Sunday, July 6, 2014

Brushy Mountain's "Back to the Basics" July

Back to the Basics: Bearding

Hot and humid weather is hard on the bees during the summer months. Honey Bees can only do so much to help regulate the hive temperature at 90-95 Degrees Fahrenheit. When the colony is at its max population and internal hive temperatures continue to rise, clusters of bees will try to escape the heat of the hive and hang out at the entrance of the hive. This can be misinterpreted as swarming when in fact it is bearding.
Why do bees beard?

When you find bees clustering or hanging at the entrance of the hive, they are bearding. This gives the appearance of the hive having a beard. Some colonies will cover the entrance where others will hang from the bottom board. Colonies will create these beards outside the hive when the inside becomes overcrowded, hive lacks ventilation, or temperatures become too high. Honey Bees typically do this to help maintain the brood nest temperature. Brood requires a certain temperature and will not survive if it becomes too hot or too cold.

How do bees regulate the hive temperature during Summer and how can Beekeepers help?

Have you ever seen a bee at the entrance of the hive beating her wings but not taking flight?She is fanning the hive. Bees will collect water to use for evaporative cooling. Bees will face away from the entrance of the hive and begin fanning. The airflow that is created from the bees beating their wings will evaporate the water droplets throughout the hive. Whenever you find bees fanning at the entrance, know that there are many more inside fanning as well.

Bees can only do so much to reduce the heat in the brood nest. Beekeepers must provide sufficient ventilation for the hive. Here are some tips and tricks for beekeepers to help fight the summer heat:

Nothing can beat a screened bottom board. Airflow is able to move up through bottom board and can significantly help with hive temperature. The screened bottom board is only useful if the screen is left open. Be sure to remove the corrugated sheet used for mite counts.

Ventilate the top as well as the bottom with a ventilated inner cover.Heat rises and the ventilated inner cover offers the space the heat needs to escape. The inner cover props up the hive top allowing airflow to move up and through the hive.

Open up the hive entrance. Larger entrances are better for the summer heat. This provides more fanning space and less congestion for incoming bees.

Allow for more bee space by reducing the number of frames. Consider using 9 frames in your 10 frame hive or 7 in your 8. This will open up space between the frames and better ventilate your hive.

Give your hive some shade. Provide a source of shade especially if the hive is in direct sunlight during the entire day. The sun beating down on the hive makes it difficult for the bees to maintain hive temperature. Open up your upper entrance. This small vent will allow heat to escape the hive and provides an alternate entrance/exit for your bees.

Use light color paint for your hives. Dark colors will absorb heat while lighter colors will reflect the sun’s heat.

Have a reliable source of water near your bee yard. Bees can use up to a quart of water during a hot day to keep the hive cool. Keep the water supply filled and in a shaded area.

Summer heat will keep the bees constantly working to maintain the hive temperature and reduces the number of bees able to forage for nectar and pollen. Help the bees regulate hive temperature and give them a stronger field force to bring in the feed they need. 


Saturday, July 5, 2014

Brushy Mountain's Question of the Month: July

Question of the Month: Extracting 

This is the time of year when beekeepers are pulling off honey supers and uncapping their frames to extract. Beekeepers always want to know the best way to uncap their frames and what size extractor they will need. This deals with many personal decisions that we cannot make for you, however, here is some ‘food for thought’.

Let’s start with uncapping. The number of frames you are uncapping and the time you want to spend during this step is dependent upon the method you should proceed with. 

Using a Cappings Scratcher is an easy method to work small sections of capped honey at one time. Slide the forks underneath the comb at a horizontal angle and lift vertically to remove cappings. Many beekeepers will scrap the forks against the comb to open the cells.Please note this damages the comb and requires more cleanup from your bees.

A Cold/Hot Knife will slice away larger sections of capped honey from the frame. Place at a slight angle along the top and move down the frame in a sawing motion. Be careful not to ‘dig’ into the comb or tear apart the frame. The Cold Knife has a serrated blade and can stick if not kept clean. The Hot Knife is temperature sensitive and will melt away the wax. Preheat before use. A Cappings Scratcher may be needed for unevenly drawn out sections of the frame.

