A long overdue winter bee update 🐝 why did they die?

Sorry I haven’t written in so long. Life has been busy in a good way for us! Winter clean up of the hives wasn’t pretty it was labor intensive.

I attended a hive autopsy class in March. Once again my mind was blown with all I leaned. The main reasons why bees die in the winter are: condensation, mites, robbing, cold & starvation.

We treat for mites using oxalic acid or mite away quick strips. They are approved for organic farms and are safe to use if honey is flowing. Do you recall my post last year when I told you a mite on a bee is equal to a human having a bunny on its back? They also come with some not so great diseases. We treated our hives for mites 3 times last year; I learned that’s not enough. When bees are foraging they run into other bees…if those bees haven’t been treated or are infected after treatment your bee brings mites to your hive. One sign of bee demise due to mite disease is your bee is dead with their head cocked and tongue out. I was able to get a picture of this at the winter class and witnessed this in our hive clean up.

From class a bee with it’s tongue out.

A bee from BEEonce’s late hive with its tongue out.

Mites!

Robbing in a beehive? What’s that? (I thought the same thing). Going into winter, other insects are hungry. Wasps, beetles, hornets, you name it. You know your hive was robbed if you see what looks like wood shavings on the bottom board. Robbers drill though the honey capping(s) and make a mess. Honeybees clean up after theirselves and use the capping for another purpose in the hive. When robbers come into a hive they enter through the bottom. This pushes the bees up the hive boxes, typically leaving behind hive stores needed for winter. Once they move up they do not move back down. This is a big reason why bees starve out over the winter.

It’s Britney BEECh’s bottom. Sad dead bees and it looks like some wood carving was going on.
Look at all those cappings on the mouse guard.
Sad day!!
BEEonce’s hive dies in a cluster on top.
All the bees in the frames.

We have some ideas on what to do differently next year. We definitely will add a wind break fence for the bee-yard. This is a huge learning curve and has been intriguing. We will get some honey…someday.

I was able to harvest two ounces of propolis from the hives. I have mixed 2 parts ground propolis (bee glue) with 9 parts 150 proof grain alcohol. (Grain alcohol is hard to find in Vermont!) Propolis can be used for many things and it’s antibiotic properties are known to be healing. You can make lotion, salve, ointments, throat spray you name it. (Another thing I’m learning).

Day 1 of propolis mixture.
What it looks like settled.
All shook up!

I plan to update on the new bees we got in April after our second hive inspection this weekend. In short the news isn’t good for Ellen BEEgenerous but Oprah WinBEE is a rock star.

Enjoy the weekend friends! 🐝

Well that was quick.

Everyone I need to sadly report that our maple season lasted 6 days. The long winter and the quick shift to 70 deg weather followed by no nights below freezing led us to shut down the sugarhouse. The sap we got this past week was bad, so we couldn’t use it for production.

Needless to say we have no syrup to sell. The wee bit of syrup we did produce was super dark, some of the darkest syrup I’ve ever seen.

Let’s hope Mother Nature is kinder to us next year so we can fully utilize the improvements we have made for the 2019 season.

Right now we are preparing the hives for more bee’s. The old hives are getting touched up with new paint & art and the electric fence was tested today.

So much snow…

Hi Everyone. I know it’s been a while since we have provided an update. Needless to say it’s been a long cold winter and the sap just started flowing this past week. Right now we are about 3.5 weeks behind last year and we just started boiling the sap this weekend.

To give you an idea of how much snow we had this winter as of this morning we still have 2’+ in the front yard and there is still some snow left on the sugar home roof. We spent most of the weekends this winter up at Smugglers Notch skiing and as of last check they received 371″+ of snow. Yes that is over 30 feet of snow this winter.

For 2019 we are attempting to be more efficient with at the addition of a reverse osmosis machine. This allows us to increase the sugar content of the sap before boiling. Thru this process we extract excess water from the sap and create more concentrated sap to boil. This saves us both time and wood for the evaporator.

We will be updating the site more often as boiling and production continues. Thanks for your patience. 😁

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Holiday Gift Baskets

Twin Bears Maple Works is going to be doing a limited run of holiday ‘Vermont Breakfast’ gift baskets. The basket will include: 1 pint of our 2018 Maple Syrup (medium amber), 14oz of our freshly roasted whole bean Holiday Blend coffee (medium roast) and the ever-awesome organic pancake mix from Rogers Farmstead.  Add some bacon and you have a perfect Vermont Breakfast.

