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The Varroa Destructor

Mite next to bee

The Varroa Mite is currently one of the biggest contributors to hive death over the winters.  The mites weaken the hive by attaching to individual bees, and sucking hemolymph out of them.  Similar to the way a tick can transfer West Nile Virus to a human, the mite infects the bees with various diseases and viruses.

The impact of a weakened hive is that they do not survive the harsh winter season.  Typically, a “skeleton crew” of bees are left to keep the queen warm, and fed over the cold winter months.  If these attendants become sick and die, nobody is left to care for the queen, and she dies too.

The mite problem is so bad, that every hive in North America is expected to die from Varroa Mites within 3 years.  This means that if a beekeeper is not proactive and vigilant with their fight against Varroa, they will inevitably lose the hive.

One technique to fight against them to use chemicals that specifically target a bug, on another bug’s back.  There is some crazy chemistry involved, and once a frame is treated, it is a permanent process, and the honey from that frame should never be consumed.

A less harsh method is to use “soft chemicals” such as Thymol or Formic Acid.  These softer chemicals leave little, to no residue on the comb and honey, making them usable for consumption.

A third technique, which we use a Bee Maven, is to use natural methods of treatment.  This idea is based on the knowledge that the mites reproduce in the male, or drone cells of the comb.  If you purposely create a break in the cycle of drone cells, then it can severely decrease the number of mites in the hive.

Regardless of the technique used in mite treatment, the most important step you can take as a beekeeper is to observe and document what’s going on in the hive.  Knowing the right timing and frequency of treatment is critical to the survival of a hive.

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2014 Social Purpose Corporation Annual Report

commaSPC

The state requirements for Social Purpose Corporations is to file a yearly report to discuss the actions taken by the corporation towards the social purpose that the company was founded upon.

In the case of Bee Maven, we were founded with the social purpose to help the honeybees by finding homes for them within the community.  This idea benefits the bees, the customer, and the community as a whole.  The bees get a safe place to forage from, the customer gets honey from the hive, and the community gets pollination for all fruits and flowers in a 3-mile radius of the hive.

For 2014, Bee Maven was just starting up.  Most of the time was spent researching about beekeeping, and finding the best business model to support this new type of service.  In addition, Bee Maven made a large purchase for beehive equipment in preparation for the creation of a new apiary in Gig Harbor, during spring of 2015.

Other activities included participation in local non-profit beekeeper association meetings (PSBA), mite research, overwintering research and bee data analysis, using cutting-edge analytic software, Qlik.

For 2015 Bee Maven intends on building an apiary in Gig Harbor that will be used to create the hives to be adopted into the community in 2016.  Although a slower process than ordering bee packages from California, this will ensure that the hives in the community are stronger, and able to last through the wet winters of this part of the country.

Although the 2014 report is a short one this year, we have a lot planned for 2015 and I am very excited to see what’s in store!

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The Queen is dead! Long live the Queen!

Queen Cage

Honey bees live and die for their queen, but what happens when the queen is dead?

They carry on.  They continue to work, build, and forage for the hive even though the outlook is bleak.  If they have eggs that are young enough, the workers can fill a cell with a special type of honey called “royal jelly”.  This royal jelly can transform a normal worker bee egg into a queen.

In my situation, the hive is brand new, and there are no eggs available to make a new queen.  Thankfully, Mike Radford from Northwest Bee Supply was in the area and was able to meetup with me to give me a new queen.

I met Mike just down the street, and he pulled a queen out of his breast pocket and handed it over. Mike always keeps a queen in his pocket, just in case a situation like this happens.  A good guy to know as a beekeeper!

The queen comes in a queen cage (seen above) that must be put into the hive for at least 4 days before releasing her.  This is so the hive has time to accept her as their new queen.

A technique I use in this video is to crush the dead queen on the new queen’s cage.  This is to simulate a fight to the death with the old queen and the dead queen’s pheromones are left on top of on the new queens pheromones.

