Saturday, August 13, 2011

I spy three queens!

Did a quick inspection of the three backyard hives yesterday. Three weeks ago I saw some supercedure / emergency queen cells in the Brown hive, so I was interested in seeing if there is a new queen. The bee inspector last week said he saw larvae.

Brown Hive

I checked the honey super, and found some frames like this:

Of the 9 frames in the super, I would say 5 are ready to extract. The other 4 have some capped cells, but not enough finished for extraction. I think I'll pull the finished frames next weekend, as there are some in Sutton which are ready as well. Maybe next weekend will be the "sticky weekend" with some honey extraction!

Digging down into the brood chamber, I was pleased to see capped brood and larvae. Click on this picture to blow it up:

A couple of frames later I found the queen. She was a lighter colored unmarked queen, which means she was new (the previous queen was a darker queen, with a mark). So I snagged her, grabbed my trusty dusty white paint pen, and now she is sporting a white dot, which is all the fashion in Dudley!

Pink Hive

The Pink hive continues to ignore the honey super - it is bone dry. I decided to take out the queen excluder to see what will happen. If the queen gets up there and starts laying, that's no problem - I can put in the excluder to make sure the frames are emptied before winter (I would prefer not to go into winter with bees in a honey super).

Again, I was lucky enough to see the queen:

Remember I marked her with an orange dot, because I wanted to be able to tell her apart from the white dotted queen I tried to introduce into the hive a month or so ago in case it survived.

Green Hive

This hive is still in one brood box, and I need to start the hive on a second brood box in order to get it strong enough to make it through the winter. I checked, and the bees had filled out a few more frames with some good brood, and put up some honey as well. I also saw the queen:

I opened up the entrance to the medium size on the entrance reduced. I'll probably put the 2nd brood chamber on next week when I pull the honey from the other hives.

So it was a good inspection, with a winning hand - three Queens!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Lots of bees in Sutton

On Saturday I decided to pay the Sutton hives a visit. I was thinking in my head that it's been 3 or 4 weeks since I've been there, but checking this blog (which is my "official" record keeping device), I saw it had been 2 months since I was last there - sheesh!

So I wasn't sure what to expect. When I got there on Saturday afternoon, I was pleased to see lots of bees. Here are the hives before I started inspecting them:

Notice the left hive - see how the bees are kind of evenly spread out? I watched them, and the bees were performing an act called "washboarding." I took a video of them:

Nobody really knows why they do this - some say it's a cleaning act; others say it's just because they want to be doing something when they hang out on the hive. But it only happens with hives with lots of bees, where many of them have to hang out on the outside.

For the inspections, I decided to start with the right hive (hive #2) since it looked to have the most bees. I wanted to get the more difficult inspection out of the way first.

Sutton Hive #2

I checked the honey super first, not expecting them to have done much. Well, I was pleasantly surprised - they were putting up honey!

The first frame I saw only had honey on the left part of the frame:

It was interesting that the right side of the frame was completely empty! But I saw other frames with some capped honey. I suspect if I give them a few more weeks they will finish things off.

After looking at the top box, and pulling it off, I started the inspection with the bottom-most box. I pulled off the upper brood chamber, and it was heavy! After removing the box, this is what I saw:

Tons of bees! These hives always have a lot more bees than my backyard hives. I think it's because they sit out in the sun vs. my hives which are in the shade a lot of the day. That's the only thing I can see that I do different with the hives.

Inspecting this hive was very hard. There were so many bees, and they didn't like me making hash of their home. They were butting me a lot, and a couple even tried to sting my (gloved) hands (but to be fair, those were ones which may have been caught in my grip).

In the upper chamber, I found at least two frames full of capped honey, like this one:

Note that the picture isn't fuzzy because it is out of focus; that's a bee buzzing in front of the lens.

Also I saw some real good brood patterns:

I didn't see the queen, but I really have a hard time finding the queen in these hives, due to how many bees there are.

Here's the hive after I inspected it - the bees were a tad upset!

Sutton hive #1

This hive was a little calmer, and I saw less honey when I pulled out the first frame:

But the next couple of frames looked better. Here's a frame full of uncapped nectar:

And here's a fully capped one! Yay!

It was interesting to see that the bees had propolized the queen excluder a lot, to the point where there weren't many passages between the brood chamber and the honey super:

Again a good amount of bees in this hive (this is the top brood box):

And a good pattern of brood:

This was the hive that made a mess of brace comb in between the two brood chambers. I noticed as I was trying to lift up a frame in the upper box, that it felt like it was attached on the bottom. So I tilted up the upper brood box (after prying it up from the lower chamber) and this is what I saw:

What you are looking at is a lot of brace comb, built in between the frames of the two boxes. I suspect it's because there is too much space in between the upper and lower frames, that the bees are building comb in that space. The comb had either honey or drones in it. I felt bad that I destroyed some of their work by lifting up the box, but they'll have it repaired in no time. And I didn't scrape it off like I did last time, because you can see it made no difference...

I'll have to pay attention to my backyard hives to see how much space exists between the two brood chambers, and compare it with the Sutton hives. I may need to modify some of the brood boxes to help eliminate this problem.

I didn't spend a lot of time going through this hive - again, the bees were a little testy. But I was satisfied with what I found.

Overall these hives are doing great! I don't know what it is about the hives in this location - maybe there is plenty of forage for the bees to find. But they are thriving here.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Visit from the Bee Inspector

I had made a call to the State Dept. of Agriculture / Bee Division (I can't remember the real name) and asked for an inspection. Usually I wouldn't have to do that, since Ken W. would make the rounds to the local beekeepers every year to perform the inspections; but the State leaders, in their infinite wisdom, decided they didn't need to fund the inspection program enough to have Ken do this. It's a bad decision, since through Ken's activities, we keep disease minimized in the bee population, plus Ken provides input on how to improve your hives.

Anyway, my wife called Friday late afternoon and told me that Al, the bee inspector, showed up to inspect the bees. He is an older gentleman, and like Ken, he didn't use any suit or veil for protection when he inspected the bees. Tracy was out there talking to him, and a bee decided to give her the business. After getting caught in her shirt (she successfully let the bee escape without a sting), the bee decided to get tangled in her hair, and she got a sting right on the top of her head! She said she hadn't been stung for 10 years before that.

The hives are doing well, but the inspector did find some bees with symptoms of Deformed Wing Virus, which is an indication of Varroa Mite problems. I'll have to see what I can do about that. He also mentioned that the Goldenrod should be blooming soon, so the bees may bring in some more nectar. Otherwise the hives got a clean bill of health!

NUC inspection - so-so

Yesterday (Friday) I decided to go check out the little gray nuc that I moved out of my bee-yard since it was being robbed. It's been a little over 2 weeks since I moved the nuc, so I would expect the queen to have started laying (things being calm).

After popping off the top, I saw some bees hovering over a couple of frames in the nuc:

The first couple of frames (counting from the bottom of the nuc in the picture above) were pretty - empty. Plenty of places for the queen to lay. Unfortunately, also empty were any honey stores! I had put on a jar of sugar syrup 2 weeks ago, and it was empty. So these bees don't have enough to eat. Luckily I brought another quart bottle of sugar syrup to feed the bees.

I did see evidence of the queen laying. Here are pictures of a couple of the frames:

You can see some young larvae in the pictures above, so the queen is doing her job. The brood pattern really isn't good (you want a solid pattern, with few gaps); but I attribute that to the fact that they had no food - a queen won't lay if there isn't enough to eat.

I'll stop by every few days to feed the hive, and hopefully it'll take off.

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