Monday, March 14, 2016

2016-03-12: A New Year and a New Start to the Blog

Today's objective was to take advantage warm weather to see which hives were still alive and to give them some pollen patties.  It was a bright sunny day and 50F in the shade of the porch.  The bees were actively flying with the front of the hives a cloud of activity and individual bees flying around the farm.  I did not see any pollen being brought into the hives.

Starting with the hives up by the sugar house which were wintering at my parents' rather than at the farm down the road where they had spent the Summer.  Almost all of my hives went into the winter with two deeps and a medium, with the latter on top.  The total weights had been between 140-180 lbs when I brought the farm hives back and weighed them, which I guestimate as being at least 90 lbs of honey.  Before inspecting, I took off the tar paper Winter wrap.  I also removed the top box I had placed on all of them above the inner cover that I had filled with insulating wool as I figured its not needed anymore as its warming up.

Blue was dead, which I had suspected earlier from reports from my Mother.  Interestingly, when I checked my notes I found that this was one of my strongest hives last Summer.  Inside I found the medium on top full of honey, and as was the deep below it.  The deep on the bottom was more empty of honey, but also of bees.  I did not have the time to do a full post-mortem, but I did not find a cluster of dead bees which makes me wonder if the population died off in the Fall... which sounds like mites.

Rose was alive and had a ring of bees on top medium that I believe sort of defines the upper end of the cluster.  I added half a pollen patty to it to tied them over until the willow and red maple start producing pollen.  If they eat it all when I check on them next week its easy enough to add more.

Holly was noticeably stronger than Rose.  Not a boiling mass of bees like Mike Palmer's bees, but respectable.  Again, I added half a pollen patty.  The bees found it very quickly.

Gold was very similar in strength to Rose.  Pollen added.

Now I went to the cellar hole that had Plumb, a hive that had been kept at my parents' house since I got it several years ago.  I would not be surprised if the queen had been superceded at some point, but the hive remained strong the last few years and I have used as a source for brood to make nucs and I believe some splits over the years.  Plumb had gone into the Winter with two mediums on top of two deep boxes as I had put some not fully drawn out supers on it at the end of the season.  As the few frames I pulled from the top medium was fully capped it looked like they had not needed it.  I did not see many bees on the top of the medium, but then it had that extra medium.  I left it alone besides giving it some pollen patty.

Sage had been meant to be a nuc last Summer, but it had built up well as a result of a gap allowing the bees to communicate in the double nuc box that I had tried to make two splits in and instead I got just one hive, not two, and I had to move it into a deep with a medium of honey on top to go into the Winter.  It was alive and I fed it some pollen.

I did have two nucs in a double box.  I had made them triple deckers as I had the spare equipment in the Fall.  The insulation box I had neglected to add wool to as I later discovered.  My mother had previously reported that the front entrance had bees going in and out, but the nuc with the entrance in the back had no obvious bee activity.  When I had peaked over the edge of the cellar wall earlier in the day I had also seen no activity, so I was expecting just one of the two nucs to be alive.  I took the top off and looked at the font facing entrance nuc and it had bees and I fed it some pollen patty.  I then looked at the rear entrance nuc, there were a few bees near that rear entrance but could have been robbers.  Taking the inner cover off I saw that the top box (out of the three) was missing a few frames, evidently I had run out.  Looking down the gap I saw an obvious cluster of bees.  So it was still alive! I decided to grab two medium frames of honey from Plumb to add to the gap to give them something to eat in addition to the pollen patty.

So, seven out of eight colonies still alive in early March.  Very good.  Though I am not out of the woods yet.  But much better than the year where I had lost all of my hives.  Next week I will be moving five of the hives to the farm down the road.  That will leave Plumb and probably Sage (the two nucs are easier to move) at my parents.  If time permits I should do the post mortem on Blue, distribute its honey reserves across the other hives, and start cleaning/prepping equipment.  Specifically I should check to see if I have enough supers to cover all seven hives if I decide to keep them all.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

2013-08-25: *Time Machine Post* Goldenrod

Satellite yard:  Goldenrod "funk" could be smelled even outside the fence perimeter.

