Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Medium Boxes

One of my favorite things about beekeeping is all the time in the workshop during the off season.  Everything slows down and we can plan for the next year.  After which i get to build the shiny new equipment.

Two of four unfinished Brood & Honey boxes for 2013
I got an early start to the off season and built four of these today; ten frame mediums.  Southern yellow pine is less dense and likes to split at the ends when screws are snugged down.  Spruce, used above, is light but sturdy and doesn't regularly split.  The local home improvement store carries both including white pine and occasionally fir.

Spruce can be more knotty but the knots weep less than the knots of yellow pine. Plus, a coating of beeswax & paraffin on the inside of a knot keeps hive moisture from seeping in it.  Then one coat of quality primer followed by two coats of a decent top-coat semi gloss paint.  The box can last as long as a human house. 

Tight bond III glue and 2" decking screws keep it all together.  Since i use butt joints each 6' of board becomes one box.  I buy 12' x 8" boards, which are very cheap, and get two boxes out of it.  That way the homemade boxes are cheaper than the cheapest box i can get from any supplier.  The cheap boxes from the suppliers are much lower in quality too.

For finishing touches the frame rests are armored with an "L" shaped strip of regular flashing.  At 1" in width it protect the rest from getting gouged out over time.

I wish the bees were as simple to keep as these are simple to make.


Sunday, September 30, 2012


Went into the combination of Gumption & Melissa today.  I forgot to cut a slice in the paper so the bees made their own.  They put it along the warm side of the box.  After which they all migrated down into Gumption's boxes.  The swarm box was practically empty. 

Empty swarm box above chewed combination paper
Looked for a queen, marked or not, throughout the rest of the boxes.  Found several frames of Fresh Eggs instead.  The eggs were single in the cells and perfectly positioned.  No signs of laying worker made eggs.  There is a Queen in this hive but i never did find her.  Likely an unmarked Queen but i can't be sure until she is located.  Either way her egg laying is good as well as her brood pattern. 

I looks like this colony can survive now.  They, along with the other colonies, were fed syrup today.  The remains of Gumption had a few frames of pollen and a box of honey.   There are some honey frames in the freezer if they need more.

Little Miss with Top Feeder
The swarm box was removed and a Hive Top Feeder was added.  Hopefully i'll find & mark this Queen within the month. 

For now we call this colony Little Miss.  If the Queen is a Marked queen from Melissa that'll be her name.  If unmarked she'll get a new one.


Robbing causes Absconsion

The previous swarm was in fact Melissa absconding.  Robbing broke out in the apiary while i was capturing the 'new' swarm.  The next day, when everything had calmed down, the hives were checked.  Melissa was empty except for a few remaining robbers.  All the honey & nectar was gone.  Sadly several frames of capped brood were abandoned.  A loaded double deep with twenty frames of bees was lost.

Did the robbing cause the absconsion or vice versa?  There was robbing taking place a day before the 'swarm' showed up.  At which time all the bottom entrances were reduced.  the opening were only big enough for a bee or two.  Enough for the inhabitants to easily defend.  So i thought.  The robbing had begun again the next day when the swarm appeared.  We didn't see it come out of anyone and thought it might be wild.  Many wild swarms move through the yard in Spring & Fall and i couldn't check the hives because of the robbing going on.  I think the bees of Melissa left when all the stores were gone.  Many dead bees were on the bottom of the hive.  

The next question was what to do with the small swarm; remnants of Melissa.  She had been hived in a medium nuc.  A small colony like that will have a trouble getting through Winter.  I assume she has a mated queen but have not see it yet.  If she does then they need stores & some pollen immediately.  If she doesn't then it's over and the bees go towards boosting another hives population.

Meanwhile Gumption is believed to be queenless with a laying worker or two.  Her population is low and getting smaller all the time.  No mated queens were available to help her.  She's on her way out.

So, i combined the two; Melissa & Gumption.  If the queen in Melissa is present and healthy all will be fine if the combination takes.  It was a simple newspaper combination.  The one box of Melissa's 'swarm/absconsion' on top of the existing two boxes of Gumption.

Newspaper Combination
We might name the colony after Melissa since it is her line that will be continued if his all works out.  We might also give it a new name since both colonies failed (or their beekeeper did).  For now we wait to see what happens. 


Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Late September SWARM

For the second year in a row...

