Sunday, September 10, 2017

More Benefits to Beekeeping

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Bee Kind: How to Help Our Honey Makers

Bee Kind: How to Help Our Honey Makers

Sometimes, the most important component of a working system is the one most overlooked. Honey bees are a fine example of this. While often overlooked, their function as pollinators makes them responsible for an enormous portion of our economy and our ecosystem.

According to the USDA, bees are responsible for an estimated $15 billion annually in added crop value. And The Guardian states that bees are responsible for 84 percent of crops grown for human consumption. This equates to around three out of every four bites of any meal you eat. Not only that, but bees also contribute to the food supply for all of the animals that rely on these pollinated plants -- farmer animals and wildlife.

The effect of bees is felt throughout the world daily in the food we eat and the clothes we wear, but these special insects are currently in distress. Time recently reported that nearly 700 North American bee species are headed toward extinction. Another study by the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies has noted that bee populations have declined by 30 percent over the past decade. Other sources say that 1 in 4 native species are currently threatened.

But Why?

There are many contributing factors to the decline in bee populations over recent years. One of them is called Colony Collapse Disorder. The EPA states that Colony Collapse Disorder occurs when the majority of worker bees abandon their queen, resulting in the collapse of the hive over the following winter. The cause of Colony Collapse Disorder has been disputed, but many people cite the use of neonicotinoid-based pesticides as the leading culprit.

Others, such as Dave Goulson, founder of the Bumblebee Conservation Trust, firmly believes that the loss of bee habitat is the reason for the population decline. Many native bee habitats nest in the ground and in wilderness areas, and due to land development for farming and housing, many of these nesting areas have been compromised.

So how can you help?

Creating a pollinator garden is one simple way to help native bee populations in your own backyard.

A pollinator garden is a small garden consisting of blooming native plants that will attract and feed local bee populations. The Forest Service recommends using a wide assortment of native plants that bloom from early spring to late fall. Native plants are especially beneficial because they have adapted to your specific climate and ecosystem and have a higher chance of success. There are several ecoregions in the United States, and many options for blooming native plants, so be sure to do your research to find the best fit for your location and capabilities.

Although some people are afraid of attracting pollinator bees to their lawn or garden, the less aggressive species of bee tend to be native pollinators, unlike a bumble bee or non-native honey bee. In fact, native honey bees are some of the most docile and least threatening of bee species.

It’s best to avoid harmful pesticides when planting your pollinator garden. Consider weeding by hand or using an organic pesticide alternative. If you must use a pesticide, use it at night when most native pollinators are inactive.

If you plan on having a blooming pollinator garden every year, consider planting perennial flowers. Unlike annuals, which die off after a single season, a perennial will return year after year. Some examples of perennial flowers include most daisies, anemones, and bee balm.

By doing your part with a pollinator garden, you are making a difference in the bee population for your area. Just remember, a little goes a long way. Supporting as few as 250 bees is enough to pollinate an entire acre of apple trees!

Written by Christy Erickson 

Monday, August 14, 2017

Finishing the Season

I will be pulling all frames with honey (capped or uncapped) tomorrow evening. Capped frames will be extracted and uncapped frames will be stored in a Rubbermaid tote with the lid cracked open so the honey will dehydrate closer to 16% - 18% moisture content. All sticky frames will be given back to the bees to polish up for winter storage. All equipment will be stored outdoors under the eaves of my house starting with a queen excluder on top of the bottom board to keep rodents from eating the honeycomb. Each brood and medium super box will be stacked on top of the bottom board. The inner cover will be stored separately and the telescoping lid will be placed on top of the top box. I store my honey in glass canning jars. Keeping the honey at room temperature helps to prevent sugaring process. If you want to cream your honey, you store it at 55* for many months. Another way can be viewed at:

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Continuing Regular Hive Checks

At this time of year we are nearly burnt out on doing hive checks every 10-12 days but we will rest when the snow flies. I must keep checking my hives every 10 days even after caging a queen because if I don't the bees will create a queen cup, fill it with a bed of royal jelly and drag one of the last eggs layed by the queen into the bed of RJ. This is undesirable since the reason we caged our queen in the first place is to ensure all brood hatches out before the final honey extraction and before winter sets in so that all equipment can be stored neatly and clean for next year's colonies. I don't know about you but I don't want eggs or larva in my honey.

