Monday, August 29, 2011

Dividing Melissa's Medium frames

As planned, today the Medium frames in Melissa were removed.  First the four frames were removed from the hive (bottom box).  Then the extended comb attached to the bottom bar was cut off.  After which the comb was set in to a deep frame.  In the end the neighbor got her frames back with brood, stores, & bees.  Melissa got four frames reduced in size giving her bees more room to expand.  Which i hope will reduce the colony's need to swarm.

Beautifully extended comb on a Medium frame
Back to a Medium Frame
Extended comb placed into a Deep Frame
I used rubber bands to secure the comb.  They had to be tied off in the middle to keep the comb on top.  From what I have read the bees will eventually chew through the the rubber.  By then the comb should be attached to the top bar.

Don't let the pictures fool you.  The frames were swept of bees before the surgery took place.  So there were plenty of bees flying around.  Add to that the honey spilled cutting the comb and there were Tons of bees flying around!

Here's an exercise everybody should try to improve their bee handling skills.  Tie a square knot in a single rubber band with your gloves ON!


Sunday, August 28, 2011

Hive inspection 8/28/2011


Going into Melissa to check on the handful of Swarm cups i saw the other day.  Swarm Cups are what I call the little queen cups formed on the bottom of the frames, or in Swarm Position.  She seems to have many bees now.  I would say her population is High.  I need to know if she is honey bound or just has no room left on the comb for the bees.

DHB2: frames
1 - Back filling with Nectar
2 - Back filling with Nectar
3 - Back filling with Nectar
4 - Solid eggs & larva
5 - Honey & Nectar
6 - Brood & some Drone cells, 4 swarm cups removed
7 - Brood & eggs, 3 swarm cups removed
8 - Solid eggs & larva
9 - Back filling with Nectar
10 - Back filling with Nectar, mostly full

DHB1: frames
1 - Back filling with Nectar, broken frame is fixed
2 - Medium Frame, mostly honey & back filling
3 - 1/2 Brood
4 - Medium Frame, brood & 2 swarm cups, drone cells
5 - Not fully drawn, 4 swarm cups, some pollen
6 - Brood, some pollen
7 - Medium Frame, brood & 2 swarm cups
8 - Pollen, little brood & honey
9 - Medium Frame, mostly pollen & honey
10 - Pollen, mostly honey

All the cups in the top box (DHB2) were removed.  That way i can tip up the box later this week to see if the bees made more swarm cups.  If they do it will be strong evidence of an intent to swarm.  Which may lead to a Fall Split; that I really don't want to do.  Fortunately the queen has yet to cease laying; a sign the colony is preparing to swarm.  This, then, may be a false alarm.

Fall Splits are common and used by many beeks.  I am unfamiliar with them, though, and don't want to learn about it offhandedly.  To that end i have talked to the neighbor and she will take the four Medium frames back and use them to bolster two of her colonies.  These were the original frames used to make the Spring Split that became Melissa.  They came from one of my neighbors colonies back in May.

The bees took a Medium frame and made it a Deep frame
The bees need more room.  Normally one can add an empty frame in the brood nest.  Then the bees perceive extra room.  That can quell the urge to swarm.  These Medium frames offer more than just empty frames.  I will cut the extended comb off the bottom of the frames. Then rubber band the comb to the empty frames.  This way the frames will already be accepted by the bees and provide additional space to build comb on to complete the frame.  We'll try to get it done this week. 

News just as big is the dramatic lessening of Drone Cells.  There were very few left in the hive.  I do not recall seeing any that were uncapped.  I didn't have my glasses on so couldn't tell if any adult drones were walking around.  It appears Mating season is coming to a close.  This is another reason I'm not fond of creating a Fall Split at this time.  The possibility of too few drones left to properly breed a new queen formed from a new split.  A Virgin queen, or badly mated one, will not be able to take a colony through Winter.  They'll all die off after a few freezes.  If i were to make Fall Splits I would have done it at the beginning of the month.

