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.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Sutton Moving Up

It's about time to move the Sutton Nuc into a full-size hive. I need to give the queen lots of space to build up for the winter. So I took out the full size hive parts (with extra frames) to transfer the Nuc.

Here's a frame from the Nuc - the queen is doing what she is supposed to!



But as I was transferring the frames, I saw something on one of the frames - a supercedure cell! See if you can spot it:


 This confused me a little, since the queen was doing just fine (I saw her on another frame):


I didn't want to let this hive make a new queen, since it would put it behind about a month. So I decided to bring the frame with the supercedure cell on it home, and put it in a new nuc:


I added a couple of frames of bees and brood from my hive to be able to service the queen cell. Let's see if the queen hatches fine. If so, I have a new hive - woot!!

So here's my backyard now:


Sunday, August 18, 2013

Expensive Delays...

I'm behind about 4 posts, so I'm playing catch up. I've dated the posts based on the day I did the activity, not the day I am writing the post (yay Blogger!).

I have been talking for the last couple of years that I wanted to breed some queens. I wanted to increase my hives and maybe over-winter a nuc or two.

Well, like past years, the time has slipped away and now it's too late to start the process. Since I still want to overwinter my nucs, that leaves me to purchasing some queens. I called up my fellow WCBA member George O'Neil and sure enough, he had a couple of queens I could buy. So I took some of my honey money and bought two queens.


So here's my plan:
  • Take the queen in the Green Hive (last year's queen) and move her to a nuc
  • Put one of the new queens in the Green Hive
  • Take some frames from the Green Hive and make another nuc, and put the second queen in.

The idea is that I would have a good queen in the large green hive, and one in a nuc. The other nuc was last year's queen.

So on Friday I made the two nucs, moving the Green Hive queen into one of them (leaving the Green Hive queenless).

Then on Saturday when I picked up the new queens, I put them in their respective hives. Here's the Green Hive - look how the bees are all over the queen cage. They are excited to have a queen again!


Here is the bee yard now.



Saturday, August 10, 2013

Does Sutton Have a Queen?

Back on July 14 I performed a walk-away split on the hive at Sutton. I wanted to make a 2nd hive to have two there. A week later, there were some good queen cells starting. Today I decided to check to see if the nuc has a queen - according to bee math, she should be there and laying.

When I got over to the Sutton hives, I could tell summer was being good to the vegetation - there were vines and weeds threatening to overrun the hives!

Here's a back view of the new nuc:


And the front view:


Even the main hive had some weeds growing in front of the hive:


I pulled back a lot of the climbing vine away from the hives as much as I could. My wife said it was a trumpet vine, based on the flowers I described. But whatever it was, it was everywhere!

Sutton Hive #2
(really just a nuc now)

I popped open the nuc, and saw some good activity (the bees were doing well coming and going as well):


The first frame I pulled out had some good evidence of a queen - lots and lots of young larvae! If you click on the picture you can see the white worm-like things in some of the cells.


So now the quest - find the queen! I looked at all of the frames, and didn't see here. But one of the benefits of a 5-frame nuc is that she can't go far to hide. A second pass showed here. She is on this frame - see if you can spot the queen:


If you can't find her, click here for a version of the picture where I circled the queen.

I nabbed her, put her in my queen marking tube, and now she has a very fashionable red dot (red is this year's color).


I put her back in the hive, and I'll check in a week or so to see if it's time to move that nuc into a full-size hive.

Sutton Hive #1

Back to the main hive, popping the cover showed a good number of bees under the inner cover (there were also a bunch on top of the inner cover):


You'll notice the outer frames are black - those are the frames of honey I put in the hive last time, which came from the Sutton hive that died out over the winter.

This queen is doing what the queen needs to do - makin' lots of babies! She has a nice laying pattern:


There were a lot of frames with a good brood pattern - it was good to see!

Looking into the lower box, I found a lot of burr comb on top of the frames. You can see the comb zig-zagging along the top of the 4th and 5th frames.


That burr comb had drones in it, and that comb was destroyed when I separated the hive bodies. So I just scraped it out.

The lower box also had some brood - the queen was using both top and bottom for the brood nest. Again, that's good.

I looked for the queen, but didn't see here. But that's not a problem - I know she's there.

There was still plenty of space for her to lay, so I didn't make any changes to the hive. There was also plenty of honey in the hive. I'll check in a couple of weeks.
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