Sunday, September 9, 2012

Quick Check, and Woodworking

This weekend I did a quick check of the Pink Hive to make sure the bees had worked on the newspaper. It was almost gone, so I removed all of the other pieces; why make the bees do more work than necessary?

I also noticed that the bees were bearding a lot on the Blue Nuc. That's because the queen is doing her job of laying, but with only 5 frames, there is limited space.

So I decided to take a frame of capped larvae and bees from the Blue Nuc and transfer it to the Pink Hive. You can do that as nurse bees don't fight. I found one which was absolutely full of capped brood! I took an empty frame from the Pink Hive to put into the Blue Nuc to give the queen lots of space to lay. In a few days the Pink Hive will have extra bees available.

I am planning on overwintering the Blue Nuc. I want to get a "super" of deep frames full of sugar syrup honey when I start feeding.

I decided to build a 5-frame deep super for that nuc (I already have a 5-frame medium super). So I dusted off my table saw and went to work.

I reaffirmed something that I always knew - I suck at woodworking! I made generally straight cuts with the table saw, but it wasn't anything that I'd show to be proud of! It probably took me twice as long (at least) as it should have. I don't do it enough nor do I have a dedicated space - it's not a priority right now. But it is functional, and that's what the bees need.

After a couple coats of paint, all is well!

Monday, September 3, 2012

Even More Strangeness!

Since I had labor day off, I took some time to visit both bee yards for inspections.This is a long post with lots of pictures.

Sutton Hive #1

So last week I found a new queen in Sutton Hive #1, plus some supercedure cells. I wanted to go out the next week to see what was new.

Again, this hive doesn't look good - not too many bees in evidence when I popped the top:

I pulled out some frames, and saw the queen I saw last time (look for her on this picture). But I did not see a lot of brood:

So I pulled the next frame, and got a shock. See if you can see why:

In case you missed it, the next frame also had a queen on it - a queen marked with an orange dot (I used orange last time I marked a queen in this hive because I didn't have my yellow pen).

Now I always learned that there was exactly one queen per hive; but this hive decided to be different. I believe the orange queen is the mother of the yellow queen.

In any case, I saw very little brood. I moved over a frame of brood and bees from Hive #2 to give this hive a little boost. I decided not to do anything to this hive (i.e. take out one of the queens). I want to let the bees decide how they want to fix things up. Hopefully this hive can recover and build up for the winter.

It's very strange why we have a (supposedly) good queen, but no brood. I noticed that the bees were somewhat lethargic - maybe the bees got into some pesticides or something bad.

Sutton Hive #2

Taking off the outer cover, I saw plenty of bees here.

Where hive #1 is struggling, this hive seems to be making up for it. Look at the full frame of brood here!

I'll check back later to see if this hive finishes off some honey for me!

Back at the home front, I inspected some of these hives as well.

Brown Nuc

This nuc was making it's own queen, and last time I checked I didn't see any eggs. Well, today was different.

Lots of bees on the top bars:

And I saw a really good laying pattern for this queen!

So this nuc is doing very well.

One thing happened which was interesting: I accidentally blocked the front entrance with a frame, so the incoming bees were a little confused. After the inspection when I put everything together, the bees were all filing in. Here's a picture of bees with a lot of pollen on their legs (I think it's goldenrod):

White Nuc

The white nuc is doing well:

Grey Nuc

I have a mini honey super on this nuc, but they aren't putting anything of note in there (didn't think they would, but I had it so why not try).

This is my favorite nuc - the queen is doing well!

Here she is:

I accidentally blocked the front of this hive too (I need to work on that...) and the foragers were returning with the same orange pollen:

Pink Hive

The Pink Hive was queenless last time I checked, but I was hoping it could raise a new one.

Not too many bees on the top bars:

And one last check of all the frames (wasn't too difficult with so few bees) found zero eggs, no queen, and no new brood:

So I decided to use one of those nucs I had as "insurance" for a good cause - I did a newspaper combine of this pink hive with the white nuc. I consolidated all of the frames with bees in it in the lower box, and put the frames from the white nuc in the upper box. In between the upper and lower box I put a sheet of newspaper with a few slits cut in it:

The newspaper prevents the bees from immediately mixing, so they have time to get used to each other.

By the time the bees eat through the newspaper, they will be one happy hive.

Brown Hive

I put a "wet super" on this hive after last month's extraction (meaning I just put the frames back on the hive), and while it was a little heavy, they hadn't capped anything. You can see down the edge of the frames here:

The queen in this hive continues to rock! I didn't see her (didn't look too much), but saw lots of brood:

... and lots of eggs and young larvae!

When I was putting the hive back together, I got a kick out of a few bees "scenting" - they are fanning a scent from glands in their body telling other bees that here is home. This happens a lot when you take apart a hive - the bees help others find their way back home.

Green Hive

Good evidence of a queen in the green hive.

So here's the status of all of the hives:
  • Sutton #1 - strange 2 queens, not doing well
  • Sutton #2 - doing well
  • Brown Nuc - doing well
  • White Nuc - combined with Pink Hive (nuc is no more)
  • Grey Nuc - doing well
  • Brown Hive - doing well
  • Pink Hive - combined White Nuc with this hive
  • Green Hive - doing well

One interesting thing - when I did the combine of the White Nuc with the Pink Hive, it was done during the day when there were lots of field bees out foraging. Well, they came back to a missing home! Needless to say they were very confused. When I was done inspecting the other hives, I found a lot of field bees (as evidenced by the pollen on their legs) had landed on top of the Grey Nuc (which was next to the White Nuc):

Don't feel too bad about these bees - generally field bees returning with pollen and nectar are accepted into any hive (bringing food? come on in!). So these bees will be "adopted" by another hive, probably the grey nuc.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Strangeness At Sutton

I made it out to the Sutton hives to give them an inspection.

