Tag Archive | eggs

UFOs in the Hive

June 29, 2013 – Inspection (Day 50)

The afternoon was gorgeous, warm (high 80s) with a nice breeze, bright and sunny.  I lit the smoker with pine needles. They burned easily and gave off a nice cool thick white smoke. Then I pulled out the tools and geared up.   It was 4PM, their most active time of day.  I hoped they’d be too busy to pay attention to me.

IMG_1902

Green Hive 1 (GH1)

The feeder was empty and I could see the chopsticks worked well, allowing room for movement beneath the pail. I opened the inner cover and saw a moth amidst the bees. Pests are never a welcome sight, although I didn’t see anything else that looked problematic.  Another item to monitor and research.

We added a third brood box last week.  Few bees were in the top box and one or two center frames contained the start of some drawn comb.  They were slow to start on the new foundation before, then within two days they’d practically drawn the lot. You just never know.  I’ll spray the frames with sugar syrup and Honey B Healthy, which will permeate the hive with minty, lemon balm aromatherapy and make those frames super tasty. That should pull them up and get them going.

I pulled a frame from the second box and low and behold, I saw eggs.  That’s right, I saw eggs!  Not a figment of my imagination.  I had to look hard, but definitely across the bottom rows.  Rice shaped white specs.  Note, I wore contacts rather than glasses and the sun was behind me.  A beautiful site indeed! I flipped the frame to find rows of fat white larvae nestled in the cells. The bees are numerous and continuing to reproduce.  Yay!  GH1is good to go!  Moving on…

Yellow Hive 2 (YH2)

YH2 was on it’s good behavior. I think the girls and I are back on good terms after last week’s incident. The feeder was completely empty. Both hives are still feeding like crazy. I pulled off the inner cover and found, setting on top of the frames, small propylis covered pebbles and a dark brown papery looking cocoon with an entrance/exit hole.  I don’t like the looks of it and wonder if it may be related to the moth I’d seen earlier in the other hive.  I’ll take both items to my bee meeting this week for show and tell in hopes of getting some answers.

IMG_1909

The new super we added last week is full of bees and the center 2 or 3 frames are being drawn out nicely. They’re a bit farther along than GH1’s new box.

I moved down to the top brood box and found nectar and pollen, but saw no eggs. Still very crowded with bees. I pulled the first frame from the center brood box and noticed some drone cells along the bottom. My eyes followed upward across some nice capped brood then skimmed over a big red dot. Whoa, there she was, her majesty and highness, the queen of the hive marked with an unmistakable red dot, right there looking at me as if to say “Do you mind?  I’m trying to work here”.

Enough said.  I carefully tucked her frame back into the box and closed up. My work was done – the girls are still rockin their hives.

Advertisements

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.

YH2 Gets a New Addition

June 15, 2013 – Hive Inspection (Day 36)

This morning we had our first inspection in 2 weeks. The girls have looked good from the outside. Still uneven activity with Yellow Hive 2 (YH2) appearing much more populated and busy. But Green Hive 1 (GH1) has been holding its own healthy active phases and there are times when the two appear to be in synch.

This morning was beautiful, in the mid-80s, mild breeze, dry and sunny. The sun hadn’t quite made it to the apiary yet, but the husbster was pressuring me to get on with it since he had other chores vying for my time and attention.

I did two things differently for this inspection.

  1. I used the disposable rubber gloves instead of the bulky leather gloves. I had heard on The Beekeeper’s Corner podcast that bees can’t sting through the gloves. And although they are used once and thrown away, they fit nice and snug on my small hands, making it much easier to handle the boxes and frames. They worked like a charm.
  2. Instead of a brush, I used a 12 inch clipping of mint brushing them away. Using a feather or a plant clipping to flick them aside is much more gentle on the bees.

I had checked their feed the night before and both buckets were completely empty. Being cooped up during all that rain made them hungry. So I whipped up a pot of 1:1 simple syrup using 4 quarts of sugar and 4 quarts of water. Divided between the two hives, they go through this much sugar syrup each week. Guess we’ll be heading back to Costco for another supersize bag o’ sugar!

GH1

GH1 is the hive that’s had me concerned from the beginning. If you remember from an earlier inspection, this one had the drone cells and later some small queen cells. Early on, this hive was extremely active, very crowded and I feared it might swarm. After adding the second brood box, they calmed down and became less active. They weren’t producing comb as quickly as YH2, and the top frames only contained a few bees. They’re doing well now, although still a good week or two behind YH2. I don’t know if something happened to the original queen and maybe they produced another queen, or if the other queen is still there. Whatever, it looks as though they’ve worked things out…I hope.