Allowing Small Livestock in Urban and Rural Residential Areas

Fairbanks North Star Borough Community Planning
tated that small livestock and commercial agriculture should be regulated differently than large livestock. Additionally, there was general support for allowing small livestock and small scale commercial agriculture in urban and rural residential areas. If you are interested in providing input about where and how small livestock and small scale commercial agriculture should be permitted, please take SURVEY #2 here: (est. 10 minutes for completion). And please check out the project website with full results from survey #1 here:

Monday, July 24, 2017

Queen Caging

I plan on caging my queens and robbing honey this coming Thursday evening 8/3/17. If you want to observe, meet me at my town house at 605 Betty Street with your bee suit at 5:15PM.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Harvesting Your Honey, Honey!

It is very, very tempting to take honey frames out of hives prior to them being fully ready to extract and store. When honey frames aren't fully "capped" (meaning part of the honeycomb has a thin layer of wax sealing the honey into the cells of the comb but some of the cells aren't sealed with wax yet) the honey will crystallize much faster. This is caused when the moisture content is too high (>17% - 18%) because the bees haven't finished fanning to dehydrate the honey. Below are photos of unfinished honey frames. The only time I would harvest these at this stage would be because the season is over and I know the bees don't have time to finish capping frames.

Please read the following website for more information.

 Unfinished honey frame
 Unfinished honey frame
  Unfinished honey frame
 Finished honey comb:

 Finished honey comb:

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Most Aggressive Bees in 13 years!

I think this is the most aggressive year of beekeeping I have had in 13 years!

I am bringing my smoker and using it for all hive checks for the rest of the season. Nearly every time I've done hive checks of late, I've been stung right through my bee suit. Today, I received a call from one of my beekeeping colleagues to hear he was stung 10 times through his suit. Quite a while later, after he had his suit off, a guard bee hunted him down and stung him in the face. One way to minimize stings is to complete hive checks during the middle of the day because many of the bees are foraging and there's a lower population in the hive. I am carrying an epi pen as well as Benedryl capsules with me. When I get stung I seek out a plantain weed, select a leaf, chew on it a little bit, and place it over the sting. 

Smoking the bees before a hive check

Plantain - Wonder Weed

Saving Pollen Frames for 2018

I save one pollen frame for each colony I plan on keeping for the next season. This allows me to provide each colony with local pollens for next spring.

I put the frames in my freezer to preserve them. This keeps them from getting moldy.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Another way to re-queen a colony.

Another way to re-queen a colony anytime in the season is to take a frame with one well-developed queen cell from another colony, brush off all the bees gently over the hive and place it into the queenless hive. Hopefully, when the new queen hatches, there will be enough drones ready for the day they have all been waiting for. This is how I was able to re-queen one of my queenless hives on the Chena River this year. The new queen is laying beautiful patterns of eggs and I estimate obtaining about 5-7 gallons from this re-queened colony this season.

I decided to do a quick release on one of my Buckfast colonies by the Chena River. The new Carniolan queen took to the air and flew away. I left the area and returned two days later to find the queen in the hive laying eggs. That was about 10 days ago. Today's hive check proved to be very successful as multiple frames are now full of eggs, larva, pupa, and honey. I estimate this colony will produce between 4 and 6 gallons of honey this season.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Queenless Hives

At this stage of the beekeeping season, when a hive becomes queenless, the best thing to do is to combine it with another colony.

1. Put a couple sheets of newsprint over the brood boxes of a strong/healthy colony.
2. Cut several two-inch slits in the paper.
3. Place the brood boxes of the queenless colony on top of the newsprint.
4. Put a couple medium honey supers on top of the queenless brood boxes.
5. Place inner and outer lids on top of the medium honey supers.

