Sometimes on a Winter Fly Day very few bees come out of the hive. Then only briefly to drop off dead bees or to take a cleansing flight. Today, however they are spilling out in droves. At 55f in the shade it looks like a mid Autumn day out there with the bees flying out of the yard looking for any remaining pollen. Tomorrow is forecast to being even warmer. Which will be a great way to start 2011.
This year i started tracking the fly days. They're listed on the calendar at the bottom of the blog page. I don't know if it will lead to anything but it's worth watching for now.
This is the first fly day this month. The poor girls have been stuck in their hives since before Thanksgiving. Today's temp was in the high 40's. Not to warm but enough for the bees to break cluster & preform hive maintenance. Cleansing flights and dead bee removal is all i could see. I'm sure they were all getting into honey cells they couldn't reach before.
"Bring Out your Dead"
Under the entrance of each hive was good sized pile of bees; Winter attrition. Mary was flying first with a good number of bees. Myrina came out later with as many bees though. I used a stick to pull out the dead bees stuck in the entrances. Myrina seemed to have more piled behind the reducer. Can't tell if that is a sign of a problem or not.
The Sun coming out helped them the most. We have a few more sunny days in the forecast so maybe they can fly again tomorrow.
As expected there was good sign of cleansing flights. I say good because it didn't look like Nosema. No great large stain in front of the hives. Just tiny individual spots all around the yard. If it were warmer they could get a little farther from the hives. Which would be nice. But its still cool so they're staying close. Good thing the paint doesn't stain!
I had to open the entrance a little more for Myrina's bees to get all the dead out. I hope she's not going under. We will see...
Here is a great detailed shot of a younger bee taking a stroll outside.
Today the newspaper came out of the combination of Duchess & Mary. When i approached the hive I heard a loud roar from inside which was concerning. That's usually a sign of colony stress. On opening the hive many bees took to the air but didn't seem defensive. It's overcast so maybe they don't like the clouds as bees are know to do. The newspaper had a good size hole in the middle where i put the slit. The east edge was also chewed away.
The paper came off the boxes easily enough, just a little scraping. After i put the hive back together the bees became quiet again. There are 3 holes in the Vent Box up top. I closed the 2 on the sides leaving only the front one open. Hopefully the combination went well and this colony will go into Winter with extra strength.
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I finally pulled the HTF off of Myrina too. There was very little syrup left inside of it. These bees have gotten their Fumagilin dose. Her IC went back on and i closed all the holes, except for 1, on her Vent Box as well. They looked OK from what i could see. Which wasn't much.
Last week Duchess seemed to be queenless: agitated bees, many torn down mid-frame queen cells, no brood, & i could not find the marked queen. Today I went in her looking for either eggs or a virgin queen. I found neither. The only option I know of is to do a combination.
I read up on a simple newspaper combination. You place a sheet of newspaper on top of the good hive and make a small slit in the newspaper. Then you place one brood box from the weak hive on top of that. In 24 hours the bees will have chewed through the paper. This gives the colonies time to acclimate to each other. Then they will all be 1 colony.
A beek must ensure that a weak colony's queen is pinched or a queenless colony is indeed queenless. If 2 queens are present in a hive they may fight for dominance. If the better queen is killed by a poor queen the new colony my experience the same problems the weak hive experienced before the combination. If the better queen is killed by a virgin queen then neither colony has an egg producing queen. In summer I could get a queen from another beek. This time of year there are no queens available. Without a laying queen the colony will die because they can't make up their losses. The cluster will shrink as bees naturally die. Eventually the colony will have too few bees to produced the heat they need to survive the Winter. They won't last long enough into Spring for me to requeen them when queens are available again in May.
Getting ready to put Duchess on top of Mary
Duchess was combined with Mary. Mary's performance since her own requeening has been great. She is a strong colony with ample stores of pollen & honey. I used Duchess's top Deep box which is full of honey. Mary's top Deep is also full of honey. These bees will have over 100 lbs of honey to get through Winter. I left Mary's bottom Deep on. So Mary is now a 3 Deep hive. Duchess's screened bottom board, bottom Deep, & telescoping cover have all been retired. Duchess's inner cover went on Mary. Mary's hive top feeder and vent box were also removed.
Mary & Duchess Combined
After Duchess had been put on to Mary I had to dump in the rest of Duchess's bees that were still in her bottom and the quiet boxes. That was easy but many took to the air. In a combination no entrance hole is provided to the box on top. So any flying bees need to sort things out on their own after everything is closed up. That why you see a cluster of bees on the front of Mary above. They are the remnants of Duchess figuring out what to do. In the end they all went in Mary at her entrance. I was able to watch them slowly craw in. I wonder if that may be another sign that they were queenless. Calmly walking into a queen right hive. It's called 'Drift' and it happens when hives are close to each other. In this case the one hive is gone so the flying bees will drift into the next hive over.
