Honey Building Work Last Year

by Jorge

At the Mount Vernon location I moved to in early 2014, there are two honey buildings taking shape. One was the leaky-roofed shed that I put a metal roof on and featured in an earlier post. It did come with a floor anyway. Here is how the interior started:

Now I've got it setup with heat, water, and a proper electrical box that can handle a decent load. Here's the insulation phase (after framing up the interior with stud walls and windows):

I'll make a video of the finished interior sometime soon.

At the same time, I also needed to get a floor into the larger steel building where I store equipment. Life is much better now that it no longer involves so much lime and dirt. Here is a picture of my happy transformation going up on 1/2" rebar:

In the last photo of the day, I rented a little mini-loader with a trenching attachment from my local ACE to tile in the drains. My own skid steer unfortunately doesn't have the auxiliary connections built out on the frame:

Anyway, I just thought I'd share those pics from the endeavors of last summer and fall! I'm thinking this year will be more manageable now that things are decently operational--though there is certainly still plenty to accomplish!

Biltmore Bees

by Jorge

The bees are all fed, so I'm finally getting around to transferring a bunch of old pictures from my old smartphone. I came across some photos that I took at the Biltmore Estate (near Asheville) last summer when Alex and I traveled to North Carolina for one of his athletic competitions.

For any who are unfamiliar, the Biltmore house and estate are rather massive. One of the Vanderbilts constructed this modest little home in the late 1800s.

It's very nice to see that there are also Biltmore bees on the mighty estate :) They have even provided a kind cautionary notice for people who might brave a closer look!

I suppose I was probably more intrigued by the Biltmore bees than most people who stumble across them, but I found it all quite amusing! It's worth the visit!

Back in Charlotte, we also dropped in to enjoy one of the local Tupelo Honey Cafe locations--delicious!

Perhaps one day our little man Andrew will check out these places too! Here he is a few months ago in an admirable bee bib :)

2015 Survivor Bees!

by Jorge

The new beekeeping year is springing into action! After the interminable 2013-14 winter, mother nature was much kinder going into 2015. There were a couple of weeks of serious weather from time to time, but nothing like the scourges of last winter. There were flying days every month of the winter, and we had a stretch of beautiful March weather that let the bees get out with regularity for several days. Some folks in the area reported seeing some significant pollen, but I have not witnessed much action outside the hive beyond simple flight so far.

Altogether, only 7% of my hives died this winter. That is the best survival I've ever gotten to report. The warm weather has a fair amount of brood started in the strong hives--and most of the hives are indeed strong. Here's a video from one of the locations where none of them died. It's in the Solon area.

I'm really hoping April queens arrive in good time. With hives this populous, I need to be splitting by mid-April or be prepared to see a lot of bees hanging in the trees by May. Then again, I'd just resort to raising cells if mated queens aren't available. There are always options I guess. Good luck as the new season unfolds!

October Bees 2014

by Jorge

I have photos and a few videos from the end of summer that I planned to post here in various blogs, but I guess I'll have to play catch-up as the year concludes. I've been rather buried in the university life, bee duties, and family excitement. The overall honey season turned out to be rather mediocre, though not a disaster. It was just too cool and wet during the prime honey-making weeks that followed my previous post.

I'm already through mite treatments for 2014, but this fall has been even worse than fall 2013 in terms of honey collection for overwintering. Thank goodness I'm setup with dual division board feeders in just about all of my colonies this year. That was a lesson well-learned after seeing some starvation during the last winter. A good number of hives will have consumed and stored 80 lbs of feed before they're set to go for this winter. I'm getting close to optimistic going into the next winter. Supposedly the arctic vortex will remain at bay, and my bees are starting to look really good.

Here is a video from this afternoon that shows good populations in some of my dark Carniolan hives, and there are a few yellow Italian colonies at this location too:

If the bees look half this good in March, I will feel good about spring 2015.

Honey Boxes Filling 2014

by Jorge

It's raining again this morning. Fortunately, the drops from the sky have fallen with less frequency over the last 10 days, and the result has been several yards putting together a respectable amount of honey. My best hive right now has 200 lbs on it, though the generally good performers have 2-3 full boxes on them (approx 80-120 lbs).

There's always a thrill that comes along with a good number of honey boxes frosted with fresh wax. This one is at the stage where the combs are pulled all the way out, filled with nectar, and just waiting to be capped:

Here are a couple side-by-side near the small town of Ely that are at the same production point--three boxes each:

I'd say about 1/3 of the hives are still getting their act together, and that's especially true among the later splits and other hives that needed two or three queening attempts to get them on track. So, there's not a truly good average per hive yet, but at least I know that we have some barrels of honey waiting for the extractor.

The plus side of the precip and mild temperatures is that the bloom has matured slowly and there is plenty of moisture for nectar production. Really the next concern is whether or not the moisture content of the extracted honey will be too high. If it gets into the upper 18% area we have to worry about fermentation. The bees seem to be capping the crop pretty readily, so I have some reasonable hope that the moisture situation won't be ridiculous.

The next week is supposed to be dry with similar temperatures in the 70s and low 80s. While that's not the amount of heat I usually look for, something is clearly going right for the bees lately. If this morning's rain didn't shut off the honey flow, I should be in a much better crop situation several days from now. Fingers crossed!

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