Hive report: 15 May 2016

Happiness! My large colony, Rosemarinus, that produced a swarm on 24 March 2016 is now queenright.

Finally, a day with conditions that didn’t make opening the hive to do a major inspection of the colony traumatic for either the ladies of the hive or for me! It was just a bit cooler than I would have liked–the temperature 70 degrees Fahrenheit, with a bit of wind–about 5 mph. The local weather report was cooler than that but the hive was in a sunny location and I decided that I really needed to know if the colony had successfully reared a queen. So I opened the hive today and took a good look inside.

20160116_pupae and burr comb_134800Although I didn’t lay eyes on the queen, it was obvious that she was in there somewhere doing her thing. There was lots of brood in an excellent pattern. There was brood in all stages, but what seemed alike an incredible amount of capped brood.

Though the population was down from the last time I opened the hive, I suppose that is to be expected after the queenless period.  Even so, it seems to be a good strong hive with lots of bees. I’m not experienced enough to tell if the population decrease it what would be expected under those circumstances or if there was a small secondary swarm. What I do know is that the colony is now queenright.

The girls weren’t making much headway on the comb honey super that I put on the hive yet. I moved it down on the hive and placed the super full of capped honey on to. That was an experience–hefting that full super up to shoulder height! It makes me think more seriously that the next hive will be a horizontal Langstroth with the kind of set up that allows honey supers to be put on top. I now know just how heavy an 8-frame honey-fill super really is. Not complaining, just observing.

I’ve now had my third beesting  (note only my third) since I started working with the bees at the end of July last year. I’m still not wearing gloves to work the hive. Every sting that I’ve had has been because I’ve managed to put my finger down on a bee. I still think I’ve lucked out and gotten some good genetics in this colony again.

Yes, I’m happy! Rosemarinus has a queen–even though I haven’t actually seen her, and she is not marked. That’s for next inspection.

 

 

Hive Report: 13 April 2016

Though not as warm as I’d wished, and much windier than I liked, I thought it was hive inspection time again. Amidst errands and indexing work, I opened both hives on the 13th.

quad feeder base on inner coverSalvia was quick and easy. The queen was in there doing her thing and easily found since she was marked when she arrived here last summer. I found brood in all stages as well as honey and pollen. Looking good but since this is a small colony I’m feeding them. I removed the Miller hive top feeder which I find difficult to handle if there is any syrup still in it (and it seems that there inevitably is). I replaced that with the hive top feeder that I got from Brijean Acres Apiary after a Facebook friend told me how well she like that type of feeder. It sits on the inner cover and holds four quad feeder with jars in placesmall-mouth mason jars. Since my hives are just outside my front door, I can check feed often, so this feeder works well for me. I’m feeding that colony 1:1 sugar syrup with Honey-B-Healthy. (Though they are doing some foraging they are still taking the syrup. When they quit taking it, I’ll quit feeding.)

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Rosemarinus was quite a project–three medium hive bodies, two medium honey supers, and then the one honey super for cut comb honey. This inspection of the hive was to check the queen cells and look for a new queen.

That hive still seems to have an incredible number of bees even after that swarm which was small. It was so windy with gusts that made it difficult to use the smoker. Just getting the girls to move so that I could pick up frames by the ends without smooshing bees was difficult. I was wishing for frame grips when I had to resort to picking up some of the frames in the middle.

I didn’t get a full inspection of the two very heavy honey supers but on earlier inspections, there was no brood in them. I did inspect the three medium hive bodies frame by frame. The swarm happened on 24 March. When I looked in the hive on 31 March, there were some queen cells and some brood. On this inspection, I found no eggs, larvae or capped brood but there were open queen cells. Some looked as if they had been opened from the side. I hope that is a sign that there is a queen lurking in the hive, and I just didn’t have a good enough eye to find her. I saw one closed queen cell that I left in place since I didn’t find a queen.

I’m getting a bit antsy since that same day I saw a group of bees (about the size of the original swarm) flying around quite a distance from the hive. They eventually went back to the hive, and I haven’t had bees collected on the outside of the hive as I did with the original swarm. I saw a good example of a virgin queen at our last DCBA meeting so I’m sure that I might well not have seen a queen even if she were in the hive.  Once I do find her, she will get mark so that it’s easier to find her amongst all the other bees.