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Afterward the news paper in Nuc #5 was removed.  I didn't look through the colony but did see where the bees might be drawing out comb.

Additionally every Colony was feed one gallon of 1:1 syrup today.  Each gallon also had 1 tbsp of  Apple Cider Vinegar and a drop each of thyme & peppermint essential oils.


Saturday, August 27, 2011

Beekeepers are NUTS!

(Click on image for Readable size)
One Bee in your Bonnet can get anyone to 'Drop Trou' instantly

Today featured a Category 1 Hurricane (Irene).  We are a few hours inland but were subjected to some damaging winds and a good bit a rain.  Most people might consider that 'Bad weather'.  To be honest i too thought it to be in fact 'Bad Weather'. 

NOT that it stopped me from donning my veil & gloves to sneak a peek inside my hives between bands of tropical rain.  Not that there's anything wrong with that.  Especially since my Beekeeping neighbor did the same thing later in the day. 

Oh well...what can i say?

Anyway, I looked QUICKLY into Melissa.  I wanted to see if maybe her screened Bottom Board was stopped up with dead bees & newspaper from the Combination.  Thinking that may be the reason she is bearding so much; not enough ventilation.  The SBB was clean though so it's something else.  She might have more bees than she can deal with from the combination.  I'll inspect her as soon as the weather turns 'Good'. 

Since I was there I removed what newspaper was left around the edges of the hive.  While doing so I saw a handful of Queen Cups on the bottoms of a few frames in the top box (DHB2).  The bees might be making Swarm Cells.  Something else that will need to be checked and soon!  

...And the neighbor?  She check to see if the queen i gave her, from Nuc #2, was laying.  She was.


Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Melissa's Beard

We have noticed that Melissa is bearding much more than the other colonies.  She doesn't have a Slatted Rack and that definitely contributes to bearding.  However, she is bearding down into the 60°F range we are now seeing at night.

Post Combination Melissa
What i wonder is if she has too many bees.  Since the TWO colonies next to her were combined she may have gotten all the drift.  One of those went into her so the only extra drift she would have gotten was from Nuc #2.  Who had a ton of bees.

There is nothing wrong with bearding.  As a matter of fact it is both natural and helpful the the bees.  I'm not trying to tone down the bearding.  I do, however, look at Melissa's unique bearding as an indicator there may be a population or ventilation issue. 

I'll try to check Melissa this weekend; depending on the hurricane.  Until then we added to her an undrawn super filled with foundation.  That will give any extra bees a place to hang out.  It will allow the bees more space for heat regulation.  Plus, if they draw it out some, good!


Hive Inspection 8/24/2011

Mostly Sunny

When feeding Myrina the other day I saw a Wax Moth & a SHB in her.  I wanted to see if she was in bad shape or not.

Not what you want to see but they did a great job a cleaning it!
The first thing i saw were bees in the HTF.  So there must be a hole in the screening in put in but i couldn't find it.  I'll make some more and scrap the ones in here soon.

DHB2: frames
1 - Filled with brood & eggs
2 - Brood, eggs, some stores.  Spotty pattern. Queen (marked)
3 - Brood, eggs, some stores
4 - Pollen & uncapped honey
5 - empty.  Starting to add honey
6 - Uncapped Honey
7 - empty
8 - Full of uncapped honey
9 - some Honey
10 - Full of uncapped honey

DHB1: frames
1 - 1/2 pollen
2 - Brood & eggs.  Spotty pattern
3 - Brood eggs, pollen
4 - light pollen & honey
5 - pollen
6 - empty. little honey
7 - empty
8 - empty
9 - Some honey (SHB x3)
10 - some uncapped honey

Her population is smaller than i like and her stores are light too.  She is, however, adding brood & stores at an acceptable speed.  Plus, this inspection includes the first feeding.  A spotty brood pattern is typical for Fall yet she has several frames filled with eggs.  Interesting to note that there didn't seem to be ANY Drone Cells.  Though I did see a few drones walking around.  Another check in a week or so will confirm the end of Summer drones.

