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Musical Bees Revue

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This past week has been crazy trying to keep up with these girls. Everyone has their own thing going on. It doesn’t help that I’ve become a bit hive crazy. No more, I’m done splitting and adding new hives. I’m up to five hives and one nuc. Just working now on building up the ones we have so we can get them through winter. The entries below explain all about our musical bees – swapping, splitting, adding, splitting. There really is some method to the madness.

June 10, 2014 (Tuesday) – Two Mail Order Texas Queens

Last week I started Purple Hive from several Blue Hive frames. I knew it was a bad split and that they probably didn’t have enough resources to make a new queen. I was right. They’ve adapted to their new hive just fine, however they have very little brood and no signs of queen cells. It takes 24 hours for the queen smell to dissipate, at which point they realize they are queenless and will begin straightaway on producing a new queen.

I checked around and there were no local queens available. I decided to bite the bullet and order another Texas queen for Purple Hive. I know, I know, I didn’t say nice things about the Texas queens in my last post – they’re a little temperamental, but they’re available, and darn if they’re not hearty and productive and bred to bee mite resistant. Anyway, the real cost is shipping the little buggers 3-5 day USPS. However, 2-3 queens can be purchased for the same shipping fee, so it makes sense to order multiple queens. Who knows, Blue Hive might need a queen!

June 14, 2014 (Saturday) – The Royal Fiascos

My queens arrived on Saturday. Actually they arrived Friday, but I didn’t know it. I had called the post office the day prior and asked that they not leave the bees in our mailbox. They didn’t leave the bees in the mailbox, but they didn’t drop them off at the house either. Instead, they held them at the post office and left messages on my cell phone, which I never check during the day because I can’t get cell phone reception at my work. Doh! So I worried all evening and into the morning until my perfect hubster picked them up and reported that everyone was alive and kicking. Yay!

I wanted to get my new royals into the hives that same Saturday evening. As planned, I installed one queen in Purple Hive. Easy peasy. Then I opened Blue Hive and found fresh brood and larvae. Blue Hive had a new laying queen. Good news, but that left me with a hive less queen. Luckily I had planned on that as a possibility and had the hubster lower down the nuc that we’d set as a bait hive. It had 5 new frames and was ready to go. I pulled several frames from yellow hive, which had gone from sketchy to crazy productive, and swapped them with several fresh nuc frames.

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I installed the queen cage and closed it up. But for the life of me, I could not find the correct entrance blocker for the nuc, so I ended up using one that was just a smidge too high, causing a very small gap between the boxes. Too small, I thought, for the bees to get through.

June 16, 2014 (Monday) – The Drifters

I returned home in the evening after a meeting and went up to remove the entrance blocker. I noticed robbers slipping through the gap. I opened the top and I saw maybe 20 bees in the hive with the queen. They’d all drifted back to their original hive. Doh! Too dark to do anything about it, I went inside and lost another night’s sleep wondering when I’d get the chance to make another split, and hoping the queen would hold on for another day.

June 17, 2014 (Tuesday) – Good Way to Start the Day

My chance came at 6:30 am the next morning. I never work the bees that early, but it was beautiful and bright and warm outside, so I put on my suit, lit the smoker and got to work.

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I pulled the queen and her posse from the nuc and they looked alive and very active. I set them aside and opened Green Hive. Another Carneolan hive, the bees were gentle and easy. I found several swarm cells (If I’d only known, I could have saved $83 bucks). They’ve been getting crowded, and having been over wintered, I suspect Green Hive may have swarmed since traffic has noticeably died down in front. Still lots of bees and they have brood. I took the top super, which still held mostly undrawn frames, and I placed it above the bottom box, splitting the brood chamber and giving the queen plenty more room to reproduce.

I pulled several frames of brood and placed them in the nuc, and replaced those with undrawn frames. The queen was installed in the nuc. The nuc was closed, and this time, I placed the correct size entrance blocker in the entrance.

That started my day in a good mood!

June 18, 2014 (Wednesday) – Purple Hive Has Released Their Queen

Purple Hive has released their queen! So much excitement and activity in that little hive of only 2 weeks. I suspect they’ll build up quickly with their new Texas queen.

One super has been added to Yellow Hive. They’re my first year package hive, but they’re building up so quickly that I stopped feeding them several weeks ago and am hoping they produce some honey.

Green Hive has produced more honey than anyone.  The race is on for all the other hives to catch up!

