The End to the 2015 beekeeping season

The first signs that the season is over are starting to show.  I lots of sad, cold and lonely drones and the relentless invasion of the no-good-lousy-robbing yellow jackets.

honey bee drone

Poor guy was kicked out for the Winter. No freeloaders in this bee hive

A week or two after I took this picture we pulled off the top feeders and wrapped up the hives for the Winter.  The only thing left was to try something that I’ve always wanted to do.  I took an extra 3lbs of honey and started a batch of mead.  We’ll see how it turns out but from what I’ve been told, it’s the reason why there are no more Vikings.

Brewing mead

First batch of mead cooking away!

bee hives set for the winter

Honey Honey and More Honey!

We started our final extraction today (we had pulled some honey earlier with the 4-H class.  After we got our supers from our apiary and at Tara’s we ended up with over 100lbs of local wildflower honey!  I went with the same bottles as last time but with Henriette’s help we now have a label for this year’s batch.Local Honey produced in Lombard IllinoisIMG_4179

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was pretty awesome that every bottle we filled was already either promised to friends and family or sold!

Bee Swarm Caught!

A swarm in May is worth a load of hay
A swarm in June is worth a silver spoon
A swarm in July ain’t worth a fly.

I’ll have one silver spoon please!

Today I caught my first swarm. I got a call from a beekeeper friend named Tara and she told me her aunt had a swarm in her back yard. Since Tara has a newborn at home she couldn’t drop everything to go try to capture it and thought I might want to give it a try. I quickly gathered all my gear and headed North to her aunts house in Rolling Meadows. When I got there her aunt pointed out the swarm and gave me permission to do whatever I needed to get rid of it. The swarm was just about at eye level bunched up on a branch in a small shrub. It looked to be about the size of a bee package (about 3lbs or 10,000 honey bees).

It was pretty much a text book capture. I walked up to the swarm.. held a cardboard box under it and hit the branch dislodging the swarm. The entire ball fell into the box and I closed it up. DONE!

Captured bee swarm in western suburbs

Afterwards I drove home and installed the swarm into a deep I had and gave them some syrup.  The 4-H beekeeping club thought the catch looked great.  We watched them fly in and out of their new hive at the next meeting.  So if you ever need a swarm of honeybees removed in the Western suburbs, give me a shout!

Beekeeping kids in Lombard 4-H

Failing queen

In the second week of April Matt and I purchased packages from the Belmont Seed Company in downtown Chicago.  While convenient for pickup of the three packages only one is ok.  One of Matt’s queens died almost immediately and he had to replace her.  In my hive check on Saturday after the SPIN club I saw that my hive had little to no brood.  What was there was pretty spotty, no eggs at all and it looked like mostly drones.  I saw the queen and she was walking around but just not laying.

So she needed to be replaced.  Luckily Long Lane had some Queens and their sending me one today.  If she arrives I’ll try to get out to replace the old queen today.  Does anyone know a good retirement home for failing queen bees?

 

Starting the 2014 Season

Just heard from 4-H and the new SPIN club is set.  I’m really excited to work with another great group of kids!

At the same time we were surprised by the early arrival of our first package of bees!

Sam 2014 Season

After our hive and Matt’s hive froze out, Matt found replacement packages.  They arrived and luckily it’s a warm(ish) sunny days and we were able to install them!

 

Removing the queen cage:

Installing the package:

We’re off and buzzing!!!

5/3 Beekeeping SPIN Club

My Saturday morning started out at 6:am with a drive downstate to Long Lane Honey Farms to pick up a package for the class and one for the Patels.  It’s hard to tell in the photo but there were thousands of bees in the air.  The awesome part is a bunch of beekeepers waiting in line to get their packages not caring one little bit.  By the time I got to the front of the line I had several bees hanging out on My shoulders.

photo 1

With 20,000 bees in the trunk of the car Jake and I made the long trip home to install the package with our 4H SPIN club.

 

photo 2We installed the package and filled the feeder.  By the time we got done there were tons of bees flying around.  On the left you can see a few bees hanging out on a members moms hat and veil.  We brushed them off and eventually everyone fount their way back into the hive.

 

 

 

 

Froze – out

Welp – we just went through Polar Vortex Part 2 and had our first chance to peek inside.  With fondant in hand we took a little peek and saw that both of the remaining hives froze.  The temperature was too cold for too long and the bees, unable to break the cluster to get food starved just inches away from capped honey.

When it warms up a bit more we’ll shake out the frames and get ready to do it again.  Time to order more packages!

Winter Hive Check

Two weeks ago I went to check on the hives. The temperature got into the mid 40’s and the girls were out taking “cleansing” flights. Bee’s will not go to the bathroom in the hive. This was after a pretty long cold snap so as you can imagine the ground in fron of the hive was a mess. Regardless, it was great to see the bee’s out and.. well.. alive!

This coming weekend it’s supposed to get into the 40’s again and we’ll see if they survived this latest cold snap where we had wind chill temps waaaaaay below zero.

 



Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) is for Real

So I went to go put on the covers graciously provided by the Patels and found that two of our three colonies had collapsed.

On last check (two weeks ago) their was plenty of activity. When I notices no activity on the landing boards I took off the top covers and didn’t see any activity under the inner cover. So I fully opened the hive. After removing the first few frames I realized the hives were done. There were bees that had tried to cluster but weren’t enough numbers to generate any heat. I found the queen headfirst in a comb with no attendants or workers around her. There was plenty of pollen and honey even some capped brood but no bees. There were a few hundred on the bottom board but not enough to account for the thousands of bees I saw in my last inspection.

We’ll start over in the spring perhaps splitting Ba-bee-lonia twice.

Hive Moved

Maria and I moved Ba-bee-lonia back with the other hives Friday night. We went out after full dark so all of the bees would be in for the evening. I put on an entrance reducer and plugged it up so there was no way out.
I used two tie-down straps and belted all the boxes together so they wouldn’t come apart in the move.

Since the ground between the two hive locations is anything but smooth I had no choice but to carry the deep and the super to the new location.

While I had to carry 60 pounds of beehive, Maria had the hard job. She was holding the spotlight which infuriated a few bees.

We got the hive to the new location (without me dropping it) then grabbed a few branches to lay across the entrance.

lombard beekeeper beekeeping DuPage County

Moved the beehives. Put branches in front to help the bees reorient themselves to the new location

This was done because (with all due respect) bees can be pretty dumb. They will fly out of the hive without really paying attention to where they are. They will then return to the old location of the hive on auto pilot and be well and truly lost. In most cases they will fly in ever increasing circles until they find the hive and in some cases make it home but in most they’ll never make it back.

By placing branches in front of the entrance and impeding their exit it simulates the effect of the tree their hive is in falling down. They will reorient on the location of the new entrance and be able to find their way back.

That was the theory but after visiting the old location there were close to a hundred bees flying around lost. I’m going to recheck today. This late in the season, every bee counts.

All of the beehives are light and I’ll begin feeding them to try to help them get a little more stored before it gets to cold.