Sunday, December 20, 2009

Winter Storm

Winters here are typically mild. This year, though, is breaking that trend. We got 12 inches of snow dumped on us last night. Normally we wouldn't see that much in a whole season.  Looks like this Winter will be quite a test for my bees & me.

Hives in the Snow

During the storm we had to clear the entrances numerous times.  I don't know how long a hive can survive with a closed off entrance.  I also don't want to find out.  They are calling for freezing rain on Christmas.  I may need an ice scraper before that's all done.

---   ---   ---

The one piece of equipment that helps out the most in challenging weather is the extra wide roofs.  An 1/8 inch sheet of sheet metal extends 6 inches on all sides.  This adds shade in Summer & cover in wet or snowy weather.  The old farmer had them on when I bought the hives.  I never took them off and will include them on all future hives.

Speaking of hives I'm waiting for the next 40 degree day.  A day too cool for the girls to fly but warm enough to allow me to wash the outside of the hives.  Soap & water since I don't like the alcohol & ammonia in window cleaners.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Fly Day

Today was the first day above 50 degrees in weeks.  The bees took advantage of that and broke cluster to get some much needed work done.  Cleansing flights, dead removal, reallocation of reserves to name a few.  The bees in Mary, only 1 box, were massed in the SE corner working the end frames.  Myrina's girls were also in the SE corner but mostly in the lower box, again working the end frames.

I really only went in because i needed to take the Apistan out.  The target date is Friday the 18th but it is forecasted to be freezing again by then. I also looked around Myrina some pulling the frames from the upper box.  All honey and as usual angry bees.  I saw no problems.

This time next month I hope to be feeding both hives with pollen.  I want to build up the population as best i can for the Spring splits I'm planning.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Screened Bottom Board & Winter

***Update (10/10)***
Now I close off all my SBB's in mid-October.  I use a bottom entrance and have an (insulated) venting shim/box between the inner cover & telescoping cover all Winter.  This provides passive air flow to allow humidity to escape without condensing in the hive.  Though half of the beeks in the local club keep their SBB's open all Winter I prefer to close mine.  For me it is a issue of brooding up early in Spring.  I open the SBB's up again once the nightly temps are above 60f.

I have a Dadant SBB on Mary.  It comes without a bottom sheet normally used for Varroa counts.  I can close it of with anything made of plastic or wood but I thought I might leave it open all Winter.  Moisture has been a problem with this hive so I want to vent it as much as possible.  Last year saw a puddle of cold water drip down through the hive during Winter.  I did not want to repeat that again. But, it has been a very cold couple of weeks & it looks like it will be a sever Winter.  The bees have been in cluster for almost two weeks now.  Last Winter we had fly days every week or so.  I took a picture from under the SBB of Mary yesterday and found a bunch of dead bees.  That is natural, i think, but concerning.  Since she is down to a single deep her cluster is very close to the bottom edge.

Dead Bees 

I sealed off the SBB this evening after work with a piece of luan.  I'll leave it there for the rest of Winter.  The Vent box is still on the hive so the humidity will continue to dissipate from there.  I have designed a SBB of my own that utilizes a deep tray beneath the screen and some adjustable side vents.  I'll post it when its made, after the New Year.  

Some beeks leave their SBB's open all year some beeks use only solid boards.  I guess I'll be taking the middle road on this issue.  SBB's all year but closed off during Winter.  The timing will be dependent on the weather.  But, I figure the hives will be closed off from December to April.

Myrina still having the Solid BB was left alone.  Both colonies showed signs of activity inside the hives.  As good as she is about her solid board I don't yet know if she'll get a SBB.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Wax Moth & Mary

At 60+ degrees today I went into both hives to remove the HTF's. Lots of crystallized syrup. I broke it up on to a cookie sheet & left it for the bees. However, in Mary I found 4 frames infected with Wax moth. 2 frames in the top box & the 2 adjacent frames in the bottom box. The frames had pollen & some uncapped honey. The frames had to go into the freezer; which would leave a substantial hole in the hive. So I broke Mary down to a 1 brood box hive. All I had left to do was pick the 6 additional frames to remove. I left Mary with 5 honey frames, 2 pollen frames, & 3 brood frames. She has a smaller population so the 1 deep should be better. It may be that she had too small a population for the 2 deeps leading to the wax moth problem anyway. When I checked her 4 weeks ago I saw NO Wax moth. I thought After a few freezes I wouldn't need to worry about Wax moth any more. Oh well...

Wax Moth web & frass ^

Wax Moth mining pollen ^

Wax Moth webbing ^

Mary with 1 deep & the crystallized syrup ^

Myrina looked fine with a good population and plenty of reserves. I also closed off 6 of the 9 holes in each of the vent covers on both hives. 3 holes should be enough to vent the humid bee breath. I'll monitor for condensation throughout winter.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

A Quick Look

A cool 48 degrees & sunny today. An OK fly day for the bees. I went down to the hives to check activity. I closed off the entrance. Then waited to see what the foragers were bringing in.

