Tuesday, June 29, 2010

New Queens Installed

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.


Sunday, June 27, 2010

Requeening Begins

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.


Friday, June 25, 2010

The End of the Bee Tree Hive

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.