Tag Archive | beekeep

Mite Mishap and Feeding Massacre

September 9, 2013   Backtracking and Starting Over

You’ll recall from my previous post “Prepping the Girls for Winter”  that I had just added a mite treatment (ApiLife Var) to Green and Yellow hives, and I swapped out the feeders for the “no drown” top feeders.   You may also recall that I included a list of recommendations when using the mite treatment.  However, the following day, I realized I left off one very, very important recommendation….

Check the Weekly Weather Forecast Before Treating!!!

When using certain mite treatments, the temperatures must remain below 90 and above 53 degrees.  I thought I was in the clear because the weekend was gorgeous.  Then the hubster, also known as Doppler Don, told me the temperatures would excel into the low 90s by mid-week.   Of course he tells me this AFTER I already added the mite treatments.

Keep in mind, I’m already losing sleep thinking about my poor girls being fumigated out of their home for the next 3 weeks.  Now they’re at risk because I didn’t check the temperatures for the week ahead.  Ugh!!!

Backtracking…

So I made yet another snap hive management decision and was determined to remove the tablets that evening.  But wait, I had a vet appointment and another meeting scheduled that night.  Ugh!

I made the 5:30 vet appointment (for my dog, not for me) and got home around 6:30 pm.  It was already getting dark outside.  I lit the smoker, suited up and started pulling the hives apart.  Green Hive (GH1) was a success, I carefully removed all 4 tablets.  Yellow Hive (YH2), not so much.  I had lost one of the 4 tablets between the frames when they were added.  And as I lifted the box, I noticed another tablet was missing.  I was only able to recover 2 tablets and could not find the other two, even after digging another level deeper.  Ugh!   Which leads me to yet another recommendation that I’d overlooked…

Caging the Tablets

The tablets should be caged in some sort of mesh or wire.  That way the bees can’t chew on them, and they won’t so easily fall between the frames.  In fact, you could even staple them to the frames to ensure they stay in place.  Next time (assuming I actually try to do this again), I will cut pieces of window screen and will staple around the tablets to create a sort of mite treatment pillow.

The Massacre

I closed up the hives and ended with feeding.  This was my first time filling up the new feeders, which I thought would be much easier and much less stressful for the bees.  I opened the top covers and the feeders were PACKED with bees.  Not only were they packed with bees, but the floats, made of cut sections of queen excluders, allow the bees to crawl underneath the floats.  The entire bottom areas of the feeders were lined with bees who, theoretically should crawl back up through the queen excluder mesh to escape drowning.

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Removing the feeders and emptying the bees out is not nearly as simple as it may sound.  I decided to take the risk in hopes that the bees would be smart enough, and fast enough to crawl back through the excluders before making contact with the syrup.  No so.  Some made it out, but the syrup was like a runny river of death for most of the bees left beneath the floats.

What’s more, the floats were stuck to the side, so when I poured the syrup, the floats didn’t float!  You can imagine at this point the girls were not happy with me, Beezilla, again…   It was horrible for them, it was horrible for me.  They were fed, it was dark, I was exhausted.

Back to Buckets

Currently, I’ve left the top feeder on Blue Hive (BH3) because it does help with robbing, and because there are so fewer bees, they don’t line the feeders, so drowning is not a problem and the feeders work as intended.

GH1 and YH2 are back to buckets.  I can’t use buckets in winter because they are taller than the medium boxes and they leave a substantial gap at the top.  I’m torn between the Collins Feeders, which are shallower bucket feeders with a wider distribution of holes and some other helpful features, or making adjustments to our existing feeders ($22 a pop!) so the bees can’t get down into the bottoms.

Final Recommendation

I’m usually good about reading reviews, but somehow I overlooked the reviews for Brushy Mountain’s “no drown” feeders.  None were good and all reiterated my exact experience.  Ugh!

The Good News (Long Term)

Unfortunately for the girls, I learn the most from my mistakes and oversights, but the good news is that these lessons are hard to forget, even for my middle-aged “chipmunk” brain.  So at least the future generations will benefit from the suffering and demise of their ancestors.

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Then There Were Three

August 18, 2013 (Day 100) – Part 2

Yellow Hive 2 (YH2) forced me to make yet another quick executive decision.  This hive decided to requeen itself, which (thank goodness) we discovered just before we requeened the hive ourselves. This surprise left us with a beautiful $50 Texas Buckfast queen and no hive.  So I decided to split GH1 since it is very strong and should quickly make up for any contributions to its new little sister hive.

The Night Before

The night prior, I carefully went through the frames in GH1 and transferred two frames of honey and nectar, a frame of eggs and larvae, and two frames of capped brood to a nucleus hive, which is essentially a 5 frame box.  I looked at every frame very, very carefully to make sure none contained the queen.  I didn’t see her at all and suspect she was in the bottom brood box, safe from Beezilla.