It takes the bees a couple days to eat through the paper. This method works because it allows the bees to be combined gradually rather than throwing two colonies together suddenly.

It is better to make use of all of the foragers from the queenless hive rather than letting them slowly die out. Why not put their amazing skills to work and make one strong colony with a higher population?

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Re-Queening Success!

My Carniolan queens arrived on Tuesday this week and I immediately picked them up from UPS. One was hung in the middle of Dave and Pam's colony after a complete hive check and determining that hive was truly queenless.

My Italian colony was next on the list for a hive check during which I discovered the second queen cell I allowed to develop had hatched out and I now have a new, unmarked queen in that hive laying full patterns of brood. Note to Self: If I had been killing all my drones, the queen couldn't breed during the first several days of her life. Keeping drones around is good practice for at least 3/4 of summer.

That meant I had two queens and only one colony that needed a new queen. I checked the Buckfast colony to ensure no queen had hatched. It was queenless so I placed one queen in the middle of a brood box and separated the boxes with a queen excluder. This hive would soon become home to a two-queen colony.

I later received a call for a hive check from a local beekeeper. I determined both of his colonies had swarmed. At this point, with only one extra queen on hand and the late date for re-queening, I suggested he combine both colonies by placing newsprint paper over the top box of one colony and stacking the other colony on top of the paper after making a few slices in the paper for the bees to begin chewing through, slowly combining into one colony. I then pulled one of the new Carniolan queens and gave it to him, removing my queen excluder on the two-queen hive.

I will check these colonies again on 7/1/17 to confirm the new queens are doing well.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Honey Flow and Queenless Colonies Update!

Today was beautiful at the UAF Botanical Gardens! I noticed a variety of bees competitively foraging the lovely flowers.

What perfect weather we have been experiencing in the Interior! A nice balance of rain and sunshine. This allows flowering plants to make more than what they need for food, offering up extra nectar for foraging creatures such as our beloved honeybees! 

The Interior Honeyflow Is Beginning! Fireweed has arrived in some locations. All of my colonies, including the two queenless ones have started to store extra honey in the super frames. I have put all of my medium honey supers on this weekend. It is important queens don't get "honey bound" with no place to lay new eggs. Having supers helps the workers to have extra space for storage and allows the queen space to lay up to 2,000 eggs per day. I figure my queens have about five to six more weeks to lay eggs before I will invite folks to watch a queen caging demonstration. By then we will be in the thick of harvesting honey, veggies, and berries. One of our favorite fall activities is making sour kraut.

Queenless Hives Update: Neither one of my queenless hives had new queens after I left a queen cell in each to hatch out. I am trying again to hatch out one queen cell in each of these colonies and praying for viable, well-mated queens in each. Regardless, time is running out, and any day I expect a worker to have developed ovaries and start laying multiple, unfertilized eggs in every cell, which cannot be remedied. If this is the case I will shop vacuum both colonies and recycle them by dumping the drowned bees into my compost. The soft organs will become rich soil and the exoskeletons will become organic vermiculite because the exoskeletons don't decompose very quickly, so they aerate the soil beautifully. I ordered three new Carniolan queens from Kohnen Brothers and they are due to arrive this Tuesday. The third queen is already spoken for by my friends, Dave and Pam. I will do complete hive checks to see if the queen cells I left in both hives have hatched and the queens are doing their jobs. If not, they will both be re-queened. I will leave the cork in the new queen cages for a few days, hanging them in the center of the hives so the bees can get used to the new queen pheromones. On the 3rd to 4th day, I will perform a slow release with a mini-marshmallow (if I don't end up with laying workers).

Sunday, June 25, 2017

UAF Botanical Gardens Anniversary Celebration Today!

Today 6/25/17 I will be doing mini-workshops about honeybees and pollination from 11AM to 4PM
at the UAF Botanical Gardens. Bring your questions and visit this beautiful garden!

