Tag Archives: top bar hive

Colorado Natural Beekeeping classes announced 2013

We have announced our 2013 spring bee guardianship classes in Colorado!
We are excited to offer beginner, intermediate and advanced classes in
Boulder, Fort Collins, Carbondale, and Paonia.
You can register for the classes and find out more information,
at BackYardHive.com

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Leave a comment

Filed under CO, colorado, Events and Press

Actress Ellen Page talks about the importance of honey bees!

Actress Ellen Page talks about the importance of honey bees.

Leave a comment

Filed under Events and Press, Uncategorized

Journaling about your hive

Journaling about your hives is a great way to take note of how the hive is doing and a good way to keep track of things that need to be done with the hive as well as a fun way to refer back to what the hive was like during different stages and over several years.

For me, I always think that I’ll remember everything that goes on with the hives but when I don’t journal about it, I sometimes forget those little important details about the hive and then 3 months down the road I notice the hive is doing exceptionally well or maybe they’re not doing as well as they were the year before, than I can refer back to the journal as to weather patterns, what the hive is doing, how the bees seem, what I did with the hive in the past year, etc. It definitely comes in handy and is very informational to be able to refer to each time when going into your hive/s.

I also like to take pictures of the hive through the window before and after going into the hive as another way of observing the bees and overall hive view. Hive journals definitely become very fun and interesting scrapbooks years down the road as well!

Here is a list of some things to include in you bee journal:

~Date bees where placed in the hive (or year of the hive)                                                             ~Overall temperament of the hive and where the bees came from: local swarm, package of bees, nuc, etc. (Include as much information as possible about where the bees came from including hive type and age of hive)
~Date of first pollen coming in and the source if known
~Date of first dandelions blooming

More things to keep in mind and journal about each time visiting your hive:

~ Date, weather, temperature, time of the day, overall mood of bees, clenliness of landing board, drone population and any other observations you notice.

~If opening the hive, it’s helpful to also include reason for opening hive and your observations while working the hive, what you accomplished or hoped to accomplish, note anything that needs to be done in the hive, prospective date and check it off when completed. Any observations about your hive or the local environment and weather.

~ It’s always fun to take before and after pictures as well as photos through the window at different times of year and stages of the hive.

2 Comments

Filed under Hive info, local climate, Thoughts and ideas....

Last (and first) swarm of the season

The other day… well really June 25th, my phone rang at about 6:00pm just as I was sitting down to dinner. It was Margaret. “Guess what?!” she exclaimed. I took a wild guess: “your little hive bees swarmed?” “Yes!” she said. “Want to go on a swarming adventure and catch them?” so about 10 min later when I had finished eating, I gathered my bee supplies and headed out to catch a late swarm of the season.

It was quite the adventure of the day! David and Simone (Margaret’s son and his partner) were there to watch and take pictures and Billy witnessed the excitement from the kitchen window with his binoculars. There they were, thousands of buzzing bees all clumped up together hanging from the branch of an apple tree. Margaret cut the branch the bees were on while I held it and gently lowered the whole cluster of bees and branch into the box and put on the lid. Hardly a buzz to be heard… it was a very smooth swarm catch!

We secured the box onto the top of the ladder to let all of the bees get in and later that night Margaret closed the box and moved them into a sheltered place under a russian olive tree waiting for us to install them into the hive the following day.

We carried the box over to the new hive location after the evening goat milking. With the false-back just after the 11th top bar toward the front, we removed 9 of the bars leaving on each end to serve as a sort of lip for the bees to get into the hive. “Vhooom!” They were in with a bustle of energy. As the bees crawled up to the top of the hive, we replaced the top bars and sat by the hive, waiting for a bit to make sure they seemed content and satisfied with their new home. Everyone was crowding on the landing board sticking their butts up in the air “fanning” to let the other bees- and the world- know where their new home is. We watched as they all slowly made their way into the hive until only a few bees remained on the landing board. What a late season adventure it was!! Ironically, this very group was the one Margaret and I caught in mid April from one of my hives that had been hers the previous year. Hopefully these girls will be happy in their new home and find lots of nectar to keep them through the winter safe and strong. What a great swarming season it was!! All in all, backyard hive and bee guardians around the area caught about 70 swarms  this season. Whew!!

~Photos courtesy of David Hollander~

4 Comments

Filed under Swarms in Boulder

To use smoke or not to use smoke….

OR      

I’ve been thinking and reading a lot about honeybees lately and it makes me wonder about when beekeepers use smoke and the effect it has on the entire hive. We top bar people have it really easy in the way that smoke isn’t at all necessary to use because only one or two combs are exposed at a time in the hive so we’re only aggravating about 1/8th of the bees in the hive at a time and as we file through to the next comb, the last one is closed with the previous one again. It’s a great system in so many ways and for me it’s easy to say “oh, smoke isn’t necessary!” “why stress them out more by causing a fake fire for them and wasting all of that energy they put forth to evacuate and gorge honey when it could be used for cleaning the hive, dealing with pests and collecting food?””Smoke messes up all of the hive’s pheromone sent and ways for communication… it’s hard to get the smell of smoke out of things after being around a campfire and so on… imagine how much smoke residue would be in a hive if it’s been smoked every week for even just one year!”

