Here's an easy way to light your smoker: Buy a cheap butane charcoal lighter at Safeway for about $5.00. The flame comes out of long tube that you can stick down to the bottom of your smoker. With regular matches it is sometimes difficult to get the fire started at the bottom. Not with the charcoal lighter.
When using wax foundation, it is usually necessary to support it, either with tinned wire or with special support pins sold by beekeeping supply companies. In the BEE-LIST Internet discussion of beekeeping, several beekeepers have mentioned an alternative that is easier than wire and cheaper than support pins. They say that bobby pins can be used to hold the foundation by sliding them in through the holes in the frames as is done with support pins. According to those who have used the bobby pins, the bees quickly cover them up as they build out the comb. Nor are bobby pins a problem during extraction: they hold the wax foundation securely, and because they are covered by the comb, they are not exposed. This is just opinion, of course, but bobby pins might be worth a try. (If you try it, though, make sure to buy bobby pins, not hair pins. Hair pins are U shaped, bobby pins are more like a clip.)
One of the first thing new beekeepers learn is the importance of not crushing bees. While it is impossible to completely avoid crushing bees, there are several ways to minimize the problem.
Stacking supers and brood boxes removed from the hive
Place a small piece of wood (say 3/4”x3/4”x6”) across the corner of each brood box or super after you remove it from the hive. That way if you stack another on top of it, there will be more room between the two boxes than if the supers were just stacked with no wood spacer.
Remove the second frame in from the side rather than one against the wall of the box or one in the middle. There is often burr comb between the sidewall and frame and this can roll or crush bees. Frames in the middle are more likely to have the queen on them, which the prudent beekeeper definitely doesn't want to crush.
Reinstalling supers and brood boxes
First, gently smoke the bees on the upper box already on the hive to cause the bees to retreat down between the frames. Then hold the box to be installed just above this box and either (1) move it gently back and forth as you slowly lower it into position, or (2) turn it slightly and slowly lower in while gently turning it back to the original position. The key words here are gently and slowly. Give the bees time to get out of the way. You and they will all benefit.
Need to paint some hives? Most paint stores will give deep discounts on paint that has been tinted to the incorrect color.
If you are hiving a feral colony that has drawn out comb, you can put the natural comb into empty frames and avoid loss of the brood it contains. The bees will soon attach the comb to the frame and repair any damage done during the conversion. Beekeeping literature suggest that you can use string or rubber bands to secure the comb into the frames.
If your smoker gets gummed up from burning resinous fuels you can clean it fairly easily using oven cleaner. Use the type that works on cold surfaces and follow the directions of spraying it on and letting it sit a couple of hours before washing it off. As a way to avoid the problem entirely, here is a tip from “Queen Rearing and Bee Breeding” by Laidlaw and Page. (A fine book by the way and worth having.) ...the smoker is extinguished by a wad of newspaper in the nozzle. Before the smoker cools, lift the firebox lid by prying with the hive tool until the back edge clears the fire chamber; otherwise it may be permanently stuck!
Here are some ideas for fuel for your smoker:
Burlap coffee bags from coffee shops that do on-site roasting
Wood pellets that are used for fuel in pellet stoves (you can buy them in feed and seed stores when you're on your Sunday drives in the country).
Old blue jeans. Denim is splendid fuel.
Wood chips (pine or cedar) from a pet supply store
Wood scraps from a lumberyard.
Pine needles, of course.
Some folks use eucalyptus leaves.
In the summer when vegetation is dry and winds are often high, lighting and using a smoker can be dangerous. Here are some ideas to reduce the danger.
1. Use a barbecue grill lighter that barrel long enough to place the flame at the bottom of your smoker.
2. After the smoker is lit, place some green grass or leaves over the top of the dry fuel to cool the smoke and reduce the chance of sparks.
3. Carry a deep container (e.g., a nuc) with you to work you bees and set the smoker inside when you are not using it. That will prevent the smoker falling over or igniting near-by dry grass.
