Bees For Sale

We’ve had a great year of building up bees and that means we have bees to share. If you’re looking to purchase bees in the Bryan and College Station area – we have bees for sale.

We will begin to take preorders for Spring 2018 and have a few summer nucleus colonies to sell this year as well.

What to know about our nucs:

  • They are treatment free, strong bees.
  • They have open-mated BeeWeaver queens.
  • They come with 4 frames and an optional in-hive feeder
  • Schedule a time for pickup

We select our nucs from strong, well-mated and successful queens. We also test the bees for temperament and although these are hybrid bees (like all/most bees in Texas) we want to be sure we’re providing manageable bees to our customers and clients. Unfortunately, as with the nature of bees, we cannot provide guarantees on survival, however, we would like to give our bees the best possible chance. So, keeping that in mind, please take the following tips and utilize them when picking up new nucs.

Installing a nucleus colony is pretty simple. Here are your recommended steps:

  • After you’ve made it home with your nucleus colony. Place them, in their nuc, on top of the hives you plan to install them into.
  • Wait 12-48 hours with the nucleus colony open (so bees can come and go) before moving the frames into the new box.
  • Now, it’s time for the install…
  • Use a light burst of smoke to calm your bees and move the nucleus to the ground near your colony.
  • Remove the frames from the new box leaving it empty and with plenty of room to work with.
  • Gently lift the frames, one at a time out of the nucleus colony and place them into the center of the new hive – leaving space on either side to place your remaining frames in after the bees have been moved.
  • Properly place all missing frames in your new box
  • Smoke and put the lid back on.
  • Leave the bees alone for at least 5-7 days before opening and checking them again.
  • If there is not a good nectar flow on, be prepared to give them a little boost of 1:1 sugar syrup in order promote comb production in the empty frames.

Texas Honey Production – Horsemint

Monarda: Horsemint

This is a great pollinator plant and honey producer. The Indians made  a “sweating” tea from it to treat colds.  The major oil in Horsemint is thymol. Externally it’s an antiseptic and vermifuge, internally, in large amounts, the plant can be fatal but in small amounts is said to be quite healthy for bees and people.

Native to Texas, Horsemint is commonly found in Real Texas Honey and is a great honey producer. Thymol is a natural treatment for bees to aid in the reduction or elimination of mite populations and so this is a favorite plant for many beekeepers.

Horsemint grow in clumps, usually alone with other clumps. Photo by Green Deane

Horsemint tends to grow in small colonies and near each other. If you find one, you will usually find another not too far away.  They can vary in size from six inches to three feet but always very showy and its extroverted colors can last for months. Can be propagated by seeds or cuttings.

The creamy lilac-spotted flowers (its bracts are pink) attract honeybees, bumblebees, miner bees, plasterer bees, swallowtail butterfly as well as the endangered Lycaenides melissa samuelis (Karner Blue.)  Hummingbirds like it as well. Most mammals know enough to leave the plant alone. Horsemint grows throughout the United States. There are about 20 different types of Monardas in the United States.

Horsemint has the highest thymol content of all the mints. It is more than an antiseptic, mite-killer and cough-syrup ingredient.  As a depressant, it is one of the most commonly abused substances among anesthesiologists and nurses. If thymol were discovered today it would be a prescription drug. There have been some thoughts towards regulating the species but it is so common in so many places that hasn’t been done. Thymol, incidentally, is also one of the 600 or so ingredients added to cigarettes to “improve” the flavor.

While thymol has a dark side it also has beneficial aspects. It is one of two chemicals in the horsemint — the other being carvacrol — which prevent the breakdown of acetylcholine, the stuff that makes memory possible. One of the symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease is reduction in acetylcholine. Unlike a drug now used to prevent the break down of acetuylcholine — tacrine hydrochloride — thymol and carvacrol are not as rough on the liver. One could even make a shampoo out of horsemint and perhaps get the benefits.

As for the plant’s botanical name: Monarda is for Nicholas Monardes (1493-1588), a Spanish physician and botanist who mentioned this flower in his 1569 work on the flora of North America called “Joyfull Newes Out Of The Newe Founde Worlde”. Punctata is Latin for point, or in this case “dotted.”  The plant’s name is said: moe-NAR-duh punk-TAY-tuh.

