Tag Archive | super

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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Gather, Extract, Bottle

Sunday, July 12, 2015


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You know that saying about something is attracted to something like bees are attracted to honey?  Unless you’ve actually extracted honey, you couldn’t possibly know just how attracted to honey they really are.

Bees smell honey. Then they go tell their friends where to find the honey…and they tell their friends…and they tell their friends…and within minutes the driveway, the garage, the pool, the entire front yard is enveloped in bees, like something out of a horror movie.  Then the hubster is unhappy because he can’t in the pool because it’s surrounded by bees, and I need to get the bees out of the garage…and don’t let them in the house cause the cats will chase them and get stung…then I’m pulling out the hose to squirt the bees away and wash the honey smell off the floor, the driveway, anything and everything’s that’s come in contact with the honey.  Not to mention, I kick into rescue mode and start fishing the little buggers out of the pool.  All of this is hypothetical by the way :o) Next year we’ll sneak everything out of the garage and into the workshop around midnight when the bees are sleeping.

The hardest part of extracting honey is not letting the bees know you’re doing it.  Stealth is key.  I learned my lesson last year, escaping with uncovered boxes down to the garage and leaving them outside for even a few minutes and attracting hoards of bees that hovered outside the garage door all day.

Based on that experience, I improved my process this year.  In fact, I was quite pleased with myself and how I managed to bypass the drama that we experienced last year.  At least until the hubster opened the garage door the next day while the honey boxes and some leftover honey were sitting on the garage floor.  Not to mention, they smelled the remnants from the day before.  Bees are smart!  But getting back to extraction day, I actually came up with a good process.  Not a perfect process, but a good one.

Step 1.  Prepare

Think smart.  Preparation is key.  Get the tools and brush ready, get the fume board ready, get a wheelbarrow ready, get top covers ready, have the smoker going, get the gear on, and have a completely enclosed facility ready to house the honey.

Step 2.  Fuming the Bees, One Box at a Time

  • Put a top cover top side down in the bottom of the wheel barrow.
  • Lightly smoke around the top edges of the hive and at the entrance to let them know you’re coming in.  But not too much.  You don’t want to smoke in the honey.
  • Spray the fume board 3 times with the almond scented fuming spray, and place the board on top of the hive.
  • Wait  5 – 10 minutes for the bees to clear out.

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Step 3.  Remove the box

  • Most of the bees should bee out of the top box by now, so remove the top box and place it within the top cover that’s in the bottom of the wheel barrow.
  • Immediately place another top cover securely on top of the honey box so that it is completely closed on the top and on the bottom.

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Step 4. Fume again and escape (bee stealthy) with the honey

  • Spray the fume board one or two more times, then place on top of the next box to bee removed.
  • While the fume board empties the next box, quickly run your honey super down to the garage or where ever you’re extracting.
  • Life the lid and brush off as many bees as possible – what’s left will go into the garage with you along with the honey box.
  • Close the door behind you!!!

Step 5.  Repeat steps 2-4

If successful, then you’ll have all honey supers safely in the garage, with a small amount of bee activity outside the door, and a small amount of bee activity inside the garage.

It’s gonna happen, some bees will bee caught up with the honey boxes.  Don’t open the garage door to let them out. TRUST ME on this.

We extracted over 100 lbs of honey this past weekend.  That’s from about 5 boxes.  Amazing bees!

Overall Apiary Status

So how have the girls been doing up to this point?  Well, other than finding bee activity in my swarm traps and discovering (after purchasing a new hive, new beekeeping britches, and setting up a new hive location) that they were not swarms but robber bees, we haven’t had much drama.  They’ve endured much rain, and much heat and humidity this summer.  I’ve left them alone, and they’ve been thriving (that should tell you something right there).  And so has the garden.  We have cucumbers coming out our ying yangs, and tomatoes are coming up fast.

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Plans for Using the Honey

So what to do with all that honey?  We’ll sell some of it, give some away as gifts, make alcoholic honey beverages, cook with it, make creamed honey for Christmas presents, I’ll use it in soaps and potions.  So many things we can do with honey.  So you can expect lots of tutorial posts in the coming months.  :o)

In the meantime, I’ve placed supers back on all the hives, and even added a third box to my little yellow hive, which is still taking syrup and is growing like crazy.  Let’s hope the big hives fill out and cap some unfinished frames and build out the rest of the supers before winter.  Trying to follow that 90% rule – only extract frames that are 90% capped.  We can use some late summer honey for overwintering the bees, and maybe they can spare a bit more for us.  We shall see!

 

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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Super Spacers DIY

May 23, 2014 (Friday)

I’ve added supers on both Blue and Green Hives.  In fact, Blue hive looks like a skyscraper compared to pink and yellow.  Since we don’t feed the bees once supers are added (the girls fend for themselves since we want pure honey), I didn’t have the upper entrance exposed.  Also, we didn’t have any entrances or vent holes between all of those boxes.  With all of that activity, it can get darn hot in those hives.  Not to mention,the forager bees didn’t have direct access to the honey supers, which means they had to travel all the way up and down through 3-4 very busy boxes to get in or out of the hive.  That does not make for efficient honey production!

The Solution

I saw some nifty spacers at my last bee meeting and immediately put the hubster to work.  Using 1″x1″ lengths of wood, he built frames with entrance holes that fit between the supers.  Super easy and much needed.