2013-08-25 14.40.33 Bee Inspect

Hodgepodge:  Removed the medium super above excluder since it was just bare foundation.  I transferred the small frames that had mistakenly been placed in a medium super into a small super.  Some of the frames were mostly filled with honey while others were nearly empty.
    -Drone frame had uncapped larvae, I need to remove it next week.
    -Other frames in top brood box appear to be largely honey.
    -Weight from the back was 43.5 lbs which means that the brood boxes and contents roughly weigh 86 lbs.
    -Sugar dusted the hive.

Here are pictures of how I weigh the hives using a electronic baggage scale:

2013-08-25 15.17.02 Bee Inspect     2013-08-25 15.17.06 Bee Inspect

*Interesting note, here is a picture of what appears to be a bee in the process of extruding the wax scales used to build comb.

2013-08-25 15.05.22 Bee Inspect

Goldenrod:  Many more bees outside of Goldenrod then Hodgepodge.  Foragers were bring in bright orange pollen.
    -One medium super on top of a queen excluder, bare foundation.  I decided that I just was going to remove this whole super since they were not going to do much with it before the end of the season.  So I put a bee excluder (one way exit) board underneath it and plugged the entrance hole of the box.  Next week I should be able to remove it without having any bees at all on it.
    -I moved the HP partly filled shallow super over to Goldenrod.  I felt that Goldenrod with its large work force would do a better job finishing it off by the end of the season.  And this way Hodgepodge could just fill in its stores and have a better shot at surviving the winter.
    -Drone frame was rebuilt and being filled with honey.
    -The 2 brood boxes weighed 38.2 lbs from the back, for a guestimate total of 76.4 lbs.
    -Sugar dusted.

2013-08-25 15.39.47 Bee Inspect    2013-08-25 15.40.06 Bee Inspect

2013-08-25 15.59.11 Bee Inspect


Home yard:

2013-08-25 17.07.57 Bee Inspect
Aubergine:  Some honey in supers confined mostly to the frames in the middle.
    -Drone frame, uncapped larvae, cut next week.
    -The 2 brood boxes and bottom board (which did not want to be separated) weighed 54.7 lbs from the back, for a guestimate total of 109.4 lbs.

Sage: Dusted, forgot to weigh.  Shallow super partially filled, shuffled the frames around to put the nearly filled frames at the sides and the unfilled in the middle where the bees are more likely to fill them. 
    -Removed the drone frame, partially hatched out -> new eggs.  Replaced with regular frame of foundation.
Holly: Drone frame, capped workers!  Left it in place.  Supers empty.

2013-08-16: *Time Machine Post*

Sattelite yard:

2013-08-16 15.13.35 Bee Inspect at Satellite Yard

Goldenrod:  Pollen being carried in, brood in medium super.
    -Cut out the capped drone brood.  Noted nectar dripping out.  Also noted that it was filled with mites!  Possibly because drone laying restored so would be very attractive to the mites, but still this is a sign that this hive should be medicated.

2013-08-16 15.52.17 Bee Inspect at Satellite Yard
    -Other Medium was bare foundation.
    -Placed a Queen excluder underneath the bare super to keep the queen from laying up there as well.  Next week make sure the Queen is gone from the supers and move the excluder down underneath the other super (the one with brood) as well to prevent the queen from laying additional eggs in the supers.  The existing brood should hopefully be hatched by the time of extraction.

Hodgepodge: Nothing to report.

2013-08-16 15.39.44 Bee Inspect at Satellite Yard

2013-08-13: *Posted after just a few months delay*

Satellite:   Slight bearding, foraging bees and a few of those have pollen

Hodgepodge: I realized that the super I had put into the hive is a Medium sized but the frames are shallow, thus leaving a gap. I could not tell if any of them had more honey (about 2/3rd full).
    -Drone frame, honey, no drones.
    -Sugar roll a sample of bees for a mite count
    -Sugar dusted the hive.

Goldenrod: Not much seems to be going into the supers.  One is about half full and the other is still foundation.
    -Drone has brood, should be pulled next week.
    -Had spotty brood on other frames, but perhaps a consequence of honey in many of the cells.
    -Did the sugar roll to count mites.
    -Sugar dusted.

Home yard:
    -Added the frames from Green Nuc to Yellow.  Yellow nuc had bees and brood.  Don't seem to be exploding yet.

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