Saturday, April 10, 2021

How to avoid breaking your phone while beekeeping! Clogging phones with beeswax and propolis!

 Beekeeping can be a sticky business!

While beekeeping there is good chance that you will end up with sticky fingers, having honey, propolis as well as potentially bees wax on your fingers.

   

To make matters worse, bees wax may end up in your pockets!
To make matters even worse, you even carry your phone in the same pockets!

Its basically a recipe for disaster and your phone unless you have a very solid phone casing which will avoid your phone being clogged up with either honey, bees wax or propolis.
This also goes for grease, dirt and diesel when operating heavy machinery for instance.

While working a few hundred colonies over the past 5 years, I had probably clogged up 1-2 phones to a point I could no longer clean out the charging port on the phone. When you are running a Samsung phone with integrated batteries, then that's kind of bad luck, and before you know it, you are buying a new phone even said I was using phone casings.


Until I discovered the Magnetic charging cables, found on eBay or Amazon which are quite a bit of a live safer for any electronic device you keep in your pockets as a beekeeper.

Basically insert the magnetic plug into the charging port of your phone, and its fairly safe not to clog it up in future. Simple and very effective!

We also use what's called Neck Fan's or Sport's Fans during the hot summer month, and they as well have the tendency to clog up with dirt. We have written another blog entry about them found here in case you want to follow up on it.



I can just say for myself that Magnetic charging cables have been a life saver in terms of keeping our electronic helpers alive avoiding damage to their charging ports and getting a longer life time out of them!

Give them a try and let us know how they worked for you.

Regards,

Colin

How to turn a boggy sandy track into a 2WD path /road using your winter lake.

This blog post is about how turn a sandy boggy track into a 2 wheel drive path using your winter lake.

 


When you happen to have very sandy and boggy fire breaks and happen to have access to a winter lake on your property or your neighbors, you may be surprised on how you turn those tracks into 2WD tracks within one season.

  

 


Initially when developing our land we had to find a way on how to fix up many of our tracks and paths in order to get to places on the property. Some tracks where hungry tracks, eating all cars which tried crossing the tracks. Buying red dirt and lime stone would have been an expensive option for the coverage of all roads and paths involved!
We happened to be lucky to have a large winter lake right smack bang in the middle, with which we could not do to much in the first place. We however found that we can dig up the lake and use its silt / dirt to form a minor crust on the sandy tracks when spread over our fire breaks during the dry month of the year. Once you spread the lake dirt over your tracks, get your disc tiller out, and till the dirt into your sandy track. Then wait for the rain to come and do its magic.


There is a catch however, which is that you CAN'T cross the path in winter until much later in spring, nearly summer, as the silt during winter and wet winter month turns in a very slippery slope, to a point where you can get your front end loader very stuck, and that's quite an advanced form of a good bog! Once your crust has seasoned for one season, you are good to go during summer as well as winter. Depending on how heavily you utilize the track in summer it may start to go a little softer, either reduce the work load, or have a water carrier moisten it down again to get the crust back into shape.

Later and closer to summer however you will be able to cross the path with your 2WD!
Its not going to be a heavy duty track but at least your standard 2WD gets over the track.
If you need to have heavy loads driving over it, you really need either red dirt, lime stone or even more advanced forms to seal you roads.

Our method is rather the poor-mans road to Rome!


However keep in mind that if you intend to go over the tracks too early, or put too much dirt on to your tracks you can end up with quite a boggy mess such as the following:

 


So the key thing really is that you get the layer just right! And if you can avoid driving through the area for 1x season that would be even more benefitial.

Have fun and don't get stuck!

Regards,

Colin

How to keep cool while beekeeping in Australia - Neck / Sports fan

Beekeeping in hot climates - ventilated suits and other hot gadgets!


While beekeeping in Australia surface temperatures in summer can get up to 73 degrees celcius or 163 degrees farenheit, things can get a little hot. You can simply burn yourself on a hive tool left on the back of the trailer exposed to the sun, just to give you an indication. Just imagine yourself walking along the boggy beach having a bee suit on and lifting 20-30kg worth of honey over the sandy soil. 

 



Well, one way to stay cool is to first invest into your quality ventilated bee suits and pants.
You can get beekeeping onesies, however we do quite a few different tasks within the yard, hence would need to get in and out of the onesies every so often, hence are using ventilated bee jackets and pants instead.

