• Beekeeper John

    About the writer: John Kirk is an avid gamer, a writer, a student, and apparently likes writing in third person.

    I’m 22 summers old and a student at Rowan University, studying journalism. I’m from “South Jersey” for those who understand, New Jersey to those that don’t....Read more on the About Page....

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Hiatus Over

So school has started back up again and I now find myself with more idle time on my hands.

Which is great because now is the time of the season when my bees will need my help the most. As we start to move closer to spring a queen bee will begin to lay eggs that are to hatch at the beginning of the spring build up and become the bees that will help the colony into the late spring. With all the activity, it goes without saying that the colony will start increasing their consumption of honey, at times tripling their former rate of consumption.

This means that hives will start to get lighter in weight and on warmer days, they will need to be fed in order to make it through the rest of the winter. Since it’s too cold to feed them the sugar syrup, you will need to make fondant. Fondant is sometimes called “bee candy” because it is a near solid food supplement that can be fed to the colony in cold months and help them through the winter.

In a pinch you can even open the hive, place some newspaper on the top bars of the upper deep and put some granulated sugar on top in a pile and on warm days they will use it.

In other news I went to the South Jersey Beekeeping Association’s meeting this past Saturday. The guest speakers were the talented owners of Herbertsville Honey, Alf and Ceil Berg. They gave an amazing hands on demonstration of the making of their award-winning soaps and body creams.

In all it was a good weekend to be a young and excited beekeeper. Let me know how your hives are doing after feeding them some of that fondant.

Happy beekeeping!

Becoming a Backyard Beekeeper: Part 1

Foreword

Just in case you didn’t read the post before this one, I explained that over the next week or so I would be going through certain steps that need to be taken in order to put you on your way to becoming a backyard beekeeper.

I will go over the things that I did, and give bits of advice that I believe will help make the journey easier.

So without further hesitation:

Part 1: Finding a location, honeybee research, and beekeeping resources

  • Location, Location, Location

Check it out

The hives summer position

 

As you can see, the place I choose for my hive during summer provided three key things that the honeybees needed in a hive location. However, there are always more things to consider when finding a place for your hives, such as proximity to pollen and nectar sources , neighborhood restrictions, and neighbors themselves. I choose these three because I felt that they are basic and a most important factor for the hives summer survival.

 

  • Partial shade– The hive shouldn’t really have full on sun during the hot spring and summer months. This is because the hive needs to be kept at a constant 91-93 degrees for the brood to continue to develop healthily . Shade in the hight of summer makes it easier for the girls to keep the internal hive temperature in the low 90’s.
  • Wind Break- A wind break covering the back side of the hive helps the bees in that it provides a low wind zone around the hive so honeybees that are coming and going from the hive don’t get blow away. Referencing to the above picture again, the large pine tree and wooden fence ensure that no rogue winds will whip through the flying zone. Also, a wind break is needed for wintering your hive, the bees will fill all gaps they find with a thick coat of propolis (sometimes called bee glue) but they still need something on the outside to help them out.

  • Water Source– Finally, the girls need a source of water for the production of honey and the cooling of the hive. The bees will drink from almost anything really, in fact I once saw them on an old rug that was outside after a rain storm drinking. Not seen in the above picture is a small pond in the front of my house, a “bee bath” sort of like a bird bath but smaller with rocks in it so the girls have some where to stand, and a low lands area down the street from my house that I’m sure they used.
  • Honeybee Research

As with anything, researching the topic you’re interested in helps the actual process go a lot smoother than if you hadn’t researched at all. When I decided early last spring that I wanted to become a beekeeper the first thing I did the next weekend I was home from Rowan was to go to my local Borders bookstore and found the most helpful literature I could on the subject of beekeeping. It happened to be a Beekeeping for Dummies book written by the proprietor of Bee-Commerce.

This book was my Bible for the next few months, and it still is whenever I happen to get in a bind. Pretty much everything I know or learned about honeybees and beekeeping came from my time reading and rereading that book.

Opening up the treasure chest

A nearly empty honey super

I personally know that it’s easier for me to do almost anything when I have support from a group of friends or peers. The same goes for good beekeeping, and long term beekeeping.

