Friday, January 29, 2016

A few days away from the farm

Earlier this week I was in the Miami area on my way to do some kayak sailing and camping in the Everglades National Park.   Part of the trip involved driving through a predominately agricultural area with plenty of bee hives set up throughout the fields.  Something I probably wouldn't have noticed before getting into beekeeping.

The trip was originally supposed to be 5 days but some very bad weather came through at the last minute and we postponed the trip 2 days.  Because who wants to sail in thunderstorms and 50 mph gusts.  Especially when your boat has a 16' lightning rod.  There were two groups of us and the plan was to meet in the middle and then sail back to Flamingo together.  After the bad weather, everyone in my group cancelled except one guy who had to cancel the day we were leaving because he was feeling quite sick.  So I ended up going myself to meet up with the other group.

The seas were quite challenging but well worth it being able to enjoy the beauty of the everglades park.  Very remote with almost no people around.    Headwinds prevented me from getting to my preferred destination on day one so I camped on mid-cape with a beautiful full moon.  Only concern I had was a strong tide might come up and encroach on the campsite so I made sure to tie the boat to a tree just in case and was prepared to move the tent in the night if that happened.  Fortunately the tide was no big deal.
Fellow sailor Martin going through gear

Day two I met up with the other group and hung out.  A great group of guys and a gal.  A perfect day.  Our camping companion was a Pelican that walked among us and hung out between our boats.  Completely unafraid of us and not a beggar either.  At one point I got down eye level with him (or her) and had what I thought was an intelligent conversation (one sided).  The pelican even took a nap at our campsite for awhile but finally flew off a few hours later.  The pelican was the high point of the trip for me.
My Hobie Adventure Island boat

Another time I was sitting having lunch when I looked down at the water and saw a large shark cruising only about 3 feet offshore in pretty shallow water.  Really cool.  Someone thought it was a bull shark.

Another honey bee related coincidence was one of the guys on the trip was passionate about making his own Meade which is an alcoholic beverage made from honey.    I've never had Meade before but may end up doing a honey / Meade swap with him.  Could even save me from having to set up a stand somewhere to sell the honey I have. 

Here's a 7 minute video of the trip:

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Bottling Honey

Another batch of honey is bottled and ready for sale.  If you or anyone you know needs natural pure local honey call the number found on the main page of 

Or even better, if you have suggestions how or where to sell honey that would be appreciated.   

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Wild honey bee party at the Florida Bee Farm

After doing honey extraction, you're left with a pile of sticky frames and a couple large plastic containers with a good amount of wax and honey that's dripped off the frames.  The best way to clean this mess up is to let the honey bees do it.  And let me tell you, they enjoy this work immensely.

Three minutes after laying out the frames there were 40-50 bees buzzing around as their sense of smell is so acute.  After ten minutes there were thousands of honey bees having one heck of a good time cleaning up the frames and containers.  It was nuts is the only way to describe it.

This happened all day long.  I also noticed that the gardens were loaded with honey bees busy as can bee.  Some were even on my tomato plants and it looked like they were chewing on the leaves or ??? I really don't know what they were doing.  They were in the soil of the pots and gathering wood fiber for propolis.  They were just everywhere which makes the Bee Farm so much fun to just hang out and observe nature at it's finest.  Today was especially relaxing and enjoyable.

However ......  the next day was like coming into a college dorm after a wild party.  The cloud of bees around the frames were significantly more active and the feeding frenzy escalated.  As I walked toward the frames on the long platform, a few bees buzzed my face and seemed a tad too defensive for what I felt like dealing with today.   Kind of like they had hangovers from a tough day of honey cleanup. 

So I'll wake up early tomorrow and put away the frames while the bees are still snug in their hive.  Before the sun comes out and it warms up.   The frames should be pretty clean by then anyway.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Honey extraction and uncapping experiments

After the swarming activity this week, it was time to pull some honey from the hives.  I believe the bees were becoming concerned with the packed honey supers and felt they needed more space ... thus the swarming.  The solution is to pull some honey and put empty frames in the hive giving them room to expand without having to move to new digs.

I really should have done this in November but there were too many things on the "to do list" and before I knew it, 2016 had arrived.  But I don't feel it matters with the weather we've been having as long as you leave the bees plenty of honey which I did.  The downside of pulling the honey this week was it caused a bit of a robbing frenzy among the hives.  It turns into a big free for all among the bees with all the honey smell in the air and it gets kind of crazy.  No big deal as they calm down a few hours after you button things back up.  I try to pull the frames as quickly and efficiently as possible to minimize the stress of the bees.

Also while in the hives I removed all the "penthouse" covers and replaced them with more traditional screened inner hive covers until I can transition to migratory covers.  The extra ventilation idea just wasn't as beneficial to the bees as expected.  Especially since they would seal up the ventilation screens with propolis.
Poolside honey extraction with Maxant motorized extractor

After pulling the frames, we brought them home to uncap and extract.  This time we tried a different uncapping method (unsuccessful) using an uncapping roller which just made a bigger mess, more work, and mutilated comb.  The frames that were uncapped with the roller needed to be extracted several times to get all the honey.  A real pain.  So finally we went back to uncapping with a bread knife which is also a pretty sad tool to uncap with.  Next time we will have a hot uncapping knife like most beekeepers use.  Another good lesson.

