© 2017-2021, ZBees Apiary, Waynesville, NC.                                                                                                          Buzz the Apiary

Lifetime member of the North Carolina State Beekeepers Association

Buzz the Apiary

Living in rural Michigan, apple trees are common throughout the state and they grow wild wherever possible, including my property. I noticed several of them growing in a cluster among some large box elders and elm trees and it took a whole summer to remove several big trees which surrounded these apple trees. After clearing the brush away, I pruned the trees and then I waited until the following year to reap the benefits of all the hard work.

The apple trees blossomed the following spring and to my surprise there were no bees on these blossoms, not a single pollinator. As the apples started to mature, there were few pollinating insects around the trees. So, I started to research beekeeping, spending months on “YouTube” and the Internet to learn as much as possible about honeybees. It was time to build a couple of “top-bar” hives for a new apiary. Therefore, I picked up a set of construction plans from a series of six easy to follow videos by David Wright, on How to Build a Kenyon Top Bar Hive. David offers great instruction on this beehive and I built two hives to start Stolen Nectar Apiaries, with some adjustments of my own.

In the spring of 2015 I bought two packages of bee's after spending a full year of reading, researching, and watching hundreds of videos on YouTube TV. That first summer of 2015 was great for beekeeping and as the winter season was approaching I was confident that I had a couple of strong hives, but I was to find out differently. Beekeeping is an addictive hobby and in my excitement, I could not wait to build more beehives so, during that first winter I bought three Langstroth hive kits and built those units in the workshop. While I was assembling these hive kits I lost one of the top-bar hives, because of the harsh Michigan winter. In April 2016, a bee explosion was taking place in the remaining hive and this population explosion offered the opportunity to split this healthy hive and create a new colony in the dead hive.

Brooklyn, Michigan

In addition, I ordered two more packages of bees for the Langstroth hives, leaving one of the three hives empty and hoping for another split in summer. My lack of beekeeping knowledge cost me dearly and at this point I still had four strong hives, with the fifth hive being a new colony that was not thriving well. Early September 2016, the newly split hive was showing signs of struggling and therefore, I took each deep box from this weaker hive and placed one box each on top of the two-stronger hives. I separated the existing hive from the newly added box with a sheet of newspaper for acclimation purposes and this became the first stage of hive failure.

Michael Zachary (white clothing)

Varroa mite on bee larvaeWithin three weeks all the Langstroth hives began to show signs of declining numbers and by early October they all succumbed to the destructive power of the Varroa Destructor (mite). Unknown to this beekeeper, hive number five was weak, because of this pest, and I unwittingly transferred these mites to the other hives when I combined those hives. I used the powdered sugar shake method for a treatment of the Varroa and it proved to be inadequate against the Varroa. By mid-October the top bar hives also declined to unsustainable numbers and eventually they too had succumbed to the Varroa and this last colony died.

The damage caused by Varroa mites is often a lesson which leaves many backyard beekeepers frustrated, but willing to press onward to the next colony of bees. Once your hives die in this manner, you never forget such an experience in beekeeping. Now, I am aware of some better methods for treating this hive-killing pest. Finally, this May I am starting over with three new packages of bees and with more knowledge about the Varroa mite, with new ammunition for removing them from the colony (oxalic acid).

Stolen Nectar Apiary…

Stolen Nectar Apiary…

Stolen Nectar Apiary - another honey harvest Mike checking out a Langstroth hive.

Checking the health of the hive…

and the quality of the honey.

The Honeybees Infectious Hitchhiker…

Going Strong and Making Honey…

Greetings from the great white north and Stolen Nectar Aperies.

Fall is finally arriving here and the hives are doing very good. I have abandoned the top bar hives due to moisture issues in late winter and have gone with all Lang hives.  Fall feeding is in high gear and the bees from 5 hives are going through about 5 gallons of 2 to 1 sugar water a week. I am using the appropriate amount of Honey Bee Healthy in each batch and they are fighting to get at it.

This is increasing my bee count going into winter significantly. I have seen a big jump in the weaker hives and they all seem healthy and thriving.

I’ll be getting ready soon to insulate the hives using 1” foam board screwed to the sides of the hives.  Along with that I will be putting a feeder board made of sugar and pollen and cooked to a hardened state in place of the inner cover for winter feed.  It was a good year for honey production up here in Michigan and maybe the best honey I’ve ever had.

All in all, a good year.

Light, medium, or dark…

Honey always tastes sweet to the tongue.

Langstroth hive with telescoping roof Langstroth hives with gable roof

A gable roof hive

A telescoping roof hive

Varroa Destructor (mite)