Whether as a weak tea, a stronger brew for the flu, or a poultice for arthritis, the Horsemint, or Spotted Beebalm, is a pretty plant to spot while foraging.

Plant Profile

  • IDENTIFICATION: Herb, sometimes woody, shrubby, gangly, multi-branched, opposite leaves and square stems. The stems and leaves are hairy. Flowers small, inconspicuous, but arranged in showy heads of pink to lavender bracts. Flower tubes are pale yellow with purple spots, less than an inch long, leaves smells like Greek oregano.
  • TIME OF YEAR: For Texas, Can be year round in the U.S. but favors late summer and fall in Northern Climates.
  • ENVIRONMENT: Likes moist but well drained soil and sunny conditions, but can survive on rainwater in old fields and on roadsides.
  • METHOD OF PREPARATION: Leaves and flowers for weak tea, some report the leaves can use chopped up and use to flavor salads.  Hanging leaves in the house leaves a nice scent.
  • HONEY FLAVOR: Horsemint is said to have a bit of spice to it compared to other Texas honey. It’s a unique, slight lemony flavor.

Colony Collapse

What is colony collapse? Colony collapse is the disappearance of worker bees or adult bees in a colony. Researchers have yet to prove why this happens in a clear and definitive way, likely because there’s no “silver bullet” or one right answer. In the event of a single hive dying out, you can often determine the route cause, however, on a more massive scale, there’s just too many reasons why a colony can collapse to the point of death.

Beekeepers should watch out for some signs of colony collapse disorder. The following signs are evident in hives affected by colony collapse disorder:

  • No adult bees – During colony collapse, adult bees leave their hives. The only bees left are the queen and few nurse bees. Immature bees are also left behind.
  • Queen’s presence – since the queen is responsible for laying the eggs for the entire hive, without a queen, there is no colony. In cases where colony collapse may be the culprit, the queen remains in the hive even as the hive dies out.
  • Plenty of food – the bees leave a large amount of food, nectar and honey. 
  • Few bees- colony collapse leaves the colony vulnerable to extinction since there is not enough bees to maintain it.

Theories as to the cause of this strange behavior include and as we stated, there’s no “one cause that can be pointed out at this time:

  • Chemical toxins– beekeepers may use chemicals as way to keep their colonies healthy and productive. These chemicals have harmful effects on the bees. The environment may also host these chemicals be it in water or air.
  • Varroa mites-just like every other hero stories, honeybees have their Achille’s heel. The varroa mites kill and feed on the bees. These could cause their disappearance.
  • Undiscovered bee diseases scientists have yet to prove this theory. New disease could be causing colony collapse disorder.
  • Poor beekeeping management – farmers with poor beekeeping skills and use unorthodox method cause colony collapse.

To avoid such a situation, beekeepers are advised to use integrated pest management for varroa control, separate healthy colonies from the collapsed ones, and they should practice the best beekeeping management methods.

Queen Rearing – Cloake Board

Queen rearing is a great skill for a beekeeper to master – learning to produce your own queens can save you lots of money as well as provide for hives when they need you. Queen breeding can allow you to better control of the genetics in your bee yard.

Observations have shown that a developing queen larva receives 1600 visits from nurse bees bringing royal jelly, compared to the 143 feeding visits for a typical worker larvae. The high rate of consumption and nutritious royal jelly diet of queen larvae stimulate rapid growth and development and is key in raising quality queens for your bee yard.

The premise behind the Cloake Board method of queen rearing is to simulate queenlessness in the hive so that, when the grafted queen cells are introduced to the hive the bees will immediately work to care for and raise the new queens. This stimulus method was created by New Zealand’s Harry Cloake. Queen cells started in a queen-less state tend to have a higher rate of acceptance, and those reared in a queen-right state tend to produce higher quality queen cells; this explains the popularity of the starter and finisher methods. Another key component of rearing premium queen cells is a minimal amount of disturbance. Moving developing larvae between starters and finishers interrupts the critical and intensive larval feeding stage. The Cloake method eliminates the need for this practice.

The division board is the only piece of specialized equipment needed other than the typical grafting tools. This division board is used by sliding it into a grooved slot in the bottom of a hive box – this is a solid board that divides the colony into a top and bottom portion.