Now I have to wait. Not patiently, but wait to see if the colony is going produce their own queen or do I need to purchase one from a supplier. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that the colony will (maybe even already has) provide a queen–these seem to be very gentle, productive girls. I like that!

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Hive check: 01 April 2016

This was my first inspection, though a very quick one, of the new colony in Salvia. The bees are drawing comb on wax and on plastic foundation. Queen (Salem) seen on a lateral frame. Conditions really not optimal for a detailed inspection–as the sunshine quickly disappeared as clouds rolled in and it got much windier. The light wasn’t good for visualizing eggs in the cells, but I THINK I did see some in cells near the queen. I didn’t inspect all the frames with capped brood.

Conditions were really not optimal for a detailed inspection–as the sunshine quickly disappeared as clouds rolled in and it got much windier. (With gusts you could see the bees clinging onto the comb–not a good time to have the queen out in the open.) The light wasn’t good for visualizing eggs in the cells, but I THINK I did see some in cells near the queen. I didn’t inspect all the frames with capped brood.

I now know that the split is on its way!

Love my Hive Tracks Beekeeping software!

Hive inspection 29 Feb 2016

IMG_8958It’s a lovely, sunny (but slightly breezy) almost 70-degree day, fit for a hive inspection to do a recheck on the queen cells noted on the 21st and to go into the bottom body to assess brood. I was fortunate to have friends–aka “bee buddies” to lend extra hands and eyes. So there are a few pictures of the queen cells and (unfortunately) of the two varroa mites that we saw.

There is lots of activity in and out of the hive. It appears that the girls are finding pollen–a rainbow coming in ranging from cream, greenish-white, bright yellow, to deep golden yellow. The pollen baskets are better filled today. There were drones out and about today too.

Happily, the queen cells are still open and without egg or larvae–which makes me a happy beekeeper. Although there was some capped brood in the lower body, there is not enough capped brood to do a split, but lots of nectar and pollen stored.  I have to wonder if they were not slightly honey bound.

I did place a new super with wax foundation for the girls to expand into so that the queen has more room to lay–so that I can get enough brood to do a split in a month or so. It’s a relief to find those queen cells still vacant today.  I’ll be hoping that they are still vacant in a week because we have some more cold weather forecast.

The girls have demolished five pounds of fondant in the past week, and given the forecast, I guess I’ll need to supply more food for that period, but since we still have some nighttime temperatures hovering close to, or slightly below, freezing it seems a little premature to start syrup yet. Now the question is do I buy more fondant or do I try one of the techniques for feeding granulated sugar.

I got my first look at varroa mites–two of them–on one bee today. Even with the video of last week’s inspection and looking at lots more bees today we saw only two. It’s time for me to get out the sticky board and also to do a sugar roll to get a better idea of the mite population.

 

Beekeeper Happiness

This was taken from the video that friends did while I was doing my inspection yesterday. It was wonderful to have the extra hands, as well as video–as well as good company. I think this is about as close to picture of happiness for a beekeeper as you can get.

RG Queen bee

(I haven’t seen the whole video yet–but I’m excited–and I gathered from comments of the videographer that you can also see eggs in the open cells around where the queen is. Nothing like finding that you’ve got a queen-right colony!

Hive inspection 21 Feb 2016

The temperature was in the upper 60s today so even though it was cloudy with a light breeze I opened the hive to see what my colony was actually doing. OMG–do I ever have lots of bees.

IMG_8956Yesterday and today there was a lot of activity in and out of the hive. Some of the bees seemed to be just flying around the hive. I wondered if this was orientation flights for “new” bees.

Friends, also beekeepers, came to help with the inspection and videoed the frames as I pulled them out for inspection. None of us could guess what we were likely to see when we opened the hive. Other beekeepers have reported colony loss and/or low populations coming out of winter, so I wasn’t expecting so many bees. My hive is set up with three medium bodies for brood and honey.

