Beekeeper’s woes

If you were wondering, it’s more the writing than the bees that have been neglected. This is a rather delayed hive report because of business travel and work–in other words, vocation interfering with avocation. Imagine that!

From 22 April 2019: I just finished putting empty supers on both hives. Unfortunately, I have to be out of town for about 5 days and I think that one hive will have swarmed by the time I get back.

The one that I anticipate swarming is being a problem. To put it bluntly, these girls in one of my hives are bitchy at the best of times, and by the end of my inspection today there’s so other way to describe them than royally PO’d.

I’ve tried two times before today and been resoundingly defeated. The first time I barely got the inner cover off before they started being quite angry. The second attempt had the same results. Immediate buzzing around the hive and particularly at my head. On both these occasions the weather was less than optimal and there had been mowing and other machinery noises fairly close to the hive so I was inclined to give the girls the benefit of doubt about meanness.

Today I started with the smaller hive and had no problems. I guess I might have said that they were a little nervous by the time I got down to the deep (brood box).

From there I approached the “big” (three supers and the deep). At least today I got the inner cover off before these girls got angry. I got stung more today than I’ve been stung before in my entire beekeeping career. Not only stung while working right at the hive but stung when some of them followed me to my front door–about 50 feet away from the hive. Not only did they follow me, but a few continued to hang around the door for about 15 or 20 minutes. So, after this experience I’m going to make a judgement that I’ve got a mean hive.

Despite the experience, I’m not giving up on the bees! I certainly won’t share the pictures of me after this foray into that one hive. Of course, when you have to go to a national conference, do a presentation, and appear in public, the bee stings were not in any place unobtrusive–how about scalp and hands–fortunately none directly on my face. Needless to say, there were lots of questions about why looked like I did.

(And yes, before you ask, I was using smoker, and a jacket and veil, and even gloves.)

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Seasoning cast iron

I have cooking equipment in my kitchen that needs seasoning: double-burner cast iron grill/griddle, a round single-burner griddle, two small skillets (the two-egg size), and a carbon steel skillet.  Once seasoned these take little care.

I’ve always used vegetable oil to season mine. I was interested to find an article recommending beeswax.  Now that I have bees, perhaps I will try that next time my seasoning needs refreshing.  It seems as if it might have some advantages.

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Hive report: 17 June 2018

This turned out to be a very quick peek into Hive A–the heat got to me.  I’m such a wuss when it comes to heat and humidity.  I’ve been trying so hard not to degenerate into complaining (no, actually make that bitching) about the weather but I give up.  When I went out to do this inspection the local weather conditions were reported as 90°F with a heat index of 102 °F: however, my thermometer read 94.9°F.  Inside my bee jacket (the common white one)–well, I don’t even want to think about that.  (More about the cool blue one later).

What I found when I opened the hive was brood all over the place–yes, I forgot to put on the queen excluder–so now I have brood right up to the topmost medium super.  Some of the foundationless frames that I had inserted are being drawn nicely though.

One frame on plasticell foundation had been drawn into space where the foundationless one was–the girls seemed to be ignoring that one so I had very deep comb on one side. You can see how I disrupted a lot of the comb, so I just pulled that frame out for harvest.  I replaced it with an undrawn frame . This one is going to get harvested in some variation of crush/strain method and I’ll hope that some of the foundationless ones can be harvested for cut comb.

Unfortunately, the heat got to me in a big way so I couldn’t stay out long enough to do a full, meticulous find-the-queen inspection–at least I know the queen is doing well.  I need to make some sort of plan to deal with what these girls are doing–probably going back in and consolidating brood, and putting on a queen excluder would be a good start. But to do that I have to find the queen and that’s not easy because the hive population is SO heavy. At least I know that the girls do have space to store more honey, but…

But I need to see what’s in the “brood box”–though the girls and I don’t seem to agree on where that right now. I also need to inspect the other three hives–but not today. My thermometer is now reading 95.8°F and I’m totally wilted. (Yes, I did start hydrating a couple hours before I got into the bee jacket, but that wasn’t enough.  More water, sooner next time–and start earlier.

