Welcome to our August Member Highlight. Please welcome Mrs. Pat Allen, our Webmaster, as we learn more about her interests.
What made you decide to keep bees? My husband suggested that we keep bees because he had read where they were in trouble. I looked into it but it was too late in the season so we waited until the following spring. I called Bill Smith who told me about an upcoming meeting so I went. Joined the group and met Rick Tindal who sold us our first nucs.
How many hives did you start with? Two nucs. One nuc died/disappeared the first year so we bought a package and started again.
How many years have you had bees? About four.
How many hives do you have now? We’ve had two hives for two years so I was ready to grow to three. I discovered that one hive had had a mouse in it over the winter so that one was lost. So now we have only one active hive.
Since I had one strong hive and since I had learned how to split a hive from Nancy the previous year, I decided to split one myself (Thanks, Nancy). Then I bought a package to make three hives. I was happy with three hives but about a month later a swarm come out of the woods and settle on one of the trees near the front pasture. Again, since I had been reading about how to catch a swarm, I went out and got it.
Now we’re up to four hives. That’s enough, although I was pleasantly surprised at how easy it was to collect the swarm. Actually, it was fun. Unfortunately, I didn’t have any additional equipment so I had to ‘make do’ with a cardboard box (Thanks, Sylvia). I wanted to capture them as quickly as possible. Later that afternoon I transferred them into two supers and a plywood top. The next day I went to Locust Farm and Garden for the appropriate equipment and Ace for more paint. I REALLY know how to build those boxes and frames now.
What is the most important lesson you’ve learned in caring for bees? I’ve learned several key lessons:
1. Apply what I’ve learned at our meetings.
2. Feed my bees as I would any other pet.
3. Be as gentle as possible.
4. Practice IPM techniques.
5. Monitor often and observe their behaviors.
6. By all means keep extra equipment … just in case.
7. I’ll never feed my bees with external feeders again because it attracts too many robbers; I believe one hive was lost because of this – lesson learned. Now I feed all four hives internally. Yes, it’s more work but it’s better for the bees.
8. I’ve also learned to work with my bees early in the morning because the suit is too hot otherwise. It’s highly unlikely that I’ll ever have the Zen quality that Nancy has but, then again, I’m not anxious to even try with one bare hand. Nancy is my hero.
9. My favorite place for ‘just in time’ learning is YouTube.com. I view as many videos as possible to see how other folks care for their bees. Fat Bee Man is my favorite though.
What bee products do you make? I’ve made goat milk soaps and lotions since 2005 but now I add honey to all my goat milk skin care products because of its humectant properties, lip balm and candles are now in my product line, as well.
How and where do you sell them? My soaps are available through my dealers, Uwharrie Vineyards on Austin Road, McCoys Feed in Midland and online (http://goatmilkbath.blogspot.com/p/olive-oil-soaps.html), my bee wax products will soon be available online. Those pages are under construction.
What would you like your fellow beekeepers to know about you? Bob and I have lived in Stanly County since 2000 and love it more every day. We’re animal lovers from the get go: I have raised Nubian dairy goats since 2004 and make goat milk soaps and lotions with their milk. Last year I decided it was time to scale down and have sold most of my youngest goats, but have four that are for sale. (Call me: 704-699-3531 if you’re interested.)
The ‘retirees’ will stay with me for their natural lives because they’ve earned their leisure time. Besides, they’re fully employed; their job is to keep the pasture grasses down – they’re my little lawn mowers and my little fertilizers. More specifically, the does take care of the front pasture whereas the two horses and three bucks take care of the back pasture (the bucks are for sale too.). The dogs and cats fill any gaps in my day but they’re mostly in the house. And last but not least, the garden chickens are my little garbage disposers – NOTHING goes to waste out here.
The pollinator garden and kitchen gardens are located near the apiary in a vain attempt to keep the bees as close to home as possible knowing full well that they’ll roam. Most all of the plants we’ve added out here are bee friendly.
Would you believe that I’m also a writer? In my spare time, that is.
How to you treat pests and diseases? I use natural treatment when ever possible BUT I will treat my bees for what ails them. My preference is the IPM methods and I monitor my bees every two or three weeks (when I feed them). Most recently one hive was inundated with ants: I don’t like ants so I added cinnamon to the top board and on the ground around the hives. IT WORKS. No ants. BUT I did have to make sure no bees could get on the cinnamon either. This tip came from a fellow SCBA member. Thank you, sir.
Do you use queen excluders? Why or why not? Well, not normally but I’m willing to if it helps the hive. I don’t limit my queens to the bottom brood boxes because I want as many bees as the queen will lay. However, when I’m moving frames around I’ll keep her in place with an extruder so she won’t accidentally get relocated. I want to know where she is but I don’t want to unnecessarily touch her.
Do you use screened bottom board or screened top boards? Research indicates that screened bottom boards help the bees adjust their environment better and it allows the varroa mites to fall through away from the bees. For the top board I use a vented board that I’ve screened in so beetles and robbers can’t enter.
Where do you buy your sugar? I buy my sugar at Walmart because they offer 25 pound bags at the lowest price. Currently I’m feeding them with 1:1 sugar water plus Honey B Healthy and Amino-B Booster Honey Bee Healthy. I like the idea of having robust hives. During the winter I’ll feed them 2:1 sugar water with supplements or make fondant.
Are you interested in working on the Master Beekeeper program? I just passed the Certified Beekeeper exam and am glad I did. Studying for that exam increased my confidence in knowing how to give my bees better care.
We’ll see about the Journeyman Beekeeper but I’m probably not going for the Master Beekeeper.