Thursday, April 17, 2014

What you might Find in the BeeHive

You have set up your hives and installed your bees with the queen cage attached to a frame. We know that you are eager to check on them to see how they are doing but disrupting the colony will hinder them. Give them time to acclimate to the new queen and release her on their own (will typically take 5 to 7 days). Once you have given them time to release the queen on their own, you can open up your hive and see your bees hard at work!

When you first open your hive to remove the queen cage, you may notice no substantial changes, but your bees are working frantically to draw out comb, allowing space for the queen to lay her eggs and room to store their nectar. There will be some foraging bees sent out to bring in nectar and pollen but the majority of the force will be building up the frames. Providing feed during this time is vital. As the bees work the frames, they will be consuming feed almost as fast as you are providing it for them. Keep the feeder on the hive!
Other things to be aware of:

 Don’t be frightened to find that your colony seems smaller then when you installed it. This is a new colony and it will take them time before they will grow in population. The population will begin to decrease before it starts increasing because the newly laid eggs must be raised out to replace the older bees.

As the bees begin to work the frames, drawing out foundation, they may draw out a queen cup. There is no reason to fret. A queen cup does not mean your hive is queen-less, but is a precautionary measure your worker bees take to ensure they can raise a new queen quickly if something were to happen with the current queen. A queen cup is a single cup which is located in the middle of the frame. It should not have an egg or larva inside.

When you begin working your hive, your first instincts are to look for the queen. The queen is one of thousands of bees throughout the hive. Although she is much larger than the worker bee, she will be extremely hard if not impossible to find. An alternative is to check the frames for eggs. Eggs signify that the queen has been released and is laying. Eggs are also difficult to see (less difficult than finding the queen) but they appear as small white kernels that are similar to rice.

You will tend to see other insects in your hive that you would not expect. Most hide out on the inner cover, away from the colony. These can include earwigs, spiders, roaches, and many more. These common insects do not cause any damage and tend to stay for the heat, dark and shelter of the hive. There are some insects that can cause damage within the hive. These would include the small hive beetle and wax moth. They will lay their eggs in the hive and can destroy comb. The wax moth is more of a concern in late fall when equipment is being stored. Small hive beetle is a year round problem that can be maintained. A strong colony will keep a check on the hive beetle but if there population begins to rise, insert a beetle trap into your hive.

After installing your bees, you will place frames back into your hive. Inevitably one or two frames will be spaced too far apart, leaving room for the bees to draw out excess amounts of comb. You can leave the burr comb in the hive and the queen will lay eggs or workers will store honey in the cells, but the burr comb will limit what can be worked on adjacent frames. For the best results within the hive, remove the burr comb and take the time to space out your frames evenly. Burr Comb can be melted down and used in candle or lip balms.

Installing your package is just one of the first steps into this exciting hobby. Once your queen has been released and starts laying eggs, you will begin to see a large field force in your garden, buzzing from flower to flower.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Making Skin Cream

A simple, easy way to make skin cream using ingredients from the bee hive!

  • Shea Butter – Some UV protection. Soothes sunburn, psoriasis and eczema (skin conditions). Dry skin, wrinkles, and stretch marks.
  • Cocoa Butter – High in antioxidants, reduces stretch marks, keeps skin soft and supple. (often used by pregnant women)
  • Sweet Almond Oil – Easily absorbed into the skin. Used in Aromatherapy, soothing effect for relaxation. Creates a healthy look.
  • Olive Oil – Prevents evaporation. If applied to skin, prevents further loss of moisture from skin. High in antioxidants soothes sunburn, psoriasis and eczema.
  • Coconut Oil – Helps hold moisture. Does not rub in easily and may become greasy, be sure not to use too much in recipe, does make skin soft.
  • Palm Oil – Antioxidants and antibacterial. High in antimicrobial properties that help with skin complexion. 
  • Beeswax – Creates a protective non-clogging layer. Hardener, Antimicrobial, moisturizing. Works well in emulsions.
  • Honey – Improves skin moisture. Antioxidants. Antimicrobial. 

Beeswax and honey are excellent for your skin. Most people tend to think that beeswax creates a heavy film over the skin, that is not the case when incorporated with other ingredients. The oils and butters are soft ingredients that have a low melting point. With the addition of Beeswax, the lotion will become more solid and easier to apply.

Most  recipes you find will include water, and you are going to be mixing the water with oils and fats (do not mix without and emulsifier). Beeswax is not a stand alone emulsifier but does work well in emulsions and acts as a hardening agent.

You may also add many other ingredients: Essentials oils for scent, propolis, pollen, other oils, aloe vera gel from a aloe vera plant... ect.

