Sunday, July 17, 2011

Schoolhouse robbing and commercial bee sales

This morning I watched as bees from hive #1 went over to Schoolhouse hive #3 and helped themselves to "their" frame which was donated yesterday.  Hive #3 has no defenses whatsoever, so on went the entrance reducer set to the smallest opening.  Hopefully they don't get too hot in there.  I did peek inside and saw that they are eagerly drinking from the feeder.  No one hanging off the inner cover this time.  I refuse to give up on this little hive.  I think it can be saved... Hopefully.  Which reminds me -

It really bothers me that I had a commercial bee supplier tell me to just combine this hive with another and forget about the queen (I happen to seriously value my queens).  They said it isn't worth the effort and expense to try and build up the small hive - that we can just buy a new one in spring for the same amount.

What are your thoughts?  Is this a valid argument? Am I being too sensitive?  Or is this just a way to build springtime package sales?

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Encouraging July 16 Inspection

Today's inspections didn't take more than 30 minutes. It was really hot so I was inspired to go quickly, and perhaps now I have a better idea of what I am looking for as well. I was generally pleased with what I found this week.

Hive #1 - As of now this is my strongest hive. What a population boom! Lots of activity at the entrance and plenty of new little faces to greet me. Box #1 (on the bottom) is full. Saw eggs and brood in varying stages. Box #2 is mostly full, with only frame #1 being empty. Frame 2 is 1/2 full and frame 8 is about 1/4 full. Mostly brood but honey and pollen stores look good too. Queenie has been doing an outstanding job! Saw some drone cells and a few drones wandering the hive, but not many. Box #3 is still empty. Hopefully it will fill up in the next few weeks. Since things looked so good in this hive I removed frame #5 from box 2 to give the Schoolhouse Hive a boost. I am raising the strength of this hive up from 50% to 75%. YAHOO!!!
Swarm Hive #2 - This hive is moving along nicely. I accidentally inspected the boxes in reverse order, so Box #1 did not get a thorough inspection, but I could see it is mostly full. Box #2 is about 1/2 full with frames #1, 6-8 still unused, frames 4-5 are about 1/2 full and frames 2-3 about 1/2 to 3/4 full. Queen was sighted on frame #4. Box #3 is still unused. Considering how new this hive is, I am pleased with how well it is progressing. I am estimating this hive strength at about 70%. I am relieved at how quickly this hive has gotten up to speed and have high hopes that it will fill up before winter.
Schoolhouse Hive #3 - This poor little hive is really struggling to get itself going. Yesterday I removed the largest piece of comb which came from the old hive. It was the piece which was too mangled to get into a frame. The bees were clinging to it (instead of working) even though there really wasn't much of anything to salvage. I figured it needed to be removed to motivate the bees to move to and start working on the frames. The other two combs which I put into a frame look okay, with a few capped cells, so I left them in. There wasn't much activity on them though. I will likely remove them next week as they don't look like they will be productive beyond what is currently in them. The queen was sighted walking on the bottom board. I removed a frame of brood from hive #1 to give this one a boost. The bees went to it quickly. Hopefully this will boost their morale and help build enough numbers to get them going before fall. Is it possible that a hive could be depressed? They do seem like they perked up after adding the new frame. I am estimating the hive strength at about 20%. It will be amazing if this one pulls through the winter. Perhaps I should put them in an observation hive(?). I also moved the entrance feeder to the top of the frames since the other hives were robbing the feeder.

Today I learned something new: I can see why people would use escape screens or fume boards to empty out a super. It is a real pain using a bee brush to remove bees from full frames (especially when they are less than happy about you being there to begin with). - I did however have the pleasure of seeing two new bees hatching today. They were so cute. I also learned that they are quite helpless after hatching. One of them fell off the frame, so I had to pick it up and deliver it back home. Poor thing.

So, this week's inspection went well, but I forgot to check for mites. I'll wash off and check the IPM board this week for sure!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Hive #3 installed - mostly

The schoolhouse bees were so well behaved.  They waited patiently in their styrofoam box through the night and this morning.  I got up early to install them in the hive, before it warmed up enough for them to begin their day.  After a light sugar water misting, I managed to secure two of their combs in a frame with rubber bands.  The third comb was too damaged to wrangle into a frame, so I just put it in the hive with bees attached.  I figure I will remove it in a day or two -  I just wanted to get most of the bees inside the new hive.  Comb #4 was too damaged and too small to deal with.  Happily, I did see the queen on the second comb, so I know she survived yesterday's bombing and she is well inside the new hive.  Hopefully this hive can get enough of a start before going into winter. I know I will be feeding them a lot, and will likely pull a frame of brood from hive #2 to help them increase their numbers.
I never imagined that beekeeping would be this fun and exciting!

Update - unfortunately I set up a robbing situation.  I left the styrofoam box near the new hive so the rest of the bees would make their way into their new home.  But unfortunately the other hives caught wind of the spilled honey still inside it.  There are bees all over now... I guess I should go do something.

My 1st Beehive removal

There is at least one human on this earth that thinks I know what I am doing....  Here's the story.

Last week I saw a post on the Wasatch Bee Keeping Association's FB page about a school in need of a Bee Keeper's help.  They found that they had a beehive inside one of the vents at the school which was right next to a heavily used ramp, so the bees definitely had to go before school started.  I called and left a message, but I really didn't think anything would come of it.  On Monday, the principal of the school called and said no one else had offered to come out.  So today, the kids and I took a ride out, not knowing what to expect or really even knowing how to remove a hive.
It turns out the vent was positioned about 4 feet off the ground, and was about 1 foot high by 3-4 feet across, so plenty of room to work while planted firmly on the ground.

