Sunday, July 22, 2012

Finally Saw the Elusive Queen...

For the past few weeks, I've been seeing in the Grey Nuc evidence of a good queen - lots of eggs and larvae and brood. But I've never been able to see her. In a 5-frame nuc it shouldn't be so hard!

Well this weekend I didn't have time to do a long inspection, so I decided I'd just try to find that queen. It took me looking at each frame TWICE, but I finally found her, and was able to grab her and mark her with her own yellow dot. Here's a picture - see if you can see her (she is a little obscured by some other bees, but you can barely see her yellow dot - look for the bees grouping around the queen):

Here's a zoom in of that picture:

She's a real nice dark queen, probably descended from one of George's Carniolan queens.

So now all of the nucs have marked queens, except for the White Nuc which just received some frames last week. I gave that nuc a quick check, and didn't see any capped queen cells any more - hopefully there's a new virgin queen there. The bees were very jumpy and jittery, which means no queen.

The Green Hive is still working on a couple of supers for me, and I decided to add another super just in case the bees need more room to store honey (hint hint!). That hive still has tons of bees - this is what I found when I lifted up the outer cover:

Lots of bees, and I didn't even open up the hive proper yet!

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Inspection Sutton and Home - 7-14-2012

Sutton Hives

It's been over a month since I inspected the Sutton hives, so I decided to pay them a visit. Remember last time the hives had almost completely plugged up the queen excluder, which I think made the bees believe that it was the top of their hive, and they didn't put any nectar in the honey supers.

Well, a check today showed no change - still bone dry honey supers. Last time I used my hive tool to open up the excluder grate, but they closed them back up again. They were even desperate for places to put honey, that they built some burr comb right under the queen excluder and had filled it with honey!

At the Mass Bee field day there was a Brushy Mountain booth and there I bought a couple of plastic queen excluders to try.

Here is the before:

And here's the after:

I hope the bees figure out that there is an attic in their house! Sutton is usually a good location for honey collection.

Now on to the hives in my backyard.

Brown Nuc

Good pattern here:

I even saw the queen! (not too hard to do in a 5-frame nuc, usually):

Blue Nuc

Saw the queen (marked), and saw brood. Sorry no pictures of that nuc!

Grey Nuc

This nuc continues to struggle with a little bit of chalkbrood. See the white things here:

The white things are bee larvae with chalkbrood. So far it's not too bad - need to just trim away more of the foliage to give it more sun.

BUT... I did see eggs and brood, so it has a queen! Here's one of my favorite types of shots - shows the eggs along the bottom of the picture, then as you move upward you see successively older and older larvae. This shows how the queen lays eggs first in the center, then spirals around the edges.

Even with this evidence, I still wasn't able to find the queen. It shouldn't be hard in a 5-frame nuc, but she has eluded me...

Green Hive

One of the things about this hive is that they make a ton of propolis! It's a very hot day, and that stuff is like sticky putty glue. I had a hard time getting the inner cover off of the hive, and here's why. This is a shot of the top of the frames. Those peaks are where the gummy propolis pulled apart.

I didn't expect any surprises when inspecting this hive, but once again, what do I know. Here's what I found:

In the previous two pictures you can see lots of chewed out queen cells. It looks like this hive decided they needed a new queen. I don't think it swarmed, as you can see there are tons of bees still around:

But I didn't see any new eggs or brood. The picture two above you can see the older brood in the outside rim of a pattern. If there were a queen, she'd be laying in the newly freed up cells. So I suspect there may be a virgin queen running around. Got to give it more time.

I did find a few frames with what looked like unhatched queen cells on them. I decided to pull a couple of them, plus a frame of honey, and put them in the White Nuc. The White nuc was pretty much gone by then - only a couple handfulls of bees left. So I just added these frames to the nuc to see what they will do.

Brown Hive

Hallelujah! They finally started using the honey super! Here's one frame where they have started drawing it out and filling it.

This is the only one so far, so they have a ways to go.

Good brood in this one as well. Note that I've been "stealing" from the brown hive when I needed to move a frame of eggs and brood to the other hives. Since this one isn't putting away much honey, I can afford to steal some of the (future) workforce.

Pink Hive

Still no queen - stole a frame of eggs and brood from the Brown Hive to add. I did notice there weren't any more eggs being layed by the laying worker, so the frame of eggs and brood brought over from another hive did it's job of suppressing the urges of the laying workers.

So here's the tally of the Nuc status:
  • Brown Nuc - laying queen (marked)
  • Blue Nuc - laying queen (marked)
  • White Nuc - brand new with queen cells from Green Hive. Expect something around 3 weeks from now (Aug. 4 or so)
  • Grey Nuc - laying queen

I'll probably put an ad in CraigsList to sell one or more of my queens.

Here's a shot of the main hives, complete with bees hanging out on the front porch:

Inspection 7-04-2012

Happy Fourth of July!

This being a holiday from work, I decided to look into the hives in back. But first, my wife and I were out in the backyard in the morning the day before, and there were lots of dragonflies flitting around (we have lots of them). There was one flying around us and a certain plant - he/she would land on the plant for a few seconds, then take off.

I told my wife to stand by the plant and hold her hand out away from her body, and the dragonfly may land on it. Sure enough, it did. It stayed there about 10 seconds of so before going off on another adventure. Neat!

Nuc Checks

A quick check of the nucs revealed:
  • Brown Nuc - saw the queen and marked her (yellow dot).
  • Blue Nuc - no sign of a queen, but could be she isn't mated yet. Still need to give time.
  • White Nuc - still on the decline. I haven't done anything with it. Still trying to determine what I will do.
  • Grey Nuc - no queen, I moved a frame of eggs and brood from the Brown Hive to give it a boost.