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June 20, 2014 (Friday) – Yay! Everyone Has a Queen

Yay, the nuc has released their queen!  I unblocked their entrance and placed some branches in front so they can reorient.  Now we’re in “hurry up and wait” mode.  I’m hoping they build up enough over the next month to get themselves through winter.  Come mid July, all of the bees will begin winding down and their focus will be on preparing for winter – less reproduction, less drones, less nectar and pollen as dirth sets in, and more stashing away stores and honey.

Time for a Vacation!

I pick up another order of boxes and frames this weekend.  Once those are assembled, we’ll add a few more supers onto the larger hives.  That should sustain them through my vacation.  Yes, I am going on vacation and leaving the hubster with the bees!  I would take him with me, but he has a small business to run, so I’m going on a trip with my dad to visit and take photos of his last 4 state capitols – a project that’s been in the works for over 30 years.  I shall report the hubster’s events upon my return.   Happy beekeeping!

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Boo Bees and Their Garden

June 6, 2014 (Friday)

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The whole yard is blooming, from evergreens to honeysuckle to clover. The girls are hauling in the nectar and pollen. The veggies are planted and staked. We’re harvesting asparagus and strawberries. I love the spring and summer months, even more since we have bees. I could sit in the garden all day and watch the hives. I’m still amazed at how far we’ve come in one short year. From two nice to five hives.  That’s right!  We now have 5 hives.

Welcome Purple Hive!

After missing out on the split from Blue Hive’s swarm, I took several frames of fresh brood, larvae and eggs from Green Hive and made a split while there’s still enough time in the season for them to queen themselves and become established. Although I might just help them along if I can find a queen locally. As always with my splits, I closed them up for two days to allow the smell of their queen to dissipate, then placed branches in front of their entrance so they could reorient themselves and return to their new location. It’s working. They’re going and coming with legs full of pollen.  A few robbers are floating around, but for the most part, the big hives are leaving their new little neighbor alone.

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Pink Hive Has a Queen (Yay!)

Pink Hive has eggs, brood and larvae, which means they have a queen. Yay! All those queen cells transferred from Blue Hive did the trick. They’re drawing out their frames and I’m preparing to give them a second box of drawn comb and new wax foundation.

Blue Hive is Queenless (Ugh!) 

Blue Hive, on the other hand, has gone from tons of brood to no brood. Queenless, for now. I was told that after a swarm it would take 3-4 weeks for them to straighten themselves out and have a laying queen.  I’ll check back in another week or two and see if they need any help. Their numbers are still strong, but they’re packing in nectar where there should be brood. Nectar that should be going into the honey supers. Blue Hive has barely made a dent in their one honey super. The frames are still empty and undrawn. Disappointing since they were so active and strong.  I was hoping for a good honey harvest from Blue Hive.  I’m starting to have second thoughts about my Texas bees.  Once good thing about the swarm is that the mean wicked queen left behind a calmer, less aggressive (albeit less productive) colony behind.  Let’s hope their next queen is a little nicer.

Yellow Hive Going at its Own Pace

Yellow Hive is active and well, but they’re not growing as fast as I’d hoped. I was ready to give them a third box, but based on the number of frames they have yet to draw out, they aren’t ready for it. So I’ll just be patient and let them tell me when they’re ready.

Green Hive is Making Honey (Yay!)

I just added another super to Green Hive. They’ve just about filled their first super, and boy is it heavy. Green Hive started out slow, but they’ve picked up and are very active and healthy. I’ve heard that about the Carneolan (Italian) bees.  No signs of swarming yet. No drones, no queen cells, no hot temperament. My Italian bees are very gentle and calm and I can work them with minimal smoke.

Incase they do have thoughts of swarming, we’ve left the bait hive hoisted up in the trees with a cardboard sheet at the entrance that’s been drenched in lemongrass oil. Someday we’ll catch a swarm.

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I forgot to mention that a bit of honey dripped out of some burr comb in Green Hive’s super. I couldn’t resist taking just a little taste. Oh my. No sugar syrup, no chemical treatments – just pure, unadulterated honey from our own hives. Wow…really…just wow.

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Super Spacers DIY

May 23, 2014 (Friday)

I’ve added supers on both Blue and Green Hives.  In fact, Blue hive looks like a skyscraper compared to pink and yellow.  Since we don’t feed the bees once supers are added (the girls fend for themselves since we want pure honey), I didn’t have the upper entrance exposed.  Also, we didn’t have any entrances or vent holes between all of those boxes.  With all of that activity, it can get darn hot in those hives.  Not to mention,the forager bees didn’t have direct access to the honey supers, which means they had to travel all the way up and down through 3-4 very busy boxes to get in or out of the hive.  That does not make for efficient honey production!

The Solution

I saw some nifty spacers at my last bee meeting and immediately put the hubster to work.  Using 1″x1″ lengths of wood, he built frames with entrance holes that fit between the supers.  Super easy and much needed.

