Thursday, April 14, 2011

Eggs, I think...

Brown Hive

During last weekend's inspection, I didn't see any brood, eggs, etc. in the brown hive. I saw what I thought was a queen, but she wasn't marked, so she was a new one. I was wondering if she was new from late last year, or early this year - but I didn't see any queen cells either last fall or now. In any case, I grabbed her last week and marked her with a white dot to make it easier to find her. I wanted to check later to see if she would lay any eggs.

So I took a quick peek today, as the temperatures were in the mid 50's, and the bees were flying. I didn't pull all the frames, but I wanted to see queen evidence. I saw some frames which could have been eggs in the cells, but it was hard to tell because 1) I was looking through a veil, 2) the sun was in the wrong place, and 3) I'm old. I pulled a 2nd frame to check, and lo and behold I saw the queen I marked last week! Here's a picture:

I watched her for a little while, and was amazed I saw her sticking her rear end into cells looking like she was laying eggs! Here's a picture I took; if you zoom in on it and look carefully, you can see her rear end bent into a cell:

So I am going to hold off on getting another queen for another week, to see if there were really eggs being laid. That hive didn't take much of the sugar syrup, and still has 1 1/2 patties of pollen, so they have enough resources.

Pink Hive

While I was out there, I wanted to check out the pink hive. In the upper supers, there is still developing brood, but no new eggs since I put the queen in the lower box under a queen excluder:

I checked the bottom box, but didn't see any eggs or brood. But I got lucky twice in the same day; I spotted the queen on the frame I pulled out, so she is there. Not quite sure why she isn't laying yet, but it could be because of the brood in the upper chamber is keeping the nurse bees up there. Hopefully with more bees being born, the queen will kick into gear.

Pink's syrup jars were empty, so I added some more syrup.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Should I breed some queens?

I recently purchased a book called Queen Rearing Essentials by Larry Connor, who is one of the experts in the beekeeping community concerning queen bees and queen rearing. I've also been reading a lot of on-line articles on queen raising written by other beekeepers.

Last year, when I was dealing with a hive which was looking to swarm, I split off some frames and made "walk-away splits." This is where you take the frame(s) with the queen cell (which the bees made as a result of an urge to swarm) and separate it into a nucleus hive, to hatch and mate. I had some good success, but it is a reactionary process.

When you set out to raise some queen bees specifically, you take action by grafting some 2-day-old larvae into special cell cups, and then induce the bees to make them into queens. You can do this and make a lot more queens than the swarm cells generally produce. Then you can set up the queens into a Queen Castle (basically a beehive condo) while she matures and goes on a mating flight.

This is a natural progression for beekeepers - they begin with hives and after they get comfortable keeping those, they make increase via splits. Eventually they try their hand at grafting. You can either sell the new queens, or use them for re-queening your own hives.

I know I have a few hobbyist beekeeper friends who follow this blog. What do you think? Should I do some queen rearing this season?

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Spring chores... done!

The temperature got up to 60+ degrees F today - a perfect day to do some bee spring chores! This is going to be a long post, because I did a lot today. Lots of pictures too - be sure to click on them to see them full size!

Sutton Hives

This morning I went over to the Sutton hives. You'll recall both hives died over the winter - one from Nosema, and the other from starvation. I needed to bring the hive parts back to my house to clean up in preparation for new bee packages which are supposed to arrive next week.

While I was loading the hives, I noticed that Hive #2 (the one started from a package last year) had a lot of honey stores in the upper brood chamber. But the (dead) cluster of bees was a little smaller than other hives I've seen. I am surprised that one died, but I suspect it had a lot to do with the number of bees going into winter. Because those hives aren't in my back yard, I think I didn't tend to them as much as the convenient ones.

I didn't take any pictures, because there was nothing exciting to see - just loading hive bodies into my pickup truck...

Then around noon I suited up and went through each of the two remaining hives in my backyard.

Pink Hive

I started with the pink hive, which was created late last year from a nuc that I grew myself. The bees were very busy bringing in pollen in this hive. Here are a few pictures I got before I started the inspection. Lots of good action shots!

This hive went into the winter with a deep, a medium, and a shallow. The medium was from the nuc (I needed some medium frames drawn out, so I put it on the nuc, and the queen used it for brood). The shallow contained frames of not-quite-finished honey from last fall. Since there was no queen excluder on the hive over the winter, the queen could go where she wanted.

