Tag Archive | split

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!

Ants, Swarms and Honey

July 23, 2016, Saturday

Wow, this summer is flying by.  Unreal.  As much as I’ve think about updating everyone on the bees, we’ve just been so stinking busy this summer.  We’ve had several more swarms since early summer, but other than that, the girls have been working hard gathering nectar and food and making honey.  There’s hasn’t been much more to tell until now.  So here’s a few bits to catch you up.

Ants

I can’t say I’ve experienced ant problems.  We add a base to the bottom of each hive with PVC cups that I keep filled with water.  They really help keep the ants  and crawly critters out of the hives.  But the other day I saw a TON of ants collecting at the base of one hive.

Hubster repositions and levels GH1 base and adds ant deterring frame.

Base frame with ant-deterring PVC cups that we keep filled with water.

I thought of several options for removing them, but most are not good for the bees.  What I came up with was cinnamon.  I added several tablespoons of cinnamon to an old spice bottle and shook the cinnamon over the ants and around the base of the hive on the ground and on the cinder blocks.  Worked like a charm.  They picked up and moved someplace else that’s not around my hives.

Swarms

I received a frantic call from my neighbor this morning…one of those “your bees are swarming!” calls.  Ugh.  I ran out and watched a large swarm of bees buzzing their usual 30+ feet up into a pine trees.  I ran to my hives to see if I could tell which hive was the culprit.  No signs whatsoever, just business as usual.  Usually they all go nuts when one of the hives swarms.  But they were quietly going about their business.  So I have to wonder if it came from one of my hives, or maybe it was one of my swarms still looking for a place to live.  To bee honest, I’m not sure how long swarms hang around before they find refuge or meet their demise.

Anyway, I had to do something, so I made a quickie swarm trap, as follows:

  • I grabbed a copier box and cut a small hole in the bottom for an entrance.
  • Added one frame of old comb and one frame of fresh foundation.
  • Lined the inside with lemongrass essential oil.
  • Added the lid and lined the outside of the entrance with lemongrass oil.
  • Taped every possible opening to make it secure and ensure the entrance was the only place where they could come and go.
  • Then found the hubster’s old ladder, climbed the tree and placed it between some strong branches and secured with cable ties.  Not too bad, really.

Do I think it will work.  Heck no, but I have a better chance than not doing anything at all.  So we shall see.
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Honey

On the honey front, I’ve collected about 5 or 6 frames and plan to collect more this weekend.  They’ve produced lots of honey, but still a lot of capping to do.  Unlike past years, I’m collecting as I go then will extract around Labor Day weekend.

New Addition

One last thing, I have to introduce Pink Hive, our newest addition to the apiary.  Pink Hive is a split from Purple Hive, and next week I’ll be checking to make sure we have a good laying queen.  Purple Hive is my strongest hive, the one with the Pennsylvania queen.  Purple Hive is one that swarmed recently.  They are mite-resistant bees, they populate like crazy, make lots of honey, overwintered like a charm, and until now, haven’t swarmed.  Plus, they’re gentle to work with.  Polar opposite of my Texas queens.  I bought my queen from Log Cabin Bee Farm.  The mated queens aren’t cheap, but they are top quality and worth every penny.  You only need one good hive to get more hives going.  My goal is to get all of my hives transitioned to this amazing PA stock.
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So there you go, the latest and greatest.  The girls are doing great.  At least they’re getting their swarming out of the way before it’s too late in the season.  They still have time to build back up for winter.  Fingers crossed for a good honey harvest!  Happy summer everyone!

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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Swarm #2 Caught on Video!

Monday, April 18, 2016

Swarm #2 happened the day after Swarm #1.  However, this one we managed to capture on video as it was happening!

Over the past two years, we only ever stared up 40 feet in the trees waving good riddens to our swarms.  They were finally kind enough to land in a 5 ft shrub, so we successfully captured our first swarm and rehomed it in Green Hive.  They’re doing great.

The next day (Sunday) we had a second swarm.  Interesting that all of our swarms have occurred between 11 and 1pm, mostly on weekends.  This one definitely came from Mint Hive.  I managed to video record the swarm as it was happening, which you can see on YouTube above.  Pretty cool, especially for those who don’t know what swarms are and have never experienced one.

Quick recap – swarms are actually good for the bees and a signs that they are healthy and thriving.  Not a fun for the beekeeper if the colony is lost, but healthy and natural for the bees.  It’s their natural way of splitting the hive and making more space so they can continue reproducing and bringing more wonderful bees into the world.  We need them desperately, so if that’s what it takes, then so bee it!

