Category Archives: Working with the Hive

Honey Robber vs Honey Bandit

Until a few years ago I used Bee-go on my fume boards to harvest honey supers. Some people say it smells like vomit, but it never bothered me. I guess over the years I got use to it. The only complaint I had is that the fumes would sometimes burn my eyes.  It’s a very effective product, but has become difficult to find. Three years ago I switched to Honey Robber. Even though it has the same active ingredient (butyric anhydride) as Bee-go it doesn’t work as well. In searching for alternative products I came across Honey Bandit with its claim to work better than Honey Robber so I purchased a bottle and decided to put it to the test.

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Nutrition and Queen Failure

I made an interesting observation this past summer which again reinforced how the summer honey crop affects the health of the queen bee. Most of my hives are spread out in fourteen bee yards in two different valleys. Both of these valleys generally average the same honey crop per hive each summer. Two years of drought conditions have caused both valleys to underperform, but in comparing the two areas with each other, one has produced significantly more honey and in effect had a much lower rate of queen failure.

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Holding Yards

Most beekeepers that venture into providing beehives for pollination services will often use holding yards. Holding yards are needed when large quantities of hives are temporarily transported to one location while they wait to be moved into orchards or summer locations. Listed below are some strategies to help reduce the stress on hives while they wait in a holding yard.

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Natural Beekeeping vs Modern Beekeeping

Natural beekeeping is a recent buzz word in the industry. Natural beekeeping, a fluid term, roughly refers to minimal disturbance and manipulation to the hive. This system attempts to create a natural environment for the bees where they are left to their own devices to survive – nothing added and only a small amount of excess honey taken. Strategies are put in place to limit or altogether eliminate chemicals and antibiotics from the hive. In some extremes, natural beekeeping forgoes supplemental feeding of sugar syrup, use of foundation and moving hives to assist in pollinating commercial crops. But, are natural beekeeping practices the answer for all beekeepers?

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2014 Bee Season Goals

Each year as spring approaches I reflect on my strategies of how best to run my beekeeping business. I look at what went well the previous year as well as what improvements that could be made. Below is a list of my 2014 goals.

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Wrapping Hives

For beekeepers who live in northern climates with winter months that sometimes reach single digit temperatures, wrapping your hives will often lower hive loss.  This practice of wrapping hives is not a guarantee for winter survival, but coupled with other winter preparation this will improve your odds.

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Pulling Honey with Fume Boards

I have heard several different terms over the years such as “jerking honey” and “robbing the honey”. Call it what you will, pulling honey is the most labor intensive work you will do as a beekeeper. I know that some natural beekeepers are against the use of fume boards, but they are one of the most time effective methods of removing the bees from the honey super.

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Nectar: Flow or Dearth

I had the truck loaded with empty supers and was headed for a full day of checking beehives.  It had been three weeks since these hives had been last checked and the first round of supers had been put on.  These were all locations that normally provide the hives with plenty of nectar each season, but with last years drought, the honey crop was a bust.  My anxiety was running high during my drive to the out yards fearing a repeat of last years nectar dearth.  As I visited bee yard after bee yard my fears soon left as I saw the beautiful glistening nectar dripping from the frames.

The following signs, listed below, can help determine if your hives are experiencing a nectar flow or dearth.

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Queen Bee Failure

We’ve all been there.  While checking each hive in the bee yard there is often one or two hives that just aren’t performing like all the rest.  You decide to dig a little deeper in the hive by pulling out multiple frames from the brood box.  Your frustration grows as you can’t find any eggs, or worse, frames full of scattered, bulged out drone brood.  You ask yourself “what happened to the queen?”

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Moving Beehives – The Bad and the Good

If I were to pick one part of beekeeping that I dislike most, I would say moving bees in the dark of night, by hand. You see, bees don’t fly when it’s dark, they crawl. They crawl all over your bee suit. And when the conditions are such they will sting the crap out you. I learned a terrible, yet valuable lesson about the temperament of ticked off bees many years ago when I was stung over fifty times one night moving hives.

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