Tag Archive | cell

Blue Hive Revived and More

April 21, 2016
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The girls have been building up fast this spring, and as mentioned in my last two posts, we experienced two swarms in one weekend.  Both were retrieved and rehived – one is happily rehomed in Green Hive, and the other in Blue Hive.  However, the Blue Hive swarm left the hive (absconded) within a day.  That left Blue Hive empty again.

I had planned to inspect the hives that same weekend to give them space and check their food, but with all the excitement, I had to postpone the inspections until they settled down.  I took a half day from work several days later, when the weather was sunshiny and perfect.  I could take my time and perform a proper inspection.

Pre-Inspection Prep

Preparation is important prior to inspecting.  I had extra boxes, drawn frames, undrawn frames, honey frames (covered so as not to encourage robbing), fume board, tools, and smoker.  You never know what you’ll find in these hives, so it’s good to bee prepared for any scenario.  I’m much better about taking my time now, one hive at a time.  They say “get in, do your business, and get out”.  I follow this to an extent, but I’m also very careful to process what I find as I go, and make smart quick decisions that are most beneficial to the bees without rocking their world.

Purple Hive

Purple Hive was filled with bees, honey and brood.  They looked great and I was really hoping to find some queen cells so I could make an easy split for Blue Hive.  I don’t need a queen cell to make a split.  As long as they have good frames of eggs and larvae, they’ll figure it out themselves.  But considering it takes ~3 weeks for them to make a new queen from scratch, then factor in the time for mating and laying, its much faster and less risky to just give them an nice fat ready-made queen cell.

I didn’t find any queen cells in Purple Hive, which indicates that they likely did NOT swarm.  I set up a new box of checker boarded frames (honey on ends, and alternate drawn and undrawn frames in the center) and added it just above the bottom box to directly expand the brood chamber and give the queen plenty of room to lay and the other bees plenty of room to spread out.  I put “Humpty” back together again and move on to Mint Hive.

Mint Hive

Mint Hive, my active and temperamental Texas bees, had swarmed on Sunday and upon removing the inner cover, it was evident that their numbers had reduced, shown below.

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I used the fume board to clear out and remove the top box.  The other boxes were full of bees, honey, brood, and lots of queen cells.  I snagged a frame w/ a gorgeous fat queen cell and transferred it to Blue Hive, along with some good honey and brood frames, and plenty of bees.  A feeder was added and Blue Hive was back in business.   I’m happy to report that they’re building up well and everyone seems healthy and happy.

Yellow Hive

Yellow Hive was much the same as Purple Hive.  Lots of bees (shown below), but no signs of swarming.  I gave them the same treatment, adding another checkerboard box above the bottom box, and letting them grow and prosper.

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A few weeks later….Supers are on!!!

May 7, 2016

Within a week after the inspections, I added the supers.  Wisteria is starting to bloom, dandelions are out, the nectar flow is on!  We don’t want to miss a beat.  Plus, the supers give them more space…always a good thing this time of year.  Of course, as soon as the supers are added to Purple, Mint and Yellow hives, Mother nature drops the temperatures about 20 degrees and rains on our parade, for a week and a half straight!  Ugh.

The girls jump at every opportunity to get out of the hives and forage.  Purple Hive is bursting, so I’ll split them at my soonest opportunity.  I need to find more space to put nucs and possibly more hives.  The hubster will be thrilled…not.

Green and Blue hives are developing nicely.  I’m keeping them fed.  The garden is bursting and soon we’ll bee planting our veggies. Spring is already flying by fast!

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Yellow Hive is Back!

June 7, 2015

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You may recall that we lost Yellow Hive over the winter.  The apiary just isn’t complete without all 5 hives going at once.  Blue Hive was looking strong, so two weekends ago ((May 24th) I transferred some of their honey, nectar and brood frames to Yellow Hive, along with some healthy looking queen cells, and of course some bees.  I gave them sugar syrup w/ my homemade Honey B Healthy and stood back to see if the split would take.

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I didn’t post this sooner for fear of jinxing them.  I’m very superstitious like that. They started slow, but now activity in Yellow Hive is picking up.  Yay!  The weather has been cool and wet, so once the sun comes back out and things dry out, I’ll give them a look to see whether a queen has emerged and started laying yet.

Expecting a Swarm

Any day now I’m anticipating that Blue Hive will swarm.  I know that because I’ve seen queen cells and a virgin queen romping around.  There is space in the brood chamber for laying, but when they decide to go, they’ll go.  Fingers and toes are crossed that they’ll split themselves and will make a bee-line for the swarm trap.  I continue to add lemongrass oil to the entrance to lure them in.  Then I’ll collect them and add them to a new hive.