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I also added a 1″x4″ spacer frame at the top, above the inner cover, to elevate the top cover an expose the inner cover entrance.  We also drilled a hole into this spacer for yet another entrance and for added air circulation at the top of the hive.

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The girls wasted no time using these new entrances – a simple solution with great benefits. Quicker access means faster honey production, and better air circulation makes for happier and healthier bees!

Quick Pink Hive Update

May 23, 2014 (Friday)

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I checked in on Pink Hive today, and no brood, just drones.  Not a good sign.  I was hoping a queen had hatched and would have mated by now.  Perhaps she has hatched (the queen cell isn’t there anymore) and just hasn’t mated or started laying yet.  These things do take time, and I’m not one to calculate down to the day.  Regardless, I had to dig into Blue Hive (my biggest and most swarm worthy hive) and found another frame with multiple queen cells.  I placed it in Pink Hive, hoping for better luck.  If they have a queen, then the girls will simply tear them down.  If they don’t have a queen, then now they have several high potential candidates.  I’ll just keep checking and eventually they’ll take off…

 

Welcome Pink Hive #4

May 17, 2014 (Saturday)

Baby nuc has been flourishing. They’ve been feeding well, growing in population and actively keeping up with their larger neighbors. I decided they’ve earned an upgrade. So welcome our newest member of the BooBee Apiary….(drum roll)……Pink Hive!

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Salmon pink to be exact. She adds quite a splash to our already colorful configuration.

As I transferred frames from Baby Nuc to the new 8-frame hive, I looked for and did not find the queen cell that hung so prominently from the bottom of one of the frames. This gives me every reason to believe that the virgin queen has hatched.

Unfortunately, I was in a bit of a hurry, so I did not inspect the frames as I made the switch. It’s been 2 weeks since the cell was placed in Baby Nuc, so I’ll give her another week before checking for new brood. By that time the queen will hopefully have completed her mating flight (if she hasn’t already) and returned safely back to the hive to begin laying up a storm.

We’re excited to have a fourth hive in place, and now that Baby Nuc is freed up, I’m planning one more split in the coming weeks. Need to start thinking about that next color…hmmm.

Growing Up and Out

May 4, 2014 (Sunday)

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With the addition of Baby Nuc and the continuing growth of Blue Hive,  we decided to move the raised bed and make room for two more hives.  I even went out and purchased two new hives, just to be prepared.  It’s always good to have extra hive bodies and frames around, especially during swarm season.

We lined the ground with landscape fabric (while dodging some testy bees) and leveled it out with pea gravel.  Poor Baby Nuc was moved a few times, and we’d come back to their spot to find bees flying around wondering what happened to their hive.  Needless to say, we worked fast and safely returned Baby Nuc back to its original location, and the aimless foragers landed on the front porch, happy to have found their missing home.

Baby Nuc  Wants a Queen

As we prepped the new area, I peeked in Baby Nuc to see if they’d created any queen cells yet.  Baby Nuc was created with some nice frames of brood and larvae from Blue Hive.  But I wasn’t sure whether I’d provided the eggs they needed to produce a new queen.

I was told that after bees are separated from their hive and placed into a new queenless colony, it takes 24 hours for their queen’s smell to dissipate.  When that happens, they acknowledge that they are queenless and begin working immediately to create new queen from the most newly laid eggs.

During my inspection, I saw drone cells and burr comb, and at the bottom of one frame was a small and undistinguishable queen cell.  Not what I was hoping for.  Small is not an issue.  Even small queen cells can yield good queens, but I wasn’t even sure it WAS a queen cell.

I’d continue watching them and if they hadn’t created a queen cell in another week, then I’d simply give them another frame of brood, larvae and eggs from Blue Hive.  That is, unless Blue Hive had a queen cell to spare.  Then I could transfer the queen cell to Baby Nuc and all they’d have to do is feed it and wait for the virgin queen to hatch, mate and start laying eggs.  This process usually takes about 4 weeks.

Blue Hive Ready to Swarm

The good news  – Not only is Blue Hive incredibly active, laying up a storm and packing in tons of bees, they’re also laying lots of drones and (drum roll please)…queen cells!  Score!  Free Texas queen offspring for Baby Nuc.  I shook the bees off and happily placed the frame into Baby Nuc.  The cell was close to 1-1/2 inches long.  Perfect!