...A Swarm showed up in the yard during the last week in September.  Today in fact.  A day after we decide we need a swarm to save Gumption.  How about that!  I estimate the swarm to be less than 3 pounds.  Smallish darker bees.  I didn't see the Queen or any drones.  I eased handfuls of bees into the nuc until finally they took to fanning and crawling into the nuc.  Good indicators the Queen was in the hive.

As you can see in the video it clustered well within reach for once.  The plant cage had to have a big hole cut into it but that's much easier than climbing trees. 

The swarm landed on the post for the basil
The only hitch is halfway into hiving the swarm robbing broke out in the entire apiary.  Talk about bedlam!  Had to stop what i was doing with the swarm to close off all the other hives.  So happy to have little top entrances on all the hives.  Once the bottoms entrances were closed the bees could easily defend themselves at those top ones. 

The big question here is were did this swarm come from.  Last year it came from somewhere else and at the moment i think this year is the same.  Yet, there remains one hive left to inspect this month.  The swarm could have come from her.  Tomorrow i'll check.

Right now the bees are in a medium nuc with five drawn frames.  Tomorrow i'll newspaper combine them with Gumption.  Who, coincidentally, is last years Late September Swarm.

Also, all the Screened Bottom Boards in the apiary have now been closed for Winter.


Monday, September 24, 2012

Hive Inspection 9/24/12


Mab is having the same SHB problem as the other hives.  This has been the worst year for them since we began beekeeping.  It seems that each week or so we buy more beetle traps.  Next time we'll get a whole case.  Three traps per box should do it.  Mab has three boxes and a Slatted rack so i'd like to give her twelve traps.  I guarantee they will all have a bunch of beetles in them.

Other than that Mab is doing great.  She is back filling her top box with honey and moving the brood nest down.  Her population is good.  She even has a few Drone cells and walking drones.  Plus she's very calm and responds well to smoke.

I didn't go through all her boxes since i found the Queen on frame four in the middle box.   She looked as good as always.  Well attended by her court.  Brood patterns get spotty in Fall.  Her's shows that but still has nice consistency.

The bees have also done a great job waxing the interior of the hive.  Most of the equipment is new but has a good coat of wax.  The other colonies have never been this quick about it.

I'll inspect her again in two weeks or so.  For now i'll start feeding them syrup. This is what i wish all the colonies looked like.

Heléna as usual is doing her own thing apart from reason.  As mentioned the SHB are bad but inspecting her was the first time i had SHB crawling up into my veil.  That was as soon as i opened the hive up.  A poor start to things.

Her population is Fair.  I'd like to see more bees and she has a strong reputation as a bee maker (as opposed to honey).  Yet, there weren't enough bees to fill the slated rack which is usually full of bees.  The majority of bees were in the top box.  I assume the Queen was up there but never found her.  Did see fresh eggs though.  Odd there are less bees in her.  We had some very poor weather this Summer.  It may have set everyone back. 

The brood pattern was normal for this time of year.  More & more cells being back filled with nectar.  Less & less cells being filled with brood.  Some what spotty.  Sadly it looks like she has no interest in lowering her brood nest into the bottom boxes.  A reversal will fix that in a month or two. The brood looked healthy though and had plenty of eggs.

The burr comb didn't help either.  The biggest piece was above the top box where the top entrance is.  Not a surprise as the shim is more than half an inch in height.  However, the first three frames were one with the frames below them.  Had to clean that up just to put the frame back in the box. 

The bees here were much more defensive than in Mab.  Head butting quickly gave way to a stinging assault as i moved into the bottom box.  I spent more time smoking stings than inspecting frames.  NOT how things are supposed to work BUT with Heléna there is ALWAYS a chance of swarm cells somewhere in the hive.  Have to check each time.

She be fed for a few weeks along with the others.  Hopefully i'll find the Queen next time.


Chilled Brood

Yay!...No really, I mean it.  The alternative is Foulbrood.  The Deacon of our bee club contacted the State Apiarist today and gave him all of the info from this hive.  The State Apiarist said it is 'Chilled Brood' that we are looking at not a Foulbrood.  He said he didn't need to see the frames himself and that he is certain.  The damage to the brood is typical for chilled brood.  At this point i have never seen Foulbrood or Chilled brood.  I assumed the worst and hope for the best.  Earlier today i did the String test.  I could not get any strings from the rotten brood after numerous attempts. 

No String
So the good news i don't have to burn the bees, woodenware, & gloves.  The bad news remains this colony is queenless and done for.  Unless, i can get a mated queen.  Not impossible yet.  A shipment of them arrived just over a week ago at a local dealer.  IF he has one left i'll take it.

