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.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Swarm... ?

Throughout the year, I've seen evidence of my hive having swarmed - namely queen cells which are hatched, and new queens which are unmarked. Each time I haven't seen any physical evidence of a swarm, e.g. when they are actually leaving the hive. At the Mass Bee field day one of the instructors said it's easy to miss the actual swarming event, as it can occur in a 5 minute timeframe.

This afternoon my wife called me at work, and mentioned she was outside and was looking up at a low flying helicopter. She just happened to notice a dark mass in the leaves of the tree waaaay up high, and sure enough, it was a swarm of bees! They were in a tree directly over where my hives sit.

Here are some pictures she took - some with the telephoto lens.

Just my luck, it was about 70 feet up in the air - too high to capture. I got home around 6:30 and expected the swarm to be gone, but it was still there.

She wasn't sure which hive threw the swarm - she seemed to notice one of the nucs (the Blue Nuc) having a lot of activity. So I suited up and took a look at that nuc. I pulled out the first frame, and there was the (marked) queen bee. So no, that hive didn't swarm. Besides, I didn't see any swarm/queen cells.

The only hives that I knew about having queen cells were the Brown Nuc and the Pink Hive. I opened up the Brown Nuc and saw that one of the queen cells had hatched - it had a nice opening where the queen had chewed open her own cell. There were a couple more cells unhatched also. But 1) I don't think the hive would swarm with a new queen right after hatching (since 2 days ago I saw the same queen cell capped), and 2) I don't think it's possible for a freshly hatched queen to fly right away. I thought they need to "harden" a little first. I'm not sure - I'll ask on the bee forums.

It could be that another of my hives had developed swarm cells - I wasn't necessarily 100% diligent in looking for them the last time I inspected. Anyway, I didn't feel like diving into the big hives tonight. I'll do some looking around the next time I do a big inspection.

Anyway, I have a nuc sitting on my chimney as a swarm trap. And since the swarm was still in the tree tonight, I set up a new empty hive on a table on my desk, with some old frames, and put a little lemongrass oil as a scent inducer. I've heard that swarms don't like to re-hive in/near their own bee yard, but it's worth a chance.

I'll update if the hive decides to take up residence in my equipment. It'd be a first!

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Good Inspection, and a Surprise!

The weather lately has been very hot. This weekend, we had a beach picnic event with our Church on Saturday morning, 10 to 2, during the hottest part of the day. Then when we returned, I had the prospect of getting into a bee suit and inspecting my hives. I did so about 4:30PM, but the temperature was still around 90, and I ended up spending 1 1/2 hours during the inspection. To say I was a little sweaty was an understatement - I was soaked!. But for some reason, that day, spending all that time outside in the heat, I felt really good. Good honest sweating isn't necessarily a bad thing!

Anyway, the bees were very active. They are adapting to the heat, as evidenced by the amount of bees on the outside of my hives. I saw one of my nucs looking like this on Saturday:

I like inspecting nucs. The bees in 5 frames don't give me a lot of hassle. Plus, I can (usually!) find the queen in 5 frames (but not always - see below). After I inspect my 4 nucs, I take a look at the green hive with it's 2 deep and 3 honey supers, and it's daunting!

Grey Nuc

The grey nuc continues to thrive. After taking out one of the frames for the inspection, here's what was left - look at all those bees!

The brood pattern on this frame looks a little spotty. But if you look, the cells without brood contain nectar. I should probably do something about giving this nuc some relief - either pulling some frames and giving some empties, or I have a little medium "super" for the nuc - maybe put that on. I'll think about it.

Here's the queen. I got a better shot of her - not so blurry this time!

White Nuc

The White Nuc was made up a few weeks ago from some frames on which I found a queen cell or two (from the Green Hive). Today was about when I'd expect to see eggs/larvae, and I wasn't disappointed!

You can see the new larvae in these photos - beautiful!

Also note in the first frame that on the left side you see honey. Bees usually put honey above their brood. But I remember in this case there was a frame completely full of honey - I think it was this one. The bees removed the honey to make room for the queen, and the honey on the left is still remaining.

Also, I wasn't able to see this queen - she was very elusive! I checked every frame twice, which is my limit when inspecting a nuc. Next inspection I'll try to find and mark her.

Blue Nuc

This nuc has a long-standing queen, and continues to do well. I should probably sell her. She is a good layer:

And here she is on the top right of the wood part of the frame:

The frame she is on is interesting - it is a foundationless frame that was made last year by the bees with drone-sized cells in it. You'll see it is pretty much empty, while the other frame was packed with brood. The hive obviously doesn't feel they need drones now, so I should probably switch the frame with regular sized cells.

Brown Nuc

This is the nuc from which I stole and sold the queen. I am letting them build another, and it is too early for a queen.

You can see that there are plenty of bees:

And here are some queen cells.

All is proceeding according to plan.

Green Hive

This hive has 3 honey supers stacked on it. I put the top super on mostly because the frames had a little mold on them, and i wanted the bees to clean it up a little.

To my surprise, they have been going like gangbusters putting honey in it! Here's one of the frames:

Here are some of the lower frames: 

This is what I like to see! There are enough frames to justify some extraction action. I have some family visiting in a couple of weeks, so I am going to put off the extraction until they come so they can see it. It'll be fun!

I also saw young larvae in the hive, so I know the queen is good.

Pink Hive

The Pink Hive suffered from a laying worker weeks ago. I was moving over a frame of larvae and eggs each week for about 3 weeks. That appeared to stop the laying worker, and I saw this during the inspection, a queen cell:

That queen cell was capped, but I also saw another one uncapped:

I tried to get a picture up inside the cell - I don't know if you can see it, but there is a larva in there!

More capped cells on another side:

So this hive is on it's way to recovering.
I also saw lots of nectar in the brood area. Maybe I'll drop on a super to see what they will do with it.

Brown Hive

I dropped a honey super of undrawn frames on this hive a while back, and they pretty much ignored it. Last inspection I saw that they had just started drawing out some of the frames, and putting up some nectar.

This inspection I got the nicest surprise. It started when I lifted up the inner cover:

The bees had added lots of wax between the tops of the frame and the inner cover. Whenever this happens, you know the bees have been busy!

Then I looked down and saw this!

You see nice white wax right up to the top of the frames, all clean and straight, and what looks like capped honey. Could it be???

YES!! The bees had been going gangbusters filling up the honey super!! They started out with undrawn frames and now we have honey! On a white frame, the new wax and new cappings look fabulous.

On the next frames down, I saw the typical brood chamber pattern: 

Great pattern here. Notice that there is a line of wax 2 pictures above - the bees will only start filling a honey super when there is a little bit of honey along the top of the brood chamber. Otherwise they won't make the jump over.

One thing about this hive - it was NASTY! The bees were very irritated, and I got head-bumped a whole lot inspecting this hive. I had to wait extra time on my porch after closing everything up to let the bees calm down and leave me alone. Last week I was mowing the lawn and got stung on my neck (I wasn't anywhere near the hives when I got stung!) and I wouldn't be surprised if it was from this hive.


So here's a summary of the hives (I updated my spreadsheet - link on the right):
  • Grey Nuc - Marked Queen, doing well.
  • White Nuc - Unmarked Queen, as yet unseen.
  • Blue Nuc - Marked Queen, doing well.
  • Brown Nuc - No queen yet - expect eggs/larvae around 8/24
  • Green Hive - Eggs/larvae visible, doing well
  • Pink Hive - Queen cells visible - expect eggs/larvae around 8/24
  • Brown Hive - Eggs/larvae visible, doing well. A little mean.
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