Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Ready to go

This little 5 frame nuc is all ready to be driven to North Carolina tomorrow.   It got packaged up into the plastic box from a regular wooden box.  It will travel for 7 hours tomorrow to get to its new home.  There the frames and bees will be transferred back into woodware.

This is the first split to come out of our apiary to go to someone else.  The split came from the Queen castle.  Which in turn came from Little Miss who has very hard working bees.  This year Little Miss gave us 3 splits and 2 boxes of honey.

They are going to a new Beekeeper.  He will over Winter these bees and add more to his new apiary next spring.  Good luck to him and his new bees.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Hive Inspection 5/11/13

Mostly Sunny

Rozina has lots of bees doing orientation flights lately.  She should have plenty of emerging bees now.  My biggest concern is if she has enough space to lay.

Opening her up it was nice to see the bees had finally finished the syrup.  It was also nice to see no ants had found it.  The ants did find the detritus in the closed off Screened Bottom Board though. Like i've said before, around here bees aren't that interested in Spring syrup.  Rarely does it all get taken.  Leaving me with jars of syrup in the fridge until Fall. 

A cleaned out Hive Top Feeder
The top box was filled with seven frames of brood, some drone cells, and two nicely developed Queen cups in the swarm position.  Neither of which had an egg in it.  What i didn't see was any space for the queen to lay.  The Pollen the bees are bringing in is the same color as the existing wax.  Which looks like capped short worker cells.  It could be the Yellow poplar which is now in bloom.

Wax & pollen the same color
The Bottom box had several frames of newly laid eggs as the Queen has finally moved down.  This brought many of the bees down too.  Who are now working the frames.   I was worried she might not ever drop down to this box since the whole colony went straight into the top box after the queen was released.  Fortunately I found her down there too and marked her.

Queen Rozina freshly marked
Not the biggest queen i've had but her brood pattern and productivity are good.  She was on frame two which is an all honey edge frame.  I believe she was looking for somewhere to lay but she had already filled up the available frames.  So it's time for another box.

Rozina with three medium ten frame boxes
Added to the hive was another medium brood box.  This box comes with four filled honey frames and six not so drawn wax foundation frames.  All from previous dead-outs and what-not.  The bees will need to finish drawing out the middle frames for the queen to lay in them.  To help out i'm going to put yet another gallon of syrup on the bees.  The flow seems OK but some cool weather is on the way which might keep the bees from doing much.  They've not been encouraged to make much wax.  I hope this spurs them on.  If so we could get some honey frames drawn later on.

The overall population in the colony is up to OK from Fair.  She has plenty of bees on every frame but does not cover the frame.  By August her population should be High.  The frames won't be visible and the Slatted Rack will be packed with bees. 

Sunday, May 5, 2013

5 Years under the Belt

Today is the fifth anniversary of us getting into beekeeping.  The big issue this coming year is repopulating the apiary.  Last Summer, Fall, & Winter were hard on the bees.  We lost all the established hives.  Only a tiny Fall swarm survived.  She is now in a full hive and brooding up.  We have one package that has been hived and one more due to arrive next weekend.  I am setting out swarm traps and hoping the annual wild swarm that always passes through the yard does so again.

5 years of wear
As it is the main flow is about to start.  The Black Locust is in bloom which means the Yellow Poplars are next.  The flow will hit us while the three hives have a low population.  It will help the bees establish themselves but i doubt any surplus honey will be made this year.  Fortunately we have enough from last year to get us through this one.

We could very well go back into Winter with less hives than last Fall.  I fondly think back to two years ago when for a brief time I had ten colonies in the apiary.

Good luck to all you Beeks this year.  May your bees be many and your Honey flow.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Hive Inspection 4/23/13


A View of Little Miss from Rozina
Rozina was a bit defensive when i opened her up.  Her gallon of 1:1 syrup had crystallized.  It looked like she took maybe half of it before it hardened.  The bees were mostly up in the top box still.  frames 2 & 3 had capped worker pupa & eggs, nectar, pollen, & honey.  Frames 4, 5, & 6, were solid eggs or larva.  Frames 7 had a bunch of eggs too but the queen had put more than one egg into a few cells.  Young queens will do that from time to time.  The workers sort it out afterward.  The queen should stop doing that soon.  The Queen was on frame 9, a nectar frame.  This box had plenty of walking Drones too.  The ones that came in with the package.  The population in the top box was fair.

