Sunday, September 20, 2009

Fall Extraction, Part I

We were lucky enough to have a couple supers of fall honey on top of our one overwintered hive in Hazelwood. We feel very lucky as several of our beekeepers have noted a low fall flow this season. These gals have really been packing it in.

In an urban area we are apt to use Bee Quick to clear the supers. Our students sprayed it onto the fume cover, and in the hot sun, the bees moved down into their hive bodies.

Then, the frames are easily moved without bees into a screened super to be transported to the kitchen for extraction.

Fall Extraction, Part II

At the kitchen, Joe Z., demonstrated how to uncap with several different knives.

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One of our students, Roberta, tests Joe's description of the knives.

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In the second video, note that Joe points out that up to 10% of the honey can be in the capings, which is why you want to collect those and harvest that honey as well.
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Steve had been kind enough to lend us his automatic extractor (though there are plans in the works for a bike powered extractor). The honey runs out from the uncapped centrifugal force as the frames spin.


The honey flows out of the extractor through a spout on the side near the bottom. The honey is strained, but not filtered.

Back to Blogging

We've been very busy this summer and have fallen behind in our blogging duties. But, I hope that doesn't mean that you haven't been following our presence at all the events around town. Check out the events page on our website to see all the things we've been up to in the past months. We just had our ninth class which involved a honey extraction from our hives in Hazelwood (a blog entry to soon follow). Going forward, we hope to be more diligent in posting to the blog with pictures from our classes and events.

At this point in the season, we are checking on our hives to make sure they are healthy heading into winter. To do this, we've reduced their entrances and installed mouse guards.
We've also started feeding sugar water in hive top feeders to help build up stores for the winter. Many beekeepers have had a very light fall honey flow. Additionally, we've treated for mites throughout the season with powdered sugar and apiguard. The frames are marked with an X to ensure that we do not harvest honey stored during the treatment.
To help accomplish these tasks, several of our class members have volunteered as stewards to watch the hives as the move into winter.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Mt. Washington Installation









Robert and Alex carry in the first h
ive.
















Two hives - a room with a view.















When letting the bees out, we put some grass in front of the hive to disorient the bees so they know to reorient themselves to their new home.


















We added an extra hive body on the smaller hive. We sprayed the upper frames with sugar water to attract the bees to the upper box.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Hives to Braddock!




Jennifer and Robert returned the Braddock feral bees that we removed from a derelict building back in April and had requeened, back to their hometown last Friday May 22. We transported them in 5 frame nuc boxes then transferred them to 10 frame hive bodies in the back courtyard of the former St. Michael's convent on Braddock Avenue. The site was overgrown with Japanese knotweed which we made short work of.


The bees seem happy back in the shadow of the Edgar Thompson works across the street.




We also brought another small requeened hive to join the overwintered colony in Hazelwood. The big hive is doing extremely well, so we took a couple frames of emerging brood from the established colony and used them to strengthen the new one. While we have been successfully suppressing the swarm instinct so far by "opening up the brood nest" by removing capped brood, as well as keeping the overhead honey stores broken up, the swarm season hasn't passed, so we continue to monitor the situation.



The bees are finding plenty of nectar and pollen in the river bottom and are packing it in. We added another super of mostly foundation that we dispersed amongst the drawn and filling frames. Taking a tip from a recent issue of American Bee Journal, we put empty medium frames in the middle position of the supers to make cut comb honey. Lastly we made sure to cull the drone brood from the bottom of the drone brood trapping frame we had installed undrawn 4 weeks ago.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Zoo Class Part I


Today we had wonderful sunny weather for our first official class for zoo staff, who have graciously welcomed honeybees into their beautiful workspace! We're looking forward to more of these education opportunities at the Zoo! Above, Meredith talks through basic hive etiquette before the group goes into the hive.


Douglas Jones, Assistant Curator of Horticulture & Grounds, gets geared up for his trip into the hive.



Jennie talks to the group about basic bee biology and castes.

Zoo Staff Class Part II


Robert teaches the group about how to find eggs and larva on a frame. Robert installed some experimental frames in the zoo hives-including a wire frame and plastic foundation frame-to compare first hand how the bees within the same hive react to the different equipment.

Everyone takes a turn learning to handle the frames, including Emmett, who cleared the path for hive number two, which we looked at later.


