Saturday, July 30, 2011

Green Check

The hives were doing well last time I checked, except for the Brown hive, which I am purposefully leaving alone so it can complete the process of making a new queen.

But since it's Saturday, it doesn't feel like a weekend unless I do *something* with the hives! :-)

So I suited up (just the coat & veil - I was otherwise wearing shorts) and took a quick peek at the Green hive around 5:30PM tonight.

The hive had finished off the jar of sugar syrup, and during the inspection I noticed lots of nectar in the frames, so I decided not to add more syrup. There are plenty of foragers anyway. Next time I inspect, I'll make sure there is still enough food there. I also saw some good brood patterns - a frame almost fully filled with capped brood. Plus I was lucky enough to see the queen (she was on the 2nd frame I pulled out - I have good luck finding the queen in hives with a single brood chamber!). There are a couple of frames totally empty, just waiting for the queen to lay, so I don't need to add a 2nd brood chamber.

So I took off the empty upper chamber (which was just covering up the syrup jar) and buttoned things up for next time. Here's the Green hive:

I also took a peek in the new honey super I put on last week. In my hopes and dreams, the bees will have pulled out all the wax foundation and well on their way to filling it up with honey. Reality is another story - it looked like they haven't touched it. Oh well....

I'll probably go out to Sutton this week - it's been a couple of weeks since I've been out there. Don't want to leave them alone too long, in case I need to take some action. I'll also stop by and see the Gray nuc, to see how it is coming along. Hopefully being all calm and isolated, the queen can start laying.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Inspection 7-24-2011 (still HOT)

Took some time around 5:15PM to inspect the backyard hives today. The thermometer said 68 degrees, but when you are in a bee suit, it's still hot! I use a Nike terry-cloth headband, so it absorbs the sweat to keep it from dripping down in my eyes; but you still sweat like a son-of-a-gun. I wear kitchen gloves, and they fill with sweat when I am through, and my clothes under the suit were soaked!

Green Hive

I was interest to see how this hive was progressing. I put a jar of feed on last week, and this hive was strong enough to keep out the robbers. When I pulled off the top cover, they still had a couple of inches of syrup to go:

Under the inner cover was a pretty good collection of bees, given this was a week old hive made from a nuc.

I like to judge how well a hive is doing by how many bees I see on the top bars when I open up the hive (before smoking, since smoking chases the bees down).

On the frame below, if you look (enlarged) in the upper left area, you can see eggs and young larvae:

I saw the queen (didn't bother to take a picture), and I also saw a frame of good brood:

So this hive is doing fine.

Pink Hive

The honey super on this hive is dry as a bone. Don't know what it will take to get them to put some honey in there! There was some good honey in the upper brood chamber though, so they aren't hurting for food.

Found the queen on this one. It has the orange dot I put on her (to differentiate from the queen I tried to install a couple of weeks ago, which had a white dot).

There was also a foundationless frame they continue to build up:

They are making this frame  large cell comb, which they are using for drone cells.

But I did see something strange on one of the frames - a swarm cell:

It looked like it was kind of old, so I debated on whether I should pull off this frame and a few others for a nuc. In the end I decided not to. I pulled off this swarm cell, and it was old and dry, not viable. Good thing I didn't go to the trouble of making a nuc that had no chance of success.

I noticed in the bottom box some new undrawn foundation that I had put in many weeks ago. The bees had done nothing with drawing out the comb, so I replaced them with drawn comb (left over from the old green hive). This'll give the bees more room to lay.

Brown Hive

This hive continues to almost finish off some of the frames of honey:

They've been "almost" for many weeks now - I can't seem to get them to finish them off!

I was reading some of the posts on Beesource and found an interesting comment on someone with my same problem with honey supers. The person said that the bees won't finish off the frames if there isn't more space for more honey. So I decided to add a super to the hive. Other local beekeeper friends are pulling in honey left and right, so I suspect it's still out there

I also read that to encourage the acceptance of a new super (of undrawn comb), you should spray it with sugar syrup so that it is dripping off. So that's what I did.

When adding a super, you can either "top" super or "bottom" super. Top supering means adding the empty super on top of the existing super; bottom supering involves adding the empty super underneath the existing super(s). People have opinions one way or the other, and there is no clear consensus (just like much of beekeeping). Since I had the existing super off anyway, I decided to bottom super - give them the empty space closer to the bottom entrance.

While I was examining this hive, the bees were really giving me grief. They were a lot of bees flying in my face and buzzing angrily - almost as if there were no queen (cue ominous music).

