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2023 – Bee Biz

photo by Don Brockmeier
photo by Don Brockmeier

2023 Bee Biz

June 2023

We started 4 new hives of bees this spring.  We ordered 4 packages of worker bees and 4 queens including  2 Saskatraz and 2 Carnolian queen bees.  Each package held 10,000 worker bees. 

The queens travel in small individual wood compartments accompanied by 2 or 3 attendant bees.  See photo of a queen compartment.

Queen Compartment

Each queen bee  travels in the same box as the  the worker bees although separate from them. By the time they arrive after 3 days, the worker bees have accepted her as their queen and will attend to her every need as queens deserve, it seems. We install the worker bees into their new hive box, and we release the queen shortly after the installation process. 

An exception to the usual pattern happened this year. One of the queens was dead on arrival. We informed Mann Lake www.mannlakeltd.com, where we order our bee supplies and bees, and they shipped a new queen in overnight mail. She arrived as expected in her wooden compartment accompanied by 3 attendants.  Because the hive does not know her nor identify her by her pheromones’, they consider her an outsider and will mob her to kill her. Instead of a quick release, we set her safe in her wooden compartment into the hive, set securely between 2 frames. We leave her for approximately 3 days while the hive is learning to recognize her smell and identify her as their queen.

 I am writing this on the second day after installing her cage with attendants and her majesty into the queenless hive. Tomorrow I will open the hive and look at the bees on the outside of her wooden compartment to see if they are trying to feed her or if they act as if they will kill her when I release her. If I see them calm and nurturing, I will open her compartment so she may walk out to join her hive where she will live and lay eggs until her death.  We hope she will live at least 2 years. 

Successful beekeepers invest in the queens because a quality queen will lay 2,000 eggs/day.  The hive numbers need to expand to 60,000 bees in order for them to make enough honey for the beekeeper to lift off 60 lbs or more/hive in late summer.   

May 2023

We are welcoming 4 packages of new bees and 4 new queens to our apiary in the month of May. They will arrive in mid May in wood and screen boxes. To introduce them to their new home/hive, we first remove the metal can filled with sugar syrup that the bees could access during their trip to me in Holdrege, Nebraska then carefully pull out the small wooden/screen container for the queen and her attendants.  Introducing the bees to their home is a brief and rather rugged experience since we shake them out of their small wood traveling container and aim for them to drop down into the dark hive box where a frame of last year’s honey awaits them for their pleasure. They leave through the hole left from the feed can so the shaking continues until the majority of approximately 2 pounds of bees or 8,000 bees drops into their new home. We will attach  the small queen box to a frame inside the hive where the 8,000 bees will continue in their process of accepting the smell of their new queen. The introduction of the new queen to a package of bees takes several days because they need to accept her as their queen. In a few days we replace the cork plug on her small box with a miniature marshmallow and the bees will eat through the marshmallow to open her cage, and she walks out and the bees will hopefully welcome her and care for her.

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2022 – Bee Biz

photo by Don Brockmeier

Bee Biz - August 2022

It’s August, and work escalates for both the bees and the beekeeper. The bees are in the throes of collecting nectar, mixing, dehydrating, and storing honey for winter, whereas the beekeeper is researching the mite infestation hive by hive. The world has suffered a huge loss of honey production over several decades when the Varroa mite (Varroa destructor), originally a parasite of the Asian honeybee, gained the ability to infest the western honeybees commonly used for beekeeping.

But you can’t fight mites unless you know they’re there, so we are learning to count the mites in our hives.

The act of testing for Varroa mite infestation is almost comical.  I’m smiling as I describe the process we apply to determine the number of Varroa mites per hive.  To begin, we bought a simple plastic apparatus from Mann Lake Bee Supply consisting of a plastic insert punched with holes smaller than a bee, a clear plastic jar and a lid.

Oddly, Varroa mites lose their grip on the bees during a roll in powdered sugar, so we start by donning our bee suits, lighting up our smoker and pouring two tablespoons of powdered sugar into the canister. Then we open the hive and add several capfuls of bees into the insert, screw the lid on tightly, and gently roll the container to dust the bees in powdered sugar. We wait three minutes. 

