Monday, March 28, 2011

Early Nuc & Snow

Sunday's weather forecast showed morning snow and a high in the mid-thirties.  Not ideal for the new Nuc i made on Tuesday.  The nuc is a small space and easy to heat.  The bees, though, are too few and already stressed from being queenless.  Not knowing whether clustering longer than a day would harm them more I brought them into the garage Saturday night.

Almost melted away
The bees stayed the day in the heated garage helping me make a few Slatted Racks.  They wanted out of the nuc in the worst way but the #8 mesh kept them from flying around the garage.  At one point they were able to lift the mesh enough to allow a couple of bees room to almost crawl out.  Luckily I noticed it and was able to fix that right away.  

I thought about leaving them in the garage for a few days but the forecast improved the next day.  At noon on Monday i put them back on the stand outside.  It was warm and they were already active from being in the garage.  They were piled up at the entrance ready to fly.  I pulled the pins on the mesh but knocked the mesh off with a long stick.  They didn't buzz me but they poured out.

I realize that making a Nuc too early can lead to weather problems.  I've not made one before but will not forget this lesson.  In my defense Mary was brooding up fast with the added population from the Fall combination.  I was anxious about her swarming and so guessed at when to make the nuc.  Though it's still cold at night and the bees are probably clustering anyway.  I was afraid they might not be able to properly heat any queen cells they have in there for the day & a half.

The next Nuc will be from Myrina.  It will me made after I hive a package I'm suppose to get the weekend of April 2nd & 3rd.  I wonder if the current Nuc has an extra queen cell if I can put it in the next Nuc i make?  That would speed things up a bit.  Of course that's IF the current nuc HAS any queen cells...

...Too much shooting from the hip.  I have some reading to do.

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Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Expanding the Bee Yard

At most three hives have been kept on the current Hive stand in the back yard.  It has better Sun than the previous location and a little less humidity.  All in all i like it but essentially the bees own the back yard.  Not a terrible problem but the property is wooded so they need to go where the Sun shines.

Old Backyard Bee Yard - Fall 2010
The problem is what to do with any new hives once I get them.  If the front yard is the garden the only Sunny spot left is the culvert along the road.  It's on a slope but it's all I have left.

I made a new hive stand but only 4.5 feet wide.  It can hold 2 hives with room to work without placing anything on the uneven ground.  This time i sunk the feet into the ground.  The winds here can be bad and we get a good wind storm every year.  The kind that can topple an unanchored stand.  Instead of 2"x6"'s I only used 2"x4"'s.  I put 6"x6" stones beneath the footers to keep the stand from sinking.  It faces due East so the hives will face the morning Sun and not suffer so much from rain coming from the West or South.

New Hive Stand with it's first colony

The plan is to place 4 or 5 of these stand down the slope.  Which means 8 to 10 colonies.  At first each stand will have a Double Deep and a Nuc hives placed on them.  That will change as more colonies enter the Yard.  Eventually Mary & Myrina will be moved down here too.

This slope sits in full Sun and we've already begun planting it for bees.  Mint, pussy willow, cone flower, Chickasaw plum, salvia, sunflower, borage, buckwheat, plus everything else we end up thinking of.

First of many Hive stands
I have a package coming next month and I will be making another Nuc, from Myrina.  I will also be putting out a few swarm traps near feral colonies.  It already looks like I need to build the next 2 stands.

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Tuesday, March 22, 2011


August 15, 2011 - (Combined into Melissa)
r-BB, SR, DNB1, DNB2, IC, TC
  • End of Nuc #1
  • Queen Pinched
  • All 10 frames place into DHB for Melissa
  • Remaining Equipment put into storage

April 30, 2011
(post link)
r-BB, SR, DNB1, IC, TC
Pests = Chalkbrood
  • Add DNB2, 5 drawn Plasticell frames

April 21,2011
(post link)
r-BB, EF, SR, DNB1, TC
DNB1 = 5 Frames, CW
                                    Brood Frames = 3/5
Queen Spotted = yes
Brood Present = yes
Brood Pattern = OK
Drone Cells = no
Population = moderate
Condensation = no
Pests = none
  • Remove EF
  • Add IC 
  • 1 Supersedure Cell 

April 20, 2011
(post link)
r-BB, EF, SR, DNB1, TC
  • Add 1 pint 1:1 syrup w/ACV & thyme oil

April 17, 2011
r-BB, SR, DNB1, TC
  • Add Entrance Feeder
  • Add 1 pint 1:1 syrup w/ACV & thyme oil

April 15, 2011
r-BB, DNB1, TC
DNB1 = 5 frames, Crimped-wire
                              Brood frames = 0/5
Queen Spotted = yes
Brood Present = no
Brood Pattern = break in cycle
Drone Cells = no
Population = good
Condensation = no
Pests = none
  • Queen emerged
  • Queen marked with White
  • Added Slatted Rack

