Monday, April 28, 2014

Honeybee Highway

This is the location of our second beehive. I just love this location. It's nestled under a gorgeous Magnolia tree, and when it's in bloom, it's just spectacular! It not only smells amazing, it looks amazing. Since we had only installed the bee package the previous week, We had a pretty low maintenance inspection, all we needed to do was to check a few frames to see that they started building out wax comb. We also needed to refill the sugar water feeders. Since it's April, there aren't enough flowers in bloom for foraging so we have to help and feed the bees with a sugar water solution.
This inspection was pretty quick, we saw they had started building out comb and then we closed up the hive. The Queen has not started laying yet, because all the frames are new with foundation, and the bees have not build up the wax yet. We didn't want to disturb the box too much so we just literally peeked in and that's about it.
Here is a photo of the guys chatting about where we will be installing the next hive. We have ordered a second hive for this location and we will be installing a Nuc in mid-May. I can't wait!! I'm beyond excited!
Here's a photo of the hive, very little activity going on, they are all busy inside building comb or out foraging. Also, the number of bees in the hive are still pretty low since we just installed last weekend.
Here's a video of the bees coming back to the hive after we finished feeding them. They are coming back to feed. Looks like a honeybee highway doesn't it?  It's fun to watch!

Saturday, April 26, 2014

How to Raise Your Own Queen

Last weekend, we had another beehive inspection of our Brooklyn hives. When we arrived, there was lots of activity at the hives. I can watch this all day! It's so interesting!
The goal for this inspection was to see if we had successfully raised a new Queen.  At our last inspection, we noticed that although the white hive survived the winter, the Queen in that hive did not.  We had successfully raised Queens before in the past so we know we can do it. 
We pulled some frames from the white hive and did not see the Queen so we had to find some freshly laid brood from our green hive and move it into our white hive in efforts to raise a new Queen.
This frame was full of bees, but the brood was all capped so this wasn't a good candidate.
A close up of some capped brood.
Video of looking for the brood frames.

On this frame, there was some freshly capped brood with some uncapped larvae. We pulled two frames like this and placed them into the white hive.
After placing the frames, we'll be back in a week to check on the hive to see if they make one of the larvae into a Queen.  Since this hive is Queenless, they will feed a larvae royal jelly and make it into a Queen cup. When the Queen hatches, it will go for a mating flight and start laying.  We're going to hope for the best! Wish us luck!

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Hanging plant

Remember the post I wrote earlier this month? How happy I was to bring home my new hyacinth plant? Well... this is what happens when your roommate is allergic to spring flowers. I resorted to hanging it...outside the window. :(

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Bee Package Installation: April 2014

This year we were lucky. We only had to buy one package of bees instead of 3 because 2 of our beehives survived the cold NYC winter. I truly believe it was because of two factors. The first being that last year, we bought our Queen bee from a NJ Apiary that raises Jersey Queens from wintered stock. Picking winter hardy bees will help your stock survive the winter. We also wrapped our hives for the first time.  I think both of these factors contributed to the hive successfully surviving the winter. We picked up our package at the Beehive Barn in Cranbury, NJ. You can read all about our pickup here! Then we installed the package into the one hive that did not survive.  Installing a package is pretty simple. Keep a water bottle with sugar water handy, you can spray the bees with it to keep them occupied and to calm them down before you pour the bees in. You remove the sugar water can and set it aside. You remove the Queen box, and then you literally shake the bees onto one of the hive boxes. I wrote a more extensive write up about installing bee packages here.
We keep 9 frames in the box to leave room for the Queen box. At the bottom of the Queen box should be a cork plug holding in solid sugar. Remove the cork plug so that the solid sugar is exposed. The worker bees will eat through the solid sugar to release the Queen.
Here is a closeup of the Queen box. At the top, you can see the sugar. Usually, there will be 3-4 attendant bees inside the box with her to attend to her needs. After your remove the cork, place the Queen box between two frames. In a few days, she will be released by the worker bees. We usually go back to hive after 3 days to ensure that she was indeed released.
Here is the deep box with the bees poured in. We usually leave the bee package next to the bee box because there tends to be stragglers inside the box that don't come out right away. If you leave the box next to the hive, they will eventually make their way in.
Here's a view down the block from where our beehive is located in Brooklyn. I think the bees have a great view! Don't you?
As we were packing up and getting ready to leave, I saw this honeybee trying to drink coffee from this cup. She was half way in the cup with her little legs dangling. These bees made a long journey up from Georgia so they must have been really hungry. No coffee for you little bee, I moved her back to the hive to feed on sugar water.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Roadtrip to the Beehive Barn