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I did this the night before for two reasons:

  1. To give the new hive a 24 hour separation period from their current queen so they will hopefully be more accepting of their new queen, and
  2. To get them acclimated to their new location, right between GH1 and YH2.  If there’s no acclimation, then they may be inclined to return to GH2 rather than stay and prosper in BH3.

I believe the transfer was a success.  We let the bees rest in their new location until tomorrow when they meet their new queen.

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…v

I was in the garage at 8:30 PM last night painting boxes, because our new addition must have its own identity.  It must fit with our calypso, Caribbean colorfest in the garden theme.  

This new addition is completely unplanned.   But then the girls have been driving this show since day 1, so I really shouldn’t be surprised by the curve balls they keep throwing at us.  Ironic though that Blue Hive 3 (BH3) should become the newest member of our Boo Bee Apiary on Day 100 of this wild adventure.

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Pulling a Hive Out of Our Ying Yangs

We had the two boxes all painted and ready to go, but no bottom board, launch pad, entrance reducer, inner cover or top cover. We drove to our bee supplier first thing in the morning and he was closed! Ugh! We needed a complete hive and FAST! Our queen wasn’t faring well in that tiny little queen cage and we needed to get her in today!

My amazing and brilliant hubster offered to give up his play day with beer to build the pieces I needed to complete my hive. We visited Lowes and bought the supplies then quickly headed back home. While I made zucchini bread, he ripped out a top notch launching board, a screened bottom board, an inner cover and a top cover. His first time ever building these pieces, and as always he did a stellar job. We did learn that unless you build in bulk, it is NOT cheaper to build your own hives and hive parts. I’ll stick with my bee supplier, when he’s open. Homemade is good for now.

BH3 is Born

I decided to keep the hive closed in for another day, just to be sure they would be acclimated to their new location. So we placed a complete strip of wood across the hive entrance. I opened the nuc and was very pleased to see a very large population of bees. Just as I transferred my first two hives back in May, I moved the frames and placed them into the new hive in the exact same order.

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I added a strip of velcro to the queen’s cage, and placed the other half of the velcro on top of a center frame so she could hang between the brood frames. The velcro worked perfectly. We hung her between the frames, candy side up and screen facing out between the frames so the Queen could be attended to.

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Feeder Lesson Learned

I shook in the remaining bees and closed up BH3 leaving a boardman feeder in a second top box. Accidentally I left the feeder on top of the hive until I was ready. I walked away for 2 minutes and returned to a feeding frenzy. I shooed them away and proceeded to grab the feeder by the cup, collapsing the feeder and releasing syrup everywhere. It was a robber’s sugary dream. I managed to clean most of it up and rinsed the sugary areas with water. Lesson learned!

Reflection

I have to say that I’m actually proud of our split and how we handled the whole YH2 situation. Ok, so I’m not the most calm, cool and collected beekeeper; I still fumble around the hive; and yes, I lost a few winks of sleep worrying about the girls, but this whole scenario has taught me so much and I do love a happy ending.

BH3 will be a bit of an experiment. We’ll baby it through the winter and hope for the best.

If someone had told me this time last year that I’d have 3 bee hives, I’d have thought they were nuts. Pretty amazing really. Right now I think 3 is all we can handle. This increases our chances of getting a hive through winter, thus improving our chances for honey next year. Woo hoo!

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Simple Rules for Using Entrance Reducers

June 11, 2013 (Day 32)

When to use and when not to use an entrance reducer? THAT is one of those ambiguous topics that offers no one right answer. Some beekeepers keep them on year round. But as the weather gets hotter and more humid, I feel sorry for the bees and want to give them a larger front porch area on which to hang out and socialize. Then rain comes and I reduce it again. And back and forth. Perhaps I should stop overthinking and just reduce their entrance year round. Ugh! This new beekeeper gig definitely tests my decision-making skills.

The entrance reducer has two different sized openings. The wooden piece can be turned so that only one the openings is used at a time.  There are advantages to reducing the entrance.

1) It reduces the amount of area that needs to be protected by the guard bees, thus making their jobs easier;

2) Hive robbers and invasive critters also have a harder time accessing the smaller entrance; and

3) Supposedly, entrance reducers help to control the ventilation and temperature in the hive.

However, a larger entrance provide more ventilation and it gives the bees more space to fly in and out.  So it’s nice to remove it when the honey flow is on and the temps are hot and humid.

Entrance reducer makes it harder for mice and robbing pests to enter the hive, and helps keep out the cold and wind.

Entrance reducer makes it harder for mice and robbing pests to enter the hive, and helps keep out the cold and wind.

Simple Rules for Using Entrance Reducers

Long Lane Honey Bee Farm, one of my favorite bee sites, offers a few simple rules for using entrance reducers.

