Sunday, July 31, 2011

Removing the Bee Beard

I confess that having the bees put on and walking around wearing them was the easiest part of the whole beard experience.

[Photo - Janice a first year beekeeper and me]

If you keep bees you know there are good days and bad and some days the bees are just bitchy.  The hive we worked with just wasn't too happy.  I think it was the excessive heat wave we'd been experiencing that made them grouchy.

To remove the bees you shake and blow them off much like how you would in the bee yard.

First I stood next to the hive and quickly thrust my body forward.  Most of the bees fell off in a clump straight into the hive.  I repeated the shake and even tried jumping.  The shake worked best.

But by the fourth time the few bees left had decided they'd had enough.  I already had sting pheromone on top of my head and so I got tagged there a couple more times.

[Photo - me post beard with remnants of Vaseline on my chin and some bee debris].

I also got stung on the temple and on the neck.  Then two bees got me on the upper lip in a double tag.  Ouch!  Now I knew what bee-stung lips felt like.  Soon I'd know what they looked like too.

Thankfully the blower was then available and the rest of the bees were quickly blown off.

Inside my shirt was another matter.  There were about 10 more which I shook out.

A half hour later I found another bee inside my shirt wondering around and released her to fly away.

I soothed my stings with my favourite method:  Putting frozen freezies on them.  Then I eat the freezies.

I was also given an ice pack which worked great - a sponge is filled with water and frozen in a plastic Ziplock baggie.  It makes a nice portable ice pack which can be given away or reused.  Clever.

Daryl who won the competition said he only got two stings too until the removal when he got quite a few as well.

 My sister, the paparazzi for this adventure couldn't resist documenting the whole process, including the swelling from the stings.

I can report that I'm not getting the itchiness from stings like I used too.  The next day the swollen lips were back to normal--too bad because they looked like Angelina Jolee's.

She probably paid for hers.  Mine were free.

And I got a t-shirt.   So that's like a bonus.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

I Done It

I did it and I survived.

Not only that it was fun!

[Photo - me wearing my first bee beard.  Behind is John Heimstra my beard groomer].

Wearing the beard was a real awesome experience.

They put the queen in a queen cage and tie it around your neck.  Then my "groomer" would shake frames onto newspaper.

Next he'd pour the bees from the newspaper to my cupped waiting hands.

Slowly the bees would migrate up around the neck where the queen is.

I got two stings during the grooming.  One on the top of the head and one on the thigh.  But my groomer got 10+ stings.

The bees weren't very happy.  John got stung so much that we had to stop.

The rules are you only get 20 minutes to pour bees and we heard from the crowds that others had many more bees on them than I did.

Photo - Daryl - the winner, he's a hobby beekeeper too.

The quality of the experience relies a great deal on having an experienced groomer.

Fans and paparazzi watch from the safety outside the screening.

My sister, Dad, Ben my nephew and beekeeping friend Janice got into the fun and posed with beards too.....

the cardboard cut out kind which were completely stingless!

Jordan is pretty young but very brave.

This was his first bee beard competition and he won the crowd favourite, voted by lots of loud cheering.

Earlier in the week we had a surprise.  My nephew ( brother's son) from Australia showed up in Canada.

He was toting an engagement ring with plans to finally propose to his Canadian girlfriend.  She said yes :) 

He's picture below along with my niece Amber (sister's daughter).

It was a very hot day with temperatures around 40 degrees Celsius.

I liberally applied water to my head to keep cool.

Of course wearing 2.8 lbs of bees will make you warm too.

We danced down the straw runway and posed for photos.  After the competition the crowds would come up to take pictures with us.

Still no more stings.  The beard was stable and the bees just hung on.
photo - Ben and Amber.

The groomer puts vaseline along the chin.  It acts as a barrier that the bees don't cross and keeps them on the chin.

Other competitors stuffed their ears with cotton.  I didn't but many bees were over my ear and they did buzz loudly... but still no stinging.

