It’s BEE time

Holy cow, we might just be swimming in bees! 🙂

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We have ratcheted things up a bit around here….

My boys went and worked with a friend to split his 800+ beehives.  In payment we brought home 50+ hives!  Wow!!

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Well more bees means more boxes and hopefully more honey!!

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So I have had some fun painting a few boxes!

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The Lapoynor FCA painted some boxes for us too – and they are adorable!!

But be warned!  If you come over and stand in our bee yard you might get stung!  I did – on the lip!!  That mean little lady came in with her stinger headed toward my lip, no buzz by warning!  Nothing!!  Just a fat lip for now the third day!  Ugh!!

Well, Happy Beekeeping!!

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Beekeeping Classes

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As summer is winding down, it is time to start thinking about taking Beekeeping classes starting January and adding bees too your own place!!

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We have thoroughly enjoyed teaching beekeeping classes at our place the past two years!  It is a family affair as our oldest 2 boys Jacob and Peter help teach.

IMG_2497Jacob is an Advanced Master Beekeeper and Peter is an Apprentice Master Beekeeper, while my husband is also an Advanced Master Beekeeper.

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Both boys are East Texas Beekeeper Association Ambassadors as well – they speak all over East Texas about the Honey Bee, so they have a little experience under their belts!

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I try to help out as well, and Jacob, Peter and I are all Master Gardeners in Henderson County.  So somehow all that makes us a little qualified to share about bees and plants that help the bees out!

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We start classes in the classroom with the anatomy of the bee and finish up in the classroom extracting honey in June.

IMG_3100In between we spend a number of classes in the bee yard going into hives, identifying queens and pests.

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Our classes go into a lot of detail about how to manage your own bees, what to look for and how to help keep your hives as strong as possible!

Through our class you can order everything from suit & gloves, to boxes and bees!

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If you have any questions about taking classes with us, please feel free to email us at milkandhoneymeadows303@yahoo.com.

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Beekeeping Wednesday : Swarming

by Jacob Cole

If you didn’t know, spring is one of the honey bee’s busiest times of the year. Speaking of spring, many of you know that it is time for the bees to start swarming. Swarming is a natural function of the honey bee, and is the subject of my article today.  Swarming has many benefits for the bees, but also can benefit the beekeeper, and I will cover that in my article. Bees swarm for a couple of reasons and I hope to inform you as to why.

Honey bees swarm mainly for reproductive reasons. In case you didn’t know honey bees are classified as a super-organism, which Google defines  “the term superorganism is used most often to describe a social unit of eusocial animals, where division of labour is highly specialized and where individuals are not able to survive by themselves for extended periods..”  Ants and termites are another example of super organisms. Similar to a cell, super organisms reproduce by splitting in two. In a beehive, this looks like the old queen leaving with half of the workers, looking for another cavity to nest in. Some bees have a strong split nature making them more likely to swarm in spring.  This year, my family put an empty hive body in our apiary, just in case a swarm might nest there.  This is a good way to catch your own swarm or another one in the area.

There are a few signs that can indicate that your hives might be preparing to swarm. One of the easiest ways to prevent swarming is to make sure that the hive has plenty of room for the queen to lay eggs and raise brood. Generally bees will swarm when they run out of room in their home. This is especially important right now in the honey flow; when the bees can fill up their supers almost as fast as we put them on. One early sign of swarming can be queen cells. The hive will split just before the young queens’ hatch, with many of the workers following the old queen to a new home.  Some things you can do to keep the bees there, is to put a queen excluder underneath all of your boxes. This will keep your queen in your hive. You could also just kill the queen cell.  Another method would be to split your hives, especially if there are queen cells on the frames.  You should talk to an experienced beekeeper before you split, if you have never done it.

Swarms can be great for a beekeeper, especially if they are from someone else’s hives. One of my favorite things to do as a beekeeper is to catch swarms and hives with my dad. We have removed hives in roofs, wall, trees, and water meter boxes and we have also grabbed swarms from fences, tree branches, and bushes. Swarms are very easy to handle, but an established hive can be a little trickier. I have learned a ton from catching bees, and one of these lessons is that it is better to supplement your hives with swarms that were free as opposed to buying hives.

