Tag Archive | stores

The Price of Slacking

September 7, 2015

IMG_3355

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.

IMG_3357

 

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.

Advertisements

Musical Bees Revue

IMG_2480

 

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.

IMG_2478

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.

IMG_2471

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!

IMG_2476

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!

IMG_2483

 

 

Bees Get a Warm Day for Christmas

Saturday, December 21, 2013

IMG_3584

Hives after a recent snowfall.

My Christmas present came a few days early this year.  A sunny 60 degree day revealed 3 active hives.  I couldn’t be more excited and more grateful after a month and a half of cold and snow and wet, which for a beekeeper equates to waiting and not knowing.

Yesterday morning, Green Hive 1 and Yellow Hive 2 were busy with bees flying in and out, taking their much needed cleansing flights.  Yes, bees have to relieve themselves too or disentery could set in – one of many potential problems faced by the bees during the winter, along with excessive moisture, mites and pests, starvation and disease.  The bees can actually take quite a bit of cold, so freezing is not usually a problem.  Heck, bees are commonly kept all the way up through Canada.  If they can take those temps, then 30 degrees is nothing.

IMG_2322

A few weeks later, 60 degrees and sunny and the bees are alive and well!

Later that afternoon, Blue Hive 3 had joined the activity.   Everyone was out and about, cleaning house and enjoying the sunshine.  I opened the tops to add more food. Who knows when I’ll get a chance to peek in again.  The girls were buzzing around me a little, but they were surprisingly docile, and many were up top enjoying the candy.  I piled up their food stores and put them away til our next 60 degree day.

IMG_3608

Adding food to help them through the coming months. This photos actually shows what not to do. Only cover 1/4-1/3 of the frames on the side that first receives the morning sun. Too much coverage impedes air flow and can cause moisture to be retained in the hive.

We still have a long way to go.  January and February could be brutal, and their numbers have dwindled – typical for winter when they’re focusing on staying warm rather than reproducing.  Remember, the life of a worker bee is only about 21 days.  The closer we get to spring, the more the bees will begin eating like crazy.  This is often when the starvation sets in.  The trick is to always stay 5 steps ahead.  Now I know they’ll survive our cold, that their stores are good.  I didn’t realize how much I had missed them.  A wonderful gift indeed – a day of validation that my bees are still alive and that I must be doing something right.  Now I sit back and wait some more, and continue to hope.

Best wishes to everyone!  May your holidays bee merry and bright!  And may you and your bees bee healthy and happy in 2014!

Wooly Worm Predicts a Mild Winter

September 28, 2013 – ApiLife Var and Inspections

The Girls have been very low key lately.  They’re braving the cold nights and still going out and about during the day, gathering a surprising amount of pollen and storing lots and lots of sugar syrup.  The top boxes on Green Hive 1 (GH1) and Yellow Hive 2 (YH2) are heavy!  Yay for them.   That’s been our goal all along – to get everyone through the winter.  I’m happy to report that we’re all on the same page.

Mite Treatments Almost Complete

The 3rd and final ApiLife Var treatment has been added to GH1 and YH2.  The girls have settled down and haven’t reacted much to my recent invasions.  Maybe they’re getting used to Beezilla, or maybe Beezilla is getting better at handling the hives.  Or maybe they’ve finally realized who feeds them.  Or maybe all or none of the above…

IMG_2010

Bees Finally Initiate the Hubster

The hubster got stung for the very first time while clearing out the garden.  He’s officially one of us now.  Part of the Bee Club.  I’m sure he was standing in their flight path.  He always stands in their flight path.  I’d sting him too.  He’s more sensitive than I am, so his feelings were hurt a little.  After all, he does a lot for all of us girls.  Surprisingly the sting under his arm didn’t bother him much.  I was waiting for it to balloon up into an egg sized itchy bump so I could say ” I told you so!”, but it practically disappeared overnight.  So unfair!  Mine itch like crazy for days!

Fall Feeding and Fumagillin

All three hives are still taking in the sugar syrup as fast as I can make it.   I mixed up a batch of syrup with Fumagillin – a medication to help prevent noscema.  Noscema is a common disease for bees – similar to dysentery for humans – and occurs when they can’t get out for cleansing flights, mainly during winter.  I was told that I’m late in giving them the Fumagillin, but the weather still has its warm spurts (in the 80s today) and the girls are out and about plenty, so I think we’re ok.  Besides, better late than never.  I’ll switch back to 2:1 syrup when the Fumagillin batch is consumed.  1:1 syrup is good for building comb and brood, but 2:1 will help them build winter stores.

Drones Get Da’Boot

All three hives also have brood, but the brood production has definitely slowed down.  Dead bees are collecting around the base of the hives. The girls are kicking out the drones.  There’s no need to keep the men in the hives.  They just hang out and eat all of the food.  More will be bred in the spring when the girls need of them for mating.  For now, there’s work to be done and much food to store.  Even my little baby Blue Hive 3 (BH3) has stored quite a bit of syrup, and recently I’ve seen them bringing in large chunks of orange pollen.