Since this is my first winter as a beekeeper, I wasn’t sure what to expect. From my las inspection, I knew that the girls and continued to draw comb all winter and to build some

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burr comb

impressive burr comb in a strip on the frames of the upper body in the space where the candy board was–before they ate it all. After removing the quilt box and the frame that used to have candy in it, the first task was to remove that burr comb. There was some capped brood and honey in this, but I removed it anyway. I was expecting the girls to get a bit testy when I did that but they didn’t.(I can still say that I have a very gentle colony.  I was able to do the entire inspection without gloves.)  ithWe did use the smoker more liberally than usual for me, simply because there were so many bees that I had to have them move down onto the frames before each was pulled out to look at the brood pattern, honey stores, pollen, and search for the queen.

 

We did use the smoker more liberally than usual for me, simply because there were so many bees that I had to have them move down onto the frames before each was pulled out to look at the brood pattern, honey stores, pollen, and search for the queen.

The bees have drawn more frames since my last inspection–even the outside frames in the second and third frames were being drawn out though in the second body they were not filled with honey. We were able to see brood in all stages of development. The queen was in the middle body–just trucking around doing her thing. The capped brood pattern looked good. There were capped drone cells, and drone pupae in the burr comb. We saw drones moving about on some of the frames–but probably not an excessive number given the overall population of the colony. I’ve seen drones flying, and the girls seeming to show some reluctance to let them return to the hive. Since it’s spring, they are raising drones so that they can go to drone congregation areas and mate with virgin queens.

As we pulled the frames from the middle body, I could look down onto the frames in the lower body–and I could see LOTS of bees there too. It seems that I have wall-to-wall bees in the hive. We found one queen cell, still open, at the bottom of one frame.

The hive is crowded so I anticipate making a split soon to prevent (I hope) swarming. I didn’t do that today as starting tomorrow the temperatures are supposed to drop back into the lower 50s (except for Wednesday when 65 °F is predicted. I didn’t think that there was enough stored honey to do a split today–though there are certainly enough bees.  Now it’s decision time–and time to consult an experienced beekeeper! Do I do a split, or do I add a super to this hive. (Thankfully, tomorrow is bee school so I have an opportunity to talk to experienced beekeepers.)

I’m sure I need to do something to provide more room for the colony or they will likely swarm. I set up another hive just on the basis of how many bees I saw last inspection and the amount of activity at the hive, but I was NOT expecting such a large population at this time of year.  But there is now a second hive waiting for occupancy!

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This time, as I set up the hive I’m putting in ant defense–water trays around the concrete blocks.  I didn’t think to do that with the first hive so resorted to ground cinnamon sprinkled around the hive and cinnamon sticks tucked around the blocks. Next time I have the first hive down to the bottom board, I’ll put trays under those blocks as well.  Experience is a good teacher!

Now since I’ve graduated to two hives, I think I need to name them (#1 and #2 just don’t seem quite fitting for all those busy little creatures.) and I want need to be able to keep track of my queens (again, 2015 and 2016 just don’t seem appropriate either) so I’m contemplating names. I’ve had some possible suggestions from my FB posts (including Gryffindor and Slytherin) which dos suggests possibilities for naming queens as well.

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Hive check 01 Feb 2016

IMG_8902Feb hiveThe uncertainties of the new beekeeper. . . .

Since it’s warm, sunny today, I went out to check the hive. Bees are buzzing–including drones. There is pollen somewhere that the girls are bringing in. After seeing the traffic in and out of the hive, I decided to attack the burr comb problem after the temperature went up a bit more.

While waiting for the temperature to rise, I went to Honey Bee Suite to read about a camouflage bee suit, and spent most of the time reading about the experiences (from all over the country) of  unexpectedly large bee populations in the hives, considering the time of the year. That’s what my hive looks like as well–wall to wall bees with no sign of a cluster. Watching the traffic in and out showed pollen coming in and drones flying today.

Checking NOAA and Weather.com seems to suggest cooler than average temperatures in the southeast this spring, and wetter than normal–that suggests some time when foraging might be late or be sporadic. As I 20160116_134032gathered from Honey Bee Suite, since the girls have already wiped out the candyboard, the question now is to feed more sugar, or not to feed and hope the honey supplies are adequate for the rest of the winter. (As a new beekeeper, I’m not great at judging honey supply just from lifting the boxes–experience should change that.)

If I’m going to feed, I have to open the hive and remove all that extra burr comb that the bees in the space where my candyboard was, so that I can put in some emergency sugar for the rest of this winter.

