Tag Archive | comb

Would’ve, Could’ve, Should’ve

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Starting into our 5th year of beekeeping, I took a break from blogging because I felt like I’m just repeating previous blogs.  But after 6-8 weeks into spring, I remembered why I began blogging to begin with.  This is my journal, my reference to past bee activity – the good, the bad, the ugly.  So please forgive my for backtracking, but if you’re interested in what’s been happening at the BooBee Honey Apiary since early March, then you’re in luck cause this post is about playing catch up.

Early March – From Six Hives to Three

Yep, down three hives from six – a 50% loss.  First, our winter was crazy inconsistent.  We really didn’t have a winter.  All hives entered strong and I had high hopes.  What happened?  There were no signs of starvation.  No signs of excess moisture in the hives.  Mites? No, I didn’t see signs of mites, and my bees are all VSH or mite-resistant.  I suspect queen losses for Green and Blue hives, capped off by the cold.  Yellow hive showed signs of Nosema – a parasite that resides in the bees’ guts and is evident by brown splotches on the fronts of the hives.  I didn’t medicate because I prefer to use more natural methods, like adding my homemade honey-b-healthy with wintergreen essential oil to their feed.  Wintergreen is anti-bacterial and helps keep their little guts clean.  However, adding fumagilin to their feed this fall will be a simple fix to help prevent future instances.  Two of the surviving hives, the strongest hives, were my PA queens – the best queens ever!  The mint hive is from my Texas stock, and although not up to my PA queen standards, they have been consistently strong.   So disappointments aside, I’m happy to have three strong hives, and I have ample space for splits and swarms – so it’s all good.

Got Empty Space, They Will Fill It

I add a spacer at the top of my wintering hives to add food and a small top entrance.  But Purple Hive got an early start and began building crazy comb in this space early on.    Once they fill it with wax comb, the trick is to clear that comb before the queen starts to fill it with brood.  This was my first lesson learned this season.  I knew they were filling it up with wax, but the temps were still cold, and I piddled around until – you guessed it – she filled the comb with brood.  What a mess!  The image below give you an idea of what this crazy comb look like, but imagine it filled with brood.

The last thing I want to do is cut out and dispose of all of that bee-utiful brood, and boy they hated me when I removed it from the hive.  I wish I’d taken photos, but on a bee-utiful 70 degree sunny March day, I sat in the grass and, using a very small and thin Pampered Chef paring knife, carefully sliced the comb at the base where it attached to the inner cover.  I inserted the comb within empty frames and used rubber bands to hold the intact combs within the frames – just the way many bee removal experts salvage comb from home hive removals, or tree hive removals.  I added an entire box full of frames filled with rubber banded brood comb back onto Purple Hive and hoped for the best.  Several weeks later, not only had the bees made the best of the mess I had made of their comb, but they cleaned house and returned my rubber bands.  I checked on the hive and noticed rubber bands poking out of the entrance with 10 bees on tugging on them.  Amazing little creatures.  The least I could do was help pull them out and dispose of them properly.

Spring Reconfiguration – April 9, 2017

Purple Hive was crazy crowded coming into spring.  With four full boxes, they were ready to split on day one, but the weather was still unpredictable with night time temps ranging from the low thirties to low fifties.  I watched the weather and continued to wait for consistent high 40’s to 50 degree nighttime temps before splitting.   I wanted the resulting splits to survive the cold nights.  However, the girls needed space.  Two weeks ago, on a warm 70-something day, I reconfigured the hives, moving the queens down low so they could work their ways up, and adding lots of growth space between the honey and the brood.

First Swarm of the Season – April 16, 2017

I was in the greenhouse, late afternoon, when I heard it.  Out of the bushes arose a such a clatter – a swarm that I’d probably walked beneath a half dozen times that day and never noticed.  Ugh.  They say you really can’t prevent swarms once the bees decide it’s gonna happen.  Sure enough, I ran after a cloud of bees through the backyard, around the side of the house, and waved farewell as they exited across the horse field, across the pond, into the wild blue yonder.  I didn’t see where the swarm originated, but I blame Purple Hive, which doesn’t have half the porch traffic it had before. Oh well, not the first, won’t bee the last.

