Saturday, April 4, 2015

Bad Winter Season - 100% Loss...

This was a bad season for my bees - 100% loss. I lost the 2 hives in Sutton; I had 2 full-size hives and 2 nucs in the backyard that also perished.

Going into the winter I had plans on overwintering 2 nucs. The previous year I let time creep up on me and I didn't get the nucs prepared. So they both died before full winter started.

This last year I started early. I got a couple of queens from George O'Neil (my favorite source of queens) and made nucs. I got them nice and strong.

The plan was to put a double nuc brood box on top of one of my strong hives, to take advantage of the heat. In order to do that, you need to keep the two nucs separate from the strong hive, as well as separate from each other.

To keep the nucs from mixing with the strong hive, I used a Snelgrove board:


What you may not be able to see in this picture is that there are rotating doors on each edge of the board. You place this on top of the strong hive, and the double nuc goes on top of the Snelgrove board. You then open up the top side doors to provide an entrance for each of the nucs, on opposite sides.

In preparation for the double nuc, you can also see I tacked down a strip on the Snelgrove board. The reason for that is that this strip juts up against a double nuc feeder I created - see the following pictures:




The feeder is basically a reservoir for the sugar syrup, with entrances on each side, separated so that the bees can't mix. That way there is one feeder for both nucs. It sits down flush with the board I stapled on the Snelgrove board, and it is also goes completely to the edge of the super. So it blocks off any passage between the two sides.

Last year I had a 3rd nuc that I was going to overwinter, so I made this simple top for a full-size hive, that the nuc would sit on:


The slits you see are in place of a screen - I didn't feel like making things complicated.

Alas, for this last season, it was all for naught! We had such long deep cold snaps that the bees just didn't make it.






You can see that there was plenty of sugar candy on top, and lots of honey. But that wasn't enough because of the cold.

But one positive thing came out - my wife and I got to clean up the frames! Over the years wax and propolis builds up, and it's hard to scrape them when they are full of bees. So one Saturday we went over all of the frames (which totaled about 150 all told).

I was able to find someone who still had packages to sell - George O'Neil of Autumn Morning Farm. So it's back to the starting point for my hives (although with pre-built frames, the bees should have an easier time).

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Fall/Winter Catch Up

Wow - I didn't realize how much I've been neglecting the blog lately. A lot has happened since the last post, so instead of writing long summaries (which I probably can't remember anyway), I'll just post a catch-up blog.

 It turns out the fall and winter got ahead of me and I didn't get things done like I'd like.

I had 3 nucs which I was hoping to get ready to over winter. My plan was to stack them on top of full size hives to help them take advantage of the heat (small hives like nucs don't survive on their own for the winter since they can't generate enough heat). I built some special hive pieces to let me stack them. But we had a surprise cold snap in the fall, and those three hives all died early.

Sutton similarly didn't fare well over the winter. Things got away from me there and I never did get the smaller hive moved into two boxes. I went out there and fed them sugar syrup for the winter, but it still wasn't good enough. Both Sutton hives died. There was a ton (maybe not - but it was very heavy!) of honey left in those hives when I inspected them in the late winter. I ended up putting those frames in my extra freezer so the honey didn't spoil.

The two hives in my backyard made it through the winter, miraculously! So they will be ready to go strong in the spring.

That's the catch up - I'll try to do better this year with the blog. I'm starting my 6th year, and the queen marking colors now repeat to the color when I got my first queen - green.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Bee Meeting and Inspection - 9-21-2013

Today was an outdoor bee meeting at Keown Orchards in Sutton. The weather is starting to get a little cold, and today was a windy day.

The bees at the orchard were particularly nasty as well, due to the weather and the fact that there wasn't any nectar available. Here are some pictures:



There's a bee on some goldenrod:


The hives weren't really in very good condition - lots of dry rot. The bees were using this as a back entrance.


Ken working the bees. He ended up putting on a veil. You know the bees are nasty when Ken puts on a veil! The bees were also irritating the observers, so I didn't stick around.



There was this pretty cat walking around the orchard, very friendly. Had to take a picture of it! :-)


I also took the opportunity to inspect the backyard hives. Just wanted to do a queen check and see how they are doing on food.

White Nuc

I like to look down into the frames to judge the overall activity of the hive.


Saw the queen in the White Nuc - marked red (it's a little dark - she's along the top wooden part of the frame on the left).


Blue Nuc

Found the queen here too - red dot (it's easy(-ier) to find the queen in a Nuc - only 5 frames to deal with!)


Gray Nuc

Good activity on this hive as well.


 This nuc has the yellow-dot queen formerly from the Green Hive (from last year):


This hive was a little different than the rest - it was packing away the nectar a lot better than the other nucs.


Green Hive

The Green Hive is doing a good job putting up some honey in the super, but it just won't / can't finish it off:


I don't know if I'll get any of this - probably not; I'll leave it for the winter stores.

But I did see something strange. A little over 2 weeks ago I put in some Mite-Away Quick Strips for mite control. I pulled out one of the frames on the Green Hive and this is what I found:


This used to be a full frame of comb; now a lot of it is missing (you are seeing through the frame to the Brown Hive). I've never heard of bees doing this. Right under this frame was one of the MAQS pads, and as you can see, there is a lot of junk on top of it:


The only thing I could figure was that something about the MAQS pads the bees didn't like, and it made them think they needed to tear down some of the comb.

