<![CDATA[Illinois State Beekeepers Association - Blog - Front Porch]]>Sat, 13 Feb 2016 05:14:06 -0600Weebly<![CDATA[What can we learn from our friends in Poland about beekeeping?]]>Fri, 18 Jul 2014 10:13:46 GMThttp://www.ilsba.com/blog---front-porch/what-can-we-learn-from-our-friends-in-poland-about-beekeeping

In Poland, my friend Edward keeps about thirty hives thriving on his farm. During a tour, he shows me that his bees are bringing in a lot of honey during this lovely summer day.

One of Edward's keys to success is to constantly be raising queens for the eventual splits, swarms and necessary re- queening of his hives.

Our language barrier prevented me from asking him about varroa mites, but I suspect the mites don't get a chance to infest his hives as he is at the apiary daily.

Edward and I compared notes on production quality. We discussed comb honey and top-bar frames (see my blog post on this at http://www.lincolnlandbeekeepers.com/blog---around-the-hive/are-you-experimenting-with-top-bar-frames).

He was very interested in this method as well as how we cover our hives on movable frame hives.

Beyond out love for beekeeping, We also shared our love for scraping together scrap wood and (in his case, tar paper for roofing) to construct solid hive-bodies for the bees.

I thoroughly enjoyed my visit with Edward. His excitement and knowledge were what you expect in looking at his bee yard. His pride in handing me a jar of his and his bee's delicious efforts was not disappointing!

The Poles like to cream their honey, which is what you are seeing here. And Edward likes to re-use jars as much a I do!

<![CDATA[80% of Life Is Just Showing Up:  Woody Allen Was Never A Beekeeper]]>Thu, 10 Apr 2014 16:08:58 GMThttp://www.ilsba.com/blog---front-porch/80-of-life-is-just-showing-up-woody-allen-was-never-a-beekeeperPicture
Let's try 25%.
If you've heard this expression, supposedly attributed to Woody Allen, you know he was never a beekeeper.

Personally, I lost 6 out of 8 hives.  Many of my beekeeper colleagues here in Sangamon County lost 60% or better.

Strangely, I was sad for our little creatures more than I thought I would be....more than if they had simply swarmed.  Probably because I felt I could've done a better job preparing them for winter, leaving more food on the hive, or throwing a few more bales of hay around the hive for a wind-break.

Picturecandy board hardly consumed
A Hard Lesson Learned.

So what would I have done differently?  What will I do differently in preparation for Winter 2014-15?

1. Make More Fall Combinations.
The first colonies I lost during the "Winter Vortex,"
or as my friend Dave calls it:  "1970's Winters," were those with lower populations.  While I didn't count the bees, I knew their numbers were a little short going into the fall.  But they were otherwise healthy, and with the good October/November weather and some feeding, thought their numbers would be sufficient to make it through the winter.
I wish I had combined those two colonies into one.  Then my percentage might be up to 50% (sort of).

2. Feed Earlier.
If I could have those warm days of November back, I would have put more feed on the hives.  Candy boards were not enough.  Or, more likely, it was too d#$n cold for our bees to get to the boards.  Two of my hives that died out had access to candy boards, but these were not consumed.

3.  More Wind Breaks.
The two hives that did make it were on the southwest side of my property, nestled in a tree line facing east.  Both had decent wind breaks.  With wind-chills in the -20 range, this helped these two survive the cut.
  What I thought was good enough for at least one other hive wasn't.  That particular hive had food and population, and were flying during one of the short warm days in January.  But the late, long winter and high winds were too much for them.  If I had put in a break, it may have helped.

Things Done Right.
Two colonies made it.  So what was done right?

I mentioned earlier that the two surviving hives had adequate population, food stores and positioning (wind-break). 

The other thing these hives had was good mouse guards.  There were mice
UNDER one of these two hives, but not IN the hive bodies.  And if you've ever had mice in your hive, you know they can wreck a lot of havoc with the frames and wax, not to mention all the feces and urine they leave behind.  It's my guess that if I hadn't put proper protections in place, I'd have lost at least one more hive due to rodent invasion.

The Good News.
The good news in all of this is that we are hoping the severe winter knocked back some of the varroa population as well as it knocked back our bees. 

Accordingly, it's time to rebuild.  I'll take these two, hardy-stock hives and make some splits.  I'm hoping the genetics of cold-hardiness will translate into good stock for the future.  Plus, these two hives are good producers as well.  Both came from swarms (my others did too, by the way).

Finally, in my neighbor's tree, about 30 feet up, is a feral colony.
  I worried about that darn colony all winter long.  Imagine my delight when I saw that these girls made it through the winter as well.  No help from me.  No extra feed, no extra wind-break; mouse guard of 30 feet!  I'm hoping they swarm next month to my neighborhood.

Until next time, stay sweet!