Filthy Rotten Bug! - Small Hive Beetle
The presence of the SHB is troubling.  fortunately i only found three of them.  I added a beetle trap to help the bees out.  I might put more in later.  No Wax moth were present.

The Slatted Racks are a Big Hit with the Ladies!
There wasn't any bridge comb and the frames looked clean.  The bees were calm and moved off nicely from the smoke.  I'll keep an eye on this queen hoping she can belt out a bunch of brood soon.


Sunday, August 21, 2011

First Fall Feeding

The remaining colonies received their first feeding of the Fall today.  Last year there were only two colonies to feed this year there are five.  So i made five gallons of syrup which isn't cheap.  We paid around 58¢ per pound for this sugar.  Since we made 1:1 syrup we used 30lbs. of it, or $17.40 worth.  We plan to only feed once a week until the bees have ample reserves. More if the colony is having trouble.

The syrup for this batch was just sugar and no Bee Tea.  I did add a Tbsp of Bragg's Apple Cider Vinegar to it along with a drop of White Thyme & Peppermint Oils each.  The bees took to it immediately. 

I want to keep the top entrances in this Winter (via the Imirie shims) but i took them out for the feedings.  The entrance would be up against the HTF's and would likely cause robing.  I'll put then back on once feeding season is done; Late November or December.


Saturday, August 20, 2011

Pre-Winter Combinations

The honey year is over and it's time to get ready for Winter.  First on my list of things to do is make sure the colonies going into Winter have the strength to get through Winter.  By that I mean population.  Time to move the weak colonies in with the dependable colonies.

As it was
At most this year we had nine colonies; four double-deeps, two double-deep nucs, two single-deep nucs, and one wild log.
  1. Mary - double-deep, twenty full frames & good population, strong
  2. Myrina - double-deep, twenty full frames & good population, strong
  3. Heléna - double-deep, ten full frames & fair population, slow
  4. Melissa - double-deep, nine full frames & fair population, slow
  5. Nuc#1 - double-deep nuc, ten full frames & OK population, slow
  6. Nuc#2 - double-deep nuc, ten full frames & good population, productive
  7. Nuc#4 - single-deep nuc, five full frames & fair population, unproductive
  8. Nuc#5 - single-deep nuc, 5 full frames & good population, productive
  9. The wild log's bees are gone or going

It was decided to combine the colonies in a way that maximizes the amount of genetics in the yard.  So queens from my yard will be pinched in favor of queens from somewhere else for these combinations.

  •  Melissa came from the neighbors yard with a history of comb & honey production.  We combined her with Nuc#1 who is from Mary and kept Melissa's Queen.
  • Heléna was from Georgia but requeened herself and is now a local girl.  She was combined with Nuc#2 from Myrina.  Nuc#2 was a powerful colony I should have hived first thing in Spring.  A lost opportunity but i know better now.  Anyway her bees should easily rocket Heléna's bees through Winter.  Heléna's queen was kept. (The Queen from Nuc#2 went to my neighbor who had to requeen a weak hive.  Yay!)
  • Nuc#5 was a wild swarm from the next county.  They might be ferals and seem to have enough want-to.  Very calm bees too.  They were combined with Nuc#4, a swarm from Myrina.  The growth in Nuc#4 stalled early and remained unimpressive.  Here Nuc#5's Queen was kept.  These two Nucs together still only make up a large Nuc; ten frames.  I put them together with a third nuc box.  If they utilize it then great.  If not, no loss.  Either way these bees need to get through Winter as a Nuc.

This means we go into Winter with four Double-Deep hives and One Nuc.  All of them are filled with good bee populations and plenty of potential.

