Monday, January 21, 2013

Hello?? Anybody home???

That's probably what you are asking - is anyone home at this blog? I just checked, and it's over 4 months since my last blog post.

Don't worry - I haven't given up on beekeeping; I just have been less-than-diligent at updating the blog. So I thought with the new year I'd play a little catch-up. This blog post will cover the last 4 months of the life of the bees, and is long and full of pictures.

9-29-2012 - Start the Fall Feeding

At the end of September I started the fall feeding. This is where you want to have the hives put away food for the winter. In my case, I feed sugar syrup at a 2:1 concentration (2 parts sugar to1 part water). The normal feed during the spring and summer is 1:1. This concentrated solution is supposed to encourage the bees to put the syrup away in comb.

For most of the hives, I put inverted jars on top of the inner cover, then put an empty super body over the jars. It makes the hives look extra tall:

With the construction of the extra nuc-sized hive body, I had one to put on one of the nucs:

But the other nuc had to do with a special cover I made for another nuc a few years ago. It has a jar lid-sized hole in the top, with 1/4" screen under it (so I can change the jar without bees escaping):

I don't really like it, as the hole isn't perfect, and if/when it rains, water can get in the gap. But it's all I had for this hive, and it worked fine.

The goal is to have the bees put away enough food for the winter. I've never succeeded in having any of my hives put enough away. I've always had to do supplementary feeding during the winter with "bee candy" (and probably will this year as well).

10-29-2012 - A Bad Storm!

We had a couple of bad storms in late fall, with lots of high winds. My bee hives are right against the woods, so the wind doesn't generally bother them. But this evening I saw the wind had moved the top (empty box) on the blue nuc. So I went out and added a larger stone on it.

Then later I heard a loud crack, and looked out back to see this!!!

Yikes! Bad news. You'll notice behind the hives you see a fallen tree - the wind had brought down the tree, and it had knocked over my hives! What you can't tell is that it is raining cats and dogs, and is cold and windy. Not good bee-weather at all! You can see on the nuc the wind had dislodged the top.

So I suit up in my bee suit (including the pants and boots, since I knew the bees would be a little miffed), and went out to set things right. I didn't want to hassle with the hive stand, so I just set the bees up right on the ground. And I was right - they were MAD! In their mind, 1) our house is destroyed, and 2) here comes a human. Therefore HE DID IT!!!

When I was done there were about 50 bees still clinging to me. My wife was in the garage with me using a broom to sweep the (now mostly dead) bees off of me. She got bothered by one or two.

In spite of the bee suit, I got two stings on my arm, and somehow one had gotten *inside* my veil. So I'm out there beating myself with my hand trying to squish the bee before she stings me. I lost - I got a sting on my ear.

I don't know if any queen bees were killed by the accident. I didn't do any looking - I just wanted to get the hives put together as fast as I could. A few of the feed jars were broken, so I took all of them off.

11-03-2012 - Sutton Inspection - Uh Oh!

I don't get out to Sutton as much as I'd like. It's out of the way to get there, so I don't check them as often as I do my backyard hives. Last time I was there (2 months earlier), I was worried about Hive #1 - it was very weak. But this day was nice so I paid them a visit.

I knew there was a problem right away. There were no bees flying in and out of this hive. Also, here is the stoop / entrance of hive 1:

You'll see it's covered with junk. Bees are pretty fastidious - they like a clean entrance. By contrast, here's the entrance of Hive #2 (which had bees flying in and out):

So I used my hive tool to pry up the outer cover. That's when I noticed more wrongness. Instead of being maybe stuck with propolis and making a "pop" when it comes up, this made a sound similar to a large piece of Styrofoam being pried apart. Here's what I found inside the outer cover:

Each of those white things is a Wax Moth cocoon - yuck! They are the bane of beekeepers. In a good hive, the bees can keep the wax moths out. But with no bees, they move in and take over. Apparently this hive died sometime earlier. And this hive hasn't been checked for a couple months.

Here's the top of the inner cover (and we haven't even gotten to the interior of the hive!):

There were a few live ones crawling around - you can see them.

So I pried down some more (and more Styrofoam sounding noises). Here's the top of the hive - even *more* packed with wax moth cocoons!

It's a regular Hotel California there! I pried up the top super, and you can see the webbing in between the boxes. Yuck!!

The very bottom of the hive - the bottom board - was covered with all the stuff that had fallen down.

If there is a minor wax moth infestation, the hive parts can usually be recovered. You may lose a frame or two, but the wood can be reused. In this case, the hive had been so thoroughly infested that all of the supers had to be pitched. The moths had built cocoons right along the wood, and it had eaten into part of the wood. Plus, they were so packed in there that getting the frames out was impossible.

So I left the boxes separated (so the cold would kill the moths) and told the owner he had to just pitch the whole set up. He wants to rebuild, so he's going to pay for a new hive next season, with a new package of bees.

On a good, note Hive #2 looked good, so I left it with some feed jars:

We're full into winter now, and I am caught up. Thus ends this beekeeping season. I've completed 4 seasons now, and I learn something new each year.

Had some new experiences this year - was moths. Filthy creatures - hope they don't come around again (I need to be more diligent on the inspections). I had a swarm in my hives as well, plus had my first call to go pick up a swarm. But I got a good deal of honey from my hives. Hope for more next year.

So happy new year, a little late.  I'll try not to let things go so long in the blog, but no promises.


  1. Hi Steven,

    Welcome back, we were started to think you had all frozen over in America :).

    Great to see you back blogging and working with the bees again.

    Bummer about the tree hitting the hives, I would recommend raising them up when you get a chance.

    See ya…Gary

  2. @Gary - thanks for the well-wishes!

    Yes, I plan on re-doing the hive stand come spring. I need something slightly bigger (wider). I plan on moving the hives forward a couple of feet into the grass, then that'll give me space (and time) to redo the stand. After that they will be up off the ground.

    I wasn't about to stand in storm rain/wind and recreate a hive stand! :-)

  3. Good to see you haven't left cyber world Steve. Thanks for the updates to your hives.



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