BH3 – 8-Frame Boxes or Nuc?

I’m quite proud of BH3.  They’re hanging in there.  The top feeders have eliminated their robbing, however I did find a wax moth larvae.  Can’t do much about wax moths except hope the cold weather freezes them out and the girls can fend them off. I’m still debating whether BH3 should overwinter in a nuc box.  Two 8-frame mediums are not much larger than a nuc.  I don’t have high hopes for BH3 making it through the winter, but I’ll wrap them up, feed them like crazy, and hope for the best.

IMG_3440

Hive Beetles Hiding Out

Hardly any hive beetles have emerged in YH2 over the past two weeks.  Diatomaceous earth is spread beneath all three hives to catch any dropping larvae.  The Beetle Blasters caught a few, but haven’t made a huge difference.  Maybe the colder weather has helped.  Or maybe the ApiLife Var affects the beetles AND the mites.

Planning for Our First Winter

Ask 10 beekeepers a question and get 10 different answers.  That definitely applies to winter preparations.  Lots of decisions to be made. The hubster has built some prototype candy frames that can slide into the hives and feed the girls just like their sugar syrup frames.  I’ll probably make candy boards as well.  We’ll purchase roofing paper to wrap the hives.  Some beekeepers crack the top covers to ventilate their hives during the winter because moisture from condensation is very bad for bees.  I’ve also heard that 1-1/2 inch thick insulation board or foam board absorbs moisture and insulates the hives, so that’s another thought.  Some beekeepers don’t wrap their hives at all.  They leave it to the bees to survive on their own, just like in nature.  One thing is certain, I will install mouse guards as soon as I get some ½ inch mesh.

Wooly Worm Gives Us a Hint of What’s to Come

There’s just no telling what the winter will be like.  Well, actually there is.  We saw a woolly worm the other day.  The width of the wooly worm’s brown center stripe is supposed to be a good indicator of how harsh the upcoming winter will be.  The wider the stripe, the milder the winter.

wooly worm 01

This worm’s brown stripe covered 1/3 of its body.  So if the wooly worm is accurate, then the winter will be mild.  Regardless, we’ve worked too hard this summer to slack or take chances.  As with everything else, we shall prepare for the worst and hope for the best.

YH2 Makes a Come-Back

August 17, 2013 (Day 99) – Requeening Yellow Hive 2 (YH2)

Our Texas Queen Arrives via USPS

Last week YH2 was in dire straights. Still no queen to be found, no brood, and their activity seemed lifeless. They’d been like that for at least a month, despite my attempts to transfer brood from GH1, condensing the hive down to 3 boxes, and adding some pest control tactics. So I broke down and ordered a new queen from Texas.

We anxiously tracked her arrival.  She was shipped on Tuesday and she was scheduled to arrive on Friday – the one day that the hubster and I had planned on going away overnight. The hubster’s buddy was kind enough to pick her up and he dropped her off at our house on Saturday.  So she was there when we got home.

IMG_1971

She is a nice large healthy marked queen, confined in a tiny little queen cage with 4 or 5 attendants. I was anxious to get her out of that cage, so I suited up and got ready to make the introductions.

IMG_1974

Red dot marks the queen!

The Acceptance Period

A queen must be accepted slowly by her new colony. If she is released directly, then the other bees will think she is an intruder and they will kill her. Also, if she is released and the old queen still exists in the hive, then the two queens will fight to the death and the strongest will survive.  So to make sure my $50 queen was safely accepted into YH2, I first had to do a thorough inspection to verify whether the old queen was still in the hive.

A Surprise in YH2

Box 3 is filled with heavy frames of stored sugar syrup honey. Each frame must weigh at least 5 lbs each, so the box itself weighs about 50 lbs.  These frames will keep the girls well fed throughout the winter.

IMG_3411

I worked my way down to Box 2. I pulled the second frame and the hubster pointed and yelled “what the heck is that”. I flipped the frame over. Low and behold, there was a beautiful, large, long sleek, unmistakable unmarked queen.  I don’t know when, how, who, what, where or how, but YH2 requeened itself!  I looked and never found a queen cell, so this was the last thing we expected to find.

I’m thrilled that YH2 has such a gorgeous queen, and I’m also thrilled that the hubster (yes, he saw her first) and I were able to identify her unmarked.  We were so excited we forgot to take a picture.  Ugh!  We pulled more frames and found capped brood, larvae, and eggs.  None of this existed a week ago.  The young queen is laying well.

Now What?

And then confusion hit.  Now what?  I have a $50 queen that needs a hive.  I’m not going to requeen GH1 since that queen is doing great too. I’m learning to have faith in the girls, they’ll do what’s best for the hive, given time; and I will think twice before spending money on another queen.  Unless I attempt to sell her to someone in my bee club, we really have only one option.

So off I went to buy a new shade of paint…

to be continued…

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.

IMG_3383

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!

IMG_3388

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.

IMG_3317

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.