Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Benefits of Digital Hive Tracking

Broodminder Hive Scale
Collecting Data from our Broodminder Scale
As the craft of beekeeping continues to expand, so to do the tools and technologies beekeepers have at their disposal to better understand the health of their hive. Digital hive tracking has not only grown in popularity over the past couple years, but has brought significant advancement in tracking that have made quite the impact on beekeepers. Some of the major benefits of digital hive tracking:

Constant observation of your hive: While hive inspections are a vital component to being an effective beekeeper, there is such a thing as too many hive inspections. Every time you open up the hive to take a quick peak, it disrupts the hives growth. Digital tracking allows the beekeeper to view important data to quickly interpret the colonies health in between regular hive inspections. Strong fluctuations in the data could indicate issues in the hive that could have gone unnoticed until your next inspection.

Collected data can help you understand your colonies activity: Using data collected over time, you can make better judgement such as when to feed and when to harvest honey. Weight starting to go down in your hive? That could indicate the nectar flow has diminished and the bees are starting to feed off their stored honey. At that point you can add a feeder to help them keep their food stores strong. Notice an intense plummet in weight? Their might have been a robbing. Most hive trackers also include the option of a public data center where you can compare your information to others in your area and around the US that could help determine if there may be a greater issue in your area.

Solution Bee Hive Scale
Inspecting a hive on a Solution Bee hive scale
With the rise in technology integrating with beekeeping, some beekeepers may wonder if it's too much. After all, one of the joys in the beekeeping is cultivating a tactile relationship with the bees and the natural world. Just like with concerns about technology ruining relationships between humans, some people hesitate incorporating technology into their beekeeping practices.

Can technology really change the beekeeping experience that much? We believe it does not. No matter how many different gadgets you stick to the hive, there is nothing more important to keeping your hives healthy than going in regularly and visually making sure everything is functioning properly in your colony. As the technology tells you about the colony status when you are not looking, it can help you time your inspections better, and to make more informed decisions about your colony's needs.  Most of us don't want to interfere with a thriving colony, but we do want to know when one needs help.  Hive tracking helps you interfere less with the strong hives and to identify the hives that really need help.

At Brushy Mountain Bee Farm, we currently offer two brands of digital hive tracking

Solution Bee Hive Scale: Reading both the weight of the hive and outside temperature, it can provide a constant flow of data you can use to follow your hives growth or decline during the weeks in-between inspections and through the winter.

Broodminder: Using a weight scale and in-hive thermometer/humidity reader, you can continuously monitor colony health from your smart phone without touching your hive. By using the smart phone app, you can use the recorded colony history to check on queen productivity, brood rearing, swarming, hive robbing, food storage, nectar flows, moisture problems, and more.

Monday, August 13, 2018

Propolis: It Binds the Hive Together...Literally

We've all been there; pushing with all our might on the hive tool just to pry the frames out of the hive, after which, we have this gooey resin stuck to our gloves or suit. Propolis is a nuisance for the beekeeper but a valuable asset for the honey bee. The sticky nature of propolis makes hive inspections challenging, stain pretty white beekeeping suits, and requires a heavy cleaner to remove from your hands. Beekeepers despise this resinous substance but the benefits far outweigh the cons.

Your first thoughts of resin may be that conifers or birch but there is a vast range of different plants and trees that produce a resin to protect their leaf buds from predators. Take a look at a poplar or cottonwood when they begin producing buds and you will find a yellow, brown, or red resin seeping out. There is a dedicated class of worker bees that will forage for resin, scraping it with their mouthparts and store in their pollen basket until they return to the hive. Upon their return, they will go to the areas that require the resin (now propolis) to fill in nooks and crannies. Other house bees are required to remove the propolis from the forager’s pollen basket as the carrying bee is unable.

So why do bees do it? Propolis is not consumed, a pain to collect, and is a specialized task.

  • Bees will use propolis throughout the hive to add structural support. Rougher wood will be smoothed over, holes will be filled, and frames will be secured with propolis. It is the bee’s glue and sealer.

  • Propolis can help in fortification against opportunistic pests. Bees will entomb small hive beetles in crevices with propolis or build “propolis prisons” that prevent the hive beetles from reproducing. The presence and contact of propolis is toxic to wax moth larvae in its early developmental stage.

  • Bees also require the variety of resins to build their immune system and reduce the immune functions of individual bees as they build stronger defenses. Studies have shown that bees exposed to propolis have a lower bacteria load in and on their body.
ProPlus Hive
Healthy bees are essential to a healthy colony. 
Proplus Hives provide a natural way 
for bees to build upon their immune functions.
Colonies will increase the rate of resin foraging during evidence of pathogens. Your colony is constantly vulnerable to fungus, molds, and bacteria. Luckily, honeybees instinctively coat every surface inside the hive with propolis for protection. Propolis provides the bees a natural defense against pathogenic microorganisms. The Brushy Mountain ProPlus Hive delivers a textured surface that encourages propolis production to increase colony health.

We push for beekeepers to provide feed supplements to their colony to increase the overall colony health. Here is another weapon in the arsenal to help beekeepers manage healthy bees. 

Next time you go in for a hive inspection, the headache of prying the equipment should be less painful knowing that the sticky resin is helping your bees!