Hapkido Online

Monday, August 11, 2014

Africanized Honey Bees? Coastal Virginia

I had a couple of old supers (from first owner of the bees) that were pretty rotted out and decided to replace them.  I bought some lumber and made new boxes and painted them.  It was a pretty nice morning on Wednesday.  I waited till I saw bees coming and going from the entrance and suited up and lit my smoker.  I knew (even with my normally docile bees) that moving the brood frames would probably anger them so I put on the gloves this time.


Removing the honey supers brought angry buzzing and lot's of head butting. I should have just put the supers back on and walked away.  However I knew that I only had to move 10 frames.  Huge mistake!!!


The first three frames brought six stings through my bee suit.  I went into the house and took a shower and removed any stings from myself and my suit.  The suit had several dozen stingers in it.  I washed and dried the suit then went back out.  The shower and clothes washing did nothing I was immediately attacked in force upon getting within 10 feet of the hive.  At the time I thought I just had a "hot" box.  I moved a few more frames, taking stings through my bee suit the whole time.  I gritted my teeth and pressed on moving frame by frame.


Now I've been keeping bees for three years and in that time I've only gotten one sting up till now.  I've done cut out's, pulling brood comb from RV's and attic's etc.  I've caught swarms.  I've even captured feral bees.  Never have I dealt with bees this aggressive or angry before.


Usually if my bee's got a little stirred up I would simply walk away from the hive about ten or fifteen feet and they would settle down after awhile and I could get back to work.  That trick didn't work this time.  These angry bees followed me through the woods and even into my barn stinging all the way. 


I know that requeening is the recommended action in these cases.  However I can't imagine holding the frames in front of me calmly and finding her with literally hundreds of bees attacking me at the same time, especially with a surprising number of stings making it through my bee suit.  I ran into the house and removed as many of the stinging bees from my suit as I could.  Then I fished my phone out and sent a text message to my family warning them of the danger.  Our bees are usually about 200 feet from our house.  Fortunately they were all out.


I have children, elderly, and animals on the property with the bees.  I decided this time around the prudent course of action was to burn the aggressive hive.  I carried the boxes to a clearing, getting stung every step of the way, and piled them up and burned them.  When I went back in I pulled one stinging worker off my arm and put her in a zip lock bag and froze her.


I had hoped to build up to four hives this year but I am down to just one.  I am not sure if it's aggressive or not, still working up the courage to go back out there.


The doctor counted 22 stings about my back, shoulders, left arm, and left leg.  He gave me Benadryl and sent me home and told me to rest for three days.  I've had a few nightmares and I am a little gun shy from bees now.


Don't know if these were Africanized or not but demonstrated the behaviors that I've read about AHB.


If I stay in beekeeping I'll probably requeen all my hives every other spring or so.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Honey Time, Crush and Strain

Here is what I do, it's pretty easy really.  I’ve attached a couple of photo’s.

I pull the honey laden frames from the super and brush the bees back into the hive.  You will invariably miss a couple but don’t worry about them. 

Drop the honey frames into a clean plastic tote (big enough to hold them).  The tote will be heavy if you put a lot of frames in there so if you have a little wagon to drag it around on or something it helps.

I just do this one by one till I have as many as I want.  I put empty frames back into the hive.  I usually only pull about 4 medium frames at a time, which often fills a whole package of those 12 oz mason jars.

Make sure you keep the lid on the tote or the bees will rob their honey back just as fast as you can pull it out and you'll end up with empty combs.

Then I drag the tote up to the house and bring it in. Now don't be surprised if you have a few bees in the tote with the honey.  Just brush them from the frames into the tote and later you can set them free outside.  This year I was a in a hurry so Asa and I used my bee vac and sucked them off the frames.  Later we just set the vac cage outside and let them find their way back to the hive.  I've never been stung during this phase even without a suit.

Now at this point my method diverges from many keepers.  RJ for example has an extractor so he puts the frames into the extractor and spins the honey out.