Below is a photo of the cluster.  Yes, these are ALL bees!  Not a nest, not a hive…just 100% pure bees clustering around their queen and waiting for their scout bees to come back and lead them to their new home.  Amazing creatures, indeed.

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Blue Hive Goes Bye Bye

The 2nd swarm was successfully captured and rehomed in Blue Hive (see photo below with the poop deck attached).   There had been lots of commotion in front of the hives for several hours after, but everything calmed down and I thought all was good, until I checked Blue Hive the next day.  The entire swarm had absconded and Blue Hive was left empty.

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New Beekeeping Term – “Absconding”

In the beekeeping world, absconding means that ALL of the bees left the hive and moved on – unlike a swarm where the queen splits the hive, taking half the bees with her and leaving the other half behind.

New colonies are the most common absconders – a newly hived package of bees, or in this case a newly rehived swarm that decides their new home doesn’t feel like home.  A colony can abscond at any time, even years after being established.  Yep, a colony can just pack up and go…poof, bye bye.  They always have their reasons though, usually because they’re bothered by something related to their living conditions.

Lesson Learned

My thought, in the case of Blue Hive, is that the swarm was too large for the 8 frame medium box I had dropped them in.  The 2nd swarm was much larger than the first.  In the future, I’ll set up two 8-frame medium boxes rather than one.  I had planned on adding the new box within a day or two, but they didn’t hang around long enough for that.

My other thought is that maybe the frames hadn’t aired out long enough so they didn’t like the smell.  Could bee a combination of things.

They were Texas bees, very hearty and good honey producers, but a bit hot tempered and quick to swarm.  I’m hoping to get a split from the Pennsylvania bees that I had queened back in the fall.  They’re well-mannered, mite resistant, they’ve reproduced nicely, and they overwintered well.  We just have to see how well they produce honey, but I’m willing to split them anyway.  Afterall, it’s about the bees, not about me getting honey.  I have to remind myself of that sometimes. :o)

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.

 

Musical Bees Revue

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This past week has been crazy trying to keep up with these girls. Everyone has their own thing going on. It doesn’t help that I’ve become a bit hive crazy. No more, I’m done splitting and adding new hives. I’m up to five hives and one nuc. Just working now on building up the ones we have so we can get them through winter. The entries below explain all about our musical bees – swapping, splitting, adding, splitting. There really is some method to the madness.

June 10, 2014 (Tuesday) – Two Mail Order Texas Queens

Last week I started Purple Hive from several Blue Hive frames. I knew it was a bad split and that they probably didn’t have enough resources to make a new queen. I was right. They’ve adapted to their new hive just fine, however they have very little brood and no signs of queen cells. It takes 24 hours for the queen smell to dissipate, at which point they realize they are queenless and will begin straightaway on producing a new queen.

I checked around and there were no local queens available. I decided to bite the bullet and order another Texas queen for Purple Hive. I know, I know, I didn’t say nice things about the Texas queens in my last post – they’re a little temperamental, but they’re available, and darn if they’re not hearty and productive and bred to bee mite resistant. Anyway, the real cost is shipping the little buggers 3-5 day USPS. However, 2-3 queens can be purchased for the same shipping fee, so it makes sense to order multiple queens. Who knows, Blue Hive might need a queen!

June 14, 2014 (Saturday) – The Royal Fiascos

My queens arrived on Saturday. Actually they arrived Friday, but I didn’t know it. I had called the post office the day prior and asked that they not leave the bees in our mailbox. They didn’t leave the bees in the mailbox, but they didn’t drop them off at the house either. Instead, they held them at the post office and left messages on my cell phone, which I never check during the day because I can’t get cell phone reception at my work. Doh! So I worried all evening and into the morning until my perfect hubster picked them up and reported that everyone was alive and kicking. Yay!

I wanted to get my new royals into the hives that same Saturday evening. As planned, I installed one queen in Purple Hive. Easy peasy. Then I opened Blue Hive and found fresh brood and larvae. Blue Hive had a new laying queen. Good news, but that left me with a hive less queen. Luckily I had planned on that as a possibility and had the hubster lower down the nuc that we’d set as a bait hive. It had 5 new frames and was ready to go. I pulled several frames from yellow hive, which had gone from sketchy to crazy productive, and swapped them with several fresh nuc frames.