4. Carry water to douse any sparks.
5. Suffocate the smoker when you're done by placing a plug of wet newspaper in the spout.
6. If conditions are dry and windy avoid using a smoker altogether. Instead try the liquid smoke mixture which the club has or try spraying sugar water on the bees.
It is handy to have an extra deep super or two around. You can take one along when you visit your hive, and it can be used to set frames on when you are doing an inspection. That avoids the problem of kicking over or stepping on frames leaned against the side of a hive. Also a deep super is useful for covering a bottle of sugar water feed sitting on top of the frames of a hive. Also, if you also have an extra bottom board and cover, and ten frames of foundation to go with the deep box, you will be prepared to receive any swarm that might come your way or to make a split, either for increase or as a swarm control measure. Finally, a deep with a bottom board nailed on is a good place to store your beekeeping equipment, either in your garage or in the trunk of your car.
The Walter T. Kelley Company is a well-known manufacturer and supplier of beekeeping equipment. The company's catalog is among the most interesting in the field and contains many items not found elsewhere. One useful item is their plastic telescoping cover. It works well enough protecting a beehive, but its usefulness extends beyond that. It's the perfect size to serve as a drip tray under supers of honey. Being made of plastic, it's tough enough to stand up to being banged around. The cover is a good investment to protect your car trunk or garage floor from honey drips.
An important aspect of beekeeping is keeping track of how each hive varies over the year and from year to year. For example, sometimes a queen's rate of egg laying will suddenly drop off, and the number of frames of brood will drop. Without a record of the history of the hive, it might be hard to note changes like this until it is too late for remedial action. Similarly, hive conditions vary from year to year depending on such factors as rainfall, nectar flows, and type of bee. All of these variables make it difficult to recall past years’ conditions or how a hive in the past reacted to changes in key factors. There are many ways to set up a record-keeping system. Right now, I make notes in pencil on the top cover of each hive as to its condition, what I did on each visit, and any recommendations for future action. In the past I numbered my hives and kept a notebook. Some beekeepers use a brick on top of each hive, with its position indicating hive status. I recently came across a record-keeping form that looks quite useful. You can find it at this URL: http://www.pugetsoundbees.org/hiveinsp.pdf
You might want to print it out and give it a try. At least it would provide a general outline of what to look for as you open a hive.
One of the challenges of beekeeping is finding the queen when it is time to replace her. Here are some things to keep in mind as you begin the search. First some points about the queen:
- The queen differs from workers physically in that she has a longer abdomen and a shiny thorax. She also has longer legs and will stand slightly higher on the frame.
- She is often surrounded by attendants that form a circle facing her.
- If she hasn't been disturbed, she is likely to be found in an area of the brood nest where there are eggs and patches of empty cells. She is not likely to be on frames of sealed brood or frames with honey unless she has been driven there by fright.
- She prefers darkness to light.
Here are some searching techniques:
- Too much smoke will disturb the bees and cause them to run all around the comb. Therefore if you are specifically searching for the queen, use as little smoke as possible.
- When you look down on a brood box between the frames, the queen is likely to be where there is the heaviest concentration of bees.
- To search for the queen, take out two frames on one side of the brood box. After making sure that the queen is not on either frame, place them in a spare box or nuc.
- Now go through the remaining frames, one at a time. As you lift out a frame for inspection, before you inspect that frame, look at the face of the next frame remaining in the hive to see if she is there. If not, carefully search the frame you have just removed.
- If you don't find her, place this frame back in the brood box against the side in the space occupied by the two frames you removed initially.
- Continue working through the remaining frames using the same process. As you return the inspected frames to the brood box hang them in pairs with a space between each pair. (This is why you removed two frames in the first place, to allow extra room to maintain space between the pairs of frames.)
- If you don't find the queen on the first pass, go back to the pairs of frames, paying particular attention to the faces on the inside of each pair where there is comparative darkness.