Because Sue Cobey did such a great job explaining the mechanics of a Cloake Board, I’m going to copy and paste excerpts from her article “Cloake Board Method of Queen Rearing” and “Use of Cloake board for Banking Purposes” where first published as two separate articles in American Bee Journal 2005.

The Cloake Board Mechanics:

A division board that consists of an outer wooden frame, which fits between hive bodies and provides a second upper entrance. The inner edges of the frame are grooved to permit a slide to be easily slipped in and out. A queen excluder, either attached to or placed below the Cloake board, restricts the laying queen to the bottom brood chamber. A queenless state is created with the slide placed in the division board, simulating a swarm box in the top. Removal of the slide, with the excluder in place, returns the colony to a queen-right state, simulating a finisher. Going between these two states requires little effort and minimizes disturbance during the larval feeding stage. The need to move the graft from a starter colony to a finisher colony is eliminated, yet the benefits of these two systems are maintained. To provide the crowded hive conditions desired in the upper cell building chamber, the hive entrances are manipulated. In preparation for the graft, the colony is turned (or pivoted to prevent lifting) so the main, bottom entrance now faces the opposite direction.

Exiting from the reversed bottom, returning bees reorient to use the new top entrance created by the division board. This boosts the bee population in the top chamber. A high population ratio of young nurse bees, 5 to 15 days old high quality queens. As the bees age these glands atrophy. The quality of cells will diminish if this age group is not maintained, regardless of colony strength. To attract nurse bees up through the excluder into the top box, young open brood is brought up from the queen-right lower box. Empty frames are replaced to provide space for the queen to lay. After 6 to 12 hours, the slide is placed in the division board to create a queenless state. At this time the frames of young larvae are moved to another the colony, so as not to compete with the feeding of queen cells.

The next day, graft the queen cells and place these in the empty center space. A day later, after the queen cells have been accepted, the slide is removed. This converts the cell builder into a queenright finisher, without disturbing the feeding of the developing cells. Regardless of weather conditions, this is easy and convenient to do.

The number of queen cells grafted should be based upon the strength of the cell builder and time of year. During the swarm season, conditions are optimal and a large number of high quality queen cells can be reared. Generally, 45 to 60 cells per graft is reasonable. Later in the season or when conditions are less optimal, graft half or less of this number. A new graft of queen cells can be started every 4 or 5 days. Queen cells are capped in about four and a half days. No longer in need of feeding, these can be moved and held in a nursery colony. Eleven days after the graft, the cells are ready to emerge and are placed in mating nuclei or individual colonies. This system was designed to rear a large number of queen cells efficiently in a short period of time, without weakening colonies for honey production. Cloake routinely reared 4,000 queen cells in six weeks. He then removed the divider boards and moved these strong colonies onto a honey flow.

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Cloake Board Timeline:

Two Days before grafting: Arrange the colony leaving the queen in the bottom box. Place in the Cloake division board without the slide. Place several open brood frames into the top box to attract nurse bees into the top box. The top box should contain a feeder, open brood, foundation for the bees to build on, and a pollen frame in the center next to the cell bar you’ll place after grafting – in the cell bar space, place one of the open brood frames. The bottom box should contain capped brood, honey, pollen, and open wax for the queen to lay – make sure the queen is in the bottom box.

One Day before grafting: Place the slide into the division board. Brush bees off and remove open brood from the top box to place on another colony. Allow the bees to settle – this will stimulate the hypopharyngeal glands and encourage the bees to produce royal jelly for feeding.

Day 1 – Graft Day: Open the colony with no smoke and the least amount of disturbance possible. Place the graft bar in the empty, center space. Allow the frame of queen cells to “float” down among the festooning nurse bees filling this space.

Day 2 – A day after the cells have been accepted, remove the slide to create a queen-right cell builder. Close the rear entrance. By the time eggs have been laid by the queen and hatch in the bottom box, the developing queen cells in the top will be nearly capped. Nurse bees will remain in the top to feed and attend the queen cells.

Day 4 & 5 – When the developing queen cells are capped, about four and a half days after the graft, these can be moved to a nursery incubator colony to mature. Simply, place these above a queen excluder surrounded by young brood. Routinely check brood in the cell builders for rogue queen cells each time these are worked. Rotate the brood in preparation for the next graft, repeating this process. A new batch of cells can be grafted every 4 to 5 days.

