Saturday, May 18, 2013

Secret to Successful Beeswax Candle Making

One thing I can't tell you is that this is  my invention.

This info was passed to me by Oxford Honey & Supplies in Burgessville Ontario.

When making candles you'll find that propolis is naturally present in the wax and will be melted in with your wax.

When you pour your hot wax the propolis would then becomes part of the candle.

The problem this creates is when the candle is lit you'll notice little bursts or flashes of the candle flame--or lots of flickering.

This happens when the propolis hits the flame as the candle burns.

The secret to avoid this is to filter out the propolis.

How do you do this?  Simply add a second filter to your process by putting a piece of cotton over your container.

Then pour your hot wax through a fine mesh strainer with the cotton underneath.

The cotton like the red t-shirt in this photo will filter out the propolis.

Here we have pillar candles cooling off,

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Strange Combs

A while back I read an email on a beekeeping blog.  The beekeeper reported that his bees had built combs above the foundation that he had given them.

He figured that the bees didn't like the plastic.

I think he may have been right.

Here's an example that I was shown of a frame of combs.  It's just like the other beekeeper described.
Can you see the gap underneath the comb?  There's just a "bee space".
Now exactly why the bees chose to build this way is a mystery.  They did it to most of the frames in the hive.

It created a real problem when it came to extraction because the combs weren't supported by the foundation.  So they could not be put through an extractor because they'd fall apart.

These combs would need to be extracted by crush and strain.  Or just sell it as honeycombs and eat the whole thing.

I had this happen in one hive last year.  The bees built the comb coming down from the wood at the top and the comb didn't touch the foundation.  They had even sealed the comb on both sides.  It looked like a wild comb.
It created a real problem when looking for the queen in this hive. I thought she wasn't there but later I got suspicious that she was hiding on the underside of the comb in that bee space between the comb and the frame.
We did make sure to cut that all out when we harvested the frames.
Hopefully the bees will get it right this year. 

Monday, May 13, 2013

Spring Treatments

I've come to the conclusion that bees aren't too much different than children.

They just seem to know that the sugar syrup I'm feeding them has medicine in it.  It must taste yucky because they don't want to eat it.

[photo - early spring - pollen patty]

I've tried to get the bees to take sugar syrup mixed with Fumigilin B but they just don't want to eat it.

I've had much more success with the sugar and Oxytet powder.  This is a treatment against AFB - American Foulbrood disease.

[AFB treatment on wax paper and half eaten pollen patty]

This treatment is either sprinkled on the top bars once a week for four weeks or what I do is put a piece of wax paper on the bars and sprinkle the powder there.  This way it doesn't spill down the hive and get wasted.

I also put pollen patties on the top bars.  These look like large peanut butter squares.  Bees really enjoy them... but some hives aren't interested and don't eat them.  Other hives eat them really quickly.  Whatever their need or preference I do my best to provide them in case they do need them.

One thing to do when adding things to the top bars is use your hive tool to scrape out a space.  Scrape out that wax and comb that the bees build up on top.  You may also need to scrape it from the inner cover.

[AFB treatment - many times the bees have chewed up and removed the wax paper from the week before.  That is the intent]

That way when you close the lid you won't squish bees when you close the lid after adding things to the top bars.

If the bees are in the way on the top bar when you want to set a treatment down, give them a puff of smoke to clear them.  Note you may need to clear them off the inner cover too by giving it a hard shake over the hive to knock the bees out of the way.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Ontario Bee Association - Position Statement on Neonicitoids

The message below is copied from the OBA newsletter.  It can be viewed at: 

The OBA's new position statement and press release on neonics

Some of you will remember that in our first newsletter, the OBA's position on neonics called for replacement of the pesticides and the use of agricultural Best Management Practices while a replacement is being found. So, you may be surprised to see that our latest position statement and recent press release is stronger, calling for the suspension of all neonicotinoid pesticides starting with the 2014 planting season.

Why the change? Well first of all, our original position was developed before the PMRA report was released confirming our suspicions that neonics were the cause of the bee deaths in Spring 2012, as well as the weakened hives resulting from sub-lethal doses of this pesticide. In addition, scientific evidence has been increasing about the longer-term and broader implications of this class of pesticides including the impact on soil and the water table. And finally, the growing public recognition that a world without bees would result in a world without the crops and wild flowers they pollinate, along with the loss of the birds, amphibians and small mammals that feed upon the seeds and other parts of those wild flowers, and of course the  predators that rely on the small birds and mammals to keep them alive. We believe that it is not just our role to take a strong stance on this issue, but our duty. 
Does this mean we are no longer working with our agricultural partners on mitigation strategies? Of course not. We continue to be committed to our farm partners and to support efforts in Integrated Pest Management and Best Management Practices. It is also important to remember that our agricultural relationships go beyond this issue; we value our joint marketing initiatives  such as Foodland Ontario and Sustainable Ontario and recognize our interdependence related to pollination services for fruits and vegetables. Will all farmers agree with our position? Probably not, but we are sure they will respect our responsibility to our industry. And in the end, we all want the same thing, a healthy and vibrant agricultural community and a safe and sustainable environment. We look forward to finding new ways to work together toward that end.

NOTE: Media reports of new bee kills in Ontario, being investigated by PMRA this morning, arrived just as the newsletter was being mailed. Please see below for latest news. 

Friday, May 10, 2013

Geared Up and Going Strong

My 15 hives survived the winter.  Thank God.

We're really blessed to have a good spot in an old abandoned orchard.  It's far enough away from corn planting that I did not have any problems last year with wind blown corn pesticides.

There are soya beans planted not too far away--the same pesticide is used on them--but so far we haven't had a problem.

Many beekeepers in Ontario are reporting heavy losses this spring and are looking to acquire more bees to increase their stocks.

It's corn planting season right now and most beekeepers are feeling nervous.  Already some reports of poisoning have come in.  Will it be as bad as last year?  Everyone waits to see with baited breath.

About three weeks ago I was at the yard when the wraps were still on the hives.  The bees were flying like crazy on a few sunny days we had between rain showers.

And they were finding tons of bright yellow pollen.  Traffic at the hive was so busy I had to open up the entrances a bit more just so they could come and go.

I observed them as they circled like planes at an airport, waiting for space and a chance to land so they could deliver their goods.

After a couple weeks of watching a lot of pollen coming in I noticed the bee activity was just as strong but I didn't see pollen on the bees' legs.  I figured this meant they were bringing in nectar.

I believe for the first season I balanced it right to take enough honey in the harvest last fall that they had enough to keep them through the winter but not too much.  The year before I'd left way too much.  Third time is a charm, so they say.

Every year I learn more.  Mistakes are hard to deal with but they really are good teachers.

I have lots to report but have had some camera problems which have held me up... that and the new job (same company but new position).  I'm getting tons of training in the new position and am coming home tired.  But with bees you've got to keep going :)

With the job change I've realized that I really can't afford time and energy-wise to increase hives.  My plan is to do splits once my hives have grown and are developing queen cells.

Then I'll sell my splits.

I'll also do my best to manage my swarm collecting addiction and learn to say "No" when I get swarm calls.

I'm sure there will be plenty of beekeepers out there that would love to collect some bees.

If you are a beekeeper in Ontario, I can add you to my swarm collection list.  It's on my website.

Beekeepers have reported they are getting lots of calls.  When people see swarms they're quick to check the internet to find out who to contact.

I sincerely hope your bees have survived the winter too and that this spring and summer will be a successful one.

I'm really hoping we don't get a sudden change in weather this year to ruin our fruit crops.