Productivity trials for the combination queen rearing nucleus and comb honey hive

2006 Annual Report for FNE05-549

Project Type: Farmer
Funds awarded in 2005: $4,559.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2010
Region: Northeast
State: New York
Project Leader:

Productivity trials for the combination queen rearing nucleus and comb honey hive


2005 Northeast SARE Farmer/ Grower Grant
Productivity Trials for the Combination Queen Rearing Nucleus and Comb Honey Hive
January 2006 Interim Report

Michael Johnston
3653 Route 26
Eaton, NY 13334
[email protected]

Our goal is to construct and test a special purpose beehive designed for raising queens in the Spring and early Summer and producing comb honey during the Summer. This hive is named the Combination Queen Rearing Nucleus and Comb Honey Hive, also known as the “Queen Machine”. Two different size beehives will be constructed: one type of hive will utilize deep frames and hive bodies and the other will have shallow frames and hive bodies. In both cases there are 24 frames per hive body. We will build ten hives of each size for a total of 20 hives. The two beehives will be compared for overwintering success, rate of growth in the Spring, and honey production. The number of frames per cluster of bees will also be varied in order to see if this has any effect on the rate of growth.

Farm Information:
Johnston’ Bee Farm is still a sideline operation of 150 beehives. Approximately 90 of these hives are standard Langstroth hives and 60 are two colony hives, a design originated by the farm owner.

The farm built a 20 foot x 24 foot warehouse for woodworking and honey extracting in 2001. We are currently building a three level addition to the warehouse located on the downhill side that will serve as a honey processing facility and store. We are doing the concrete foundation ourselves while the actual building will be done by a contractor. Hopefully, we’ll be able to use the addition by extracting season.

Besides receiving this Farmer/ Grower Grant, we are also participating in a SARE Partnership Grant with Penn State Cooperative Extension. The Partnership Grant will continue testing of the Two Colony Hive at three sites: two in Pennsylvania and also here at Johnston’s Bee Farm.

We have been awarded a Farmland Viability Grant from the New York State Department of Ag and Markets. This grant will fund the writing of a Farmland Viability Plan (business plan) with the assistance of Morrisville State College faculty. Hopefully, this plan will chart our conversion from a sideline to a full-time operation. With children in college, it is important that income from my Soil and Water Conservation District job be replaced in a dependable manner.

Technical Advisor Maryanne Frazier, Penn State – Maryanne will continue to give advice as the project progresses. We have scheduled a meeting for March 1 at Draper Bee Supply in north-central Pennsylvania. We plan to have dinner and discuss this grant as well as the Partnership Grant on which we are working.

Employee Matthew Johnston – My son Matthew is home from college this Spring and is assembling hive bodies across the hall as this is being written. Since our warehouse does not have heat, work has to be done in part of our house.

Employee Carl Shaw – Carl did not work for us in 2005 because he found a different job during the winter of 2004/ 2005. We did run classified ads to replace him but did not find any suitable candidates. If Matthew keeps pushing for work, we may not have to replace him.

What we did on the Project
Almost the entire project remains to be accomplished. For the Partnership Grant, I assembled and painted all of the bee equipment needed by the Pennsylvania people for their Two Colony Hive Trials. I also raised all of the queens and sold them the bees for the experiment. Between my full time job, the Partnership Grant and pouring the foundation for the warehouse addition, I did not get a good start on the Farmer/ Grower Grant.

Accomplishments to Date
So far 10 of the deep hive bodies have been cut and assembled. 10 more need to be built. All of the shallow hive bodies have been cut but not yet assembled. All 20 of the bottom boards have been cut but not yet assembled. The special dimension white pine lumber for the divider boards and frames has been purchased. This lumber has been stickered and covered with roofing on the concrete in front of the warehouse since last summer. This wood needs to be planed and made into frames and divider boards. All 20 of the lids need to be built. Around 500 board feet of one inch dimension lumber is stickered in the warehouse and will be used for lids and additional hive bodies.

Site Conditions affecting the Results
Once the equipment is constructed and painted, we will need good strong two colony hive to draw out the new frames. So far, we have not had much mortality with our bees because it has been a fairly mild winter to date. We are looking forward to an early Spring if that is in the cards.

Economic Findings
There are not many economic findings so far. We should be able to get the project accomplished within budget. I expect to produce some significant results in 2006.

New Ideas/ The Next Step
I did have 100 two colony hive bodies custom built by the Jones Company in Quebec. This equipment was better quality than the equipment that I produce. I will continue looking into having bee equipment custom built as I need larger quantities of this special dimension bee equipment.

Respectfully Submitted,
Michael Johnston
January 30, 2006