Here is a great recipe that does not require an emulsifier:

Making Skin Cream
7.5 oz. Shea Butter
2.5 oz. Cocoa Butter
7.5 oz. Olive Oil

Before you get started make sure you have everything you need. The ingredients listed in the recipe above, a pouring pitcher that will create a double boiler using a larger pot (make sure your pot is large enough to put your pouring pitcher in; can use a 1 quart or 2 quart pouring pitcher whichever you prefer), containers to put the finished product in, spatula and a whisk.
You will need a round bottom mixing bowl placed in a container filled with ice water to create a cold bath for one of the final steps.

Weigh out all ingredients using the digital scale. 
Combine and melt Shea and Cocoa Butter in the Pouring pitcher. Leave Olive Oil in a separate container to be added in later.

Once all the ingredients have melted, remove from heat. 
Pour the melted Shea and Cocoa Butter into your mixing bowl that is in ice water. Add Olive Oil into the mixture.
(During this stage you can add any scents, colorants or essential oils.)

Using the whisk, whip the mixture for roughly 2 minutes or until 
the clear mixture begins turning opaque. (Placing the mixture in a cold bath will bring the temperature down quickly and as you whip the ingredients together, the result will be smooth and creamy.)
Timing is key to get the perfect consistency but it is not critical.

If you do not mix the ingredients until it becomes opaque, the skin cream will be gritty but application will be the same. Trapped air bubbles tend to be an issue if it is under whipped.
If the mixture is over whipped, it will be thicker and difficult to pour into containers (must be spooned out causing an uneven surface within the container). If you desire a smooth surface, use a blow dryer to fan the container with hot air until the surface of cream is smooth (do not apply direct heat).
NOTE: If you decide to make changes to the recipe make sure you keep track so that the next time you make the skin cream you will have the exact amounts. Weigh it out so there is no guess work.

If you would like further information on making skin creams, please view our webinar:

Friday, February 28, 2014

Bee Classes

We want to provide as many resources to help beekeepers succeed. Every year we host an Online Bee-Ginner's class that typically consists of 4 sessions in which we go over the basics of beekeeping and explain what being a beekeeper entitles. 
If you are unable to attend the online class, we record each session and offer a DVD after all sessions have been completed.

For those who are in the surrounding areas of our North Carolina Branch, we hold an on premise Bee-Ginner's class where you will be able to learn the fundamentals of beekeeping. We want to ensure you are well informed before you set up your hive and install your bees. We host this class in advance of our Bee Days so that you will feel more comfortable installing your Packages or NUCs. 

For those in Pennsylvania and surrounding areas, we offer a Bee-Ginner's Class at our PA Branch. We know that the beekeeping season in the north is different than the south, so our Bee Class and Bee Days are later in the year. 

These are great opportunities for novice beekeepers as well as those who have been keeping bees for many years. We provide great information and our knowledgeable staff will answer your questions and give you the necessary information you need to succeed.
Our Retail Store is open during Class Hours (on premise Bee Class) and on Bee Days to fulfill any orders that need to be placed.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

The Last Extraction

The fall nectar flow is beginning to slow down and colder temperature are going to be setting in soon. You have pulled off your last honey frames that you plan to extract for the year and left your bees a good 50-60 lbs of honey for them to survive on through winter. 

 Even after extracting there is still a little bit of honey left on the frames that you want to give back to your bees. What better way to give it back to your bees then set it right next to the hive for them to clean out the honey....right?This is not what you want to do. Honey/nectar will draw in other bees and insects. The smell will lure them to the exposed honey and this can cause a robbing frenzy in which bees will physically fight in order to obtain the honey. Once they have cleaned out the honey from the frames you extracted, they will begin robbing the next source of food.

The next source could be your hive!

Your bees will do a much better job cleaning the frames than you will ever be able to but what is the best way?

Some beekeepers will place their honey supers back onto the hive for a week. This will give the bees enough time to clean the comb in order to begin building up the honey stores again. Remove your top but leave your inner cover on. Place your 'dirty' frames above your inner cover and place the top back onto the hive. Give it close to a week before trying to remove the supers.

If you do not want to go back into your hive (you called it quits for the season and you want to leave them closed up) you can place the supers out in the open for your bees to clean up.  You will want to keep the supers at least 200' away from your bee yard. Again, this can cause a robbing frenzy that can lead back to your hives... so the further away it is, the better.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Mites and Nutrition

At this time of year beekeepers should be concerned about two things - mites and nutrition.

Hopefully you have already begun managing the mite population. The mites transmit viruses which remain after your mite treatment. With time the virus levels drop but you need to have time after the treatment, under low mite and virus conditions, for the colony to raise young, healthy wintering bees.

Varroa Mite Treatment

It's no surprise, nutrition can either help or hinder a colony. If the colony is diseased, poor nutrition can amplify the symptoms, but good nutrition can be the elixir needed to get them through.

 Beekeepers presume that their bees have enough honey stored for winter and do not supply the feed the bees need to build up their honey stores. We have been receiving many reports of starvation in hives. Do not assume your bees are bringing in nectar. Place a feeder on your hives so that your bees may build up their honey stores.