The newspaper will stay in for at least a week. I will take it out after that on the next warm day. After that I'd like to do an inspection on Mary to locate her marked queen. If she can be found then i know the combination went well. If not I'll need to watch her for symptom of queenlessness. Which would mean i'd have lost 2 colonies.
To add to the stress I found my first instance of Small Hive Beetle (SHB) in Duchess as I was taking her apart. I found a total of 4 on the pollen frames in the bottom box. SHB are all bad and poop in the hive. These either came with these bees from Georgia last Spring or from my neighbors hives who also came from Georgia last spring. The same shipment of packages.
SHB in front of the bee
This poses a big problem since i just combined a SHB infested hive with Mary. Which means Mary now has SHB. Isn't that great! I love how this Winter is starting out... I'll add beetle traps in the hive and read up on them. As usual a strong colony of bees can manage a few beetles.
The Bee Yard Now - Myrina & Mary
It's a shame to lose Duchess. I still think i killed her queen during the last inspection. It's something that happens so I'll need to be vigilant going forward. Now I'm thinking about how many packages I'll want to order for next spring. Or, maybe buy a couple Nucs locally. I would like at least 2 more colonies next year.
When I first started keeping bees I used dry hardwood leaves as a smoker fuel.. They worked fine and were free & plentiful. I'd go out to the back woods, grab a handful or two, mash them into the smoker and light it. They provided abundant cool white smoke that smelled like burning leaves. They would burn quickly and needed to be refilled often. That lasted as a fuel until Fall when it began to rain each week and all the leaves were now green (as in water content not actual color).
I kept with the 'Free' theme and started using pine needles. There is a patch of pine in the side woods with years of pine mulch laying on the ground. Any time of year I could get a bucket of needles. The bucket was stored in the garage which kept the needles always dry. The smoke smelled better than the leaves but seemed hotter and was more likely to stain the wooden ware. The needles burned better than the leaves and required less refuelings. But, they also blew more ash, lined the smoker with more resin, & created a little less smoke. Unfortunately, one colony hated the smoke and would become defensive.
Early this year a neighbor got into bees and started using the compressed cotton disks. From what I saw they were difficult to get started and created very little smoke. They rarely stayed lit and required a torch be always handy. I didn't use them myself but did not like the look of them. The smell was rough too.
Then I began to use the wood pellets; the hardwood pellets not the pine ones. At first i used a torch to light them. Now i add a handful of pine needles to the top and light with a single match. Once lit they continuously burn. When i fill the smoker 3/4 of the way up the smoke can last for two or more inspections. A cork stuffed in the top extinguishes the smoke. They make tons of cool smoke that smells like a campfire.
So unless I find something better I sticking with the hardwood pellets.
This smoker has been lit for thirty minutes and not been puffed for fifteen
Not good. Going into Duchess to add the Apistan treatment I could find no brood or eggs. The bees were more defensive than normal. There were many queen cell looking structures that were being torn down by the bees. Only one of which had an exit hole out the bottom.
Chewed up Queen Cell
There was plenty of brood last time i was in the hive. I cant know what happened but my guess is I accidentally mashed the queen during the last inspection. It looks like they tried to create several emergency queens. Which may have produced a Queen. Unfortunately there really isn't any drones left for her to mate with. Which leaves her a virgin queen, unable to lay eggs to help the colony
Now, maybe she did find a drone and has come back to the hive but hasn't started to lay eggs yet. I need to check one more time next week to be sure. If not she's been handed a death sentence.
In the Beemaster forum Michael Bush said that bees from a queenless hive can drift to a queen right hive if it is nearby. Duchess sits next to Mary. He also said a queenless hive in Fall can face major robing pressure.
If it turns out she is queenless I plan to combine her with Mary using the newspaper method. Duchess's top Deep box which is filled with honey will be placed on top of Mary. All Duchess's bees will be shaken into that one box. If the combination works Mary will be a very strong colony with more supplies than she can use. Duchess's bottom Deep box will go into the freezer to be utilized for a different hive in the future.
I will talk to people in the bee club at the meeting next Thursday. I'll figure out what I'm going to do then.
The Apistan went into all 3 hives today. 2 strips per box. At 2 Deeps a hive each hive took 4 strips. Each on the inside of the 3rd frame near the cluster. Then in the opposite positions in the bottom box. It staggers out the strips and I believe allows the most contact. Staggered the strips are not on top of each other yet all four corners are covered.
Installed Apistan strips
The treatment will last 45 days, ideally. It may be snowing & 20f degrees at that time so I take it out whenever I can at around 45 days.
Normally I'd like to have the strips in on the first of November but I was late this year. It shouldn't be a problem though. Instead of pulling out the strips on December 15th, they'll come out on January 1st. Either way the queens should have stopped laying so there will be a break in the brood cycle. Which is the best time for the Apistan to be killing the Varroa mites. As apposed to Spring when there is no brood cycle break. Plus I'd have to fight against the timing of the Flow & adding honey suppers; which can't be done while treating.