One gadget however has made quite a difference for us in order to stay cool. We have started using Neck fans also sometimes referred as sports fan. You can buy them for 30 bucks or so on eBay and I will be leaving a few URLs below to read up on them yourself.
I definitely feel the difference the following day, on really hot days where I had not been using the neck fans to keep the head cool versus days where I forgot to charge the batteries, or only had one unit with me. Most of those fans last for probably 1-4 hours depending on their settings used. Generally however you can use most on the medium setting for at least 2 hours. Having multiple batteries or units just help you to make it through the entire long hot day keeping a cool head. And trust me, you can end up doing lots of stupid decisions when overheating or when you failed noticing you have overheated! 

Find the neck fans we use here





We don't recommend those fans here, as they have not worked well for us

They may work well, if you don't happen to be in a bee suit, but within the suit the airflow did
not work well for us.

When you have well mannered bees then you may also get away with a light version of a bee suit like the ones we weir during summer, such as the Bug Jacket shown below.
However I would be cautious to use those in early spring or in a winter setting, as even friendly bees can turn into an unfriendly species!




So keep cool and stay tuned!


Regards,

Colin


Hive Brick Code - Beekeeping - how to document and record your bee hive status

Bee hive records using bricks - hive brick code cheat sheet


There are multiple reasons for you to keep track of what is happening within your bee hives, some just simply like to track things and have measurable information to later look up and compare.
Others may need to keep records for regulatory reasons such as when operating as a commercial beekeeper and shifting bees from site to site. As always in beekeeping there are 100 different ways to tackle on how you keep your records on your bees. Some people have a sensational memory, however most people probably probably struggle to recall what they had seen a few weeks or month ago, especially when you are dealing with a few hundred hives and different sites. Others may use Apps using their phones and tablets, but we find it that a sticky situation!

 


We utilize 2 different documentation systems. One system is applied to production sized colonies, while NUCs or Nucleus colonies / starter bee hives have additional more granular information recorded, and are a bit more fragile to deal with and need more details recorded.

For our more stationary production hives we had adopted using bricks to document and record the bee hive status.

Our life cycle start with an empty or dead out colony. The next step is the unknown status, this happens if we have not found clear indication of a laying queen or another expected result, and can be used to mark a hive that needs attention within a weeks time. This can happen after the mating setting had been set, and after 14 days we still do not see eggs, however the bees had started creating the circle and show indications of a virgin/mated queen present. In some cases its necessary to insert a queen cell, or we simply come across self raised queen cells which have their own tag / code. Assuming all goes well the queen turns into a laying queen and all is happy and well. Especially on approaching autumn and winter you may want to document how well fed your girls honey stores and or if they need supplementary beefing up and are low on feed.
In other cases you may experience the odd laying worker or drone layer. In some cases, especially when raising NUCs / starter hives you also may need to mark hives which need queen, to allow you to track and count how many queens to bring to the site. Other hive records / brick codes could include that the hive needs another super box on top during the next coming inspection round for example.


    


You can download and use the BE WORTH IT brick code below:




At present we have not adopted painting the individual brick sides with different colors, such as used when marking the age of the queen. The tricky thing with our code is we only have 4 sides of the brick and the queen age documentation would require a fifth side, of which we are obviously lacking a side, or would have to decide not to raise queen in a certain year, not a very practical idea. You could however mark other informations using colors such as:

- Age of your queen
- Queen genetic line
- Hive used as breeder queen
- Hive used as graft starter hive
- Hive used as graft finisher colony
- Hive strength in regards on how many frames are used.
- Hive is unfriendly / aggressive in temper (do your fellow friends a favor and let them know)
- Hive needs a feed
- How much honey the hive produced
- MORE TO COME


 Its really up to your own imagination to come up with what you need to have documented. 
In our case we use the bricks locally for decentralized hive records, while once done with the work, we use pen and paper to record the hive numbers and brick codes using site specific templates to gain centralized information about the apiary.
What can end up happening is, that the information about your operational status and hive strength ends up in your crews minds who have attended those particular sites. Assuming you have multiple crew members working at different sites, no one ends up having a full picture of what actually is happening within your beekeeping organization, unless you keep the centralized copies of the local brick status. The bricks allows for fast assessments of how much work is required onsite, and can help with resource planning.
It only takes a few minutes to walk past your hives at the end of the day and update your templates. Assuming you can come up with a marking system which can be easily scanned and automatically updates your spreadsheet / database then you could even further automate your apiary records.

As said there is multiple ways to skin a banana. Some people prefer notepads they keep with them at all times, others prefer their phone and tablet Apps to record their hive information, we however found phones and tablets a sticky situation in the field and have stayed away from them. Also, if the battery is out, your out, and if you happen to have left your charger at home, then it can involve a fair drive to go and pick it up in down under Australia.

