Friday, November 9, 2012

The "Bright" (or at least "Smoky") side of Hurricane Sandy

For beekeepers, there is at least one bright side to some of the destruction caused by Hurricane Sandy: With all the fallen or damaged trees that need to be chain-sawed, there is a LOT of free smoker fuel just lying around on the ground.

Gather ye wood chips while you may.  Use the sawdust lying on the ground where those trees were cut up for fuel for your smoker.

Prospect Park in Brooklyn has had over three hundred trees felled by Hurricane Sandy, so if you have a chance, get out there and gather some fuel.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

FREE Winter Beekeeping Course in NYC

The FREE Winter Beekeeping Course given by NYC Beekeeping will be starting in January. This in-depth course takes place in Manhattan. There will be one class held just about every week until the end of April. (There are 14 sessions scheduled.)

You can check out the class dates at the Beekeepers Dojo Calendar page or at New York City Beekeeping.

I took this course last year and learned quite a lot. 

The classes also give you a chance to meet other newbeeks and gives you a chance to get in on the group equipment & bee purchases next Spring.

In addition to the FREE indoor classes scheduled, there are opportunities to join in hands-on outdoor hive examinations when the weather gets warmer (also free). These hive exams really help the new beekeeper get comfortable with handling the equipment and the bees that make up a living hive.

Why spend big bucks for a one day class when you can get the best multi-session course for free?

Sunday, August 28, 2011

A large limb misses by backyard hives by a few feet

Hurricane IRENE broke a huge limb off a tree in my neighbors back yard last night. It fell over toward my yard, taking out a bit of his 12 foot fence.

It missed my hives by a few feet.

The pic below was taken through the rain streaked window in my second floor bedroom using the low res camera built into my OLPC.

The fallen tree limb can be seen crushing the fence in the upper right of the photo. It extends almost the width of my backyard.

The small box in the center rear of the yard is the temporary split I made to house the new queen I ordered to replace the queen in the swarm hive to the left rear of the yard.

The hive in the foreground with the plywood top is last winters dead out that now serves to store the frames of un-extracted honey left over from last summer.

Another picture taken at 3PM shows the tree the limb fell from.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

An Anti-Ant Mini-Stand

The screened bottom board that came with the new 8-frame hive equipment I ordered this year to save my back did not come equipped with a slot for a varroa sticky board.

I built a square frame out of some scrap wood I found and painted it the same color as my hive.

I’ve been constantly feeding sugar water using a hive-top Styrofoam tank ever since I installed the swarm I captured. The bees quickly learned to love the sugar water …and so did the small local black ants.


I tried shaking cinnamon around the top of the Hive Carrier to repel the ants, but they seemed to find a way around it. Every time I opened the top of the hive to refill the tank, there were black ants all over the bottom of the tank.

I tried to put the base of the Hive Carrier legs in aluminum loaf pans with lots of cinnamon, but the bees still found a way to get to the tank.

On Sunday I added four short legs to the varroa sticky board holder, turning it into an anti-ant mini hive stand that I placed on top of the Hive Carrier. I put empty small cat food cans under the legs and poured half an inch of inexpensive with vegetable oil into them.

This seemed to do the trick.  This morning when I opened the tank I found only a few ants. I believe this small group of ants were trapped on the hive when I installed the mini hive stand.

Picture of the new anti-ant mini hive stand on top of the Hive Carrier showing the stubby unpainted legs that I glued and screwed to the bottom of the makeshift varroa sticky board frame. This picture was taken with my OLPC computer shortly after I put the hive back on.  From the ground up: at the base of the Hive Carrier leg you can see at the near right of the photo you can see the earlier attempt to stop ants using a loaf pan with some cinnamon. Just right of the center of the photo, partially obscured by some leaves of the Ukrainian Almond tree I planted last year, you can see a cat food can holding some vegetable oil. A stubby leg of the mini hive stand rests in the can.

A few confused bees can be seen gathered on the front edge of the mini hive stand, confounded by the elevation change of the hive entrance.

The screened bottom board rests on top mini hive stand / varroa board holder.

On top of that is an 8-frame slatted rack, with a few confused bees hanging out on it. (Many more bees are hanging out on the slatted rack inside the hive.)