Splitsville Baby!  – April 23, 2017

One week after the swarm, the weather was perfect!  Perfect time to check whether Purple Hive’s queen is laying.  That hive is still crazy full of bees, nectar, brood.  I found queen cells, so guess what?  Green Hive and Blue Hive are back in business!  Woo hoo!  Two solid splits from Purple Hive.  I saw the queen and she is bee-utiful and laying like crazy.  Fingers crossed, her offspring will do the same for our newbee hives.  Why stop there?  I inspected Mint Hive, which looks great!  I gave them a fresh box between the honey and the brood.  Then Pink Hive is another PA queen that’s performing very well.  Tons of young brood and larvae.  I found a frame with two queen cells – bingo!  We had split number three, Yellow Hive – and believe me, Pink Hive needed to be split.  I gave them a fresh box between the honey and the brood, so fingers crossed, they’ll forego any thoughts of swarming for awhile.

Caring for the Newbees

So that’s where we stand!  Everyone has space to grow, and I’ll continue to be proactive and check on them at least every 2 weeks.  The girls were surprisingly calm, except for the one little bugger that got me on the lip this afternoon.  Lip stings are the worst – I feel like a Simpsons character.  My focus now is on feeding and caring for the newbee hives.  They’re closed off completely for 24 hours, at which point I’ll replace the entrance block with an entrance reducer and will add some foliage in front the entrances to help them reorient before leaving the hive.  I’ll keep watch and will check for laying queens in about 2 weeks.  Time will tell!

Did I mention how happy I am that it’s bee season?   Yay!!!

 

So much to do – cleaning frames and boxes; feed, feed, feed the newbees; install swarm traps; blog, blog, blog; and above all, bee proactive.  That’s my theme this year.

Happy spring everyone!  Bee Proactive!

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Wax Moths…Eww!

September 9, 2015

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I just had my first, and hopefully last encounter with wax moths. My fault…most wax moth encounters are due to the beekeeper’s negligence. I uncovered several stacked boxes of frames with drawn comb in which I had forgotten to add moth crystals. The frames had been stored there since mid-July. I could smell the stench upon lifting the cover – the frames were infested with wax moths, wormy larvae, webs and droppings – like a creepy, disgusting Halloween prop, only this was real.  Blah!

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Wax Moths and Bees

A wax moth infestation can destroy a hive. They like dark, warm areas with minimal air flow; and because they’re highly attracted to beeswax, the combination of dark, closed up boxes with frame upon frame of drawn comb is irresistible to wax moths who prey on and infest weak hives.

I’m grateful they only infested two boxes of frames and not four or six.  I’m even more grateful that they weren’t in my hives. What a horrible demise for bees, and a shameful mess for the beekeeper.

 

Preventing Wax Moth Infestations

There are several ways to store frames to prevent wax moth infestation.

  • Store frames in an airy location with plenty of light. Moths do not like light, nor do they appreciate steady air flow. I’ve heard of beekeepers openly hanging frames across the inside of well-lit buildings or barns, for example.
  • Use a fan to blow a steady flow of air through the frames. The downside would be the 24×7 operation of a fan (or two) over several months.
  • Store frames in a truly airtight container. I know beekeepers who store their drawn frames in airtight rubbermade containers – like the kind you keep clothes in under the bed – and store them in their basements. However, you need to be 300% certain it is truly air tight. Wax moths can access the tiniest of openings.
  • Store boxes and frames outdoors in freezing temperatures. All stages of wax moth will die within 24 hours in freezing temperatures (36 degrees F or lower).
  • Store frames with PDB moth crystals. This is my method (so much for chemical free beekeeping). Only use moth crystals containing paradichlorobenzene (PDB). These will kill all stages of wax moth, except the eggs. The crystals will dissolve gradually over several weeks/months time, so check every few weeks to determine whether the crystals need to be replenished, otherwise, you risk the moths returning. When you’re ready to reuse the boxes and frames, air them out for 2-3 days before introducing them to the bees.

