Red letter day! 18 May

Yesterday was a red-letter day in that we answered 3 swarm calls – in the same day.

First, I got a call from the finance dept – they had bees. Checked it out, no swarm. But may have been scout bees looking for a new hive location. That building has so many inviting holes, one will move in someday – if they don’t fix ’em first. Did get roof access to ensure there wasn’t a hidden cluster someplace. Nothing found. And by time I’d left, all the scouts had as well. I suspect they may have been from the swarm at the elementary school. It’s only a few blocks away.

Then a swarm call. Turned out to be about 20′ up in a big pine tree in a front yard. Too for me to get to, too many branches to try the rope and shake deal. Called in one of our newer folks and suggested he setup traps and try to lure the swarm into moving into his gear. We’ll see how that goes.

Another call. This one on an elementary school lot. No panic, these folks had some good info. One of our newer keepers in the area helped with that one. We boxed ’em and took ’em to my yard. He’ll be picking them up tonite and take them to his yard out West of town. But, it did come in just before the start of the radio club meeting. Handed off the keys and took care of bees. Sounds like they had a good time at pie ‘n coffee after.

And then another! Just as I was whipping up some evening grub for Toby and I, the cell goes off and sure enough, there’s another swarm. Called the fellow I’d had setup the traps and told ’em to bring his gear. But, we got there about 45 minutes after sun-down. Too dark and they’d already bivouacked for the night. So, he showed up again bright and early the next morning and got ’em hived. Interesting side note, his mother in law from Ukraine is visiting. She’s a commercial beekeeper back home. Also doesn’t speak a word of English. With his wife translating, seems they shared a good time getting ’em all hived up. One comment I heard was along the lines of she’d never seen such a beautiful swarm before.

Bit concerning – we’ve had some off putting weather for the past few weeks. Suddenly gotten nice and they’re popping all over! I expect many more calls in the near future. I’ve already have run out of gear – so they’ll all be going somewhere else. Not a bad problem to have – so long as we can catch them. But I am a tad concerned about publicity. Folks might get a tad worried about so many swarms. There are still many in town who don’t realize we even have bees around.

Many thanks to the crew at Metro Animal control! They’ve taken a few calls and have done a good job at directing folks to us. Big help and much appreciated!

Busy Spring!

Packages have arrived and been installed.

NCBA worked as a group, thanks to Don’s efforts, to order and bring nearly 40 packages from Cheyenne to Casper. In a little over 30 mintues, all 40 packages were distributed and on their way to their new homes. We did have a very few minor issues with queens that didn’t survive. But Prairie Wind Bee Supply more than stepped up and helped out. Nothing but good to say about ’em.

And then – rain.

It’s felt more like Seattle than Wyoming these past few weeks. In the yard, I’ve actually had to empty the rain gauge. That just doesn’t happen ’round here. Well over 6″ of rain in just over a month. Should make for an awesome honey flow!

Yesterday was the first swarm call of the season. I nice, large cluster of about 4 lbs gathered on a lilac branch, heavy enough to pull it to the ground. Was an amazing feeling to slide fingers in the grass to gather a ball of workers and feel the heat. Ladies like it warm!

So, what with packages and a couple other things – the yard is now up to 8 hives. One will be going to a new beekeeper who had issues earlier. Likely this weekend. The other, the swarm, will be going to another local keeper – if they ever call back!

Efforts for education continue – mostly online. There is one grade school visit come’n up shortly. Those are fun!

And last night, my wife and i assembled another 30 frames to fill out the last of our deeps. This should give us just enough boxes to put 2nd brood chambers on the packages. If things take off – like they appear they’re going to – I’ll have to get at last another half dozen or so deeps!

And splits. The 3 colonies that over wintered are just about due to be split. Seems there’s a new (or re-newed) method called “Taranov Swarming”. Yea, another something that’s been around for years, but thanks to the ubiquitous of the internet and social media, is making a resurgence. May have to give this a try, just to see what the fuss is about. Does look to simplify things some!

