Thursday, June 10, 2010


I’ve been so busy enjoying summer in Tallahassee that I’m having to go back and catch up on things I should have posted long ago!

Almost two weeks ago now, I had one of the most fun days ever when I spent the morning with my friend Jayne – who is also a new beekeeper – helping her extract honey from her beehives. Jayne’s bees have been good girls. They didn’t swarmed, haven’t gotten varroa mites, and have been busy making tons of honey while mine have been out causing trouble. As a result, she had loads of honey that needed to be extracted and I volunteered to help out so that I could learn how to do it – in the event my bees ever decide to make enough to share with me!

First, we visited her hives. Jayne and her husband Jack have a beautiful piece of land that’s loaded with blueberries, goldenrod, gallberry bushes and loads of other plants that the bees obviously love. We opened up both hives and

decided that there were 6 frames that were fully loaded and completely capped with wax that could be taken from the hives. She had decided to try using fume board to get the bees out of the honey supers – which we all agreed smelled bad enough it would get rid of just about anything (the general consensus being that it smelled like rotten cheese). She put on the fume board and we waited 5 minutes, but still ended up having to brush a lot of

bees off the frames. After being stinked out of the supers AND brushed, they were not too happy! We all 3 worked as fast as we could, brushing bees and stuffing frames into an ice chest, then slapping on the lid to keep other bees out. Finally, we headed back to the house in her truck with our frames of honey.

Back at the house Jayne set up the honey extractor that she’d rented from the beekeeper’s club for the day. We set each frame on the top of the extractor and gently scraped the wax cappings with a fork, then loaded them one by one into the extractor. It only took a few spins of the handle to sling all the honey out of the frames. It didn’t look like much in the bottom of that big extractor, but when we opened the valve and let the honey flow out into my 5-gallon bucket, it filled it almost half full! We lifted the bucket onto Jayne’s bathroom scales and it weighed out at almost exactly 20 pounds. Not bad for only 6 frames of honey! If she’d extracted 10 frames each from both hives, I figure she’d have gotten about 70 pounds!

The honey really tasted good – a light clear golden color. I got a jar to take home, and drove home hot and sweaty, sticky with honey, but happy as a clam.

Can’t wait until I get to do this at my house - thanks for sharing your first honey extraction with me Jayne!

The dreaded varroa mite

It's been a while since I posted on the state of the bees, and much has been going on in that time. Being a new beekeeper I have nothing to compare it to, but all my experienced beekeeper friends agree - it's been a strange year for bees.

First, there was the epidemic of swarm activity back in the spring. Then it seemed that just about everybody whose hives swarmed ended up queenless. And now, to cap it off, there have been several cases of AFB, or American Foul Brood, in the area. AFB is the mother of all bee diseases - the ONE hive disease you don't want to end up with. It's so harsh and so contagious that, in the state of Florida at least, hives that are found to have it are required to be burned - bees and all.

The good news is that my hives don't appear to have it. The bad news is that beekeeper Bob, who lives only about 1 1/2 miles away (and from whom I bought my 2 queens a month ago) did have AFB in several of his hives. Bad news not only for Bob (who lost 4 of his hives) but potentially bad for me, since bees travel up to 3 miles from their hives to forage.

So . . . I called bee inspector Jeff to come and check out my hives earlier this week. They all looked clean for Foul Brood, but 2 of the 3 were carrying a heavy load of Varroa Mites, which can weaken and stress a hive and make them more susceptible to diseases. Such as Foul Brood.

Yesterday, I applied the first dose of Apiguard on both boxes, which is a natural thyme-based treatment that apparently doesn't kill the mites, but makes it so unpleasant for them that they pack up and head for greener pastures. After catching a whiff of the stuff, I can see why they wouldn't want to stay. I feel sorry for the bees, but am hoping that this will solve the mite problem and strengthen the hives. I'll apply the second dose in about a week, then will check for mites a few days later and see if the Apiguard has worked.

Keeping fingers crossed . . . .