 

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Cleaning Up the Mess

So what steps did I take to clean up this mess and ensure it doesn’t happen again?

  • Freeze the boxes and frames. Wax moths, eggs and larvae will all die if frozen for 24 hours. I have a freezer in the garage for freezing frames and boxes. This luxury has been put to great use over the last 2 years. It’s always a good idea to freeze boxes and frames before moving them to the hives, or even before extracting honey; or for saving honey frames until you’re ready to extract. I can easily fit two 8-frame boxes with frames into our upright freezer.

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  • Clean the frames. I placed a tarp on the ground in the driveway and grabbed my trusty pallet knife and scraped off the webs, droppings and debris, and cut out the areas that were severely damaged.

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  • Store the frames and boxes. I use moth crystals containing paradichlorobenzene (PDB) to store frames with drawn comb. No longer will I boast of chemical free beekeeping – this is my one vice. For me, it’s the easiest, most worry free way to ensure that your comb and boxes are moth free. I simply add a spoonful of crystals on a piece of cardboard that’s placed on top of the frames, then I add another box of frames and another piece of cardboard with another spoonful of crystals. When all boxes are stacked, air tight, then place a top cover on top with a heavy brick or object on top of that to weigh it down.

 

The crystals will dissolve gradually, so check every few weeks to determine whether the crystals need to be replenished, otherwise, you risk the moths returning. When you’re ready to reuse the boxes and frames, air them out for 2-3 days before introducing them to the bees. Preferably in an open, well lit, well ventilated location. And if that location happens to bee below 36 degrees F, then even better!

Just keep in mind that not all will bee lost. Wax can always bee rendered down in the spring and replaced with new wax, and frames that are salvageable can go back into the hives and will bee cleaned further by the bees. Bees are workers and cleaners. They’re programmed to build comb in the spring, so they’ll fill in the gaps and put the frames to good use. Waste not, want not…you’ve gotta love’em.

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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Give the Girls Some Space

Saturday, March 22, 2014

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Fresh frames give the girls room to grow and build out new comb.

 

Spring Inspections

About 1 month before the nectar flow, this 70 degree day couldn’t have been more timely.  The bees are waking up, eating like crazy, building out comb, and hopefully will be growing in leaps and bounds.  This is the time to take action by doing a thorough inspection, giving them lots of space to grow, and making sure they have the right food to boost them into production mode.

My goals were:

  • Inspect to see where the bees are located and switch them to the bottom so they can move up the hive.
  • Look for brood and determine whether the queen is in good shape.
  • Clean out the old candy and refill their 1:1 sugar syrup and pollen patties.
  • Remove mouse guards and clean bottom boards.
  • Add a box of new frames so they can build out and grow.
  • Pull capped sugar syrup frames for extraction

Both Green Hive 1 (GH1) and Blue Hive 3 (BH3) are doing well.  The bees were all over the boxes, not just in one place.  Bees tend to move up the hive, so by shifting the busiest boxes down to the bottom, the bees feel there’s more space to expand and grow above, which can help prevent swarming in the spring.  Overwintered bees are much more likely to swarm than first year bees, so space is important.

Blue Hive 

Blue Hive bees were at the top and building comb ladders to get through the inner cover.  At two boxes, they needed space bad.  I inspected for brood and found one frame with a nice centered, circular brood pattern.  I hope that’s the beginning of more to come.  I also saw the queen.  Big red dot, no doubt, she’s still alive and active.  I cleaned their bottom board.  Surprisingly, not many dead bees.  They did a good job of cleaning themselves.  I switched the two boxes, cleared out all of the old candy, added a box of fresh new frames, and gave them a gallon of 1:1 sugar syrup, leaving their pollen patty in place.

