Category Archives: Uncategorized

Mid-summer nectar flows

The beekeeping season in Kentucky is changing, our spring/early summer nectar flow is ending, and hive checks are highly suggested. For non-Kentucky beekeepers, your nectar flow may still be on, if you are not sure about your local conditions, I suggest that you talk to other beekeepers, your bee inspector, or university beekeeping extension specialist. (Note: I also live in central Kentucky.)

I recently received the following question from a Central Kentucky beekeeper.

A Kentucky beekeeper asks:

Checked several of my hives for honey today. What do you think we found? Girls are all bottoms up and eating their honey? Need your expertise regarding current honey production in central KY. Rain, what’s it doing? What’s out there to eat right now? Would appreciate your observations.

Phil’s reply:
I think the nectar flow in Central Kentucky is now greatly reduced, compared to what we have been seeing earlier in the summer. I had suspected this, and last Monday (July 13th) at the Blue Grass Beekeeper’s Assoc. a number of other beekeepers told me that they had similar observations.

There is some white clover still blooming, and possibly other flowers, not just much nectar coming in. What the bees are collecting is largely due to the recent rain, and the landscape is still very green. The recent rain has not appeared to be interfering with foraging, we have mostly seen thundershowers in Kentucky, not all day steady rain.

Your comment about bees eating what is in the supers is a good warning for beekeepers. If they have honey in the supers, my opinion is to harvest it, then feed if necessary. However, decisions on to feed, or not to feed, should be made on checking the hive, either by pulling dome frames, or ‘hefting’ the hive. Hives should have the equivalent of 3-4 deep frames of honey, or 3-4 deep frames.

Burt Behind Natural Cosmetics Maker Burt’s Bees Dies At 80

When I give presentations on marketing honey and other products from the hive, I use the story of Burt’s Bees as an example of making money from bees, and the importance of marketing. While being as successful as Burt Shavitz and Roxanne Quimby does not happen every day. I have known a number of beekeepers who turned their hobby into a nice side income.

From The Associated Press, July 6, 2015
Burt Shavitz, the Burt behind Burt’s Bees who co-founded the natural cosmetics company, died Sunday. He was 80. A spokeswoman for Burt’s Bees said in an emailed statement Shavtiz died of respiratory complications in Bangor, Maine, surrounded by family and friends. Shavitz is known for being a character from the backwoods of Maine, but he grew up around New York, served in the Army in Germany and shot photos for Time-Life before leaving the city. He was a hippie making a living by selling honey when his life was altered by a chance encounter with a hitchhiking Roxanne Quimby. See below link for the rest of the AP article.

http://www.npr.org/2015/07/06/420445744/the-burt-behind-natural-cosmetics-maker-burts-bees-dies-at-80?sc=17&f=1001&utm_source=iosnewsapp&utm_medium=Email&utm_campaign=app

For some additional links about Burt’s Bees Continue reading

Follow-up question about oxalic acid post

This is a question, and my reply, that I received as a result of my June 20th post regarding the registration of oxalic acid as a varroa mite control product. I appreciate the question, as I have been hearing a great amount of discussion among beekeepers on how to avoid purchasing a labeled product by mixing up the chemical themselves.

A beekeeper in Kentucky writes,

Phil,

Myself and others have been referred to Amazon.com to purchase oxalic acid, since the bee supply companies can’t sell it in most states yet. The problem is, CAS# 144-62-7, or Oxalic acid dihydrate (the crystalline form), not wood bleach, is marketed online as being 99% pure. So I was very surprised to read from you that the approved solution for bees is 3%. I don’t think very many people are aware of that. Any suggestions?

Thanks,

Phil’s reply

I am sure that a number of U.S. beekeepers have been using oxalic acid for years, just as many have been using (and I’m certain some still do) homemade formulations of formic acid. Though purchasing and using non-labeled forms of either chemical for varroa mite control is illegal, the employees of state pesticide departments are very busy monitoring the application of legal pesticides, and it is rare for a beekeeper, especially a small scale beekeeper, to be cited for what we call off-label pesticide use. However, the odds of getting caught are not the only consideration.

The issue you inquire about, of getting chemicals in a proper, safe, and effective concentration, is one of the major reasons for pesticide labeling regulation. Before a product can be registered, a great deal of research goes into determining the optimum concentration and method of application for both safety and effectiveness. I have heard horror stories of beekeepers burning off the tips of their fingers or damaging their lungs while handling full strength formic acid. Continue reading

Beekeepers aiding beekeepers!

I have a longtime former Kentucky beekeeping friend, Toni Downs, who is traveling to Uganda later this year to assist beekeepers there. Many of you may know Toni, perhaps through HAS, or EAS, she has been active with both for many years. I know the help that beekeepers can give to other beekeepers, and I applaud Toni in giving her time, resources, and effort to make this trip. As many of you may know, in 2012 I made a similar trip to Bangladesh. However, my trip was funded by the U.S. government, I was a U.S. Aid volunteer. Toni is making this trip without government aid, or help from a large foundation. Please take the time to read the below note about Toni’s upcoming trip, and if you can, give her some assistance. Donations can be made through gofundme, or by contacting Toni directly. As they always say, any donation helps. If you go to the gofundme website, you will see that I am supporting her beyond passing on this message to you.

TD trip June15

Toni Downs, a former Kentucky beekeeper living in the Virgin Islands, is planning a beekeeping trip to Uganda this year. She has been corresponding with a member of a group there and has planned to make a 5-week trip to visit them this August/September. This is a personally-funded trip and she has been fund raising for a few months, including co-hosting a Honey Tasting on April 30 in St. Croix. Funds raised are at 40% of goal, but there are only weeks left before the trip! Continue reading

June 27 beekeeping class, instruction by Phil Craft

Due to the interest of the proposal of a third session of our Beyond Beginning Beekeeping course, we will hold this session on June 27th, at the University of Kentucky Ecological Research Center in Lexington.