Lots of bees on the top bars of the bottom chamber - a good sign:

But... when I was inspecting the top box, I found quite a few supercedure cells on multiple frames:

And then on the back of the same frame, I found supercedure cells which are opened:

I also didn't see any new eggs or young larvae, nor did I find the (marked) queen. I suspect the queen is gone (I don't know why). But they made supercedure cells, so there could be a virgin queen running around.

So I'll keep an eye on the hive, to see if a queen develops in a few weeks.

Here's the apiary as it stands now:

I chuckled that the hives are increasing heights. Reminds me of the old AT&T wireless advertising:

Thursday, July 21, 2011

The (not so) big move!

So I have this poor nuc, which can't catch a break. I put a jar of sugar syrup on it last week, and my Brown hive robbed the heck out of that nuc! I know that excessive robbing can disturb the (robbed) hive so much it can abscond or the queen could even get killed. I decided to close off the nuc for a day or so to let things calm down, but when I opened it back up, the robbing continued.

I asked the guru's of Beesource for their advice, and one guy suggested relocating the nuc somewhere away from my strong hive for a while, until it grew strong enough to defend itself. I thought that was a great idea!

Now, where to put the nuc? I couldn't put it at Sutton with the other 2 hives I manage, since it would probably get robbed by those hives just the same. We knew a member of the church who lived about a mile away, but they just moved. It would have been a perfect place! I couldn't think of anywhere relatively close, so I asked my wife (who is tied in more with local friends) if she knew someone who wouldn't mind hosting my nuc on their property for a few weeks.

She thought for a while, and then she remembered a friend (who happened to be a former teacher of my youngest son) who lived about 1 1/2 miles away. She contacted her, and this friend said she'd have no problem hosting the nuc. Great!

I took off the (now empty) syrup jar and the upper hive body surrounding it, and put on the regular cover. Then I bungee corded the lid, in preparation for the trip. Here's the nuc ready for travel!

But before I buttoned it up, I decided to check it out. I found the queen, but no new eggs or larvae. Just capped cells from the frame I brought over a week or so ago. Here's the queen:

I suspect that the queen hadn't started laying due to all of the problems this nuc had - the robbing, and the corresponding lack of resources (since it was robbed out).

Here's the nuc in the back of my wife's van ready for the short ride to the new location:

Notice I put the nuc in so that the frames are in line with the direction of travel. This minimizes the sloshing of the frames, which could damage the queen.

We got to the new location and picked a good out-of-the-way location for the nuc. Take a look at this satellite view of the property - I added a red arrow where we stuck the nuc - right along a tree line, out of the way:

I set the nuc back up, and put on a jar of sugar syrup. I also put a bowl of water (with wood pieces floating in it) in case the bees need something to drink.

Here's hoping the nuc can prosper in this calm area and get nice and strong!! I'll check back in a couple of weeks or so.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Inspection 7-17-2011 (HOT)

I was at Boy Scout summer camp all last week, so I had to leave my babies to their own devices. Would they survive without me being there?

Kidding aside, the day before I left (last Sunday)  the bees in the gray nuc hadn't released the queen yet. I didn't necessarily want to go and manually release her last Sunday, since it was only a couple of days since I introduced the queen. So I hoped that the bees would release her on their own time. The person who sold me the queen used actually marshmallow for the candy, and he had never done that before. I wasn't too comfortable with being the guinea pig test for marshmallow!

The weather during the last week was pretty warm, but it rained a little on Wednesday. It was quite warm today, so I decided to wait until around 5:30PM when it would be cooler, right? Well, even though the thermometer said it was only 69 degrees, dressed in a beekeeping suit made it very hot! I was a ball of sweat when I got through! Anyway, here's what I found:

Blue Nuc

It's do or die for this nuc. It has been plenty of time to see if they made a queen. I checked the nuc - no queen, few bees. There were also no bees coming and going in the nuc. So I decided to combine this with the White Nuc (see below).

White Nuc

This hive had some good traffic in and out during the week, and I felt it was time to transfer this into a full-size hive. I check the hive, saw they had some good stores, and saw the queen. So I brought out the pieces to the Green Hive and set it up on the hive stand (which had only 2 hives up to now). I also added in the frames from the Blue Nuc since it was failing. Now I have 10 frames in the Green Hive. Welcome to the world!

That hive was light on stores, so I decided to feed it some sugar syrup. I also added a pollen patty, which should encourage the queen to lay more. This hive needs to build up well to be strong enough to make it through the winter.

Here's a picture of my (now complete) hive stand:

The top level of the green hive is just an empty super covering up the feeding jar.

