Saturday, October 30, 2010

They've had enough Syrup

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.

aun Aprendo

Monday, October 25, 2010

Inspection 10/24/10

75 f

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

Bottom Box Frames:
10. Drawn incomplete empty - 2010 Plasticell
 9.  Drawn incomplete empty - 2010 Plasticell
 8.  1/4 pollen - 2010 Plasticell
 7.  Minor pollen, depleted - 2010 CW
 6.  1/2 Brood - 2010 Plasticell
 5.  1/2 Brood, some pollen - 2010 Plasticell
 4.  1/2 Brood - 2010 Plasticell
 3.  1/2 Brood, Queen Cup - 2010 Plasticell
 2.  1/2 Brood, 1/4 pollen, 1/4 honey - 2010 Plasticell
 1.  Some honey, some pollen - 2010 Plasticell

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.
 Mud Wasps
 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.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Feeding Fumagilin-B

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!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Bee Syrup & Fumagilin Recipes

In Fall & Spring when Syrup needs to be made I use the calculator over at  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. 

Monday, October 18, 2010

The Quiet Box

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.

External Hive, The Adventure

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.
 Too late!

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. 

Inspection 10/17/10

72 f

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

Bottom Box Frames:
10. 9/10 capped honey - 2008 Plasticell
 9.  9/10 capped honey - 2008 Plasticell
 8.  9/10 capped honey - 2008 Plasticell
 7.  9/10 capped honey - 2008 Plasticell
 6.  1/2 capped honey, 1/2 pollen - 2008 Plasticell
 5.  Eggs, larva, pollen, honey, CHALKBROOD - 2008 Plasticell
 4.  Larva, pollen, honey - 2008 Plasticell
 3.  Larva, pollen, honey - 2008 Plasticell
 2.  Pollen, honey, brood - 2008 Plasticell
 1.  Pollen, honey, brood - 2008 Plasticell

Spotty pattern but it's the end of the season

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.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Inspection 10/11/2010

85 f

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

Bottom Box Frames:
10.  Drawn, empty - 2009 Plasticell
 9.  Drawn, empty - 2009 Plasticell
 8.  1/2 capped honey - 2009 Plasticell
 7.  3/4 capped honey - 2009 Plasticell
 6.  3/4 capped honey, some pollen - 2009 Plasticell
 5.  1/2 capped honey - 2010 CW (Depleted)
 4.  1/2 capped honey & pollen -  2009 Plasticell
 3.  1/2 pollen & capped honey - 2009 Plasticell
 2.  Undrawn - 2010 CW (Depleted)
 1.  Undrawn - 2010 CW (Depleted)

Depleted means the bees took wax from these frames and used it somewhere else.  It's ugly and looks like this.
Drawn Out

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.
Every week

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.
Fully Capped CW


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.

That's all for now.