Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Release the Queen!!

Blue Nuc

Today was the day I planned to release the new queen into the Blue Nuc. Quite anti-climactic; I removed the stick I had plugging the hole in the queen cage, and then set the cage down on top of the frames. A few seconds later, the queen walked out and went down into the hive. The bees were very excited to have a queen (I can just tell!). I didn't take any pictures...

I did notice that this hive was very light in stores. So I robbed a frame of honey from the Brown Hive (which was looking a little honey-bound) and added it to the nuc.

Brown Nuc

I gave the Brown Nuc a quick peek - Saturday I brought some frames with swarm cells on them. Sure enough, a queen had hatched:

One of the first things a new born queen does is go around and destroy any other (not yet hatched) queen cells. Usually you know this by seeing an empty queen cell which has been chewed through the side (when a queen hatches, she chews through the end). But this is the first time I've seen a queen cell chewed through with the poor queen still in there!

Grey Nuc

This is the nuc from which I "stole" the queen to give to the Blue Nuc. It looks like they are drawing out some queen cups, but I didn't see anything obvious for making a new queen. I'll give it some more time.

Pink Hive

I was expecting to see more brood in this hive, but was surprised to see just older brood. Some more examination found one of these!

It looks like this hive swarmed sometime earlier, and there is now a virgin queen in there (I didn't see her, since I wasn't expecting to need to look for an unmarked queen). Neither my wife or I have noticed any swarming activities (she is home most of the day), but both this hive and the Brown Hive have swarmed this year. Now I wait to see when the queen starts laying...

Green Hive

Still making honey, but not yet ready to take. Lots of nectar though. I had a shallow super which has some wax moth damage. I added it to this hive to let the bees clean it up.

Lots of changes in these last few weeks. I updated the "Queen Bee Heritage" link on the right side of this blog with the latest information.

We have some Salvia plants and the honey bees and bumble bees were all over it! Here's the best picture I was able to take - those darn bugs don't sit still on command!

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Inspection 6-09-2012 - The Bees Know...

I just checked, and the last time I was out at Sutton was 4/20, so I decided to go this weekend. It's kind of a hassle, since it's about 1/2 hour away. I need to put stuff in my truck that I may need, not knowing what I might find. It's not as convenient as just walking around to my garage to get what I need for my backyard hives!

Sutton Hive 1

Hive 1 had a honey super on it over a queen excluder, and based on last year, I was expecting it to be very heavy. But I was surprised - it was bone dry!

The bees had built some burr comb between the queen excluder and the top bars, but not too much

Here's the queen (on the brown wooden bottom rail; with an orange dot)

I was wondering why the bees didn't put any nectar/honey in the super. But I have a suspicion. Here is how I found the queen excluder:

This is an old style excluder, with wooden slats in between the bars of the excluder. It's not a problem, but just an older style. What may be a problem is that you see that bees had propolised up the spaces between the slats a lot. My theory is that the bees are considering the queen excluder as the "top" of their hive, and won't put nectar outside the hive.

I think I'm going to switch to the full grid queen excluders, like I have in my other hives.

Plenty of bees in this hive!

Sutton Hive 2

Saw a few bees just hanging out on the porch on this hive.

Same story here - no honey in the super; the queen excluder was almost closed up.

In the upper brood chamber, the first frame I pulled out weighed a ton! No wonder - it is packed full of honey!

Saw lots of bees, but I also saw this:

This is an opened queen cell. So it looks like this hive may have swarmed, and there is a new queen here.
I have terrible luck finding queens in the Sutton hives - they are so full of bees, and in the past had been a little nasty when I inspected frame by frame. I didn't see the queen in the upper chamber, which is where she usually hangs out.

But when I was inspecting the lower chamber, a couple of frames in I found her! See if you can spot her on this frame:

It was kind of comical - I wasn't expecting to find her, so I didn't have out any of my stuff for marking her. When I did find her, I was holding the frame in one hand, trying not to lose sight of her on the frame, while I was digging around my tool box getting out my marking supplies. Then I had to get her into the tube which wasn't easy. But I succeeded and now she is sporting a white dot!

In addition to the open queen cells, I found some queen cells which were ripe and not yet hatched. I decided to pull those (plus a few other frames) into the nuc which I brought, and take it back to my bee yard to see if I can get another queen out of the mix.

Brown Hive

Back at the homefront, I wanted to check out the Brown Hive. The last couple of inspection I found lots and lots of nectar, but no eggs. In fact, I took out a few frames of nectar (and gave them to some of the nucs) to keep that hive from becoming honey bound (where the cells are full of honey, and the queen has no place to lay). Again, I was concerned about the lack of a queen.

Here is one of the new frames I put in last week. Look at all that nice honey stored along the top, and the pollen also!

Then I found this (zoom in to see):

Eggs! This hive has a queen! I didn't see her, but then I didn't really look closely. I'll leave things be and check next time. But I am happy! That's why I labeled this post "The Bees Know" because I chose not to panic and go out and buy a queen bee for the Brown Hive (like I did last year). The bees know what they are doing...

Grey Nuc

The queen in the Grey Nuc continues to do well. Nice brood!

I did notice in almost all of my nucs evidence of a little bit of chalkbrood (look below at the cells with a white object in them).

These nucs sit at the edge of my yard, under some tree leaves. It is my theory that if a hive has a lot of moisture, they will develop chalk brood. These nucs don't get a lot of sun, and we've had a lot of rain.

The amount of chalkbrood is not excessive, so I'll keep an eye on things.