Gray Nuc

Remember that this was the nuc which experienced some robbing a week or so ago. I checked the nuc, and didn't find any eggs or larvae. The queen cage was empty (the bees had eaten through the candy - yay!) but I didn't see the queen. I also didn't see any honey in the frame at all - nada, and saw lots of pieces of wax in the bottom of the nuc - definitely a sign of robbing. Sigh - another failure. I was going to combine this nuc with another hive, and decided to check one more time for the queen. Upon rechecking, I did spot her! I think the hive didn't have enough resources for the queen to start laying.

So I decided to give them a boost - I added a frame of brood and bees from the White Nuc, added a pollen patty, and decided to feed some sugar syrup. Hopefully this will let the queen start laying eggs. Here's what things look like for this nuc:

I used the body of the blue nuc to cover the feeding jar. I also taped up the inner cover hole to keep other bees from coming in and robbing.

I didn't have time to check the Pink Hive or the Brown Hive - I'll do that later.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Inspection 7-09-2011

The weather was very nice today, and I had a chance to inspect all of the backyard hives.

Brown Hive

This is by far the most populous hive in my backyard.  Here's what greeted me in the bottom box:

(the gap is where I had already removed a frame for inspection). I did a quick check of the brood chamber and saw lots of young larvae (zoom in and look at the lower left part of the frame):

as well as some good capped brood on a different frame:

This hive's been working on filling up a honey super for about a month!

They have about 6 frames like this, some more or less capped. There are 4 frames with no activity - not even drawing out the foundation. Another bee friend said she encourages her bees to draw out a honey super by spraying it with a diluted honey and water mix. I had about 1/4 cup of honey left in one of my jars, so I mixed it with some water, put it in a sprayer, and sprayed the undrawn comb.

I also decided to rearrange the frames to pout the undrawn frames in the middle of the box, since bees like to fill from the center outward. Well, a couple of the frames are drawn out way past the edge of the frame space, into the next frame (one of the undrawn frames was in that place). Rearranging things, I can no longer get all 10 frames back into the super! So I will be running this super as a 9-frame super. I spaced out the frames manually - maybe I'll have to get one of those 9 frame spacers.

Pink Hive

Lots less bees here, compared to the brown hive. That's to be expected, since it swarmed last month. Here's the top brood chamber:

You'll recall that I introduced a new George queen to this hive, and later I figured out it probably already had a queen in it. I was interested in seeing which queen is there. Well, I found out:

If you can't spot the queen, check this version of the picture.

Notice she doesn't have a white dot, and is a lot paler than the Carniolan queens George has. That means this was the queen that was already in the hive, and in all likelihood, the workers killed the foreign queen. That makes me sad - queens are a precious commodity in beekeeping; plus I shelled out cold hard cash for that replacement queen! Luckily I caught myself before doing the same on the White Nuc.

I snagged this queen, and marked her. But I used an orange paint pen, on the off chance the other queen is still in the hive and marked with white (orange isn't an official bee color, so if I see an orange marked queen, I'll know I did that).

Also, the honey super on this hive is bone dry (and undrawn). I did the spray on these frames as well. We'll see how this works...

Blue Nuc

Last time I saw that this nuc was low on food. I was going to feed some sugar syrup, when my friend Tom from work said, "I thought you took out some honey frames from your honey-bound hive. Why don't you give them one of those frames?" Duh...

So that's what I did. By doing this, I'll save from having to spin out those frames to make them empty as well!

Gray Nuc

This is the nuc with the newly purchased queen in the queen cage. They still hadn't released her - if they haven't by tomorrow evening, I'll let her out. The beekeeper who sold her to me said he was trying out using an actual piece of marshmallow. I'll have to let him know it looks like the bees aren't eating it...

I also added a frame of honey/nectar from the honey-bound hive as well.

White Nuc

Still doing well here. Sometime in a week or so I'll move it to the main hive stand and make it the new "Green Hive."

Interesting followup later on this afternoon: I looked out back and saw a ton of bees on the face of and going in and out of the Gray Nuc. I also saw a large cloud of bees going in and out of the Brown Hive. I recognized this scene - robbing! The brown hive smelled the fresh frame of honey I put in the gray nuc, and they wanted it for themselves! Even though the nuc has a small hole, there really aren't enough bees to protect it.

So I went to the gray nuc and spun the entrance disc to the closed (vented) position, effectively closing off the bees from coming and going. Let me tell you, the marauding bees were not pleased! Here's a picture from a couple of minutes after:

The picture doesn't really do it justice, so I made a video. Take a look (and listen):

The bees were also going after the Blue Nuc, but not as much. I went to my garage and cut a piece of 1/8" hardware cloth and duct taped it to the hive, blocking the entrance.

