Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Top Bar Hive Split

Photos by Colin
      It was a beautiful day for a top bar hive split in our Vancouver beekeeping coop in Strathcona Park.  It was about 20 Celsius (70 fahrenheit), no wind and the birds were singing.  Anna's treatment free Kenyan Top Bar hive contained a strong, survivor stock of bees from a treatment free bee breeder that had overwintered and thrived.  Everyone joined in to assist and learn.  She was also able to harvest some honey (Top Bar Honey Harvesting).
Anna removing a honey frame for crush and strain extraction
     The split method we employed is moving 2 frames of brood of different ages and 2 frames of honey into the split along with the old queen.  Anna found the queen on a honey frame.  Anna also shook a few frames of bees into the new hive.  The parent hive was left with new uncapped brood and 2 capped queen cells.  We also moved the positon of the old hive over 1 foot and placed the new hive next to it in an effort to gain some foragers.  A similar method of colony division is described by Les Crowder in the video below (The split begins 16 minutes into the video). 

     Thanks to Colin for the great photos.  For more information on top bar beekeeping go to the Top Bar section of our Beekeepers' Library.

Saturday, May 5, 2018

Introduction to Beekeeping in Vancouver Class

      Every year in May and June we present our "Introduction to Beekeeping in Vancouver" classes.  Beekeeping has become popular and a recent survey in the U.S. revealed that over 70% of beekeepers quit beekeeping within the first 5 years.  I believe this is because people enter into beekeeping too quickly and are not properly prepared for the dedication of time and continuous learning that is required to be a competent beekeeper.  Also, new beekeepers do not have the support needed to deal with problems that arise.  The goal of this class is not to discourage you or take the place of a full beekeeping course but to assist you and better prepare you in your decision to become a beekeeper.

Beeing with Bees by Kurt Liebich 1896
      We will provide you with a very basic theoretical overview of  honey bees and beekeeping and answer all of your questions.  The class is about 2 hours in length (1 hour theory and 1 hour in the hives) and as it is held outside is weather dependent.  We keep the class small so that everyone can have if they wish an intimate experience with the bees so reservation is necessary.  There is no cost and we provide the veil and gloves.  Our classes are held at Cottonwood Community Garden in Strathcona Park in Vancouver.  To reserve a spot in our first "Introduction to Beekeeping Class" on May 26 contact us at "strathconabee at gmaildotcom".  For more information on beekeeping courses check out our Vancouver Beekeeping Courses page.
     All of theory needed to be a beekeeper is available for free online.  A good start is "Beekeeping 101" which is an assortment of books, videos and online university beekeeping courses.  Our Beekeepers' Library is also a good source of information.  While theory is important the practical application and guidance of experienced beekeepers is more so.  We look forward to seeing you at our beekeeping class.

One of our girls enjoying a Kale blossom

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Mason Beekeeping

Blue Orchard Mason Bee (Osmia Lignaria)
     An unfortunate part of the recent popularity of honey beekeeping is a high drop out rate of new beekeepers within the first few years because of the significant commitment of time and money.  For those of us who whether the storm of diseases, pests and colony losses it can become a life long obsession and love. For others an easier, cheap alternative (minus the honey) is to provide homes for native pollinators.
     While I am a keeper of honey bees, I also house mason and leafcutter bees in my garden. The mason bees also known as Osmia Lignaria are an important, native spring pollinator in our area of the world.  I've found them actively foraging at temperatures a few degrees cooler than honey bees which is important for early spring fruit pollination.  For many crops our native bees are better pollinators than honey bees and require far fewer bees.

     They make nests in reeds or natural holes and utilize mud to space their cocoons. While there is an endless variety of homes that you can make or purchase for your mason bees the important thing is that the inner nesting tube be accessible to clean and harvest the cocoons. Without the ability to access and clean the nesting area it would soon become filled with debris, mold, diseases (i.e. chalkbrood) and predators (i.e solitary wasps).

Native pollinator homes should have some shelter from weather and face east or south to catch the early morning sun
     I make my mason bee houses by simply drilling half inch holes in 6 inch deep wood.

     I use plain, unbleached brown paper from grocery bags rolled around a tent pole as liners which brings the finished diameter of the hole to the optimal 3/8 inch.  The rolled liners extend 1 inch out the back and are folded over with a back wood plate screwed on.  When harvest time comes I just unscrew the back plate and pull out the paper liners (Paper Liners That Work).  You can winter your cocoons in the fridge and release them in the spring. 

Mason Bee Cocoons
     For more information on how to manage Mason Bees for your home or farm go to the Native Pollinators section of our Library and scroll down to Mason Bees.

Good Book
How to Manage the Blue Orchard Bee
     If you are just starting out you can buy cocoons off Craigslist for about 50 cents a cocoon and from some garden stores for $1 per cocoon.  Good sources of supplies and information for mason and leafcutter bees are Crown Bees  and Beediverse.  Good luck.

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