Opening the top box, the outside frames appeared untouched. The center frames had beautiful new white sugar syrup-filled cells and comb with nice capping. I looked and looked for eggs, but since it was still shady in that area, I couldn’t get the sun behind to help me out. I could tell there were many more bees in the top box than last time and they’d made considerable progress over the last two weeks. But it was evident that these girls weren’t ready for a new box yet.

GH1 Producing fresh filled comb and capping.  Good girls!

GH1 Producing fresh filled comb and capping. Good girls!

06-15-13 Inspect 11

Beautiful capped frame!

I did want to pull a frame or two from the bottom box to see if I could find eggs and a queen. The bottom box was FILLED with bees and the outside frames were filled, which is great. So I pulled two frames from the center in attempt to find the queen. I didn’t find the queen, and as with the top box, I couldn’t see eggs. I did find some questionable comb that appeared kinda gray in color. The center frames are filled with dark, older comb. Not far down the road I will swap these for new frames. So that gives me two research projects – 1) what’s the gray comb all about? and 2) to swap old center frames for new ones.

IMG_3113

Not sure what this grayish looking capping is. Hmmm.

GH1 bees were getting a little pissy at that point, so I closed it up and moved on to YH2.

YH2
I received a great tip from my bee supplier. He said if the bees build comb from the frames up to the top cover, then thats’s a good indication they’re ready for another box. When I opened YH2, I immediately saw comb built down from the top cover to the frames. I lifted off the top cover and could see how well the girls had drawn out the side frames. Bees work from the center out. So once the end frames are filled with comb and capping, they’re ready for more space to work.

Again, I looked for eggs and larvae but couldn’t see any. The bees are obviously multiplying. The frames were crowded and the bees looked happy and healthy, so much so that they weren’t even irritated by my presence. I didn’t bother looking in the bottom box. I just took all the signs as good indications that all is well in YH2.

IMG_3116

Beautiful new comb. YH2 is looking really good! Great job girls!

IMG_3125

YH2 has filled in all of their frames and earned themselves a new box.

So our apiary is a bit lopsided right now.  I just hope YH2’s growth in stature doesn’t give GH1 a complex. Based on their post-inspection activity, I don’t think they’re giving it much thought. It’s not a race. The girls have all the time in the world to fill in their frames, at which point, GH1 will earn themselves a new box too.

So fly, forage and prosper ladies!

IMG_3132

Plenty of time for GH1 to catch up. All is well.

Inspecting the New Brood Boxes

June 2, 2013

Last week we added a new brood box to each hive, so this week’s inspection tasks included:

  1. refilling the feeder buckets
  2. checking the new frames for comb
  3. checking frames for eggs to verify the queen’s presence

Oddly, the two hives had swapped behavior over the past week. Where Green Hive 1 (GH1) had been visibly more active, Yellow Hive 2 (YH2) was now more active. So my main goal, in addition to the checklist above, was to ensure that GH2 is still in good working order.

The overcast had cleared and the sun was peeking out and drying things up after a few morning sprinkles. The temps were around the high 80’s or low 90’s with a mild breeze.

GH1 Inspection

I opened and pulled some new frames from GH1. A few bees had ventured into the new box, but most were still in the bottom box. The frames looked scarce. Quite a transition from how they looked before the new box was added. The bottom chamber was very crowded and busy though. I hoped they were filling in the rest of the original frames. The good news is that new comb had been started on all of the new frames, so I know they’d been working up top.

20130604-210236.jpg

I looked for eggs in the cells, which would be a sure indication that the queen is present. I saw only small pools of honey in the cell bottoms. That doesn’t mean there were no eggs. It’s hard to see through the veil, and I later found that I wasn’t holding the frame correctly to look for eggs. I learned the correct method in class, but forgot when the occasion arose. Story of my life these days.

I was holding the frame up toward the sun, when in fact the sun should be behind you with the light shining over your shoulder as you hold the frame downward. I know what the eggs look like, but it definitely takes practice to identify the microscopic white rice-shaped larvae nestled in the center of each cell. I saw nothing. Again, I rested on faith that the queen was intact and doing her job in the chamber below.

YH2 Inspection

As soon as I opened YH2 I could see a significant difference between the two hives. Many more bees were present in the top box, new comb already covered the top frames, and everyone looked happy and busy. Again, I had trouble seeing eggs, but I did see nectar and honey in the cells. The feeder pail was almost empty too. They were feeding well. Since all looked good, I closed up YH2, filled both feeders and called it a night.

20130604-210526.jpg

Although GH1 isn’t doing as well as YH2, I’m finally relaxing and feeling like I don’t have to bother them every few days. I’ll keep watch from the outside and will check on them every 1-1/2 to 2 weeks. I have a feeling GH2 will fix itself and both will soon be equally strong. At least that’s my hope.

Anyone out there have similar experiences? Do leave a comment and share!