Friday, August 23, 2013

2013-07-28: Biting Into Sweetness

Home yard (apparently I did weed wack it last week)

2013-07-28 13.48.56 Bee Check

Yellow: Removed the drone frame for comb honey and replaced it with a green plastic drone frame (to fill space more than anything).  I did find a frame with brood.  Also noticed that the bees seemed more aggressive than most of my hives.

Green-Nuc: I opened up the gate and many bees rushed out and are likely more robbers that had been trapped in there all week.  Closed it back up and will deal with it tomorrow.

Release, the Robbers!

Yellow-Nuc: Many bees.  Foragers coming and going.  I saw the queen and eggs.

This is the frame that was removed before I cut out the comb honey.

Comb Honey

2013-07-20: Preparing the Heist

Satellite yard

Satellite yard as I arrived

Both hives were bearding, especially Goldenrod.

Goldenrod:  Top two supers full of honey and capped, and the third is a work in progress.

Fully capped frame in top super in Goldenrod    Newly white capped frame in second super in Goldenrod   Partially filled frame from third super on Goldenrod 

Drone frame cells empty.  Removed a frame of mostly full frame of honey from the side of the top brood box and swapped in a frame of bare foundation in order to (you guessed it) try to keep the hive from getting honey bound.  Technically, drawn foundation would be better, but as a nectar flow appears to be ongoing I thought that they would be able to draw it out quickly enough.

Empty cells in drone frame in Goldenrod    The new frame going into Goldenrod

I decided to prepare to remove two of the supers since they were full and I didn’t want to shift two 35 lb boxes each time I wanted to check on the hive.  Also, I wanted to ‘lock in’ what might be the majority of the honey harvest for the year so that a bear visit or a robbing incident etc.. wont cause it to be lost.  So I brought my escape board (it has a one way exit on it so the bees can re-enter the supers) to the yard and placed it under the two filled supers.  I also gave a few sprays of Bee-Away to the top inner cover to help goad the bees out.  And this time I did remember to block all the holes in the supers and the top inner cover so that the bees can’t get back in.

The one-way triangular bee escape   Goldenrod after I have put in the bee escape 

Hodgepodge: I moved the super out of the middle and put it on top since the bees had started to draw it out and honey was being put into it.  I noted many old swarm cells.  Added a medium super of foundation frames as well to make sure that the bees don’t get honey bound.

Shallow frame partially filled in Hodgepodge    Hodgepodge after rearanging and adding super

Home yard

Home yard as I got there

Aubergine:  Looks like the bees are adding to the super again in a small way.  I dusted with powdered sugar to try to knock of mites.

Slightly filled super in Aubergine

Sage:  Same as Aubergine.

Holly: Cut out the drones from the drone frame.  I noticed the queen on the drone frame and tried to gently scoot her onto other frames.  I really hope I didn’t squish her as I slid the drone frame back in.  Also swapped one frame of honey for one of foundation, again to make sure the hive does not become honey bound.

Queen Holly!

Blue:  Surprisingly strong.  Not seeing any brood yet, even in the upper box where the queen had first been kept while part of the Swarm hive I did remove the queen excluder that had been separating the boxes.  Frames in bottom are being drawn out so hopefully there will be space there as well.  Storage box, to keep random frames is on top of the hive over an inner cover.

Deep frame in Blue being filled with honey

Realized that the Green nuc was being robbed out.  Even saw one bee apparently abducting a pupae.  That bee headed directly across the pasture to the East so I wonder if one of my swarms ended up out that way.  I closed the gate (the previous owner had made them and they are pretty awesome) and decided to deal with it next week.  Afterwards I noticed the swarm of bees wanting to get in (and continue their plundering no doubt.

Robbers wanting to get back in.

I looked into Yellow.  The drone frame was being filled out with honey.  Had a fair bit of honey and also found old swarm cells, no surprise.  The hive seemed rather more aggressive than I normally expect from my gals.

Drone frame in Yellow being drawn and filled with honey    Deep in Yellow filled with honey

2013-07-14: Beestile Day

Satelite yard

2013-07-14 17.53.01 Bee Check

Goldenrod:  Some foragers had white or pale yellow pollen.  Top super (green one I originally put on) was very heavy.  Second super had lots of white wax and is being filled quickly (I had added it 8 days ago).  I decided that I would need to add another super to keep up with the bees and I was worried that they may become honey bound.2013-07-14 18.08.41 Bee Check

Hodgepodge: I finally got around to adding a real inner cover.  Didn’t do much else but check on the drone frame which was being drawn out but apparently filled with honey.

2013-07-14 18.12.39 Bee Check

Home Yard

Sage: Took a super off that only had patches of capped honey (I suspect that it had been stripped out when this hive swarmed (I assume it had swarmed since there are only so many hives in that yard and there were so many swarms) earlier in the year.  I would put this super into Goldenrod.

