Friday, November 26, 2010

Combination Update

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.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Combination & the End of Duchess

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.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

A little Humor

Ad Placement Fail

This little Gem I found on You Tube while looking at Bee videos.   It's astonishing what they use as Flavoring these Days.  Bees reared on Urine, the great taste your kids will love!?

I promise I have never nor ever will use these treatment!

 Sorry for posting this but every time I look at it i start laughing out loud.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Smoker Fuel

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


Saturday, November 13, 2010

Duchess Queenless?

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.

aun Aprendo


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. 

Monday, November 1, 2010

Fall Mite Count 2010

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. 

Mary's Sticky Board