So tomorrow after Church I'll re-open the entrances, and see if the other hives leave things alone. Usually after a day or so the robbing stops.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Expensive mistakes?

I'll explain the title in a moment.

As I mentioned before, the white queen castle (now reduced to 6 frames in a single nuc) doesn't have a queen. I've been watching it for a couple of days, and see bees coming and going. I felt sorry for them, seeing them do all that work for nothing (with no queen). I thought I might recombine the nuc with one of my established hives, to prevent the bees from just dwindling down and dying.

Well, I saw a Craigslist post from a beekeeper not too far from work who was selling local queens for a good price. So I thought I would buy a queen from him, and get that nuc up and running as a hive. Problem solved! I didn't think that the bees there could wait for a new queen to be made if I should just bring over a new frame of eggs.

So I met Matt Smith, who has a remarkable queen rearing yard in his backyard in Lincoln, MA. Here are some pictures I took of his bee-yard:

In the first couple of pictures you can see Matt getting in the nuc and caging the queen I bought from him. Talk about fresh! At least I know she hasn't been sitting in the queen cage for days!

A lot of his hives and nucs are made of whatever wood he had, plus he buys rough cut wood for some hives. He said he focuses on queen rearing instead of honey (it's hard to do both with the same hive resources). If you need a queen and are near Lincoln, MA, drop Matt a note. He said he is a reader of my blog.

Anyway, I got home this evening and went out to the white nuc to install the queen.

So I pulled out the first frame, looked at it, and what did I see? BROOD AND EGGS and a big ol' fat queen walking around! See if you can spot the queen in the picture below:

If you can't find her, click here to see a version of the photo above where I circled her.

So I snagged her with my marking tube, and put a nice white dot on her:

OK, so now we have a situation: I have a queen with no hive for her.

So I thought I'd steal some bees and frames from the Pink hive and make a nuc.

I opened up the Pink hive, and the top brood box had no eggs or brood in it. OK, I'll check in the lower box. In there I found a lot of brood, and some of it was capped. That was strange, because according to bee math, the new queen I introduced over the weekend couldn't have laid those eggs (bees are capped at 9 days after the egg is laid).

(*sigh*) So it looks like the Pink hive may have already had a queen too, when I introduced George's queen (which I purchased...). I did a quick check through the frames of the Pink hive, and didn't see a marked queen (or an unmarked one at that). It was getting dark, so I am going to check another time (probably not this weekend - I want to let that hive build up without my messing with things).

I ended up pulling out some bees with frames (and no queen - at least that I could tell), and put them in a new nuc. Here's a shot of the nuc with the new queen cage suspended, so the bees can let her out:

So here's the new Gray Nuc (left) sitting next to the Blue Nuc (right):

Also, I took a quick peek in the Blue Nuc and those bees had eaten almost all of their honey. So I'll put a jar of sugar syrup on the hive this weekend for food.

By the way, look at this cute frame of new comb (on a foundationless frame) from the Pink hive!

So, back to the title. It may end up that I didn't need to buy any queens for my hives. I don't know if I didn't wait long enough to check, but I thought I did. Live and learn, but some lessons are expensive.

One of my co-workers suggested I keep a history of where my queens come from. So I added a link "Steven's Bees Heritage" in the right column, a spreadsheet of my hives and their queens. I'll update the spreadsheet as the hives/queens change.

P.S. I know I'm going to hear from Tom: "See what happens when you  mess with things? You should just leave them alone." He had a point in this case...

Monday, July 4, 2011

She's Free!

On Saturday morning I decided to give a quick peek in the Pink hive, to see if they had let out the queen. I had put the queen cage in on Thursday, and it could happen. Well, this is what I found:

The queen cage was empty, with the candy plug eaten away! So the queen is in the hive, and hopefully she'll start laying. I didn't do an inspection on that hive, since if you disturb a hive too soon after introducing a new queen, they might take it out on her. I'll check things next weekend.

I also checked the Blue Nuc. In there was a frame of eggs I had moved from the Brown hive, and last week I noticed a couple of queen cells were built (which was the intent).

I thought to try to get two queens out of the deal, but instead of cutting out the extra cells (which apparently didn't work last time), I was just going to cage the queen.

I made a simple cage out of 1/8" hardware cloth, that you press down in the comb. Here are a couple of pictures:

So I wanted to put this cage around one of the queen cells, and then after both queens were born, one would be in this cage that I could move to the other nuc.

But when I checked the nuc, I noticed the queen cells were on comb which had some holes in it, so the cage wouldn't have kept in the queen. So I don't think it will work.
Blog Widget by LinkWithin