Flowering plants produce nectar to attract pollinators like the honey bee. Pollen is easily seen in the pollen baskets of the honey bee, whereas, nectar is not as visible. Pollen is needed for growth and brood rearing; nectar is a sweet treat that is fed to the matured bees.

Here is a great resource to find the region in which bees are foraging for specific flowering plants:

Forage Species within Region

As you can see in the map, nectar flows exhibit a broad regional trend but there can be substantial differences within a region. Heat, drought,and many other factors play into effect with nectar producing flowers. Beekeepers must always be cautious of a dearth and weather that will prevent bees from foraging for pollen/nectar.

Hive Top Feeder

3 Things to do When the Nectar Flow Begins to Wane:

1.  Leave on the honey supers. Honey bees will store an excessive amount of honey, ranging between 100 - 150 lbs. Beekeepers reap the benefit of excess nectar stores that have been capped and cured into honey. Beekeepers must be cautious of how much they harvest from their hives. Bees are dependent upon the honey they have stored and require, depending on location and harshness of winter, 60 - 80 lbs of honey to survive winter.

2.  Beekeepers must feed, feed, feed. Not only do beekeepers need to provide a food supply, but they also need to include a feeding stimulant to increase the health of the hive. Feeding with sugar water or corn syrup is great, but adding a stimulant like Honey B Healthy (there are others on the market) will help improve their immune system, prevent mold and fungus in feed, increases brood rearing and much more. Feeding your bees now will help them build up their honey stores for winter!

3.  Be aware of robbing bees. Bees will fly the shortest distance to acquire the resources they need. If you have weak colonies in your bee yard, they will be prone to robbing attacks. Reduce entrances, add a robbing screen and help protect your hive from robbing bees. 

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Dealing with a Laying Worker

We have had some beekeepers calling in asking what is wrong with their queens. They find multiple eggs in the cells and the eggs found in the cells are not centralized. There is no visible queen and the capped brood they find is nothing but drone. 
Photo From:  Photo By: Michael Palmer

These are the sure signs of a laying worker. If a hive becomes queenless for several weeks, a worker can take it upon herself to begin laying eggs. It is the lack of brood that begins this process and because the worker has not mated with drones, the eggs are infertile (they develop into drone brood). This is a frustrating problem because it is hard (near if not completely impossible) to go into the hive, find her, and remove her. She will appear as any other worker. 

A new queen must be introduced in order for the colony to survive but couldn't the colony kill off the new queen? Yes, because the colony could kill off a new queen, we recommend two different methods to get your hive queen right. These methods are not full proof but will give your hive a fighting chance.

First: In theory, the laying worker will be heavier due to the fact she is now laying eggs. Move your hive away from its original location (100 yards) and take each frame out, shake off all the bees and return frames into the hive. Do this for each frame until all frames are clear of bees. Return the hive back to its original location. Because the bees are oriented to the original location, they will return to the hive. The laying worker being heavier, she will not be able to return to the hive.

Second: Slowly introduce frames of open brood into the hive. By the third or fourth frame of open brood, your colony will begin rearing a new queen. They will sense the poor/improper production of the laying worker and will want to replace her with a new queen. This method does take more time and more trips to the bee yard.
 In order for the colony to increase the population, it must be queen right. There are many threats that can kill off a queen so be mindful and careful as you inspect your hives. Check for eggs and the brood pattern. If everything appears to be in order, you should be certain your hive is queen right.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Installing your Bees

Beekeepers are beginning to install their bee packages. Here are videos that will explain a package and go over the steps of installing your packages.  This can be an exciting experience and knowing what to do before installing your packages will prepare you for the task at hand. We want you to feel comfortable while installing your package.

About a Package

Installing a Package

Be prepared before you go to your hive to install your package. Ensure you have all the tools you need and are dressed appropriately for your comfort level. With your hive setup and painted, ensure that you have:
Hive tool
Spray bottle with a sugar water mixture (temperature permitting)
Rubber Bands
Feed and Feeder
Protective Clothing

Installing your bees can be a thrill and during the activity certain steps must be carried out. Remember that the cork must be removed from the candy end. Removing the cork from the non-candy end will release the queen prematurely and your colony will not have accepted her yet.

Non-Candy End
Cork Removed from Candy End
Once your bees have been installed, a feeder must be applied. Depending on the weather and temperatures outside, using an entrance feeder or a division board feeder are most common. The feed must be easily accessible by your colony and checked on regularly. The colony is not yet established and will not be able to forage for pollen or nectar. Keep the feeder on until your bees are able to sustain themselves (even then, having a feeder on for that rainy day is recommended).  If temperatures do not drop below freezing, a 1:1 ratio of sugar to water is an acceptable feed. The sugar water mixture will help stimulate colony growth. If colder weather is forcasted, feed with fondant or other semi-moist, hard feed.