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Backyard Beekeeping: Helping the Honey Bee

Decreased honey bee populations have been in the news a lot over the past couple years. Pesticides, global warming, lack of crop diversity, increased pathogen populations and a host of other factors have been attributed to the increased beehive losses. Headlines scream that beehives are failing at record rates and that the loss of the honey bee could lead to massive food supply shortages.

2014 Honey Production per Hive

The map above illustrates the amount of honey harvested from each commercial beehive in 2014.

Honey Production & Hive Loss over Time

The graph above shows the number of active hives and honey production over time.

What does an environmentally minded hobby gardener do with this information? Install a beehive of course!

As an amateur gardener, I understand the need for beneficial insects and pollinators. However, providing a home for thousands of bees required some mental preparation and research. How big an impact would a healthy beehive have on our enjoyment of the back yard? Will the kids in our neighborhood be at a higher risk of getting stung? Exactly how much attention does a managed beehive require? It turns out that honey bees are remarkably unaggressive and only a small percentage of the bees forage for pollen and nectar. Additionally, bees are very self-sufficient and thrive with minimal supervision or management. And so, we decided to give raising bees a try.

Since my sister (Tara) and I are big believers in natural foods and organic gardening, we decided to buy and install a frameless hive. Frameless hives allow bees to build their comb in a way that is natural to them. They also require less maintenance and some come with windows for the curious beekeeper.

Hive-Installation.jpg

The image on the left shows the queen bee on established comb.  The images on the right show the introduction of bees to a new frameless hive.

The first major learning experience (and test of our resolve) came when the bees arrived.  Bees for frameless hives come in a wood and wire mesh box.  Introducing them to the hive involves placing the queen inside the hive (she comes in a separate smaller box) and then dumping all of the bees into the mostly empty hive.  Needless to say, bees were flying everywhere and they were understandably irritated.  Believe it or not, no one was stung and only a few bees were lost in this process!

Our second lesson in bee keeping came when it snowed!  The bees had been installed for two weeks and had already built quite a bit of comb, but the total population was still fairly small.  When we checked on them the day of the big snow all we could see was a ball of bees near the top of the hive.  No movement.  No sound.  Just dead looking bees.  Imagine our surprise when we got home later that evening and found that they were just fine.  Apparently, bees huddle together in cold weather to protect the queen.  The worker bees and drones slowly shift positions so that none of the bees are exposed to the cold air for too long.  

After working with the bees and the hive a few times, we became a bit overconfident.  We stopped wearing long sleeves, long pants, and bee bonnets. One evening decided we should check on the bees and learned our third lesson: Even though honey bees are not aggressive, they do attack and sting when they’re upset.  All of the foragers return to the hive just before dusk and a fully populated hive does not like to be disturbed when everyone is tucked in for the night.  Okay bees, the humans were adequately reminded that you are not pets.

Finally, after a surprisingly pollen rich summer it was time to harvest honey!  We weren’t planning on harvesting honey at all our first year so we were excited to get even a single box of honey from our bees.  A single box of honey and comb weighs 25-30 pounds.  Since our hive is frameless, each piece of comb had to be carefully cut free from the box.  The comb was then crushed (by hand) and filtered.  Our single box of honeycomb resulted in over two gallons of raw honey! 

Honey-Harvest.jpg

The image on the left shows worker bees cleaning up the loose honey after the top box was cut away and removed from the hive.  The bottom right image shows the harvested box of honey comb and the top right image shows comb being crushed by hand.

Now I know that the problems facing beekeepers and the honeybee population are varied and complex.  However, almost all of the data and statistics are based on commercial beekeeping operations.  Given the recent increased popularity of homesteading, hobby farming, and suburban beekeeping, a significant portion of the bee population is missing from the dataset.  Thanks to the internet, small farm and backyard beekeepers can contribute to these studies. If you’re a bee enthusiast, please join the discussion and contribute your knowledge to help save the bees.