Getting involved with the local beekeeping club/association will give you access to much more knowledge and conventional beekeeping wisdom than any beekeeping book could give you. You’ll be around beekeepers in all different stages of the hobby. Some might be novice beekeepers like myself, and others could be the hive inspectors for your state or local area.

Even now on the Internet and the Blogosphere (ugh I hate buzz words) there are literally a thousand points of interest when it comes to beekeeping and those who like to write about its inner workings.

I joined the local beekeeping association and though I have yet to go to an open function, I receive a newsletter contained beekeeping news for my area, and the world as a whole, as well as helpful advice from master beekeepers.

So that makes up my first section of becoming a backyard beekeeper. Any questions will be answered promptly, don’t hesitate to ask. I’ll be posting the other parts shortly

Upcoming Tutorial

This picture is from around 1900

Bees wintering in quarters cira 1900

Photo found on Flickr and taken from user Cornell University Library

You! Yes, you can Become a backyard beekeeper too!

The next few posts of mine will be dedicated to the steps it takes to start your own backyard apiary! Exciting I know! So hold on tight I’ll be posting it in a few post over the next week or so.

I’m really looking forward to walking you through the steps it takes in order to become a beekeeper and hopefully converting some of you into beekeepers yourselves!

Interesting bee news of the day from [The Daily Green]

Wintering My Hive: Part 1-Moving Shop

One of my Fall bees inspecting me.

One of my Fall bees inspecting me.

So yesterday evening, when all the girls came home from a hard, cold day of foraging for anything they could use for the coming winter, my father and myself set out to bring about the first step in helping the hive survive this winter.

As suggested by Tim Schuler, I moved the hive from where I had originally placed it, to the front of my house which faces the southern sky. The new position will promise constant sunlight once the last leaves fall off. Which is great because if we have an especially cold winter this season, my bees will need all the help I can give them.

So I made this nice little slide show up. Sorry about the sometimes blurriness of the pictures, just remember that they were taken by my mother who was just a little bit afraid of the girls, seeing as she wasn’t wearing a bee suit!

Part 2 of wintering my hive will be coming sometime in the winter when it gets colder and I need to use some hive wrap.

Enjoy another propolis picture!

Cleaning propolis off the top bars of the upper hive body. It's so much easier in the winter than it is in the summer

Cleaning propolis off the top bars of the upper hive body. It's so much easier in the winter than it is in the summer

Ancient style of beekeeping making a come back

Wonderful fresh comb

Wonderful fresh comb

Honey Trees

In Poland’s Spala forest a small team of enthusiasts aim to attract bees to the area, by practicing an ancient form of beekeeping.

The Team of Polish beekeepers cut a hole in a tree and place honeycomb in there much like the one to the left. Any wild honeybees will then be attached to that area and hopefully will make a new home there. This way of beekeeping has been “out of style” since the 19th century.

The team was taught how to harvest honey from trees by Russians from Bashkortostan, where the practice is still going strong. They have 20 new honey tree nests around their area in hopes of attracting even more.

By the way, for those of you who might use the excuse of no space for backyard beekeeping as your defense for not doing so, well no more! Omlet, a British company, has made a hive for small garden and urban beekeepers alike. Just before you start keeping bees in a city, make sure you check your local laws and by-laws about if you can even have an apiary. You don’t want to end up like the Brooklyn beekeeper that has been busted for backyard beekeeping.

Autumn Chores Creeping Close

Autumn Chores Creeping Close

ACCC for short.

Recently, in a series of e-mail correspondences, I was talking to local bee hive inspector, Mr. Tim Schuler, from my branch of the New Jersey Beekeepers Association, and he told more a lot of really valuable information.

So much so that I almost forgot some of it! It seemed as though as he was spouting off what to him was just casual, everyday knowledge, all of the subsequent information was spilling out of my ears and on to the ground. After asking him to reiterate some of the key parts of the list of things to do for the Fall, I got to work setting out things to do every time that I went home for the weekend.

Here are some of the things I can look forward to when I go home next weekend:

  • Moving the hive into the sun

Tim told me that where I have the hive now is just too dark and moist. If left there over winter, there is a good chance that the hive won’t survive or have a really hard time trying to survive.

