Tag Archive | condense

The Price of Slacking

September 7, 2015

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I did more spectating than inspecting this summer. All hives were well populated, honey production was high, and activity was high all summer. I figured they just do better when I leave them alone and that they would continue to do well until it was time to prep for winter. I’d even hoped for a fall honey harvest.  The bees, however, started going in a different direction…

Labor Day Inspection

On Labor Day I inspected the hives for the first time in probably a month and a half. No honey, which wasn’t terribly surprising considering we’ve had a dearth here since the end of July. They’d had plenty of stores, which they’d done a good job of consuming. I swapped frames around, removing the supers and adding honey frames back to the hives.

All hives had brood, but the numbers had dwindled in Purple and Green hives.  Even in Blue Hive the brood patterns were very spotty. That meant either (or both) the queens were weak, they were queenless, or varroa mites were in full force. From what I’ve heard, mite counts are high this year. But I have hygenic, mite resistant bees, and I don’t treat because I’d like for them to stay mite resistant.

I returned to the shop with frame filled supers, a collection of wet nectar and honey frames, dry untouched frames, and dry drawn comb. I separated the frames – dry, wet, honey. Wet frames were set outside so the bees could clean them up (farther than 50ft from the hives, of course). Honey frames were wrapped in plastic and frozen, and dry frames (including the frames cleaned by the bees) were stacked and stored with moth crystals.

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The Search for Three Queens

It was a busy afternoon, but at least I knew where the girls stood. Immediately, I began looking up sources for queens since I hadn’t seen any signs of varroa – the bees looked healthy, no wing deformity, no signs of mites on the bees or larvae. BeeWeaver is where I purchased my existing queens. The bees started out hot, but they are mite resistant, fast producers, and hardy in the winter. The problem was they had no queens available until mid-October. I can’t wait that long. I need queens now so they have some chance of building up their populations before the cold weather gets here. I hate to mix my bees again and would prefer to keep the BeeWeaver lines going, but I also don’t want to risk losing three hives.

The hardest thing about beekeeping is finding a queen when you need one. I can understand completely why people choose to rear their own queens. Or better yet, next year I might put together several nucs in July or August so I’ll have one or two queens and some extra bees available if needed.  Fortunately, I was lucky enough to find a private queen breeder in Pennsylvania, a retired USDA employee with vast knowledge and experience who rears his own hygenic queens. They weren’t cheap, but they’re in the mail.

Lesson learned – what looks good on the outside may not bee so good on the inside. A lot can change over the course of 2 or 3 weeks, so keep up with inspections at least every 3 or 4 weeks.

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Moving ‘Em Down the Hive

November 3-5, 2013

This is a bee Escape Board.  Bees enter through the hole, which faces up.

Bees enter through the hole, which faces up.

Last weekend was my last chance to add the escape board to Green Hive 1 (GH1) so I could shrink them down to 4 boxes before the consistent freezing temperatures set in.  By reducing their space, the cluster will have less area to heat, enabling them to stay warmer throughout winter.

I’ve never used an escape board, but the guy on YouTube sure made it look easy.  He inserted the escape board beneath the box to be emptied, triangle side down, and he closed off the entrance.  The bees can move down through the board, but they can’t move back up.  Within 24 hours, his top box was empty.  What nice cooperative bees!  Within 24 hours, my box was still full.  Little buggers!

Bees come down through the triangle and exit at one of the three corners.  The triangle is screened, so they can't find their way back up.

Bees come down through the triangle and exit at one of the three corners. The triangle is screened, so they can’t find their way back up.

I’d love to attribute their stubborness to superior bee intelligence.  However, my brilliant girls put me in a pickle.

  1. The weather immediately turned colder.  Can’t work the hives when it’s cold;
  2. Daylight savings time meant coming home from work in the dark.  Can’t work with bees in the dark; and
  3. Leaving a full box of honey stores unguarded by the bees is like sending the hive beetles and wax moths an open invitation to an all you can eat buffet.

The next morning, I was headed to work but decided to check the hives first.  I lifted the lid and sure enough, they crawled down to cluster with the rest of the colony.  Yay, the box was empty, but I had no time to remove it.  I had to get to work! I put the top back on and left.  Half way to work, I realized that I forgot to pull the cover back to block the top entrance.  Ugh.  Nothing is simple…ever, ever, ever.  The box was empty, but I left them a big hole to crawl right back in.  I blame middle-age and Mondays….

I couldn’t get home at lunch and I had plans that night, which meant the box would stay on for one more day (going on 72 hours now).  I called the hubster who kindly covered the top entrance when he got home.  After another night of freezing temps, I went up the following morning at the first sign of light and swiftly removed the box, replaced the escape board with the inner cover and put the top back on.  Done! Like a pro! The box went into the freezer and off I went to work.

The good news is that with every completed new task comes a bit more beekeeping knowledge, and a bit more confidence that I didn’t have before.  More baby steps, we’re just about ready for winter.  I removed feeders from Yellow Hive 2 and Blue Hive 3.  The girls are officially off of their liquid diets and will soon bee on the solid candy diet.  Sometimes a bee’s life doesn’t sound so bad.