Otherwise i can save the colony for a few more weeks on the odd chance a swarm shows up.  Late September swarms are common around here.  We think there are several bee trees nearby that have been spawning them off for the past few years.  This colony showed up a year ago themselves.

There is an issue of a laying worker. If a swarm shows up we'll see what happens.  From what i can tell there may only bee a single laying worker in there.  The presence of a Queen might remedy that.

If a swarm doesn't show up i'll dump the bees out just outside the apiary.  The good bees will drift to new hives (remember i have 6 & my neighbor has 6).  The laying bees will die off.  Then i'll have primed equipment for Spring swarm season.


Sunday, September 23, 2012

Hive Inspection 9/23/12

Gumption (Nuc #6)

This is what she looked like at the beginning; sans the top cover.  The bottom deep is the original swarm box from a year ago.  The rest are medium nucs made this year.  The white box is NOT upside down.  Though it was when i cut the handles in it.

Population is fair.  Didn't see a queen.  Saw a few eggs and larva. Very few!  The frames in the white box, newest, were not drawn out.  All end frames filled with honey.  Weak stores elsewhere.   The bottom box had a bunch of pollen in it.  The brood nest was up in the top box...well, what would have been the brood nest.

The bees boiled a little bit so i really think there is no Queen.  Also the few brood frames only had a handful of DRONE cells on them.

However, the REALLY bad news is the black brood dead in their cells.  I have no experience with Foulbrood but i suspect this to be one of them.

 The darkened brood is what i'm worried about.  If it is a foulbrood i can kiss the bees & woodenware goodbye.  I looked on the internet for images of foulbrood.  They seem to match.  Out of hope i asked this question on a bee forum and sent an email to a bee buddy.  Have my fingers crossed they say it's something else. 

I put the hive back together but without the bottom deep or the empty white boxes.  Trying to fit the space to the bee population.  Brood frames below and reserve frames above.   Now to sit back and see what the prognosis is.


Sunday, May 6, 2012

Hive Inspection 5/6/12

Mary, Myrina, QC, Nuc #5, Heléna, Nuc #6, Nuc'd Swarm

Myrina has not moved up into new medium box yet.  Gave her another gallon of 1:1 syrup. 

Mary has lots of eggs and pretty brood patterns.  She's really coming back online.

Queen Castle (2nd) still has two capped Queen cells.  Added more 1:1 syrup.

Queen Castle (1st) received a frame from Nuc # 5 with several large capped Queen cells and a honey & nectar frame.  Added 1:1 syrup

Nuc # 5 may no longer be Queenless.  Some eggs were found on a frame in top box.  The bottom box had a frame with Queen cells.  The frame and another honey frame were placed in the QC.  Lots of bees.  'Boiling' behavior observed.

Heléna is Post Swarm.  Her top Honey super remains undrawn.  It was removed.  One Honey super is still on about half drawn out.  It was placed between both brood boxes.  Her population is good in spite of the swarm.  Other than a hatched Swarm cell a hatched Supersedure cell was found.  Bees making more Supersedure cells.  Some 'Boiling' behavior.

Nuc #6 has seven torn down Swarm cells and a hatched Supersedure cell.  She also has TWO queens.  The old white marked one & the new virgin one.  The old queen is still laying her butt off.  High population.

Nuc'd Swarm is loaded with Laying workers.  Some drone sized cells may have had fifteen to twenty eggs in them.  No Queen was found though they have drawn out all five frames.  These bees will be dumped out in front of my Neighbors weak hive this week.  It is gone, done, finis.

Plan to inspect Melissa in a day or two.


Saturday, May 5, 2012

Fourth Anniversary

We've completed four years worth of beekeeping today.  This last year has seen the biggest leaps in the practice here at the Creek:
*The yard has increased from two hives up to ten (currently seven). 
*We continue to make all our queens
*A Queen Castle is now in use to create & store additional queens
*We combined several weak hives last Fall for Winter management
*All nucs (two) were over-Wintered successfully
*The yard has been moved entirely to the side yard
*All stands are anchored into the ground
*Apistan has been replace by more natural formic acid for mite control
*Most woodenware continues to be made in the garage

Last November there was a Anaphylaxis scare when a sting caused me to get emergency treatment.  Since then i have been stung again with no complications.  Proving the earlier sensitivity was only temporary.

As we go into our fifth year i hope to successfully over-Winter a Queen castle and start producing nucs for sale.  The honey harvest is, as usual, up to the bees.  I can only pile on the boxes hoping they will fill them.  The flow looks great right now so fingers are crossed.

