Monday, February 16, 2015

January 2015 meeting recap

2015 is underway! Though our colonies are seemingly in their winter hibernation, a Beekeeper's season has begun. "The Beekeeper's Year" graphic poster for Northern Areas, introduces January and February as the season for study and workshop time. What a perfect occasion for the excellent presentation by Dave Brummel of Aves Studio in River Falls, WI, who with son-in-law Matt, conducted a hands-on demonstration of a remarkable hive repair product he invented called Fixit.

Dave's main business is alchemy, although many of you may also have had the opportunity to visit his studio to discover his link between 19th century statue restoration, taxidermy, and beekeeping. Dave has developed a non-toxic product in Fixit that has multiple uses. It can be used for field repairs in the apiary and used as a filler, a glue, an adhesive; it can be sanded and painted to match the rest of the boxes if desired The product is a type of sculpting composite that can be formed and which will support itself.

We had plenty of demonstration space and several crumbly hive bodies to work with at the meeting. The hive bodies truly appeared beyond redemption, containing woodpecker holes and dry rot. In the case of severe through-and-through defects, Dave first pulled off rough edges and inserted some stabilizing brads to lend extra support as scaffolding for the composite. Wearing gloves, the dry mix is combined with water and then kneaded for about 2 minutes, rolling and twisting the mixture for best results. Once mixed, it is best used over the next 2-3 hours, and will be hard, cured, and waterproof within 24 hours (30 minutes: sticky and most adhesive; 1-2 hours: easy to work with; 2-3 hours: setting up, for able detail; 24 hours: cured). Dave recommends working with small amounts first. As the material is kneaded, it will release heat (exothermic reaction) as the clays involved "recognize each other" - who says Valentine's Day is just for humans? If the material gets a little firm and you are not in the field, a quick 15-30 seconds in the microwave can rejuvenate it and make it a little more workable again.

Fixit is used by craftspeople across the spectrum of the arts and sciences - from medical prosthetics to  taxidermy to aerospace applications, from Disney studios to the Smithsonian Museums - and even Robert De Niro's restaurant in New York. (We won't find it used with 3-D printers, as they use liquid metals or resins, and not solid epoxies). And now, coming soon to an apiary near you!

Dave also discussed his method of "bottom supering," where he adds his empty supers to the bottom of his stack of supers (as opposed to setting the empties on top of his full supers). He recommends adding two at a time over the main hive body. By using this technique, ensuring a constant supply of fresh water, and avoiding pesticides he has increased his honey production by "at least one third." One of his colonies last season had 10 supers on it; one colony produced 240 pounds of honey, one 280 pounds, another 194 pounds. Hmmmm.....

Dave generously provided all attendees with a sample kit of Fixit. By the meeting's end we could see the amazing restoration accomplished with his product and the cost-savings going forward of being able to repair equipment we may otherwise have considered as a loss. Read more about the product and/or contact Dave at Aves Studio LLC, PO Box 344, River Falls, WI 54022.  or

Thanks, Dave and Matt, for helping us get "The Beekeeper's Year" off to a great start!


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