Tag Archive | activity

First Swarm of the Season

May 17, 2015

IMG_3140_2

It may bee the first, but it certainly won’t bee the last swarm of the season. The funny part is that I never saw it happen.  I knew it was inevitable (tis the season), so I’d been itching to get the our swarm lure up.  We found a super tall telescoping pole on clearance, perfect for raising and lowering a swarm lure.

We took it out back, placed the lure on the pole and began to raise it high into the trees.  I looked up, and I’ll bee darned if there wasn’t a healthy cluster of bees hanging stealth-like in the very top branches.  About 15 feet above the swarm lure.  Buggers!

swarm 2
swarm1

They always go too high, so once again, I couldn’t retrieve them.  The other bees were flying around in wild frenzy in front of their hives – their typical response when a swarm occurs.  I should’ve known something was up.

Theoretically, scout bees seek out a new residence weeks before they swarm, so I had little hope that they’d sniff the lemongrass oil and make a b-line for the lure.  But it didn’t keep me from hoping.  We kept watch through the evening.  They were in the same spot the next morning, but gone by the time we returned home from work.  Another one lost…probably in someone else’s hive by now.  I’ll admit that my response this year is much more calm and accepting than last year.  I still don’t know which hive it came from.  They all look just as busy and well populated as they did before.

I hear about people catching swarms all the time.  Now I keep watch over the swarm lure in hopes of catching someone else’s swarm…or maybe, just maybe I’ll actually catch one of my own.  At this point, I really don’t care which, I just want to catch a swarm! :o)

 

Advertisements

Spring Bees In Action

April 5, 2014

Spring is here and the girls are so busy I can’t keep up with them!  The bees love this spring weather and so do I. I couldn’t stop watching them as I worked in the garden. I didn’t realize how much I missed them.


IMG_3929

 

Checking for Brood

I did my first spring inspection a few weeks earlier, so this was a follow-up to see how the girls are progressing.  I wanted to check the brood and see how much the queens are laying. It’s easy to see where the brood is located. Just look for the cluster of bees on top of the frames. In both hives, I pulled one or two frames and saw nice round, centered brood patterns, but they aren’t laying like crazy. I didn’t look for eggs, only capped brood. I’m just not sure, at this point, when the weather is still cool and rain is prevalent, just how much brood I should see.  I’m thinking they should be laying a lot more.

Feeding

I’ve been feeding sugar syrup and diluted honey from capped sugar syrup.  Blue hive is taking it fairly quickly.  Green hive, not so much.  The numbers in both hives are ok, but could certainly be better. At this point, I will ask my mentor to visit and look at my hive to help me decide whether they look good or if I should requeen.  My instincts tell me to requeen green hive.  I might even combine hives.

Fume Board Incident

I attempted to reduce green hive by one box since they have so much space.  I placed the fume board on top (which has worked like a charm in the past), but this time they went nuts and started coming out the bottom and oozing over the top.  I removed the board and they remained that way til evening.

Pollen and Nectar

I’m excited to see the trees beginning to bud, and the daffodils are out, so pollen is in the air and the girls have been hauling it in large clumps.

Yellow Hive Will be Back Soon!

As for Yellow Hive, packages are scheduled for pickup Monday morning. I plan to be there bright and early Monday morning, and will install before heading in to my day job. Will be good to have Yellow Hive back in action.

The Girls Get a Bathroom Break

Saturday, February 22, 2014

20140222-213125.jpg

After 3 weeks of nonstop freezing temps and snow, we finally got a warm day. Warm enough that Green Hive 1 (GH1) and Blue Hive 3(BH3) could clean house a bit and benefit from a much needed cleansing flight.

At the end of January, we lost Yellow Hive 2. Just when I discovered what had gone wrong (hint: bad ventilation =moisture) the cold returned and I didn’t get the chance to make adjustments to GH1 to ensure it didn’t experience the same demise. I did, however, do something very stupid. I pulled out the mite board which I had inserted as a bottom board.  I should have pulled it out a few inches at a time over a week or two to allow them to acclimate.  But I didn’t know and instead yanked it out in one feel swoop.  But I learned that the cluster positions itself at the warmest location in the hive, and by drastically removing the bottom board just prior to a cold snap, I risked chilling the brood while also making it harder for the girls to stay warm.