Mary's girls were bringing back some wax from that old frame I left out. No pollen. Plus I checked under her SBB and still see signs of CB. I will lay a stone pad beneath the hives this winter to reduce ambient moisture near the hives next year.

Mary's girls coming home almost empty handed

Myrina's bees, of course, were returning from somewhere with some bright orange pollen. I have no idea whats blooming but something is. Even our mums are gone. I'll guess at somebody's potted flowers and leave it at that.

I count 6 with pollen

--- --- ---

Also I took their Fall pictures:


--  --

And Myrina

Both have double deeps, HTF, Inner cover, Vent box, T-cover, & a tin top sheet. Mary has her SBB while Myrina has a Solid BB. Myrina will get her SBB as soon as I make it. Winter will see even more reduction.

--- --- ---

The November meeting was last night. We hosted a panel of 3 experts to pose questions to. Two local guys and one man from N.C, a Bob Cole. Mr. Cole made the point that we should be raising our own Queens. That plus what else I've read convinces me to do just that. I'll need to read much on the topic this Winter to make a successful try at it.

That and 2 splits will make for a very interesting year in 2010.

aun Aprendo

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Honey Harvest 2009

No I'm not joking. Earlier this year i set out a Swarm trap; Nuc, pheromone, & one capped honey Deep frame. I had placed one extra honey frame in the freezer in case I needed it. And there it stayed. The Wife found it tonight while cleaning out the freezer. A whole deep frame of capped honey. That's it. My entire honey harvest for 2009.

Well I don't believe this requires an extractor (Ha ha) so I used the Mash method. I've not done this before so it would be an experiment. Cut the comb into a pan and mash to a pulp. Pour into strainer and place on top of large saucepan. For a handful of frames I would prefer this method to spinning. Much less equipment.

So now the honey mash sits draining into a pot. Tomorrow I'll jar it. Should be 2 lbs. worth. Plus I have another wad of wax. Which will be added to the bur comb wad and processed. There might be several ounces of the stuff now. Cool.

A little honey & a little wax

Now let me look a gift horse in the mouth. The honey is what I call brood honey. Coming from a brood frame the honey gets made in cells used for brood rearing. To me it gains a distinct off flavor being in the presence of cocoons and what-not. However, we will definitely use it. Most likely in cooking than in tea.

I suppose I could use it on the bees. I don't remember which hive it came from but neither hive had AFB or EFB this year or last.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Wax vs. Green Mold

I've have trouble with a Green mold that keeps appearing in Mary. It beat up some honey supers last year (click here to see) and recently go into my new T-cover this year. I always assumed it was a moisture problem. I did everything I could to vent the hive and still the mold came back.

I posted the problem in the on-line Bee Master forum. Many good responses also dealing with moisture. Then finally one beek mentioned that new wooden ware may sprout mold if the bees have not properly sealed the surface with propolis/wax.

BOOM! There it was!

When I thought about it all the wooden ware that came down with the mold was new. So I need to make sure all the wood is treated by the bees or someone else. Like me.

The current victim is the telescoping cover on Mary. It's a year old but the bees never waxed it. So I took it upon myself to wax it.

Notice that you can see the inner outline of the hive

First I washed off the mold with bleach then dried it. Then warmed up the wood underside under a lamp. While that was happening I melted some bees wax & got a metal scraper. When all was ready I removed the lamp and poured the wax onto the T-cover. To keep the wax soft as I spread it I used a blow-drier. I did not coat to the edge of the T-cover. I feel that exposed wax may attract Wax Moths. After a good coating I put the T-cover back under the lamp to help the wax melt in. When completed the T-cover went back out on the hive.

Wax soaking into the wood

I remembered Michael Bush's article on how he wax dips his hives. So I got the idea to hot wax the inside of my previously painted equipment. If this works (no more mold & no added pests like Wax Moth) I'll be sure to do this in the future when the bees don't do it themselves. I imagine that a strong & healthy hive will have no problem with this task. Mary on the other hand has always limped a little.

aun Aprendo

Monday, November 2, 2009


I put the Apistan strips in today after lunch. I realize they should have gone in on the 15th but I just learned that. I will pull them out mid December.

Myrina's deeps weighed a ton. Good sign of reserves there. Mary's were light as usual. Neither hive is taking much syrup right now. What little syrup that's left is beginning to crystallize.

I'm looking into top entrances right now but have not decided yet.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Reserve Inspection

65 F

I run double deeps. Just did a pre-winter inspection.

TOP BROOD BOX: (Old frames & old wax)
10 - no brood, some bread, some uncapped honey
9 - no brood, a few CB mummies, some uncapped honey
8 - no brood, a few CB mummies, some uncapped honey
7 - no brood, mostly bread & uncapped honey
6 - no brood, all bread + empty superceedure cell
5 - no brood, all bread
4 - no brood, slight bread
3 - no brood, some honey, some bread
2 - no brood, few CB mummies, tad honey
1 - no brood, half honey, half *unknown* (perhaps bread with a white crust??)