- If this doesn't work, you can search the frames again or just close the hive up and try again another day.
This tip is from Bee Chats, Tips, and Gadgets by Roy Thurber, published by the Washington State Beekeepers Association. From page 126 (this item originally appeared in the June 1981 edition of The Speedy Bee):
For years, beekeepers wanting to move their bees have waited until dark when all their bees are in the hives to load them up for the move. What's wrong with this system? Nothing, if you are an owl or have no home life. And there are always bees left behind, the sleep-outs, the foragers who decided to sleep outside the hive instead of flying home late the previous evening.
Now a certain commercial beekeeper came up with a way to load bees in the daytime and lose less bees than night moving. You won't believe it works from this and will probably have to try it yourself.
He covers the entrances with a coarse fabric burlap, old mosquito netting, anything that restricts the bees while allowing air to pass through for ventilation. When all the bees out in the field have had time to return to the hive and are milling around near the hives or have parked on the hive cover and nearby vegetation, the fabric is removed.
The colony is calmed with a puff of smoke and the field force rushes in. A dipper of water is thrown in the entrance if the move is in hot weather. After another puff of smoke the hives are loaded netted and secured. The waiting period for the bees to return can be as long as 40 minutes; that's when you eat your lunch or just goof off.
My own system is a bit different. I don't use nets. First I put on the top screen [a screen covering the top to allow for ventilation] and pour a quart of water over the hives end bars. I lay a two-foot square of burlap over the top screen. After installing the entrance screen, I go sit down to rest for a half an hour.
When all of the foragers have returned, I remove the entrance screen for a few minutes. After the field bees rush in, I put the entrance screens back on, fold up the burlap, load the hives and take off.
I do think it important to cover the top screen. Otherwise, the bees will cover the top, defeating the purpose of the screen, and some will want to hitchhike there, instead of going into the hive.
In inspecting a hive, we usually need to find out whether the colony is queenright. Finding the queen can be difficult and is a skill that comes after several seasons of keeping bees. There is another way to be reasonably sure that a colony is queenright without having to find the queen: find some eggs. Here's why. Since an egg hatches just three days after it has been laid by the queen, the presence of eggs in a hive indicates that the hive has had a queen within that time.
Seeing eggs can often be difficult, too. First, they are tiny, a little over a millimeter long and about twice the diameter of a hair. Second, the problem is compounded because one can't see as well through a veil as with the naked eye and because cells in the frames are often covered withΒ bees. If you have trouble seeing eggs, go to a drugstore and buy a pair of magnifying reading glasses. Get the strongest magnification you can. They cost about ten bucks. You can rest the glasses on your forehead or use a string to tie them around your neck before you put on your veil. Then, if you need to look for eggs, you can slip on the glasses without having to remove your veil. Hold the frame with the sun over your shoulder so it shines into the cells. With the good light and glasses you should be able to see eggs without much trouble. Once you know what they look like and where to look for them, you'll be able to see them without the reading glasses.
Here are some suggestions on sticky control's
Remember, extracting honey produces more sticky mess than you can imagine. So, the paramount rule of extraction is DO NOT EXTRACT IN YOUR KITCHEN. If you do extract in your kitchen, and you live with someone else who is not a beekeeper, you will either not be living with that person afterward or you will not be living.
Here are some other suggestions:
1. Keep a bucket with warm, soapy water available at all times to wipe up sticky drips and drops and to clean your hands.
2. Put newspaper on the floor all around the area where you're doing the uncapping and extracting. Replace the paper as it becomes covered with drips.
3. Wear old rubber boots or slip-on shoes while you're extracting and then take them off whenever you step outside of the sticky control area
4. To clean extraction equipment, begin by rinsing it thoroughly in COLD water to remove all of the wax. Then you can complete the cleaning with a hot water rinse. If you begin by rinsing with hot water you will melt any wax in the equipment creating a much more difficult problem.