Green Hive

The green hive has a ton of bees in it! The super on top is well on the way to being filled with honey. Here are some shots:

Still need to wait until more is capped.

While inspecting the hive, I accidentally caused some honey to spill on the top of some of the frames. I think it's real cute to watch the bees recover the spilled honey. They don't let anything go to waste!

Good brood pattern as well:

As I said,this hive has a ton of bees. This is after I was inspecting a couple of frames, and there were a bunch of bees on the frames. Made it a challenge to move things around.

Since the weather has been hot, the bees have taken to hanging out on the front porch each evening, and into the night.

Pink Hive

Opened up the Pink hive, and this is what I found - uh oh!!!

Another case of the dreaded Laying Worker! (*sigh*) I can't get a break. This is a different case than the swarm I captured in the white nuc - I didn't have much time/effort invested in that hive, so I wasn't worried about laying workers. But this is a full size hive. I decided to take Michael Bush's advice and add a frame of eggs and brood from another hive each week for a few weeks, and see if the hive would right itself.

Brown Hive

Earlier I had noticed that the Brown Hive had superceded her queen - either by a swarm or just supercedure, I am not sure. Well today I was able to find and mark the queen with her own yellow dot!

Lots of bees and good pattern in this hive, but to date they haven't touched the honey super.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Boy Scout Summer Camp

Wait - what is a post about Boy Scout Summer Camp doing in a beekeeping blog? You'll see...

We took 7 boys to Camp Joseph in Vermont for the week-long summer camp. My son was one of the youth, and I was one of the leaders. While at camp I made sure I made the rounds to see how the boys in the troop were doing in their Merit Badge classes.

One of the boys took Insect Study Merit Badge, and during morning announcements the merit badge counselor asked for another adult volunteer to go with him and his class on a field trip. He said they were going to visit a beekeeper! I raised my hand immediately; needless to say you didn't have to twist my arm to go. There were 2 visits to the beekeeper planned - one before lunch, and one after lunch.

So we set off to visit this older lady who keeps 3 hives on her farm. She gave the typical explanation of bees and bee equipment to the boys.

I told her I was a beekeeper, and contributed to some of the discussion (you know beekeepers can't keep their mouths closed!)

So I was set to do the same for the session after lunch, when the merit badge counselor got a call from the beekeeper. Apparently her mother-in-law had taken ill, and she and her husband would have to leave out of town immediately and the second session would have to be canceled.

Then she had an idea - she said that I could give the instruction to the boys during the second session, and was welcome to use her hives and equipment. That was fantastic!

One problem was that I didn't have any of my beekeeping gear with me. All she had were a few ratty old veils, so I used one of those. Here I am getting in the hives and showing the boys:

It was my first time getting into a hive in shorts and a T-shirt! The bees were nice, as the weather was very warm and most of the bees weren't in the hive. We didn't see the queen, as her hives were a little hard to work (it didn't appear she got in them a lot, and there were some damaged frames). But the boys were especially impressed when I grabbed a drone from the frame and brought it around showing them up close (after explaining that a drone can't sting!).

Here's a good shot of her hives with bees bringing in pollen:

Mass Bee Field Day - June 23

Every year the Mass Beekeepers Association sponsors a field day. This is an all-day activity held at the UMass Agronomy Farm in South Deerfield, MA. It's a hands-on geek fest for the beekeepers. I had missed the last couple of field days, but made a point to keep this weekend free.

The farm focuses on farm-type learning, and I took some pictures of the facility:

The program contained some basic and advanced topics - here's the program.

There aren't normally bee hives at the farm; members of the Mass Bee association brought in hives to use for the various programs.

There were a lot of people attending from all around the area, including NH and CT. I took a picture of this couple of beekeepers to show that we have "all kinds" of beekeepers :-)

There were 4 sessions offered, so I thought I'd talk about the ones I attended.

Hive Inspection 101

Ken Warchol gave a session on inspecting beehives. You'd think that would be one of the first things a beekeeper learns to do, but Ken focuses on what to look for during the various stages of the year.

I always enjoy Ken's presentations - he brings things down to earth.

My Hive Swarmed so Now What?

None of the offerings of the second session tickled my fancy, but I stopped in to listen to this one. The presenter was a Master Beekeeper, and there aren't too many of them around. She talked about what to do after a swarm - whether to re-queen, let them make a queen, etc. It appeared to be geared to beginners.

Over lunch they hold the annual Smoker contest. One of the more difficult things for beekeepers is keeping the smoker lit. This contest is for bragging rights!

Queen Rearing and Grafting

Dr. Callahan is a member of the Worcester Beekeepers, and I would put him in the "advanced" category. He has a PhD and knows a ton about bee physiology and lifecycles. His presentation was on how to graft and raise queens.
There are a variety of methods for raising queens, and I've read about most of them.

This is one of the 4-frame nucs that Dr. Callahan likes. He said he likes it because of the handles! It's plastic as well.

I like learning about new things. One of the things Dr. Callahan had was a special nuc used for "cell starting." This is where you put a nuc absolutely overflowing with bees, and no queen. Then when you put in the larvae, the bees are very good at starting the queen cells.

What is interesting about Dr. Callahan's nuc was that it was extra tall, and had screens over openings in the bottom part. This was so you can add a bunch of bees, and the bees won't overheat.

Here's the nuc with a Nicot queen rearing system, the system he uses.

I'd like to make one of these.

Using the Snelgrove Board

Roland Sevigny (also in my bee club) talked about using the Snelgrove board. I made one of these last year, but haven't used it yet. It was fascinating to listen to his ways of using it.

Since this is a farm, I thought I'd take some pictures of some of the livestock I saw. My son especially likes cows, and I was fascinated by the markings of the cows here.

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