Cick here to download information about the course, including location, start time, etc. You must pre-register, there will be no at the door registration, but there is still space available. to guarantee a spot in the class you need to email me, request a registration form, complete the form, and return it, along with payment.

This is an intermediate level beekeeping course, not a beginning course. Later in the fall, November or December, we will commence beginning beekeeping courses.

Beekeeping classes by the University of Kentucky’s Ecological Research and Education Center (EREC) and Phil Craft.

I’m working with the University of Kentucky’s Ecological Research and Education Center to conduct beekeeping courses this spring. Classes will be held in Lexington. I’ll be doing all of the instruction, and class sizes will be kept small (40 maximum).

On Saturday (February 24th), we’ll have an all-day beginners’ course, and in April an advanced course. There is still room in the beginner course for additional participants. See: Course information. All those attending the beginner class will receive a free copy of the beginner beekeeping primer First Lessons in Beekeeping, by Dr. Keith Delaplane, and will have an opportunity to purchase nucs or packages of bees at a discount.

Additional information regarding the advance class will be available soon. Let me know if you wish to receive more information on the advanced course as it becomes available.

12″ of snow on the ground today

Need I say more. Not spring yet, maybe in a couple of weeks?

__6WinterFeb15Converted

Checked hives today – they are ALL alive!

It was warm enough today to take the covers, and inner covers, off my hives today, and to observe what it looks like inside my hives. I call this popping lids, the earliest spring beekeeping activity I do. Yeah, i know, it is not really spring, but it was about 50 ͦf, and bees were flying to my bee water supply. I DID NOt pull frames, this check is only to see what hives are alive, and to get an idea of colony strength. I do this by noting the size of the cluster, in the top box. Typically, this time of year, the bees have moved into the top box.

All colonies reported to be alive and well! No winter losses, so far, but they looked OK.

Sometimes we can be fooled as to whether a colony is alive or not by bees flying from the hive. I ask beekeepers: are they flying “in and out”, or “out and back  in”? There is a difference. By observing the cluster, I know my girls are all flying out and back in.

I also placed a winter patty, which I had purchased from the local Dadant branch, on the top bars of the op box. This is similar to bee candy, and will give them a boost, if food stores are low.

Finally, I warn new beekeepers about opening hives and pulling frames very early in the spring. There is the danger of disturbing the cluster, and little to learn. Hold off on pulling frames until we get extended periods of above 60 ͦ F weather. It will come, I hope soon.

 

Beekeeping class in Lexington, KY – Instruction by Phil Craft

In cooperation with the University of Kentucky’s Ecological Research and Education Center (EREC), a one day beginning beekeeping class will be held on February 28th (Saturday), in Lexington, Kentucky. All instruction will be provided by Phil Craft. Registration will be limited to 40 participants, and pre-registration is required. The class will cover:

A brief introduction to honey bee biology and behavior: Beekeepers manage their colonies through an understanding of basic honey biology. The course begins with these fundamentals.

How beekeepers keep bees: Beekeeping is much more than getting a hive and some bees and placing them in your backyard. Even though our grandfathers may have done it that way, modern beekeeping requires management – much like keeping other, larger livestock. Beekeepers must monitor, and sometimes intervene, to keep their bees healthy and productive. This phase of the course offers an overview of what this management involves.

An introduction to beekeeping equipment: The first step in owning your own hive is the purchase of the hive itself, along with protective clothing, and a few other pieces of essential equipment. This portion of the course will demonstrate the equipment and provide information on where it can be purchased, and estimated start-up costs.

Getting started as a beekeeper: Once you know the basics, you’ll need to know where to get bees, and how to go about setting up a hive. We’ll cover where to locate a hive, where to purchase bees, and how to install them.
• 1st year hive management: The final section of instruction will be an overview of management issues, including potential problems which may arise in the first year of beekeeping.

Question & answer session: Before we disperse for the day, you will have an opportunity to ask additional questions in an informal question/answer session.

The course will be held from 9:00 AM to 4:30 PM at the University of Kentucky’s Ecological Research and Education Center (EREC) at 1737 Russell Cave Road in Lexington. Find out more about EREC at http://darwin.uky.edu/~erec/.

Course material provided will include handouts, the beginner beekeeping primer First Lessons in Beekeeping, by Dr. Keith Delaplane, and Phil’s contact information for follow-up questions and opportunities for future instruction.

The course fee is $40; pre-registration is required; class size will be limited to 40 participants. Contact Phil for at phil@philcrafthivecraft.com for a registration form, or for more information.

Winter loss of colonies – dead bees and why did my bees die?

It is finally looking like spring at my old Kentucky home, bees are flying, a lot of blooming underway, bees are bringing in nectar and pollen, and I am putting honey supers on my hives. However, I continue to receive questions about colonies lost this past winter. Winter is rough on bees, winter colony losses occur in hives in nature (trees), as well as in managed colonies. Our role as honey bee shepherds, or beekeepers, is to help our bees survive better than in nature. 

Below are a couple of photos of what beekeepers often see when opening colonies that have died out in winter. The first (below) shows dead bees with their head down in the cells.


 

Dead bees in that position indicate starvation, even though there was stored honey elsewhere in the hive. The other is a very small, baseball sized cluster of dead bees.


I’m certain that the low population contributed to the colony’s final demise. It is not unusual to see clusters of starved bees, in the winter or early spring, inches from honey.

When I speak to beekeepers about helping our bees get ready for winter, I talk about three major issues: 1 – numbers of bees, 2- food stores, and 3 – colony health. Continue reading