A 24 hour, non-sugar, sticky board drop from November 1st revealed higher than acceptable mite populations in all 3 hives. Mary = 123, Myrina = 66, & Duchess = 103. 50 is considered the population threshold.
This is a pretreatment 24 hour drop count onto a sticky board. The mite population has seemed lower than ever this year. I didn't want to treat with chemicals so I hoped to put it off this year.
Mary - 123
Myrina - 66
Duchess - 103
So much for not treating. I typically use Apistan but will look at Apiguard too. Mary & Myrina's Queens are daughters of VSH queens. I thought they might have lower counts. Duchess is new from Georgia and likely brought some with her.
The bees have slowed down taking the syrup. I meant to add another gallon the other day but the HTF's still had some of the last batch in them. I poured in what I could and saved the rest for later. Hopefully they'll take all of it soon.
I checked the Chronicles for what the bees did last year. They were given their last syrup on November 2nd. At that time i noted they didn't take much then either. I wish I had checked last years notes earlier this month. What I need is a calendar for bee work. So I have started to use my Google account calendar for my bees.
I can create an event for any known impute. Say a last feeding on the first of October. Then set the calendar to remind me a few days in advance. So i can include mite treatments, possible requeening dates, first of Spring feeding dates, etc, etc.
I know these times aren't written in stone and can vary. I can finesse the dates as i go plus the heads up will keep me from trying to feed my bees in November anymore.
It took longer than it should have but today i finally got into Duchess. She has seemed more productive than the other two all year. From her constant wax production to always having more bees flying at any given time. If this colony can get through Winter than I hope for much honey from her next year. She's more defensive than Myrina & Mary now that those two have been requeened. Not at first but after going through a box of frames she can take to head butting. She is in no way a problem fortunately.
OOPS! - She would have had her last gallon of treated syrup in her HTF today if I hadn't screwed up. I made it Friday night the 22nd. On Saturday I went to put it out but it had begun to crystallize already. So I place the pot back on the burner and set it for medium heat. I thought after ten or so minutes it would be back to all liquid and good to go. Sadly I became distracted. When I finally got back to it the syrup had been boiling for some time. What a waste. So I dumped the syrup out. I had to now that it was toxic. Four dollars worth of sugar and a teaspoon worth of Fumagilin-B. I'm still mad at me. What a dope! I do not have enough Fumagilin left to make even a single extra gallon of syrup. So Duchess will not get her second gallon. She's the only colony i have that's not had Nosema. If one of them is going to get only a half dose than it's best to be her.
Ask me how well it worked come March?
Anyway the HTF did have the crystallized remains of the first gallon. So, afterward, I added a quart of warm water to it. Thirty minutes after the inspection was over the girls were flying in the typical sugar shock frenzy that follows the addition of syrup.
Top Box Frames:
10. Full capped honey - 2010 CW
9. Full capped honey - 2010 CW
8. Full capped honey, back fill - 2010 CW
7. Full capped honey, back fill - 2010 CW
6. Full capped honey, back fill - 2010 CW
5. Full capped honey, some brood cells - 2010 CW
4. Full capped honey, some pollen - 2010 CW
3. Full capped honey - 2010 CW
2. Full capped honey - 2010 CW
1. Full capped honey - 2010 CW
I could not find the Queen. I also didn't see any eggs since I forgot to put my glasses on before I started. I did see some very young larva though.
Extra wax, wrong place
Lots of bur comb on the top of the frames in the bottom box. I scraped it all away including the propolis on the frame rests. All the extra wax and still some of the Plasticell frames were unfinished. They started out in the first box and yet, several of the outer frames were not drawn out completely. The more I see the more I don't like it. The Queen cup was well developed but nothing inside it.
Frame 10, Initial hive box
I pulled the SBB and cleaned beneath the hive as well. The same critters were under this hive as the others. Wasps & spiders. It's not a problem but after a whole season it builds up more than I had thought. The Mud Wasps kept to the hive stand. They were easy to remove. The spiders had webbed up under the hive like there would be no tomorrow.
Many egg cases
The worst part of that being the type of spider. Black Widows are docile creatures I have no problem with. Except for the fact they could severely harm my kids; and mess me up too. So she gets mashed every time i find her. I thought the wood pile was bad but I've found more by the bees.
I previously mentioned the portables hive stands. Nothing more than 4 pieces of wood screwed together. Yet, they're great for keeping the bottom of a box off the ground; no grass, leaves, or smashed bees. There never seems to be enough space on the regular stand so these are handy. First they were used to move the hives to the new spot; 2 feet at a time. Now they are a spot to put a top box while I'm in the lower box doing whatever. There will be more uses in the future i'm sure.