Sutton Hive #1

Right off the bat this hive didn't look normal. There were fewer bees flying in and out than the other (one of the benefits of having 2 hives in the same location - you can compare and contrast).

The hive did have a lot of honey in it in the lower box - here's the end frame that the bees have kept full all summer. It was heavy!

But the honey super was bone dry. With so few bees, it makes sense that they haven't put up any honey in the upper super.

A couple of frames in I found a couple of queen cells! These aren't swarm cells, but are supercedure cells. You can see that there isn't much brood, so I don't know if there is a queen.

The question of whether there was a queen or not was solved on the next frame. See if you can spot her:

I snagged her and gave her a nice yellow dot!

I'm not sure how long she has been here. Hopefully she will start laying - there aren't too many (if any) eggs and larvae in this hive.

Sutton Hive #2

This hive had a pretty heavy honey super, but checking the frames, they aren't ready for extraction - they aren't capped yet:

I'll leave it for more processing - hopefully I can get some late fall honey from this hive.

This hive also had a good couple of frames full of honey in the upper super. Here's the outermost frame:

There was a good brood pattern - this frame shows the center part where bees recently were born, with the outer edge still with capped larvae. The queen can/will lay in those empty parts.

I didn't see the queen, but saw plenty of new eggs and larvae, so I know she is here:

Overall, hive 2 is doing well. Hive 1 is going to have to kick it up to make it ready for the winter.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

A Bountiful Harvest

I knew the bees in my backyard were going to bless me with some honey this year. I've seen it on the hive, but wanted to wait until my wife's parents came in to watch me / help. The weekend of 8/18 they came to town and I did the extraction. Here are some pictures with commentary.

I ended up pulling off about 25 frames, a mix of medium and shallows.

I love the way the cappings just fall off in sheets when I cut them.

Honey coming out into my double filter setup.

It was a real dark amber color. There was so much of it I had to drain some out into bottles in the middle of extracting things!!

There were a lot of cappings. I made a mistake of using my wife's good potato masher, and we wanted mashed potatoes the next night...

Here I'm draining the cappings.

All in all I got around 64 pounds by my calculations! I use Ball jars for my honey, and quickly ran out of what I had on hand. I had to use quart and half-gallon jars as temporary holding jars until I could buy more! The bees weren't bad, but I did get 2 stings during the taking of the honey (from the Brown hive).

Setting out the extractor and the cappings for the bees to reclaim.

Since my wife's parents were here, I couldn't pass up the opportunity to take them out back to view the hives.

I told them to put on something with long sleeves, and got them set up with simple veils.

We decided to check out a nuc, since there aren't that many bees. But this is one of my favorite nucs, and there were quite a few bees to see.

Bob was really interested in the bees. He keeps a type of aquarium fish (as a breeder and hobbyist). While he was here for a week, he read a bunch of my beekeeping magazines and books, and asked a lot of good questions. He also helped a lot with the honey harvest.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

The Swarm is Gone

The swarm that occurred on Monday afternoon has been sitting in the tree limbs... until now. When I got home from work today I saw that the swarm was gone, and moreover, it didn't take up residence in any of my swarm traps / empty hives :-( Oh well, someone (or something) has new bee neighbors...

I am still not sure where that swarm came from. I suspected it was either the Green Hive or the Brown Hive (the only two full-size hives which have queens). I suited up (in 85 deg heat!) to do a quick "tip check" on those two hives. A tip check is where I tip up the top brood box and look for queen cells along the bottom of the frames in the top brood chamber. That's where a majority of the swarm queen cells are made. I was looking for recently hatched queen cells.

Well, the Green Hive has 3 honey supers on it, and so it's a chore to take them off. Two of them are full of honey, and therefore heavy. But I took them down and didn't see any queen cells on the tip check. The Brown Hive was easier to do since it only had one honey super - again, no queen cells. But boy the Brown Hive was again nasty. I'm going to let things be until I extract honey on the 18th, and then I'm going to go on a search-and-replace mission for the queen. I've got 3 maybe 4 queens to choose from to replace her (one of the reasons I made up these nucs). Saves me $20+ when I need to requeen!

Since I was suited up, I decided to do two things.

First, I wanted to put a "mini-super" on the Gray Nuc. This is the nuc with the nice dark queen, and it seems to have the most amount of bees. The super was decorated by my son a year or so ago - he drew a bee on it. Last time I put the super on a nuc, I didn't have a queen excluder. The queen got up and used the top box as a brood chamber too. The only problem is that the mini-super uses medium frames, while the rest of the brood chambers used deeps. So when it came time to combine that nuc with a full size hive I needed to add more medium frames, and it took until spring until I could get the frames cleared out from brood to be available for honey.

This time I purchased a plastic queen excluder that I cut down to fit the nuc. I don't know if the bees will put up any honey (a nuc doesn't have that many bees), but it's worth a try. If nothing else, it'll give the bees somewhere to go. Anyway, here's the nuc:

I think it's cute!

The other thing I wanted to do was to find the queen in the White Nuc. I saw ample evidence of the queen, but never saw her. This time I paid more attention, and sure enough, she was on the last (outside) frame. She is again a dark queen, but not as dark as the Grey Nuc (sorry, no pictures - forgot to grab the camera). She now sports a stylish yellow paint dot like her sister queens!

I still need to make a trip out to Sutton to check out those hives. Maybe this weekend or some other time when it isn't raining.

Blog Widget by LinkWithin