Monday, July 26, 2010

A New Home... and A New Queen??

Tonight I decided to put the Brown nuc into a new home. I had to scoot the brown and green hives over a little to make room for the new Pink hive :-)

There were tons of bees in the nuc, since I did the move around 6:30PM when most of the foragers had returned. I should have hived the nuc a couple of weeks ago - there were enough bees there to make a full deep I'm sure!

I had 5 deep frames and 5 medium frames to move - in retrospect I should have made that yellow mini-super a deep size instead of a medium. So I put the 5 deep frames with 5 new deep foundation frames, and the same with the 5 mediums.

I noticed something interesting as I was transferring the medium frames - along the bottom were 2 chewed out queen swarm cells! The nuc had definitely not swarmed, so I don't know if there was a virgin queen running around in the nuc or not. I was told that if swarm cells are created, as soon as they are capped the current queen leaves in a swarm. I didn't see the marked queen, but I wasn't looking too closely during the hiving.

So here's a picture of the new Pink hive!

I set the old nuc in front of the hive to let the bees find their way to the new home. There were lots of bees flying around, so hopefully they will all find somewhere to go.

I also added a pollen patty and some sugar water jars for feeding. The blue stripe is a 1 1/2" shim because the jars are a little too tall for the medium super which surrounds the jars.

I also took the super off of the Brown hive and added jars of sugar water. The Bee Inspector said that hive was seriously in need of food. The honey super was absolutely empty anyway.

It was interesting to see about 30-40 bees around the old nuc site, very confused because their home is gone:

I'll give the hive a week or so before I do a full inspection to see what I have in the way of queens.

Current hive count: 2 full hives in Sutton, and in my backyard 3 full hives and 1 nuc.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Time to Build!

My brown nuc is ready to be hived:

(I just love this nuc - especially the way the bees just hang out on the outside!)

Here's a video of the activity at the entrance (since some of my blog followers like videos) :

Last month I bought a bunch of woodenware for new hives from Brush Mountain. Unfortunately, it comes completely unassembled - that is my job. Luckily, the wood is cut and the box joints are prepared (they even drilled holes for the nails).

I had some time today so I spent it out in the (hot!) garage. I started with assembling the hive pieces. I make sure to use exterior wood glue to make the joints last longer. I assembled 2 medium supers, 3 deep supers, and one deep nuc. Here is the unpainted wood:

Whenever I am at Walmart or Home Depot I always look at the "mis-tint" paints. These are cans of paint which for some reason were improperly colored, and are usually offered at a discount. I bought a quart of nice blue paint from Sears for $1.50 and a quart of a really good looking pink/purple from Walmart for $3.50. The bees don't care what color the hive is.

Some beekeepers don't bother painting their hives, and those are usually commercial beekeepers where the time to paint takes away from their profit. But for hobby beekeepers like myself, the part of the fun of the experience is the painting.

I always put a coat of Kills primer before I paint, as I want the wood to last a long time. I had a 2" shim I made last year which I didn't paint, and it looked real bad after a season (I painted it this week).

I have a real neat system of drying the paint - I hang the pieces on my garage door rail with pieces of coat hanger!

I decided to paint the Nuc blue:

And the rest of the hive pieces will be painted the pink/purple:

Things will be drying overnight. If the paint is dry enough, maybe I'll put the hive together tomorrow and move the bees.

I assembled all of the woodenware today, but only painted the parts to make a one deep/one medium hive. I'll paint the rest later.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Clean Bill of Health!

Worcester County has a Bee Inspector, and each year he makes the round to all of the hives for the annual inspection. Last year he showed up and I wasn't around, but this time I was at home. So I got a chance to watch him and we talked about our hives.

Like usual, Ken was dressed in Ken fashion - no bee suit, just a t-shirt and a long sleeve blue shirt. I think he wears the same outfit when he goes into hives - he had the same clothes on at the bee picnic:

Come to think of it, I don't think he wears anything but these clothes when he works the hives!

Anyway, armed with just a smoker and a hive tool, Ken started looking at my hives. The short answer is: they all passed with flying colors! None of my 4 hives (2 full-size and 2 nucs) had any problems which commonly beset hives: no mites, no DWV (deformed wing virus), nice queens, etc.

He did mention one concern: the brown hive had almost no honey stores. That could be why the queen isn't laying many eggs, he said. He suggested that I feed that hive some sugar syrup, which I will do. The green hive had some nectar/honey in the super, so he said I didn't need to feed that one, but I'll keep an eye on things.