While I do agree completely with all of the reasons and questions I ask for not using smoke, maybe I’m missing some crucial point about why Langstroth hive users and especially commercial beekeepers tend to use smoke. It could be that the Langstroth hive is designed for speed and to work the hive by quickly being able to take out frames and both because of this and that taking off the lid exposes so much of the hive. Even the organic beekeepers who use langstroth hives use smoke! I wonder what the theory is behind it because it seems so unnatural and rude to just smoke the bees out so blatantly. It could be too that the smoker is a bit of an emblem for the beekeeper and as Corwin has mentioned, maybe we need a new one. Perhaps the artistic hive tool or a grass brush… Any ideas??

11 Comments

Filed under Thoughts and ideas....

Lemon balm hive transfer nuc swarm is doing well

The lemon balm swarm hive (transfer nuc) is doing really well and they’ve already built pearly white comb on several of the bars toward the front of the hive! I’m hoping that they’ll be ready for the Linden tree bloom coming up here. There is a beautiful linden tree about 100′ from this hive and every year the bees go wild with excitement over this mid summer treat.

Mmmhmmm….. I can’t wait to taste the lovely linden flower honey this year! Yummy!!

Leave a comment

Filed under Hive info, local climate

Harvesting Honey with Karen

The other day Karen and I got up bright and early and met at 8:00 am in Eldo. to harvest honey from a totally full and very large custom built hive. We met early  to beat the heat but at 8:00 am it was already 75°. Whew! We could tell it was going to be a hot one that day!  As we opened the hive we realized they had built all the way to the back of the hive and were actually attaching to the false-back of the hive. We came just in the nick of time. What a vibrant colony of bees!!

As we worked through the hive, the bees stayed pretty mellow despite the heat.  While working in an efficient yet calm manner, we were able to successfully harvest a few bars of honeycomb with very little stress or agitation to the bees.

We had a large clean metal pot with a lid to place the clean comb into that we wanted to harvest, a crate for resting bars with bees on them to give us extra space while working in the hive (we would put these combs back into the hive when we closed it up) and a few empty bars and spacers. After herding the bees off of the false-back with the hive tool (slowly moving the flat side of the hive tool over the comb and into the hive), we cut off the attachment comb into our metal pot making sure to scrape off any pattern they  created from the comb on it so they won’t have an incentive to build comb on the false-back in future. Then, we went through the hive as if going through a filing cabinet, detaching the brace comb and inspecting the honeycombs for harvesting.

After setting the first few (smaller) combs in the crate to give us space to work in the hive, we got to the first fully built comb with about 80% capped honey. We decided to leave this one in the hive and go back to it later if we decided to harvest it. It was such a perfect comb that we thought it might be good to leave for the bees because of how straight it was. This turned out to be a good call because as we suspected from looking in the window of the hive, the combs started to get a bit wonky and not necessarily straight on the bar. This hive has the older style top bars with only a small notch in the wood as a guide for the bees to build their comb and many of the hives with these bars (rather than the triangle bars) didn’t stick to the part of the bars we would have like for them to build on. They built their combs across several bars making it harder for us to work in the hive without braking any comb as we worked. The triangle bars solve this problem by giving the bees a very clear indicator as to where the best place would be to build their comb. We worked our way through a few more bars bit by bit and chunks at a time to prevent any of the crossed comb falling into the hive. The comb was getting a bit melty at that point because of the heat. We knew we should finish up fairly quickly.

As we continued to work through the hive, we ended up harvesting quite a few of these little honeycomb sections, making sure to scrape off the old (crooked) pattern on the bars. When we started to see brood and the temperature kept climbing, we decided it was time to close up the hive and to put the combs we didn’t harvest back into the hive making sure to keep the combs in the correct order they were in the hive and the same orientation (front-back facing) they were in before we took them out. We harvested the equivalent of 4 top bars from a custom size hive similar to the golden mean hive but longer.

As we closed up the hive, we replaced the 4 bars we harvested with 3 empty tri-angle bars near the outskirts of the brood nest and 1 in the very back leaving all the other comb with bees on them near the same place they were in the hive originally. We also added spacers in between all of the honeycomb bars in the hive to help them keep in line with their natural “bee space” (1.38ths for brood and 1.58ths for honey).

Hopefully these bees will start building straight comb on the new triangle bars and have a great rest of the summer season.

Karen and I brought up the pot filled with honeycomb and crushed what we weren’t using for comb honey with our clean hands feeling a bit like wine makers as the comb and honey squished through our sticky fingers (what a treat licking our hands was afterword. Yummy!). We then poured the mashed up honeycomb into a strainer secured over the top of another stainless steel pot with the lid over it so the honey could strain down into the pot without attracting more bees.

We were both totally sweaty and hot by that time as it was nearing 11:00 am and with a mutual unspoken need to get cool, we jumped in the river (ah, the cool relief) before venturing forth to the next honeybee endeavour of the day!

(Written and photos by Claire Anderson)

3 Comments

Filed under Hive info