Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Our Friend The Bald Faced Hornet

Hornet Nest in Cottonwood Garden
The Bald Faced Hornet is native to North America and well known for it's large hanging paper nests.  It is not a true hornet but belongs to a genus of wasps called the Yellowjackets.  However, sadly because it lacks the yellow coloring it is called a hornet in the american sense of a wasp that builds paper nests.  It will aggressively defend it's nest (400 to 700 hornets in a nest) and unlike the honey bee can sting repeatedly (non barbed stinger) which I found out when cleaning our extracting equipment on Monday.  They enjoy nectar and do pollinate but more importantly they benefit the garden by preying on insects that damage plants.  All but the new queens will die off in the cold weather.  At Cottonwood Garden we are fortunate to have one Hornet nest in the garden and one in a tree just north of the expansion.  I watched, amazed today as a few Bald Faced Hornets attempted to enter our Honey Bee hive.  Immediately 8-10 of our toughest ladies (guard bees) attacked the hornets with a vengeance that explained why our bees have been much more aggressive towards us lately.  At the end of the summer the old wasp queen stops laying eggs so all the wasps leave the nest to forage.  Wasps can decimate a weak bee hive (kill all of the bees).  We will monitor the situation, possibly use the entrance reducer and put up bee safe wasp traps (sugar water and vinegar - bees are repelled by vinegar).
Serge at our last hive inspection 

Monday, August 29, 2011

Honey Time in Vancouver

Serge, Jackie and Sam removing frames from the honey super 
Our head beekeeper at Cottonwood Garden
Today we had our first full honey super extraction.  It was fun and we learned a whole bunch.  First, we should have waited longer for the ladies to fully cap the honey.  Second, it's fun to sit on the honey extractor while you are turning the handle and third, honey is sticky.  We had a work  party today as well at Cottonwood Garden so many of our gardeners came by to watch the extraction and grab a chunk of honey wax to chew on.  It's funny how extracting honey seems to bring out the kid in all of us.
Rebecca, Sam and Serge decapping the honey frame

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Homemade Beehive

     I built a screened bottom board (photo to the right) this year with a rear entrance varroa mite tester and extra large landing area (my ladies like to dance).  My friend Ben (an amazing woodworker) built the deep body supers.  We use only deep body supers. Our third is filled with honey, mostly capped which we will extract next week and our fourth super should be filled by the end of September.  We have a queen excluder between the third and fourth supers as we couldn't find Dan (our queen) because she is fast and elusive  and could have been in the third super.  I also made an Insulated Moisture Quilt to combat the problem of cold condensation dripping on the girls during the cold winter months.

     For complete details and plans on Beehive construction go to the Bee Hive Construction section of our Beekeepers' Library.  In the Beehive Construction section of the library you can view and download any of the beehive component plans including Langstroth, Warre, Skep, National, Straw, Top Bar, Observation, Portable, feeders, pollen traps, swarm traps, nucs, queen cage, native bee condos, mite sampler, wax melter, fumigator, transporter, grafting tool, winter wraps, escape board, uncapping tank, extractor, small hive beetle trap, heater, ventilator, monitor, bee hive fence and much more.  The sun is shining, the bees are happy and we're making wild mountain honey  (Wild Mountain Honey).

Monday, August 15, 2011

Summer is here for Vancouver Beekeepers

After a dismal spring and early summer for the ladies (worker bees) summer has arrived and the honey is flowing.  We are fortunate at Cottonwood Community Garden in Strathcona to have a diverse and late bee food supply.  We have about 40 fruit trees (plums, cherries, apples, mulberry, persimmon, pears etc), blueberries, raspberries, black locust trees, kiwi, current, gooseberry, salmonberry, thimbleberry, blackberry and grape.   We extracted our first jars of honey a few weeks ago and will do another extraction in a couple of weeks.  I'm having difficulty keeping my queen down without an excluder which I don't like using because the workers are hesitant to pass through making it a honey excluder.  I've tried reversing the brood supers (moving the second super with the queen in it down to the bottom) and within two weeks found the queen in the honey super.  I'm considering using a top entrance only for one of my hives next year (screened bottom, 2 brood supers, small exit for virgin queens and drones, queen excluder, top entrance, honey supers).  There are studies that show this increases the production of honey while not overproducing honey in your brood boxes.  I may switch to a bottom entrance late in the summer when brood production is down to stimulate the filling of the deep supers with winter honey.  That's what makes beekeeping fun.  Always something new to learn.  We are planting common Asian Asters (4 ft by 4 ft bush with hundreds of small flowers) which flower in Sept through October and the ladies (worker bees) love them. Here's hoping for a late summer.  Check out the Newbees (us) at their first hive inspection  (

Pink Lilac Phlox at Cottonwood Garden

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