The results are quickly apparent. As we gently shake the powdered sugar onto a shallow dish of water, the powder sugar dissolves and the tiny mites — live mites — float to the surface to be counted.  Too many mites per hive! We add “treat for mites” to our list of things to do after the honey harvest.

Lastly, the bees still drenched in powdered sugar and looking like ghost bees are returned to their hive.  They stumble about for a second or two then reclaim their home. It’s just one more thing in the beekeeper’s journey. Humans can’t make honey on their own so the only thing left is to take care of the bees that can.

Bee Biz - July 2022

It’s July, which means our hives are bursting at the seams with busy bees. According to www.drbeekeeper.com there are approximately 60,000 bees per hive, and now that summer is in full swing, they are almost endlessly tripping to flowers for nectar.

An average worker bee will produce 1/12 of a teaspoon of honey in her lifetime. So, it takes 12 worker bees to produce a single teaspoon of honey! To produce ½ lb. of honey it takes about 30,000 bees traveling 27,500 miles and visiting more than a million flowers to gather the nectar required.

Our habitat garden looks great, by the way, but I can’t wait to see what it will look like next month!

Bee Biz - June 2022

June and the numbers of bees increase exponentially.  We are checking hives to look for eggs and the white larvae nestled in uncapped cells (the beginning of baby bees.). 

Worker bees require between 19 and 22 days to fully develop. Drones need 24 days and queens about 16 days to emerge from the egg cell. The hive produces worker bees all through June so that upwards of 6,000 bees are ready for the nectar flow in July and August. 

We have a queen arriving soon, and we will split a successful hive to install the new queen in her own hive box. To split we steal 3-4 frames that are covered with nurse bees and include eggs and larvae. We lift these valuable frames out of the prosperous hive and replace them with empty frames then install the eggs and larvae into a box with the queen. 

She will be in a tiny wooden and screen case and cared for in the case by 3-4 adult bees. We will leave her and her attendants in her case for 3-4 days so that the bees can become accustomed to her smell and identify her as their queen. When released she will get busy and lay approximately 2,000 eggs/day.

The National Honey Board reports that Americans use of honey as a sweetener is up 25% because honey is more than a sweetener. Honey, a natural product made entirely by bees and manufactured by bees offers minerals, vitamins, acids, pro-biotics, enzymes, and organic compounds in every spoonful. A definition of Honey –  a complex super saturated liquid with 181 components holds true and cannot be replicated in a laboratory. 

Comparing honey to the same amount of sugar, honey will taste 1 ½ times sweeter, thereby use less honey to achieve the same sweet flavor as sugar or maple syrup or corn syrup and stevia and other sweeteners on the market.

The flavor of honey reflects the flowers within 1 ½ miles of the bee hive.  Have you tasted Buzz Savories honey yet?  Everyone who experiences our honey becomes a fan because the flavor is drawn from flowers growing in the Platte River valley including early spring  plum blossoms and chokecherry and elderberry to clover, alfalfa  and mints through the summer and then August – sunflowers and goldenrod. 

Eat well.

Bee Biz - May 2022

The month of May and the sun comes out to warm the air and the earth. Plums and chokecherries and mulberries and current bushes are  blooming. Honey bees are on the fly every day that temperatures climb above 50 Degrees, and the wind blows below 35 mph! 

Here at the Buzz Savories apiary, we restock hives that died out the winter of 2022 with packaged bees. We purchased a 3 lb.  package of Saskatraz bees + a queen from Mann Lake, a beekeeping supply company in Minnesota. Characteristics of Saskatraz bees include resistance to varroa mites and winter hardy. 

We bought 2 packages of bees from Gold Star bee company this spring. The Gold Star bees are labeled “mutt” bees meaning a very hardy mix of Russian, Italian, and Carniolan genetics with these characteristics:

  • Good pollinator.
  • Resistant to varroa mites.
  • Winter well in colder climates.

We measure success in the number of pounds of honey made between mid-May and mid-August.  Success depends upon hive populations.  The queen needs to lay over 6,000 eggs and the nurse bees care for 6,000 bees as they grow from a larva to an adult bee. Bees need to access enough nectar to make 30# of honey/hive. It takes 2 million flowers to make 1 lb. of honey adding specifics to the often used term, “busy as a bee.”

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