Thursday, June 22, 2017

New Hive Check Shadowing Schedule

My schedule for hive checks has changed a bit due to weather. Here is the new and improved schedule:

June 23rd - 11:00 AM 

June 30th - 11:00 AM

July 10th - 5:00 PM

July 19th - 5:00 PM

July 29th - 6:00PM

Honey Extraction - Friday, August 4th 7-9PM

August 9th - 5:00 PM

August 19th - 5:00 PM

Monday, June 19, 2017


I have a couple colonies with queen problems and I am letting them hatch out a new queen, hoping the colony has enough drones to mate with the new queens. What I do is leave one developing queen cell remain in the hive to hatch out. On my next hive check I look for eggs and if I find eggs in a full pattern, it was a success. If I don't have any eggs and no developing queen cells in the hive then I would need to purchase a new queen or if I have another colony I can take a frame with an emerging queen cell and brush all the bees off of it. Then move it to the queenless hive and wait to see if it hatches out, gets mated and starts laying. If I need to purchase a new queen, I contact Steve Victors first and if he is out of queens, I contact Kohnen Brothers. Please see links to their websites below:

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Swarming and Very Aggressive Honeybees

My past two hive checks have been rather interesting.
Five of my colonies are doing fantastic and two are not doing so well at this time.
I have one Buckfast colony with a queen that wasn't laying many eggs, her pattern was "spotty" and the population is not nearly as high as my successful colonies. Another sign of problems was the number of supersedure cells in the pupa stage of development. I eliminated all but one swarm cell and smashed the queen. Now a single swarm cell is developing and I hope to have a new queen hatch out and breed with local drones. Remember, queens are only fertile in the first few days of their lives and they must mate with around 21 drones to get enough fertilization to lay up to 2,000 eggs per day for up to 7 years - now that's some very busy days for our queens!

Another extremely aggressive, Italian colony in the same location as the struggling Buckfast has no evidence of a queen. Once again, there are about 10 swarm cells and I removed all but one so they can hatch out a new queen. I hope to find a new, beautiful, unmarked queen in both of these colonies during my next hive checks. which will be in 9 days.

I cannot stress enough how important full hive check are every 10 days, especially during the month of June since it is the largest swarming month! Before destroying every swarm cell, I always ensure I have a queen and be looking for all stages of brood regardless of whether I actually find her during each check or not. Please contact me if you want me to complete a hive check with you. My fee is $40 for this years beekeeping students and $60 for anyone else.

This year I have heard reports and personally experienced more aggressive bees. Out of 7 colonies, two of my Italians are extremely mean. If I didn't have a bee suit on I would get thousands of stings upon first opening my hives. This is unusual and can be a very dangerous situation. I will not check my hives without a full bee suit. Take the suggestion, folks! I have been stung more this year than in any other year and these stings are right through my bee suit.

Supers can be added anytime in the next two weeks. I do not use a queen excluder because it slows the bees down during the honey flow when they have to squeeze through the excluder to store honey. With new equipment, the bees often fill the excluder with wax and create a ceiling between the brood and the honey supers. How can that be efficient?

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Summer has finally arrived in Alaska's Interior!

The past few days I removed outer insulation and entrance reducers until fall. I am finding between one and several swarm cells in each hive, which I remove after determining I have a queen. Hive checks are done every 10 days religiously. Keep grass and weeds clear in front of the entrance. Make sure the upper entrance is open for the bees to utilize and for proper ventilation. On days 80* and warmer, I place a nail or stick between the outer and inner covers to allow better ventilation. Often, on warm days, bees will hover outside the hive fanning to bring better ventilation into the hive. We can assist them in keeping the brood and queen from overheating by lifting the outer lid. I am sure to keep a water source nearby.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Consistent Hive Checks

  • All seven of my colonies are building population as well as honeycomb to make room for storing brood, pollen, and nectar, which will become honey by late July and into September. 
  • I am hoping Jack Frost has left town for good until late October. 
  • Entrances are all set at the medium size until the first week of June, weather permitting. 
  • By then I expect to remove my entrance reducers altogether until fall. 
  • Hive checks will take place every ten days and I am careful to ensure my queens are in the hive by either actually seeing them or seeing all four stages of brood (eggs, larva, pupa, and adult). 
  • After seeing the queen or evidence of the queen, I am removing all queen cups and cells. 
  • I am also removing any wax built outside of the frame area. 
  • Most to all hives in the Fairbanks area should have two brood boxes on the hive by now. 