Preparing for the Best

Speaking of new hives, the hubster and I have had discussions about the number of hives I can add to my collection.  He insists that 5 is enough.  Yes dear, 5 is a good number.  However, if I d happen to catch a swarm, then they need to go somewhere, so just incase they decide to cooperate (a rarity) I’m preparing hives 6 and 7….just incase.  After all, I couldn’t possibly let them go homeless!

Watching the Garden Grow

We also planted the garden two weekends ago.  Another yay!  And with the recent rain, they’re popping up nicely.  We’ll bee caging tomatoes today, and even my cucumbers are popping up from seeds that I salvaged from last year’s cucumbers, which were crazy prolific.

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The major nectar flow is dying down, but there’s still plenty of flowers and color coming up.  The wildflowers will be out soon.  The bees are bringing in the honey.  Boxes are heavy and filling fast.

Tis a happy time of year.

 

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.

 

Calling in Reinforcements

June 23, 2013 (Day 44)

After Friday night’s flopped attempt to spot eggs and larvae and/or a queen, my mind darted straight to the worst case scenario – my hive was queenless. I knew a queen cell had been formed. I knew that the top box didn’t look any better than it had a week prior with four full frames untouched. If they created their own queen, then I didn’t want to purchase and introduce a new queen or she could be killed. If they created their own queen, was she a good, strong, healthy, mated, egg laying queen? If she wasn’t, then I’d have to find and kill the weak queen first, then introduce the new queen. Well heck, if I was able to find the queen, I wouldn’t be asking these questions in the first place!

In short, if you can’t find your queen, or you can’t identify new eggs and larvae to validate that the queen is ok, then you don’t know the state of your hive. You’re clueless. Yep, that was me on Friday night – desperate and clueless.

Calling on the FCBA

The Frederick County Beekeeping Association (FCBA) members had come to my rescue in the past, and I knew of situations where new beekeepers would ask for experienced members to visit their hives. I don’t like asking for help, but at this point, I needed help.  I sent an email to the forum describing my dilemma.  Six or more members responded, all sensing my distress and coming to my rescue with useful tips and information.

· At least half of the responders said they could never see the eggs or larvae either, so that made me feel a little bit better (although I wondered why I hadn’t seen distressed emails coming from them).

· Others asked questions, gathering clues to help solve the mystery (because beginning beekeeping really can be a big fat mystery).

· Most said leave them alone – if there’s no queen, the bees will make a queen (I love that answer – let the bees fix the problem!).

· One sent a picture of capped brood, to verify that I know what capped brood looks like (doesn’t capped honey look like that too???).

· Two suggested using a flashlight or magnifying glass to see the eggs and larvae (brilliant!).

Beautiful capped brood.  Good sign of a laying queen and a healthy hive.

Beautiful capped brood. Good sign of a laying queen and a healthy hive.

Finally, one member, who lives just 5 minutes away, said she would be happy to visit my hive – AND finding eggs and larvae were not a problem (jackpot). Halleluja!

Help Arrives

Rose arrived around 5PM. The hubster and I were sitting in the garage staring a considerable distance over and above the workshop as bees darted in all directions at 40+ feet in the air. The girls were more active than I’d seen them in a long time.

We entered Green Hive 1 (GH1), the problem hive, and I’ll be darned if those little buggers didn’t draw out those last 4 frames. The top box was filled with nectar and capped sugar syrup…and bees! “I wish I had some of your bees!” she said. Next box down, she pulled frame after frame and announced “this one is full of eggs!” “Do you see all the eggs?” she asked, angling the frame toward me for a look. I swear this woman has superpower bee brood vision because I could not see any eggs.” Then she saw larvae. “See the larvae at the bottoms of these cells?” she asked, “They’re C shaped.” I thought I could make out the shape, but again, I wasn’t sure. However, at one point I did remove my veil and glasses and was able to see microscopic white dots at the bottom center of a few cells. Finally! Next time I’ll come out with my flashlight and magnifying glass.

See those little rice shaped objects on the bottoms of the cells?  Those are eggs.  If only they were this easy to find.

See those little rice shaped objects on the bottoms of the cells? Those are eggs. If only they were this easy to find.

We closed GH1. Rose showed me how to set the box at a diagonal and slowly slide it into place. A few were still squished. She did, however, use her hive tool to scape off the body parts that hung out from between the boxes. I placed the feeder and she suggested I place chopsticks under the pail to allow the bees to move in and out from beneath, and to add some ventilation at the top. Another great tip!