Susan, who tends the roof garden holds a frame of brood, after inspecting for eggs.


Polar bear, who lives below the green roof, looks up hoping for lunch.

Zoo Staff Class Part III


The hive on the hill is doing quite well also. Although, given it was such a sunny and warm day, the bees were warm-you can see above the bees are hanging outside the entrance fanning the hive.

Look at that luscious zoo honey!!!

Daryl and Glenn hold up the frame of golden honey.

After closing up the hive for the day, Robert whips out a level to make sure the bees home isn't tilted.

Thursday, May 14, 2009


The Locust trees outside my house are blooming. Are yours?

Swarm Management, Hazelwood

A couple weeks ago, we inspected the hive at Hazelwood.The colony is building up fast--they seem to like it there! When we inspected, the drone/mite trap frame was capped so we removed it and replaced it with a medium frame with foundation (you can see the pictures of it here). There were other indications that the hive was preparing to swarm: there were a couple queen cups with egg and larva and the super was full of brood. To address the possibility of a swarm, we added a super of mixed empty comb and foundation frames both above and below the super with brood (compare the pictures below). Additionally, because the lower hive body had empty frames and was less active than the upper hive body, we reversed the hive bodies and removed 3 frames of brood, which we contributed to the nucs that we are establishing. We checked back in a week and found the queen—the tactics seemed to have worked. You can compare pictures of before (in the Pop City article) and after (when we checked back on the hive a week later).

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Demonstration Apiary Installation: Pittsburgh Zoo

We are so excited to establish our second demonstration apiary at the Pittsburgh Zoo! Our demo apiaries are where our beekeepers -in-training will practice working with the hives. And there's no more scenic place than the Zoo for this! Here, Francis Pizzi, Curator of Horticulture at the Zoo leads us to the bees' new home on the Zoo's green roof that overlooks the bear exhibit.
Bees and Bears--roommates.
Alex places the hive on a pedestal on the Zoo's beautiful green roof, which is abundant with pollinator plants.
A visitor to the green roof.

Demonstration Apiary: Pittsburgh Zoo II

Hive number two goes on a hillside next to the entrance of the Zoo.
Francis Pizzi stands next to the new hive.
Meredith gazes at the escalator that climbs the hilly entrance to the Zoo. Zoo guests will be able to view the hive from the entry walkway.
Installation Accomplished.

A Nucleus Checkup

Robert, Joe, and Alex take a look at the nucleus colonies, derived from the Braddock feral colony removed several weeks back. The colonies, which were given Hawaiian queens from where Christina is spending the year, are doing quite well. Well enough that later that evening Meredith and Alex took two nucs to the Pittsburgh Zoo--their new home!

We also put in a new shipment of queens into some of Robert and Jennie's own nucs.

Meredith stands tall against Robert's skyscraper hive experiment, which currently weighs in at 200 lbs.
Jennie and Alex say goodbye as we load up the two nucs headed to their paradise home at the Pittsburgh Zoo.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Hazelwood Neighbors Class

Yesterday, May 9, 2009, Alex and Meredith gave a beekeeping class to a group of fearless Hazelwood young adults, gathered by Barb Williams, holding the veil above.
They were remarkably good beekeepers! Gentle and patient with the hive, they also asked fantastic questions about their neighborhood bees!

A couple students are especially eager to get back into the hive as the season progresses. We'll be sending a call out each time we're going in to let everyone know!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Swarm Management and Impromptu Class at Hazelwood: Part I

A few of our dedicated class members-Bill, Carlos, and Gary-joined Robert, Jennie, Alex, and Meredith for an impromptu class at the Hazelwood hive. The colony has been doing so well, we're focusing on swarm management.

Inspecting swarm cells for eggs. These ones appeared to be harmless, but we scraped them off to keep the frame clean.


This is a short frame introduced to the hive to encourage drone production off the frame. This comb can be easily removed from the frame for mite management.

Swarm Management and Impromptu Class at Hazelwood: Part II

The queen is pictured towards the edge of the frame above. She is marked with a red dot, which not only helps the far sighted beekeeper find her but also indicates her age.

Above, some new bees hatching. They get a brief few moments to introduce themselves to the world before going to work.

Robert uses an uncapping fork to clear out some drone cells at the bottom of the frame and to investigate mite levels.

A spacer makes providing the bees appropriate "bee space" easy in a nine frame hive.