Monday, May 31, 2010

Marking Mary & Hornets

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.

 Paint drying

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'.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Collecting the Wild Colony

Deer Bee Stand

Not going so well.  When last I looked the bees were in the hive box on frame 1 & 2. Since then they have found some new ways out and are not in the hive anymore.

 Needs a better fit

Fortunately there has been little movement between the tree & the hive.  The tube is the weak point.  I need to make a better cover for the tree too.

To many gaps

Tomorrow I'll get some more material at the home store.  Much work has gone into this attempt.  To much for me to give up on.  Looks like my Memorial Day will be spent in a tree!


Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Honey Super and More

 Ready to go on
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
 Bur Comb

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. 

Bees wax over the mold.  Problem solved


Friday, May 21, 2010

Buying a Queen

If you've been following this blog you'll know I desperately need to requeen Mary.  And that I'm waiting for a local queen breeder to have queens ready.

Today I got an email from the local breeder.  In it he said,...

 "Bear ate the first batch.  Next will emerge at the end of  May"

I swear anything that can go wrong will go wrong when it involves Mary!


Thursday, May 20, 2010

Inspection 5/20/10

68 f

Mary has been busy lately.  She spent a almost 2 weeks at my place of work before being moved to a new Stand in the back yard.  While 'at work' she was in full sunlight.  Something we don't have here in the yard.  She used it wisely too.  Her activity level increased remarkably so her population looks good now.  The spot at work is a good one.  I'd like to use it all the time.  Right now it serves as only a temporary spot for moving hives & swarm catches.

The bees are working all 10 frames of the single Deep box.  The population has filled the box.  The number one reason I went in was to check for Swarm cells.  None were found but there were some queen cups in the 'swarm position' on frame 6 & 2 cups in the 'Supersedure position' on frames 1 & 2.  Right now 6 frames are filled with eggs, larva, & pupae.  There was a handful of drone cells.  Mostly on the bottom of frame #6.  There were a few isolated drone cells mid-frame in a few spots too.  They have even filled the end frames with fresh honey.  For a week colony they are looking about as good as they can.

Chalkbrood is still an issue.  A little on every brood frame.  Frame 2 is half gone with it.  Hence the dire need to requeen her.  I'll be seeing a beek this weekend who has queens.  I hope they're ready.  Although I couldn't find the queen today at all.  My beek neighbor helped me look but neither of us could find her.  I was ready to mark her but no luck just yet.

The bees are making lots of bridge comb.  The frames aren't too bad but I'd like to see less of it.  I scraped the propolis off each frame a while back to maintain the right bee space.  Yet every frame had a spot or two of it.

After all that it was time to add the second deep box.  This is almost the same box & frames she had on her last year.  I took them off when her population crashed last Winter.  After it came off the frames went into the freezer and the box was retired.  The box was original equipment from when I bought the hives.  I wanted to put it back on last week but after I thawed the frames the Wax moths found them.  I had to refreeze the frames for a few days to fix that problem.  One frame has a new wood part after I dropped & broke the old one.  I just transferred the old comb (plasticell) right into the new frame. A few others were cleaned up a bit with a sander.  The box is new.

The frames in the second Deep Box

Before I put the frames in the box each one got sprayed with sugar syrup.  As soon as the box went on the bees started to move up into it.  I didn't pull any of these out to look.  I'll check them in a week or so.

I put the hive top feeder on with a gallon of 1:1 syrup in it.  I hope that will help the bees produce extra wax.  That way they can quickly repair the wax moth damages cells in the second box.


Sunday, May 16, 2010

New Brood Boxes

Yesterdays inspection showed that the New Colony (Duchess) needs an additional brood box.  Today I assembled the crimped-wire wax foundation frames and sprayed them with sugar syrup.  I finished painting 2 Deep Hive Bodies a day ago.  One is for the new hive and the other is for Mary.  I filled one with the frames and put in on the New Colony.  I used the smoker but didn't need it.  The bees were very calm.  The Hive top feeder was full, so that slowed things up a bit.  The 2010 package is now a Double-deep hive.  Moving right along.

I wanted to add-on to Mary today as well but couldn't.  I took her stored frames out of the freezer a few weeks ago to thaw.  Today when i opened the trash bag they were in I saw wax moths.  Dang it!  So i put them back in the freezer for a few days to kill them off.  I thought the trash bag would protect them but was wrong.  Oh well, lesson learned.

Mary's new DHB replaces an old DHB only; no new frames.  It will be filled with the established frames from the old DHB.  It was removed when Mary's population crashed last Winter.  She was reduced to a single DHB at the time.  The established frames are almost full, with honey & pollen.  Though there are some bare areas where I scraped the wax moth damage off.

I'll inspect Mary in a day or so when i can put the new box and frames on.  I expect to find the she has filled her current brood box.  If so it won't take long for her to fill the holes in the second brood box.  That being the case I could feasibly start adding honey supers to her if her population grows fast enough.  Her re-queening is still on schedule as soon as the breeder has them available. 