<![CDATA[My Top Honey Products (and the 1 that surprised me the most!).]]>Fri, 07 Feb 2014 04:50:42 GMThttp://www.ilsba.com/blog---front-porch/my-top-honey-products-and-the-1-that-surprised-me-the-mostPicture
In recent weeks I've scoured my garage for bits of wax to send to my grand-niece for candle-making.  In due course, I ran across some older photos of some of the fine wax art that appeared at our local bee club (Lincoln Land Beekeepers Assoc), which our talented members had crafted.  This got me to thinking about my top five honey bee products.  So here are the top five in descending order, along with the one that surprised me the most in preparation for this post.

I'm curious to know what your favorites will be and look forward to your comments.

#5.  Jar Honey.  When extracting honey for my family, friends or customers, I think about how much people enjoy this fine food.  And I hope they will appreciate all that our little insect friends do to produce such a wonderful treat to our taste buds. 

I consume a lot of honey, and give away a lot as well.  So I rated this one as number 5, since the other items below are unique or new or surprising.  Then again, this could easily be number 1!

#4. Bees Wax.  As mentioned above, I am fascinated by the lovely art and methods of my talented friends who can patiently torture such lovely images.  From wax candles to wax replicas of roses and bee keeping equipment, my friends Fred and Carolyn have some truly remarkable displays.  I can barely pour clean wax into a jar with a taper daubed in it without making a mess.  Just look at these beautiful items!

#3.  Honey Pearls. Most surprising, this honey product is a new take on crystallized honey.  In short, it's more like dehydrated, crystallized honey.  Here's the product description from the manufacturer.  "Honey Pearls® are 100% natural and containing no artificial flavors or additives. Honey Pearls® add the delicate sweetness of honey to your cup with the convenience of sugar. At only 12 calories per teaspoon serving, our crystallized honey can adorn your coffee or tea cup every day!" 

I was introduced to these little packets at a conference I recently attended in Texas.  Pleasantly surprising, 
Honey Pearls were a welcome relief from white sugar and aspartame.  Using a few packets, I could taste the honey in these little grains of sweetness, albeit faintly.

I'm going to buy a larger supply and see if I like it more regularly.  I'm curious if there's a method to make this type of product at home.

These are closely related to #2, below, which can be made at home....

#2.  Honey Caviar.  Ok, here's the link for you from Cookistry to make these.  I doubt you can come up with a way to sell these delightful honey products, but the process for making these looks simple and I aim to give it a try.

I'll let you know how it turned out in my next blog.

#1.  Comb Honey.  No surprise here, but I enjoy eating honey in the comb.  Honey in the comb is a thing of art all on its own.  As you can see here, this artist combined her talents with that of her bees!

Comb honey to me is the highest product line we can offer to our friends and customers.  An offering of purity and sweetness and beauty that cannot be improved upon (even with Abe's portrait).    As much as I like and consume and share "jar" honey, I get out the comb honey for special occasions, like when my daughter Cordelia makes biscuits from scratch.  These deserve something special, and I have just the thing to top off those biscuits.

<![CDATA[A Brief Glimpse Into the Past]]>Sat, 01 Feb 2014 02:39:41 GMThttp://www.ilsba.com/blog---front-porch/a-brief-glimpse-into-the-pastEver wondered what was going on 90 years ago?   You can get a glimpse in to the past of the Illinois State Beekeepers Association by reading an annual report from 1924. 

The Secretary was M.G. Dadant (the person who compiled the report).  There were 30 affiliated associations and it appears what is now called Illiana was named the "Illinois & Indiana Beekeepers' Association".

The 1924 Annual Meeting was a 2 day event held at the St. Nicholas Hotel in Springfield, Il.  Among some of the presenters of papers or lectures were C.P. Dadant and Hubert H Root.

Each association submitted and/or presented a report.

The name and address of every ISBA member was listed at the end of the report.   

If you want to learn more, click on the report below to open it up in a PDF reader on your computer or smart device.
Many thanks to the individuals who had the foresight to ensure the document was preserved and archived.
<![CDATA[Training Classes Are Being Scheduled]]>Thu, 02 Jan 2014 04:15:49 GMThttp://www.ilsba.com/blog---front-porch/training-classes-are-being-scheduledIf you have not checked out the Education & Reference page tab or the Summary of Events page tab recently, you should do so.  There is a new sub page to the Education & Reference page called Classes but a more comprehensive list is contained on the Summary of Events page.

As information is forwarded to the webmaster (Steve Petrilli) concerning classes, will be posted.   You can send the information to s.petrilli@comcast.net
<![CDATA[The New Catalogs Are Here!  Planning for 2014]]>Tue, 31 Dec 2013 20:33:06 GMThttp://www.ilsba.com/blog---front-porch/the-new-catalogs-are-here-planning-for-2014 Picture
New Year's Eve is here, but who cares about that when you have new Bee Keeping Catalogs to browse through!