Portable stand & quiet box
Last, we hit the high 30's this last week for nightly lows. Frosts are coming. So today I closed the SBB's in Myrina & Duchess. Mary only has a solid BB. I used a piece of luan cut to fit beneath Myrina's hive and slide into the back of Duchess's SBB. Myrina's is a simple one I bought from Dadant. Nothing fancy like rear access mite check boards. So she had to bee lifted to put it on. Duchess has a homemade one that does have the mite check board. Her's slid into the back. This leaves the main entrance as the bottom vent for Winter. The vent boxes I use release the air up top.
Today the bees woke up with their HTFs filled with Fumagilin-B 2:1 syrup. They will all get 2 gallons each. I checked them today at lunch. All three seemed to be flying about in the typical sugar shock way. I could see Myrina's girls were drinking it up after i opened her cover. I didn't open up Mary or Duchess because the bees started to dive bomb me. I'll check on then tonight after work.
The problem I had last night when I put the syrup out was the bees had propolised the inside of the HTF closed. I didn't see it at first and had to fix it after the syrup had been poured in. The HTF had been without syrup in it for a few days and I guess the bees did their thing. Another lesson there.
Sugar issues. It's too expensive to feed the girls constantly. They've been getting a gallon a week so far. Their stores are OK in all the hives; I'll check Duchess this weekend. The less I feed the better. The problem is the impurities in the sugar. Some liquid had gotten into the sugar and made dried globs. These globs didn't dissolved like regular sugar. Even after 6 hours it hadn't all melted. There were still chunks when i put it in the HTF. When I checked today they were finally gone. I'm buying the cheapest sugar I can find ($0.57/lb). These off brands apparently have their own hidden cost!
In Fall & Spring when Syrup needs to be made I use the calculator over at Beekeeping.com. It's a great calculator that allows me to make the quantity I want to the exact ounce. No more leftovers to store for later. I've always had a bookmark for it on the laptop. I can remember the pounds of sugar but not quite the ounces of water. Today I didn't have my laptop!
Also in Fall I tend to treat with Fumagilin-B, or when a new package is installed. Which means I either have to find my copy of the directions or look it up online. It's not hard to find it online but why do this every time. So today I put both on a page in this blog. Bee Recipes & Calculations. Now I can go on Any computer and find & printout, if necessary, these directions.
I'll likely put any other similar information on this page in the future.
When I inspected Myrina the other day I used a 'Quiet Box' for the first time. I hadn't meant too but it suddenly came in handy. After opening her up I pulled out the customary 10th frame and set it aside. Normally I would then shift all other frames to the right as I inspect the hive. However this time there wasn't much room to work with. Here at the end of the season there's a good bit of bur comb. So I needed to make more room. I took out another frame and it still wasn't enough room left for cleaning the frame rests. I couldn't take out another one without causing a robbing situation. I needed somewhere to put these frames.
I remembered reading about 'Quiet Boxes'. I have an empty nuc sitting around doing nothing anyway so I went and got it. I set it up and put 3 frames in it. Instead of the regular cover I simply used a shop towel; easier to move around. I did use the regular BB and then reduced it to a single opening. After i put the towel over it the bees on those frame calmed down considerably. I had expected them to fly out and back to the main hive but they stayed in the nuc the whole time.
A quiet nuc & big inspection opening (Mary)
Now I had 3 frames worth of space to work with. It was a lot easier to scrape propolis away now that I could get my hand in the box. It is a definite improvement for working with the bees. I did it again when I inspected Mary. Same results, Good ones.
When I took off the top boxes I put then on my portable hive stands as usual but also draped another towel over them too. This also worked great. I think one of the best things about keeping bees is continually learning new tricks.
One of my sons teachers is a hunter. On the land he hunts is an old abandon house. The area around the house is overgrown and woodsy. The lady who lived there died in the '50's. After the funeral the local folk boarded up her house with everything still inside as per custom. And so there it sat.
Upon hearing from my son that I keep bees he mentioned he had seen a colony of bees in the old abandon house last June. Some cell phone numbers were exchanged and he & I started talking. I asked him if he could check on the bees again, to see if they were still there. He did and sent me this cell phone image
An External hive
You can see the bees in a cluster in the middle of the top windowpane. Now I've never seen an external hive before but I could definitely make out the bees. So he & i decided to retrieve these bees from their window and put them in one of my empty Nucs before Winter got here. I figure it's a cut out since there is enough comb to cut and keep. My biggest worry it that the real nest is in the wall and what we see above is just an extension. Which means i couldn't get the whole colony without cutting into the wall. Something I'm not really prepared for yet. I've never done anything like a cutout before so I went to the web and looked up some very good information. Thanks JP
So last Tuesday the 12th we met to get the bees. To get to the house was an adventure itself. A small drive but a long walk. Half a mile carrying all the equipment there and expecting to do the same, plus a full nuc, back. Through woods filled with 4 foot tall poison ivy. Why is there 4 foot tall poison ivy? Is that necessary? (my hand itches so bad i want to cut it off and feed it to the cat)
Once we got there we could see the hive in the top window.