The rains have finally stopped – for at least a few days. Things are warming up. The lilacs are in full bloom all over town and the green is near Ireland intense. The season is in full swing and it’s looking to be a real corker!

A ‘radius’ map

What with the WY Apiculture act mandating a 2 mile radius for ‘General’ Apiaries, how is a fella to know if he’s got someone else in the way of a new yard? Well, there aren’t any tools the state provides. But, you can get close. found a site that lets you make a google map with a circle of a chosen radius around a point. I made one for me here

2 Mile radius around yard

Then compare that with the state ‘sponsored’ map at Google Land and you can take an educated guess. Not binding or definitive by any means. But, if you’ve questions, it may help – a bit. Play with the zoom levels so you can compare the two and good luck!

Find that site here, make your own radius map.

Spring is come’n!

Snow out in front of the hives has lots of yellow gold poo spots. More dead bees have been discarded. They’re home! And it’s finally warm enough during the day for the cleansing flights. Too bad I don’t get home until after the sun has gone down and things have cooled off.

Hope to check stores and general conditions on Friday – supposed to be mid 50s. Wonder when the next snow band will pass through – we’re not done yet!

Beekeeping association in January

Well, depths of winter – temps below freezing – snow all over. What’s a bee club to do?

We meet – we spread the word – we plan. We help folks get started. Now is the time!

We had near 35 people show up last night. Best attendance ever! We also arranged for a group order of packages. Discounts and convenience. Did some basic introductions of material and faces. Folks are excited! Last count, we had around 30 packages to order up and bring to Casper. We’re gonna be busy.

However, must remember to finish the OA vaporizors for next month! Need to have at least 2 ready (note to self).

Also, my endoscopic camera arrived. Time to get it trialed up and maybe build a Raspberry Pi/WiFi interface so I can watch a hive full time, online.

And, of course – now is the time to count frames, check wooden ware, pain (if warm enough), get things ready for when those packages arrive. Don’t forget feeders!

A new beginning…

Well, the first year of keeping bees in Casper is past. We had a good run! Yard was up to 8 colonies at one time. Quickly diminished to 3 for the winter as weak colonies were combined and swarms given away to other new keepers. It was a dynamic time, for sure!

On the plus side – we managed to harvest about 60lbs from our 3 first year hives. Not bad, not bad at all and about 60lbs more than I was expecting.

First batch of mead is ‘cooking’. Just did rack it off into 2nd fermenter this weekend. Looking good! But, yea – with “only” 60lbs of honey, dumping 15lbs into a beverage – no matter how good it should be – is a tad unsettling.

Tickets for the WY bee college have been purchased, reservations made. Looking forward to a good time in Cheyenne.

Last summers victory at getting Casper Municipal code modified to allow for keeping bees within the city limits was way cool. Keepers are coming out of the wood work now. LOTS more bees in Natrona county than I believe anyone suspected.

I’ve already received my notice to renew my yard location registration. Nicely done WY Ag dept! Tad frustrated with the requirements to register as a General yard, however. The letter says I have to have at least 10 hives to register as a general and I have to have 20 hives to register a 2nd yard (10 each). Mmmm, not in the regs, but hey – kind get why they’re doing that. So, my plan to register as a general yard may be delayed until I can build up some. We’ll see.

The ‘club’ (NCBA) is growing and evolving into what it’ll become. Enthusiasm and trepidation are both present in appropriate amounts. After several years of effort and leadership, Deb has stepped aside as ‘ring leader’. Pretty smart call on her part and not easy to do. But her wisdom shows! Now to see what this crew builds.

Oxalic Acid vaporizer has been working well – treated 5 yards (including my own) this past fall. We’re gonna win on the Varroa battle line too!

Wow – I look back and 2015 was a good, busy year. And 2016 is shaping up as well. Like I mentioned, we have 3 hives now. 2 I’m fairly confident will make it to spring. One, I’m not so sure of – but maybe. We plan to buy 2 packages from Prairie Wind, plus swarm captures. Should have the yard full in no time at all. Need to make another stand.