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I installed the queen cage and closed it up. But for the life of me, I could not find the correct entrance blocker for the nuc, so I ended up using one that was just a smidge too high, causing a very small gap between the boxes. Too small, I thought, for the bees to get through.

June 16, 2014 (Monday) – The Drifters

I returned home in the evening after a meeting and went up to remove the entrance blocker. I noticed robbers slipping through the gap. I opened the top and I saw maybe 20 bees in the hive with the queen. They’d all drifted back to their original hive. Doh! Too dark to do anything about it, I went inside and lost another night’s sleep wondering when I’d get the chance to make another split, and hoping the queen would hold on for another day.

June 17, 2014 (Tuesday) – Good Way to Start the Day

My chance came at 6:30 am the next morning. I never work the bees that early, but it was beautiful and bright and warm outside, so I put on my suit, lit the smoker and got to work.

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I pulled the queen and her posse from the nuc and they looked alive and very active. I set them aside and opened Green Hive. Another Carneolan hive, the bees were gentle and easy. I found several swarm cells (If I’d only known, I could have saved $83 bucks). They’ve been getting crowded, and having been over wintered, I suspect Green Hive may have swarmed since traffic has noticeably died down in front. Still lots of bees and they have brood. I took the top super, which still held mostly undrawn frames, and I placed it above the bottom box, splitting the brood chamber and giving the queen plenty more room to reproduce.

I pulled several frames of brood and placed them in the nuc, and replaced those with undrawn frames. The queen was installed in the nuc. The nuc was closed, and this time, I placed the correct size entrance blocker in the entrance.

That started my day in a good mood!

June 18, 2014 (Wednesday) – Purple Hive Has Released Their Queen

Purple Hive has released their queen! So much excitement and activity in that little hive of only 2 weeks. I suspect they’ll build up quickly with their new Texas queen.

One super has been added to Yellow Hive. They’re my first year package hive, but they’re building up so quickly that I stopped feeding them several weeks ago and am hoping they produce some honey.

Green Hive has produced more honey than anyone.  The race is on for all the other hives to catch up!

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June 20, 2014 (Friday) – Yay! Everyone Has a Queen

Yay, the nuc has released their queen!  I unblocked their entrance and placed some branches in front so they can reorient.  Now we’re in “hurry up and wait” mode.  I’m hoping they build up enough over the next month to get themselves through winter.  Come mid July, all of the bees will begin winding down and their focus will be on preparing for winter – less reproduction, less drones, less nectar and pollen as dirth sets in, and more stashing away stores and honey.

Time for a Vacation!

I pick up another order of boxes and frames this weekend.  Once those are assembled, we’ll add a few more supers onto the larger hives.  That should sustain them through my vacation.  Yes, I am going on vacation and leaving the hubster with the bees!  I would take him with me, but he has a small business to run, so I’m going on a trip with my dad to visit and take photos of his last 4 state capitols – a project that’s been in the works for over 30 years.  I shall report the hubster’s events upon my return.   Happy beekeeping!

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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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Our First Swarm – Part 1

May 25, 2014 (Sunday)

Swarm

I was in the garage when I heard it, a loud buzzing hum. I’d never seen one or heard one before, but for weeks I’ve known it was coming. Blue hive had given clear indication and all the time in the world to prepare. Our first swarm…just like the videos. A massive cloud of bees leaving the hive and traveling to the highest tree branch they could find (little buggers!), about 40 feet up onto a branch that appeared unreachable. They gathered into a large clump, at least 5 lbs of bees, then quieted down and just hung there, leaving me staring in amazement of what just happened, excitement at the prospect of collecting my first swarm, and confusion because I had no idea how we were going to get them down. In the meantime, the hubster is freaking out because he thinks the neighbors might see the bees and call the exterminators, or animal control, or some local authority. The fire department with those long truck ladders would be perfect, I thought. I had no contraption prepared, no bait trap made. Shame, shame, shame on me.

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Swarms are common in hives that have successfully made it through the winter.  It means they’re healthy and productive. They build up fast, become congested, and the queen leaves the hive with half the colony.  It’s not a bad thing, unless the beekeeper can’t retrieve and rehive them.  Swarms will stay in place for minutes, hours, even days. It depends on how long it takes the scout bees to find a new location. They’re actually very docile because they no longer have a home to protect.  Thinking they’d stay put til at least late afternoon, we carried on and planned to deal with them later.

