Sunday, February 27, 2011

Simple Solar Wax Melter

This is my version of a solar wax melter that I have seen on Linda's Bees and other sites.  It is the cheapest comb processor there is and it works. 
The first thing you need is a cheap styrofoam cooler
Paint the inside with dark paint, a flat black spray paint is best
Get a container that fits in the cooler box, add some water and then spread a paper towel across the top. Then secure it, a rubber band can work.   Put your wax on top of the towel..

Cover it with a pane of glass or plastic and set it in the sun.  The glass is to keep any nosy bees away and still let the sun heat things up.
The clean wax will flow through the towel and drop into the water.  What is left is the slumgum, all of that dark stuff left by the bees dirty feet.  This small bit of wax was in the sun for about two hours.  I left to to go do some other things so it might have been done much earlier.  Throw away the slum gum.

The wax will drop into the water so you can gather it without it sticking to the container.
This was not a lot of wax but it was from the partial frame of comb that had fallen out of the frame that I mentioned a couple posts back.  It is clean and I will save it for later use.
This is the wee pile of clean wax next to a tablespoon measure. Small but lovely and clean and nothing like the dark wad of wax I started with..
From Wikipedia: Slumgum is a term used in beekeeping. Slumgum is the residue of the beeswax rendering process. When the beeswax from brood comb is melted it contains not only wax but also the pupal lining, wax moth cocoons, excrements from larvae, and other residual debris. Less slumgum can be expected from rendering of cappings or honey comb. In the rendering process, the slumgum is separated from clean wax. Slumgum is slightly heavier than wax and sticks to the bottom of the wax cake. It is brown to black in color, and burns readily. Melted slumgum can be poured over pine cones to make fire starters

 There are bigger and better ways to deal with your wax but most of us Backwards Beekeepers are very small scale beeks collecting honey using crush and strain.  This method of rendering the wax  should work fine.   I do have an old solar oven that I will adapt to melt the wax but it is not high on my list atg the moment.   If you have a lot of wax you want to do at one time cheese cloth might work to replace the paper towel which cannot carry a big load of wax. .  I don't have enough wax to try that yet.  You need something that lets the liquid wax flow through and keep out the slumgum.

There are all sorts of things you can do with the wax other than making clean starter strips.  Check the main bee supply places like LA Honey,  Brushy Mountain and Mann Lake.   They have books and equipment to help you make candles, lip balm and all sorts of other useful things.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

An Early Peek in Feburary

The massive two hive apiary,
Home of the Twitchy Bees, the subject of this hive inspection

Before I start anything I put the lit smoker in front of the hive while I get everything ready.  The bees react to the smoke but the workers keep coming in.
The main reason for checking the hive is this one has always been very active and I want to add another super if it is needed.   The hive is four medium supers tall since I added one last June.    This is the only comb in #4 super, I moved it up in June and there has been no further expansion.  Looks like I do not need another super yet.  I may have to rename this hive to the Propolis Hive.  They produce an incredible amount of propolis and it is very hard to get the hive cover off.  Even though the bees are no using this super yet, the first frame was sealed in so tight that it came apart when I tried to take it out.  I put it back in and it should be fine when the comb glues it together.

These shots are of the honey in #3 super.
This one appears to have a swam cell but there is no brood here, must be burr comb.