On top of the slatted rack you can see the first of three 8-frame medium brood chambers.

The picture also shows how the Hive Carrier “floats” a few inches to the right of the shipping pallet Hive Port “wharf” where a Bad Beekeeper can stumble and clomp about without disturbing the bees any more then they already have been by this whole project.

Actually the bees remained pretty calm throughout the whole process of inserting the mini hive stand under the hive.

Mistakes Made / Lessons Learned.


When gathering the four empty cans of cat food from the recycling bag
(you DO RECYCLE don’t you?)
be sure to use cans that have been opened with a can opener. 

The cans that open with a pop-top lid leave a sharp edge that can give you a nasty cut. Which bleeds a lot. And slows down the construction process.   

Consider leaving the oil out of the cans until after the bees have adjusted to the fact that the hive entrance is several inches higher than they’ve grown to expect.

Bees landing at their usual height, loaded down with pollen and nectar, sometimes try to climb up the hive entrance.  About a dozen bees drowned in the can shown in the photo within five minutes of adding the oil.

Suggested sequence:

Gather not-so-sharp cans.

Add legs to the varroa sticky board holding frame, turning it into a mini-stand. Use 2 screws at right angles plus bee-safe wood glue to firmly attach the legs.

Put the mini hive stand on top of your Hive Carrier or regular hive stand and under the hive bottom board.

Put the empty cans under the legs of the mini hive stand BUT DO NOT ADD OIL YET.
(Unless you want to be a Bad Beekeeper)

Remove the feeder tank and take it inside for an overnight soak in water and bleach to remove mold.
The next day, later in the afternoon, return to the hive and make sure bees are no longer climbing the legs of the mini hive stand.

If the cans are free of bees, pour a little inexpensive vegetable oil into the cans.

Return the feeder tank to the hive and add sugar water.

At this point the ant problem should be greatly mitigated.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Trying out a Multi-Feeder

I entered the raffle at the Brooklyn Beekeepers Club Annual Honey Tasting & Open Bar last fall and won a hive top Multi-Feeder for 10 frame hives.

Last Sunday I went out to check on my bees and noticed that the Styrofoam hive top feeder that I usually use was empty AND had spots of mold on the bottom and sides of the feed tank.

The forage situation has not been good this summer and the newly hived swarm did not have a lot of pollen stored away. I had picked up a small baggie of pollen substitute from Liane who is the organizer of NYC Beekeeping and, since the bees needed both sugar water and pollen substitute, I decided to give the Multi-Feeder a try. 

I quickly made up a 5-pound bag of sugar into 1 to 1 sugar water using the method I described in my posting titled the Koan of Ones.

Although the Multi-Feeder was designed for 10-frame hives, I discovered that by centering it evenly on the top of the brood box, I could make it fit without exposing any cracks to let bees directly into the feeder from the outside of the hive.

This is a picture of the Multi-feeder after I placed it on the hive, but before adding any pollen substitute or sugar water.

The left side of the tank has it's entry gates in the high position to allow the bees enough room to enter the surface of the tank where the pollen substitute will be placed.
The entry gates on the right side were left in the low position to keep the bees from entering the tank when it is filled with liquid.

I poured the 1-to-1 sugar water into the right side and put a little pollen into the left side in front of each entry gate to see how the bees would react to it, as shown in the picture below.

After putting the 10 frame foam outer cover on top of the feeder and strapping it down, I left the bees alone for a week.

One week later this is what I found when I took the outer cover off and this is what I saw.

The sugar water had been completely consumed and the pollen substitute in front of one of the gates was completely consumed.

I made up another 5-pound batch of 1-to-1 sugar water and reloaded the tank. this time I put a complete line of pollen substitute connecting the two gates on the left side tank. 

Lessons Learned

There was more sugar water made from the 5-pound bag than would fit into one side of the multi-feeder so I had a little left over in a two liter bottle.  I went back to the hive the next day and found that the liquid level was down about half an inch so the bees must have been really sucking it up.  

I added the remainder of the sugar water and reminded myself to pick up another 5-pound bag of sugar 
and assemble some more wax-foundation frames so I'll have the third 8-frame medium brood chamber ready when it's needed.