Saturday, May 15, 2010

Inspection 5/15/10

2010 Hived Package (Duchess)
82 f
Partly Sunny

There have been reports of Small Hive Beetle in the packages that many of us received back in April.  My neighbor found one in her new hive and has since taken measures to control it.  I went into the new hive today looking to see if I could find any; hoping I wouldn't.  I went through each frame and didn't see any.  But I missed the Queen as well, and she's marked,  so I'll continue to watch for them.

The Hive top feeder was about at the empty mark.  What little was left had a thin crystallized cap on it.  I didn't get to it earlier this week due to a bout with the flu.  Nothing too bad, just enough to keep me inside.  I'll refill the HTF and monitor it better this time.

Only about a cup of syrup is left under a sheet of rock candy

The brood nest has grown at a modest rate.  3 undrawn frames remain while the rest are filled with brood, pollen, & honey. The first frames to have comb have a spotty brood pattern look to them.  The latter drawn frames have a more contiguous pattern.  I'm sure that's just an issue with cell availability at the beginning of the hive. 

Check the bur comb on the Drone frame

  1. Undrawn
  2. 1/2 drawn. Eggs, pollen, capped honey
  3. Fully drawn. Mostly brood, lots of eggs and larva.  Pupae & Capped honey.  *Odd comb structure (the sheet not a cell)
  4. Fully drawn. Eggs & pupae
  5. Fully drawn. Eggs & mostly pupae. Some drone cells maybe.  hatching bees.
  6. Fully drawn. Pupae, capped honey, pollen 
  7. Done Frame - Fully drawn. Patch of pupae, some capped honey.  Mostly uncapped honey.
  8. 1/4 drawn. Capped honey.
  9. Undrawn
  10. Undrawn
None of the frames had been propolised together.  Very clean throughout the hive.  The colony looks good.  It may be time for me to add the next Deep hive body.  
Frame 5 where the Queen cage was hung
Above you can see a spotty brood pattern in the middle of the frame.  That is where the Queen cage hung during installation.  After which the bees filled the hole with comb.  So that area lags behind the rest of the frame.  Currently it has eggs, pollen, & honey in it.
 Pierco Drone Frame

These frames would be great in Honey suppers.  They hold more honey because there is less wax.  The cell size is much bigger than the other frames to fit the larger size of the drone bees.  The queen can tell what kind of egg to place in a cell by feeling the size of a cell with her front legs.  Therefore all the eggs laid in this frame will become drones.  This frame is noticeably heavier than the other frames.  

Odd thing is that these bees like to bur comb the plastic.  This is the only frame to have bur comb both on the top and the bottom.  Maybe they don't like the plastic.  I know I'm liking it less & less in the brood chambers, meaning the plasticell & the Pierco drone frame.  At Dadant's the other day all I bought was crimped-wire wax foundation.  

Bur comb on the bottom of the Hive top feeder

Can you guess where the plastic drone frame was?  I'm not yet sold on the notion of using a drone frame to reduce to number of Varroa mites.  Yes it works, i'm sure, but I'd rather have a frame producing thousands of bees than drones & mites.  And since the frame is to be frozen before the drones hatch, to kill the mites, the frame really doesn't produce anything at all for the hive.  It may be that I will take them out for now.  In the event of a mite infestation I could put them back in then.  In the meantime I can be producing lots of bees.

A question of Supersedure came up during the last inspection.  I could not find and Queen cups of Supersedure cells.  However, I didn't find the marked Queen either.  There are lots of new eggs on the outer frames though.  So I don't know what to say.  An experienced beek told me her packaged bees may have superseded after only 22 days in the hive!  So both of us are interested in what these girls do.  Hopefully I'll find the queen next week.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Tut Tut, it looks like Rain....

~An account of the adventures of Hemlock and the honey tree, written by his loving spouse.~

I am going to make the giant leap here that most of the folks reading this will have seen the classic "Winnie the pooh and the Honey tree". That wonderful tale where Pooh grabs some balloons from Christopher Robin and  rolls in some black mud and floats up to the honey tree all the while having Christopher say "Tut tut, it looks like rain" as our delightful little bear is suppose to be a little black rain cloud.

Our story has a similar vein to it. While out walking a timber tract soon to be logged, Hemlock discovered a "Honey Tree". He had the loggers leave the tree, and thus began our adventure.

A very happy and healthy hive in a dead and soon to be falling down Poplar tree.  Unlike our intrepid Pooh with his balloons, my insane creative beekeeping husband decided to borrow a friends deer stand last Saturday (May 1st) to get close to the hive.

Can you hear him? " Hello? it's just maintenance.  Pay no mind!"

Did I mention this hive is 14 feet OFF the ground? Oh, well it is. The next step was to knock on the hive with a hammer as he placed a piece of metal sheeting over the hole to narrow the entrance down. Any gaps or openings of which there were just a few were filled with cloth strips.