This is because a beehive needs to be kept at a constant 91-93 degrees Fahrenheit, in order for the brood (the collected term for the bees that haven’t “hatched” yet) to survive and grow. Normally what works in the summer is the ambient temperature of the warm sun shining against their hive that does all the work. But in the usually cold winters of South Jersey, without direct sunlight the little honeybees have to do all the heating work by themselves by way of shivering and shaking to generate heat.

    Continue reading

    5 Things You Can Do for the Honeybees

    I have to apologize for the infrequency of my posting as of late, I’ve been rather busy with school and writing. Although, thats no excuse at all.

    Well, I’ve been doing pretty much the same things with my bees, feeding them the 2:1 sugar syrup again this past weekend. I will also probably be feeding them again this coming weekend.

    For those of you who have been following my posts thus far have really only seen how I work on small projects with my hive. By now your interest might have been piqued by both the photos and my explanation of the process a first year beekeeper has to go through in his first autumn harvest, and you might be asking yourself or wondering how you could get involved or help the honeybees out in some way.

    Well there are varying degrees of commitment that in the end will be helping the girls out.

    Come on, how can you say "no" to this cute face?!?

    Come on, how can you say "no" to this cute face?!?

    Photo credit: from Flickr user biggernoise
    So I’ve decided to compile a short list of things you can do to help the honeybee make a comeback, each with a different level of commitment to choose from.

    • Plant a honeybee garden in your back yard

    As simplistic as it sounds it works. It helps bring back native honeybee population and watching the gentle little creatures fly all around is a great way to spend a lazy spring or summer afternoon. A great site with and extensive list of plants that bring honeybees different attributes is located here…

    • Support your local beekeepers

    Buying locally harvest honey doesn’t just help the beekeeper, in the long run it helps you. This is because if you live in the area around the beekeeper, the honey that is harvested has natural abilities to actually reduce your chances of getting allergic reactions to the areas certain plants and irritants. Pretty cool. Commercially blended honey doesn’t do that. (I know it’s a Wikipedia source but it makes a point)

    Just because you don’t keep bees in your area doesn’t mean that you aren’t wanted at the meetings and gatherings. Most beekeeping associations want others to become excited about beekeeping and will most definitely become excited if a young person starts to show interest in their work. With our generation on the verge of taking the reigns from the waning generation, we hold a certain degree of power in getting issues heard and solved by using the power of the Internet. Help the older beekeepers in the beekeeping association out by giving a strong voice to the plight of CCD.Being around expert and very experienced beekeepers will probably get you excited and itching to know even more about these amazing little creatures, it might even help you make the jump to the final two things you can do to help out the honeybees…

    • Start your very own Observation Hive

    An observation hive is a small have with glass panels on the sides that allows one to look in and observe the colony without smoking and tearing out chunks of their house!

    You might have seen a rather large and very permanent observation hive at The Franklin Institute

    It’s an amazing sight to see all the workings of a hive in natural harmony. It isn’t as large a commitment as a standard 10 frame hive. The only thing is, since it isn’t protected by the traditional large hive walls in normal hives, and observation hive lives indoors with you! Scary sounding at first but the bees enter and exit through a 1 – 1 1/4 inch tube leading from the hive to outside your house. The gist is, an observation hive is a hive that is indoors and is connected to the outside so bees can come and go as they please, it’s a great educational tool, it’s a little bit different from running a 10 frame hive, and it gives you a really interesting conversational piece next time friends come over….Here are some sweet pictures of a massive observation hive the guys at Honey Run Apiaries made.

    The final and probably obvious next step in helping the honeybees out is…

    • Become a backyard beekeeper

    It’s really not as hard as it sounds. In fact if you start looking in to it now you’ll be well on your way to becoming a backyard beekeeper when the spring time season starts to come around. Keeping bees safe and providing them with a place to live, work, and raise brood is the number one thing we can do to help them make a come back. Without them our crops and farms wouldn’t be as nearly as bountiful as they are now. As a backyard beekeeper you’ll also reap the rewards of fresh organic honey, wax harvests, and other products that you can choose to use for yourself, or sell to make profit. This little niche hobby has global impact on crops and food supply.

    Which ever you choose to do or not do, the honeybee needs our help and every bit counts.

    So get out there and help the girls out