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Keeping Bees in Alaska


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How to setup a bee hive and extract honey.

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Keeping Bees in Alaska

  1. 1. Keeping Bees A Simple Guide to the Basics by Ed Budden
  2. 2. Winter Prep Work  Decide on a bee dealer  Find out when you need to order bees  Have a rough idea when deliveries take place  Determine what you need for equipment  Will you build or buy?  Are you going to start with one or multiple hives?  Decide  Get what honeybee race you want one or more books on bees and read
  3. 3. Bee Races  Russian- The best adapted to Alaska. Mite resistant. Shut down brood production in the fall. Nearly all Alaskan beekeepers use this race.  Italian- A few years ago this was the race everyone used. Very slightly more aggressive than Russians. Most negative trait is they continue to produce large amounts of brood going into the fall.  Carnolian- Fairly popular in lower 48. I am not sure if any dealer brings this race in.  Buckfast- Some interesting material on the web concerning this race. Not sure if anyone has tried them in Alaska
  4. 4. Alaska Bee Dealers Toklat Apiaries (recommended) Steve Petersen Fairbanks (907) 457-2440 Alaska Honey Bee Keith Malone P.O. Box 671092 Chugiak, 99567 907-242-0588 907-688-0588 There are others, but I have bought from these two
  5. 5. Building Hive Boxes  Plans found at:  Will need:  Table saw  Miter saw  Router  Jig to make finger joints (can be made-see right)
  6. 6. Hive/Equipment Purchasing Options  Check  Mann with Steve Peterson Lake at:  Dadant  Many at: other suppliers (use Google)  Check out beginner’s packages  Caution - buying used equipment- it may have been exposed to honeybee diseases
  7. 7. What do I need for Hive Boxes?  For each hive I would recommend:       Two deep boxes One honey super An insulated inner cover An outer cover A bottom board This is all I have needed even in an exceptional year but if you are located in a very good area keep in mind that you may need additional supers
  8. 8. Inner Covers  Top is commercial inner cover of framed thin plywood w/ hole I have used  Works OK  Bottom is insulated inner cover I bought from Steve  Better insulation  Could be made easily
  9. 9. Outer Covers  Top is Commercial Full Cover     Overhangs on four sides Covered with galvanized metal More weatherproof Bottom is Migratory Cover      Overhangs on two sides Plywood only (homemade by me) Hives can be strapped and transported Hives can be placed side by side for two queen colony (advanced beekeeping) A metal or waterproof cover could also be applied on these
  10. 10. Top or Bottom Entrances?  All commercial hives are built with a bottom entrance  Nearly all bee books talk of bottom entrances  Bees vastly prefer a top entrance  Using a chisel you can cut a top opening in your insulated cover   Leave the bottom entrance for the bees to clean out hive  If you have a top and bottom entrance the bees will ALWAYS use the top entrance
  11. 11. What Equipment do I need for Hive Tending? A Smoker, with fuel A hive tool A Bee Brush A Bee Suit A Hive Stand or an old pallet to set hive(s) on  Some insulating material to put around hives in spring A frame feeder for each hive
  12. 12. Winter Timeline  Nov-Mar  Build hive boxes (or purchase)  Acquire all equipment needed  Decide on spring hive sites (see book info)  Jan-Feb  Purchase bees from dealer  March  For second and successive years this is a good time to scrape down frames and boxes of propolis, honey spills, excess comb, mold etc.  End of March  Shovel off hive site (if necessary)
  13. 13. Feeding Bees  Bees need to be fed a syrup until the dandelions bloom in your area.  The syrup should always be made from white sugar. Brown sugar is harder for bees to digest and commercial honey may have disease spores.  Mix a 1 to 1 ratio syrup. Two 4 lb packages of sugar to a gallon of water should work. Hot tap water will mix it fine. If you hear of a different mix recipe use it. The bottom line is that the bees will eat what you give them.  The first batch of syrup should have Fumadil B mixed in to help prevent a bee disease called Nosema (this is a small bag of white powder you can get from Steve P).  To feed bees just open the hive and dump syrup in feeder. Lots of bees will drown in the feeder- don’t worry about it. You can put a piece of floating wood in the feeder it will help them some.  Start by feeding them every 5 days and then adjust schedule based on how much they have eaten.  After hiving add a pollen patty to the top of the frames (get from Steve).
  14. 14. Hiving Bees  Keep hive boxes in warm location until just before hiving bees  Mix up some warm syrup with medicine  Set up two deep boxes with frames  Remove three frames from the center of hive (frames 4, 5, and 6)  Place frame feeder in the slot for frame 9 and fill with syrup  Remove queen cage and put in your pocket to keep warm
  15. 15. Hive Configuration for Dumping Bees  Remove Frames 4,5, and 6  Frame feeder in the #9 position  Picture taken in the fall - in the spring the frames will all be scraped down and clean
  16. 16. Prepping for Queen Installation  Top picture is the plastic queen cage  The brown stuff is propolis that the bees put on everything  Bottom  Cut picture a saw kerf in a small piece of wood
  17. 17. Hiving Bees Continued  Carefully pull out the can of feed from the Bee Package using hive tool  Using as much bumping, shaking and whacking as necessary dump the bees into the frame gap in hive  Use bee brush as necessary to move bees  Get as many bees out of box as you can then set the box on the ground by the hive
  18. 18. Hiving Bees Cont.  Replace the frames at the center of hive (note: due to initial space limitations you may only have 8 frames and a feeder)  Remove the plastic cap on the tube end and carefully suspend Queen Cage between two frames near center of hive using a thin strip of wood with a saw cut or a piece of wire  The queen will start eating the white candy plug from her end and the workers will eat the candy from the other end  In a few days the queen will be free. The few days will allow the workers to accept the new queen (and not kill her!)  After three or four days check that the queen got out. If not make sure she is alive and let them continue. Check again in a couple days  If you have problems see Steve Peterson for a replacement queen  When queen is out pull the cage and make sure you have 9 frames and a feeder in hive