I got a free t-shirt as well so of course it was well worth doing just for that :)

Now removing the beard, well that'll be my next blog message.

Look below for more photos....

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Not Just an Ordinary Saturday

I don't know what your plans are this Saturday, 23 July 2011, but this is what I'll be doing and I'd love to see you there:

bee beard grooming at Clovermead.

[photo from last year's competition]

So look for me if you're there.  I'll be the one wearing the beard!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Enjoy a Family Day of Fun: Clovermead's Bee Olympics

If you're in Ontario or even beyond you may want to reserve Sat, 23 July 2011 (or rain date 6 Aug 2011).

[Photo - Dad with the crowd favourite from last year's competition].

Clovermead is once again holding Bee Olympics which will also include a bee beard competition.

Families will enjoy a day at Clovermead touring their heritage buildings, historic beekeeping equipment, and seeing Canada's largest observation hive.

Several hives can be safely viewed up close from behind glass or screening (see last year's blog post).  Outside there's plenty of entertainment for the children.  Even our seen it all teenagers had a great time.

I hope to see you there!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Just Robbing a Little Honey

Sunday was going to be a real hot and humid day. The bees would be flying collecting nectar and we planned to steal a little of their honey while they were out.

My beekeeping friend Janice was available and eager to experience taking honey from the hive. Extra hands in the bee yard are always welcome. In fact, having Janice, Dad and myself there was a real luxury.

The plan was to not take on too much and to break down the honey robbing over the month of July. So we would to extract from Hive #1 and Hive #5 and take two boxes from each hive.

Each weekend we'd extract from a couple hives. Last year we did extracting in July and September and we found it was too much to try to do all hives in the weekend because we ended up with twenty or so supers sitting waiting to be extracted.

This year, we'll free up supers to be refilled (and save money by not needing to buy more) by extracting a couple supers at a time and return them to the hive. That way no honey will sit for more than a day waiting to be extracted.

We lit the smoker. I set it on a small table a short distance away, just in case but we didn't need it. Overall we each got one sting, more than last year, but Dad and I find it helps to calm the arthritis (I should look into apitherapy).

Janice had taken the beekeeping class a couple weeks ago, so she had the brush ready, going from down to up. I prefer to do lighter sweeps up which works well. My first year I brushed too hard and found I was damaging the bees' feet.

Hive #1 is always good and their honey was mostly capped and ready to go. A couple frames weren't finished so we left them.

As we carried the 45 or 50 lb supers down the stairs I took time to do a little suggestion to Dad: If we put patio doors on the spare bedroom at the back we could turn it into a main floor honey room.

I'll keep working on that one.

The Marketing Manager (Dad) is quite busy now running the extractor and filling up pails of honey. I'm sure he's planning lots of sales.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Moving a Hive at Night

The plan:  Relocate the swarm hive to the bee yard.

This was the swarm that we collected from our neighbourhood a week ago.  We don't know where the original hive is located but I suspect it's close by.

Day Time Preparations:
  1. Empty the syrup from the hive top feeder into a jug.
  2. Put empty honey super with frames on hive (so that I won't have to do it at the yard at night--that's the aqua coloured box).
  3. Secure the hive parts for transport.  My favourite tool is duct tape and yes I use a lot of it.  A ratchet would be better, I agree.  (Note:  this hive is new with freshly drawn comb so it's pretty light to carry.  Also we're only travelling 4 km to the yard).
The platform at the yard had already been set up - it's a painted plywood board sitting on a skid and the skid is sitting on a couple of cement blocks.