The Rolling Uncapper will roll over the capped honey and pierce the cappings. Allow the cappings to be pierced by pulling or pushing the Rolling Uncapper parallel to the frame. Do not push roller into the frame. Clean central bar if roller begins to resist in rotating.

If time is of importance, the Sideliner Uncapper is a quick and easy method. Run your frames through the roller blades and both sides of your frame will be uncapped. This does not require you to hold the frame and all the debris is caught in the container underneath the sideliner uncapper. A Cappings Scratcher may be needed for unevenly drawn out sections of the frame.

Let’s discuss extractors. Beekeepers new to the hobby are always excited about their first extraction but are unsure on how to proceed. Do I need an extractor? What size extractor should I get? Which is better, hand cranked or powered? There are three main questions you need to ask yourself and the answers will point to the extractor that best fits you.

How many hives do intend to have?
You do not want to outgrow the extractor. You may have five or ten hives currently but you are expecting to expand your bee yard to thirty hives. By the time you reach your thirty hives you do not want to look back and wish you got the bigger extractor.

What is your budget?<br> Let’s be realistic, an extractor is a large investment. There are different alternatives if an extractor isn’t in your budget. You may be able to borrow/rent an extractor from your local bee association; you can uncap and let the honey drain from the frames; you can strain your comb through cheese cloth; other methods are available. 

How do you value your time?
Extracting is not a ten minute process that will happen in an afternoon. Each extractor will hold an allotted amount of frames. The more frames an extractor will hold the less cycles you will need to run to extract the honey from the frames. Do you have time to run through thirty extractions on a compact extractor or would it be beneficial for you to run six on an 21-frame extractor.

We have developed a Extracting Chart that shows the amount of time needed to extract with each extractor. The time depicted is for running extractor and does not include time needed for uncapping, loading, unloading, and any other actions needed for extracting.

Time consumption for the extraction depends on the Extractor being tangential or radial. Tangential extractors seat frames parallel to the center and only extract one side during the spin cycle. Radial extractors seat frames perpendicular to the center and will extract both sides at once.

Anticipate the numbers you will have in the future before you purchase the extracting equipment you need. 

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

July Meeting BeeBQ...

Hampden County Beekeepers’ July Meeting

When: Thursday July 17th
Starting at 5:30pm

Where:  Willimanset Heights Improvement League (WHIL)
118 Mount Vernon Rd.
Chicopee, MA 01013

Our first BeeBQ Pot Luck Picnic of 2014!

Hampden County Beekeepers’ July Meeting

When: Thursday July 17th
Starting at 5:30pm

Where:  Willimanset Heights Improvement League (WHIL)
118 Mount Vernon Rd.
Chicopee, MA 01013

Our first BeeBQ Pot Luck Picnic of 2014!

Come one and all!  It’s our first BeeBQ of the summer!  We’ll start earlier than usual so we can take advantage of maximum daylight.  The club will provide hamburgers and hot dogs, soft drinks and water.  The rest of us can pitch in by bringing a side, salad or dessert.  Time to bust out your favorite summer recipes!  Please let me know what you plan to bring when you RSVP.

We will also need a Grill Master!  Last year, club president Jeff Rys handled the grill duty, so this year’s volunteer will have big shoes to fill!  Up for the challenge?  Please let me know right away.  The Grill Master will be responsible for getting the grill to the hall for the BeeBQ and for cooking our burgers and dogs.

This will be more social event than meeting, but a great time to get together with your fellow beekeepers and ask questions and share knowledge.

We will have use of the parking lot, side yard, and hall so we’re covered even if it rains.  If you’d like to sit outside in the grass… PLEASE BRING YOUR OWN CHAIRS!

Feel free to… BYOB

If you plan to attend, please RSVP by July 10th
RSVP to Jessica Martin by email or

Phone 860-978-5388.  Texts are OK too.  Include your name, the number of people attending, and if you plan to bring a side.