BOTTOM BROOD BOX: (new frames)
10 - no brood, 80% honey
9 - no brood, half honey, half uncapped honey
8 - 1/4 uncapped brood (some rice grains), few CB mummies, half honey
7 - 1/4 capped brood, Few CB mummies, some uncapped honey, half honey
6 - some uncapped brood, 1/4 honey, several bees with withered wings
5 - some brood, half honey
4 - no brood, mostly honey, some bread
3 - no brood, all honey
2 - no brood, all honey
1 - no brood, all honey

Note - the bread has that wet look.
Note - Green mold showing up again on wooden ware

Seems to me that this is not right. I thought the hives should be filled with plenty of honey, some bread, and a fair amount of brood. I have a SBB and a vented top. There is a hive top feeder though.

I asked around on the forum and they think this is fine actually. Not as much weight in Mary's boxes as I would like but maybe not critical either. Myrina's boxes weigh a ton. She should be fine.

Also they said that the Queens lay few eggs from October to December. Apistan should be installed during this time. Before the Queens starts to lay for Spring build up again. I'll get that in the next dry & warm day.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Queen Bee on the GROUND!

Yowzaa! I found who I believe is Mary herself laying on the ground today. She was under the hive covered in a handful of bees; some were dead. She must have fallen out yesterday when I was flipping the brood boxes. She spent all night outside with some attendants fighting to keep her alive. It was 44 degrees last night.

This is how I found her

I picked her up and put her back in her hive. Her bees flocked to her and helped her back inside. She should be fine. Or so the people at the forum say.

Someone said to me 'It was a good thing you went back to follow up today'. Well, that's not completely true. As it turns out I was in the back shooting Fall pictures for a friend. I thought a picture of the hives would be nice. I then knelt down to shoot off the pict. And right in front of me I found the small clump of Queen Mary & her forlorn Court.

So to Terra, Thank you for saving Queen Mary. Without your request she would likely have died soon. I may continue to have 2 hives due to you. Again, Thank you.

Back home with her daughters

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Screened Bottom Board, Hive-top Feeders

Big day today. I replaced the solid bottom board on Mary with a Screened Bottom Board. Poor ventilation last winter led to condensation in the hive. I installed hive-top ventilators this summer. Now with the SBB there should be a slight chimney effect in the hives. Yet with the Inner cover still in place I expect no trouble with too much heat loss. Myrina will get hers as soon as I make one.

The view from below the SBB

The debris on the solid bottom board was disgusting. Mummified brood, Wax Moth larva, Just a terrible mess. I hope the SBB works as well for me as it seems to for others in the Club.

Debris on solid bottom board
-Train Wreck!

I was worried the the temps around the brood might be too low in the cooler weather so I flipped the brood boxes (these poor bees got such a stirrin' today!). When all was done everything looked good but soon after I saw some Robing taking place. I quickly popped in the reducer to control it. Eventually the girls sorted themselves out and everybody went home.

Alright! Break it up, break it up!

--- --- ---

Also today I added the Hive-Top Feeders to both hives. I already like these things for numerous reasons.
  1. No more refilling jars every day
  2. No more storing syrup in the fridge. All of it goes into the hive.
  3. I can refill the feeder without exposure to the bees.
  4. The syrup in HTF's will be warmer than in entrance feeders.
  5. The syrup is closer to the bees.
There will be more reasons I'm sure. However there was an initial issue. HTF's must be put in a super. I first tried a medium honey super. It left too much room above the feeder. This extra dead space would (I think) draw heat away from the bees. I do not have smaller supers so I made some. I used 1 x 4's to make 2 of them. The box leaves only 1.5 inches of space above the feeder. I hope this is enough but not to much.

Hive-Top Feeder in it's new super

Mary's girls found the HTF before I closed the lid. Myrina's, however, had some difficulty in finding it. I had to drip some syrup down through the feeding slots onto the brood box. A few girls followed the trail upwards and found the feeder. Good to go.

I am also mixing a tablespoon of Apple Cider Vinegar for each gallon of solution. This prevents mold from growing in the sugar. It has been recommended to me to also add some essential oils: lemon grass & spearmint. I've seen this mentioned positively in the forums and have ordered them.

--- --- ---

The club meetings are great. I'm learning more all the time plus getting my questions answered. I plan to take a beginners Beekeeping class in February. I'm going to get my neighbor to take the classes with me. She loves the bees and sits them for me when I'm not home. I'm planning to put hives in her yard anyway.

It looks like I'll be able to split both hives next spring if they're in good condition. That will give me 4 hives total. Since they are both down in numbers from such a rotten year (or my crappy handling) I'm thinking about insulating the hives for winter. It should decrease the cold stress plus give them an earlier start to spring. We will see.