April 3, 2011
(post link)
r-BB, EF, DNB1, TC
DNB1 = 5 frames, Crimped-wire
                              Brood frames = 3/5
Queen Spotted = queenless
Brood Present = yes
Brood Pattern = break in cycle
Drone Cells = yes
Population = good
Condensation = no
Pests = none
  • 2 capped Queen Cells
  • 2 uncapped Queen Cells
  • Remove EF

March 22, 2011
r-BB, EF, DNB1, TC
DNB1 = 5 frames, Crimped-wire
                              Brood frames = 3/5
Queen Spotted = queenless
Brood Present = yes
Brood Pattern = solid
Drone Cells = yes
Population = moderate
Condensation = no
Pests = no
  • Added all equipment
  • Added 3 brood frames from Mary
  • Added 2 honey & pollen frames from Duchess
  • Added Entrance Feeder & ½ gal. 1:1 syrup w/ ACV

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Nuc #1

Well, I did it and I hope I did it right. One down and, at least, one more to go.

My First Nuc
I made this Nuc as Swarm Prevention for Mary.  Her brood up has been strong this Spring (she currently has about ten full brood frames in her).  My understanding is that replacing a few brood frames with undrawn frames alleviates to urge to swarm. In that they then have new frames to draw out in the brood nest so still have room to grow.

Before I could take any frames Queen Mary had to be found.  I went through each frame looking for her and noting which frames had the freshest eggs.  The top box looked good with frames filled with eggs, larva, pupa, drones, pollen, & nectar.  The bottom Deep had a larger percentage of eggs and, no surprise, the Queen.  I left her on the frame she was on because I'm not comfortable with handling her if I can avoid it.  I also had the two adjacent frames filled with eggs to use.  I looked at the eggs to make sure they were still standing up and not laying down, a sign they are over three days old and too old to make a good queen.  Then i took a frame from the top box with all the pollen & nectar.  All three went into the Nuc along with a frame of honey and a frame of pollen which came from Duchess's old hive.  Additionally, all the bees left in the Quiet Box afterward got shaken into the new Nuc as well.  I figure maybe up to four frames worth of bees went into the Nuc.

After all that the Nuc went out to the new stand.  I added a half gallon of 1:1 syrup on a boardman feeder.  The syrup contained a drop of thyme oil, a drop of peppermint oil, & a tablespoon of Bragg's Apple Cider Vinegar.  Then the entrance was reduced to only allow a single bee at a time.  The tie down strap went on and it was a done deal.

Now to wait & watch.  In ten days I'll go into the Nuc and hopefully see a bunch of Emergency Queen cells.  I've been told to secure the biggest one and destroy the rest.  This keeps the queens from fighting and getting injured if two emerge at the same time. I could maybe cut out a queen cell and use it elsewhere but i need to read up on that first.

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Saturday, March 12, 2011

Inspection 3/12/11

Mary & Myrina
Partly Sunny
Slight Breeze

Not a full inspection but a brood check.  It's that time of year where time gets short with all the tasks to be completed.  A beek needs to monitor the Spring brood up for Swarm Control.  The last inspection showed small brood nests in each hive.  Today's inspection was to learn how much more those nests have grown.  

Myrina's bottom Deep had full honey frames from the 10th  to the 7th position.  Frame #6 was filled with worker brood.  I stopped pulling frames and closed the box up.  The last thing I wanted to do is pull apart the brood nest.  I'm sure, judging by the amount of bees on them, frames 1 & 2 also had brood.  I tipped the box on it's side to look for Swarm cells hanging off the bottom frames but saw none.

Her top box had many bees in it but a frame by frame search revealed no brood.  There too the bees were on most of the frames.  Still some honey in the end frames.  I expect eggs in the top box soon.  The Reversing tends to set them back a week or two and it's been only one week since that happened.  The bees look healthy now and I'll do another brood check soon.

There were a few equipment issues with Myrina.  The unpainted wood sheet beneath the bottom board had molded.  Apparently it soaked up the rain water which mixed with the hive debris under the screen.  The bees couldn't access it to remove it so it molded.  That sheet was replaced with a corrugated plastic 'Land 4 Sale' sign.  The wood sheet looked terrible.

Rain seeped in onto the unpainted wood sheet
I also changed out the Deep box that had been lowest in the hive.  It too had the mold/mildew spreading up it's sides.  I hope to save the box but that will take some bleach first. 

Mold & Mildew spread upwards
I wanted to put the first Honey Supper on Myrina.  I had ripped out all the Plasticell comb and then wired all the frames for Foundationless Natural Comb.  It's my understanding, however, that the bees must have brood in the box directly below the super for them to draw it out. 

Foundationless Medium Honey Frame
Since the top Deep has no brood in it I'll need to wait on that for now.  We are still having cold nights.  With the bees only filling one & a half Deeps an extra Super might add to much space for them to heat when they need to cluster.

