The effective way to light a bee smoker
I have been struggling to get the bee smoker every time I visited our bee farm until I got to learn from Fat Bee Man the trick on how to do it.
The great thing about his method is that it is fully natural, and can be done with raw material I can find in nature around our hives.
Since using this method we have enjoyed continuous, thick and most importantly cold smoke out of our smoker.
Check out the instruction video on youtube.
Nuc hive development and first signs of honey
One of our two nuc hives is really developing well! We visited our bee farm yesterday and found that the second nuc we had established had grown really well and bees were already trying to expand beyond the given space they had. We decided to increase the hive size adding another layer of frames and we hope to be able to see a queen been in the hive upon our next visit.
Our first nuc was not doing that well though. The colony had shrunk significantly in size and there was no sign of a new queen bee. We decided to try rescuing it by adding another frame with an already grown queen been cell in it. We do not know how well this will work but we will find out soon.
Our big hives are developing well too. We found honey been produced and some of the frames were already full of honey that that been capped already for most part (see photo below).
The hives were very active and it looked like they are growing very fast with lots of capped brood cells. We decided to add more room for growth to the strongest colony that now starts to be pretty high already.
We surely hope the next 4 weeks will have plenty of sunshine.
Bears as biggest threat to Finnish beekeeping
(Photo credit: Pirkka-Hämeen Mehiläishoitajat ry)
According to the Finnish Association of Beekeepers, already 137 beehives have been destroyed by bears in Finland in 2014.
The association estimates that, depending on the year, Finnish beekeepers experience losses of between 350 and 1200€ per hive when bears visit their bee farm.
The red pins in the map below represents the reported incidents from 2014, while the yellow pins those of 2013.
Making of nuc colonies
This year we are experimenting with creating our own nuc colonies out of the existing ones we have.
We also decided to go the harder way and create our own queen bees for those colonies instead of buying an existing queen bee to insert into the colony.
During our last visit, we transferred some bee combs that had queen cells on them to smaller hives so to start the creation of the nucs.
If everything goes well, based on the development time for queen bees we should see one in the nucs latest on June 10 and it should start laying eggs latest on June 24. That is at least what the beekeeper calendar tells us…
Bee eggs are very tiny and can be hard to see despite being typically found in large number in a normal bee hive. During its more fertile time of the year, a queen bee can lay up to 2000 eggs a day.
Have a look at these few pictures and see if you can spot them.
Let’s get a bit closer…
Were you able to spot the white little eggs in those cells?
Drones being born and plenty of other beekeeping action
We had a very interesting visit at the bee farm today.
We went through each beehive quite carefully looking for queen cells and drone cells, with the goal to remove them. The mission was accomplished successfully, at least we hope so ;-)
Queen cells were to be removed as a preventive procedure to avoid swarming. Drone cells on the other hand had to be removed as a way to control the mites population in the hive.
The most amazing thing we saw during this visit was new bees being born and just in the process of exiting their cells. I was able to capture that in some photos that you can see below.
In the following photo I have circled the area were you can see a couple of new born bees (drones in this case).
We also encountered quite a few queen bee cells. They are very easy to spot even to the novice beekeeper as they are significantly larger than other brood cells. Queen bee cells are typically located alone in the middle of the comb and they grow in a vertical direction towards the bottom.
We removed the combs with the queen been cells in them and put them into a new hive. We hope to be able to get a new colony out of it during the summer.
And to finish up this post, here are a few remaining pictures of the action at the bee farm today.
We’ve got mites…
Last autumn we treated out bees to prevent Varroa mites to spread and hoped for the best.
This spring we started to monitor the mite population in our hives and unfortunately we have found out that the treatment has only partially helped.
Varroa mites (Varroa Destructor) are parasites that live and spread only in honeybees colonies and attach externally to the bee. The problem does not affect the quality of the honey, but If untreated the parasites will ultimately destroy the colony. Varroa mites are quite common in bee farms around the world and have a significant negative impact on the industry.
Bee hives are monitored for varroa by checking the base of the hive and counting the number of parasites found. If the number is higher than a certain level, the beekeeper will have to take further actions to treat the colony. One of our two hives turned out to be such a case.
I guess you are wondering how the mites look like so here are a few pictures that “zoom” into the problem.
First level: the collector extracted from the base of the hive with pollens, mites, wax and other in it.
Second level: a few mites close together.
Third level: getting closer to the problem…
Fourth level: a mite seen through a microscope.
Bee farm visit in Tampere
I attended a course on beekeeping last month and as part of the program we visited a really neat beefarm that actually happens to be located pretty close to where we live.
The place was pretty ideal for keeping bees and I really liked the way the owner had set up the hives and built a wooden base for them.
Here a photo of the base that I am going to use as a benchmark in the future. Not definitely the cheapest of solutions, but definitely pretty neat.
Spring cleaning on April 20, 2014
Last winter has been pretty mild in southern Finland. We had almost no snow and temperatures around 0 degree celsius. I assume this has been an easy winter for honeybees to deal with. Did you know that even during the coldest winter days the bees manage to keep the temperature inside the hive at almost +30C?
Spring has come also pretty early and already in the beginning of April many beekeepers started the “spring cleaning” activities for their hives.
In our case, spring cleaning was done on April 20, and it meant basically two things:
1. Opening the hives to reach the bottom so to clear away the left overs of dirt and dead bees from the winter.
2. Restricting the entrance to the hive so to help them regulate the temperature inside the hive.
Because I wanted to minimise the time the hive was open and exposed to lower temperature I could not take pictures of the hive as it was open but here you can see the mass of dead bees I cleaned away from two hives.
And here is a close up:
Despite having had so many losses in the winter months, the hives were pretty full of bees who were already quite busy fetching pollen from local willow trees. See the “yellow balls” attached to their legs as they enter the hive?