Sunday, October 17, 2010

ChopChop Magazine in The Atlantic

To try the recipe for a Green Eggs (and No Ham) Sandwich, adapted from ChopChop magazine, click here.

Secret Weapon Against Childhood Obesity: A Magazine
..."I asked writer Susan Orlean to interview 12-year-old Orren Fox, who shares her, um, obsession and love for chickens." - Sally Sampson


Several of my birds are begining to molt. I consider this the time when I need to add more "light" to the coop.

Molting is the shedding and renewal of feathers and occurs about once a year. The order in which the different sections of the bird lose their feathers is fairly defined: head, neck, body, wings and tail. Molting is a difficult time for birds, since it involves hormonal fluctuations and increased energy requirements. Eliminate stress during this time: keep temperature in a narrow range (70-80o F), provide a high quality diet, and each day mist the birds with a fine spray or provide a pan for bathing. It takes about seven weeks for new feathers to complete their growth cycle. Domesticated chickens bred for high egg production have a definite molting pattern. A natural molt does not normally occur until the end of an extended, intensive laying period. Chickens that have been laying heavily for one year or longer molt easily in the fall since this is the natural molting season. If they finish their intensive year in the spring, they do not molt easily and may wait until the fall. A chicken loses feathers from various sections of its body in a definite pattern. The order is: head; neck; feather tracks of the breast, thighs and back; wing and tail feathers. Some birds molt more slowly than others; some molt earlier. A good high producing flock tends to molt late and rapidly. Decreasing day-length is the normal trigger for molting. Therefore, lighting programs for egg production flocks should provide either constant or increasing day-length. Stresses caused by temporary feed or water shortage, disease, cold temperatures, or sudden changes in the lighting program can cause a partial or premature molt. - from

Fall Maintenance From NYTimes Bee Section

October 7, 2010, 2:35 pm

Despite the recent tropical rainfall events and microcells that have uprooted 100-year-old oaks in the Northeast, the early fall weather has generally been friendly to local beehives. The weather has been hot, and fall flowers, like goldenrod, have thrived. As I strolled through the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens the other day, scouting with a colleague to prepare for a coming school field trip, I was jealous that local Brooklyn beekeepers had it so good, as hundreds, if not thousands, of honeybees mingled with native pollinators on lush native flora in the park.

Although a healthy crop of honey is a tempting harvest for the fall, beekeepers know they need to leave enough for the hive to overwinter on. Generally, bees will store an arc of honey around the comb where the queen has laid eggs. Frames on the far ends of the brood chamber box are often fully stored with honey. A healthy hive will usually involve two brood boxes, and numerous frames will have full stores of honey.

Unfortunately, that was not the case with my hives. The summer proved challenging to them. Neither of my queens ever managed to lay enough eggs to get into the upper brood chamber; they were partly hampered by the lack of comb to lay eggs in – the wax production of both my hives was severely limited.

The lingering stretch of warm weather is the perfect time to get your hives ready for the inevitable winter chill. I follow three simple rules: 1) reduce and consolidate, 2) clean and store (a rule that I have underperformed on in the past), and 3) feed, feed, feed.

By reduce and consolidate, I mean to open up your hives boxes for a full inspection, consolidate the frames where the queen is laying into the center of the brood boxes, move the full frames of honey to the ends of the boxes, and generally create a space where the bees can cluster during the cold winter months. In my case, I was able to reduce two brood boxes down to one and put full frames of honey in the smaller super into the center of the box to give the hive easier access to their stores of food. Don’t forget to put mouse guards in!


Thursday, October 14, 2010


Look at the cool the cool poster Michael Schwab gave me to celebrate Best in Show!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Early fall hive report

I spent some time with my hives on Saturday, there is a lot going on there. The hive that was strong at the begining of the season is now quiet: healthy but quiet. The dark green Celtics hive (go Shaq) is really fierce and busy. Oddly this is the hive I was really worried about in the middle of the season. Now they seem to be the strongest. Lesson one. Be patient.