#3 is full of honey. the two empty frames I swapped in during the Summer are still empty but the rest are full of comb and much honey.   Most of it must be from last year and what I left for the bees over the Winter.    Now if they will only move up and add some there.
The last frame has its own peculiar design issues.
This is super #2 and all of the frames seem to have comb connections between the frames.  It is a mess.  I tried to cut the the #1 & #2 frames apart but all I did was annoy the bees.  I could not remove one without the other so I moved on to other frames. 
I was able to remove frame #9 which had very little comb in it.  I had to get this one out, it was the last frame in the hive.  The starter strip had fallen down.   I put this in a bucket and replaced it  a clean frame.   I should have put this one back in but I forgot so I cut the comb off and laid the empty frame on the hive so the bees can clean it up and get the honey.
This is a deep as I went into the hive.  When I was in super #3 and #4 the bees were nice.  Things changed when I moved into #2 and removed the wayward comb.  Smoke helped but not much.  My Brushy Mountain suit worked perfectly.  The  consensus is that hive is thriving and the queen is probably fine.  Without help I was not going any deeper to search for her.  The bees have always been active and still are.  
I went out later for a cursory look at the other hive but the Twitchy guard bees told me to back off.
I elected to do that.  These bees are fine when I start but the attitude changes when I get into #1 & #2 supers. 
The Playa Vista hive is much calmer and I had glanced at the top super on it a week ago and it is not close to being full yet.  
I did set up my Flip camera as I was doing the inspection but I did not plan well.  90% of the time you are getting shots of my butt as I work on the hive.  %5 of the time I am getting the still camera and taking shots.  100% of the time the camera is aimed too high.  Good little camera but this was an operator error.  
We are getting more and longer warm spells now.  I expect to be in for another inspection in April.  See you then. 

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Spring Is On The Way

No bees here but these little daffodils were planted 5-6 years ago and this is the first time they have bloomed.  They deserve the spotlight.
This is the main target for the bees right now.  I think they are my bees but I cannot tell.  This kind of lavender seems to have blooms all year long and I have plants very close to the hives.
Just like the Field of Dreams, plant it and they will come.
It must be very good nectar or maybe the only nectar close by.

Getting good sharp shot of bees is difficult.  What you see if the best of 90 pictures.
Danger Will Robinson, Danger!!  Who is this?  It looks like a small praying mantis is hanging around in the lavender.  Click on the picture to make it a little larger.   Do they like bees?

Betty keeps an eye on all things that fly but she no longer gets too close to bees.  One time with buzzers caught in her fur was enough. She is fearless, not stupid.  Cairn Terriers Rule.

 Spring is rapidly approaching in So Calif but the weather now has been cool, warm, hot, wet, you name and you get it.  That makes it hard on the bees at the moment but they are out working every chance they get. 

Thursday, February 3, 2011

All In The Family

Last May I was able to visit my niece's apiary in Oakland. CA.   She started beekeeping shortly before I did in 2009.  We did not know of each other's interest at first.  It has been helpful to have a family member who "understands."  I posted about my visit last year but shortly afterwards there was a problem with my blog and updating on blog rolls.  My posts were not showing up anywhere.  In the process of fixing the problem I deleted the blogs that did not update.  One of them deleted was this post and I wanted to get it back up.  It is not quite swarm season in So Cal so this is a good time to revisit the visit. 

Tricia's bees are located on a slope between the front of her house and the street.  There is plenty of vegetation to screen the bees and the hives are visible from the deck above.  In her area, May is when the bees are really starting to work.  Located close to the San Francisco Bay it can be cool well into the Spring. She wanted to see how the hives were doing.

 The top super did not have much activity but the other two were loaded with bees.

 In the two shots above you may find the queen.  When Tricia spotted it and pointed her out I tried to snap off a shot but usually she was gone by then.  See if you can find her, I didn't.
 Lots of bees and capped honey on all of the frames in the second super.  There was all sorts of things going on in the hive.

Queen Cell maybe a swarm or a new queen.
Opened Queen Cell
Click on this and look closely at the bee in the middle and you can see an egg in the cell just off her wing tip.
Nurse bees and larvae

This hive was very healthy and active with a prolific queen so Tricia closed it up

On to the small hive populated by a collected swarm.

These were very nice little girls, never complaining about how they were handled.  The beek was gentle.

This is a single super and still had some sugar water in the baggie

After a cursory check, Tricia decided to not bother them any more after adding another super..

The beek and her girls all back in place.
 It was a fun visit and nice to have time to take a lot  of pictures (90+) for the blog.  Her Mom & Dad are doubly happy, honey from two sources.. Northern and Southern California.  This year we will have to compare honey.