Tag Archive | weak

Rules Don’t Apply to Bees – Part 2 (The Girls Come Home)

Sunday, August 24, 2014 (1PM)

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A week after Pink Hive Swarmed, I’m at a vineyard with friends, and the phone rings. I answered to a frantic hubster who is claiming that the swarm has returned and “they are moving back into Pink Hive”.

“Are you sure they’re not doing orientation flights?”, I asked. “No, I know what a swarm looks like,” he said. Indeed, at this point, he’s seen more swarms than I have. What’s more, he videotaped the event AND sent me a convincing photo. The swarm covered the entire front surface of pink hive.

WTH?

Seriously? What the heck? It had to be the same swarm. I can’t believe a stray swarm would just happen to move into the same hive that just swarmed…unless they sensed that hive was weak. It wasn’t visibly weak though. In fact, I would never have known it swarmed if I hadn’t seen the swarm myself. I planned to wait 2 weeks before checking for brood. As it stood, inside and out, the numbers looked good!

We were thrilled to have them back, of course, but were a bit dumbfounded by what had happened.  So I proceeded to research the heck out of it.

Potential Theories

Theory 1:  I’ve heard of swarms moving into an empty hive.  That makes sense, it’s a ready-made home with no inhabitants and no threats.   Pink Hive was not an empty hive, it was an active hive, so this is unlikely.

Theory 2:  I’ve heard of swarms moving into weak hives – hives that are low in numbers and are either queenless or have a weak queen.  Since the hive had just swarmed, there’s certainly a chance the hive could have been queenless.  They were lower in numbers, but not weak.  Perhaps it was weaker than I thought.  It was a first year hive, and the swarm was a big one, so there’s no doubt the population was hit hard, regardless of appearance.

Theory 3:  Sometimes when a swarm leaves a hive, if the queen is left behind, they will return to the hive within minutes.  They’ll remain in the hive until a new virgin queen emerges, then they will swarm again – usually within a week or two.  When this happens, it is best to split the hive or create a fake swarm before they swarm again.  This should prevent the second swarm from occurring.   However, they came back within hours or minutes.  They came back a week later!

Theory 4:  They’ll often return to the hive if the queen is lost or damaged during the swarm process.  Again, this usually occurs within hours or minutes, which makes me wonder if the queen had been damaged or killed during our botched attempt to retrieve them or during their journey elsewhere.  This seems the most likely situation to me.  Their numbers were halved from their original swarm.  Perhaps their chosen location didn’t work out.

Theory 5:  They just needed a vacation, perhaps somewhere warm, a little less crowded where they could relax and enjoy some sites.  The Carolinas maybe, I hear that’s a popular place with the bees.  They’ve worked hard this season, they earned it :o)

If Only Bees Could Talk

Boy, wouldn’t we like to know the real story?  I do know that there’s a chance of another swarm, if it hasn’t happened already.  The traffic is minimal at the entrance.  I added another box for space. They have tons of capped brood. I’ll give them a check this weekend.

My money says they’ll swarm this Sunday, just after our big family arrives for a nice outdoor get together…in true BooBee fashion. Ha ha. Nothing like giving my inlaws a show!  After all, Sundays mid-mornings are their favorite time to swarm.  Of course I’ll either be useless the rest of the day, or I’ll just let them go…again.

Oh well, they’ll do what they want to do, when they want to do it.  :o]

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

Sticky Board Reveals All

July 25-28, 2013 (Days 76-79)  – Pollen Patties and Sticky Board Inspection

After disappointment the week prior, I got back in and gave the girls some pollen patties.  They need some protein since the pollen sources have died off.  I really should have been digging for the queen in YH2, since she is, or was, the likely source of my problems. Instead I took note of a half dozen more beetles and started my research on how to get rid of them before they get really bad.

Sticky Board Inspection

I decided to place sticky boards at the bottom of the hive for three days to help monitor my pest issues.  I lined the boards with a thick layer of Crisco – because beetles supposedly love Crisco.

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The sticky board method is really used to determine the mite populations in the hives. I insert the boards into the back slot on the hives, beneath the screened bottom board. The bees can’t get through the screen, so the boards only catch mites and small parasites, pollen, bee poo (yes, bees do poo), and other savory items. The mites fall off the bees and stick to the board. Three days later, I remove the board and count the mites.

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When I removed the boards, I found pollen, one dead bee, not too many mites, one small hive beetle (still kicking), one unexpected wax moth larvae (not good), and lots of small black crumbs, which based on my research may be wax moth poo (yes, even moths poo). I can’t look at these boards without thinking about the hungarian tea leaves and how the fortune tellers can read the leaves to tell a person’s fortune. I suppose you can “read” the boards and determine the bees’ fortune.

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So I’m at a point w/ YH2 where I have a failing or dead queen, I have hive beetles to deal with, and I have wax moths.  Did I mention I won a $250 Amazon gift card at a recent business conference?  I’m spending a good chunk of it on bee pollen and organic pesticides – seriously.  There’s not much you can’t buy on Amazon.

Dealing w/ the Beetles and Moths

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not ready to trade the girls in.  They just challenge me, that’s all. But I’ve done my research and I am ready to take action.  I ordered boric acid to create homemade beetle traps.  But after speaking with my supplier, he said they probably won’t work, so I’m looking at putting in a few beetle blasters and a tray that fits beneath the bottom board.  Just add vegetable oil and some soap, and the tray just slides in and out without digging into the hive.  Supposedly they’re very effective.

The moths, well everyone talks online about BT, an organic insecticide that kills worms but is safe for bees and people and dogs.  Unfortunately it isn’t sold in the US.  I could probably get some, but it would cost $30 just for shipping.

Course of Action

Seems the best course is the make the hive strong again. It still has lots of bees. They just need a strong laying queen. My tasks this weekend are 1) find the queen, 2) if no queen, then transfer a brood frame from GH1 to YH2 so they can start making a new queen, 3) remove a box from YH2 to condense the colony and make them stronger to defend themselves from the beetles and moths, and 4) buy 2 hive beetle traps for the bottom boards and some beetle blasters.

Hey, usually I’m stumped so at least I have a plan. Hopefully the plan will help strengthen YH2 and get them going again.