The Combination went as follows:
Nuc#1 into Melissa - 8/15/11
Nuc#4 into Nuc#5 - 8/17/11
Nuc#2 into Heléna - 8/19/11

Melissa Combined & Nuc#1's box left for the homeless field bees
All combinations were 'News paper combinations'.  The introduced colonies went on top of the resident colonies.  I will check them each next week.  It appears that all went well.  Only Melissa had a pile of dead bees outside of her front door but it was very small.  I may have cut too big of a slit into her paper (4 inches) when i did her.  The others only had slits of one inch put in their paper.

Nuc#5 combined with the extra box
Since no one moved more than twelve feet many field bees were displaced.  In each case we left a single frameless box at the original location of the lost hives.  These boxes stayed for a few days.  Long enough for the bees to drift to whichever hive of their choosing.

Moving Nuc#2's frames into a ten frame box
Heléna Combined
Queen of Nuc#2 on her way to the Neighbors Yard
By odd coincidence the white hives were merged with the white hives and the yellow hives were merged with the yellow hives.

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Friday, August 19, 2011

Summer Update #3 - Heléna Swarmed

The bees hadn't been checked for a month.  In that time they were very busy; not making comb in the empty Deep above them but making Swarm cells instead.  They had become honey bound on the ten frames out of the twenty they had drawn out.

So without much adieu on July 15th they took off.  Though not far.  About forty feet into a small pine tree.  Which we found soon enough.  I had no interest in getting them back and offered them to the neighbor.  She wanted them but could not get up into the tree to get them.  So i had to go get them anyway.  Grrrrr...

That's me in the tree maybe 20 feet up
The swarm we captured was around 2lbs. worth of bees.  The Queen was not marked so it was a new one.  No telling what ever happened to the original Georgia queen.  An inspection of Heléna found eight swarm cells and one supersedure cell.

How to keep your Neighbor Happy...
The neighbor put the bees in a spare box on her deck and named them 'Maybee'.  They are doing fine and taking down the syrup.

The best part is i now have a local queen in Heléna.  All the better to get her through Winter with. 

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Thursday, August 18, 2011

Summer Update #2 - A Bee Log

In late July a logger buddy of mine told me they had found a bee tree.  Unfortunately they didn't know what it was until it had been cut down and dragged to the deck.  He said they moved it off to one side.  I was able to check on it and saw lots bees still working.  It looked like the colony wasn't too badly damaged.  It was a week before i had the time to get the bees.  During that week a skidder operator dragged it across the clearcut before being told to take it back to where he had found it.  A lesson in MARKING a bee tree so people leave it alone!

These poor bees had been cut down then dragged twice across the mountain.  If you've ever been dragged by a skidder up & down a mountain twice you'd know how bad that is for the integrity of wax comb not to mention the loss of field bees.  When i finally went to get them, July 29th,  their activity was greatly reduced.  There were tons of hornets working the hive too.  Still we cut the nest out and took it home.  Best to try.

They looked good for the beating they had taken
Cutting out the nest from an old Virginia pine tree.  The nest was around 20ft up when the tree was standing

Had to guess where to make the bottom cut.  The nest went a lot lower than i thought it did.  Shaved a foot off the bottom.  The comb in this area was soaked with honey and blocked with nest debris.  The bees weren't getting down here at all.
Some of the mashed comb i inadvertently cut from the bottom of the nest.
You can see how big the entrance hole is.  Not sure how to plug it for the drive home so we wrapped it in a bed sheet instead.
First we VERY slowly rolled it and the sheet into one.  Then we tied rope around the folded ends and middle to hold the sheet in place.
The log weighed over a 150 lbs. so it took a little to 'ease' it into the truck.
Long & slow 23 mile ride back home and we set it up in the yard that night
The next day with an obstacle at the entrance to induce reorientation.

Had to cover the big original entrance due to constant robing by other bees & hornets.  A bunch of flashing and roofing tar with a wood entrance in the middle.  Can you see the half gallon mason jar stuck in the top of the log.  The jar fit perfectly into the tree cavity when feeding.
It took the bees a while to find the new front door but they did.  Sadly the robing continued as these bees weren't defending the entrance.  The only times these bees would fly was during feeding.  They took a half gallon each day.