I guess maybe the girls will get me appropriately trained sooner or later, maybe….

 

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Hive report: a beekeeper’s notebook

21 May 2018:  I’ve had a new beekeeping experience–dealing with a seriously angry bunch of bees. I do hope it will be a while before I have that experience again.

Yesterday  I planned to inspect Hive A (Dave’s Girls), but I didn’t take into account lawn mowing and trimming activities that had been going on around the hive. I had just removed the telescoping cover and the inner cover when I was in the midst of a serious attack–I now know what seriously PO’d bees sound like. After getting stung on my hands (only thin gloves on) I beat a very hasty retreat, but the girls were angry enough that they followed me–so I had to stand around in my bee jacket until they finally gave up and went home.

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22 May 2018:  This morning  I went back to do what needed to be done. Things were good when I opened the hive–bees all over all of the frames just doing their thing and they let me look around and do my part of the housekeeping.  I’ve put in foundationless frames to see if the girls will cooperate with me for some cut-comb honey this season. Fingers crossed and waiting.

26 May 2018:  There’s obviously been a bit of a hiatus here–the weather has been rather erratic–intermittently cloudy, windy, with less traffic in and out of the hive than usual. I’ve learned (the hard way) that the girls are quite testy (even bitchy, maybe?) when the weather is good.  Of course, that also means that lots of them are out at work so there are fewer to deal with during the inspections–and that is definitely an advantage with a large colony.

I made the mistake of putting work hours before bee time! Silly me.  By the time I was ready to do inspections, the weather wasn’t cooperating–intermittently cloudy with threatening clouds and a little drizzle. Then another bit of sunshine. Then clouds again.  I wussed out and decided to wait until tomorrow morning. I mean, in this area I should know that thunderstorms are likely in the afternoon.

27 May 2018:  This morning I had my priorities straight: to the hives just of soon as I had adequate Sunday morning caffeination.  I started with the Georgia Girls (Hive B) since that was the big job. They had been cooperative, actually doing what I wanted them to do–most of the brood was now in the deep so I could reverse the medium and be back to deep-on-the-bottom then the medium, still with some brood, above. They still had room to store honey above the queen excluder so I didn’t give them any foundationless frames.

Hives C and D each got a quick peek under the cover to see how things were. Both obviously had a queen doing her thing. Hive D (a split with a queen cell from Hive A) had brood in the medium (and the deep), but needed more room for honey.  Add queen excluder and a super for honey–done!  And–just in time for it to start getting a bit more overcast and breezy.

Happiness for a beekeeper is knowing what the girls are doing!

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Comb honey vs. extracted honey

From one of my very favorite (and useful) beekeeping blogs (HoneyBeeSuite) I wanted to share a post that so well describes the grocery-store honey and the wonders of honey in the comb: How to make value-subtracted honey.  I couldn’t agree more, nor could I say it better so I’ll just pass on this link.

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Hive report: bees and cats!

The last week or so has been a bit hectic–indexing work, and beekeeping. The apiary has grown to four hives now–two from swarms cast by the two large (Dave’s bees and the Georgia Girls) hives. Now I have hives C and D. Hive C is from the swarm from the Georgia Girls. Hive D is from a swarm from Dave’s Bees. The purpose of my inspections of three hives today was to check to see that all were queenright even though looming deadlines for indexes have put a limit on the amount of time that I can spend with the bees on this Mother’s Day; so necessarily very quick question-oriented inspections.

brood box of hiveI had already found that Hive C was queenless. I started the procedure of requeening earlier in the week, but I did need to make sure that the queen had been released from her travel cage. Happily, the queen was out and about in the hive. However, the comb in that brood chamber is so exuberant and higgledy-piggledy that it was (in a reasonable amount of time, with sweat dripping from my eyelashes) impossible to see if there was brood. But, the queen is free so I’ll check again for brood in a while.

