Still beekeeping after all

Again it has been quite a long time since I have updated this blog.  A lot has happened in between the last post and this one. One thing is certain though, I am still a keeper of bees, a large amount of bees.

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The bees did well through the winter and although I did have some early losses due to the fact that Vancouver had one of the driest and hottest summers and fall on record, we went into winter with what i thought were healthy strong hives  I guess the dry weather didn’t help the bees when it came to collecting nectar as without the rainfall there was little late summer or fall blooms.  By the time spring came around we had lost over 50 % of our hives to due to starvation or what I think was varroa overload.

I know that I should have been on top of it with the starvation losses as that is something that can be avoided with winter feeding but there was another blow that got dealt just before Christmas.  I was having a bit of pain when swallowing so sought out professional help and after a few tests and annoying scopes down my nasal passages I was diagnosed with Squamous Cell Carcinoma.  Cancer, not a word you want to hear ever as it brings with it visions of extreme sickness and death. My doctors assured me that my type of Cancer had a very high rate of response to treatment and that I could be using the “cured” word soon.

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I am so thankful that I live in a country where there is a socialized medical system. I was quickly set up at the BC Cancer Agency in Vancouver and started my 8 week treatment plan of radiation and chemotherapy. Radiation was everyday and Chemo was 1 time at the beginning, middle and end of the 8 weeks. The care and compassion that i received from the doctors, nurses and staff at the Cancer Agency was beyond amazing and I don’t think I would have been able to get through it if they didn’t do such a great job. I am now finished treatment and back on the mend. I lost a lot of weight and have a few side effects that I have been told will fade with time. Although i am sure that the cancer is gone, i will not find out even if the cancer is in remission until June and then they don’t give you the all clear until 5 years of remission.

I thought about the bees a lot during this time and what they have provided for me as far as an emotional connection to them and the people I have met via bees. The bees have really changed me and how I look at the world. Having Cancer and going through the treatment just pushed it up a notch.  Life is short and uncertain so it must be lived with people and ideas that make you happy. I have decided that bees make me happy.

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That being said I have ramped up my beekeeping and expanded to double my hives this spring with new packages and splits. I hope by the time fall hits that I will have tripled my hive count from last season. Although with more hives comes more work with the experience gained over the last 6 years inspections have become much easier and quicker while still enjoying the fascinating life of the bees. Perhaps one day beekeeping can be more than an obsessive hobby.

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EastVan Bees Raw Urban Honey

Wow, things are a bit hard on the bees here in Vancouver this year. We started the year off great and the bees were loving the warm weather by swarming every chance they got. I expanded the apiarys to double the previous numbers and 4 new locations around Vancouver.

On another note I decided to go legit and source nice jars and make some cool labels. I worked with the wonderful people at District Dogs Designs who use technology from the previous century that still works well.Letterpress printing machines from 1909. I’ll post some pics of that as well as a video once i get it edited.

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I have pulled honey from 3 of the 6 locations I have now, as most of the new hives did not have enough to take due to the extreme drought we are having here on the west coast of Canada. Never before has it not rained during the summer. We have only seen a couple days of rain since the beginning of May. This has been devastating for the bees has they have no real nectar sources in abundance. There is a few colonies still bringing in nectar but I am pretty worried that we might have to put back some of the frames I have in the freezer for this type of issue.20150614_150232_resized

This year has been a learning year once again. Beekeeping always keeps me on my toes. Perhaps that is the allure of being a beek, always something new to bee-hold (yikes)

I will leave you with a few pics of my summer so far and some of the new bee yards.

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Flow is on – but there is no tap

Its been an amazing start to the year. Started with 5 hives coming out of winter with no losses! Caught 5 swarms, most were my hives so that was a bonus. Split 3 hives to start new colonys and will split a couple more very soon. Started an apiary in a new location and I hope to have 2 new locations for new hives secured soon.

Out of those hives i have one hive that is out performing all of them. The queen is going into her 2nd year and is showing no signs of slowing down. This hive is what i would want all my hives to be like. I am now attempting to create some queen cells with this queens brood.

So far some hives have filled and capped 2 honey supers with frames that were put in that had built comb from last seasons harvest. This super hive has filled and capped 2 as well and is now filling the 3rd along with making tons of new wax . Below is picture of one of the foundation-less frames put in 5 days ago! This is made by bees, no plastic foundation. Note the large cells

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Just Wax
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Already Filling with Nectar
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5 days of Nectar

in a few weeks or earlier the blackberries in the neighborhood will be blooming and barring extremely wet weather I am pretty sure we will be putting on honey supers every week or less! So Nice to live in Vancouver.

Melting Wax

Winter is in full half effect here in Vancouver with temps hovering around 8 degrees Celsius in the daytime with it dipping around freezing sometimes in the night. For me this is the time to melt the burr comb from the  year and capping wax  left over from honey extraction. I’m not sure if there is a better easier way to melt it but this works OK. Over a low heat i slowly melt the wax, stirring with a chopstick.

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Once the wax has melted fully it is poured into a milk carton with a bit of cheesecloth attached to the top to filter out the thicker crud.

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Once strained, remove the cheesecloth and let the wax set for a few hours.

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After the wax is hard, tear away the milk carton. Make sure you do this over the sink as any water in the wax will be at the bottom along with some of the finer crud. Usually the wax is a nice solid yellow color. As this wax was from burr comb and some older brood frames the bottom of the wax is quite brown.

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This weekend the sun was shining and temps were around 10 Celsius so all the hives were buzzing with activity. hopefully they don’t eat all the stores. Here is a pic of a bee looking stunned as it comes back to the hive.

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