On the top sill
So into the house & up the stairs we went. Mind the 3rd to last stair step! it's not there. The place was creepy with all the furniture & clothes still where they were when the old lady passed away almost 60 years ago. All the canned vegetables were still in their mason jars under the stairs too. The weather had opened up a few holes in the outer walls. The mice and vultures were the prime denizens now (Can you say 'Hantavirus').
Why am I in here? Oh yeah.. Bees!
Well what can I say, the hive was empty. The bees he saw the previous day were nowhere to be seen.
We inspected the combs, 5 in all. They are completely empty of everything. At one time this was a energetic colony but what happened to them is a mystery. We did find a bunch of bees in the wall though. I blew some smoke in a hole to gauge the reaction. It was a loud hum. I've heard louder but this was the first time I've listened to a wall. I cut a small hole in the wall to see better. I found old comb, much older than the external comb by the window.
The bees were lower in the wall
This is where I stopped hunting bees. If there are enough bees to survive Winter then God Bless 'em, I'll be back next Spring. If not, oops! I'm not ready for a full blown, wall ripping, cutout in a vermin infested house ready to fall down. Plus, I had only brought a nuc not a 10 frame deep. It was getting very late, since we didn't start till after 6pm. Daylight was a'wandering away. It would just have to wait. Had I known this to be a full cutout I would have recommended it to another beek anyway. I don't need the bees and I was doing it to save an external colony from Winter. If they're in the walls they have a great chance of getting through the Winter. And since the colony in the wall is very old they've been doing it for a while anyway. There, that's enough excuses for me.
Now, what happened to the bees on the external hive? I don't know. The color of the comb implied the comb was not old. Either it was made late last year (2009) or this. Whether it was a swarm or extension of the wall hive is uncertain. I know dead bees pile up outside all of our hives...
....but this looks like all of them!
Maybe they were robbed out BY the wall colony, this Summer or last, or they starved last Winter. The only Velma-class, Jinky's-level clue was 5 dead bees stuck head first in empty cells. They had decayed to the point where their abdomens had broken off. The comb itself was not too terribly plagued by Wax moth. We cut it down. He kept some to teach his kids with & I kept one to display at work. The bees that were on the comb the day he took the picture must have been from the wall colony. Rotten teasers..
All that's left to do is come back next Spring. Maybe do a cutout then or leave them be. The teacher was apologetic about the wasted trip. I assured him it was NO waste. Lots of information and a little mystery goes along way.
Mary had the same crystallized sugar in her HTF as did Myrina. Not to much but it was there. The bees seemed calm when I started. A good bit of bur comb too.
Almost looks drone sized
The frames are Plasticell from 2008. I've not cycled any of them out yet. Maybe next year if the comb is dark enough. The Nosema stains are from when Mary was in the ICU last Winter. I scraped it off along with all the propolis on the frame rests.
Top Box Frames:
10. Full capped honey - 2008 Plasticell
9. Full capped honey - 2008 Plasticell
8. Full capped honey - 2008 Plasticell
7. Full capped honey, drawn out oversized - 2008 Plasticell
6. 1/2 capped honey, drawn out undersized - 2009 Plasticell
5. 1/2 honey, 1/2 brood (back filling w/honey) - 2008 Plasticell
4. Full capped honey (back filling w/honey) - 2008 Plasticell
3. Eggs, 3/4 back filled honey, queen cup - 2008 Plasticell
2. Capped brood, 3/4 back filled honey - 2008 Plasticell
1. Full capped honey - 2008 Plasticell
After pulling all the frames & scraping all the propolis I felt the bees needed even more agitation. So I pulled off the bottom box and dumped and cleaned the solid BB. The bees temperament was fine, until then. They didn't come after me but they did take to the air with a vengeance. Well, of course they did, their hive looked like the Scarecrow after a fight with the Flying Monkeys! After I put it all back together it took an hour before they had calmed down. And yet not a single headbutt or found stinger in the jacket.
Incidentally, under the BB was a huge Black Widow and her egg case; which was as big as a golf ball. She got mashed and the eggs were thrown into the woods.
The Chalkbrood was very minor; only a few cells. This queen seems strong enough so I'm not inclined to worry about it. If i see it again in Spring I'll requeen. Interestingly enough Mary never received a screened bottom board this year. I left the solid BB on in Spring when her population was critical; she needed heat to brood up. I never got around to fabricating her one this Summer and now here we are. I can't say if they're related but I wonder why this hive has always had Chalkbrood in it, and through the reign of 3 queens now. Quite suspicious.