All the time he is knocking these lovely ladies are coming out to see whats going on yet being distracted by him spraying sugar water on the opening of the hive. At this point I am muttering under my breath "Tut tut, it looks like rain" in the hopes that maybe a rain cloud would appear and spare me from 91 degrees in the middle of a clear cut. (no such luck)

The most amazing thing about these little ladies is not only did they survive the worst winter we have had here in 50 years, but, they were mostly non-defensive! They simply did not mind any of the "big bears" shenanigans.  After this task was done we took a break and came back later for the final leg of our adventure.

It is a little before twilight here and you can see the 4x4's and 2x4's nailed together to get the box to the right height. There is also the aluminum tubing that will be connected to the hive body that is visible in the above photo.

The tricky part was attaching the tubing to the hive body with out pulling it away from the entrance. It took a couple tries and then we were set. 

The next section is more where we segue into Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom. If you notice, Marlin Perkins is geared up in all his beekeeping duds. I, his faithful assistant "Jim" am not so attired. Although I am not trying to circumcise a water buffalo, I am handing him up each individual wax frame while a Bazillion (that's my girly technical term) wild bees are buzzing me! By the way, it's still hot with the temperature in the upper 80"s with tons of humidity.

Once all the frames were in the box and the lid in place the last thing left to do was to secure the hive in case of wind. One strap secured it to the tree and another secured it to the deer stand.

The idea behind all of this is a hope that the bees will go through the tubing into the hive and utilize all of the empty frames in there. That way once it's full, Pooh Bear can make off with the genetics of this wild hive.

This last one is a personnel favorite, and no "Jim" did not revolt against the beekeeper and shoot him dead on his hive; even though that's what it looks like. I promise he is still kicking and awaiting his next opportunity to go out and see if a beekeeper of very much brain was able to succeed in saving this hive.
- - -   - - -   - - -

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Second Aniversary

Today marks our second anniversary of Beekeeping.  2 years ago we woke up to our first full day with bees in the yard.  The previous evening at Sundown my Wife & I drove to a farm 15 miles away, packed Mary & Myrina onto the back of our truck and drove them back to our awaiting yard.

I only had the 'Beekeeping for Dummies' book for reference.  I didn't know any beeks and knew nothing of clubs or online forums.  Saying I was a bee-haver would be generous.  Yet ignorance was bliss and we eventually harvested 75#'s of the best honey ever!

The first winter was mild & spring brought some surprises.  We got to watch the bees swarm a few times & I began to realize Mary was having troubles.  Also 2009 was the worst honey year on record here due to the rain.  Mary continued her downward spiral as I desperately searched for answers.  There would be no honey yield in '09 but in October I found the Piedmont Beekeepers Association & the online forums.  The many great people in the association and on the forums answered my questions and helped me better understand what my role as a beekeeper really is.

The Winter of  2010 was then the hardest winter in decades.  Many colonies in the area died as a result.  Mary's number came up too.  Yet We were able to save her hive by bringing it in the house.  Still though Mary's & Myrina's populations were greatly reduced.

Now into Spring.  I've completed the local Beginners Bee Course.  Plus we've bought a package of bees and I'm trying to hive a wild colony in the woods.  We might end the year with 4 colonies but only Myrina has enough bees to make honey.  We'll see.

Meanwhile there's new contacts to make both at the club & online.  I have so much to learn and do before next winter.  All of it will be posted here as it happens.

Our appreciation goes to many for the support we have received.  The great information, good conversations, or even moral support offered by many of you.

Thank you.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Wild Bee Tree Colony Chronolog

Frames per box = 10

DHB1 Foundation = Crimped Wire
Queen spotted = yes, no, didn't look,
Brood Present= yes, (no), didn't look,
Brood Pattern = solid, spotty, (n/a)
Frames with Brood = 0/10, didn't look
Drone Cells = yes, (no
), didn't look
Population = (0), critical, low, moderate, good, high
Condensation = (none), minor, major
Current Pests =None
  • Hive unaccepted

May 1, 10
Frames per box = 10

DHB1 Foundation = Crimped Wire
Queen spotted = yes, no, didn't look,
Brood Present= yes, (no), didn't look,
Brood Pattern = solid, spotty, (n/a)
Frames with Brood = 0/10, didn't look
Drone Cells = yes, (no
), didn't look
Population = (0), critical, low, moderate, good, high
Condensation = (none), minor, major
Current Pests = Beekeeper
  • Add 10 frames of crimped wire wax foundation
  • Spray foundation with 1:1 sugar spray
  • Use Migratory Cover instead of T-cover
  • SBB open
  • Assemble hive on deer-stand in front of tree entrance (14')
  • Connect hive to entrance with 3 inch tubing
  • Strap hive to stand & tree
  • Bees not aggressive

First attempt to collect wild bees from a Bee Tree