I got two this week alone, along with some from the fruit growers and seed companies.   Lots to look through and many decisions to make in the next few cold weeks. As I reviewed my catalogs these last few cold days, I made a list of items I'd like to order, along with ideas I want to implement in 2014.

For example, I am going to order a drone board this year, so I can stay ahead of the Varroa mites.  Several of my colleagues have told me this is a good working solution to keeping the mites (and drones) in check.

Am I prepared for 2014's Growth?
This year the bees gave me a fair harvest.  However, I was worried that the girls would produce what they did last year, and I wasn't ready. I was quickly borrowing processing supplies from my fellow club members and bee buddies.  So this year, it's time to get out the hive tool and pry open my wallet to get an extractor and hot knife.  Every year I say I'm going to do it, but every year, my fiscally conservative Scrooge overtakes my ghost of Christmas present. 

It's highly unlikely I'll make one, unless I want one that doesn't work, but I may be looking for a used one or just treat myself to a new extractor.

Back-ups for Your Sanity.
The other item I want to get is a few back-up hive tools.  I keep losing mine! 

I use both versions of hive tools.  There are advantages to both, but again, having a backup is worth it to me, along with a pair of alligator pliers.

There are other "back-ups" I am looking to add to my collection, as I have bees at my house and my farm.  So having a smoker and veil in both places is important to me.

Bee Trix: Dummy Cords for Inventive Beekeepers
As part of this blog, I'd like to post some tricks and tips with every column.

Here's the first: 
When I was in the Army, I would take an extra boot lace and tie one end to my rifle and the other end to my belt loop or suspenders.  I'm thinking I may want to do that with my hive tool (especially the new ones!), using a hook and cord tied to my belt with the other end tied to my hive tool. 

Bee Trix for 2014.  As with all beekeepers, we all have our tricks and tips.  Feel free to share these on this blog.  Many of you have your secrets that you love to whisper out loud to the rest of us. 

Last year I learned about swarm traps, candy boards and ways to reduce winter moisture, among many others.  Please feel free to email me your Bee Trix to lowell1500@gmail.com  Please put Bee Trix in the subject line.  Include a photo if possible.  I'll credit you if you like.

Until next time, I hope you enjoy this blog.

<![CDATA[Candy Board]]>Wed, 21 Nov 2012 12:32:47 GMThttp://www.ilsba.com/blog---front-porch/candy-boardWith colder weather setting in, you should have stopped feeding your bees any liquids by now.  If you still have feeders, you probably notice the bees do not take much when the night time temperature plunges and they cluster.

Did you check the weight of the colonies the last time you were at your hive(s)?  Even if the hive(s) are not light, it is still a good idea to furnish each colony with a candy board.    It may prevent your bees from "starving to death"  even though there may be many frames of honey just inches away from the cluster.

There are several recipies for the "candy" in candy boards.   Do an internet search to get more information on construction of the candy board, the recipe for the candy or where to buy them if you prefer not to or do not have the time to make them.

The candy board  (candy side down) will replace the inner cover on the hive.   You can quickly check it every 3 weeks or so to see if it has been consumed and needs to be replaced.   So it is a good idea to have one spare board to give to a colony which has consumed all the candy on the board you previously put on the colony.]]>
<![CDATA[Mouse Guards / Entrance Reducers]]>Mon, 22 Oct 2012 12:44:58 GMThttp://www.ilsba.com/blog---front-porch/mouse-guards-entrance-reducersIf you have not done so already, you should consider installing a mouse guard / entrance reducer on your hive(s).  There are not too many nice days left before the weather is scheduled to get a lot cooler here in Illinois.  So take advantage of a 60 degree or 70 degree sunny day in Illinois to check your colonies and while you are at it, install a mouse guard / entrance reducer.]]><![CDATA[Drones being evicted]]>Fri, 28 Sep 2012 19:23:14 GMThttp://www.ilsba.com/blog---front-porch/drones-being-evictedReceived reports of drones being run out of colonies here in central Illinois.]]><![CDATA[Taking Stock]]>Wed, 26 Sep 2012 17:45:40 GMThttp://www.ilsba.com/blog---front-porch/taking-stockIf you have not done so already, you need to take stock of what you have on hand to get your colonies ready for winter.  If you need anything, then you need to built it or purchase it so it is available when you need it.

Items such as a wind break on the North and West sides of a hive if it does not already have one is important.

Mouse guards.  

Do you proactively treat for Nosema Apis?  If so, do you have the medication on hand?

Candy boards will ensure the hive does not starve (but do not put them on now).

If you have a varroa problem, then you may want to initiate a treatment for varroa as soon as you get your honey supers off and treat per the directions of whatever medication you utilize (such as Api-Guard).

Do you shut off your screen bottom boards?  Some bee keepers do, some do not.

Do you have sufficient paramoth crystals to protect your stored honey supers until next year?

What do you do which is not mentioned above?