So for once Mary looks good. What a turn around after last winter. Her stores are looking good, she still has plenty of brood, and her population looks great. All of this from the 2 cups worth of bees that survived last Winter. My options then were to let the colony die and use their hive for a new package or take extreme measures to aid them. I'm glad I did what I did. I now know how to bring back a colony from the population brink. Think of it, originally not enough bees to cover half a deep frame! And now...
...Here is just 1 of her pollen frames
The decision whether to requeen every year has not been made. Ideally I would use queens I reared. I was hoping to rear queens this year but we couldn't even produce enough honey. I will feel better about making my own queens once the bees & I have had a truly productive and successful year. If I need to requeen I'll get more queens from Bobby again, or someone local.
I'll do a Varroa check this week to see where that population is going. The whole year I've not seen a mite except in blown-up photos. My neighbor did a 24 hour drop check in her 2 hives and counted only 11 & 13 mites Total! I believe mine will be near the same.
I'll feed the bees a few more times before Winter. Include in that a Fumagillin treatment. We'll see about the Apistan treatment. If I can avoid it I will.
Time to look into Myrina and see if she's ready for Winter. This was very different. As soon as the cover was off I could tell everything had changed. They weren't angrily attacking the smoke. They were all the same color. They didn't even mind when I shook my hand back & forth over the open box. These bees were no longer evil mean bees but, dare I say, regular bees, Hallelujah!
Top Box Frames:
10. Thin drawn, 1/2 capped honey - 2010 Crimped-Wire (CW)
9. 3/4 capped honey - 2010 CW
8. Full capped honey - 2010 CW
7. Full capped honey - 2009 Plasticell
6. 1/2 honey, 1/2 brood (eggs), Marked Queen - Old CW
5. 1/2 honey, 1/2 brood (back filling w/honey) - Old CW
4. 1/2 honey, 1/2 brood (back filling w/honey) - Old CW
3. 3/4 capped honey, some pollen - Old CW
2. 3/4 capped honey, some pollen - Old CW
1. 3/4 capped honey, some pollen - Old CW
Depleted means the bees took wax from these frames and used it somewhere else. It's ugly and looks like this.
So the top box is heavy and the bottom box is light. There is about 1 more month before cold weather sets in. I'll continue feeding, but at an increased rate. As usual I add Apple Cider Vinegar to the syrup.
Queen Myrina was found on frame 6 in the top box. She looked busy. This was the first time I've seen her since the requeening.
Even if I hadn't seen her there were plenty of eggs already on the frame.
The Hive Top Feeder has been tricky going. The bees keep propolising the vent holes closed. It takes about a week for the bees to do it. I clean it off when I feed but it's getting old.
This is new to this year. They never did it last year. I'll need to ask around to see if this is good behavior or not. Also the syrup keeps crystallizing. Again, that never happened last year. I don't know what's so different now. More studying then...
2:1 Rock Candy
Myrina's population looked good but not heavy. The two requeenings probably didn't help (one on her own before I introduced the later queen).
The only question I have now is what to do with the handful of Varroa mites in the hive. I never saw them during the inspection. Only after looking at the photo's could I find any. Very few indeed. I'll talk to some older beeks and see what they recommend.
Oh, and here's something we all want to see this time of year.
It's been awhile since I've updated. The Summer has been terribly busy and the bees didn't really produce honey again so my motivations were elsewhere. I kept up with the bees just didn't post about it here. Nothing major happened so no critical information was lost.
The few things that did happened are: * The 2010 Package has been named 'Duchess'. We meant to name her after she showed some personality traits. I like to name the bee queens after some human queen with the same personality. During the interim we took to calling her Duchess; like an heir apparent before naming. After a while it just stuck. Her personality is great. Mostly calm and very productive. On days where Mary & Myrina are sitting on their respective porches Duchess is always flying and bringing in the goods. She was slow to kick out the drones but I thinks she's still on Georgia time. We will soon be into Winter which will be her biggest test.
* I pulled out all the Pierco drone frames from the hives early. They don't work well with me. One needs to have two to fill a spot, not one. As you pull one out it needs replaced by another. It takes awhile before the bees can fully draw it out. Meanwhile drone eggs are being laid in whatever good cells it has. The queen doesn't jump onto the frame the moment you install it either; it can take a few days. Yet, you need to freeze it every twenty days regardless. I never had more then a fist sized patch of capped brood on a frame going into the freezer. Which caused me wonder how many honey making worker bees weren't produced all this time? However, these frames would be great in a honey supper. Bigger cells equals less wax which equals more honey. So I'll cut down the frames to fit into a medium honey supper for next year.
* As mentioned above the harvest was pitiful. Only three quarts of honey. The bees never drew out the frames in the honey supers. One super had been drawn out the year before. What little honey was still in it from 2009 was to draw the bees into the super this year. It sorta worked. They filled it some more but there were few full frames. I don't know what the issue is but we can not currently produce honey. Maybe its the excluder or their temperament or the plasticell or I just suck as a beek! I don't know.
