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.