Picky bee wants her bottle back!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Meeting

After 3 months I made it to a meeting. It happened to be the Honey tasting meeting. Oh darn! I met with some life long keepers. I asked some questions & got some good answers.
  • Two brood boxes is a little much down here.
  • Mary is Queen-less or weak Queened.
  • I will combine Mary & Myrina for the Winter.
  • I will separate each brood box into it's own hive next year.
Much work ahead of me. I will do an inspection this weekend plus the combination. Wish me luck.

*** *** ***

UPDATE, 11/23/09

I did not do the combination. The populations in each hive were better than advertised. Reserves were also adequate. I will begin feeding them pollen in January the increase brood up. After which I will split them in Spring.

Sunday, August 16, 2009


I pulled off the last honey super on Mary. Not enough to bother with. Brood cells are being filled with honey in the brood boxes. Very little brood. Still signs of chalk-brood. I don't know where she went but I don't think there's a Queen. There are still the incomplete queen cells from last week in the brood boxes. I don't know what to think. I put the honey super frames in the freezer for now. All my honey supers are in storage.

I talked to someone who thinks my major problem is mold. Remember it has been endlessly rainy here. NO one is harvesting much honey at all. Last year we had a terrible drought. We also had lots of honey.

I'm mixing up all the Fumagilin-B I need to medicate both hives. At the two gallons per two box hive autumn rate I'll need four gallons. I am using a 1:2 solution. It's really still summer and I want to promote brood laying. I still plan to use the fumagilin again late this fall before they ball up.

I will put the Apistan strips in next weekend or so. I did not see any today but I know they're on the rise in Mary. I want to put them in as late as I can for winter but I may need to get them in there sooner. We'll see.

I suppose I should be happy that I haven't lost all my bees but it's been a terrible year.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Inspection 8/9/9

Mary & Myrina
95 F

Many bad things here. Varroa mites, watered bee bread, chalk-brood, many dead bees in the hive, little to no new brood, spotty pattern, two possible supercedure cells. Am I losing her? Did I accidentally mash the queen during the last inspection? I think it's time to be in panic mode.

(click me)
Red circle = Withered wings

Green circles = Chalk/Foul brood
(click me)
Green circles = Varroa mite
Blue circle = Dead bee

She is now down to two brood boxes, an excluder, & a honey super (1/3 full)

It seamed like I've seen more bees working at the entrance. Yet there is very little new brood in the hive. I will keep an eye on her to see if she develops similar symptoms to Mary.

She has drawn no honey comb this year. I took off the honey supers. She's only two brood boxes now.

Friday, July 31, 2009

The Bee Club

I forgot to mention this. I missed the meeting for July because of a previous engagement. I tried to alter my schedule but it was not meant to be. The meeting in august will be the 20th. Guess what? I'll be out of town on a family vacation. Rats...

Hopefully I'll be around for the September meeting. But if I was holding my breath I'd be dead by now. Oh well.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Inspection 7/25/9

Mary & Myrina
89 F

Mary - The honey frames that where filled with nectar are now partially filled with brood. Not much but some. Enough to tell me the young queen is very healthy. Perfect brood pattern. Also much of the honey is now capped. So I put that honey super back on top and reinstalled the queen excluder. I then put the undrawn honey super from the top down between the brood boxes. Hoping for similar results. This Plasticell really doesn't do the job.

NO boiling over of Mary during smoking. However she seemed more aggressive than usual. This is honey season so I think it will pass.

Myrina - Still has not drawn any frames. She is still badly understaffed from the late swarm. There is uncapped brood in a weak pattern in the boxes. I'm sure there are also eggs in the boxes but without glasses I can't say positively. Will leave everything alone for now. All I'll do with her is monitor her activity. I did pull out some more bur comb though. Also I put in a longer sceened reducer at the entrance.

I used the syrup water on Myrina again, along with the smoke. Heavy, heavy, heavy spray. I'm very impressed with how well it works on the mean bees.

I've taken to feeding the bees syrup every time it rains. Which as it turns out is almost non-stop. The rains continue here even though we are in our dry season. I saw a few girls up in the Ventilator box on Mary. Hopefully they are propolising all joints finally.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Two Successes!

It worked!
If you recall neither hive ever drew out the frames in the honey supers. So to trick them I placed the honey supers in between the brood boxes. Well, the bees in Mary are now drawing out the frames in the honey super. Most frames are drawn out all the way. The added bonus is that the bees are filling the new frames with honey only. No brood at all.

Mary : Frame # 6 : Beautiful new wax

Fill 'er up!

I tried this trick with both hives. One honey super between two brood boxes. When I checked Myrina I found they had not drawn their frames yet. I will have to wait to see what happens there. It looks like I'll have a late honey harvest but at least I'll have one. Even 30lbs. Will make my day.

This week I also put a second honey super on top of each hive. I thought that just because the bees refused the first two supers doesn't mean they will refuse the second two. These two new supers are still empty. No drawn comb. This puts much space in each hive yet I've seen no problems.