I would also like to point out that bees are most docile when they are swarming. My father has caught a swarm, our first year of beekeeping, with a broom and a box, so it is very easy. Also there is nothing bad about buying bees, but anything free is great. I hope that you are able to glean a little information from this article. Just remember that queen cells, can indicate that your hive is preparing to swarm, and it would be best to split them yourself.

African Blue Basil

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If I had to pick one plant that is my favorite this year it would be this one.  The picture above is after I cut about 1/3 of it off (it was covering nearby plants).  This plant is amazing!!

African blue basil is one of a few types of basil that are perennial. It is a sterile hybrid of two breeds of basil, unable to produce seeds of its own, and is propagated by cuttings.

Scientific name: Ocimum kilimandscharicum × basilicum ‘Dark Opal’

Rank: Hybrid

The bees love it.  And not just honey bees.  There are so many bees (bumble bees, honey bees, carpenter bees, etc) that I cannot even count them when I walk by.  This plant is just gorgeous, huge and even smells good.

This basil will not come back from seed, so I plan to clip several pieces before winter and root it inside for my spring garden next year.  This plant roots like crazy!!  It takes abut 5 days in a cup of water and it will throw some serious roots out!!

IMG_4202In fact, there are so many bees on this plant it buzzes.  This particular section is right by my herb garden which is on the way into my house.  I walk by it every day, sometimes several times a day and it always makes me smile!!

No matter what this small bushy herb is always in bloom with tons of flowers, so once the bees start coming they will be back every day to get pollen and nectar from the new blooms of the day!

I guarantee that this plant will always have a place in my yard, in fact, next year I will have some in my herb garden but even more in the butterfly garden in the front – because I know it is so loved by the pollinators as well as me!!  Hope you find some to add to your garden, or if you are near me come by & snip a piece to root for yourself!!

 

Beekeeping Wednesday : Beeswax

by Peter Cole

Do you know what the honey bee’s most precious resource is? It is Beeswax!

If you have studied or seen the anatomy of a Honey bee you should have noticed that bees have six glands on the bottom of their abdomen. These glands secrete a substance called bees wax. Bees need to eat 7 to 9 pounds of honey to make one pound of wax which can store 22 pounds of honey in 35,000 wax cells. In optimal conditions it takes three days for 10,000 bees to make one pound of wax.

Honey bees have many uses for beeswax. The most common ways bees use wax is for storage; bees need a place to store honey and pollen, they store it in beeswax. They also use wax for reproduction, the queen lays her eggs in cells of wax and the bees go through their larvae and pupae stage in that cell. Bees have a certain width of space between almost everything known as bee space, this amount of space allows only a couple bees to fit in that area. If there is a space smaller than bee space the bees fill it with propolis, while if the space is bigger than bee space the bees will fill it beeswax till it is the right size.

Wax is not only valued by the bees, it is also valued by humans, but we can’t make it, so we take it from the bees. There are many different ways for beekeepers to harvest beeswax. The most common is while extracting honey, the bees make honey by dehydrating nectar. To prevent rehydration once it is dry enough, the bees will cap it with wax. To extract from a Langstroth hive we cut the capping off the cells, scrape them open, or melt the very top. Most people dispose of the wax but some people save the wax for other things. Extracting from a top-bar hive is different since the frames won’t withstand an extractor the wax has to be crushed and since crushed wax can’t be put back into a hive a lot of people will recycle the wax.

Humans have many uses for beeswax, one of the many uses for wax is selling it as honey in the comb. Special frames are designed to allow the beekeeper to remove a round of honeycomb with the honey once it is capped, this method leaves the honey in the comb, which many high end restaurants or grocery stores will sell to customers.

Another use for beeswax is candles. Beeswax is flammable which makes it one of the preferred candle ingredients. When beeswax burns it releases negative ions. Most dirt, dust, and pollen carry a positive charge which is how they float. The negative ions released from burning beeswax negate the positive charge of air contaminants, and the neutralized ions go back into the burning candle or fall to the ground.

Beeswax is also used to coat cheese, blocking the air to prevent spoilage. Beeswax is used in many cosmetics, lip balm, salves, and hand creams. Beeswax is also an important ingredient in hair pomades, and mustache wax.

Beeswax is super important to bees, but not only bees. We have harvested and found many uses for beeswax. The most important resource for bees is their wax because it is so hard to make it, and because they have have so many uses for it. I hope this article helped you, I learned a lot while writing this article about beeswax.