Green Hive 

Green Hive had 4 boxes and the bees preferred to reside closer to the bottom of the hive.  They had too much room.  I pulled a top box filled with sugar syrup for extracting.  I didn’t find any brood and I didn’t see a queen, but the bees seemed plentiful and healthy.  I cleaned the bottom board – more bees in this one, maybe 2 cups, normal.  I shifted busy boxes to the bottom, topped with fresh new frames, cleared the old candy, and  gave them a gallon of 1:1 sugar syrup, leaving their pollen patty in place.

Neither hive seemed to be eating the pollen patties.  They had plenty of capped sugar syrup, and the pollen intake was strong last year, so they’re probably getting plenty of pollen from the comb.

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Pollen patty and sugar syrup in ziploc bag feeder.

They also were not stingy.  Not that they weren’t evidently upset at times, but for the most part they were calm.  I didn’t use any smoke and I didn’t get stung once.

Yellow Hive 

We’re waiting for our package to arrive for yellow hive.  I have to prepare the box for the new colony which is expected in early April.

Honey and Wax

I still have quite a bit of capped sugar syrup that I’ve been storing on the hives.  I pulled those and plan to extract this weekend.  I’m recycling some old dark comb and saving the wax.  As soon as styrofoam coolers come back in the stores, I’ll purchase one to make my solar wax melter.  Stay tuned for that tutorial!

Yay Spring!

After what is hopefully the last snow fall, temperatures are moving up into the 60s, and if the weather reports are correct, they should stick and continue to warm.  Will be a wet April, so flowers will be blooming soon and we’ll be planting in the garden this weekend.

Happy spring everyone and may the bees come a buzzing’ very soon!

 

 

Our First Taste of Honey

March 9-11, 2014

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During my 1st year beekeeping presentation, someone asked me about the supers on my hives.  I told them they weren’t supers.  Up to that point, I didn’t think of them as supers.  I was allowing the bees to create sugar syrup stores for winter, but not honey for harvesting.  When in fact, they are supers without a queen excluder – and the bees built up quite the stash.  So what to do with the stash?  My answer – extract it and feed it back to the bees, for a number of reasons. 

  1. It’s healthier for the bees to feed from their own food vs. sugar.
  2. The bees will clean up the wet drawn frames so I can reuse them.
  3. I’d rather practice extracting for the first time using sugar syrup than the real honey.
  4. I don’t have the freezer space to store the frames and I can’t keep them outside forever. I can store sugar syrup in the fridge.
  5. And best of all – I have an excuse to buy an extractor!

The boxes I took were from my dead yellow hive.  I purchased a complete extracting kit from Brushy Mountain.  It included the tools, the extractor, the uncapping tank, and a straining bucket.  I thought about waiting a week, but was so excited that I decided to start that day.   I moved the uncapping operation into our guest bathroom, and the extracting operation in the kitchen.

Lesson 1 – Honey Extracts Best When it is Warm

This explains why beekeepers extract their honey when its 90 degrees outside, and not when its 30 degrees outside. Warm soft wax slices easier and liquid honey comes out of the comb much easier.  Most people extract in their garages (too cold) or basements.  Our guest bathroom is small, so I added a space heater and left the room to warm for over 24 hours.  So much for extracting over the weekend…

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Lesson 2 – Keep a Wet Towel and Hot Water Handy

Everything gets sticky – the floor, the door knobs, the cats.  Keep a wet towel handy to clean your hands and wipe things down as needed.

The pitcher of hot water is for the capping knife. Store the knife in the water when its not being used to clean the honey off the knife and warm it up (unless you have an electric knife) to help cut through the wax easier.  Be sure to wipe the water off each time so you don’t get water in the honey.  You don’t want ANY excess moisture in your honey.  Although its not as big a deal when working with sugar syrup.  But start good habits early.  