When to Use the Small Setting

1) When installing your package of bees for the first time. They can still come and go, but it keeps them from wanting to fly away until they nest.
2) In the winter, when you are trying to keep mice out of your hive.
3) When the hive is being robbed by another hive. There is less entrance to protect.

When to Use the Larger Setting

Anytime you need a larger opening, but don’t want to open it up all the way. This could also be used for all three reasons above.

Should the Opening Face Up or Down?

Down is fine during spring and summer when bees are able to fly out and clean the dead bees out of the hive (yes, bees really carry their dead out of the hive, and drop them on the ground in front of the hive – I have the piles to prove it!).

During the winter, the opening should face UP! When bees die during the winter, if the opening is down, then dead bees will fill up the opening. However, if the opening is facing up, then the bees can still fly out over the dead bees which you can clean out later on a warm day (FUN!)

Can the Entrance Reducer be Removed?

Once your hive is more than a few weeks old, is not being robbed, and the weather is warm, the entrance cleat should be removed and stored in a place where you can easily find it.

There you have it.  If you were confused before, hopefully this will help sort it all out, plus a few key tips for overwintering.  Leave a comment and share how you manage the entrances to your hive(s).

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.

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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!!!

Cool Facts About Honey Bees

Below is a great post that lists “10-Interesting-Facts-You-Did-Not-Know-About-Honey-Bees” .  If you didn’t think honey bees were fascinating before, this might change your mind…

10 Interesting Facts You Did Not Know About Honey Bees

by mayyam at http://mayyam.hubpages.com

For a few years, my summer job was working for a local bee keeper. I would sell and package honey and I got to witness many interesting occurrences. I was terrified of bees before I started working there; Now I not only got over my fear but I am fascinated by them as well. Honey bees are very important to us and are responsible for a great deal of the world’s pollination. I have compiled some very interesting facts that I learned working for a beekeeper. Hopefully you’ll learn something!

  1. Worker honey bees are all females. Males do not know how to even feed themselves and their only reason for being in the hive is for reproducing with the queen. The males do not have a stinger and they are kicked out of the hive in the fall, because there are no uses for them.
  2. Honey bees are very clean and I’d like to think they have slight OCD (like me). They want their hive (which they made themselves, hexagon by hexagon) to be immaculately clean. If something dirties their hive, they will immediately get the offense out. The only honey bee in the hive that uses the bathroom inside the hive is the queen. She never leaves the hive, so her faithful workers get her mess right out. Bees will also make sure that when their time comes, they will die outside of the hive.
  3. There is only one queen per hive. The queen lives 2-3 years as appose to the 6-8 weeks like the workers. The queen is made, rather than born. Worker bees will feed larvae royal jelly for a certain period of time. The royal jelly is secreted through the heads of the worker bees and is fed through their antennas to the larvae. The royal jelly has so many vitamins and nutrients it will allow for the larvae to become queens. Since there can only be one queen per hive, the potential queen bees will fight to the death until there is one queen remaining.
  4. Honey bees, like their name implies, are the only insects to make honey. Bumblebees make a honey like substance, but it tastes nothing like the sweet honey we know and love. They also make this in very small quantities. Honey bees though make honey in surplus so bee keepers are able to take a certain amount without hurting the bees or depriving them of food.
  5. Honey bees never sleep! No wonder worker bees have such a short lifespan!
  6. Honey bees are the only insects that produce something that humans eat. It is also the only food that never goes bad! Its sugar content is too high. Edible honey was found in King Tut’s tomb!
  7. The honey bee colonies each have a distinct odor which allows for them to identify the members. Often times bee keepers will need to assimilate colonies. A way to do that would be to place bees from each colony into a paper bag together. The paper bag should have a divider so each colony stays in its own side. Being in the container together the smells will mix and they will not be able to recognize the other bees as enemies due to their familiar odor.
  8. The Queen bee lays around 2,000 eggs per day! She can also select the gender of the larvae. Most larvae that will be produced will be female.
  9. The Average honey bee will produce 1/12 of a teaspoon of honey in its lifetime. To make one pound of honey it would take 556 workers and 2 million flowers. 50-100 flowers are pollinated during one collection trip. About one ounce of honey is all it takes to give the honey bee enough energy to fly around the world (although the farthest they usually fly away from their hive is six miles).
  10. Bees are responsible for 80% of pollination that occurs. So next time you’re eating any fruit or vegetable, thank a honey bee

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…

Bees Rescued from Fallen Tree

Here’s a fascinating and inspirational video made by and of University of Tennessee Beekeepers saving a huge colony of bees from a fallen beech tree. Very cool glimpse of bees in their natural habitat and how it was converted to fit a manmade hive.

Gotta love YouTube!