Myrina is still short handed due to the late Swarm. As usual I can never find my Queens but there is good sign that Myrina has one. I tried to take a picture of a frame. I hoped that if I zoomed into the image I could see new larva. No luck though. The flash masked the bottom of every cell with a reflection. I must get a hand lens.

Myrina's brood in top brood box

The second success is the ventilation tops. Since I put them on the bees have stopped bearding during the days & evenings. I still don't know what great difference it makes but I plan to find out at the up coming meeting.

The Ventilator above the inner cover
View from the back

Monday, June 29, 2009

Venting Top Box - for Summer

I finished building a venting top box for both hives. It is 2.5 inches deep with 3 holes on each side but the back. Each hole is 1.25 inches in width. I used the same gauge screen used on screened bottom boards. I'm not worried about rain since the telescoping cover covers most of the vent holes (still there's enough of a gap for passive air circulation). It's my hope that this will cool the hives and prevent moisture build up.

My next step will be to build a screened bottom board for each hive. I'm still considering what features it will have. Boards with the tray for checking Varroa mites don't seem to vent as well as the boards without the extra tray. Maybe a taller board with side vents below the screen will do. I'll figure it out.

Also new is the use of sugar spray for inspections. I tried it tonight when looking at each hive. It did not work very well by itself. When sprayed the girls stayed where they were and began to lick up the sugar. What I wanted them to do was move further into the hive & relax. Even Mary had several bees get angry and come looking for me. She's always a calm hive but it's late in the year. SO, I added smoke to the sugar spray; a sort of double whammy. The combo worked very well as expected. The bees moved away from the work area then stayed there to clean off the sugar. This rates well with me and I will continue the practice.

Did I say I was in the hives? I checked to see if the bees were drawing out any of the honey frames now that the excluder was gone. Answer is NO. Linda, the lady from the last post, seemed convinced that the Plasticell was the problem. She also stressed that once the girls refuse a frame it's over and they'll never take it. She highly recommended that I scrap the plasticell and revert to wax & wire. So this is my last trick. I put the honey suppers between the brood boxes. I hope this will compel the girls to draw out the comb. All the deep frames I've put into the brood boxes with Plasticell have been drawn out successfully. So I hope they will get confused and draw out these too. I'll let you know.

Oddly they were making bur comb sideways on top of the brood boxes. Go figure.

I'm still excited about the up coming club meeting. I'll meet so many keepers at once plus all the questions I have. I'll likely chatter like an idiot until they just plain run from me. I should make up a list of questions and rank them. The meeting lasts an hour & a half so if I can get 10 answered I'll be doing good. Can't wait...

Sunday, June 28, 2009

They've thrown me a life preserver.

Saturday we went to the Farmers Market to find some Free Ranging Chickens & eggs (found them, Awesome). While there we came across a booth for an local apiary selling their honey and wax. Once the conversation got going it lasted a good 45 minutes. One of my bigger problems is that I've never spent any time with another keeper. Everything I know is from some book. No one has ever shown me what I'm supposed to be doing. Well that seems to be finally changing.

The very kind ladies at the booth encouraged me to join the local chapter bee club. I was so happy to finally be talking to someone I forgot to ask the name of the club. They gave me directions and times for the monthly meetings. July 16th is the next one. I was also informed about the Mentoring program offered at the club. Someone will come visit and go over all the important stuff & look at my hives. WOW, no more guessing. I absolutely cannot imagine how much of a difference this will make. I wish the meeting was tonight. I'm so jazzed about this. Boy are things looking up.

Monday, June 22, 2009

What If...

With the realization that I'm looking at a No Honey year I wonder what I did wrong. Likely many things. I notice in the last two inspections that the excluders were some what packed with bur comb. I put on the excluders when I added the honey supers. Neither supper had any drawn comb; all plasticell. Could it be that I should have waited until the frames were drawn before adding the excluders? Might this explain the heavy bur comb on the bottoms of the frames?

Well at this point it doesn't matter but today I will remove the excluders on both hives. If the bees begin to draw out comb I'll have my answer.

A year without honey is going to be very unpleasant.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Inspection 6/21/09

84 F

By the looks of it Myrina has finally swarmed. I'M NOT UPSET. I never liked her. Great producer but the meanest queen in the world. I hope her daughter mated with a more civilized drone.

First things first. Still no
drawn comb in the honey suppers. The same as Mary. So I'll be lucky to get any honey this year as far as I can tell. It has rained multiple times a week since the start of the year. The bees just can't get out to do their work. I recently saw how another keeper was still feeding his girls to get them through. It makes sense. The more they are fed the less honey they eat & more brood they can keep. I regret not knowing this earlier. So now I'm feeding them 1:2 syrup. Even if we get dryer weather I'll continue for the brood. Especially since Myrina is at half occupancy.

A pleasant surprise was the amount of Propolis around the excluder. It's the most I've seen either hive ever make at once. I can't help but think is comes mostly from the Yellow Polar trees in the Yard. Huge mature canopies loaded down with their big flowers. But it could be from anything. I don't really know.