Outside hive number there was a little mouse. Really cute, but I don't want him in the hive, so I put the entrance reducers in the hive, that way he can't fit into the "front door". I have heard about mice that have crawled into the hive, looking for honey (smart) and then are attacked and entombed! The bees essentially coat the mouse in wax and propolis. The mouse is "mummified". Amazing. I actually wouldn't mind seeing this, however, I imagine it takes lots of effort for the bees to do this. I'd rather have them working on something else.

I have begun feeding them the syrup with the ratio of 2:1 sugar to water. It is time for them to begin to prepare the hive for the winter months. I am sure they have plenty of honey stores to make it through. I am not going to medicate. I may lose some hives because of this, but it just doesn't make sense in my mind to put medication into the hive...doesn't it then get into the honey? I'll risk it.

I am also thinking of building a bee "lean to" to keep the heavy snows off the hives.

Here are some good winter tips from

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Trouble in the Hive - NYT

Published: October 9, 2010

HUMAN beings and honeybees go way back, probably to some unrecorded, fateful day thousands of years ago when a forager stumbled upon some golden goo in the woods, stuck a finger in to taste, and realized that the bears were on to something good.

These days, the relationship is also big business. Agriculture, especially for crops like almonds, depends heavily on industrial-strength pollination services — itinerant bees and beekeepers for hire, roving from farm to farm, blossom to blossom.

So the stakes and the anxiety were enormous when bees started dying by the millions about four years ago, a phenomenon given the name “colony collapse.” Last week, a team of scientists from academia and the United States Army’s chemical and biological research group announced that they had identified a possible culprit: a combination fungus and virus.

But the naming of a suspect still leaves a swarm of questions about where bees, and people, go from here.

Are colonies still collapsing?

Unfortunately, yes. Dead colonies were reported in Florida in January and California in February, and some bee experts fear that the rate of decline could be as severe as in the initial days of the outbreak, in late 2006.

How badly has the bee population been damaged?

The numbers are rough estimates, but huge by any measure. About 20 percent to 40 percent of the bee colonies in the United States have been destroyed, which adds up to perhaps 50 billion individual bees. Colonies that survive can bounce back in as little as a month or two, but a dark cloud is hiding there too: researchers and beekeepers fear that surviving bees could be disease carriers, leading to further outbreaks.


Cool facts about honey bees

The honey bee's wings stroke incredibly fast, about 200 beats per second. That's the buzzz you hear.

A honey bee can fly for up to six miles, and as fast as 15 miles per hour.

The average worker bee produces about 1/12th teaspoon of honey in her lifetime.

A hive of bees will fly 90,000 miles, the equivalent of three orbits around the earth to collect 2 pounds of honey.

The bee's brain is oval in shape and only about the size of a sesame seed, yet it has remarkable capacity to learn and remember things and is able to make complex calculations on distance travelled and foraging efficiency.

A colony of bees consists of about 60,000 honeybees and one queen. Worker honey bees are female, live for about 6 weeks and do all the work.

The queen bee can live up to 5 years and is the only bee that lays eggs. She is the busiest in the summer months, when the hive needs to be at its maximum strength, and lays up to 2500 eggs per day.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Entemologist, studying bees

From MacArthur Foundation 2010

Marla Spivak is an entomologist who is developing practical applications to protect honey bee populations from decimation by disease while making fundamental contributions to our understanding of bee biology. Essential to healthy ecosystems and to the agricultural industry as pollinators of a third of the United States’ food supply, honey bees have been disappearing at alarming rates in recent years due to the accumulated effects of parasitic mites, viral and bacterial diseases, and exposure to pesticides.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Checking the frames

My friend William Huber took this cool picture.

Congratulations my Silver Laced Hamburg!

Congratulations to my hen the Grand Champion of the Topsfield Fair.
The Fair is the oldest Agricultural Fair in the country! This is the 192 Fair.
I am so excited I won't be able to sleep.

The Happy Chickens YouTube Channel

Not much there yet..