Please feel free to leave us your comment on how and what you keep track off.

Thank you!

Regards,


Colin

How to get rid of ants and or keep ant out of your bee hives long term - ant feeder

How to get rid of ants long term? - low-tec bush beekeeping solution

Regardless if you have ants invading your home kitchen or keeping bees out in the bush, ants over time may turn into an nuisance. Weak bee hives may be destroyed and or abscond due to the ant invasion if the bees can't handle the situation.


We had tried multiple concepts of hive stands, from stands with pots filled with water or oil, to stands being greased up as well as using products such as NeverWet to avoid ants making their ways into the hives. And none of those previously mentioned methods tended to work for us.
As we where seeking for a low-tec and scalable solution which does not have to be maintained over long periods of time, and also can withstand the harsh summer conditions of the Australian summer heat. All of the previous solutions had either evaporated over time if not constantly maintained.
In the case of using grease around the hive stand legs, we experienced that the grease simply dried out and or had a good layer of sand around it, taking it out of the game over time. Eventually seeing how the ants simply crossed the boundaries we had put into place with quite considerable efforts, it was time to find other solutions.

Hive stands:

Below you can see us using combinations of placing those specialized hive stands into tins filled with water, or having the cups filled with grease, NeverWet and other products as well as even doing combinations of those systems. All seemed to fail after a few dry summer month if not constantly maintained. Don't get me wrong they work, if you regularly maintain them, however regular 1 to 2 weekly maintenance is not practically enough for us, hence we stopped using these kinds of approaches.



Ant-feeders:

This is our current way of dealing with ants around the bush bee hives. Its a chemical way of destroying ant build-up around the foraging area of ant colonies nearby, by avoiding placing the ant killer on to the open ground. Keep in mind ant killer chemicals can be very toxic and have the tendency to kill fish in ponds nearby due to its run off water being contaminated by the ant killer. Also having ant killer on the ground in plain sunlight will deteriorate the product within a few days, where as the product remains in tact when kept in the ant-feeders, and will only be consumed by the ant colony until they die back. Due to gravity feeding of the ant powder this solution keeps working for quite some time, and is very low maintenance. We use those ant feeders on our bush block and have very good results so far.

When using the ant feeders, once again in the harsh summer conditions in Australia, the sun literally eats through plastic zip times in less than a few month. Hence we now have adopted to using aluminium zip-ties which last several seasons giving us the durability we intend to achieve.

   


Youtube - Ant feeder demo:

We had created a very short overview video around the ant feeder on youtube to get you a bit of a better understanding on how we refill and use ant feeder in our configuration. See for yourself it this may work for you.



I would be keen to find out of people having adopted this method about their outcomes and successes by using this setup.

Regards,

Colin



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Friday, April 9, 2021

Using RED LED lights for beekeeping in the dark and shifting / relocating bees at night

Using red LED lights to shift bees at night

Bees don't see red light, well that's how the theory generally goes. If bees are close to red light sources, they still may end up in the lights, however they have to be fairly close, meaning less than 1 meter in our experience.


We have conducted quite some testing with different lights in order to come up with the right gear to be mounted on cars, trucks and trailers. First we started off with hand held red led light torches as shown on the initial pictures and they work great. However for shifting bigger loads of bees, a little hand torch is not exactly the ideal tool.

During our search for products we found 230V / 50W red LED lights on ebay, some of which last longer, and others just last a few weeks. We are guessing it really depends on the batch number of those lights on how long they may last. If used indoors for sheds and other loading areas, probably put an easy fix in place to replace them easily if the eBay lights fail.

The 3rd set of lights had been ordered from ultra-vision.com.au and come in a 25W and 45W strength, of which we had mounted 25W lights on the sides and two 45W lights facing the rear, making sure we have sufficient light on our trailer surface.
Basically we are using the Prado as the light beacon for loading and offloading the trailer as well as other vehicles in its reach. 

The red lights have heavily assisted our operation and during shifting bee hives at night, helping to avoid us getting massive amounts of stings by picking up things with a pile of bees on them or underneath without seeing them. Also strapping hives seems to be a lot less painful now as we can see every moving bee without them seeing us.

The other big noticeable impact the red lights also have is to avoid damage and injuries, such as tripping over stuff in the dark, or hitting things with cars, trucks, and loaders, while not needing to be worried that bees start flying. They have been working great for us within our operation.


Initial torch we had used, found on ebay:


Those hand torches are handy but for very limited use.
Usually found as "hunting red lights" online.

Product info:

Torch

Some considerations before you are getting bees into your backyard

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