Now, why the restart on this site? Well, it’s an experiment and frankly – I simply didn’t like the way it was going. All the important stuff folks need or want to know is over on the NCBA site, so no real loss. Don’t be surprised if this one goes ‘blank’ again sometime in the future. And, of course, if you’ve something you want to ask about or add, just let me know.

Happy Bees to all in ’16!

It’s so easy to do!!

And it has a purpose.

I received a letter from the Wyoming Department of Agriculture. “Certificate of Apiary Registration” – best part of it was “Fee: $0.00”. Yup! Free – no cost to register. I filled out a downloaded PDF, printed it off and mailed it in to the address indicated. Done. took less than 10 minutes to do and the return came back in less than a week. Prompt and easy!

So, why bother registering? First off, it’s the law. According to the Wyoming Apiology act, All yards must be registered. The act itself implies these reasons: “To prevent the spread of bee diseases, bee parasites or bee pests among bees and apiaries, to protect apiaries against depredation by wildlife and to assist law enforcement agencies in an effort to alleviate losses due to theft…” (11-7-301) And, if you don’t register, “Any person who violates any provision of this chapter is guilty of a misdemeanor and upon conviction shall be fined not more than five hundred dollars ($500.00) or imprisoned in the county jail for not more than six (6) months, or both. Each day the violation continues constitutes a separate offense.” (11-7-133) Clearly, it’s in your own best interest to do it right. Not registering could be very bad for you, which is bad for your bees.

Also, It shows your willingness to NOT become a problem to bees or other beekeepers! The state Ag dept tracks disease, pests and populations. Just like a 3rd world inner city slum with poor sanitation and services, putting too many hives in too small an area is a perfect storm for problems – for everyone. Bad for the bees.

The State Apiologist can inspect your hives at any time of their choosing. If a problem is found, they can mandate remediation and correction. In practice, the one guy that’s trying to take care of the entire state simply doesn’t have time to inspect onesie-twosie hobbyist yards. Seems, unless there’s a problem, they pretty much leave you to your won. But, they know their stuff! If you have a problem – call! You may well be in need of some advice, an extra set of eyes. Their job is to help you be successful and for things to go well for your bees. If you do have a problem and refuse help to fix it – well, that’s bad for your bees.

If a neighboring commercial yard developed a problem, you’d find out and be able to take action before loosing your bees. Also, if your neighbors complain, local law enforcement or animal control get involved, you’ve just given them more ammo to use to go after you – if you’re not registered. If you *are* registered, you’ve some defense and have shown an effort to be in compliance – it may well help if you’ve a grumpy neighbor trying to stir up trouble for you! That would be bad for your bees.

But, the biggest reason – it’s good for the bees. That right there should be all the reason needed.

The complete text of The Wyoming Apiology Act, available online.

The PDF Apiary Registration Form can be downloaded from the Wy Dept of Agriculture ‘Plant Industry Program’ web site.

Wyoming PBS

Seems they’re also supporting Urban Beekeeping. Today, at 4:30pm they aired

Growing a Greener World
Backyard Beekeeping (Seattle, Atlanta)

Interesting take, there’s a Dude in Seattle that puts his hives in your yard. He maintanes and keeps the bees, offers guidance and support. But make no mistake, they’re his bees. He collects the honey and keeps things going. However, part of the arrangement is you get honey as well.

Special in this day of “Pave over all the things!” it’s one way of keeping apiculture alive. Bonus is this encourages folks to plant bee friendly yards and gardens as well as help with education and awareness. All in all, a pretty good deal!

I must admit, I’m curious as to what the regulations, licensure and liability concerns may be for such a business.

The show goes on to a hotel with roof top gardens and hives, a trip to the kitches shows some of their gourmet cooking using the hotel’s own honey. Looks like good stuff!

