Sunday, September 30, 2012

Combination

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.

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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. 

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Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Late September SWARM

For the second year in a row...

video

...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.

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Monday, September 24, 2012

Hive Inspection 9/24/12

MAB & HELÉNA
68°F
Sunny 
Calm


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.

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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.

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Sunday, September 23, 2012

Hive Inspection 9/23/12

Gumption (Nuc #6)
69°F
Sunny
Calm

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.

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