Thursday, April 8, 2021

Guest Blog: Tips for first-time gardeners

There's nothing better than watching your own bees pollinate your flower and/or vegetable gardens. So if you're new to gardening, or just need a refresher, you'll enjoy our latest guest blog from Emma Croft. Happy gardening and beekeeping! And don't forget about the April 17 meeting at Rushford Meadery and Winery. Fun starts at 9:30 and be ready for club hive inspections!

Image via Unsplash

 Gardening for Beginners: How to Start and Maintain Your First Garden

According to Eartheasy, the physical, mental, and emotional benefits of gardening range from stress relief and immune regulation to a reduced risk of heart attack, stroke, and dementia. Since vegetable gardening encourages you to consume more fresh fruits and vegetables, backyard gardening can also lead to a healthier diet and lifestyle.

While there are many wonderful benefits of starting your own backyard garden, you may not know where to start if you’re new to this type of activity. Here’s how to begin!

Interested in harvesting honey and helping declining bee populations? Join the East Central Wisconsin Beekeepers Association today!

Plan Your Garden

As you get ready to start your first garden, you’ll first need to determine whether you’d like to plant a vegetable or flower garden — or a combination of the two. Some of the best crops for beginner gardeners include lettuce, tomatoes, green beans, strawberries, onions, and radishes, while several of the easiest flowers to grow include sunflowers, marigolds, impatiens, and sweet peas.

You’ll need to choose a spot in your yard that offers enough sunlight for your garden to flourish. If you’re unsure of your property lines and your budget allows, it’s often worthwhile to hire a property surveyor to identify your property’s boundaries so you can avoid planting on your neighbor’s land.

Gather Your Gardening Supplies

After planning your garden and deciding which types of flowers and vegetables you’re going to plant, it’s time to purchase your plants and gardening supplies. As a beginner gardener, you’ll need a few basic tools and supplies:

      Hand trowel


     Leaf rake

     Watering can and hose

     Hand pruner

     Garden gloves

     Kneeling cushion

     Home soil test kit (to test your soil before planting)

Start Planting

Once you’ve purchased your gardening supplies and gathered your fruits, vegetables, flowers, and seeds, it’s time to start planting! Your flowers, seeds, and transplants should come with basic planting instructions, but you’ll typically need to dig your garden bed, make holes in the soil for your plants, and space each item at least two to three feet apart. And if you’d like to help ailing bee populations in your area, try to plant flowers that bloom at times when bees need the most help.

When you’re done, water your plants and seeds to help them settle into the soil — and cover the garden bed with a layer of mulch shortly after you finish planting. Mulching your garden helps it to retain moisture and suppress weeds, but it’s important to note that not all mulches are created equal. Straw mulch is an excellent option for vegetable gardens, while composted mulch or manure can be used just about anywhere.

Watch Your Garden Flourish

For your plants to grow and flourish, you’ll need to maintain your garden by watering it regularly, weeding it each week, and removing any dried or dead flowers as needed. As a rule, most plants require about an inch or two of water each week during the growing season.

Moreover, it’s usually best to water your garden in the morning if possible, as this will give your plants time to dry before evening. If you’ve been getting a lot of rain in your area or you’re unsure about whether to water your garden, however, simply use your hands to check the soil for moisture. If the soil feels dry and cannot be rolled into a ball, it likely needs to be watered.

A Final Word

Whether you plant vegetables, flowers, or a combination of the two, a backyard garden enhances the look of your yard and improves your overall health and well-being — especially if you take some time out of your week to tend to your garden and give it the care it needs to flourish. However, try not to be discouraged if your first garden isn’t a success. Even if it fails, you can keep on trying until you finally get it right!

Monday, March 22, 2021

Who's worried about honey supers already?

With the tease of warm weather lately I'm sure many of us have been itching to get the cold behind us for the season. We're not completely out of the woods yet, but it's been hard to complain lately. We're reminded that in addition to everything else to worry about, swarm season is right around the corner. I have noticed an uptick in non-beekeepers talking about and asking about swarms in social media land, so hopefully some of our attempts to educate the public are working.

Speaking of attempts to educate, I was able to speak to the Noon Rotary club recently about beekeeping. In the shuffle of life lately I had forgotten about this commitment until almost the last minute, but thankfully I have a few presentations up my sleeve and I was able to dust one off for this. I talked about the state of honeybees and why they are beneficial as pollinators, some of the things affecting their jobs as pollinators for us and also touched on some of the amazing opportunities to get rich while keeping bees. I always believe in starting presentations with a joke, and that was what I went with.  Of course we all know the truth...  One of the highlights of this particular presentation was that both of our elected State Representatives (State Senator Dan Feyen and Assemblyman Jeremy Thiesfeldt) were in attendance.  Any time you can get a captive audience with your elected officials, it's a win. I hope it was educational for them. 

If you're one of the lucky beekeepers with bees that made it through winter you are probably starting to see some pollen coming into the hives.  Here's an interesting article on the benefits of pollen. I've personally never tried to harvest pollen from my bees, but may be something to try in the future.  If you've ever done it, leave us a comment about your experience.

And finally what blog post would be complete without mention of mites and treatments?  Hard to imagine. There has been a lot of discussion in the beekeeping world lately around the recent guidance for using oxalic acid as a mite treatment with honey supers on.  Regardless of your thoughts on the safety of oxalic acid, Dr. Meghan Milbrath from Michigan University reminds us that the treatment label is still the law of the land and you should follow the manufacturer recommendations when dealing with mite treatments.  That's probably good advice in most cases.  Read, understand and follow the labels on the products you use, and you should be in good shape.