 

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17 March 2015
Company News

Today, March 17, much of the world will be going green to celebrate St. Patrick’s day! March 17 marks the anniversary of the death of St. Patrick, who is credited with spreading Christianity to Ireland. Though St. Patrick was not Irish, the holiday named in his honor is now synonymous with Irish culture, or at least Irish food and drink! Here in the United States, we’ll eat corned beef and cabbage, drink Irish beer, and wear green shamrocks with hopes of securing a bit of that luck o’ the Irish! In honor of St. Paddy, I’ve created a map showing where the most Americans live that identify as Irish American, and I’ve compiled some fun facts about the holiday and traditions surrounding it!

imageBigger.pngWhere Irish Americans live; 33.3 million Americans (about 10.5%) identify as Irish American. Click on the map to open a larger image.

Fun Facts about St. Patrick's Day:

  • The first recorded St. Patrick’s Day parade took place in New York in the 1760s.
  • Guinness will sell an average of 13 million glasses of beer, about twice as much as the average day.
  • Corned beef is not the traditional protein eaten on St. Patrick’s day in Ireland. A meat more similar to bacon is traditional, but Irish immigrants in America who could not afford pricier meats prepared corned beef instead.
  • The shamrock was believed to be used by St. Patrick to explain the Holy Trinity to the Irish.
  • Many religious groups hold special ceremonies to commemorate St. Patrick.
  • The phrase “the luck of the Irish” came about when Irish and American Irish miners found success during the gold rush in the 1800s.
  • Many cities dye fountains, rivers, and other bodies of water green. The most famous in the United States is the Chicago River. Beginning in 1962, part of the river had been dyed green every year. This year, about 40 pounds of a secret formula powder was dumped into the river. With the help of boats churning the water, the river is dyed green in about 45 minutes!
  •  

Luck o' the Irish to ye!

Do you have any questions about this post? Do you have an idea for a blog post or have a topic you'd like to see featured? Let me know! Leave a comment, or send an email to jennifer@goldensoftware.com.

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30 April 2015
Company News

This past weekend, the entire Golden Software team convened in beautiful Golden, Colorado for our annual all hands meeting (AHM). This was our 7th annual meeting, and like fine wine, it has improved with age; each year is better than the last!

Every year we meet all day Saturday and a half-day on Sunday. Our days consist of numerous presentations covering what we’ve accomplished over the past year, what our current endeavors entail, and where we’re headed in the coming years. We are always asking ourselves, “What’s best for the customer?” and the AHM gives us an opportunity to answer that question together. Our discussions are engaging as everyone contributes their thoughts and ideas. We can feel the energy increase as the meeting progresses.

Numerous components make up Golden Software. The AHM helps to piece all of those components together. By hearing from all sectors of the company, from developers and product managers to technical support and upper management, we all gain a better understanding of how all parts make up the whole.

Saturday night, business discussions are put aside when we gather with our friends and family and socialize over food and drink. It’s a joy meeting significant others and children as our personal lives make up so much of who we are. We share many, many laughs throughout the course of the evening.

Our all hands meetings are priceless. It gives us a chance to reconnect with one another, celebrate our successes, and anticipate the coming years. After each meeting, I find myself invigorated and eager to dive into the next project!

I'd love to hear your thoughts on how Golden Software is doing! Send me your feedback: blakelee@goldensoftware.com

-Blakelee Midyett, CEO

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30 April 2015
Product Updates

Golden Software released a free update for MapViewer 8 today! Click the File | Online | Check for Update command to update your version of MapViewer 8 to MapViewer 8.1.269! Changes include the addition of new coordinate systems (Magna-Sirgas Colombia Bogota Zone, Magna-Sirgas Colombia East Central Zone, Magna-Sirgas Colombia East Zone, Magna-Sirgas Colombia Far West Zone, and Magna-Sirgas Colombia West Zone) and many other updates! For a full list of changes made, please see our MapViewer Version Info page.

To purchase a new copy of MapViewer 8 or upgrade a previous version, please visit our shopping page.

If you aren't familiar with MapViewer, I would like to invite you to download the free demo version. The demo version does not have a time limit, so you're free to explore as long as you'd like! The cut, copy, save, print, and export functions are not available, but all other features are enabled for you to delve into with included sample files or data of your own!

Have questions about MapViewer? Email me at jennifer@goldensoftware.com or contact us at mapviewersupport@goldensoftware.com!

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