This week’s theme is beekeeping equipment

You might have seen the Bee Smart puzzle yesterday was about beekeeping equipment.  Every week I pick a new topic not just for the puzzle, but for the website as well.  In my post for this week, I’ll continue on that topic to chat about  something to do with beekeeping equipment.

First of all, beekeeping equipment is a pretty comprehensive subject.  It contains everything from hive parts and safety head to beekeeping tools and the pest management things we implement in the hives.  Not to mention the materials we use to make and implement in those tools and items.

That last, the materials, is what I want to mention today.  From the fuel we use in our smokers to the liquid we put in beetle traps, there is such a variety that it can take days, even weeks to cover just those.

Some are toxic, others are not.  The features are myriad.  All are chosen by the individual beekeeper for their perceived or real results.  Like smoker fuel.  Some of the most informative, fun and still divisive at times is what materials we burn in a beekeeping smoker.

Pine needles, cow chips, burlap, dried grass, cigar smoke, mesquite.  There are possibly dozens more items and combinations of them that beekeepers use.  Perhaps there are just as many reasons.

My personal favorite is to make a little bundle of mostly dry pine needles wrapped in burlap.  My own reasoning is that I have always found pine needles to have the most calming effect on bees here in my neck of the woods (Omaha, NE).  I wrap them in burlap to help keep the smoker smoldering, especially in case I make my most common error and stuff too many pine needles in and choke off the burning before it can “take”.  My burlap wrapped pine needle bundles give me the best of both worlds.

I have beekeeper amigos in the American South/South-West who swear by cow chips or misquote, or both.  I know some fellas, and a couple women, who grew up with mentors who showed them how to just fire up an aromatic cigar and blow the cigar smoke effectively into the hive.

Smoker smoke should be a cool smoke, that is, not too hot at a distance of about 6 – 12 inches away from the smoker.  Smoke that is too hot agitates instead of pacifies bees.  Ideally, in my own experience anyway, smoke should be dense and thick.  Thin, wispy, smoke in my opinion is not usually as effective.  The more dense the smoke, the less that is required to be used.  When it comes to using smoke, less is more when craftfully applied.

The materials we burn in a smoker most assuredly should not have a toxic, paralyzing or “drugged” effect on the bees.  If you have bees dying, freezing in place, or acting abnormally, check that smoker fuel quick!

Beekeepers use our smokers to pacify bees (somewhat) and to “herd” them out of the way while inspecting or moving hive parts around.  We also use them to cover the alarm pheromones released when bees sting us or our gear to minimize the attention from a potentially growing number of bees tracking us.  Why have bees sting and die unnecessarily.  It only needlessly leads to greater consternation, more dead bees and higher levels colony distress.

Well folks, it’s time for me to wrap this up.  Feel free to post questions and comments in the comments area here or in the Bee Smart forums.  Yeah, I know it’s slow in there, but hey, start up a topic and that will help pick things up.

Bee real

Prepwork For Packages

So, you bought bee packages and your finalizing your beekeeping planning to get a good running start when they get here.  Love it!  You rock!

Now, by now you’ve probably been wondering about how many boxes you need to have ready for your hive stack.  Someone tells you you don’t need a lot, these are packages after all and everyone knows that package bees don’t produce surplus honey the first year.  Except when they do…

When it comes to bees, I like to hedge my bets and quote James Bond.  “Never say never.”  Bees have a funny way of changing our minds for us.  They also have this ornery tendency to not follow “the rules” even though the books clearly state they should do something or not do it in general.

Bee colonies live in a constant state of flux.  They move in fluid synchronization with Nature, taking the lead from the environment around them.

Because bee colonies are so tied to the environment, I prefer to think of things not in terms of possibilities but in probabilities.  It’s possible that a package bee colony can produce a bumper crop in it’s first year though it usually is a low probability.  There are a lot of typical factors to inhibit the likelihood.

At the same time, given the right circumstances, the environmental factors could set up to increase that probability greatly.

How does this go with having enough boxes?  I believe that like bullets, you can never have enough hive boxes, just in case the probabilities change and the bees change your mind for you.

Better to have them and not need them than need them and not have them.  It’s one of those paranoid best practices things.  So there’s nothing wrong with being a good bee scout and always being prepared.

When that odd season comes along and changes those probabilities on you, you’ll bee glad you did.

You Bee You

Big Bear is talking about his goal as a professional apiarist, beekeeping coach and instructor to help beekeepers bee successful on their own terms.

My job is to help people bee better.  By that I mean to facilitate successful beekeeping through education, skills training, access to useful resources, and experienced assistance. My goal is …

Source: You Bee You

Nosema ceranae: Kiss of Death or Much Ado about Nothing? @ Scientific Beekeeping

Here at the Bee Smart beekeeping project, it is one of our goals to help facilitate a successful beekeeping experience.  Being that here in the U.S. are coming into our Spring season, if not already then very soon, it’s time to start looking at the things which can cause bee colonies to die at this point after having made it so far through the Winter.

Note that there are two most widely known types of Nosema, Nosema apis which has been here for a very long time, and Nosema ceranae which is the newer kid on the block of the two but every bit the troublemaker.

The linked article below by Randy Oliver at scientificbeekeeping.com makes a terrific presentation of the situation which rather than trying to re-invent the wheel, we’d rather just point you in the direction of the wheel.

Randy mentions a chemical treatment in the article for situations calling for treatments in IPM plans that include such types of treatments.  However, Organic/treatment-free beekeepers want to pay very close attention to the things that can be done to help prevent Nosema from taking hold in the colony.

If you’d like to find out where the Beehooligans stand on dealing with Nosema after reading this article, head on over to our Forums on this website and sign up then browse through the sections and see where the discussion is.

This is more than a mere academic debate, as beekeepers worldwide are forced to make expensive management decisions, including very expensive antibiotic treatment and the sterilization of contaminated combs.

Source: Nosema ceranae: Kiss of Death or Much Ado about Nothing? @ Scientific Beekeeping