* Done with Plasticell! It has qualities I like but the bees in Mary & Myrina do not agree with me. This year I pretreated each frame with a extra heavy coating of their own wax plus a thick sugar spray. But the bees just wouldn't go for it. Which drives me crazy. When I started all of this they took to the Plasticell I put in their brood boxes. It replaced the old black comb left in by the farmer. Very frustrating. I've gone to crimped-wire now. I also treat it with the sugar spray. One of the reasons i like the rigid foundation is for spinning survival. We had honey the first year. All of it fell apart during extraction. Oh well. I'll reinforce the crimped-wire with horizontal wire too. Did I mention that Duchess (the 2010 package) couldn't care less about the foundation. I put a post extraction super on her to clean it out. After a week of rain I pulled it off. She had begun to draw out all the frames! Good little bees...
* I began feeding all three colonies in September. I gave each if them a gallon of 1:1 each week. It scared me the way they would put down the gallon in under 24 hours. We had a significant dearth here to start with but the girls have bee doing well lately on whatever is out there. The 1:1 helped them finish drawing out a few frames replaced in June. Now into October they're getting a 2:1 syrup. It is crystallizing before they can take the whole amount. I'll need to do something about that. Still I only feed once a week. A 50 lb bag equals 2 feedings. That gets expensive fast at several feeding a week. I'll assist for now. A check of their stores this week will help me gauge how to continue.
* Varroa mites have not been a problem either. Last Winter beat up everybody.
This morning I drove to Farmville to pick up 2 VSH Italian queens from Bobby Oakes. While there Bobby showed me the hives the queens came from. Their brood patterns were perfect. Surrounded by a ring of sweetcorn pollen & capped honey. Plus, the calmness of the bees was impressive. I'm not used to such relaxed bees. But then Bobby's been with bees for decades. I have so much to learn yet.
Introducing the new Mary & Myrina
I brought the bees home and gave them a drink. Then down to the hives I went. Popped the cover on Myrina & Mary and installed the queens. Didn't use smoke since it was like a hit & run. I closed up the hives before the bees could really start flying.
In 5+ days I'll check the queen cages. If both of these colonies turn out as well as Bobby's colonies it'll be a great year.
The time has come to requeen both Mary & Myrina. Mary has been weak since last Summer. I didn't requeen her then because I didn't know about that kind of stuff. By the time I figured it out it was November and to late in the year. Myrina was strong, productive, but old. This is a good time to do her as well. However, last inspection I could not find queen Myrina & the bees weren't acting queen-right. Both Mary, since last year, & Myrina, from the last inspection, have had spotty brood & chalkbrood.
I had meant to requeen in April but the local queen supplier didn't have any ready just then. After which a bear shredded his apiary. I've been waiting on his next batch to requeen. When Myrina went south I decided to do it now. Unfortunately I could not locate any queens. So I had to wait some more. Then last week the email went out that another beek had available queens. I made the call & will pick up 2 VSH Italian queens Tuesday morning.
Which means i need to pinch any queens in the targeted hives. Both have marked queens and Myrina should be queenless. Or so I thought. First into Myrina. I wanted to make sure she was without a queen. Suiting up in 98 degrees and inspecting 20 deep frames is no picnic but it must be done.
I had a Medium honey super on Myrina but they hadn't touched it. So off it came. Her population was down too and I noticed the Chalkbrood had vanished. The amount of frames with brood had increase as well. And many 'Eggs'. Uh oh. Continuing the search found the capped brood to still be spotty but lots of eggs & larva. The residing queen was eventually found on the second to last frame in the bottom box. UNMARKED!
So apparently they had replaced or superseded the last marked queen. Enough time has gone by. I never did find any queen cells though. I did watch the new queen for a bit. she was scrambling around the frame randomly dropping eggs out her hind end. Not putting them into cells at all. Are they supposed to do that? Well enough for me. Myrina has always been very defensive. Even if she's been trouble free I'm tired of putting on armor every time I want to look at her. This daughter of her's would likely bee a good queen but still as mean as her mother. So I removed her from the hive.
Mary was much easier on me. She was on frame #2 in the top box. She was easy to spot with that big blue paint dot on her back. She was pulled from her hive as well. Though I saw no signs of chalkbrood in Mary either. Which is strange since she's always shown some sign of it over the last 2 years.
So 2 queens out of their hives and into the freezer. The freezer because I had no heart to mash them. The bees will realize they're queenless tomorrow. Tuesday I will place a new queen in each hive. If all goes well the break in brood will only be a week. Which Myrina has already done when she made the last queen. Each will be back up to par before August, so should be set for Winter as far as population goes. I'll update as the requeening progresses.