This weekend, we took a ride out to Cranbury, NJ to do a special pickup. We were going to the Beehive Barn, an apiary that not only sells bees but sells beehives and all other kinds of supplies for beekeeping. I've never been to the Beehive Barn before so this was a special treat!
It's about an hours drive from Manhattan, and the ride out to the 'country' would not have been bad if we hadn't hit traffic on the NJ Turnpike South. We sat in traffic for about an hour. When we finally arrived, I was beyond excited! Our main goal for this trip was to pickup a package of 20,000 bees and the Queen bee that recently arrived from Georgia.  All the bee packages were stored in this barn.
Sally, who owns the apiary said to me, "Go ahead and go into the barn and pick out your own package!" How cool is that?
As I got closer to the barn, I could hear all the buzzing inside. It looked like hundreds of packages inside. Super cool!
I picked out a package and made sure the Queen was still alive. Then I went over to the workshop to pickup some deep frames with foundation.
Here's a photo of them pulling 12 frames for me. They make these and all the beehives by hand! So cool!
Here's another photo of the woodworking shop! I felt so lucky to be able to see where they make beehives. Whenever I can, I try to support local businesses. This is pretty awesome!
Another view of the workshop.
Right outside the workshop was a flock of chickens. I am so loving this place! This is my "dream farm", one day I want to raise chickens with my bees!!
Here's the package I picked out. This will be installed into the hive that we lost over the winter. Stay tuned for that blog post soon!

Saturday, April 12, 2014

First Day of Beekeeping Season of 2014!!

This past winter was really tough in NYC. It snowed and snowed and snowed. Here's a photo of the backyard where we keep two of our bee hives. All the way in the back are the two hives covered in about a foot of snow. This past winter, we did things a little different. We wrapped our hives in tar paper to keep the moisture away and added a box of cedar chips to help wick away the moisture. We did this to give the beehives the best chance of surviving the brutal winter. Last year, they died from too much moisture and mold grew rampant.  Bees can survive the cold but they can't survive the moisture which leads to mold.
Last Saturday, the temperatures finally got up to the high 50s so we could finally open the hive and remove all the tar paper and cedar chips. We removed the tar paper and the bees were already coming out to enjoy the sun! We knew right away they had survived the winter of snow, 7F degrees temperatures and wind! Woo hoo! They survived the Polar Vortex!!! One of the coldest winters we've had in a long time. This method really works!
We opened the lid and was thrilled to see bees! Lots and lots of bees! They were so active! They ate through all of the 5 pounds of sugar we had left for them in the winter.We looked through the frames and saw that the Queen had been busy laying brood! She has survived! We literally jumped for joy!
We were even surprised to find that they had even started making honey!! This is so incredible!! There are some flowers blooming so they must be already foraging on the spring bulbs throughout the neighborhood!
We opened the white hive and so that it too had survived! Honeybees everywhere!  Unfortunately, there was no sign of the Queen. Frame after frame it was empty of brood. We decided to move some fresh brood frames from the green hive and transfer them to the white hive in hopes that the hive will make a new queen out of the new brood. We know that this will work because we successfully raised Queens last year using this method.
Here is my beekeeping partner Paul closing up the hive. Here you will see bees all over his shoulders and back. This hive seems to be very strong as the number of bees was really high.
Even though we had two hives that successfully survived the winter, we had less success at our other hive location 2 blocks away. As soon as we arrived, we knew they were doomed. We saw no bees flying around the hive. Here's a look of the dead bees from one of the frames. Here you will see the bees are clustering together trying to keep the Queen warm. If we looked carefully, she probably is under this large pile of bees.
We found mold all over the frames. Lots and lots of it, so we ended up throwing away all 20 deep frames. You don't want to use moldy frames. They will kill the bees. We decided to purchase a new bee package and frames for this hive which we will install in a week.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Cheering myself up!

On Friday, it rained and it was cold and wet.  I finally got around to meeting with my accountant to do my taxes for 2013, and found out some crappy news,  I owe a lot more money in taxes. Bummer. I was feeling really down in the dumps. The only thing I know that always cheers me up are these. On my way home, I stopped at our local bodega and picked up a pot of spring bulbs. One of my favorite flowers! I just love the smell of hyacinths and love how pretty they are. They instantly put a smile on my face! Yeah, I feel a little better already! Love spring flowers!

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