(I have a plastic queen excluder to put on the bottom of this candyboard frame so that I can add more sugar or fondant (over waxed paper) where the candyboard was before. Next year’s candyboard will have more support underneath–like the queen excluder–than this one did so that it won’t collapse onto the frames.)

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This afternoon after the temperature had gone up,  I thought I’d be able to open the hive and remove this big batch of burr comb; however, it is windy today. At my hive location, I estimated the wind at about 15 mph (local weather showed up to 18 mph). My thoughts on opening the hive in that much wind were first, there is brood in the frames just under this burr comb, and second, that there is too much wind to use the smoker effectively (have tried that).

I discovered with a quick peek at one corner of the quilt box that there are bees all over that burr comb. My bit of experience with the smoker tells me that there’s no way I’m going to be able to smoke them down into the hive with the wind. Even when trying to puff smoke when lifting the quilt box a bit wasn’t successful–it just blew away. Even though I don’t smoke heavily for my inspections, I don’t think I could remove that comb without smoking. (The girls that were flying were paying a lot more attention to me than they usually do on a beautiful calm day though they were not aggressive, but then I was just looking and not doing anything like taking the roof off of their home.) I’d suspect that scraping that much burr comb is likely to attract their attention.

From my last inspection, I know that there is brood on the frames just under that big batch of burr comb, so I am concerned about heat loss and chilling that brood.   I’m going to have to scrape away that comb–and that means having the hive open longer than I’d think would be good for brood right under it.

The bottom line is that I wussed out and did not open the hive today and as the temperature drops I’m wondering (regretfully) if I should have done that little chore anyway. I did another “lift” and the hive feels heavy enough so that I think there’s likely enough honey for this next cool spell that’s coming. This uncertainty does mean that I’m going to have to attend to this problem soon!

Hive report 14 Oct. 2015

beekeeper holding Langstroth frameThis is late for my routine inspection–but with all the cloudy, windy, grey, chilly days it hasn’t been appropriate for me to be ripping the roof of the girls’ home. Then when the weather improved and the sun came out, we still had some days that were too windy for me to want to open the hive. Something about the girls clinging madly to the landing board in the gusts that suggested maybe not good time either. Then we finally had days that were not too windy and sere sunny, so I thought I’d do the inspection.

When I got to the hive, there were bees flying everywhere, circling the hive, and for the first time meeting me on the way to the hive. I wasn’t sure what was up with the ladies, but something said it might not be a good time to stick my nose into the hive.  The day following, same thing, except that I think I picked up what was causing the problem–lots of banging, thumping, nose, and some unusual traffic by the hive brought them out again; so another deferred inspection.

Langstroth fram with honey and beesToday, it all fell into place–sunny, warm, and the traffic to and from the hive was as usual.  No sign of alert bees buzzing all around the hive.

I had three boxes to inspect this time–and I came away glad that I decided to do all 8-frame mediums. Two of the boxes were heavy!  That’s not a complaint, just an observation; heavy is good. It means honey for the winter.  I didn’t have another OMG-so-many-bees reaction this time–I was expecting lots of bees.  That is what I found–but even more bees than I expected. Again, happiness.

Despite the time and manipulation it takes to check each frame in three boxes/bodies, the girls handled it well–there were more Langstroth frame with capped honey and beesthan usual flying around us by the time I was putting the last frame back in the bottom box, but I call them alert, not aggressive. This time I had an extra set of hands so I got some pictures of some of the frames as I pulled them–I was hoping to see more detail on the frames.  Guess I need to work on another way to get pictures.

I’m pleased with how the hive looks (to my inexperienced eye); bees were working in the upper body–mostly drawing comb, but starting to see a little nectar and pollen there too; no brood.  I found brood in both the middle and the lower body.  I did place strips to treat for mites (Varroa destructor).  When I go back to take that out, I think I’m going to need to re-arrange some of the frames to consolidate the brood.  This inspection raised a lot of what-do-I-need-to-do-now questions.  I’m middle outerglad there’s a meeting of the Durham County Beekeepers Association soon–I should find some answers there.