My reason for doing this was:

  1. The hive needed better ventilation, and
  2. BH3 has no bottom board and is currently showing up its much larger neighbors. No ventilation issue whatsoever.
  3. Screened bottom boards also help control mites.

I will use only screened bottom boards from now on.  

So when I looked into GH3 earlier this week and saw an empty top box, I was prepared to write their eulogy. But today, although the top box still appeared empty, quite a few bees were buzzing out the bottom. I’m still unsure of their exact state, but I do know they have lots of stores, so they don’t have to come up top to feed if they don’t want to. The cluster may be hanging out in a lower box. I was just happy to see the activity and felt sad that no nectar was in sight.

BH3 has a huge cluster and they are eating away at the sugar candy. Rather than order a package for spring, I’m considering ordering 1 or 2 Texas queens from BeeWeaver and just splitting BH3. The bees are dark in color, they’re cold hardy, and they’re bred to be mite resistant. I like ’em!

Blue Hive 3 so far looking strong.

Blue Hive 3 so far looking strong.

I did make a few adjustments to help improve ventilation in both hives. The crazy boxes with pine chips have been removed. It’s been mentioned the chips could be blocking air circulation. I moved candy to one side of the frames, around the cluster, and not taking up any more than 1/4-1/3 of the frame space. And I inserted a chopstick into one corner of each hive to prop the top cover and allow for ventilation.

20140222-213203.jpg

Chopstick in corner beneath top cover helps ventilate the top without allowing much space for mice to get in.

I was so glad to see the girls today. I thought about pulling up a chair and just watching the show. Today was a great reminder that spring is just around the corner. Another few weeks of winter cold and we’ll bee in growth mode. Lots of decisions and preparations ahead. Lots of new lessons to learn. I can’t wait!

 

 

 

Staying Ahead of the Bees

Sunday, June 9, 2013 (Day 30)

Yesterday the temps were in the high 80s to low 90s – sunny, bright, no wind, and a a tad bit humid. The girls are going crazy again, out foraging and flying actively about the hives. I did check the feeders. Green Hive 1 (GH1) still has a good quarter of a bucket filled with sugar water. Yellow Hive 2’s (YH2) bucket was completely empty, so I had to run in and throw together a quick batch – part of which I ended up throwing out because the feeders needed to be cleaned and I didn’t realize it until I’d already poured.  Ugh!

Staying ahead of the girls is a lot harder than I’d imagined.  Based on the amount of new comb they produced last week, their super high activity levels, and their feeding frenzy, I decided that I need to do a better job of keeping up.  They work fast!  So my strategy is to stock up.

Last night I mixed close to a gallon of sugar water for the feeders.  This morning I visited my bee supplier and picked up six medium boxes, frames and foundation, and two queen excluders. We are assembling and painting as fast as possible (AFAP) so I can get two more boxes on during my next inspection, which I hope will be tomorrow or Tuesday. Being true to their gender, the girls don’t like to wait.

IMG_1870

Here’s the good news…once these new boxes are added, I’ll have three brood chambers on each hive. Then I’ll add a queen excluder.  The queen excluder is a screen that is placed over the top of the last brood chamber.  Worker bees can get through the screen to draw comb and make honey in the honey supers (the boxes that are placed above the queen excluder).  The queen is too large to fit through the screen, so she will remain in the brood chamber to continue laying eggs and creating more bees.  This keeps the brood or eggs/larvae out of the honey.

My point is, each week we’re getting closer and closer to honey!  Yay!

Keep in mind though that the first filled honey super goes to the bees for winter feeding. Whatever is left will be for us. But let’s not lose focus.  The first year is about growing the colonies and keeping the bees alive. We are not to expect honey, so I will not jinx by making unknown promises.  However, if the girls decide to reward our efforts with some sweet liquid gold, then bring on the honey!!!