Here's the queen bee in the Grey Nuc, and behind her you can see lots of eggs. Yay!

Blue Nuc

Checking out the Blue Nuc, I found those same unhatched queen cells on the bottom of the frame, and no queen or eggs in the nuc. Definitely a bad situation.

So what could I do? I could buy a queen and put her in there. But I decided to do something different.

I decided to take the queen out of the Grey Nuc and install her into the Blue Nuc. The queen was laying eggs very well, and the bees in the Grey Nuc will discover that they are queenless, and make a queen out of one of those cells. Then in a few weeks they'll have a queen.

I took the queen and put her in a queen cage I had:

I didn't use candy to plug the hole, I used a stick. This way I can control when she is released (probably in a couple of days).

Here she is sitting on the Blue Nuc. I'll wedge her in between the bars to let the bees get used to her. It really won't be a problem, since this hive is queenless, and queenless hives are very accepting to queens.

Here are the Blue Nuc and the Brown Nuc (from the Sutton hive)

Inspection 6-01-2012 - Uh Oh!!

Blue Nuc

Took a peek into the Blue Nuc:

This is a frame of brood I brought over from another hive:

Still no sign of a laying queen.

White Nuc

I went into the White Nuc looking for the queen. Opening it up, didn't see too many bees on the top frames:

Then I found this! See if you can see what is wrong with this next picture:

Did you see it? If not, maybe this will help:

What you see here is evidence of something beekeepers don't want to see - a laying worker! What is happened is that the hive didn't have a queen. Sometimes one of the works spontaneously starts to produce eggs, and starts laying. But since the worker's abdomen is shorter than a queen bees, she can't place the egg in the center of the cell. Plus, she usually lays more than one egg in a cell (something a queen bee would never do). Add to the problem, these eggs are not fertilized, so they will develop only into drone brood.

This hive is doomed.

There are various things you can do to try to salvage a laying worker hive. Michael Bush has some good information on laying workers.

Since I don't have much invested in this hive, I am inclined to do nothing and just salvage the comb. It's a shame, but that's life.

Grey Nuc

The Grey Nuc is doing well - laying eggs, making' babies!

Green Hive

Last time I added a honey super, and was pleased to see they are starting to fill it:

I believe of all my hives, this one might give me some honey!

Inspection 5-26-2012

White Nuc

I had just put the swarm nuc (white) in my backyard a few days ago, and this weekend I had a chance to check it out closer.

I had originally the 2 frames in it, and you can see there a good number of bees in it.

I didn't see the queen, but I didn't look too closely. I'll let things settle in first. I added more frames.

Blue Nuc

The Blue Nuc was made up from some swarm cell frames from the Brown hive 2 weeks ago.

But I was surprised to see the same swarm cells on the bottom of the frame!

It is definitely past the time that those queens should have hatched. I'll give it more time, but I am not hopeful.

Grey Nuc

The bees were busy bringing in nectar on the Grey nuc - a good sign.

Then I saw what I was looking for on the next frame:

Do you see her? A nice new queen bee! I nabbed her and gave her a nice white dot!

I'll leave her there and let her do her thing.

Green Hive

Ah, the wonky comb (sigh)...

I verified that the queen was not there, and most of the drone brood was hatched. So I took out the frames, and put them on top of the hive (outside) so the bees can rob the honey from it.

Why can't they follow instructions like this? :

In the upper chamber, the bees stored a good amount of honey. So they are doing well.

Here's the white-dotted queen (I always like finding and taking pictures of the queen!)

And some good brood frames:

Again, this hive shows no inclination to swarm - good!

Pink Hive

Right after the winter I swapped brood chambers on the pink hive. It's not something I usually do, but I tried it to see if it made any difference. Up until now, the brood has remained in the lower chamber.

This week I noticed the beginnings of the brood cluster moving into the upper chamber. Here's a frame from the top chamber. You can see in the lower part the arc of brood just starting.

Brown Hive

The Brown Hive is bringing in lots of nectar. No evidence of a queen (yet).

A Swarm Call!!

As I was driving home on 5/22 I got a call on my cell phone: "Hi, my name is so-and-so, and I've got a swarm of bees in my pine tree!" I have my name out on a couple of bee removal web pages as someone willing to capture a swarm. I was literally 10 minutes away from where this person lived, so I swung by to take a look.

Sure enough, there was a honey bee swarm in the tree!

It was about 20 feet up in the tree in their yard - pretty easy to get to. The owner said the bees had been there since Sunday, so only 3 days.

So I arranged with the owner to come by the next evening with all the things needed to capture the swarm. Luckily the homeowner had an extension ladder that I was able to use, so I didn't have to bring one myself.

I decided to bring a nuc box, since I think the swarm was small enough to fit easily.

So I set the ladder up to get to the swarm (we just laid the ladder right into the tree - it supported me fine).

Here are a couple of closeups of the swarm.

So I had my pruners, and first pruned off the branch on the outside of the swarm. Unfortunatey when I did that, the branch moved a little and about 1/3 of the bees "fell off" of the swarm. I had to wait a few minutes until most of them regrouped.

Here I am with the swarm cut off:

So here's the technical part: I sprayed them with some sugar water to keep them occupied, then gave a big "shake" over the box and the bees dropped in.

Here you can see the little bit of comb they had built on the branch.

There were still a bunch of bees flying around, so I decided to leave the nuc at the base of the tree overnight, and then stop by the next night (after dark) to pick it up and bring it back to my house.

This is the first time I've done this, and it was surprisingly fun. But then the swarm was easy to get to.

Free bees!

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