Also, Myrina's Bottom Board was replaced with a Screened Bottom Board. That should help with keeping the hive cool. The temps this year have been way up in the 90's each day. 3 old crimped wire frames in box 1 & 3 plasticell frames from box 2 were replaced with undrawn crimped wire frames. The old frame because the bees had stopped using them; they were completely empty. The Plasticell frames because the bees were also ignoring them; never drawn out. The crimped wire wax foundations should entice the bees back to using the frames.
Today I went out to check the bee tree hive and was greatly disappointed. The few holes in the flashing covering the entrance were enough to allow the bees to completely avoid going through the hive box. I was hoping to replace the flashing with a larger piece I had found. I couldn't because thousands of bees were bearding outside the tree entrance. It would have been an epic battle to re-flash the opening. Not one I was up for on a ladder in the 95+ degree Sun. Plus, lots of bees would have been killed.
No comb has been drawn at all. The bees inside the box just sat there cooling themselves. If they began to utilize the hive box now it would be August or September before they had brood in it. So late in the year what would I do with them over winter.
I'm not looking to get free bees; not that such a thing exists. But to acquire their genetics. So I'll need enough bees to produce their own queen. Not something a few frames of bees can do in the middle of Winter. I'd need to combine them with another hive. Then I'd lose the genetics. Not the point of the project.
It would be a lot more work for a colony that has been a great effort to capture. All the while yielding no success. So i called it right then and there.
If the colony is still there next February I'll try again. I broke down all the equipment and brought it home. They're good bees and I'd like to get them but this is not the year for it. I did learn a few tricks so it's not a total waste of time.
Several attempts have been made to mark Mary this year. None have worked for one reason or another. Today, though, was the day.
The In-laws are visiting and my father-in-law wanted to see the bees. So we suited him up with a veil & gloves borrowed from my awesome beekeeping neighbor. Then we opened up the hive and showed him the bees. He got a kick out of it and asked lots of good questions.
The big thrill was marking Queen Mary. We hunted for her on every frame and, of course, didn't find her until the last frame. Frame 7 in the bottom box. Once we found her it was a mad dash to get her in the marking tube. She was moving very fast skittering across the frame. It took several minutes the cage her. Then marking her went quickly. Allowed a minute to let the paint dry before placing her back on the frame.
Marked Queen Mary
It's a lot of trouble for a Queen i'm about to replace but this will make finding her that day much easier. Although I must say that her brood pattern in the upper box looked great. If i didn't know she's a weak Queen I couldn't have guessed it from there. Solid frames filled with eggs. I think moving the hives into a sunnier spot in the yard helped immensely.
Also, there's a paper hornets nest by the hives. I was leaning on the swing watching the bees. I looked up and noticed the nest 3 feet from my head. I backed off quickly since I wasn't wearing the bee suit. Later after I had finished working the bees I went and pestered the hornets some. Yes they are very defensive but to my chagrin they're not as bad as Myrina! What does that say? I would not mind letting them continue to build their nest all year. Then I get to display their BIG nest on my desk at work come Winter. The Wife does not agree with me though. And her 'hive' comes first. So the hornets will be going away very soon. Oh well...
Hornets Nest by Hives
The hives you see left to right are: Myrina, Mary, the 2010 package. All on the new stand. We are still trying to name the new colony. It has been over 45 days since they were hived so most of the bees should bee daughters of the queen now. They are slightly more defensive than Mary but that's not saying much. They're good little workers and are growing quickly. Right now we have taken to calling her 'The Duchess'.
Myrina got her Medium Honey Super put on today. It was from last year and has drawn out comb on Plasticell foundation. I added spacers to it so now it's a 9-frame supper. All the frames were sprayed with syrup before they went it. Since the frames are drawn I went ahead & put the Queen Excluder on. I will check in a week to see how they're doing. Her bees were defensive as usual.
New Super & New Stand
Mary got another gallon of 1:1 syrup. The first gallon was about gone. I had hoped see would have repaired the damaged comb in Deep Hive Box-2. But no new comb there. Her bees are still very active. She has the earliest flying bees in the yard each morning.
The new colony (Duchess) has a small ant problem. They are getting into the HTF through a gap. All the equipment is new and because of the HTF the bees do not access to the Inner Cover, Vent Box, & T-cover. SO, they can't seal everything with propolis. I flicked out the dead ants. They are not taking the syrup as fast as Mary but they're still taking it. I looked in the new DHB and found frames 5 & 6 were almost all the way drawn out. There was a small piece of bur comb on the top of frame 5 in the first DHB. It was removed.
Frame 6 in DHB2
And since the bees have not sealed all the interior wood there has developed a mold problem on the T-cover. A big green spot of mold above the hole in the Inner Cover.
Wood not sealed by the bees
I put what wax I had left right on top of the mold spot. I didn't have enough to treat the whole T-cover. If the mold gets worse I'll buy some wax and do the all of it.