I do hope that these ladies are doing as well as I think they are–It should be interesting to take the beekeeping course after a season (well, part of a season) with already having hands on experience. The online materials (e.g. Brushy Mountain Bee Farms webinars and videos) and blogs (Scientific Beekeeping.com, Tales from the Bee Hive, Bee Sweet Bee Farm, My Latin Notebook, and many more) have provided good information.  Conversations with Facebook friends and beekeeping groups have also helped through difficulties like the sugar syrup spill bringing hornets and yellowjackets, and found me a feeder that works so well!

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Today I got my first sting–even though for everything except installing the nuc, I’ve worked only wearing a veil. I know it would happen sooner or later…and it finally did. No big deal.

Hive report (25 Sept 2015)

IMG_8472The hive was due for a routine inspection this weekend, but weather–cloudy, with rain–means it will have to wait until the next sunny day.  Check of the feeder shows that the girls are really slurping down the syrup.  No traffic today.

I’ll have to refill feeder in the morning–rain or shine.  Good thing about the feeder is that I don’t have to open the inner cover; just pull the quart mason jars and replace.

My curiosity is making me antsy–I want to know what’s going on in the upper super that was put on the hive  at last inspection. But that will wait–forecast sounds as if it’s going to rain all weekend so I have to wait until Monday or Tuesday to satisfy my curiosity.

Obviously, not a day to open up the hive–we need the rain so that’s good–but even the morning glories are showing the effects of the rain.

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Hive Inspection (30 August ’15)

IMG_20150329_133928244_HDROMG–there are SO many bees in there. OK, I was expecting more bees given the traffic in and out of the hive looking like a really busy airport! (The RDU Apiport?  Sorry, just had to throw that in.)

Reality  hit when I lifted the inner cover. On my last inspection (15 August), the second medium box was only very sparsely populated-the girls were starting to draw comb on the foundation in it. There weren’t any full-depth cells, and no nectar or pollen then either.

(We’ve progressed from the nucleus colony that had only five frames in one medium box (right), to needing three medium boxes now!  Happiness! I’m still learning what is supposed to be there, but the insides of the hive are beginning to look familiar.)

When I lifted off the upper box and set it aside so I could look at the frames in the lower box, I could tell that it was a lot heavier than on the last inspection. Good sign! Means the bees are stashing pollen and nectar.

When I looked in the lower box (where the nuc was installed) I could see empty cells, presumably where brood had hatched but had not yet been filled or reused. I didn’t find queen in the lower box, though everything looked good and hive_IMG_20150815_114521440_HDRthere were lots of bees down there.

When I replaced the upper box and started inspecting those frames, I found the queen, and eggs. (It is really hard to see eggs. Now I know why the books say it’s good to have bright sunlight when you’re looking for them.) It was cloudy this afternoon and that made finding eggs really difficult. But there they were, and the queen was moseying around doing her thing with lots of workers . They had started to draw comb on all except the two outer-most frames of this box. I went to do this inspection expecting to add a third medium body to the hive–and I’m glad I did.  There was brood (capped and uncapped) in the upper box now, and queen (I think she needs a name!) was laying eggs up there. I knew that the population was increasing, but I didn’t really realize how much until today when I could look inside the hive. (I’ve been incredibly curious the last two weeks–it’s hard not to look every week, but not good for the bees. It’s disruptive when someone starts yanking you home apart.)

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hiveI often go out  and watch them come and go–it’s hard to describe how relaxing it is to watch. Looking inside the hive is an awesome experience–realizing that each bee has a job, and all that activity is purposeful, not chaos. Working with the hive, with bees buzzing around you, maybe walking on your arms or hands, is like being off in another world.  Before my hands-on experience, I didn’t fully appreciate what other beekeepers were trying to describe about the experience of working a hive with bees all around you.

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 I have a feeder that uses four quart jars.  I wanted to be able to just switch out the nearly empty ones for filled ones, so I got quart four regular-mouth Ball/Mason jars.   I took new filled jars with me to do the inspection–after my experiences with spilled sugar syrup, there’s no way I’m going to work with it anywhere but over the kitchen sink.

When I put the hive back together, it turned out that those jars are just a tad taller than the jars that came with the feeder, so a medium super isn’t quite deep enough. Since the bees access the jars below and can’t get into the upper super, I just let the outer cover be a bit catawampus this evening.  First thing tomorrow morning I have to make a trip to Bailey Bee Supply tomorrow for a shim so that the cover will sit properly.

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