11 December 2013

Westmoreland Bee Farmer's Association Queen Rearing Training

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At seven thirty in the morning, Kwao, Melanie and I were on our five hour journey towards the Westmoreland Bee Farmer's Association on the other side of the island. We stopped for some Juici Patties and fresh juice from a lady's trunk and rested for half an hour at a tourist beach before continuing our way to the west coast. While the group was setting up, we tramped through a small apiary that was on the property but not the association's bees. Melanie quickly melted a crowd of fifteen into a fit of giggles and smiles. 
Some food-for-thought found scribbled in my notebook from today:
* we can work with momma nature by mimicking her calendar - especially with making splits or divides in sync with the swarming season when the bees instinctively want to / will multiply
* why are you starting a relationship with the bees if you aim to have maintance-free hives?
* the only time the virgin queens will eat honey is before their mating flight = honeymoon
* "it takes a community to raise bees" - trade local genetics as a gardener would with their seeds, connect and share ideas and methods

10 December 2013

St. Ann Bee Farmer's Association Queen Rearing Training

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Emmanuel and the kids

Through the Farmer to Farmer project, we are able to host a volunteer trainer from New Mexico - Melanie Kirby from Zia Queenbee Co. Melanie is a professional queen rearer with seventeen years of experience and calls herself a student. She will be here for two weeks doing theory on queen rearing and will be back in February to do a hands-on training.

Today Melanie had her first queen-rearing training with eleven members of the St. Ann Bee Farmer Association. We first gave a tour of the Yerba Buena Apiary then walked to Strawberry Fields Resort next door for Melanie's presentation and holiday party. "Mother Nature is in control" was her foundation. In her perspective, a big part of Colony Collapse Disorder is the result of our attempts to speed up Mother Nature to suit our own needs. Diverse genetics is incredibly vital and the majority of the commercial beekeepers getting their queens from the same commercial queen breeders. The honeybee's genetic stock is extremely limited and about to collapse with the excessive inbreeding of poor traits that are not yet acclimated to the biosphere. New beekeepers are more likely to buy their queens early from these same commercial queen breeders which only contributes to their colony's poor health and resistance. By breeding yr own queens, you are empowering both the honeybees and yrself. Meeting with new beekeepers sheds light on a lot of ideas, thoughts and facts and Melanie holds a bright torch.

08 December 2013

a hive and comb transfer

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Yesterday Kwao and I quickly switched out a nucleus hive into a four-foot hive late afternoon. The colony was getting crowded in the nuc hive and needed more space, or they will swarm too early. After heavily smearing a handfull of freshly cut lemongrass all over the inside of the hive, we switched the colony out by pulling out two top bars at a time, quickly going over the comb to ensure they had eggs and food. The rest of the bees lingering in the nuc were knocked out before the hive smothered with smoke to hide its scent.

One of the hive stands were installed poorly last year and the hive was tipping forward dangerously before the heavy rains loosened up the mud enough that it fell forward. A few days later, between the storms, Agape and I went through the hive with comb traps and found that only one comb needed to be reinforced after breaking off the top-bar. The comb traps were incredibly helpful being so simple and quick to use. You simply trim the comb to fit inside and weave the thread around the pre-hammered nails to secure it in place. Definitely a vital tool to have in a top-bar apiary!

06 December 2013

pieces and pineapples

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Between the rain, we've managed to finished inspecting all the hives in the yard. We need to go back through the apiary and feed them again soon for the flow has yet to start and they are dry.

Yesterday Agape and I stripped and planted a few pineapples and a rainbow blessed us after some late afternoon showers.

a cockscomb flower
Kofi watching momma rolling sushi

02 December 2013

dog house + dry larvae

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Suzy is due to have her pups any day now so Agape, Joshua and I spent the morning finishing up the walls of her dog house, throwing in some more sawdust and even fashioned a door for her out of a crocus bag. Spoiled much?
 By late afternoon, I was following Agape, Emmanuel, Melchizedek and Joshua into the bush to inspect another three hives. There was a lot of tightly patterned capped brood to be found though the larvae looked a bit dry. Usually they are swimming in a pool of milky royal jelly! We will be feeding these guys for a little longer. There is a balance to find when feeding - too much and we will artificially induce a swarm, feed too little and the young will suffer, especially since we've been generously feeding in the past month. Melchizedek nearly smoked Agape and I out of the apiary with his liberal usage of the smoker! 

28 November 2013

roof building

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Agape, Joshua and I sorted through a few more hives. So far, most of the bees have been backfilling the brood-nest with the sugar syrup we've been feeding them. Hopefully by ceasing the feeding, the bees will consume the sugar and continue on expanding without being artificially triggered to swarm. The majority of the hives are much stronger in population with new combs just being drawn out. The queens are laying tight patterns and there is an abundance of pollen-packed cells. We've been noticing white and bright orange pollen on the bee baskets.

Kwao cut the wood to size for hive cover frames. After hammering the frames together, aluminum sheets recycled from the newspaper mill in Kingston (these sheets are only used once then thrown out!) were then hammered on top. We need to ensure that the back end of the roofs are tilted up so the rain can run right off. My hands were pretty colorfull when we were done!
Kofi likes to play in wheelbarrows with blue tarps
Our usual daily delivery of june plums gathered off the kitchen roof by Joshua