We were expecting my in laws for lunch. They arrived around 11 am, within 15 minutes after the swarm occurred. Our visitors left about 2 hours later and the hubster made a light speed trip to get supplies for devising a bucket conduit. I was supposed to watch the bees. 5 minutes after he left, the swarm began to stir, and instead of watching, I reacted by running to the garage for who knows what…A bait trap?…A bucket? I came back and they were gone. Ugh!!! I had no idea where they’d gone.

What a disappointment.  I was angry at myself for knowing it was coming and not having a plan – hard lesson learned. However, I was glad we got to see it, that we weren’t at work when it happened, and that we knew it had happened. Timing is everything with these girls. They do what they want, when they want. Heading them off comes with knowledge and experience. I have a long way to go in that department.

The hubster returned with his conduit contraption…just incase. I walked the yard, listened for nearby screams from terrified neighbors…nothing, nada, all those bees were gone. At least that’s what we thought…

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.

Splitsville for Blue Hive

April 26, 2014 (Saturday)

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Spring is already passing quickly and I’m falling behind on my reports. All three hives are doing well, but blue hive especially is bursting at the seams, perhaps ready for a split…or two to help prevent swarming.  I’m seeing reports of swarms everywhere.  They say happy bees swarm, so I guess its a good thing, as long as you can retrieve them and place them back into your own hives.

With that said, I gave all three hives a good inspection last weekend…

Yellow Hive

I installed Yellow Hive about two weeks ago.  They’re feeding well, they appear active, they have some brood, but not tons of it.  The outer frames have new comb and they’ve built a comb ladder up to the inner cover. That tells me they’re ready for a new box so they can continue to grow.  Granted!  Yellow hive is now two levels high.   I closed ‘em up and moved on to Green Hive…

Green Hive

Green hive is just rolling along, not terribly active, not filled to the brim with bees, but doing ok.  I suspect they had too much space over the winter and had a hard time of it, but they made it through.  I reduced their boxes last week (04-19-14) from three to two, hoping that would reduce their stress levels by giving them less area to maintain.  They weren’t filling the space anyway, and this configuration seems to suit their size and activity much better.

I considered requeening, but decided against it.  And I’m glad.   Their numbers looked good.  They were out and about, they had some brood, the laying pattern looked fine, few drones, all indicators that the queen is still going, albeit slow.  When the time is right, they’ll make their own queen.  Besides, if I spend money on a queen, I want another BeeWeaver Texas queen like I have in Blue Hive.

Blue Hive

What can I say about these little buggers?  My little blue hive overwintered beautifully and has taken off.  Tons of bees, they’re super active, a bit temperamental, but busy laying lots of brood and more drone comb than I care for.  I fear this hive may be thinking about swarming in the near future.  No signs of queen cells, but lots of drone laid in burr comb.  So much so that the frames between the boxes are sticking together.  I read that adjusting the bee space between boxes will help with this, but I don’t know how to fix the space between boxes.  It is what it is.

This is a great time to split the hive, start a nucleus (nuc) colony, and see if they’ll make a new BeeWeaver queen.  I took out two bee covered brood and larvae frames (I probably should have taken more bees) from blue hive and replaced them with empty brood comb frames that I had in the freezer (pre-thawed, of course).   I added the brood frames and bees to my nuc, surrounded by wet drawn comb frames and a full frame of honey.

For feed, the hubster used his smallest size drill bit and drilled about 10-15 holes on the lid of a mason jar filled with sugar syrup.  Worked perfectly.

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 Welcome Baby Nuc

We’ll closed Baby Nuc for 24 hours.  The following evening, I placed a branch in front of the nuc entrance and added the entrance reducer on the smallest setting.   The branch will cause the bees to reorient themselves as they come out of the hive so they return to their new location rather than returning to their previous hive.

You may also notice that Baby Nuc is not painted.  I actually painted with with Linseed oil rather than paint.

Important to keep an eye on the night time temps.  If it looks like freezing, then Baby Nuc will come inside for the night.

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 The Hive Family is Growing

We moved our raised bed to make room for more hives.  We now have space for two more next to our existing hives.   If all goes as planned (which it never does, but if it does), Baby Nuc will transfer to an 8 frame hive, and I will split Blue Hive again using a much better method that I learned about AFTER making this split (of course).   Lots of bees in blue hive.

Of course, new hives  mean new colors.  Woo hoo!  I have the paint selected and sitting in the workshop, ready and waiting to be revealed!