While I was loading the muli-feeder, I also found quite a few ants so I'm going to have to do something to deal with them. Perhaps I'll try using cinnamon around the hive stand legs like I've seen mentioned on the web.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Backyard Hive Port with floating Hive Carrier

My version of Urban Beekeeping.

My bees did not make it through the winter. I figured that with all the other new beekeepers in the City last year that the chances of catching a swarm were good. Instead of ordering a new package of bees to replace my dead bees, I ordered a swarm lure and planned on catching a swarm.

Late in May I put together a swarm trap that was the equivalent of two 5-frame nucs stacked on top of each other.  In the top section was one frame with a piece of old dark brown brood comb held in by rubber bands.  I also placed four frames with 1 inch wax strips in the top.

In the bottom section I place a nail just above the entrance with a swarm lure attached to it.

The picture below show the swarm trap shortly before I deployed it about 15 feet up in a scrub tree in my backyard in Brooklyn.

Two-nuc high swarm trap
About two weeks later I noticed bees flying in and out of the trap. I decided to wait until the following weekend to move them into a “real” hive.

Bees going in and out of swarm trap

I built a hive stand by cutting a salvaged blue shipping pallet in half. I used some pieces of salvaged 2x6 planks that I found in a dumpster at the subway station near Kings Highway to build the sides and legs, which I painted brown.

After the brown paint dried, I removed one blue board to make a hole that would be under the screened bottom board. The remaining blue boards were painted off-white/yellow like the rest of the new hive equipment I have.

This hive stand was so over-built that it could easily hold two hives so I started thinking of it as a hive “carrier”.

 Hive Stand v 2 with legs, Side View

 Hive Stand v 2 with legs and hole for screened bottom board

I painted another shipping pallet, with closely spaced boards the same off white so that any bees that fell on it could be seen and rescued rather then stepped on. This painted pallet and two more salvaged blue pallets were placed on top of plastic coke bottle cases to keep them off the wet ground.

The completed hive carrier was “docked” a couple of inches away from the pallets so that the banging and thumping and stomping about of the bee keeper would not be conducted to the bees in their hive.

As a finishing touch I put a couple of pieces of salvaged plywood on top of the blue shipping pallets.

 Hive Port with one Hive Carrier ready for swarm transfer.

I placed the screened bottom board over the “observation hole” that I planned to use to peer up into the hive next winter to make sure that the cluster had moved up above the bottom brood box.

Screened botom board over observation hole in Hive Carrier

I added a queen “includer” adapted from a 10 frame queen excluder using some duct tape over the screened bottom board to keep the swarm queen from leaving the hive.

Screned bottom board with Queen Includer positioned
I then used some partially drawn frames of comb from last year to make sure everything fit and was aligned correctly.

 Practice load of new swarms hive with old frames

The picture below was taken after I moved the swarm into it’s new home in the single 8-frame medium brood box on top of the hive carrier. I nailed the swarm lure on the outside of the new brood box just above the hive entrance to help confused bees find their way to their new home. (For he remainder of the afternoon there were considerable numbers of bees flying about up in the tree saying “????!!!”.)

I piled the other medium boxes I had purchased for my planned two-hive bee yard in a tall stack positioned to provide shade for the new hive.

Nearby I placed a white water bucket with floating corks from a local bar to keep the bees from drowning.

Also visible in the picture is the old dead out that is partially obscured by one of the three Ukrainian almond saplings I had planted last year to provide forage for my hive.

Hive Port w newly installed swarm and spare equipment to provide afternoon shade

The swarm was making a living by robbing unconsumed honey from a hole in the 10-frame dead out, so early this morning I transferred all the frames into the stack of new equipment and made sure it was sealed to prevent robbing.

I took the old equipment inside to be patched and painted to match the new boxes.

The old equipment was stacked on top of a cut-in-half blue shipping pallet so my next step will be to transform that into another “hive carrier” by adding sides and legs and a matching paint job.

That should complete my planned Hive Port which will consist of a painted “dock” with Hive Carriers floating on each side of it and a warf side plywood covered staging area.

No more stumbling around in the weeds.

Below is a diagram showing the now and future Backyard Hive Port.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

The First Flower - Spring 2011

Saw this flower today, the first one this spring.

Attention Bees:
hang in there honeys, better days are coming.