 

We will be taking orders and shipping based on requested delivery dates. Please allow us a few days lead time from the date you place your order till the date it ships.  We are roasting the beans as orders are placed and just finishing the last of syrup bottling.

 

Gift baskets will be $30 and the USPS Flat rate shipping is $12. Baskets will come in holiday packing and the shipping quote applies for CONUS addresses. We will include holiday cards with your personal message for those folks sending this as a gift. Please message us with any questions.

Winterizing the bees 🐝

Hey all! Sorry it’s been so long since we have posted. It’s been quite rainy in Vermont and lots of obscure sickness at the homestead. Thankfully we are on the up and up!

We started preparing for winterizing last month. We built quilt boards and candy shims. On Saturday October 6th we started by reversing the bottom boxes on the hives; you want the heavier box on the bottom so the bees work their way up in the winter. Once they go up they do not go back down to the cold for any honey left. We also placed heaters our friend Scott sent to us to help with winters sub zero temperatures. Below are some pictures of that day. I also included a photo of the most epic bee-sting we affectionally call BEEtox. That bee stung me right though my veil. It made for one entertaining evening at the house!

The beginning of the quilt boards. I’ll explain them more soon but the candy shims look a lot like this as well. We won’t use them until the end of January/early February to feed the bees some more.

I promised back in July to talk about mites and why we treat for them. We treated in July, late August and while winterizing. When honey bees are infested with mites its like walking around with a rabbit on your back. Now imagine if you had to carry around more than one rabbit on your back all day? This YouTube video explains why we treat for mites, diseases that come with them and the worst case scenario; entire comply collapse. The great news about treating for mites is there are organic options available that won’t harm us, the bees or the honey.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h-wDgd5yURo

For winterizing we tried a new method of treating for mites using a shop towel, glycerin and oxalic acid. We followed instructions from The Honey Bee Suite blog: https://honeybeesuite.com/oxalic-acid-and-glycerin-for-varroa-mites/

These shop towels were placed on top of the the second from the bottom large deep hive.

The next step in winterizing was to make sure the bees have enough to eat. We mixed B-Pro (a pollen substitute) in the center of the plastic frames. Then filled the rest with a thick sugar and water mixture.

Each hive got two of these plastic frames in the medium size deep which we placed them on the outer edges.

Next was the quilt boards. Bees biggest threat in the winter is not the cold but moisture that builds up in the hive. They have 1/2 inch metal screening on the bottom (Sorry I didn’t get a photo). The boxes were then filled with cedar shavings to absorb moisture. In the center is a small piece of pvc to create a chimney for moisture to escape the sides. On top of the chimney piece is foam insulation. The insulation has a hole to hold the pvc piece and some of the center carved out for ventilation.

Finally we stapled on tar paper to help with blocking the winter winds and put a piece of wood on top to block snow build up. We then secured it down with a strap and put a cinder block on top.

Here’s to hoping we make it though our first winter ❄️ 🐝 Bee well!

Beehive inspection & weed talk…

No no, not that weed! Let’s talk about weed killer. I was not aware until recently that a lot of weed killers on the market kill honey bees too. Most of the commercial weed killers contain a chemical glyphosate that is responsible for killing the weeds and also honey bees. Farmers have run into issues since honeybees are needed to pollinate a good amount of their crops. Fixing one issue has only caused another. Here is a bee friendly weed killer, thanks to VT Beekeeping Supply.

This weeks beehive inspection my father in law and I weren’t messing around. We got the smoker ready and dressed in full protection. Here is a small video. At the end you can see Queen Bee-once! I wish I got video of the bees after you smoke them. It puts them in a state of calm confusion (I will get a video of that next time.) The queens are busy and the bees have been busy building out comb. Lots of eggs, honey and nectar!Check her out! We have yet to spot Britany BEEch but we know she is there since there are blood chambers!

Have a wonderful day!! 🐝🐝

Tiffany

What does it look inside a hive?

It was another busy weekend and finished painting the medium supers & assembled the rest of the deep hive frames.

The hives were also very busy this weekend.

Today when I removed the entrance reducers (if you look where all the bees are toward the bottom there is a piece of wood with a small cut out. Those are entrance reducers. ) I could actually see the pollen baskets some bees were carrying in. It was so neat. I tried to get a photo later in the day but didn’t have any luck. Luckily we have google and below is a snap shot from a quick photo search of what they looked like.

We added the second deep hive body and got some video of what’s going on in he hives. Busy busy bees 🐝