Day 10 or 11 – Pull the mature, capped queen cells before emergence. Handle the cells gently, avoid shaking as this may injure queens. While cutting cells from the grafting bars and transporting these to colonies, keep them warm. You may also choose to cage the cells at this time. A few degrees change in temperature can speed or slow emergence. Cells ready to emerge, held against a light, can be seen moving. Held to the ear, these can be heard chewing their way out.

Banking Queens:

A new batch of queens arriving during bad weather, or to be placed in distant apiaries, can be temporarily banked. Older queens from dequeened colonies can be held in waiting until the arrival and/or acceptance of new queens is assured. Caged queens should always be banked in a state of queenlessness. Worker bees will be aggressive toward the caged queens in the presence of a laying queen, including one that is restricted or placed below an excluder. This often results in injury and high mortality of the caged queens. To establish a self sufficient “queenless” banking system using the Cloake board, the slide insert is kept in position. A state of queenlessness is maintained in the top box. The presence of a laying queen in the bottom box, separated by the slide, provides a source of young bees and brood. Frames of eggs and young brood are rotated up, eliminating or minimizing the need for support colonies. It is essential to maintain a high population of young nurse bees around the caged queens to ensure these are well fed and receive proper care. Older bees are aggressive toward caged queens and their brood food glands are atrophied.

Nursery colonies should be fed syrup and pollen to assure food resources are plentiful. Capped honey should be removed and replaced with open nectar and foundation. A sheet of wax foundation will prevent webbing, stimulate wax builders and provide a place to store nectar. Queen cages can also be supplied with bee candy. A key factor in the success of banking is to maintain a high population ratio of young nurse bees. Using the Cloake board, the colony can be pivoted, to either boost the population or reduce the number of older bees in the top box, depending upon need. When using this technique, be sure adequate bee strength is maintained in the top nursery chamber.

And please, minimize the duration of queen banking. Queens held in cages tend to lose weight and may receive an insufficient diet. Since the reduced access to worker bees restricts feeding in queen cages it is advisable to provision queen cages with bee candy.

Amazing Honey Bee Facts

Bees are very important to man. For many years now bees have produced honey and pollinated crops. A third of the crops we consume are pollinated by these very busy insects as well as pollinators like them. Here are a few of our favorite honey bee facts.

  • Ability to fly at a speed of up to 15 miles in an hour.

In the bug world this speed is actually very slow. Honey bees travel for short distances that is, from one flower to another flower. In a minute, their tiny wings must flap for about 120,000 times. This helps to keep their bodies to maintain the pollen gathered as their go home.

  • Queen bee has a store of sperm for a lifetime.

Queen bees have the ability to live for 3 to 4 years. One week after she emerges from the queen cell, she flies to mate. She must mate within 20 days, after which she loses the ability to mate. However if she mates, she does not need to mate ever again. This is because the sperm is held in her spermtheca from where she will use it when fertilizing eggs in her entire lifetime.

  • A queen bee lays around 1500 eggs in a day

The chore of laying eggs by the queen starts some 48 hours later after mating. In a single day, the queen bee can produce eggs that are equal to her own body weight. This means that she has no other tasks. The queen bee has attendant workers that feed and groom her,.

  • A colony can have up to 60,000 bees.

The bee colonies are like the today’s community where everybody has a role to play. A bee colony has a queen bee who is attended to by the nursing bees. The nurse bees also take care of the young. Construction workers build the foundation where the queen will lay her eggs using beeswax while guard bees offer protection to the hive. Foragers ensure there is enough pollen for the whole community and undertakers remove dead bees.

  • Worker bees have a short lifespan

Given that the worker bees can visit 2000 flowers a day in shifts of 50 -100 to and from the hive, it lives up to three weeks. These worker bees literally work themselves to death flying to gather food and resources for the hive. During these foraging flights, they’re exposed to predators, weather conditions, and even pest control measures.

  • Male honey bees

The male honey bees’ purpose is to mate after which they die. In an ironic ways it is the female honey bees that do most of the tasks design for the male bees. The bee community works in reverse order.