The idea is that the workers assume this new queen showed up and killed the old queen, so they should now follow this new, more powerful, queen.

I’ll return in 4 days to pop the cork out of her cage and release her.  By that time, the pheromones she releases will have had time to propagate throughout the hive, and she will be the new queen.  Long live Queen Sunny II!

 

 

 

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What is Bee Maven?

Bee-Maven-Hive-Adoption-BlogTitle01

Bee Maven is a new type of service that will bring the joys and excitement of beekeeping to your home.  You will have your own honey beehive placed on your property and cared for by an experienced beekeeper.

In exchange for providing a healthy home for the hive to prosper, the hive will provide to you a source of local honey and wax products.  Keep it for yourself, or or share your personalized honey with your close friends.

By having a beehive on your property, you are helping  the entire community by allowing all plants in a 3-mile radius to be pollinated by one of the most efficient pollinators on the planet.   Supercharge backyard gardens and fruit trees each year with abundant blooms and bountiful harvests with a year-round a pollinator source.

The service guarantees the hive, so if yours dies, we can replace it at no additional cost.  Normally a dead-out can cost upwards of $130 to replace each spring. 

In order to make this guarantee work, Bee Maven hives must be maintained and documented by a trained Bee Maven Beekeeper.  Each hive inspection is thoroughly documented using cutting-edge beekeeping technologies, and is used to create a Bee Health Plan that will keep your hive healthy and prosperous each year.

The service cost is still being finalized, but there will be an initial deposit for the equipment and bees, followed by a recurring monthly payment for the maintenance.  Upon launch of the service, I will be looking for customers in the Southern Puget Sound area that are willing to adopt the first hives in 2016.

 

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History of Beekeeping

Old Beekeepers

Ancient cave paintings in Africa, Southern Europe, and India are the earliest records of human history and they all show people taking honey and wax from wild bees. Unfortunately, to satisfy their sweet tooth, those early humans usually destroyed the bees and their hives. 

Did you know that along with mummies found in ancient Egyptian tombs, archaeologists discovered jars of honey? By the time the pyramids were built, humans realized that if they provided the bees with a hive and looked after them, they could share the honey and wax without destroying the colony.

In those early days of beekeeping, hives were made of clay or woven grass. Even back then, beekeepers had to wear protective clothing with masks of woven reeds.

Romans learned beekeeping techniques from the lands they conquered and spread that knowledge throughout their empire. They used honey for food and medicines while wax was used for fuel and cosmetics. The large gardens and orchards of the monasteries across Europe became big beekeeping centers called apiaries – from the Latin word apis meaning “bee”.  The bees helped to pollinate the garden crops and fruit. When Europeans crossed the Atlantic to settle in the Americas, they took their beekeeping technology with them.

Around the time of the American Civil War, hives began to change into what we now know of as a Langstroth Hive.  Invented by L L Langstroth, these hives were created with the knowledge that bees like to move through spaces of 3/8-inches.  Any more space, and a bee will fill it with wax comb, any less, and it gets stuck together with propolis.  The Langstroth hive has removable frames that allow a beekeeper to remove them from the hive, without damaging it.

With the ability to safely remove comb from the hive, the beekeeper can then put the frame into an extraction device that spins the honey out of the comb, without damaging the delicate wax comb. The comb can then be put back into the hive for the bees to re-use.  Since it takes over 5 pounds of honey to create a single frame of wax, it allows the bees to focus on creating honey and rearing brood, instead of creating new comb.

 

 

 

 

 

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Welcome to the Bee Maven Blog!

Bees on a frame

This blog is dedicated to people who love bees and want to learn more about these amazing creatures.  Over the next year, I will be placing beehives throughout the community and writing about my experiences and lessons learned.

As my hives grow, and more customers join the Bee Maven family, there will be many stories and experiences to share.  Part of the magic of beekeeping is getting to witness what goes on in the hive, and share that with others who don’t normally get that opportunity.