But the queen was still laying:


And here she is (another weird thing - the queen usually doesn't like to be on a honey frame, and this frame is almost exclusively honey).


Brown Hive

The Brown Hive has a honey super on it, but it is bone dry. They haven't done anything with it all season.
But in the hive proper there are plenty of stores - a full honey frame:


The Brown Hive is an enigma - I have never been able to spot the queen in this hive all season! But there is plenty of evidence she is doing what she needs to. Here's a frame with honey and brood (the white things in the cells are larvae):


And another frame packed with brood - excellent!


But... I did see a queen cell! I decided to tear it down since it's too late in the season to make a new queen. They'll just have to deal with the queen they have.


By the time I got done with the inspection, a lot of bees had collected on top of the frames. Happens sometimes. If you enlarge the picture, you can see some bees along the back edge (to the left) have their tails in the air scenting:


Overall things are doing just fine.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Inspection 9-11-2013 - Overdue!

I usually do my inspections on Saturdays or Sundays. Between activities which take up my Saturdays, and some bad weather, I haven't been able to inspect like I'd like.

I decided to take a half-day off on Wednesday since the weather was supposed to be nice. In this case, "nice" meant really hot and humid. When I started my inspection in the morning, the temperature was already 80!


I had a few goals for this inspection - check things out, and add some MAQS mite treatment.

White Nuc

I started on the White Nuc, which was the nuc I created by bringing back the frame with the capped queen cell on it from Sutton. According to bee math, there might be a new queen here if all went well.

Sure enough, as I pulled a frame, I found her! See if you can spot her on this frame (I like playing "spot the queen" on my blog!):


In case you can't find her, click here for a version of the picture with the queen circled.

So I did with her what I always do when I have a new queen - I marked her!


(there was another worker trapped in the marking tube that I didn't bother getting out).

So now I have another Nuc.

Blue Nuc

The Blue Nuc has one of George's queens in it. Here she is - doing a good job:


Gray Nuc

The Gray Nuc has the queen I moved over from the Green Hive. Looking at this frame, it doesn't look as nice and full as others:


Here's the queen, marked with yellow from last year:


But this hive is bringing in some good honey for their stores (I won't collect this since it's in a nuc):


I haven't quite decided what to do with this nuc / queen yet. When she was in the green hive, the hive was very very nasty and mean. That's why I replaced her with one of George's queens. If she is making mean bees due to genetics, I don't know if I want to keep that line alive. I may end up snuffing her and combining the bees back into the green hive. I'll give it another inspection before I decide.

Brown Hive

The brown hive is doing well. The honey super up top was pretty much empty. But the bees are doing all right in the upper chamber - a good honey frame:


And here's a good brood frame. Note that it's a half-circle, meaning there is other brood in the lower chamber:


I decided to apply some Mite Away Quick Strips (MAQS) to the hive. It's one of two types of chemical treatments I do (the other being Fumagillin in the fall for Nosema control).

You place two pads in between the upper and lower brood chambers:


A couple of things I like about this treatment - you don't have to remove your honey supers, and you don't have to remember to remove the treatment after you are done. I eventually remove it, but the treatment ends itself.

Green Hive

I saved the worst for last - the green hive has been nasty. I requeened with George's queen, so eventually it will sort itself out, but I have to wait until the mean bees die. Well, to (mis-)quote Monty Python, "they aren't dead yet!"

I got a little bit of a surprise when I opened up the hive. There's a honey super on it just because, and the surprise was that it was actually heavy! The bees were collecting some honey, I suspect from goldenrod. Here is one of the frames partially filled:


They were also collecting it in the brood chamber as well:


Here's a good frame of brood from the new queen:


And here's the queen:


I added a 2nd box for the brood chamber, to get the hive ready for the winter. I also added the MAQS but didn't get any pictures - because the bees were MEAN!

At the end I took this picture of the hives:


As a final thing, as I took this picture, a bee from the green hive zapped me on the inside of my arm (on the fleshy part, of course!). I was still in my suit. It took 10 minutes standing in front of my garage door waiting for the 5 bees who were hassling me to finally leave me alone. I'll be glad when that hive calms down.

Oh, and the temperature? It got even hotter by the time I was done. I was drenched in sweat, and had to take another shower before I went on to work.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Let's Go To The Fair!

Last year I entered a jar of my honey in the Spencer Fair. I didn't really know what I was doing. I came in 2nd place, but out of 2 entries it was less than impressive :-)

This year I planned to enter my honey into two fairs.

Woodstock Fair

Our family goes to the Woodstock Fair pretty much every year. Last year I saw only a jar or two of honey, so I decided to enter some this year. I think the person running the honey contest did a little advertising since there were more entries this year.

There were two categories: Extracted Honey, and Extracted Wildflower Honey. Since I had wildflower honey, I figured I qualified for both, so I entered two jars.

I won Blue Ribbons (first place) in both categories!


I don't know what the judging criteria was for Woodstock, but whatever I did, they liked it.

Spencer Fair

This year I had more information on the judging criteria for the Spencer Fair (based on entering last year). There were 8 entries in the category I was in (the category is based on the color / lightness of the honey). I again won 2nd place, but it is more meaningful out of 8 entrants.


The honey contests are all about appearance, and it's a little bit of fun for a beekeeper.
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