can of sugar syrup that came with the bee package. After all, it seemed almost full so why waste it? So I grabbed up a shallow super to hold the can and I placed it to the side of the hive. That's so the bees could easily access it and not pile up around or near the queen who is closer to the middle of the hive. Plus I don't want to disturb the bees who are eating their way to free their queen. The Boardman feeder is on the opposite side and on the front of the hive.

Take a look at the girls as the aclimate themselves in their new home. It didn't take long before I noticed the girls fanning their scent to the outside to guide any strays to their location. And not long after that, I noticed a few as they flew from the hive, made their lazy back and forth motions in front of it, then up and round and round to orient themselves to the area. Then a few hours later, I noticed bubbles as they occasionally rose to the top of the quart jar full of sugar syrup. It seemed that the bees had already started working to get their new abode ready.

Two days later, it seems the bees are doing fine. I went down and stood nearby and watched them fly to and from their home during the afternoon sun. While its nowhere as busy as the other two hives (which have swarm cells in them as of now..more on that later) - I know that its just a matter of time before the old yellow hive, which fell silent this past winter, will soon resonate with the sounds of a lively box of bustling bees, the sweet sound that eminates from a happy hive. Needless to say, there's nothing quite like it.

Note to my fellow beekeepers: Just a reminder to ALWAYS make sure that you're dealing with a reputable apiary when you buy package bees from out of state. Without a doubt, I knew when I ordered a package through Dadant and Sons that I would end up with a top quality package. That's why I didn't hesitate in the least to order one through them and I'm very satisfied. But that wasn't the case with my first ever package of bees which I ordered from a beekeeper in Georgia several years ago. Without going into a lot of details, the website for this so-called apiary looked very professional and this beekeeper's previous online ratings were very good. But after I got "stung" by the guy when most of my bees arrived dead, then he refused to answer my phone calls and emails, I found out he was wasn't anywhere close to being a professional businessman. In addition to my hard earned money, he took a lot of other people's hard earned money. I wasn't the only person he refused to respond to. He also refused to respond to all the others that bought bees from him which ended up dead on their doorsteps. When he did respond, he said he would "make it right" -- but he never did. Digging further, I found out that the Sheriff's Office in his home county knew him well and a ranking officer told me that he's a regular in their civil process service division. Needless to say, all of his "customers" got screwed. So please, take my advice. Make sure that you check the reputation of an out-of-state apiary or beekeeper before you do business with them. There are a lot of great people who are dedicated to customer satisfaction, and then there are those out to make a fast buck. Always know what you're buying and who you're buying from. Whatever you do, do your research and don't become a victim.

Happy beekeeping!

Saturday, April 2, 2011

What was beekeeping like in 1951? Check this out!

This is a re-post, but many of you that just started following my blog have probably never seen this.

The educational movie we're about to see goes back to 1951. It is titled "Bee City" and its narrated by John Francis Kieran who was an American author, journalist, amateur naturalist and radio and television personality.

While it has an almost spooky appearance at times, and Kieran almost appears to ramble through his narration, he does a pretty good job of explaining how a bee colony works.

While the production values are seriously dated, the information the film contains is about as current as it gets.

So butter the popcorn, break out the beverages, and gather the friends and family around for "Bee City" -- and feel free to take notes if needed!

Help other beekeepers! Take these two surveys for would like all U.S. beekeepers to take two short surveys. One of the surveys deals with winter losses, and the other deals with management practices for the past year. The information gathered by these surveys are for research purposes and hopefully help all of us to be better beekeepers.

If you plan to participate in the surveys, you must do so before April 18th.

I took both surveys and it took around 20 minutes. And the questions were quite enjoyable (but maybe that's because I enjoy beekeeping).

Dear Beekeeper:

We need your help. Please take 20 minutes out of your busy day to complete these two surveys. Both surveys are only open from 1 April through 18 April 2011.

The Winter Loss Survey can be found here and should take less than five minutes.

The Past Year Management Survey can be found here and should take less than 15 minutes.

The purpose of the Bee Informed Partnership is to use beekeepers' real world experiences to help solve beekeepers' real world problems. We will use the data generated from these two surveys to help you decide which management practices are best for beekeepers like you, who live where you do and have operations similar to yours. For this to work, we need as many participants as please take the time to fill out the questionnaire and SEND THIS EMAIL TO ALL THE BEEKEEPERS YOU KNOW asking them to fill out these questionnaires too.

Should you have any questions or concerns please do not hesitate to contact us at or call us at 443.296.2470.

You can learn more about the Bee Informed Partnership at


Thank you.

The Bee Informed Partnership Team