The extraction went well and we ended up with a nice amount of delicious honey.  The flavor is amazing.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Ventilated hive covers experiment over

Since it gets so darned hot in the summer around here a couple beekeepers I know and I came up with a different type of cover that protects the bees from hive beetles and wax moths while still allowing a good amount of ventilation into the hives.

What these covers consist of is basically a finely screened inner hive cover with a couple inch space and lots of ventilation holes.  This is then covered with a standard hive cover.  While this may have worked, I don't think the bees really appreciated the ventilation as they pretty much sealed the screening with their thick gluey propolis which negates the ventilation aspect.

Now the downside of these little ventilated chambers is they also act as a penthouse suite for all sorts of critters.  There have been black widow spiders in the past, lizards, and yesterday one penthouse suite contained three FROGS !!!.  In another penthouse suite I found many white eggs?? from god knows what.  I posted the picture on a very large beekeeper facebook group and received dozens of replies (guesses) but one person in the pacific  northwest was pretty sure they were wax moth cocoons.  Most people thought they were lizard eggs which is a possibility since I've found lizards up there also.  But the eggs seemed to be the wrong shape for lizard eggs and they were too small.  A couple people even guessed tic tacs : )  I wasn't about to taste one and find out.
mystery eggs in the ventilated hive cover
The next Florida Bee Farm project may be changing out the hive covers to more of a migratory hive cover or a hybrid inner cover with standard outer cover.  Will have to think about this some more.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Two Swarms in early January

A combination of crazy weather and busy bees found me scrambling to make new homes for two swarms that left my hives.  One went into a nearby Nuc and one was swaying in a palm tree.  This was partially my fault as the hives were at capacity and the bees were expanding so fast they had to branch out. 

This isn't a bad thing as I now have two more hives (be careful what you wish for) and the amount of honey I'm harvesting (in January) is quite large.  But the bees will all have plenty of honey to hold them over until official spring.  As busy as they are now and all the flowering going on, they'll probably continue to be fairly active.

Monday, January 4, 2016

New Moose, New Shed, New Year

New Moose
New roof for the shed

Something that was a big priority and needed to be done was a rebuild of the shed.  The metal panels that were used for the roof had just too many holes and places for water to seep in.  After trying numerous times to patch the leaks my son Jeff and I completely rebuilt the roof.  Not only did we replace the metal with plywood and shingles, we raised the roof a couple of feet to provide a better angle for the water to run off.

One of the benefits I didn't foresee was how much this would positively impact the storage space inside the shed.  Now the extra bee equipment and spare hives are easily accessible and in a nice dry place.  I also added windows for more natural lighting inside the shed.

New Shed for the Bee Farm

Finally during the long new year weekend Yvonne and I decided to bring our Moose (Bob) out to the Beefarm and let him watch over the vegetable gardens.   Bob was temporarily needing a new spot and the Beefarm was needing a moose so it worked out nicely.

Moose and new Window
We also had some cool looking lexan designer pieces that were leftover from a job site and we plucked from the trash.  They were perfect as a unique molding to surround the new window on the shed that my neighbor gave me.  And one last benefit of the shed rebuild is the better mounting and angle of the solar panel array.  We have more power than we'll probably ever need.
better angle and mounting of solar panel array

Garden is going strong and even though my hard lessons keep on coming, Yvonne and I actually shared (one) delicious strawberry this week.  We also had fresh green beans and eggplant which were also delicious.  Tomatoes should be turning red in the next week or so.

Friday, January 1, 2016

The good and the bad of harvesting Tumeric

Kind of falling behind on the blog posts again but a few weeks ago the healthy tumeric plants wilted up and kind of fell over which meant that they were ready for harvest.  Tumeric is a root plant so they were all dug up and the nodules or rhizomes as they are called were harvested.

Quite a few were harvested so about 20 of them were re-planted in pots for next year.  The others were washed and then boiled for about 15 minutes to remove any harmful bacteria.  The next step is to cut the tumeric into small pieces and place into the dehydrator.  After about 24 hours the tumeric is dry enough to turn to powder.  We used the same technique we used when we converted the dried Moringa to a powdered form which is to place it into the nutra bullet and powderize it with the milling blade.

So far so good except for one thing.  All that touches tumeric gets stained a yellow color.  The stain is permanent too.   Our cutting board, the nutra bullet plastic cup and even the dehydrator trays were stained.  All in all it was quite a bit of work for a jar of pure powdered tumeric but a good learning experience too.

Turmeric is the spice that gives curry its yellow color.  There are many health benefits to eating tumeric.  Curcumin is the main active ingredient in turmeric.  It has powerful anti-inflammatory effects and is a very strong antioxidant.  However it is not absorbed into the bloodstream easily so many mix black pepper with it which enhances absorption by 2000%. 

For more information about the health benefits of tumeric read this article.