Mary is much farther ahead.  I was pleasantly surprised to see full brood frames in the top Deep.  Recall the first inspection where she only had brood in the bottom Deep.  I pulled one brood frame to remove some bur comb beneath it.  On the next frame i found Drone Cells both capped & uncapped.  Great news!  I guess in a week or two I can go ahead and make my nucs.  Unfortunately in the excitement I forgot to look under the boxes for swarm cells.

I say I can make my nucs soon because the plan is to let the nucs make their own queens.  So drones need to be flying first.  I could wait and buy Queens to put in the nucs later but I want to make my own.  I hope to rear local queens and eventually have a bee yard filled with Survivor bees.  Though I don't plan on requeening Mary or Myrina this year,  Their queens are not yet a year old.  They should last me until next year at the earliest.  The nucs will, hopefully, make queens quickly.  Those who can make it through next Winter will seed the next batch the following Spring.  The big picture is to make my own queens and sell Wintered nucs.

However, I did see a small pile of Chalkbrood mummies beneath the entrance.  That's usually a sign of a weak queen but the brood in this hive looks great.  The amount is good and so is the pattern.  I keep an eye on it to see if it gets worse.  If it does I may need to requeen her.
Since Mary had plenty of brood in the top box I added an undrawn foundationless Honey Super.  That might help ease any potential over crowding until I can pull the nuc frames and replace them with more undrawn foundationless ones.  Which breaks up the brood nest and diminishes the swarming instinct.

However,  I did replace one frame from the top Deep.  The bees had over-drawn one frame and under-drawn the next one.  To fix this I replaced the oversized frame with another undrawn foundationless frame.  Now the bees can hopefully draw both out to normal size.  That too should relax the chance of swarming.

Both Hive Top Feeders were removed.  The bees showed no great interest in the syrup this Spring.  Maybe they hate the Tea or the Maple flow is just to good (still going strong).  The Inner Covers were placed back on too.  I'll put the Slatted Racks on as soon as I finish them.


Saturday, March 5, 2011

Mildew Damage

In an earlier post I mentioned the presence of mildew in Myrina.  It looked like the unpainted wood sheet used to close off the SBB got wet with moisture and began to mildew.  The stuff then spread up the SBB wall onto the Hive body.  It did not appear to be major then.

Looking at the side of Myrina today I noticed two spots where the paint has blistered.  The boxes are two years old and are long past coat adhesion problems. 

Weeping Paint Blister on Deep Hive Body

I scraped it off to reveal a pine knot beneath.  Gunk was weeping from the knot and collecting under the paint, hence the blister.  So i guess the mildew had begun to trap excess moisture in the wood.  Causing liquid to seep through the exposed and open capillaries in the knots.

Only one side is affected right now.  Next week, when it's in the 60°'s, I can replace the box with a new one and the unpainted wood sheet too.  I'll clean out the mildewy box, bleach it, & set it out to dry for a month.  After which I'll touch up the paint and it will be good to go again. 

If the other box looks bad enough I may change out both boxes.  I have the extra equipment so it's not a problem.


Myrina's Brood Boxes

Myrina's brood nest is at the top of the top box, a deep.  I expect her to brood up quickly; since that was the warning from the guy I bought the queen from.  I wanted to get it down into the bottom box like Mary so today I reversed her brood boxes.  Now she has an empty box, mostly, above her ready for the queen to start laying in without having to move downward.

Once the cover came off I could see 7 frames worth of bees in the top box.  It was too cool outside to pull the frames so I didn't look.  I think that at lest 5 of them might be brood frames.  The bottom box had only a handful of bees in it.  They weren't doing much.  I didn't feel like there was any brood down there.  With both boxes off i could see the SBB.  Lots of cappings and some dropped pollen but no problems. 

Myrina's Top Box
I wish I had the Slatted Rack ready to go but it hasn't been delivered yet.  Today would have been perfect for installing it.  It should arrive next week.  Then I need to make several more and paint them before they go on.  They will allow the queens to lay eggs lower on the bottom frames.  They also reduce some of the colony's pressure to swarm.  Right now I'm sure the bees will work upward into the top box.

The HTF still had a little syrup in it that was beginning to crystallize.  We're looking at steady temps in the 60°'s for the up coming weeks.  I don't think they need to syrup any more.  I'll take it off when it's empty or fully crystallized; maybe next weekend.

I stop using the double Vent Boxes on the HTF too.  I removed the one with 3 holes and left the one with 9 holes.  The heavy condensation went away with the double setup, but i want to see what the one with more holes does on it's own. 


Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Names for the Colonies

Here is a list of names for future Colonies i plan to someday have.  I'll put them here so i don't forget them.

Heléna - Mother of Emperor Constantine I
Penelope - Wife of Odysseus
Rozina - My Grandmother
Mab - Queen of the Fairies and consort to Oberon
Elvira - Mistress of the Dark
Virginia - Home State

If you were wondering about the first two:

Mary - Mary I of England (Sickly & childless)
Myrina - Queen of the Amazons (Ruthless & aggressive)