Once in the hive bodies I began removing the ubiquitous bur come. Only some on the tops of frames yet a great deal more on the bottoms. I did not have the time to remove all of it. I scraped half the frames today. I'll get the rest next week or so.

The brood patterns look bad. But then only half the colony is here. I can't see the smallest eggs because: 1 - My eyes are 43 years old, 2 - Reading glasses under a veil in summer do not work too well. I should get a hand lens for this purpose. However, I did manage to see fairly recent young brood. Just not much of them. In the image to the side you can see where capped honey cells have replaced brood cells. I'll need to see more to have a better idea of how the new queen is doing. The remaining bees are still as aggressive and GREATLY dislike smoke & attack anyone using a brush.

I did reposition some of the frames to help with the brood. I replaced one old frame that the girls seemed to ignore. I always put the new Plasticell frames in the middle. They draw it out faster than on a side. I intend to eventually replace all the old frames. Out of 20 there is 16 left to replace from before I acquired the hives from the old farmer. That's 9 in Myrina and 7 in Mary. Only the bottom brood hives have original frames.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

The Trap is Set

This too has been some what complicated. A swarm catch is a great way to get free bees. Better yet it's more like rescuing bees from the wild. The issue is that my physical property is smaller than what the bees perceive as their Yard. So I can't really get the swarm trap out side of the bee yard. Apparently within the Yard the pheromone of the existing hives masks the pheromone in the trap. So I need to find a off site location to place the trap.

Fortunately where I work is 10 miles away. Not to far. I can check it while at work during the week. On the weekends I pass the location going to the grocery.

Once in place I'll leave it till the beginning of July. I managed to place two drawn out but empty deep frames inside. I Have another frame filled with honey in storage. I'll put it in the Nuc if ever it gets a swarm. The other frames have not been drawn out, but they're all I have this year.

Behind the garage at work

Friday, May 8, 2009

Mesh Reducers

I came up with these after the so-called robbing incident on Mary. I wanted to reduce the entrance but maintain air circulation. The answer was wire mesh.

Myrina on the left & Mary on the right

Mainly I hoped to lessen the pressure from Wax Moths & robing. The hive would still vent as fully open yet the entrance could be open only several inches. I though at first the bees would fill the mesh with propolis but they never did. It seems to work so I'll leave them in for now.

Friday, April 24, 2009


When I return home from work each day I like to check on the hives. Today I noticed what looked like Robbing behavior occurring at Mary’s entrance. I removed the entrance reducers (blocks of wood) during Sunday’s inspection. I thought with the warmer weather the bees just needed the room to move. We are looking at 85 degrees this weekend. Anyway, I did not see any great piles of dead bees from fighting on the ground. There was, however, some very aggressive behavior at the entrance. Bee on bee, plus it was the bobbing that got my attention in the first place.

It dawned on me then that in the aftermath of Mary’s swarm she does not have the power to defend her borders. I’m so silly. I retrieved the 2 reducers that came with the bottom boards for both hives. I removed the feeders; I’m done with them now. Then put the reducers in place using the wide setting.

The wide setting because 1) - I still want room for the bees to move. 2) – Myrina can take care of herself. 3) – The single bee sized hole will bake the bees this weekend. Both hives got the reducers since I don’t know whose bees are doing the Robbing; there are several other Keepers within a mile of the yard. Mary got an additional block limiting her entrance to about 5 bees across. This she should be able to defend.

I checked on them 30 minutes later and all was calm. Although for the record as soon as I put the reducer on Myrina *ALL* the guard bees came out to protest. Perhaps nothing was happening in the first place or I caught it as it began. I don’t know. It was, however a good exercise to teach me to aid the bees in protecting themselves. I’ll leave the reducers on till we hit 80 degrees. Then I’ll take Myrina’s off but Mary’s must stay until she has more bees

Monday, April 20, 2009

Inspection 4/19/09

70 F

Well on Sunday I was able to get a look at Mary. First I saw the unmistakable sign of chalkbrood on the front porch. Second they had gummed up the hive frames with lots of burr comb. Third I found many unopened swarm cells. Fourth I found one opened swarm cell.

I pulled out every frame in the hive looking for chalkbrood. Fortunately there was very, very little. It centered in where the Winter bee ball would have been. I pluck out the ones I found (less than 10). The bees can take care of the rest. The wet Spring & cool temps are to blame. Soon it will be dry & hot.

The burr comb I scraped off of everywhere but the bottom board. The board will be replaced in May with a screened board.

It's Spring so the swarm cells are plenty. I found 8 of them mostly in the bottom brood chamber. they where removed.

(Can you see the opened cell to the right?)

Yes I'm sure the previous Swarm in the yard was from Mary as I found one opened swarm cell. I hope she's a good queen as she's in charge of Mary now. Mary's attitude had changed over the Winter as to make me think the re-queening exercise may have worked. Population was up. They stopped exhibiting that odd 'everyone out of the hive now' trait. Had I inspected a week ago I'd still have her. Bad weather, cold & rainy, delayed me.

