Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Beeyard Visits

One of my favorite parts of belonging to a beekeeping association are the beeyard visits (it's really just a field trip for big kids!).  If you're a beekeeper, or interested in beekeeping, I highly recommend you join your local group.  They are a great resource for information, knowledge and equipment, and people willing to answer your questions.  Mine is the Pikes Peak Beekeepers Association (PPBA), and last month we met on a Saturday morning for an informative day of beekeeping at a member' house. 
First off, this was quite a beeyard.  Steve H. has about 8 hives in total (do nucs count?), and has some serious equipment.  This beeyard is in the Pikes Peak foothills, bear country, which makes an electric fence a necessity.  Steve has about a 20'x20' area fenced off, leveled, and filled with gravel as a base to prevent weeds, etc. 
Before we checked out the hives, though, Steve had some of his equipment set out for us to look at.  He's a pretty good handyman and repurposer, and has built a lot of his own equipment, such as a queen marking cage out of a pill canister, and a solar wax melter out of an old cooler, plexiglass and insulation.  I got a lot of good ideas.

This homemade gridded board goes beneath the screened bottom board.  It's used to measure mite count.  The shiny white spots are wax flakes that've dropped off of a bees belly, the yellow is pollen and other debris.

Homemade solar wax melter holding bucket with screen to separate debris from melted wax.

One of the more experienced beekeepers in PPBA, John H., went through the hives with Steve.  Most of us wore at least a hat and veil, but they just worked the hives bare-handed and bare-headed.  I'm not at that comfort level yet.

From l to r: hive, 2 nucs stacked together, single deep containing captured swarm, hive, 2 large hives in back
They discovered queen cups along the bottom of some frames in one very healthy colony, but no eggs in them, and the hive never swarmed.  There was another colony which had a laying worker, and a decision was made to requeen immediately.  You could tell the colony wasn't queen right due to the spotty brood pattern, drone brood (due to all the eggs being unfertilized), and multiple eggs in the cells.
John H. and Steve H. going through the hives.  One of the upper boxes is set on its side due to comb and queen cups along the bottom of the frames.  Yes, all those dark spots in the air are bees, and no, they're not wearing any protective gear.
Drone comb frame (you can tell because it's green), used as part of Integrated Pest Management (IPM).  What's different about this is the multiple eggs in the cells, a sign of a laying worker.

Overall this was a very informative visit.  I got to see what a laying worker in a hive looks like, got some great ideas for improvising equipment, and saw what was possible with a backyard beeyard.  I can't wait unit next months visit.

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