Friday, August 9, 2013

Honey Bees in the City

As you may or may know from reading previous posts, I live in St. Paul, MN. And while beekeeping in the city is becoming more popular, the regulations make it pretty hard to do. I mean, seriously, who can put a beehive at the very center of their property surrounded by a 5ft high fence that's 20ft in diameter (because we can't have kids get closer than 10ft to the hive)?

Those factors, along with wanting to do this project with my dad so my kids get to see their grandpa more and work with him on a fun project, prompted me to keep my bees at my dad's house outside the city where the regulations are fewer and farther between.

Despite the regulations in the city, however, there are still bees! Saw this beautiful girl (the one and only I've seen this summer) in my yard last week while I was mowing the lawn. Maybe someday the beekeeping restrictions will lesson, and I can raise bees in the city.


Thursday, August 1, 2013

Switching some boxes around and moving our swarm to a permanent home


I'm not gonna say a whole lot right now. I'm too tired. I just wanted to get these videos up. I'll let them speak for themselves

I'm hoping now that both hives will stay strong and use the next month or two to build up and fill out at least a second box. We'll just have to wait and see!


Tuesday, July 30, 2013

More native bees

More Native Bees in Minnesota (07-28-13)

On Sunday, we had the joy of sharing a wonderful meal with our good friends in their garden. During the course of our conversation, our friend mentioned she hadn't seen many bees (bumble bees and honey bees) and was worried whether or not her garden was being pollinated properly. Well, it was! With a little bit of observation we noted at least five different species of native bees buzzing around her garden. The first was the common bumble bee we see flying around MN. I'm not sure what the species is exactly, but those of you who live here will know which one I'm talking about. It's fat (nearly round!), and has vivid yellow and black stripes. Unfortunately, I only saw one and wasn't quick enough to snap a picture.

Bee #1
Another bee was saw, I'm fairly certain was another bumble bee species. It was smaller and not so fat. Probably in between the size of a honey bee and the "regular" bumble bee we're used to. It also wasn't striped, but had a distinct yellow section and black section. Here's a couple pictures.

 Bee #2
Another bee we saw was pure black and about the size of a honey bee. It was pretty fun to watch them get covered in bright yellow pollen from the squash plants!

Bee #3
This next one I thought, at first was the same as the andrenid bees I saw in my garden. It was very small, only about 1/2" long and had humungous pollen baskets on its legs. After inspecting it a little more carefully, however, it's obvious it's not the same bee. This one has very distinct stripes with little to no hair on its back half, while the andrenid bees had no stripes and more hair.

Bee #4
Finally, we saw this beautiful bee. A little larger than the andrenid bees and the bees pictured above. Probably about 1/2" long or just over. It was bright metallic green on the front half and striped on the back half.

I haven't had time to look up exactly what these all are yet, so if any of you have any ideas, let me know!

- Here's a diagram of a variety of Minnesota Bumble Bees. What do you think about bee #1? I'm thinking maybe the Common Eastern Bumble Bee or Bombus impatiens. On a similar note, the big, fat, striped bumble bee that we are all familiar with in Minnesota (that I didn't get a picture of unfortunately), I'm thinking that one is the Black and Gold Bumble Bee or Bombus auricomus.
- Bee #4 looks like some sort of Metallic Green Bee, such as identified as Agapostemon virescens over at Oak Hill Apiary.

What does everyone think? Any help on bees #2 and #3?

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Removing a swarm from our bait hive.


Here's the videos we took when we moved the swarm from our bait hive into a standard Warre box. We'll join up that Warre box with the new hive we built at some point in this next week.

Please be aware that we're totally new to beekeeping. These videos are not intended to instruct you on the correct way to do things. We're totally learning as we go. We expect that you'll learn just as much from our mistakes as we do from our successes. Also know that not all the information given in the videos may be technically accurate. Please verify anything you hear on this blog with reputable sources before taking it for gospel truth. Finally, we are doing this as a project with my two boys (ages 8 and 6 when we started this spring), so I apologize for the shaky videos, etc, but it is what it is.

All that said, enjoy the videos!

Friday, July 26, 2013

How to move a beehive.

If you've been paying attention, you know our original hive swarmed, that we caught said swarm in one of our bait traps, and that we now need to move that hive out of the bait trap and into a real bee hive.

Well, today (Friday, July 26th), we built our new hive. Unfortunately, it's not sealed (waterproofed) yet so we can't move our bees directly into their new hive. Instead, we took down our other bait hive which happened to be a standard Warre box with a floor board, lid, and some holes drilled in the side for an entrance. We then used bungees to attach it to the top of an 8 foot ladder right next to the tree where the old bait hive was. The idea is that the hive has moved less than 3 feet (more on that in a minute) so all the returning bees should be able to find their new home. Now that it's in a standard Warre box, however, when we decide on the new location, we can simply take the floor and roof off this box, plug up the side holes, and put it directly into our new Warre hive, complete will floor board, multiple boxes, quilt, and roof.

So what's with the three feet? Conventional wisdom says that when you move a beehive, it needs to be LESS THAN three feet or MORE THAN three miles. This is because when bees leave their hive, their pretty much on auto-pilot, they don't really pay attention. Why would they need to? They know where they live. They just go, do their thing, collect nectar and what not, and then head for home. The problem is when the head home they're on auto-pilot too. Just like you when you drive you, you don't really pay attention to what streets you're turning on. You know where you live. You know how to get home. You do it every day. Imagine, however, if you drive home (or where you thought home was) and your home wasn't there! This is what happens if you move a beehive, say a 100 yards. They come back to where the hive originally was and basically get lost and need to start looking/smelling for their new home. Which they may or may not find.

So what to do? You need to disorient the bees so they go, "Hey! Wait a minute. This is different. Where am I?" and really take a good look around before flying off for the day. One way to do this is to move them more than 3 miles. Another way to do this is to keep them cooped up inside the hive for at least 3 days (don't you love all the 3's?). Another way, described in the following link and video, is to cause disorientation by creating an obstacle (grass, leaves, et cetera) that the bees must navigate around as they leave their hive. When they get around the obstacle, they'll go "Wow. That wasn't normal," and take that good look around that we talked about before flying off.

Here's the link: How to move a hive.

And here's the video: How to move a hive any distance.

I think this third method will likely be what I do. I'm not going to move our bees 3 miles. I'm also not sure they really have enough stores built up (actually I'm pretty sure they don't) to last them 3 days. I think what I'll do is give them 2 days in their current Warre box. During that time I'll water proof the hive we built and have my dad pick out a location in the yard for our new hive. I'll come back after two days, and we'll set up the hive at it's new location, except we'll have the entrance blocked off so the bees can't get in and out. In the evening, when the bees are all home for the night. We'll staple a piece of 1/8" hardware cloth over the holes I drilled for a makeshift entrance. That way all the bees will be trapped inside the box. We'll move them over to the new hive we set up and leave them there over night. In the morning I'll have my dad unblock the main entrance to the new hive, put some branches in front of it, and we'll all pray the bees take their reorientation flights and make it home safely at the end of the day. Think it's a good plan? I sure hope so!

We took a few videos of this whole process. They're rather long (about 30 minutes total) so they're taking a while to render and upload. I'll try to get them up on the blog tomorrow.