Bad habits of young Queens
The bottom box was being back filled with pollen and nectar.  The Queen hadn't got down there yet.  Plus, there are still lots of empty cells for the queen to use.  The worker population in this box was poor.

For a new colony she is doing well.  I don't know why she moved up to the top box so fast.  Just as long as she moves down again instead of swarming once the top box is filled.

Little Miss was very calm in contrast to Rozina.  Lots of activity in her new top box.  Frames 5, 6, 7,  & 8 had eggs, larva, & pupa.  The Queen was on frame 5.  The population in this hive was OK.

A very good Queen Miss
The bottom box had 4 frames of brood; 5, 6, 7, & 8.  Though frame 6 is almost a solid frame of drone cells and they've begun to emerge.  The brood pattern was spotty but those are the over-wintering frames.  Productive but not uniform.  I believe they'll work it out but i'll keep an eye on it.  Also patches of new honey being capped on the outer frames.

Almost solid Drone Frame
Both colonies look good for now.  They need to continue brooding up.  Still hoping to make some splits if the population grow fast enough.  Still waiting for Rozina to find the bottom box.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

A Week after Instalation

Took a quick look into Rozina to remove her Queen cage and check progress.  The bees were introduced down in the bottom box.  Which is where i thought i might find them.  However they released the queen then proceeded up into the top box. 

Used Queen Cage & empty Frame?
This left the introduction frame oddly empty after release.  From experience, the queen usually starts laying on this frame first.   These bees have started their colony in the top box instead.  Where the queen has laid eggs on three frames.

Worker eggs in Rozina
The bees are heaviest in the top box but some manage to venture into the bottom box performing hive duties.  The population is low but that will turn around once the new bees emerge.  I'll closely monitor for hive pests.

Frame in top box
They are bringing in much nectar and pollen.  We seem to be in a heavy Spring brood flow.  The syrup i gave them last week is only half gone and currently seems ignored.

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Also took a quick look into Little Miss as well.  She still has the three frames of brood she had when she was hived last week.  I did notice she is making Drones now.  Quite a few of them on a single frame.  Seems that some of the drone have emerged too. 

The Drone cells are the ones that stick out
Which means it's about Queen rearing season.  Come May i'll start making splits and new queens.  I'm down four hives so i have some work to do.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Hiving a Nuc

The time has come for Little Miss to be a full hive.  She has a box of bees, a box of honey, and a great laying queen.  The bees fill both 5 frame boxes so she needs the expansion.

The yellow full nuc next to the white new equipment
First i took out the honey frames from her top nuc box.  They became frames 1, 2, 3, 9, &10 of the bottom 10 frame box.  Then all the frames of the bottom nuc, the brood nest, filled the gap between 3 and 9 of the same 10 frame box.  The result is the same brood nest packed with double the honey on the ends.

To fill the new second 10 frame box (Top box) i used filled or drawn frames from previous dead outs.  In this case 6 frames filled with honey & pollen and 4 frames of empty but drawn wax.  This gives the bees plenty of stores and room to lay.  What would take them weeks to over a month to produce they have right now.  Their energy can go towards brood yet requires less work from the field bees.

New hive in place

The new hive consists of:
Telescoping cover
Inner cover
10 frame medium
10 frame medium
Slated rack
Solid bottom board

No hive top feeder for them because; 1- The spring flow is strong and these girls are known not to take spring syrup;  2- They are not an over stressed package that just got shipped across country to be dumped somewhere strange.  Other than the new equipment nothing has changed for them.  They'll keep on taking nectar like they've been doing.

Ideally i can put on a 3rd box soon.  As a hive of mediums all they need for over wintering is 3 boxes.  If they can fill their 3rd box with brood before May i can add honey supers to the hive.  Winter ran a month late in ending.  So i don't know how that will affect the flow or whether these bees will have the time to produce surplus honey.  I'm looking forward to favorable conditions.
Queen bee from Little Miss
Meanwhile, queen Miss is a pretty girl of moderate size with an all black thorax and non-striped, sepia abdomen.  We are in our first week of warm weather yet she already has several frames of brood from side to side and a handful of scattered Drone cells.  She'll be marked when i feel assured i can make more queens.  Maybe in a month.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

New Colony - ROZINA

Today we hived that package into two ten-frame mediums.  These boxes were filled with the remnants of this Winter's Dead-outs.  These bees start off with a full box of honey & pollen along with a full box of drawn out and somewhat filled comb.  This gives them a huge start to the year.  I hope it translats into honey.