Lesson 3 – Elevate the Uncapping Tank

I uncapped 16 frames.  Initially I was bending over.  Uncapping frames one after another is physical work. After 3 or 4 frames, my back got the hint and I elevated the tank so I could stand upright while uncapping.  Trust me on this.

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Lesson 4 – Uncapping Tools

Those uncapping knives are huge.  I used a Pampered Chef bread knife and it worked great.  For the small missed spots, I used an uncapping tool, and I also kept a fish knife handy for areas that were hard to reach with my larger knife.

Lesson 5 – Bottom Up vs. Top Down

Beekeepers always seem to uncap from the bottom up.  I’m not sure why, but for me, the cuts are thinner, cleaner and smoother.  Top down caused more butchering of the comb.  Comb is soft and delicate.  The bees will put it back together, but still, be careful not to mash the cells shut.

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Lesson 6 – Extracting Makes it All Worthwhile

Add frames and churn.  This is the fun part!  A good churn in one direction, then churn in the opposite direction, flip the frames and repeat.  Honey accumulates at the bottom and when it reaches a certain level, drain the tank.  I can tell you, the even though it wasn’t honey for us to eat, it was still tasty and unbelievably satisfying to see how much real honey our girls had produced.

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Lesson 7 – Filter the Honey

I had cleaned and sterilized gallon jugs ready to go. Be sure your containers are dry.  Again, no water in the honey.  Because this was going to the bees, I didn’t bother to filter and released the honey directly into the containers.  Truth is, I ended up filtering anyway before feeding.  So lesson learned, add one more step and filter the honey from the extractor through a filtering cloth and into the 5 gallon filtering bucket.  THEN filter it into containers.  The filtered honey won’t clog up your feeders, and you’ll have more wax to clean up for lotions and potions.

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Lesson 8 – Don’t Forget Your Wax

Cappings make the best quality wax.  Allow them to drain in the uncapping tank then put them in a plastic bag and in the fridge til you’re ready to clean it up.  Also, you’ll be amazed at how much honey has collected in the bottom of the uncapping tank after the wax cappings have drained.

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Final lessons learned….

  1. Mount the extractor onto a more solid surface so it doesn’t shake or wiggle while churning.
  2. Dedicated extracting equipment will make life easier – pitcher, knife, towels, containers, etc.
  3. No mite treatments when supers are on.  I didn’t think of my supers as supers, so it didn’t occur to me to remove them when treating for mites.  As a result, the sugar syrup and comb smell of thymol.  I’m told the smell will dissipate, but I don’t want my honey to have any taste of thymol, so I’ll either use fresh spring drawn comb in my supers this year, or new foundation.
  4. I will use 7 frames in my supers so the bees draw out thicker comb.  Thicker comb will be much easier to uncap because it will extend farther outside the frames.
  5. Another reason why beekeepers extract in the summer – the equipment can be left outside and the bees will be much more active and willing to clean it all up for you!
  6. Uncap and extract in the garage – this is not an indoor job.

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Feeding it Back to the Bees

To feed back to the bees for spring, I’ll just add water and mix well to achieve a 1:1 consistency.  For now, the syrup is going into quart size ziplock freezer bags.  I set a bag on the top frames of the hive, stick several times in the top using a sewing pin, and let the bees enjoy their nectar in hopes it will stimulate their spring activity.

Thanks for sticking with me through this post.  I know it’s a long one, but extracting is a process that’s worth documenting.  It’s a sticky job, but someone has to do it.  I personally cat wait to do it again with real honey!  

RIP Yellow Hive 2

Yellow Hive 2 (YH2)

May 11, 2013 –  February 2, 2014

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Sunday, February 2, 2014

Our 50+ degree weekend unveiled some bad news.  Yellow Hive 2 (YH2) has died.   YH2 was always a challenging colony.  It never behaved as actively as green hive, and never built up as quickly as green hive.  It threw me curve balls – like the time I discovered it had requeened itself just when I was ready to give them a $50 Texas queen.  Thanks to YH2, we have Blue Hive 3.  