The bad news – Blue Hive has swarm written all over it.  When purchasing my hives, I met up a bee club member who is a professional beekeeper.  He said that when honey meets brood, they’re preparing to swarm.  All of the above mentioned signs, combined with the fact that Blue Hive has outgrown its space and the brood is definitely meeting the honey, tell me that these girls are ready to swarm.  My plan is to give them a proper split into one of the new hives.  But first (as suggested by my beekeeper friend), I placed a full box of drawn comb beneath the top honey box, separating it from the brood box.  This gives them room to expand and will hopefully prevent swarming for the time being, at least until I can get a good split from them.

Yellow Hive Business as Usual

Yellow Hive looks great.   I gave them a new box last week, so they’re working on filling that out.  They’re laying, feeding, and doing all the things that a healthy and active new colony should be doing.

Green Hive Picking Up and Filling Out

I’m happy that Green Hive has perked up and is doing well.  Like Yellow Hive, they’re laying, they’re active, and they’ve filled in their two boxes, so I gave them a third box of drawn comb to grow into then I closed them up.

Yay for Honey!

I’m feeling good at the moment and am especially excited at the prospect of adding more hives to the apiary.   Even more exciting, the supers will go on this weekend and we’ll start collecting honey.  Yay for honey!  It’s good to have bees.

 

Splitsville for Blue Hive

April 26, 2014 (Saturday)

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Spring is already passing quickly and I’m falling behind on my reports. All three hives are doing well, but blue hive especially is bursting at the seams, perhaps ready for a split…or two to help prevent swarming.  I’m seeing reports of swarms everywhere.  They say happy bees swarm, so I guess its a good thing, as long as you can retrieve them and place them back into your own hives.

With that said, I gave all three hives a good inspection last weekend…

Yellow Hive

I installed Yellow Hive about two weeks ago.  They’re feeding well, they appear active, they have some brood, but not tons of it.  The outer frames have new comb and they’ve built a comb ladder up to the inner cover. That tells me they’re ready for a new box so they can continue to grow.  Granted!  Yellow hive is now two levels high.   I closed ‘em up and moved on to Green Hive…

Green Hive

Green hive is just rolling along, not terribly active, not filled to the brim with bees, but doing ok.  I suspect they had too much space over the winter and had a hard time of it, but they made it through.  I reduced their boxes last week (04-19-14) from three to two, hoping that would reduce their stress levels by giving them less area to maintain.  They weren’t filling the space anyway, and this configuration seems to suit their size and activity much better.

I considered requeening, but decided against it.  And I’m glad.   Their numbers looked good.  They were out and about, they had some brood, the laying pattern looked fine, few drones, all indicators that the queen is still going, albeit slow.  When the time is right, they’ll make their own queen.  Besides, if I spend money on a queen, I want another BeeWeaver Texas queen like I have in Blue Hive.

Blue Hive

What can I say about these little buggers?  My little blue hive overwintered beautifully and has taken off.  Tons of bees, they’re super active, a bit temperamental, but busy laying lots of brood and more drone comb than I care for.  I fear this hive may be thinking about swarming in the near future.  No signs of queen cells, but lots of drone laid in burr comb.  So much so that the frames between the boxes are sticking together.  I read that adjusting the bee space between boxes will help with this, but I don’t know how to fix the space between boxes.  It is what it is.

This is a great time to split the hive, start a nucleus (nuc) colony, and see if they’ll make a new BeeWeaver queen.  I took out two bee covered brood and larvae frames (I probably should have taken more bees) from blue hive and replaced them with empty brood comb frames that I had in the freezer (pre-thawed, of course).   I added the brood frames and bees to my nuc, surrounded by wet drawn comb frames and a full frame of honey.

For feed, the hubster used his smallest size drill bit and drilled about 10-15 holes on the lid of a mason jar filled with sugar syrup.  Worked perfectly.

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 Welcome Baby Nuc

We’ll closed Baby Nuc for 24 hours.  The following evening, I placed a branch in front of the nuc entrance and added the entrance reducer on the smallest setting.   The branch will cause the bees to reorient themselves as they come out of the hive so they return to their new location rather than returning to their previous hive.

You may also notice that Baby Nuc is not painted.  I actually painted with with Linseed oil rather than paint.

Important to keep an eye on the night time temps.  If it looks like freezing, then Baby Nuc will come inside for the night.

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 The Hive Family is Growing

We moved our raised bed to make room for more hives.  We now have space for two more next to our existing hives.   If all goes as planned (which it never does, but if it does), Baby Nuc will transfer to an 8 frame hive, and I will split Blue Hive again using a much better method that I learned about AFTER making this split (of course).   Lots of bees in blue hive.

Of course, new hives  mean new colors.  Woo hoo!  I have the paint selected and sitting in the workshop, ready and waiting to be revealed!