We also talked about making a full-size hive out of my brown nuc (the one with the cute yellow mini-super). That nuc is full of bees, and is ready to be transplanted. So I guess I'll have to get off my duff and assemble some of the woodenware I bought last month. That cute little super is going to cause me some problems, however - it contains medium frames, and you usually only have deep frames in a nuc. So I am probably going to have to put a deep and a medium together, and then I can put a queen excluder under the medium (making sure the queen is below it). Then when the bees hatch out of the medium frames, I can remove them and put deeps on for the brood chambers.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Almost Honey...

I took some time this late afternoon to visit the Sutton hives. I believe that if I am going to get any honey, it'll be from one of the two Sutton hives.

Sutton Hive 2

I started with the newer hive, the one made from a package in April. My thinking was that it'd be the one with the fewest bees. Well, it didn't seem so! I know now why beekeepers like to visit hives in the late morning/early afternoon. A lot of the foragers are out so the hive isn't too populous. I inspected this hive at 6:00PM (which was the only time I could) and I think all the bees were present!

Here's the entrance to the hive - typical bees hanging out due to the warm weather (this hive has a solid bottom board so doesn't have the benefit of extra ventilation of a screened bottom board):

This is what greeted me when I took off the top cover. A few bees, wouldn't you say?

I had been feeding this hive sugar syrup, and when I pulled out the first frame, this is what I saw:

This is a good looking frame of honey, except it isn't honey, it's the sugar syrup I had been feeding the hive. There were about 3 of these frames in the upper deep, and that isn't necessarily good. If there is too much honey, the queen won't have any room to lay, and the hive becomes "honey bound." I took out this frame to bring home, and put in an empty one. I didn't see the queen, but I did see larvae so I am sure things are fine.

Here's how things were when I was done - yes, the bees are mounding up and overflowing.

I put a queen excluder and a super on this hive to see if by chance I can get them to do some work for me, plus it'll give them some more breathing (and walking) room.

Sutton Hive 1

This hive was also hanging out on the front porch:

This hive has 3 supers on it - the upper two shallow supers are really heavy, and here's what I saw inside:

You can see that this frame is mostly capped. But I feel it should be capped better, so I am giving them some more time. I figure next Saturday I may be able to rob some capped frames!

I noticed that there were some bees hanging out at the corner of one of the supers:

Here's why - there is a gap in the wood at the corner of the super:

It's really not a problem - a lot of beekeepers run their hives with upper entrances. It gives the bees a short-cut to get into the honey super (instead of having to climb up 2 stacks of deep frames full of bees and brood), plus provides some more ventilation.

After I was done inspecting, I tell you I was sweaty! Even at 6PM being in a bee suit is hot work. At least the sun wasn't beating down.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

A New Queen?!?

After the bee picnic I suited up and went out to inspect my hive. The sun had gone past the trees so at least I was a little shaded, although I still sweated a bunch. I especially wanted to check out the green hive and see what the deal was.

Green Hive

First off the top is the honey super. Here's a picture of the single frame which contains any appreciable honey:

You can see that it's only about 20% capped. The frustrating thing is that it's been like this for literally a month or more. The frame next to this has a little bit of nectar in it, but it is light. The good news is that when I lifted off the upper brood chamber, it was very heavy. They are putting up some honey in that chamber, but it doesn't help my extracting desires.

Here's an interesting shot of a lot of propolis. The bees use this stick stuff to, well, stick things together. The propolis is the stretched brown goop along the edge:

They also put this along the edge of each frame, which causes the frames to stick to each other. Today while I was inspecting I made it a point to scrape off as much as I could to make future inspections easier. Excessive propolis use is a characteristic of Italian honeybees.

You'll recall that this hive created a lot of swarm cells in the past couple of weeks. I first tipped up the top brood chamber to look along the bottoms of the frames, and this is what I found:

Mostly you see queen cups (the round ones with the large holes in the bottom), but there are a couple of queen cells.

There are lots of bees in this hive, and lots of honey in the frames, so I don't think it swarmed:

I saw really good brood patterns in this hive, and I wanted to find the green marked queen.

Then I noticed something on the frame in the picture above - click on it and zoom in and see if you see it, right in the middle. It's a supercedure queen cell which has been chewed open on the side. This is symptomatic of a new queen going through and destroying her competition.