Newly hived Package
Since i'm practically starting over again all new hives will be mediums. This hive is made up of a;
Telescoping Cover
Hive Top Feeder
Slatted Rack
Screened Bottom Board (closed)

We are still having cool nights but come high Summer the hive will look like this;
Telescoping Cover
Inner Cover
Imrie Shim (top entrance)
Honey Super/s
Slatted Rack
Screened Bottom Board (open)

I might put an Imrie Shim between Honey Supers.  I've done it before but with inconclusive results.  The idea being an entrance per Super allows the bees to transfer the nectar faster thereby improving production.  We'll see how this year goes.

Anyway, back to the bees.  These girls were a calm bunch.  They didn't explode from the package nor did they fly around manically during the procedure.  They dropped in and spread out in the box. The only oddity was a few handfuls of bees walking away from the hive along the ground.  I've never seen it before.

The bees took to orienting immediately but went back in for the night soon after.  As always i hive bees late in the day to better keep them in the new location.  The next day they were back at it flying wide arcs in the apiary.  I went down later in the day but saw no pollen coming in yet.  They still need to find those sources.

The gallon of 1:1 syrup i gave them is half way down.  From what we can tell by the bees lack of interest in old left out honey frames and pots with sugar residue the Spring flow is on and quite strong.  The Maples are done but Dandelions are popping up everywhere.  This is great for the bees to have natural forage as apposed to pollen patties and syrup.  The best thing for a new colony.

- - -    - - -   - - -

On a sad but not unexpected note; Mab is dead.  I broke down her equipment and tossed it into the freezer.  She had a laying queen and brood in February or so but something happened and now she's gone.  What a shame.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Package of Bees

Say hello to Rozina
These arrived today.  Approximately 10,000 bees or 3 lbs.  They were packaged up on Thursday the 4th of April.  I plan to hive them Sunday evening; the 7th of April.  They will spend the interim in the kitchen.  They are being fed 1:1 syrup via spray bottle every couple of hours.  They look to be of regular size, not small cell, and of typical color.  I believe i saw a drone or two in the box.  There are some dead on the bottom but not much.  All in all the package looks good.

These bees will be hived in 2, 10 frame medium boxes.  Those boxes have 10 frames filled with pollen & capped honey.  The other 10 frames are fully drawn but mostly empty.  The bees will start off with excellent resources and plenty of empty cells for the queen to lay eggs in immediately.  I hope the bees will brood up quickly enough to provide honey in the first year.

Once the brood nest is filled and of great size the current Queen will be removed.  That way the bees will make a new 'local' queen with a better chance of winter survival.


Saturday, March 9, 2013

Hard Winter


It is the beginning of March 2013 and out of my six hives only two remain.  The oldest of the remaining two (Mab) is queenless and dying off.  The other (The late 2012 swarm) has two and a half frames of brood and three plus frames of bees; a good population for a small Nuc.

Dying Mab to the left and strong Little Miss on the right
The rest of the hives died out during December and January.  Their populations weren't brooding up like they should have been last Fall.  They went into Winter with less vigor than required.  This Winter has been colder and longer than the last handful of Winters.  The bees took a beating.

I got real busy on other projects last July and left the bees to themselves.  They never looked bad and produced a good bit of honey.  However, a late Summer dearth lowered populations and shut down brooding around August.  This wasn't apparent (to the unobservant) 'till critically low populations were noticed in December.

As a stop gap measure the remaining two hives have been supplied with low wattage shop lamps to aid in heating the small clusters.  Mab, who is queenless, can be resurrected if her bees last long enough to make a queen for her.  About a month from now.  Might still lose her anyway.  We'll see.  The moment I see a drone anywhere around here we'll make queens.

Also, since so many hives are gone I have a pile of drawn frames stacked in the basement.  More than i ever intended to have.  Been watching for the Wax moth and have found only a few.  Two frames lost is all.  Freezer is pack with frames.  The rest are staked, post freezing, inside.

Any swarm i catch this year will be immediately put on 20 frames of drawn and mostly filled frames.  Lucky girls.

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.