(Yes, winter is long. Bees have been ordered, there’s a stack of wood ware here. Just biding my time watching bee stuff where ever I can until my packages arrive and I can get this thing going! End of April, early May is the expected window. And, I’ve 2 nucs from a local keeper reserved. No idea, yet, when they’ll be available. So, painting boxes, assembling hives, fitting foundation and waiting. Mmm, may have to put out the 2 swarm traps I’ve got ready – just to do something!)

Well, I’d guess I’d better…

at least mention this thing. It’s blown up on beekeeping forums all over. Yea, here it is again ::sigh:: The Honeyflow frame hive.

First, some context:

The idea of a ‘tap’ or ‘gate’ on a hive that would dispense fresh honey at the twist of a valve is a meme that goes back – likely – thousands of years. It’s been expressed in jokes and comics since before Gutenberg cranked his first prototype press. It’s been a joke for so long that many experienced beeks are having a hard time taking this thing seriously. Initial reactions to the announcement were, “It’s a joke, right? It’s gotta be – it’s been a running joke since forever!”

Couple that with the traditions of beekeeping. The Langstrogh hive was invented in 1852. It’s been tweaked and improved – incrimentally – over many decades. It’s been tested, proven and embraced by beeks the world over. Now, some plastic wielding engineer kid is going to show up and revolutionize honey production with a gadget?

But, the web site was fairly well done. Beeks do tend to lend credence to effort. They’re used to hard work and pointless hardwork is offensive. But maybe it was still just an elaborate joke. Just a well done joke. Yes, the Internet has made beeks cynical as well. Also, they document sevearl years – decades – of research and development. This isn’t just another quickie get-rich-quick or ‘better idea’ that’s popped up. They’ve tried it. They’ve had others try it and more importantly, have listened to their feedback.

Then the patent was found online and shared around. A few actually read it (or at least parts of it). Mmm, this thing really does go into quite some detail. And the basic mechanics do support their goal. Then there are the testimonials. Could this crew really have gotten so many known names to go along with a joke? Mmm, maybe – it’d be the ultimate trick on the beekeeping community at a time when a bit of levity might be good for everyone.

Then a friend of mine signed up for their email list, anticipating the Kickstarter campaign (23 Feb). The promises and information he received were shared and I tell ya – it sounds impressive. But, then – it’s supposed to, right?

As with any ‘new’ thing in beekeeping, I’ve my doubts and cynicism. Maybe too much. It’s a habit from years of “golly gee whiz” gadgets costing hard earned cash, making promises and ultimately just making things more difficult or simply breaking. And not just in the field of Apiology! I’ve literally piles of ‘cool’ whizzy gizmos that now serve only to hold down shelves and support dust. A temple to modern consumerism.

I’ll have to wait and see, but I’m thinking this thing – at best – will end up as a novelty or a ‘toy’ for the backyard, bet hive keeper. Examples will appear at Farmers markets and educational/marketing booths. Something to impress the common folk and make things appear easy. It won’t become a production tool (yea, I said it). It’s too complicated, too delicate, makes management of hives more difficult (maybe) and is inefficient at extracting honey from comb. There are concerns about taking un-ripened honey from the hive – but that may be surmountable with good practices.

It may also contribute to persistent malady or disease in hives. Catch a dose of AFB and how eager is a beek going to be to burn his deca-dollar gizzmo frames?

Worse, it may well trick a whole new wave of baby beeks into buying hives, bees and gear creating another large wave of abandoned backyard hives. Good for those that sell ‘stuff’. But is it good for bees or beekeeping? I’m not so sure.

The kicker may well be the particulars of the Kickstarter project itself. The price of these things – the expense and labor it will introduce will be the make or break point. If it’s comparable or slightly higher in cost to traditional frames while reducing labor for a similar harvest, well, then – maybe. Just maybe.

To be sure, I’ll not be committing to this thing until I see it works and doesn’t introduce new problems. Hard enough as it is keeping these critters happy, healthy, secure and at peace as it is. I’ve already run out of shelves, here.