This blog will suffer some though.  I don't have the time to post a full blown article every time i go near the bees.  From now on I will TRY to keep the Chronicles updated as to the status of the hives. In-depth articles will only be posted if i feel it is warranted; such as major inspections, discovery, or innovation. 

I thank all who visit & comment here and look forward to a productive fifth year.


Monday, April 2, 2012

Hive Inspection 4/2/12

All Hives (six)

Didn't mean to do them all but that's the way it goes sometimes.  It has been almost a month during an early Spring since we last looked in the bees.  Not a good idea but we have been terribly busy around here; did i mention we have chickens now?

Melissa has six brood frames in the top box and four in the bottom box.  Good brood pattern and a high population.  The bees are calm.  Saw Wax Moth larva in the detritus below the screened bottom board; that's a new one.  The moth larva posed NO danger to the hive and were fed to the chickens.  The bees finished off the last gallon of syrup.  The feeder was removed and a partially filled Honey Super from last season was added.  In a day or so an undrawn Super will be added as well.  Did not see the Queen but plenty of fresh eggs.

Nuc #6 (Gumption) also had a Moth larva under the Screened Bottom Board.  That too was cleaned out.  Her bees have not yet begun to draw out the new Medium brood box.  They have, however, finished their syrup.  The population is good but her productivity is low.  There is a Supersedure cell being drawn out on frame #5.  I left it in.  The bees know best.  It wasn't planned but her still empty new brood box was hastily donated to Nuc # 5.  I'll make her two new ones this week.

Nuc #5 (Mab) is on fire when it come to making bees.  The three week old New brood box was fully drawn & filled with capped brood, drone cells, pollen, & honey.  The best looking Spring frames i've ever seen.

All five new frames, front & back
The population is still heavy now that they have used up the new box.  As previously mentioned i borrowed the empty box from Nuc #6 to give this one room.  However, it is to late!

OOPS! First Swarm Cell of 2012.  Three weeks in a new undrawn box
The Queen cell was cut out and placed in Myrina who needs to be requeened anyway.  Many believe that once the Swarm cell is capped the bees will swarm no matter what.  I've done this before without the bees swarming so i hope to do it again. As soon as these bees fill up the new box they will be hived in a regular medium two box hive.  The feeder is still on and they'll get some more syrup.  So i'm guessing two more weeks.

Heléna has twelve of twenty frames filled with brood.  Her population is high and getting higher fast.  The Queen was in the bottom box as the top box was full.  So her feeder is gone replaced by a drawn honey super.  More Wax moth under the Bottom board but they were handled.  The brood frames are picture perfect.  Sadly it was late and too dark to get the image.

Mary is a surprise in non-productivity with only four of twenty frames having brood.  Her population is only fair with very little Drone comb.  The top box is practically honey bound.  So i will spin several frames to give them room to grow.  If she doesn't take to it she'll be requeened.  Her feeder came off too, but she hadn't finished the syrup in it anyway.

Myrina has only taken half of her syrup.  The population is fair with only three of ten frames in brood.  A Wax moth was found in the hive on a frame; one worm which was dispatched.  This colony is Very weak.  She began the downward spiral last Summer.  Then entered Winter diminished.  She got through Winter but she's going nowhere fast.  To remedy that the Swarm Cell from Nuc #5 was placed in this hive (frame 5) After i pinched Queen Myrina.  I'll check the hive again in a few days.  The Queen Cell was capped and due to hatch soon.

Note the Spotty brood of the previous Queen
This weekend i'll make a few more brood boxes and sufficient frames.  I'll put more undrawn Honey Supers on Malissa & Heléna too.


Sunday, March 11, 2012

Hive Inspection 3/11/12


The first warmer weekend we've had in awhile.  I gave every hive a gallon of 1:1 syrup.  If they take it then they'll get more.  If they don't, like last year, then they are on their own for nectar.  Took the opportunity to inspect the big girls. 

Myrina has only two frames of brood.  Not a great surprise since she has been crashing since last August.  We will requeen Myrina this Spring with genetics other than her own.  She still has a single Deep brood box.  Frame one through three are the brood nest.  I moved them to the middle of the box to help her spread out.  As weak as she is she had a handful of Drone Cells.