Although YH2 started off strong, I could tell in late November that their numbers were starting to diminish.  They were still flying two weeks ago, then cold temps returned.  Its loss is not a huge surprise, but still disappointing and sad since somewhere along the way, despite my best efforts, worry, lack of sleep and second guessing, something went wrong.  YH2 is my first hive loss.

Suspected Causes

I opened the boxes and noticed a considerable amount of moisture had accumulated on the frames and comb and the interior felt damp.  The brood comb even appeared to be growing mold across the frames.  Mites were also visible among the dead bees, and the bottom board revealed quite a few mites, as well.   With these problems and the cluster’s decreasing size, the girls just weren’t able to stay warm and likely froze to death.  The cluster, although small, was still in tact, and the hive will remain intact for outdoor storage until the warmer temperatures set in.

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Moisture accumulated in the form of sugar syrup on the surfaces of the frames. Mold was beginning to form. The brood had been abandoned and they left quite a bit of uncapped sugar syrup in the brood chamber.

The cluster was small and intact.  To the right of the dead bees is a small dark dot that is a varroa mite.

The cluster was small and intact. To the right of the dead bees is a small dark dot that is a varroa mite.

Lessons Learned and Corrective Actions

If the air flow in the hive is not adequate, then moisture can’t escape.  Moisture is a huge enemy to bees, especially in cold weather.  Some thoughts on what might have gone wrong and corrective actions …

  • Covered Top Frames Too Heavily with Candy.  Covering the top frames blocks air from circulating up top, thus preventing moisture from escaping.  I’m told that candy and supplemental feeding should cover no more than 1/4 to 1/3 of the surface over the top frames, and that area should be the section that first receives the morning sun.
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Top frames are completely covered with candy, thus preventing air from rising to the top and moisture from escaping. Another mistake was leaving in the hive beetle traps since they also block air and prevent ventilation.


  • It was suggested that the top spacer containing the cedar chips might actually prevent air flow.  Instead, I plan to remove the box and add a stick or something that will raise the top telescoping cover just enough to create a small opening that will allow air to flow in and out.
  • I also added a mite board to Yellow and Green Hives early on to provide solid bottoms.  This too may have caused less air flow in the hive.  I was told not to abruptly remove the mite board from green hive because the bee cluster situates itself in the location that is the warmest.  By abruptly removing the mite board, they’ll be exposed and may not be able to adjust to a new location quick enough, and they may end up abandoning some of their brood because it’s too cold for the nurse bees to care for it.   I wish someone had told me this a day earlier before I so abruptly removed GH1’s mite board.  Ugh.
  • One last suggestion was to stop feeding syrup earlier in the season.  I stopped liquid in October, just before packing them up for winter.  I need to stop this year by, say, mid-September.  The frames showed quite a bit of uncapped sugar syrup, adding to the liquid and moisture in the hive.  Bees need time to not only store and cap their food, but it also needs some time to dry out a bit.  The reason we feed candy in the winter is because they don’t digest the liquid diet well, thus requiring more flights to relieve themselves.  The same goes for their stores.   If they syrup is still runny, then its like feeding them a liquid diet in the winter, which produces moisture in the hive and can result in nosema and disentary.  Moisture in winter is just bad all around.

Next Steps

  1. Apply Lessons Learned to green hive so they don’t endure the same demise – clear frames, remove cedar chips, prop top cover.
  2. Keep yellow hive boxes and comb outside for storage while temps are still cold, but plan for storage of extra drawn frames once the weather warms.
  3. Even with mold, bees will clean out the frames in the spring and reuse as they see fit.
  4. Order one or two packages just to be sure I have at least two hives going in the spring.
  5. Plan to stop feeding earlier in the season next year so they have time to cap and dry out the stores before they are put away for winter.