Preparations After Dark:

Some good supplies to have on hand are a veil and helmet - bees can fly and sting at night, a flashlight so you can see
  1. Smoke bees into the hive if they are on the porch.
  2. Place screening into entrance and secure in place.
  3. I also cover the upper entrance.
  4. Carry hive to truck without dropping it.
  5. Place hive so frames are parallel with the vehicle with entrance facing to the road behind.
  6. Place hive on new hive stand.
  7. Remove screening.
  8. Fill up the hive top feeder.
  9. Place partial entrance reducer and greenery temporarily in front of entrance so in the morning it'll look different and the bees will orient to the new location before flying off.
  10. Slap the mosquitoes off.
  11. High 5 with Dad for a job well done and drive home.
Back at Home:

I'm like the army that says "no one stays behind".  I don't want a single bee to get lost, so when we removed the hive I put the cardboard nuc in it's place in Dad's yard.  That way an escaped bees will go inside or if by chance any bees fly back from the move site which is 4 km away, they'll go into the nuc.

Then at night I close up the nuc to keep them inside and the next morning deliver it to the yard.  I let them smell home for a bit and then crack the lid slightly right next to the entrance.  Once they smell their queen they're very quick to go inside.

Photo - Hive #7 is white and aqua coloured.  I have a newer deep and bottom board that I'll give to this hive, but that'll be another time.

The Next Day:
  1. Return to yard for a check
  2. Remove duct tape from sides of hives if I didn't do it the night before.
  3. Take photos

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Lazy Bees? You'll be Surprised at the Answer

Today was a hot day.  The temperature was around 27 with a humidex that made it feel like 34.

It's not uncommon to see bees bearding on the outside of the hive on hot days but sometimes I'll see lots of bees out front just hanging around, like in the photo at left.
Have you looked at your hives and seen your bees do that too?  Have you wondered what they're doing?  Why aren't they out foraging, especially if the weather is nice?  Did you wonder if they were just lazy or stupid?

They look like they're socializing or just relaxing on the porch.  They're not in any hurry to go anywhere.  But we know bees and they don't do anything without some purpose and these resting bees know exactly what they're doing.
While reading the book The Biology of the Honey Bee I learned about resting bees.  The belief is that many workers will stay in the hive and rest.  They relax and hang out.  But the key thing to take note of is that they aren't just relaxing.
They're waiting.

Waiting for the call to action.  They conserve their energy so they're ready to go when needed.

We use resting for popular games like football and baseball.  Some team members are in play in the field while others are on the bench or in the warm up area.  They're not playing now but they're ready for action at a moment's notice.

The function of resting is that it leaves a reserve pool of workers that are available to react to the needs of the hive and they're available for opportunistic events like the discovery of a superb nectar source.

The returning workers will dance the location and the resting workers will race out to the field.  The game is on!

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Bees Bees Bees

It was supposed to be my week off.  And it wasn't really going to be a vacation either.

The bees had swarmed and I'd caught them.  The split from a few weeks ago was successful and doing well.  It was time for a break.  Time to catch up on things at home.  Catch up on things like housework, gardening and sitting in the back yard doing nothing.  And of course reading another mystery novel.

My vacation week is now three quarters finished and the only thing I've done is taken care of the bees.

Bees, bees, bees.

It seems everything is about them:  A neighbourhood swarm collected, then hived the next day.  Suddenly we realize we're out of equipment.  Every deep and bottom board is in service.  What if another hive swarms or I must do a split?

Off to the supplier I go to stock up with extra deeps.  While there I may as well get some supers.

Then I find I'm back in the bee yard doing an inspection of the honey supers and making sure the hives have enough room.

Finally I'm done the inspection.  I sit down in the yard to relax.  I tell myself to think of something else, something not about bees.

I look up at the sky.  It's a beautiful shade of blue and I can only see two clouds.  Look at the clouds I tell myself to relax and have some fun.  Imagine the clouds as shapes like you used to do when you were you
were young.
I smile.  I'm pleased that my mind is willing to move on to other things.  Things not about bees.  I look at this cloud.  What does it look like I ask myself?

I examine it carefully.  I realize it looks just like a.... queen cell.

And look.  I see the centre of the cloud looks like a queen bee pupae.

See.  Everything isn't always just about bees.