Queen Myrina on frame #2 - paint dot almost gone
Mary had only three brood frames but her population was much better than Myrina's.  Most of her bees were in the top box around the brood.  The bottom box had some bees but plenty of old & new stores.  The boxes were reversed placing the brood nest on the bottom and the extra stores above the nest.  The bees will have to fully expand into the new top box before they feel like Swarming.

Queen Mary on frame # 5
Heléna had five frames of brood also all in the top box.  The big surprise here are the walking Drones and lots of drone cells.  There are plenty of worker cells too.  The colony is brooding up quickly.  With as many drones as she has Swarm season must be starting up.  Fortunately everyone has plenty of space in their hives.  Heléna's boxes were reversed too.  Her bottom box had stores but was a little light.  Nothing to worry about seeing as we are in a good spring flow.

Ton o' Drone cells in Heléna
Melissa had six brood frames loaded with workers and drones.  Again the top box looked great with lots of bees, pollen, & nectar.  Her bottom box was practically empty though.  Again her boxes were reversed like the others today.  She'll be fine and load up the empty box in no time.

Quiet box atop a brood box being reversed (Mary)
All in all the bees look good and the year is starting off strong.  The plan is to honey the three Big hives, Mary, Heléna, & Melissa; while hiving the other three small colonies.  I do not want to add any more colonies but that, as you know, is up to the bees.


Saturday, March 3, 2012

Quick Peek & Brood boxes

Nuc #5 (Mab)
Nuc #6 (Gumption)

On Feb 28th i took a quick look at the two nucs.  Nuc #5, or Mab, is packed with bees and has three of her five frames loaded with brood.  The queen looked big & healthy as always.  This colony was my first captured swarm from last year.  Her population plummeted last fall but now she'll be ready to swarm in no time.

Nuc #6, Gumption, Has two of five frames in brood.  She doesn't have the number of bees Mab does but she's drawing comb already.  She is a late September swarm.  I never took her seriously though she continuously laid eggs.  So she's off to a great start now that she survived Winter.  So i finally marked the Queen; with white since she is from last year.

Since Mab is full of bees & Gumption is drawing comb they both received an additional brood box (5 frame Nuc) today.

Ready to go with old frames & new wax foundation
Mab's (nuc #5) new yellow Medium Brood box
and Gumption's (nuc #6) new yellow Brood box too
I intend to inspect a few hives this weekend.  Might need to reverse some boxes to hold off swarming.  This Winter has been VERY mild and the bees are way ahead of schedule.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Consolidated Main Yard

Last night we brought the two original hives up from the backyard and put them down in the sideyard.  Now all the hives are in one spot.  The two that were moved are Mary & Myrina.

The now OLD Bee yard back in 2010 at maximum occupancy
We have been developing the sideyard since Spring of last year.  The area has better shelter from weather due to the culvert embankment.  It also has a Western slope providing more heat during Winter.

The Bee Yard now.  Mary & Myrina are the two at the bottom of the slope
The new hive stand was made for three hives.  I plan to convert the two older stand to support three hives as well.  At least one more stand will be installed in the future.  So i figure up to ten hives with two additional Queen Castles. 

So the backyard is finally empty bees for the first time since May of 2008.  Now i can drop a couple of dangerous trees that have been worrying me.  When that's done i have been ordered to build a Chicken Coop.  Yes i said 'chickens'.  My backyard is apparently a eighty-foot by forty-foot farm!


Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Mid-Winter Brood

Winter has been very mild this year.  Some of the colonies may not have had a brood break.  Today i checked the small hives brood nests.  The bees are bringing in Maple pollen now along with Nectar.  So stores are increasing.  Due to such the brood nests seem to be slowly growing in size.  A month ago the queen were laying eggs in small patches.  Today i saw eggs in much larger areas around the older patches.  There is still a month and a half of Winter but the bees seem to be starting their year Now.

Mary's Top Box
It was nice to see that Mary's cluster hasn't made it up to the top bars yet.  She has plenty of stores left on the sides.  Those frames can be moved to the middle if she needs a boost.

The small colonies; Myrina, Mab, & Gumption, are OK in the stores department too.  Though i added a full honey frame to Gumption.  Her few bees get all the help i can spare. Barring any prolonged deeply cold weather the bee populations in the Apiary are going to explode in another month.

The weather wasn't the only thing that was calm.  Varroa populations are down since the Mite-Away treatment last Fall.  There has been no signs of Nosema either.  There are a few SHB hanging around still in Mary & Myrina but much less now.  It has been a good Winter.  Hopefully that will lead to a productive Spring (population increase & splits) then to a honey filled Summer.  I will keep you posted.