  • Next weekend I will swap my brood boxes by putting the top box on the bottom board and the bottom box on the top. This entices the bees to build brood into one large nest. 

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

May 14th Complete Hive Checks, Summer Course, and Addressing Ant Problems

Dan and I checked all seven colonies today. We found incredible amounts of pollen stores, sealed sugar water on at least 3-4 frames, and very prolific brood patterns.
  • Complete hive checks are performed every 10 -12 days to discourage bees from swarming.
  • The weather has been such that all inner insulation has been removed. 
  • Hives with ample sugar syrup stores should have inner insulation removed and the feeders replaced with frames because we want the bees to use up the sugar water stores prior to the nectar flow. (Who wants sugar honey when we can get honey from the nectar of plants?) 
  • Now we have 10 frames in each brood box. We did discover small black ants in three of our hives. 
  • To remedy this naturally, I sprinkled cinnamon around the perimeter of the foundation blocks. 
  • All of my hive entrances are at the medium door setting. My lid entrances are on the bottom of the inner lid now that cold nights seem to be behind us. 
  • It is vital for honeybees to have a water source near the hive. While they can fly several miles for water, it is strongly encouraged to provide a water source near hives. Putting twigs and/or rocks into a bucket of water helps the bees leave the bucket with a full load without drowning.
  • Now is a great time to add a second brood box (UNDERNEATH the first brood box).
  • My summer students can shadow me on the following tentative schedule (based on weather - Please RSVP by text 907460-6050 or email at (arrive at my townhouse at 65 Betty Street): 

June 23rd - 11:00 AM 
June 30th - 11:00 AM
July 10th - 5:00 PM
July 19th - 5:00 PM
July 29th - 6:00PM
Honey Extraction - Friday, August 4th 7-9PM

August 9th - 5:00 PM
August 19th - 5:00 PM

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Important Beekeeping Tips to Remember

Pollen and nectar are two different sources of nutrition for honeybees. Even though the bees are now hauling in local pollen, I never remove sugar water until dandelions have appeared in prolific numbers. I have been topping off my sugar water every three days.  Hives with most frames fully drawn out with honeycomb, may need another brood box. I add my second brood box to the bottom of the hive since heat rises and cool falls. I want to keep my baby bees warm and it makes it easier to fill the feeder as well. We are adding second boxes on Sunday 4/30/17. Anyone who wants to observe this can meet at our house at 2:30 PM to shadow Dan. He will complete full hive checks as well. I will be out of state from 4/29/17 through 5/11/17 and will respond to emails every few days.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Nine Successful Hive Checks Today!

Today we found all seven of our queens healthy and laying eggs in full patterns. We also checked a couple hives of one of our students and both were doing fantastic. We topped off sugar water and will continue to fill feeders every 3-4 days until we see abundant dandelions. The bees are beginning to store pollen in the wax cells. This week is a great time to check for evidence of a well-bred queen. At least one frame should have eggs and very young larva. If there is no evidence of a queen and you can't find your queen then you may need to requeen your hive. If so, give me a call at (907)460-6050.

Below are two photos of what I am seeing on my frames at this time. Also, I am posting some photos of possible undesirable colony situations.

Healthy pattern of eggs (1-2 days old)

Healthy Larva (7-10 days old)

Spotty (Poor) Queen Pattern

Dead Queen - Laying Worker Eggs (Kill Bees!)