As I was looking at another frame something else caught my eye - I saw a big plump non-marked queen scampering across the frame! Apparently one of the many queen cells this hive created managed to hatch and she mated and is laying (I saw very young larvae). She must have "taken care of" the older green marked queen.

So I quickly grabbed her and put her in my queen marking tube and gave her a nice blue dot on her back:

I'm getting pretty good at marking queens!

So this hive now has a brand new 2010 model queen. I took out the other queen cells I found and I hope this hive settles down.

Brown Hive

The honey super of the Brown Hive looks worse than that of the green hive. There was only one frame and it was only half filled with nectar, very light:

The queen was spotted (look in the lower right edge of the frame, in the little depression):

And she was laying some really good brood patterns:

So I moved on to the nucs.

White Nuc

I hadn't looked into this nuc at the last inspection. Here's what I saw when I opened the nuc - lots of bees!

I had a new wired wax foundation frame in this nuc, and was pleased to see the bees drawing it out and the queen laying lots in it! If you look closely you can see lots of larvae (not as easy to see as it is on a black foundation):

Pretty much after every inspection the bees are very discombobulated and chaotic - you can see lots of them on the side of the nuc in the next picture. It takes a few minutes after everything is put together for things to start to return to normal, and even then the bees schedule is interrupted. That's why it isn't good to do inspections too often.

Brown Nuc

This is the double-decker nuc. Looks like the queen is taking full advantage of the upper story (sorry for the out of focus picture). You can see a pretty complete coverage brood pattern:

This nuc has lots of bees. I got a kick out of seeing a line-up of bees along the upper edge of the nuc in the next picture:

Once I get some of the woodenware assembled and painted (that I bought from Brushy Mountain last month), this nuc will be moved into a full-size hive.

Finally, here are a couple of videos. First, a video of a drone bee being born (chewing his way out of a cell). I didn't capture the complete work, just a few seconds. See if you can find him:

Second, here's a video of the front porch of the white nuc showing classic "washboarding" where the bees move back and forth, as if they were washing clothes on a washboard:

Bee Picnic

Today was the annual Worcester County Beekeeper Association summer picnic. The weather was perfect for a picnic - a little hot, but not humid. It is a chance for people to get together and enjoy each other's company and some good food (but then, a lot of the bee club meetings revolve around food - wonder why that is?).

As we walked in, we were greeted by this fellow:

This rooster was crowing up a storm! The host, Scott, has chickens and roosters in a caged area. I don't know if this one was an escapee or not. By the looks of his ragged feathers, he is one tough guy!

Here is one of the two tables of food (mostly deserts on this one, and the picture was taken toward the end of the picnic):

Our contribution to the picnic was a watermelon, which Jacob liked (although he didn't like getting his picture taken)

A these bee picnics, in addition to all the food and frivolity, two other events always occur.

One: Ken Warchol, the Worcester County bee inspector (and all around bee whisperer) always has some kind of a contest on bee knowledge. Last year it was a table set up with flowers, honey, and bee items you had to identify. This year the volunteers split into two teams and completed on bee knowledge, as well as proficiency in finding and identifying features in a working hive (like finding the queen, looking for problems, etc.). The second thing always present at the bee picnics is getting into a working hive (which Ken combined with the competition this year).

Here is Ken giving the teams some instructions (and you can see some of the quiz items on the table behind him):

Here is the host's apiary for the "practical" part of the exam:

The teams suited up to go into the hives, with the rest of us watching (some of the observers chose to wear a veil; most did not):

(this young lady is also a beekeeper, along with her father)

Ken was right there in the middle of things, to help and judge. Without a bee suit, like usual.

The pictures don't really do justice to the experience. There were hundreds of bees flying around us, but they were very gentle (click the picture above and zoom in the sky and you will see lots of spot - those are bees). I don't think anyone got stung the entire time, and we were in the hives for about 30 minutes.

An interesting thing about these hives: the center two hives are actually double-nucs. It is a normal 10-frame hive body with a thin divider down the middle, which provides for 2 five-frame nucs. That's why you see both a front and a side entrance for this hive:

All in all it was a very good picnic. I spoke to some other people about my honey-less problem, and others are having the same problem. It could be that where I live there are no large scale nectar sources around.

On the way out we were again greeted by the bouncer:

And I had to laugh at this guy, who was picking up a bunch of hive frames from someone else at the picnic:

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