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I also added a 1″x4″ spacer frame at the top, above the inner cover, to elevate the top cover an expose the inner cover entrance.  We also drilled a hole into this spacer for yet another entrance and for added air circulation at the top of the hive.

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The girls wasted no time using these new entrances – a simple solution with great benefits. Quicker access means faster honey production, and better air circulation makes for happier and healthier bees!

The Tradeoff: Bees or Honey?

We added our first honey super to Yellow Hive 2 (YH2) last weekend. The plan was to add the queen excluder beneath the first super, stop feeding, and start letting the girls make honey. The first two boxes go to winter feeding, and if we’re lucky, the girls will fill up a third box to share. Just when it was time to add the queen excluders, heck if they were’t the wrong size.

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The queen excluder is a screen that’s placed over the top brood box. It allows the worker bees to pass through and into the honey supers; however, because the queen is much larger than the workers, she is excluded from entering the honey supers and laying eggs. Eggs in honey is just icky. Rose, from my club, assured me that the queen would not move up that high very quickly, so I still had time to exchange my 10 frame excluders for 8-frame.

To Use or Not to Use a Queen Excluder

Two days later I made an emergency run after work to visit my bee supplier. I took a short cut, which should have taken no more than 30 minutes. An hour and a half later, after getting lost and taking every wrong turn possible, I finally arrived to make the swap. Rose had mentioned the idea of not using a queen excluder. So I asked my bees supplier and he agreed that I didn’t have to use the queen excluder. “If you can monitor the queen’s location in the hive, then brood boxes can be rotated to ensure that she always remains toward the bottom of the hive and never makes it up high enough to lay eggs in the honey.”

Actually, many beekeepers don’t use queen excluders at all because they are high maintenance. The bees build comb on them, blocking the passage ways. Drones get stuck in them. Many also feel the excluder inhibits honey production because workers may be discouraged from passing through the screen and entering the supers. Some beekeepers call them honey excluders.

When to Stop Feeding?

Also, I figured I’d stop feeding once the first super was added. However, the girls are still feeding like crazy on the sugar water. With all the rain we’ve been getting, they’ve have been spending a lot of time indoors. During our class, we were told to keep feeding the 1:1 sugar syrup until they stop taking it. Since pollen and nectar are low this season, I’ll also add pollen patties to their diet to increase their protein. And I plan to spray the new frames with a mix of sugar syrup and Honey B Healthy in hopes that they might draw them out faster.

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The Role of a First Year Beekeeper

Seasoned beekeepers in my club told us not to think about honey in our first year. As first year beekeepers, it is our job to grow the colonies so they can survive the winter. Their advice has served me well thus far, so I will continue to grow the hives. As much as I’d love some honey (and toward the end we might still get a box), I want my bees to have plenty of food stores for the winter, and I want their numbers to be strong. A strong colony is much more effective at fighting off pests and diseases, and a larger cluster is a warmer cluster.

So plans have changed…again. At least now I know our purpose and I have a plan for getting there. The bees come first. I won’t use a queen excluder…yet. I’ll continue feeding. Her highness can lay as she pleases, and the bees can draw out comb on the new frames and continue to grow their numbers and store food that can be given back to them in the winter. It’s the right decision. It’s the smart decision, finally. If they get to a third super while things are still blooming, then I may add a queen excluder so we can harvest a little bit of honey for ourselves. But the goal is to get them through winter and then next year, if all goes as planned…we shall be rewarded with honey!

Staying Ahead of the Bees

Sunday, June 9, 2013 (Day 30)

Yesterday the temps were in the high 80s to low 90s – sunny, bright, no wind, and a a tad bit humid. The girls are going crazy again, out foraging and flying actively about the hives. I did check the feeders. Green Hive 1 (GH1) still has a good quarter of a bucket filled with sugar water. Yellow Hive 2’s (YH2) bucket was completely empty, so I had to run in and throw together a quick batch – part of which I ended up throwing out because the feeders needed to be cleaned and I didn’t realize it until I’d already poured.  Ugh!

Staying ahead of the girls is a lot harder than I’d imagined.  Based on the amount of new comb they produced last week, their super high activity levels, and their feeding frenzy, I decided that I need to do a better job of keeping up.  They work fast!  So my strategy is to stock up.

Last night I mixed close to a gallon of sugar water for the feeders.  This morning I visited my bee supplier and picked up six medium boxes, frames and foundation, and two queen excluders. We are assembling and painting as fast as possible (AFAP) so I can get two more boxes on during my next inspection, which I hope will be tomorrow or Tuesday. Being true to their gender, the girls don’t like to wait.

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Here’s the good news…once these new boxes are added, I’ll have three brood chambers on each hive. Then I’ll add a queen excluder.  The queen excluder is a screen that is placed over the top of the last brood chamber.  Worker bees can get through the screen to draw comb and make honey in the honey supers (the boxes that are placed above the queen excluder).  The queen is too large to fit through the screen, so she will remain in the brood chamber to continue laying eggs and creating more bees.  This keeps the brood or eggs/larvae out of the honey.

My point is, each week we’re getting closer and closer to honey!  Yay!

Keep in mind though that the first filled honey super goes to the bees for winter feeding. Whatever is left will be for us. But let’s not lose focus.  The first year is about growing the colonies and keeping the bees alive. We are not to expect honey, so I will not jinx by making unknown promises.  However, if the girls decide to reward our efforts with some sweet liquid gold, then bring on the honey!!!