5. Similarly, to clean the nylon filter bags or metal filters, use COLD water to solidify the wax so that it can be removed before a second rinsing with hot water.
6. Remember that honey is a food product and that proper cleanliness and hygiene are important. Make sure that anything that touches the honey filters, buckets, bottles, lids is spotlessly clean.
For those who are interested in trying Pierco Plastic Frame/Foundation, here are some tips from the manufacturer.
Do the following before installing frames/foundations:
1.dip plastic foundation area into sugar-water or honey-water solution and fully coat foundation
2.once coated, keep foundation clean and try to install frames/foundations within 10 days of dipping
3.you can also place sugar-water or honey-water mix in plastic squeeze/spray container. Take to bee yards, spray new Pierco foundation area as you install the Piercos in your hives.
The following are two successful methods of introducing Pierco Plastic Frames/Foundation:
1.New Pierco frames/foundation can be inter-spaced with drawn comb.
For best results, run 10 frames/foundations in your standard 9 frame super. Insert three new Piercos in the 3, 5, & 7 positions, (you can go as many as 5 and 5). The reasons for going with 3, 5, & 7 positions is that sometimes the bees will be slow to draw foundation on the outside of the super. We recommend feeding the bees heavily until the flows begin so they start drawing new comb immediately.
Note: If after using the above inter-spacing method the bees seem to ignore the new Piercos while pulling the drawn comb further, do not panic, use the alternate method explained as follows.
2.Replace the drawn comb with new Pierco so that you are now running 100 percent (10) new undrawn Pierco frames/foundations. Any undrawn Piercos with brace or burr comb can be scraped clean with a hive tool and returned to the super. The approach gives the bees no choice but to go to work and draw out the Pierco foundation. It is wise to feed heavily with sugar water or syrup at this time to stimulate comb building. Some people place a drawn comb on each end of the super as bait comb. We are finding more and more beekeepers from hobbyists to commercial operators are having excellent results through the above method of introducing a full super of up to 10 new undrawn Piercos instead of alternating with drawn comb.
Do not be disappointed if at first you have a little trouble getting your bees to accept and draw new Pierco frames/foundations. Try variations of the above methods, be creative and remember colonies should be strong and healthy. It is difficult to get bees to draw new comb if they are under any stress, also, colonies must be in some type of flow, be it a natural nectar flow or artificial (sugar or syrup). They cannot produce wax without having some type of carbohydrate coming in.
1.Do not leave Pierco frames/foundations in direct sunlight for a prolonged period of time
2.Do not put Pierco frames/foundations in solar wax melters
3.Do not place Pierco frames/foundations in boiling water.
Any questions, call the manufacturer at 1-800-233-2662
This is from BEE-L, the internet discussion of beekeeping and bee biology.
Dave and Judy <dublgully@FUSE.NET>
The Perrenial Question: Getting Stains Out of Bee Suits
Hello beekeeper friends.
Dave’s supposedly white bee suit really needed a cleaning before we made a school presentation. I bought about every stain remover product on the grocery store shelves. Most of them guaranteed to remove certain types of stains. (Apparently none of these manufacturers had bees in their backyards!). Of course, none of them worked. But the Tub and Tile Spray did take out some of the stains.
I was determined that this problem would not get the best of me. So, I turned to the Automotive section! There is a product called Super Clean, a liquid spray or pour, that is used to get off bug and tar spots from the autos. Well, bugs, tar, hmmm -- propolis? It worked! Any stains that were left from the laundry aisle cleaners, well they are history. And it did not eat any holes in the coveralls! I admit that I had already washed the suit at least twice, so what was left looked permanent. The end result could have been the combination of 14 different products, but maybe not. (I have no monetary interest in this product, except for the 2 quart jugs I bought at retail from WalMart. I have since used it on other stuff around the house. Great stuff.) Signed Judy in Kentucky USA