  19. 19. Queen Installation Continued  Slide the hanger portion of the queen cage into the saw kerf  Set the stick across the bars with the cage hanging down between the frames  You will end up with 8 frames and a feeder
  20. 20. The Bee Package
  21. 21. Two Hives Ready for Bees
  22. 22. Can of Syrup removed, Queen Cage Removed
  23. 23. Dumping Bees In
  24. 24. Spring Timeline  April  Insulate hives  Pick up and hive bees  April, May  Feed bees  Check that queen is laying eggs  End of May  Pull feeders – replace with frames  Remove insulation
  25. 25. Provide Water  Bees  Fill need a source of water a shallow container with small rocks and keep it filled daily (this is not absolutely necessary but it will help the bees from traveling long distances for water)
  26. 26. Summer Timeline  Mid June  Reverse deep boxes  Put the bottom deep box on the top. Bees tend to build the colony upward. This will ensure efficient use of boxes.  Add super  This is extra honey storage area. It does not hurt to put it on early.  Check health of hive  Make sure queen is still laying and population is increasing.  Look for any possible signs of disease (use bee books)  Contact Steve P. if you suspect disease.  Look  If for/remove queen cells you find queen cells pinch them off
  27. 27. Summer Timeline Cont.  July, August  Mostly leave them alone.  Occasionally may check to see they have plenty of room. If they are crowded add another super.  If you notice a lack of activity in good weather, investigate, they may be diseased. This is rare but does happen.
  28. 28. Removing Bees from Hive  About the second week in September pick a good weather day where you can spare 4 - 6 hours  Put vac 2 to 3 inches of soapy water in your shop  Place some old boards, plywood, or 2 x 4s near hive and run your electric cords  Put on all of your gear  Smoke the bees some to calm them
  29. 29. Removing bees from Hive Cont.  Carefully vacuum up bees  As you work use the boards you set out so that the sticky box edges wont pick up lots of leaves  After vacuuming bees off there will still be some left. You can either just deal with them or use further measures such as a leaf blower to remove more bees  Move boxes inside wherever you will be extracting honey  If you need to leave boxes outside block entrances to keep mice out
  30. 30. What Equipment do I need for Honey Extracting?  You will need to borrow, rent, buy, or build a honey extractor (plans on the web)  A bottling bucket (not absolutely necessary but very nice)  One or two uncapping knives (can be large kitchen knives)  A strainer  Something to heat water  Containers for honey  A large deep sided pan or bucket  One or two sturdy tables (may be folding)
  31. 31. Extracting Honey  Sometime the day before you plan to extract slowly bring the temp of your extracting area up to about 85 degrees (the honey will flow MUCH better)  Set up all of your equipment the way you like it  Screw your extractor to some scrap plywood or something to keep it from “walking”. An old tabletop or piece of counter material is perfect  Heat some water in an old kitchen appliance for heating water or soup and put your uncapping knives in pointed down  Use hot knives to cut off cappings off comb  Place frames in thoroughly cleaned extractor  Caution: excessive extractor speed will break up comb  When bottom of extractor fills with honey, open gate  Honey from extractor should flow thru strainer into honey bucket  If adequately strained of debris, honey in honey bucket can be put directly in containers
  32. 32. Uncapping Table  Note water boiler at top of picture with knives  Grey pan is full of wax cappings
  33. 33. Extracting  Honey flowing out of honey gate at bottom of three frame extractor  Honey is flowing thru a two stage sieve into a bottling bucket
  34. 34. Rewards  12 Gallons of amber gold in various containers
  35. 35. Wax Processing  Best done outdoors  Safer  Less mess in house  Dedicate use an old pot for this  Difficult to clean wax off anything  Add cappings and excess comb to pot and add a bunch of water
  36. 36. Wax processing  Carefully bring to Boil  Put a paint strainer over a 5 gallon bucket  Dump water/wax mixture thru paint strainer  This will get most of the pollen, propylis, dead bees and dirt out  Pour remaining liquid back in the pot and reheat  Pour thru a second finer strainer into bucket Let cool and you should have a big cake of beeswax 
  37. 37. Wax Processing  Break up cake (may have to scrape off cake to get impurities out)  Place in a double boiler system and melt carefully
  38. 38. Processing Beeswax  Pour into molds of your choosing  Use “Pam” spray as a mold release  Beeswax can be made into lip balm and hand cream – use all food grade materials when processing
  39. 39. Weird Bee Activities Swarming  If bees are crowded they will produce an additional queen and that queen will leave with half of the bees  They will mass on a branch near the hive until scouts can find a new home  If the bees have massed on a low branch and you can come up with a minimum of a deep box and top and bottom boards within a few hours then you may be able to salvage bees and start a new hive
  40. 40. Weird Bee Activities Bearding  Sometimes during hot weather bees will cover the front of the hive  You can crack the top cover to vent but not more than a pencil width
  41. 41. Weird Bee Activities Drones kicked out  Drones are useless individuals. The queen was mated back in California so they sit around the hive drinking tiny PBRs and watching the Giants on cable all summer long  When the weather turns cool and there is less food coming in the worker bees get smart and give some of the drones the old heave ho  They can sometimes bee seen clustered outside the hive in the fall starving to death