Disclaimer:

This blog explains how I keep bees. It works for me, it might not work for you. Use my methods at your own risk. Always wear protective clothing and use a smoker when working bees.

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Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Using a Refractometer

A Refractometer is used to measure the water content of honey.
 To be U.S. Grade A, honey has to have a water content of 18.6% or less. Honey that is over 18.6% water content, will ferment over time.
 There are many types of refractometers that have different scales and are used for a specific fluid in many different industries.
Beekeepers use a refractometer that is set up for honey. A honey refractometer is set up with a moisture content of 13% - 30% on the measurement scale.
 Honey refractometers are electronic or a visual lens.
The electronic refractometers use a sample of honey and will give you a moisture read out.
 I myself prefer the low tech lens style. A sample of honey is put on the lens. Then the sample is held up to a bright light for the reading. How the light passes through the honey sample gives the reading on the scale in the instrument. I like the low tech system because it is visual and you can see the results.
 A refractometer has to be calibrated to make sure it is accurate. Calibration fluid is used to calibrate the instrument. I always calibrate my refractometer before every season to make sure it is accurate.
 Beekeepers can bring me a sample of their honey and I will test it for free.
double click on the video for full screen



This is what the scale looks like in a Atago refractometer. Where the purple line and the white color meet is your number. Then a temperature adjustment is figured off the attached thermometer. This sample is reading about 19.3%.  Different manufacturers may have different looking scales

Atago Refractometer

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Some Pollinator Plants

 Many summer Perennials are still coming out and will be for the next few weeks.
These are a few of them that are in our Pollinator Garden.
Also, Purple Loosestrife is blooming in swampy areas.

Blazing Star

Milkweed in the background is still coming out

Butterfly Weed

Purple Cone Flower

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Extracting, The Basics

This is a video about extracting for a new beekeeper. Equipment used are a three frame extractor, uncapping tank, capping scratcher, filtering system, and a bottling pail.
 Your first year of extracting your honey crop, I usually recommend a capping scratcher to uncap the frames. With ten frames in the super the capped honey is very flat and flush with the wooden frames. It is hard to use a hot knife to uncap the wax cappings. With a capping scratcher it is easy to uncap. There is more wax in the honey and filtering is a little more putzy. Next year supers that have drawn comb, can be run with nine frames. The capped honey will be fatter on the frame, making it easy to use a hot knife.
Nature's Nectar LLC does rent several three frame honey extractors for $30.00 a day. We do take reservations for the extractors for when you would like extract.
If you have any questions about how to extract or what to use, stop by and we can help you make the right decisions to make extracting easy.
Double click on the video for full screen


Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Planning for Varroa

I was up at the MN Honey producer summer meeting. One of the speakers was Meghan Milbrath. She is an epidemiologist. 
Epidemiologists are public health professionals who investigate patterns and causes of disease and injury in humans. They seek to reduce the risk and occurrence of negative health outcomes through research, community education, and health policy. They get involved with mass outbreaks of disease and epidemics. 
 Meghan describes the current Varroa issue as an epidemic. Here is a link to her site for Planning for Varroa.
https://pollinators.msu.edu/resources/beekeepers/planning-for-varroa/

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Nectar Flow update


Spotted Knapweed Flower

Spotted Knapweed Flowering
The current nectar flow so far has been outstanding. Many beekeepers have reported that they have 4 - 6 supers on their hives with most of the supers full of honey.
 I had a beekeeper in yesterday. He runs about 25 colonies. He purchased more supers. His hives have a total 100 supers, most of them are full of honey but not capped yet. He has pulled off some supers and extracted them to give him more room. His story is the same for many beekeepers that I have talked to.
 This will be a record honey year for many beekeepers. Many beekeepers may get up to eight supers per hive. One tip: if a hive gets too high from too many supers, you can move full supers onto any under performing hives. The weaker hives will take care of the honey. When moving the supers you can move them with the bees in them. Just pull them off and move them.
I think the next seven to ten days may be the peak in the current nectar flow. The warm days and warm nights with dry days make the nectar flow in large amounts. Being the nectar flow started a little late, I think it may last into mid August.
  If I was to put a number on it, I would say the nectar flow is about 45 - 50% done. This is about the midpoint of the nectar flow. So more nectar is still coming. The intensity may lessen as Basswood and White Sweet Clover start to wane after the next week to ten days, but the nectar flow is not done by any means.
 More nectar plants are still coming. Joe Pye weed and Purple Loosestrife to name a couple, but there will be also other flowers that bloom in late July into August. I had a beekeeper observing his bees working on spotted Knapweed. He says they looked like they were preferring the Knapweed. Knapweed honey has a buttery flavor.
 From a moisture stand point we need some rain. Quarter to half inch spurts spread out over the next month would be perfect. Not enough rain can turn plants. A little brown in the lawns is fine, but brown and crispy it too dry. Also large amounts of rain can also impact the nectar flow. Too much rain can possibly impact the nectar flow in a negative way.
If you are not getting any nectar in your supers, your hive may have swarmed or the colony has not enough foragers to bring in the nectar.
 Stay ahead of the bees, check your supers every five days. I hope everyone is riding this nectar train.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Friday, July 14th

We will be open normal hours on Friday, July 14th. noon - 6 pm
Jim will be at the MN Honey Producers convention in Walker, MN
Wendy will be running the store on Friday.
Jim will be back for Saturday hours, 9 - 3 pm

Monday, July 10, 2017

What's Blooming

Some common nectar plants I have seen blooming:
Yellow Sweet Clover
White Sweet Clover
Thistles
Birdsfoot Trefoil
Milkweed
Coneflower
Bee Balm
Spotted Knapweed
White Dutch Clover
Alfalfa
Alsike Clover
Basswood/Linden
Sumac (waning)
Vetch