The “Honey” Report

A business trip took me away from the bees this past week. Adding a new box was a big deal and I was anxious to know how they’d progress. Since I couldn’t be here, I had to depend on my Honey – the hubster – for a full bee report.

When I decided to take on this venture, he made it pretty clear that, although he would support me, this was my venture. He would stand and observe from afar, back off the sidelines using what seemed like a 12 inch camera lens. Now he walks up within a few inches of bee covered frames (no gloves or gear) to take close-up shots with his iPhone. Don’t believe me? His new IPhone cover pic no longer shows beer – it shows our bees. If you know my hubster and his love of beer and brewing, then you’d understand the significance of this action.

I couldn’t be more thrilled about his growing interest in what he now calls “our” bees. This change has been completely on his own terms, of course. I was especially grateful that he’d kept an eye on them and offered regular status updates while I was away. He even lifted the top covers and checked their feeding situation. That’s progress!

It was good to hear that the girls were doing well. Oddly, where the green hive had been much more active before, the yellow hive is now the more active hive. The temps also turned to the 90’s, very hot and humid. Before the hive expansions, this would have caused the bees to cluster on the hive front. That’s not happening now. Hopefully because they have more space, better ventilation, and lots more work to do. But I shall dig into the matter (literally) this weekend to verify!

Until then, enjoy this short clip of the girls at work…

Different Hive Personalities

May 22, 2013

Once we got the queen cell non-issue resolved, the weather turned hot and sticky and the bees became more active and more present on the fronts of their hives. Bees like to hang out front when it’s hot outside, much like we enjoy hanging out on the front porch when it’s hot and the house isn’t air conditioned. This is called bearding. They form a sizable cluster that can cover a large portion of the hive surface.  This would make most unknowing passerby’s nervous.

What made me nervous was the difference in activity between the hives. While the yellow hive has a small amount of clustering at the entrance, the green hive bearded half the hive from early morning through dusk.  I was still paranoid about the possibility of swarming, but I had checked the hives and they both appeared to be developing at the same rate and we’d only installed the nucs a week prior.

I posted the question to the Frederick County Beekeepers and sent them the photo below of both hives at 6:30 am.

6:30 AM photo shows a noticeable difference in hive activity.

6:30 AM photo shows a noticeable difference in hive activity.

Members were kind enough to send photos of their hives at the same time of morning, and they looked very similar to mine, with one hive appearing overcrowded and covered in bees, and the other showing no bearding at all.

One member said his hives have different habits and personalities. One likes to sleep in while the other wakes and collects outside in the early hours. One may be more sensitive to loud noises than the other. One may be easy going an unaffected by much of anything. One may be more active and easily irritated.  They’re all different.

Regardless, bearding is normal. Just a chance for the girls to escape the hot crowded hive and enjoy a bit of social time.

When to Add Another Brood Chamber

I also asked about when I should add another brood box since the bees seemed so crowded. The common answer was to wait until the last one or two frames are completely drawn out and capped before adding another box. That’s because bees like to work upward, so if you give them space to go up, then they will ignore the frames on the far sides and use every last bit of the space they’re given.

Association Dues are Paying Off?

I joined the Frederick County Beekeeping Association (FCBA) back when I took the class in January.  The cost is $10 per year and they hold monthly meetings that focus on all different bee topics.  I never attended a meeting and I don’t know any of the members.  For this reason, I hesitated sending questions to the group forum.  But I reached a point where I just needed some help and reassurance, so I bit the bullet and sent them an email.  The responses were incredibly nice, generous and informative.

It’s well known that if you throw out a question to 10 different beekeepers, you’ll likely get 10 different answers, and this was partially true.  It’s fascinating to hear the different practices and the reasons behind them.  But when the answers do coincide, there’s no question of what has to be done.  These people don’t know me from atom, but after several rounds of emails, I already feel like I’m part of the group and I’m eager to attend my first meeting as an official beekeeper.   These people love sharing their knowledge and responding to questions, and I’m more than happy to soak it all in.