The brood looked good in pattern & amount. Their stores lasted them through the Winter with surplus. I made great use of the entrance feeders. There seems to bee plenty of bees left in the colony to do there job. Job 1, of course, is make more bees.

I replaced 3 frames in Mary's bottom chamber. They are very old and falling apart. I intend to replace the remaining 7 frames in that box later this year. Then all will be new, plus she gets a new box for that chamber too (back ordered).

All medication is complete. All I did this year was Apistan & Fumidil. I hope that's enough.

I plan to put 2 Honey suppers on each hive this year. That should net me 120 lbs of honey, or so. I also want to make a third hive from one of these swarm cells. I pulled 2 honey filled deep frams from Myrina to put in the Nuc. I'll add the frame with the last swarm cell (and bees) and hope for the best. If it works i'll kick myself for not getting 2 Nucs. I did, however, put the excluder plus 1 honey super on each hive. I get to inspecting Myrina on the next warm day.

Speaking of Myrina I opened her up briefly. Then the drizzle shut me down. All I had time to notice was that the last pollen patty I put in her last Fall was still there. That got thrown away. With all the honey that was left in these hives, from what was a sturdy Winter, I don't think pattys are necessary.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

The Painting Jig

Painting hive boxes and such is dreadful. Because one side is resting on the table it cannot be painted at the same time as the rest of the box.
  1. Paint top side with primer and let dry 1 hour.
  2. Flip then paint bottom side with primer and let dry 1 hour.
  3. Paint top side with top coat and let dry for 4 hours.
  4. Flip then paint bottom side with top coat and let dry for 4 hours.
  5. Then repeat as I like 2 coats of top coat.
My response is to make this little jig here.


All 6 surfaces can be painted at the same time. Since the boxes are essentially stacked numerous boxes can be done at a time. God bless Henry Ford. With the 4 foot bar, 4 Honey supers or 2 Nucs or hive bodies can be painted at once. Throw in using a roller not a brush and painting is no longer a chore.

If I add a middle support plus another 4 foot bar I can primer and top coat a 2 hive body & 4 honey supper hive and have it dried in 1 day. Just spin & roll. Solid bottom boards still need to be flipped but with an attachment a screened board can be spun too.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Something in the air?

This swarm appeared in the yard yesterday. Since the branch is far from the ground no one but my daughter saw it (Shes the smallest so is always looking up). She told me earlier in the day that she found a 'Big Hornet nest'. I was busy assembling & painting honey suppers and a Nuc so made a mental note to check it out later but it slipped my mind.

What irony.

At dinner the Wife noticed it and sent Jr down to tell me. I was still working on the suppers. So in Twilight's last gleaming did I find myself standing in the middle of the yard with a paint brush wondering if these were my bees or someone else's. Thinking mostly that these were bees from Mary made for an awful nights sleep.

To add to the suspense today was loaded with family commitments that could not be rescheduled. I could not be around for someone to collect them. I do not know how to collect them myself other than guessing and I have nowhere to put them. The glue in the Nuc is barely dry let alone painted. I'm just a newbie caught with my pants down. Plus I still think these are Mary's bees. The forecast calls for a warm & sunny Spring day. Perfect traveling weather for both bees & family's. With heavy heart I went down to the swarm and said my thank you's and goodbye's. They were still on their branch as we all got ready and left on the trip.

(30+ feet up)

I put the unfinished Nuc outside close to the swarm hoping it may suffice for them. It was a weak attempt but having no other perceivable option it would have to do.

(didn't meet with the scouts approval)

When we got back in the late afternoon they where gone. I hope the new Queens scouts found her a good home. Or at least into the yard of a fellow Keeper who knows what to do.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

The Lost Colony

So it's Friday morning March 27th and I get a call from a local logger about a Bee Tree. He says they didn’t realize there were bees in it until after they cut it down. They then dragged it up the hill and left it far enough away from them to continue working. By the time I got there the bees were all over this guy’s equipment, specifically the skidder that dragged the tree. Yet I was still able to walk up to the tree, now a log, and check out the colony. Lots of activity, no swarming, still located in the log.


At this point I call the local Dadant shop. (I’m still new to this and do not know many people personally yet). I ask the guy there (Mark) if he can direct me to any other local person who can collect these bees. He gives me a name and I make the call. I end up talking to Larry about collecting the colony. Larry seems like a great guy and is willing to come out to get then but let me take them home. We discuss the options and decide to meet the next Monday at the site and get to business. I hand up with him and begin to figure out how much hive equipment I’ll need to get to house the colony.

The weekend passes with warm temps and Sun. Up until Sunday night when some predicted rain turns into the worst snow we’ve had in years. Then the temperature drops to a new all time low never recorded in this area since records have been kept. The snow and cold last as long as the major power outages. Four days.

Did I mention that the Bee Log is lying on its side on top of a windy treeless hill?

