Monday, June 22, 2009

Oxford Honey & Supplies - Burgessville, Ontario

Today the Middlesex Oxford and Elgin Beekeeper's Association had their monthly meeting.

Instead of meeting in a boardroom we joined up with the Norfolk Haldimand Beekeepers' Association and had the best kind of meeting of all--at a bee yard.

We met in Burgessville, Ontario at Oxford Honey & Supplies where we viewed John and his family's commercial bee operation.
The weather had been really rainy but late Friday afternoon the sun came out and it began to look like a promising day.

But Saturday it had clouded over again with no spots of sun to show.

We left in the rain, carrying raincoats and umbrellas. we were prepared to enjoy ourselves anyway and hoped that we'd still get to observe bees in action and open up some hives.

John has created a wonderful public observatory on the property next to a bee yard.
The whole structure is screened in so the public can feel very safe and kept separate from the bees by the screening yet still able to get very close to them.

The bee yard is on one side of the observatory and John does demonstrations there every Saturday morning at 11:00 a.m.

He opens hives and shows off frames of bees, pointing out the queen if possible and holding the frames close to the screening so people can have a really good look.

He spoke to the audience about bees--information on bee biology, life in the hive, extracting honey, creating queens, how to super hives, etc. He was also very patient to answer questions.
This day though his audience was mostly beekeepers so the questions were often more in-depth and touched on things like treating hives for Varroa Mites, and American Foul Brood (AFB).
We even had a bee inspector at our meeting to show us how he conducts an inspection and what he looks for - The inspector advised he focuses his inspection on looking for signs of AFB.

It was interesting to see that John uses one regular sized deep and then a medium sized deep for his brood boxes, so 1 1/2 boxes instead of 2. The Guelph course recommends just one regular deep now, stating it is enough honey for the bees to overwinter and it makes monitoring and checking the hive much easier.

In our group, some stayed inside the screened in area that had been covered to keep out the rain and some stood along with the hives so they could observe the action. I wanted to be closer to the bees and the action.

John demonstrated how to take a cappings scratcher to remove drone brood to check for Varroa Mites.
The drone cappings stick up from the comb like high muffin tops or rounded bullet ends--they're much higher than the caps on worker cells.
Drone comb as well is usually situated around the outside edges of the frame so its easier to stick the scratcher into the remove cells.

Unfortunately the drones die with this action, but it is the best way to see how much Varroa Mite development is going on in the cells and also a way to eliminate the mites.

Note in the photo there is one Varroa on a drone - look for the small round brown spot against the white of the larva. Seeing one mite is not unusual at all.
We looked at queen cells one one frame created by the bees. They had an imported Australian queen but for some reason they had created a supercedure cell.
Click on the photo at left to enlarge and look half way down the frame on the right - you'll see the peanut shaped supersedure cell.
Supersedure cells are always in the middle of the frame, swarm cells are built along the bottom of the frame.

I wondered if they didn't like the Aussie accent ;) so decided to replace her?

Pictured is the uncapped end of a queen cell where the queen has hatched.

The second photo is the other end of the same cell showing the plastic caps used to start queen cells in hives when running a queen rearing operation.
Another hive had a queen cell with a newly released queen that they had made themselves.
In the store there was all kinds of beekeeping equipment, everything from suits, to jars and containers to heated uncapping knives.

I managed to grab a deep with frames and foundation so that I'd have an extra box....

just in case there's a swarm around just looking for a new home ...
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