I found lots of good bees in the top (shallow) box and in the middle (medium) box. Here are some pictures, first of a shallow frame, then of a medium frame:

You can see here the good amount of bees sitting on top of the medium frames when I lifted up the shallow:

I was hoping to see the queen, and I wasn't disappointed!

You can see she still has her blue dot from last year - this was a good queen, made it through the winter!!

I couldn't get any good pictures of it, but this queen had some nice brood patterns, and I saw eggs, larvae, and capped brood. It looks like she's gearing up for a good spring!

Even though this hive made it through the winter, it didn't do so without casualties. Here's what I found on the bottom board:

Those are all dead bees (the white is the paper from the bee candy I fed over the winter - some paper stuck to the candy, and bees don't eat paper). All in all this hive looked real good - lots of space, and no sign of swarming.

As I mentioned, the queen was laying up in the two upper supers. I want those to be empty for honey. So I put the queen in the lower box (which was pretty much empty), and put a queen excluder above her. As the bees in the top boxes are born, the freed-up space will be used for honey (since the queen can't get up there to lay).

I also decided to add to each hive one of the green Drone frames to help control Varroa mites. The queen lays drones in the larger cells, and Varroa mites are attracted to drone cells. After they are sealed, you freeze the frame and it disrupts the Varroa's mating cycle.

Brown Hive

This one didn't look as active as the pink hive. But still good activity out front.

When I opened up the top, I didn't see as many bees on the frames as the other hive:

But I saw lots of bees on a few of the frames I pulled out:

There were about 3 frames like this, but I was concerned at what I didn't see: no eggs, larvae, or brood to be found anywhere!

So I went on a queen hunt. I saw something which I wasn't sure was a queen, but I captured her and sure enough, it was a queen bee. But it wasn't the marked queen I had from last year, and it wasn't as large as normal queens. Could it be a virgin queen? I don't know how, since I didn't see any queen cell remnants (and I looked) and it's early for new queens. So I marked her (since I had her captured), and I'll keep an eye on things. When I look next week, if I don't see any eggs or the queen, I'll look into getting a new queen. Things just didn't "feel right" with that hive...

This hive had a similar looking bottom board - needed to scrape it out as well.

To finish things out, I put another pollen patty on each hive (even though they probably don't need it), and put on jars for sugar syrup feeding. Then I put an empty gray deep body shell over the jars.

Friday, April 8, 2011

On your mark... Get set,,,

I can feel it! Spring is right around the corner!

Lately it's still been pretty cool. The bees come out for a little on the warm days, but it's definitely not full-on spring... YET!

I spent some time tonight digging out some of my hive equipment I put away last year wherever I could find it. Most of it was in the garage (shown above).

I stored the empty frames of wax comb in large tubs where I added some PDB crystals (a type of moth ball which is not harmful to the bees or leave residue on the comb). I had a couple of frames show evidence of wax moth infestation (you can see webbing as the worm burrowed in the frame), but nothing the bees can't repair.

I also made up some sugar syrup with a 10 lb. bag of sugar:

I had a problem over the winter with one of my hives dying from Nosema, so I decided to add some Fumigilin-B to the syrup which will combat the Nosema. I generally try not to over-medicate, but in this case I believe adding the medicine it is waranted. Also, I'm going back to using mason jars for the feed. They don't hold as much as the buckets I tried last year, but at least the lid will seal well. The buckets were like big butter tubs, and the lid didn't hold a seal worth anything.

My plans this weekend are to get into the backyard hives and really give them a good looking over, assuming the temperatures cooperate. If it's too cold, I'll probably just pull a couple of frames to see how things look. In any case, I'll add some sugar syrup to the hives.

I also need to go out to the Sutton hives and bring them back for some cleaning. The package bees arrive in about a week, so I need to get those hives ready.

It's close!!

Friday, April 1, 2011

And the winner is...

Earlier this month I announced that I found an extra jar of honey from last fall, and I would give it away to someone who either followed my blog or "liked" my Facebook fan page.

I didn't gain that many extra followers. Here's what I have:

Followers of the blog: 54
Like'rs of my Facebook page: 84
Total people: 138

So I went to the web page, and generated a random number from 1 to 138. Here is the result:

117 is in the "Facebook" part of my list. So I went to the Facebook fan page and counted down 63 in the membership list.

And the winner is: Kimberly Lockley

Kim will receive the jar of fall honey.

Thanks to everyone mew who joined as a result. This was fun - I think I'll do something like this periodically (assuming I get any more honey this upcoming year).
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