Well it was, and still is except that it is no longer a Bee Log. They’re gone. Frozen or gone I’m not sure; probably the former. I called Larry and let him know the status of our bees. He took it better than I did. Not his first rodeo. I also told him that if I locate any more colonies he’s the one I’ll call to come get them. I generally work over eighty-thousand acres so there will be more.

It’s just a damn shame about this colony.


Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Inspection 3/9/9

The girls have had a great week with temp's in the 70's. The Red Maples & Daffodils have bloomed to start the pollen season. The pollen of which seems pale in color. All the rain we had from December to now has replenished the creek and both seep ponds. So it looks like the year will start well enough.

Mary. The Apistan strips have been in place for 45 days so today I took them out. She has changed some, I think for the better. First she had a nice clump of brood near the center of the Winter bee mass. This was unfortunately ripped apart when I separated the hive bodies. Yet that brood alone was more than I saw back in Fall when I tried to re-Queen. Also, The response to smoke has improved. instead of all the bees scrambling out of the hive onto the ground they mostly stayed inside. Some still bailed but only a few. The great majority went deeper into the hive looking for honey. That is the response I like to see. It's more like the productive hives I had last Summer. Added to her was a new telescoping cover. I am very suspicious of a ventilation problem in Mary. As I opened her up I noticed that the bees were already venting on the bottom board. The other hive was having no such problem. Also there was the Winter moisture issue. I had a good bit of water condense in the hive and spill out the opening.

Myrina. Again the Apistan strips came out. She is still the same. I detected no problems in her and she is still mean. Every time I hit them with smoke they take to the air to find the culprit. I could not find any stingers in my suit so she seams at least docile. Just aggressively docile!? I had to stop smoking her just to put the hives back together so no bees would be crushed.

Now is the time for any medications to be used. This is the first time I'll be doing that. I've read some and talked some to local keepers. I am somewhat nervous about it but should start soon.

The hives generally looked good. The girls had plenty of honey left in reserve. My occasional feedings with the entrance feeders worked well. I had purchased a bag of Megabee last fall to make patties. They never finished the few I gave them. I may give them the rest of the bag as dry this Spring to get rid of it.

Now it time to figure out what I want to do this year.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Apistan Strips

So today's temp was above 50F. I've had the strips for 2 weeks now and have been waiting for just such a day as this to put them in the hives. The girls are buzzing around enjoying a little Winter sun.

As soon as I open Mary's cover I see trouble (again!). There was a small puddle of water resting on the inner cover. We've had no rain for a week or so; so why the water?. Plus the water had saturated the inner cover completely. When I looked underneath at the hive body & frames I saw them covered in a greenish sooty mold. Mind you that the hive is loaded with bees. I do use an entrance feeder. Have been for months. Yet I've never seen this type of problem before.

Yes it's true that both hives are currently made up of two deep hive bodies with a honey super on top. The bees of neither colony did much in the supers before Winter. I was hoping they would draw out the frames and make some honey, or store pollen, for them to use. The super are mostly empty. The bees ball up down in the deep hives.

So, I have one hive with water & mold damage. I don't know if Myrina will be the same. I quickly place the strips where they need to be in both deep hives. I leave the super off and close the covers. Then on to Myrina. Fortunately she is dry on the inside. In go her strips and more sugar syrup for both colonies. Her super comes off too.

I'll scrub, bleach, rinse, dry, then freeze Mary's super & frames. Myrina's will go straight into the deep freeze. Now I must go and find out why There is water in my hive. Maybe condensation, I don't know.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Varroa Mites

Over the Holidays we had many guests show up to visit. As usual I showed off my bees with an inspection one warm afternoon. Each person gets their photo taken holding a deep frame plus a spoonful of honey off that frame. Lots of smiles and frantic laughs (not all are comfortable around bees).

While looking at the images a day or so later I saw them. VARROA MITES on the backs of a few bees. I hate reminders that I've been beekeeping for less that a year. Should have put in strips back in November. Anyway I go to the local Dadant store only to learn they can not sell chemicals anymore; or until they get a pesticide license. So now I must do it online. Fine the order has been made.

However while in the Dadant shop I talked to a guy with 160 hives, he said he was not commercial. He told me of a devise he bought that cleans or disinfects hive with vaporized vinegar. Some machine he bought from its creator in North Carolina. He told me that by pumping the vapor into a hive for 30 seconds just about everything would be cured. He then went on about how we use too much chemicals in our hives as it is. I'll need to research this some more of course.

The practice of using powdered sugar came up as well. I don't think, though, that Mary would survive it.

Anyway the strips will be here soon and the hives will be treated. I'm not big into chemicals but without the experience I'll keep to the tested ways for now. Mary's re-Queening never took. There was a Queen in the hive that I could not find. SO, Mary is still quite weak. Bad brood quantity and patterns all last Fall. Plus she continued with that odd trait off pouring out onto the ground during inspections (hence thumbs down with powdered sugar as the nights are in the 20's). Myrina still seems in good condition.

I am looking forward to next year. I have already though of acquiring 2 more hives.