I moved the box I had put out to capture foragers from Swarm onto Blue.  I was surprised at just how many bees there were.  While some might be robbers there for the frames with some honey, I am still glad I took the time to capture them.

Back at Satellite yard

Goldenrod: I added the super from Sage.  I also swapped out 2 frames from the brood chamber with bare foundation to try to make sure that the hive would not become honey bound.  One of these frames had some brood so I added it to the Yellow Nuc to help build it up.  Again I was struck by how many bees were in Goldenrod.  I suspect that this is what the beekeeping books mean when they say that the hive should be ‘boiling’ with bees.

2013-07-14 19.46.14 Bee Check    2013-07-14 19.50.43 Bee Check

2013-07-11: Best Laid Plans

2013-07-11 16.38.59 Bee Check    2013-07-11 16.40.04 Bee Check

I took off time from work to make 2 or 4 nucs and then go pick up 2 queens to install in them (if I were to make 4 it would be with 2 queen cells from Red which had swarmed).

Well that was the plan.  It didn’t end up happening.

Red: The swarm cells were all open so the queens had slugged it out and the new queen would be getting ready to fire things up.  I removed several frames of honey in preparation of making nucs, but didn’t want to take any of the brood since I was worried that I might accidentally grab the queen.

    All those empty swarm cells... 

Blue:  So I decided to get the brood I needed to make the nucs from Blue instead.  Blue seemed more aggressive than other times I had visited and there was very little brood inside.  While moving one frame that had some brood in it I noticed the queen.  I suspect that what was going on was that Blue had been one of the hives that had swarmed earlier and that this was a new queen just getting going.  I made a snap decision to, since I had her, to use Blue’s queen to make a nuc, and then combine the Swarm hive with the remaining bees.  This would give me one nuc and one stronger hive rather than two so-so hives.  It might have made more sense to use the Swarm queen for the nuc, but I had Blue’s queen in my hand and was already all set to drop that frame into a nuc.

Blue's Queen before being moved

Blue had also been rather depopulated by the swarm, so it had many empty frames inside.  I removed enough in order to collapse it down to just one box.  And other frames not so empty were used to make the nuc.  This would then make it easier to combine as I would be adding one more brood box from the swarm bringing me back to 2 boxes.  As a side benefit, the Swarm hive was already in a blue brood box so I would not have to swap frames around to keep my color coding.

I put the blue brood box from Swarm on top of the remaining brood box of Blue with a layer of newspaper in between.  By the time the bees chew their way through the newspaper they will have equilibrated their scents of will feel like one hive and not two hives at war with each other.  I later noticed the foragers from Swarm were loitering around the old site of Swarm, so I placed a an empty brood box there (I think with a few frames inside it) to give them some place to go to and thus I could collect them later.  They crawled right in.

Foragers entering empty box

Dark Green (Holly): I wanted to draw from Holly in order to make the other nucs.  But when I opened it I found that it was also depopulated and apparently also had a few emergency queen cells, several open and two closed).  These are queen cells that instead of hanging from the bottom of a frame (like a warm cell) or built down in the middle of a frame (like a supercedure cell), the queen cell had been a regular worker cell that had been expanded by extending the cell out and then downward.  So something had happened to the previous queen and this hive had scrambled to come up with a queen.  I decided to remove the remaining closed cells so that there would be no fighting or even another swarm.  I popped of the cap of one and out came the queen who then crawled around.  At that point I didn’t have the heart to smush her so I made a nuc using her though I think it was done with not that many bees.

Emergency queen cell   Newly emerged queen

I then called my Queen supplier to cancel my order.  I felt a little bad about that as I had earlier been calling and leaving messages to arrange a pick up.  I really should had known that I did not have the materials to make any nucs but I had not taken the time in earlier visits.  This observation helped to spur me to make the decision to ramp down the number of hives to something more manageable.  Perhaps 3 hives in each yard.

2013-07-05: Quick Check

After the excitement of the swarm two days ago I wanted to check on the hive that had swarmed (Red) and the hive made from the swarm as well as check on the hives at the satellite yard.

Red: I removed a medium super from Red of drawn comb.  There was no honey in it and with after swarming Red would be unlikely to produce a surplus, but I did leave the shallow super it had behind.  I confirmed the presence of Queen cells in the hive.

Swarm: I added 4 undrawn frames to Swarm to make up for the fact that I had not had enough frames before to fill out the brood box properly.  I stuck them in the middle while the proper method would be to one side, but that was where the gap was.  They’ll live.

Purple(Aubergine?)&Sage: I checked quickly on these two hives and they had just a little honey in their supers.

