Sunday, June 7, 2015

Sutton Check 6-07-2015

I decided to run out to Sutton to check the hive there. It's been a couple of weeks. Since I needed to add a super on my backyard hive, I took over a super and 10 frames just in case (I live 25 minutes away, so I have to pre-plan what I need and take it with me. In this case, you'll see I didn't plan enough).

Took out the first frame, and they are doing great at collecting nectar/honey:

And there was a great brood pattern:

There is even some drone brood in some burr comb on the bottom. That means they have plenty of resources.

BUT... then I saw this!

Aack! There were 2 or 3 frames with multiple swarm cells on them, and they were capped!

I also saw a couple of frames with supercedure cells:

There were plenty of bees, so I didn't think the hive had swarmed. But try as I might, I couldn't find the queen. I looked 3 times - frame by frame, and nothing!

So here I am with an opportunity to do some splits, and no extra hardware with me! So I closed up the hive, and drove back home to pick up a couple of empty Nuc boxes, and then back to the hive. By this time it was close to 6:30PM, and I was worried that the bees would be a little angry. But they weren't.

I pulled out 2 of the frames with swarm cells on then, and put one in each Nuc hive. I checked for the queen again, and didn't find her. I also added a frame of honey/pollen, and shook a frame of extra bees in each Nuc.

I left the frames with supercedure cells in the main hive. So now I have 3 hives, and each appears to be queenless, but with queen cells in them.

I'll check in 2 or 3 weeks and see if there is a viable hive. According to bee math, from capped queen cell to eggs is about 20 days. So a 3-week check should be sufficient.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Hive Checks

I've been able to check the hives a few times in May.

On 5/2 I ran out to Sutton to check things out. The worker bees had released the queen, and things were looking fine. She's on this frame - can you spot her?

She's sporting a nice blue spot!

I am feeding with leftover honey (from the dead hives of last year), diluted with water (to better simulate nectar).

On 5/17 I checked out the backyard hives.

Pink Hive

Got some nice frames with nectar and pollen gathering:

There was also a nice brood patten going on, but only on a couple of frame:

BUT.... I saw the starts of a supercedure queen cup!

The queens in my backyard hives weren't released by the workers fully, and it was a week when I noticed it and released them manually. So they spent a few more days in the cages than normal. The queen in this hive moved a little slow, so maybe the bees think they need a new one (although the brood pattern looked fine).

Usually I just removed the queen cups, but I left this one alone to see what they would do. I marked the hive with the queen cup with a thumb tack so I'd know where to look next time:

Brown Hive

The brown hive is doing a little better than the pink hive. They are doing a good job collecting nectar:

Good brood pattern:

And even evidence of already hatched brood (the center is empty, with pollen and honey at the edges):

They have even capped some honey (some of this might have been left over from last year - I put in some honey frames).

I saw the queen as well! I marked her (she was unmarked in the package). Can you see her:

Interesting thing: I accidentally got some blue paint on her leg, so she has 2 marks! :-)

The next week on 5/27 I checked the backyard hives again.

Brown Hive

Lots of bees, which is a good thing! I like to check the activity level when I first open the top cover. You can see a good distribution of bees in between all frames:

Good brood patterns again:

Saw the queen again!

There was brood on most of the frames, which is a sign to add the second brood chamber. I take one frame of brood from the bottom and put it in the middle of the top box, to encourage the bees to move up (the nurse bees will follow the brood).

Pink Hive

I wanted to check if they had done anything with that supercedure cell I saw the last week. I checked the frame with the thumbtack, but saw no evidence of any queen cell - no open cell, nothing.

So they tore it down not needing it.

Then I went hunting for the queen. If she is the original queen, she'll have the blue dot on her (another benefit of marking queens - telling if it is a new queen or not). Found her!

But this hive is still not as populous as the brown hive. Still plenty of space to lay, so I am not adding the next super. Here's the hives as they are now:

Interesting observation: I spaced out the hives to plan on a 3rd hive on the left. But when I added the additional super on the brown hive, it added enough weight that the 4x4's started teetering up. So instead of spacing things around more, I added a cinder block on the left side to keep things stable :-)

One addendum: We had the LDS Sister Missionaries over to help my wife work on the garden the next Saturday. Prior to weeding, I suited them up and we went into the pink hive! It was a first for them, and they were a little nervous. But luckily the hive was super gentle, and Sister Gropp was a brave trooper, even holding a frame!

(Sister Rowley, her companion, took this picture) Both missionaries commented on how fun it was, and they learned a lot about bees in the process (I can't resist a teaching opportunity when it arises!)

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Habemus Apes!

We have bees!

Monday morning I drove to Barre MA to pick up 3 packages. I will be installing one package in Sutton, and 2 in my backyard.

Since I traded in my truck for a Jeep, they had to ride up front with me (the back of my Jeep was full). No problems - didn't have any "hitchhikers" (bees riding on the outside of the package) like last time.

I couldn't hive the packages right away, so I was going to let them sit on my kitchen table until the evening.

But my cat took an interest to those buzzing things! She started pawing at one corner of the box where a couple of bees were walking around. The screen on the packages is just normal nylon window screening, very easy for a set of claws to tear through! So I put the packages in the garage - I didn't want to come home with 10's of thousands of bees loose in the house!

The next day I worked from home, so I was able to take some time to hive the packages.

Everything went as planned, so now we have bees!

These pictures are from my backyard hives - I also installed one package in Sutton.

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.
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