Farewell YH2

YH2, you were a good hive, one of my original two colonies.  You minded your own business and preferred to be left alone.  I’m sorry you didn’t get an experienced beekeeper, but I’m a better beekeeper because of you.  Know that your tolerance and sacrifice will benefit future colonies that will someday call Yellow Hive their home.   RIP YH2.  I hope you’re in a warmer place where you can be out and about making lots of sweet honey.

The Mail Order Queen

August 11, 2013 (Day 93) – Inspection

Last week we gave Yellow Hive 2 (YH2) a frame of brood from Green Hive 1 (GH1) and we added Beetle Blasters to help with the pest issues. So I had a few things to check on this week. YH2 has been inactive a docile this past week with few bees on the front stoop. GH1 likes to show off by going crazy nuts throughout the day. Complete opposites.

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GH1

I didn’t need to do a full inspection on GH1. It’s easy to see that hive is doing well. It has tons of bees, they’re crazy active. During their active times, I see some side trekkers sneaking over and creeping around YH2. I suspect they’re looking to rob some of their coveted sugar syrup. I’ve seen some bees fighting and I’m glad YH2 is still defending itself fairly well.  GH1 is also bringing in nice chunks of pollen.  A great sign that things are still blooming.

I had put the box of drawn comb that was taken off YH2 into the freezer last week. I read that the best place to store drawn comb is on a strong hive, so GH1 is now 5 boxes tall.  I may employ a step stool for changing the feeder bucket.

Both hives have been taking in about 3 gallons of sugar syrup a week. I can hardly keep up with them. I’m still feeding 1:1 sugar to water, but since stores are needed for upcoming winter months, I’m considering switching to 2:1 syrup soon.

I also found only 2 beetles in GH1’s Beetle Blaster.  No other signs of beetles.  GH1 is doing well all around!

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YH2

YH2 still has quite a few bees. The top boxes are filled with bees feeding in both hives. YH2 consumes their share of syrup too. No hive beetles found in either trap. I was surprised since YH2 had the beetle issues. I did notice how well they had drawn the comb in Box 3 of YH2. Then I lifted it and holy moly it was heavy. They’re not producing brood, but at least they’re storing up for winter.

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Who took the feeder bucket? We don’t want brood! We want food!

I pulled off box 2 and out ran about 10 beetles. I smooshed as many as I could, but those little buggers are fast! I hope they make their way to the top box. I will be ordering 2 of the bottom beetle trays since i think they will be most effective for trapping the beetles. I also moved one of the blasters to box 2.

I checked the frames in Box 2. Mostly dark empty comb. The drone population was heavy – a sign that workers, not the queen, have been reproducing. No sign of the queen. Same situation in Box 1. No queen, no brood, and no activity on the capped brood that I added to YH2 last week. Oh, and no queen cells. Nothing.  I left them with another pollen patty, filled their feeder bucket and closed them back up.

I gave them ample opportunity to re-queen themselves.  Natural is always the preference, as there is always risk involved with introducing an outside queen.  But I need to intervene or their numbers will continue to dwindle and the hive will die.

Finding a queen locally is not easy.  I ordered a new queen online from a Texas company called BeeWeaver Apiaries.  They have their own strain of bees derived from the Buckfast bees.  Supposedly they are easy to keep alive and they are very mite tolerant.  I purchased her marked and clipped.  I’m regretting having her clipped.  At the time I ordered, the idea of having a queen that can’t fly away sounded good, and it only costs $1.  But then my brain starts thinking it’s not natural (like declawing a cat), and then I start reading about how she can’t fly if they swarm, they chase her around the hive but she can’t go anywhere, and how the bees might think she’s injured and they may not accept her, yada, yada.  Ok, no more research.  I’ll just have to take extra precautions to keep them from swarming in the spring.

As usual, I’m learning by trial and error.  Most experts tell you to re queen in the fall anyway, so $50 later ($30 for marked and clipped queen and 19.95 for USPS express shipping) I can understand why so many beekeepers decide to breed their own queens. Ugh, no one said this hobby would be cheap. I just hope it pays off and both hives make it through the winter.