[Why did I have sweat dripping from my eyelashes? Well, it happens if you neglect to put on the sweatband under the veil. Needless to say, I went back and added that to my attire before moving on the Hive D.]

Hive D (I know, very unimaginative) was a swarm from Hive A and since I had not captured the queen, I had put a queen cell into the new hive. Today was to check and see if that colony was queenright. Still dripping sweat, I opened this hive to find that there was now capped brood, lots of capped brood in a very good pattern in that hive. Again, I settled for the quick answer without a detailed search to find and mark the queen as I need to move on to Hive A.

In Hive A, my concern for this quick inspection was to see if there was a functioning queen here, too.  The quick answer was a resounding yes! I found lots of capped brood in an excellent pattern–in the medium super above the brood box.  Again, I accepted that, but realize that there is another problem that I need to address immediately. I need to get some new frames for the bees to start for cut-comb honey since they are rapidly filling everything with honey and pollen. I admit that I didn’t even look in the brood box to see what was going on, but I suspect it’s being filled with honey and pollen, so I likely need to reverse the medium with brood and the deep at least for a while.IMG_7769

Ok–you wondering about the “bees and cats”!  Since this was the week that I had to tote Frankie, the cat, to the vet and deal with his foibles about the carrier and the car, cats, and their sometimes strange ways have been blatantly obvious.  After these quick inspections, I thought that bees shared some of the same characteristics: both bees and cats do what they damn well please, no matter what I think, or hope, they will do!

I definitely need some consultation with a very experienced beekeeper to try to sort out what these girls are doing and how I can best deal with it.  But from a beekeepers perspective, all is right with the world.

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Hive report: Swarms from Hive A!

Shortly before I had to go out of town for my indexing convention, Hive A (Dave’s bees) decided to swarm (18 April 2018). I really appreciate the consideration–swarming before I’m out of town–and all the swarms have clustered low and close. But, you notice, I didn’t say that they were convenient or locations where they were easy to retrieve–just close and low.

I thought that these bees might just be “thinking” about swarming as they were coming out of the hive at a brisk pace, but not streaming out as with the other swarm. They clustered on the frame of the hive scales and down into the hollow of the cinder blocks on which the hive sat.

No way was I able to do a nice, neat collection. I got as many of the bees as possible–but I didn’t think I had the queen with the swarm although bees that I put into the 4th hive did stay there so I still don’t know if I captured the queen.

When I saw the brisk movement out of the hive I had put a jury-rigged swarm “trap” on the outside (cut from a plastic queen excluder in hopes of keeping the queen in), even knowing that a queen with the swarm would have slimmed down and might get through it. On inspection of the hive after collecting the bees as best as possible,  I could not find a queen so I suspect she was already out since there were some bees still clustered in this inaccessible place (I drew the line at actually moving the entire hive to get them). They stayed clustered in a way that certainly made me think the queen might well be there–out of my reach unless I took real risk of injuring her, even if I did find her.

In going through that split the day after, I did not find a queen and there were certainly many fewer bees to sort through. I decided to treat that swarm as if it did not have a queen and provided them with a closed queen cell from the ones found in the hive from which they swarmed. So–doin’t know what will happen, but it’s soon time to go take a look again.

Today (Tuesday, 01 May 2018) there was another swarm–I suspect a secondary swarm from Hive A. I captured it (another low and close, and almost convenient) but don’t have space to keep it, so I contacted the “swarm team” from our local beekeeper’s club to donate this one to someone who needed bees. (I did find it a good home.)  This swarm behaved like I had gotten the queen in the box–all the stray bees that I couldn’t capture followed the box (but since it was the second swarm I wonder if it had a virgin queen).

In retrospect, I wish I had checked that first swarm from Hive A again to see if there was a queen, or if the queen cell had been opened. If not, I wonder if I could have combined those two swarms for a stronger hive. Ah, hindsight is such a wonderful thing. Thinking about this in the comfort of my desk chair is entirely different from considering it while putting thousands of bees in a box.

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