Today there is almost no activity.  The bees act as if they have no queen.  Which is a Very good possibility considering what they went through.  I can still see some bees in the log when i look but they're not doing anything.  There is comb in the nest but i don't see the bees working it. I also feel that when i feed them most the bees i see are robbers.  I think this colony is done for.  If I had some extra brood come i could cut a strip to put in the log to spur thing on.  But there's a better chance it would be robed out too.  Plus adding bees, brood, a queen, & comb into a depleted log nest this close to winter doesn't make sense to me.  It would be like throwing away the resources. 

I'll leave them in the yard until spring to see what happens.  Then probably move the log to the back woods.  hopefully it might draw in a swarm next year.

The only consolation is that I've since found two more bee trees in the wild.  They're both standing and not near any logging operations.  The bees look to be happy, in good number, and are very busy.  Nothing i would want to get bees from directly but an area to set swarm traps in the future for some good old Survivor bees.

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Friday, August 12, 2011

Summer Update #1 - Honey Harvest

Well it took a few years but we finally got a decent honey harvest.  On July 9th we pulled off the Supers that were on Mary & Myrina; a Medium Super each.  Neither was completely drawn or filled.  About 8 frames out of each with only most of them fully drawn.  There were a few Deep frames to.

We were able to borrow back the same extractor we used in 2008 when we first spun honey.  A hand crank job that fits 4 Deep frames tangentially.  We tried using a capping knife for the first time.  Warmed it up on a hot plate before using it on a frame.  It didn't do that great so we went back to the capping fork.  The knife cut off a lot of wax & cooled down too quickly.  Though it was extremely sharp!  The neighbor lent us her capping bucket too.

Uncapping a Deep Frame
Last time we used a pot to collect the honey.  Fortunately I started brewing beer in January.  So this time we used my 6.5 gallon bottling bucket that has a spout.  Also different was the strainer.  Last time we used the 600 micron mesh and were left with very fine wax particles in the honey.  This time we nested the 200 micron mesh into the 600.  The honey came out perfectly clear.  Although it took Forever to pass through the strainers.

Outside at the Spinning Party
In all we got 4.5 gallons of honey.  Not the greatest haul but we're very happy with it.  After the first year of eating honey EVERY DAY we couldn't stop so had to buy honey when the bees didn't deliver.  Now we have a good supply of our own honey and it's as good as can be.  The main source here is Tulip Poplar & Black Locust.  The honey has a very fragrant woodland taste to it.  It's not pure sweet either, plenty of flavor, which I like.

The bottling didn't go as planned.  I thought the spout on the beer bucket would be great but it was to narrow.  The honey was too thick to flow quickly; like 30 minutes to fill a pint jar!!!  So I ladled it.  Which is fine.  The kids got another spoon to lick clean.

Filling a pint jar
There are many people i want to give honey to but we don't have enough for everyone.  Fortunately we didn't promise anything.  A good bit went to family, dear friends, and helpers though. 

I think the main reason the bees didn't make more honey was the screwy main flow.  The Poplars always bloom at once by the millions.  That, of course, draws all the bees to the trees.  This year the trees bloomed Almost singularly.  One would pop then another later on.  It lasted longer but nothing ever got the bees motors running.  The bees would instead concentrate on some non-major flow sources.  Also those darn Queen Excluders.  I thought clipping the sides would help, and it did, but not enough.  Lets see what I come up with next year.  Hopefully I've learned my lesson but I can be a bit thick.

Not the most but definitely the Best!
After all the fun one super and all the equipment were left out for the bees to rob clean.  Wow! was that crazy.  Two days of, "Don't go outside!".  It was a great show though.  At the time i had 8 colonies and my neighbor had 5.  That's a bunch of bees.

Nom nom nom nom...
Next year I hope to have four hives to put Supers on.  If its a decent year we could end up with more then we can eat for once.  Awww Yeah!...

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