We opened Yellow Hive 2 (YH2), also packed with bees and full of eggs, brood and larvae. She pointed out a small queen cell and indicated that bees like to keep a few small queen cells or queen cups around and they’re nothing to worry about.  Good news.  Wish I’d known that a few weeks ago.

Would you believe both hives received new boxes? GH1 now has 3 brood boxes and YH2 received its first honey super, totaling 4 boxes. Rose even suggested splitting the yellow hive. I’ll be heading to the bee store for another hive. I might paint it turquoise. My apiary will look like it came from the Caribbean.

False Alarm Folks

So the girls made a liar out of me. I am thrilled they’re doing so well. Not sure I’m ready to tell all of those nice bee people, who came so quickly and generously to my aid, that it was a false alarm. No issues here! The girls are thriving and I am determined to make the next bee meeting so I can thank them in person and pay it forward. No doubt about it. Bee people are good people.

Queen Cells vs. Drone Cells

First Inspection – May 18, 2013 @ 9AM

Throughout their first week, we watched the bees regularly. They seemed happily busy doing their bee thing. New colonies can make extraordinary progress in an extraordinarily short amount of time. Rule of thumb for new beekeepers is to check on bee activity at least every 3 days. I’m not sure if that means dig into the hive and inspect the frames, but by the time Friday came around, it was time to dig.

The trick with inspecting frames is knowing what you’re looking for and what you’re looking at. I think I do, until I get in there and realize I haven’t a clue. I did see lots of thick new empty comb on the new frames – a good sign that the hives were growing. The center frames had good capping but were very dark, and many contained very large bumpy capped cells. Normal worker bee cells are small and flat. I knew drone (male bee) cells were larger, but I didn’t know how much larger, and the cells I saw looked freaky to me.

I immediately started overthinking. The frames were thick and the bees were crowded. Often when they get overcrowded – usually in the spring when nectar is most plentiful and hive growth is most rapid – the workers will create queen cells to replace the existing queen, should she decide to swarm.  Not a good sign, and certainly not something you want to happen within two weeks of the bees’ arrival.

Swarms

Swarming means the queen flies the coup – or in this case, the hive – taking with her half of the colony and leaving the other half queenless. Swarms usually rest on a nearby tree limb while the scouts fly out to find a new home where the swarm can relocate. Ironically, the mention of bee swarms evokes images of terror in lots of people. But bees in a swarm are much more docile than bees in a hive. That’s because they don’t have a home to protect, so they aren’t in “attack” mode.

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Swarms are often found as large clusters on tree limbs (photo from http://www.cincinnatibees.com)

Beekeepers love swarms because they’re free bees. So much so, they’ll risk climbing a 40 foot tree on an extension ladder with no gear and only a cardboard box in hand just to capture a swarm. Then they can brag about it and post pictures on Facebook :o)  Simply shake the branch and, ideally, the bees will fall right into the box…if the bees cooperate. As long as the queen is captured and transferred to the hive, her troops will march right into the hive with her. Swarms often generate very active and productive hives.

The Call for Help

My bees just arrived! I didn’t want them to think about leaving their hives so soon. I researched, looked at lots of pictures of queen cells, and I called my supplier. He said it was highly unlikely that they’d be making queen cells this early, but he did pack them in tight. “On the next warm sunny day,” he instructed, “go back into the hive and if you see a queen cell, use your hive tool to scrape it off the frame and destroy it.”

 

Second Inspection – May 20, 2013 @ 7PM

I reentered the hive on a sunny Monday evening with my hive tool in hand and the hubster coaching me from the sidelines. The weather was in the low to mid-80’s and the bees weren’t terribly active. I reinspected the frames and realized the cells I thought were queens were actually drones. They looked like round clusters of puffed cereal poking out over top of the cells. Queen cells are much larger, about an inch long and look like peanuts.  Now I know!

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Drone cells look like puffed cereal that raises over top of the cell’s surface.

Dark Comb

We also noticed that the comb in the center frame was much darker than the new comb on the outsides. Seems that comb darkens with age and use, so dark comb isn’t bad comb, it’s just well-used comb. Eventually, frames should be replaced – some beekeepers say to replace them every 5 years as they can turn downright black.

Don’t Tell the Bees

This is all good news – my knowledgebase is expanding, and with every new interaction comes a flood of new questions and greater realization of how much i have yet to learn…but let’s not tell that to the bees…