Hopefully you got to check in on your bees recently and hopefully the news is good! Until next time.


Monday, March 15, 2021

Nothing in beekeeping is free

Not too often do free beekeeping classes come along, so take advantage while you can!

Click here for more info, while supplies last.

Monday, March 1, 2021

What happened to February? Let's try to catch up.

They say you're always busiest after committing to something. And so it goes, with a job schedule change and winter chores, before I knew it February was gone. We'll try to slip into a more consistent posting schedule going forward, because there's so much to discuss! 

Some think of beekeeping as an agricultural endeavor, some consider it just a hobby. Wherever you fall, here in Wisconsin the cold winter months are for planning. And if you are planning to keep bees this year, make sure to register your hives with FieldWatch.  Their BeeCheck program helps pesticide applicators and beekeepers communicate so we can all minimize the harmful effects pesticides have on our bees. It's a really easy process, I have my hives registered and I hope you will as well. It's important that we share information, and not just with other beekeepers.

We received a tip from a new member about a beekeeping museum, not too far for some of us, in Neosho WI called Honey Acres Thanks for the info! We always appreciate when beekeepers seek to educate the public about this fun craft. I wasn't aware of this before, but now I'm as intrigued as you are.

No matter what time of the year, if you can find good local classes on beekeeping, take advantage! Capital Bee Supply offers quite a wide range of options if you're just getting into bees, or even if you've had bees and still like to learn.  

And finally for today, some interesting research being done that seeks to identify hygienic traits in honey bees. What makes them clean cells to rid the hive of Varroa mites?  Click here to find out.  It's hard to not be excited about good research in this area.  More effective mite treatments would certainly make our lives as beekeepers much easier.

I assume by now you've renewed your club dues, so final reminder. Happy beekeeping!



Friday, January 29, 2021

Pass the hot chocolate the Zoom class is starting

Well folks we're almost into February now and it's still cold and snowy but if you're anything like me you're already getting anxious to spend more time with the bees. Unfortunately for those of us in Wisconsin we really don't do our bees any favors opening hives at this time of year unless really necessary for feeding, etc.  Here's a handy chart to remind you that we have a little bit of down time yet:

But hey, chin up fellow beeks, there are still ways we can keep busy.  One of the interesting things to come out of our pandemic situation is the increase in online communication and learning.  Zoom, Ring, Teams, Skype... it's hard to have made it through the last year without at least one online meetup. Well now we have online beekeeping courses and meetups you can enjoy from the warm confines of your home.  Here's an upcoming online intro class/presentation/q&a put on by our neighboring beekeeping association in Sheboygan:

And finally, I'll leave you with some interesting work coming out of Penn State which is studying feral bee colonies for clues on how they handle pathogens and winter survival. I think observing and learning from real time natural evolution and adaptation is always a good thing. It's good to see resources being used for this type of research.

Feral colonies provide clues for enhancing honey bee tolerance to pathogens

Stay warm and stay safe and always remember to pay your dues.

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Homework assignment: Come up with a Pest Management Plan

 There's an old saying in beekeeping that goes something like,

Remember, remember,

the pest management plan 

you came up with in January

Something like that... it'll come to me.  What we do know as beekeepers of the North is that winter provides us some down time to plan for the year ahead. And that means coming up with your pest management plan, and getting your supplies in order. When will you check for mites and what will you use to treat? When will you treat? What are the signs of other pests in our hives and what should we use to protect our hives? These are all things that we should be asking ourselves right now. The answers to these questions will form your pest management plan.

Luckily the Wisconsin Department of Ag, Trade & Consumer Protection helps us out by posting information on available treatment options here in Wisconsin (along with a lot of other great resources). If you're following along from another location, check with your local government on available options.

In Wisconsin we have a wide range of available treatment options for the evil Varroa mites, one of the most common pests we deal with (or should be dealing with!). As always, take some time and research the various options out there. We also want to make sure we are testing for mites so we know what our actual mite loads are. If you're not comfortable testing for mites on your own, or just need someone to show you how, feel free to reach out to the club. We're here to help others learn!

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

New Blogmaster Intro

Hey y'all, Happy New Year from ECWBA and welcome to a new era for this blog. Fred has asked to take a much deserved break from the blogmaster duties, and he has been granted that wish, so I'll be slipping into the driver seat for the time being.  My name is Nick and I've been a beekeeper and member of ECWBA for a few years.  My wife, son and I have a small farm just west of Fond du Lac where we raise and grow whatever we can get our hands on.

We're blessed to be surrounded by hundreds of acres of free roving bovines (extra points if you get the music references 😏) on pasture that includes a fair amount of clover and alfalfa which of course the honey bees love.

I believe there are two truisms (at least) about beekeepers - we all do things a little differently and we love to share our knowledge. I learn new things about pollinators every day, and I also love sharing that knowledge. So together we'll learn! I'll share all the great info I can find, and some of my own experiences, and hopefully you'll share your experiences and knowledge as well.

I hope you enjoy the blog and feel free to share ideas for posts or your own experiences, either in the comment section or by clicking the Contacts tab under the top banner.  And make sure you pay your dues on time 😁💰