Satellite Yard:

2013-07-05 15.41.52 Tisbert Bee Check

Goldenrod: Bearding.  I added a second super (liberated from Red) as I had noted its super    was almost filled previously.

Hodgepodge: Moved super into the middle.  I figured that would force them to fill it up rather than fill up their brood space with honey and get honeybound.  *I later noted that while the box was a medium, the frames were shallows making a gap in the bottom.  These screw ups are why I have started to also label each frame with the size (S, M, D for shallow, medium and deep respectively) so that I can tell at a glance from the top what the frames are).

I also found a swarm/supercedure cell that now had a flip top lid.  This means the queen had extricated herself and should now me running around the hive.

2013-07-05 15.56.53 Tisbert Bee Check   2013-07-05 16.03.34 Tisbert Bee Check

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

2013-07-04: Bee Independence Day

Taking advantage of the holiday, I decided to spend some quality time with the gals.  At the Satellite yard I saw that both hives had moderate bearding at the entrances and Goldenrod also had a band of bees loitering at the gap from the queen excluder.  One thing I like about this yard is that there are tall trees on the West side so around noon the site has shade which I hope keeps the bees (and any bee keepers wearing a suit) a little bit cooler and happier.

2013-07-04 10.28.55 Bee Check at Tisberts

I think about 1 in 6 or so bees were bringing in pollen.

Goldenrod’s super was mostly filled, but interestingly the drone frame was undrawn.

2013-07-04 10.38.53 Bee Check at Tisberts   2013-07-04 10.42.48 Bee Check at Tisberts

Hodgepodge had not touched its super and I wonder if the thin plastic queen excluder I was using on it was too much of a disincentive for the bees to cross, so later when I put it back I put it on perpendicular so that there would be large unobstructed areas of travel in the front and back of the boxes.  But, during my inspection I also noticed that the drone frame was drawn and capped (so I cut it out).  Also I noticed what looked like swarm cells one frame over.  I didn’t know what to make of this, was it truly a swarm situation or were they replacing their queen.

2013-07-04 10.55.24 Bee Check at Tisberts

       While I mulled over what to do with Hodgepodge, I went to the main yard to check on them.  I was just in time to see Red issue a swarm!  Fortunately the swarm settled on an easy to reach branch and I was able to capture it.  My process was to spritz the cluster with water (with a little Honey-B-Healthy for good measure).  Then to scoop and brush the bees into a deep in which I had the few deep frames I had to spare and which had a queen excluder on its bottom.  I then placed that on top of a medium with the few other frames I had to spare that was on top of a bottom board.  I placed a inner cover with the hole blocked and then a outer cover on top.  This set up essentially trapped the queen in the deep (sealed cover above and queen excluder below) without whom the swarm would not leave.  Thus ended the attempted revolt of the colonialists!



I checked on Red, the deep used to make the swarm box was the deep that I had on red to store excess frames and it had 2 honey frames in it, which looked like had been partially emptied by the swarm before leaving.  The super was very light, again, probably stripped by the swarm.  I did see some swarm cells.

Well, less than ideal but at least I caught the swarm.  I left to the yard resolving to build more frames so that I could perhaps split Red with its queen cells and to add a super to Goldenrod.  Lack of frames seems to be my bugaboo this season.

2013-06-15: The Fruits of Dumpster Diving

When I had set up the hives at the satellite yard I had just put them on several cinder blocks and (since I had not brought enough cinder blocks) a nuc box.  I could have just put them on the ground, but I don’t use hive stands and I like to have my hives off the ground.  I had meant to come back and replace the nuc box with a cinder block, but I kept forgetting to bring them down.  One day at work I notice a narrow shipping pallet next to a dumpster.  It was solidly built so I brought it home and then to the yard to place under the hives

2013-06-16 11.42.34 Bee Inspect Tisberts

The difficulty is that I was doing this with hives full of bees and honey, the former likely to get peeved if moved and the later just plain heavy.  The process ended up going surprisingly smoothly as I placed the pallet in front of the hives and was able to scoot each hive onto it (since the pallet was at about the same height as the blocks) and I was then able to slide the pallet back into place (thanks to the smooth planks of the pallet and the coffee bean bags I was using to keep the grass from growing up right under the hives.

2013-06-16 12.05.42 Bee Inspect Tisberts   2013-06-16 12.11.04 Bee Inspect Tisberts

I left the cinder blocks in a stack next to the hives.  This later proved useful as a convenient place to put items on, especially when trying to reach over the fence.  The pallet had a unforeseen benefit as I can slide my foot right into it when preparing to live a box off a hive.  This made the lifting significantly easier as the weight of the box was closer to my center of gravity and I could lift with my legs more than my back.