I don't have an extractor so I do it the old fashioned way.  I take a big deep stainless pot that comes with a shallower pot that sit's within it.  The smaller one is a steamer for steaming vegetables and stuff.  It has holes in the bottom of it so that stuff in the top can drip into the bottom.  You can get these cheap at the local Wal-Mart.  Beekeeper supply stores have a similar contraption made out of plastic buckets.

I line the upper holed pot with a couple layers of moistened cheese cloth.  For some reason it works better if it's slightly damp.  It won't be enough water to affect the honey.  Then I take a butter knife and cut the combs out of the frames.  If you used wire in your frames you may need to use a wire cutter and pliers to pull the wires out.  I don't use wire so it's not an issue.  This is a messy job so I usually do it over big cookie sheets to catch any drips.
Put the chunks of honeycomb into the cheese cloth lined and holed upper pot.  At this point the honey will filter through the cloth, pass through the holes in the top pot and pool in the big bottom pot.  Fill the upper pot as much as you can then take a masher and pulverize the combs.  Take your time and really mush them up good.  I use an old solid maple rolling pin for my masher but any old masher will do.

After an hour or so you should have an inch or three of honey in your big pot.  You can lift the smaller one that’s full of mush off and sit it on a cookie sheet and pour the honey from the big pot into jars.  Then just put the small one back on and wait for more to trickle through.

When you start the mush will be dark.  The honey will keep percolating down for a few days so be patient.  You can periodically pour more into jars.  After a few days the mush will be light colored and will be mostly just beeswax.

If you keep the Pot warm (not hot) like on top of your fridge kind of warm, the honey will trickle down faster.  But even at room temperature gravity will eventually get the job done for you.

The stuff that trickles through the cheese cloth is high grade, all natural honey, fit for any table.  If you really want to get every drop you can melt the wax and that will release what’s left of the honey.  The wax floats on top the honey then you just separate to two.  You can get a surprising amount of honey this way and quite a lot of beeswax too, but this honey has been heated up and therefore is of lower quality.  This honey is good to use in baked goods and that sort of thing.

If you decide to melt down the wax and get every last drop make sure you use a pot for that job that will never be used for anything else because it’s a mess.

Otherwise the leavings can be put in a hive feeder and the bees will slowly reclaim it and recycle it back into the hive.

Selecting Lumber for Wooden Ware

For making very precise wooden ware that resists bowing, cupping, twisting, or any other wood maladies it's not so much about the species of wood but the selection.  I buy excellent pieces from big box stores all the time but the key to it is you have to be willing to go through the stack of lumber to find what you are looking for.


Here is the thing.  What you really want is a quarter sawn board.  But nobody quarter saws lumber out of timber for a reasonable cost anymore.  To reduce waste and increase profits most lumber mills plain saw the boards.


Here is the difference in a quarter sawn lumber all the cuts pass through the center of the tree.  What this means is the growth rings on the end grain will be perpendicular to the board.  With the grain oriented this way the board is much more dimensionally stable and will usually resist cupping or bowing.  They still might twist if the lumber wasn't stacked correctly so be sure to look down the board from end to end to verify relative straightness. 


In plain sawn lumber they just cut a slab out of the tree then move the saw down and cut another slab and then move the saw down and cut another slab.  This means that MOST of the boards have the grain running kind of in an arc that is more or less parallel to the board (when looking at the end grain).


But here is the good news, and the point of my lesson.  Even in inexpensive plain sawn lumber the saw will pass through the center of the tree at least once.  So one board in the stack will have the very center of the tree visible on the end grain with growth rings radiating outward perpendicular to the board.  So in essence one board in every plain sawn tree is actually quarter sawn!


The box stores charge the same for the good board as they do the crap ones, so take your time in selection and become educated on how to identify the good one. 


As for species, I dabbled with cedar early on and ultimately decided that it wasn't worth the cost.  The best bang for the buck is to find that one magical quarter sawn board in white-wood.  That's what the box stores call it anyway.  In reality the mill has labeled it S-P-F.  Which means it's either spruce, pine, or Fir.  Any of these are suitable.  Spruce is light and strong, pine is middle of the road, and fir is usually heavier but also has tighter grain and thus is stronger.


I do spring for cypress for the bottom boards because they last much longer and it's good economy.