Beekeeping Bootcamp!

Beekeeping Bootcamp!

A series of 5 classes specifically targeted for the beekeeper in their second year or beyond. Our intent is to demystify some of intermediate beekeeping challenges and shorten the learning curve.
Classes will intentionally be kept small so students can get the most out of their experience. This will include not only classroom time, but also hands on. There are two locations to choose from – Stratford Ecological Center in Delaware, OH (near Columbus) and Wolf Creek Trading Co in Copley, OH (near Akron). Students can select classes al a carte or as a series. Visit for further details.

Goodbye October!

Goodbye October!

I cannot express to you how much I HATE this time of year. It used to be my favorite…the beautiful showcase of changing leaves, the cooler temperatures, a reprieve from the 80 degrees dry temperatures of summer….the lack of mosquitos.

However THIS is the time of year the bees start to play tricks on you. I always wonder….have I done enough? Most of what we’ve learned and applied so far goes out the window. They do things like rob each other…play nice girls although winter is around the corner you’ll all get fed! Nope…they’d rather grab their own honey from a neighboring hive if left open too long. Queens disappear and the stray yellow jacket is seen stealing honey from the supers. Reduce those entrances. Otherwise they’ll fight to the death.

I don’t see eggs therefore I don’t have a queen!!!! Nope! Not always true. The more experience I get the more I think “just shut them up and hope for the best for winter”. Different queens show different traits. I have purple/pink thorax girls who are laying up a storm. Mated in early September it’s like they want to set the world on fire. Contrast that to my dark carnolian girls. Tons of honey – smaller population. No eggs to be seen. The only reason I know these are viable hives is because I marked my queens and experience has proven that although the pit in my stomach at the declining population is real – these hives likely surprise me in the spring. They challenge all logic…seriously.

Do I have enough food? Water water, but not a drop to drink! Golden rod golden rod…but seriously no nectar! Pollen “yes”, nectar “no”.  I knew this was coming. I’ve seen this year before….and yet did I do enough? Did I feed enough? All hives will get supplemental feed in case of emergency, but still….

Are my mites down? I should have known this two months ago…but temperatures were too high and treating with any honey supers on is labor intensive. What on earth did I do and was it enough?

Mice - There is nothing worse than opening a hive in January to be surprised by the cute little mouse and all her mouse poo greeting me….taunting me that I should have guarded earlier. What an easy prevention what in the world is my excuse! All honey is worthless. Can’t have that around food. Not to mention the stress on the bees. She’s been gobbling them up all winter. Naughty girl….if you weren’t so cute and detrimental to my bees I’d wish a very nasty death upon you. It’s still my fault….still leave. “go away!”

Moisture, insulation? Don’t get me started, I’m still looking for the magical solution here. Work still to be done in December. There are no breaks in beekeeping, just lighter work-loads but heavier worries.

I’m already looking forward to spring when all sins are forgiven, but that’s so far away.

I hate this time of year.

Why I Hate Swarms!

Why I Hate Swarms!

I love to watch swarms....when they are from someone else's hives....

Beekeeping and Krav Maga

Beekeeping and Krav Maga

Being physically fit is necessary in beekeeping. Recently I realized I have a long way to go....Click to read more

Why I Mark my Queens

Swarm control is one of the top reasons I mark my queens. Additionally since I sell queens, I like to assess them before they reach the customer. If those queens are marked during their assessment period they are easier to find when they are caged prior to reaching the customer.

Unless a queen is marked, there is no real way of knowing if you are dealing with your original queen from year to year or even within a year. Queens swarm, they get superseded, sometimes a mother and daughter will exist side by side, any number of events can happen in a hive and marking queens is key to keeping track of what is going on. If you are successful in managing swarms it is possible to end up with queens that are several years old.  Here’s where the International color coding system can help. If a queen is marked as follows you can determine what year she was installed.

Many beekeepers use paint pens from the bee supply catalogs or even hardware stores. I have heard of beekeepers successfully using nail polish which admittedly out of desperation I used it one evening and it was a disaster. I found it difficult to control the amount of “paint” administered to the queen. The first queen I marked I ended up with a gory mess. The bees didn’t like the smell either and ended up balling and killing her. Maybe I just don’t paint my nails enough so I am out of practice. The fact that I even own blue nail polish to begin with must have been one of my rare attempts to be trendy.  The second queen was a little cleaner, but although the paint was dry when I put her back into the hive, the bees definitely did not like the smell! Not that they particularly enjoy the smell of the paint pens either, but this was extreme. I felt sure she’d be balled as well, but she’s still alive and kicking in the hive with her very poorly made mark. I think in the future I’ll just stick with the pens.

Some beekeepers, typically in queen production operations choose the numbered disks that are typically fixed to the queen’s thorax with glue. I find these to be impractical for a small operation. They are expensive and more time consuming to install compared to a dot of paint. Plus I’ve had the disk fall off of breeder queens. The only way I was able to confirm that the breeder queen was my original queen was because her wing was clipped as well by the breeder. With paint it is true that over time the paint will wear off, but generally if you look closely at the queen there is usually a small bit of paint remaining that validates that is your original queen. You can always just refresh the mark.

I don't clip the wings of queens. Other than the "disc episode" where clipping was helpful in identification, I simply don't understand the point. You run the risk of maiming a queen when you clip her and she will still attempt to swarm on you even though she can’t fly. If you’re lucky you’ll find her on the ground with a ball of bees that attempted to swarm. Most times however we are unlucky. I find I have better success if I just try and properly manage my bees.

-Laura Urban