After applying some smoke, the custodian and I managed to get the cover and wire mesh off and reveal the hive right smack in the middle of the vent, and close to the front, so it was easily accessible.

It was a small hive, with 4 rows of comb, some brood and honey.  I figure it was about the size of a mini-basketball for kids.  The bees were calm while being uncovered.  The poor custodian was a bit jumpy, and once the cover was off, he stayed well away, watching from a safe distance.

I figured that this shouldn't be too difficult, so I suited up and got to work. 

First, I sprayed the bees and hive with sugar water to keep the bees from flying too much.  This worked wonderfully.  Most of the bees stayed put on the comb, and I was able to gently pull the first comb away without incident.

The rest of the combs had to be cut from the top, and to my surprise, this went smoothly as well.  I did get sticky from dripping honey, but more importantly the bees were very accommodating during the move.  I put the combs in a Styrofoam cooler (the one from the previous swarm),  with as many bees as I could keep on them, and put the lid on - keeping it cracked enough for the bees to gain access.  I did manage to find the queen wandering around in the vent (and what a fine looking queen she is), so I scooped her up and relocated her with the rest of the hive.  With the queen in the cooler, the rest of the bees should readily follow her.  I positioned the cooler on a chair next to the vent so the foraging bees would have a chance to rejoin the hive.  It was windy, so I placed several rocks on top to keep the lid in place until I returned at dusk.

At this point I am thinking this was too easy.  All was going according to plan.  No one got stung, No dramatic bee clouds.  Combs removed and the bees were going where they are supposed to.  A textbook case.

So away we went.  Off to visit some friends and have dinner while we waited for dusk.  All was right with the world.

When we came back, all the bees indeed were inside the cooler (YIPPEE!), but something had happened to the cooler.  The entire side of it was broken!  As in a big chunk GONE.  Either I loaded the top with too many rocks, or some clown came along and threw a big rock at it.  (My guess is that someone was throwing rocks at the bees by the way the pieces were inside the box.  The lid was not damaged).  I really hope the queen wasn't killed or injured.  What a shame it would be if something happened to her.  

So now I had a blown out cooler with a bunch of unhappy bees in it, that I was supposed to load into my car and drive home... and I forgot to bring a sheet to cover them with.

I ended up putting the gaping cooler (and bees) into the van and wrapped a sweater around the open end.  To my amazement, it worked!  The bees stayed nicely in their box, without complaint or fuss.  They are now parked in their new location, waiting for final installation into the new hive tomorrow.

And that's the way it was... My first hive removal.

Here are some photos of the blown out cooler.  I still think this is a really good idea.  I will have to pick up another one to have on hand.  It really does work well.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Hive Inspection 7/9/2011

Hive # 1 - This hive is coming along, but slowly. There are 3 1/2 (or so) frames still undrawn, so it's probably about time to add a super. I was surprised to see how much capped brood was still in there. I would have figured it to have hatched by now as we are 28 days out from when I first saw eggs. The next week should be eventful. Saw some eggs, but not as many as I hoped, although there aren't a whole lot of cells available right now. Also saw some drone cells and a few cells that look sunken. I will consult BeeKeeping for Dummies as soon as I finish writing this to see what that might be about. It sort of looked like pollen being stored in recently hatched brood cells. Overall, I am happy to see this hive improving, but it still needs close attention. It certainly had a rough start. I will be adding another medium super today.

Hive #2 - WOW this hive is in high gear! The upper super is just about full, with three completely full frames of capped brood and at least two more frames of uncapped brood. The lower super is just beginning to get the bees attention and has good beginning stores of pollen and honey. I will stitch the boxes to get that one filled up, and I will add another super. I am very impressed with this swarm.

It's about time for me to do a mite count. Will do so within the next few days.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Hive Inspection 7/2/2011

Hive #1 - Brood is beginning to hatch now. Saw larvae and some eggs, but comb building is still slow. Honey and pollen seems a little low too, but I am not sure. This hive has definitely been slow to get going.

Hive #2 - This hive looks to be progressing steadily. Most comb building has taken place in the upper box with about 4 frames already drawn. Honey and pollen looks good, and some eggs have been spotted today. I am pleased with how well this hive is doing.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Hive inspection 6/27/2011

Hive #1 - Did not see queen, but spotted some eggs and older larvae. Capped brood is about to hatch. Some drone cells noted. Comb building is still slow but hive appears happy and is calm.

Hive #2 - Swarm hive - New hive looks very crowded in only one medium super, so I added a second one. Placing the entrance feeder on top of the frames with an extra medium box did not work well, as bees were in a ball hanging off of inner cover. Too much robbing was happening with the feeder placed on top of inner cover with the top entrance open. I moved the entrance feeder to the entrance and thus far, the hive seems quiet and calm.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

A new swarm and a great way to package them

I just picked up a swarm from another member of the Wasatch Beekeepers Association. She caught them in her front yard, but didn't have the equipment to put them in, so she was giving them away.  I rushed right over and brought home a lovely blob of what looks like carniolan bees.  Oh I'm so excited!  I got home and installed them just in time before it got dark.  Had several bees crawl up inside my pant legs, and amazingly I didn't get stung.  Whew!  I am thrilled with having a second hive now.

The gal I got them from had a great idea for a swarm box - A basic styrofoam cooler with several holes carved out of the top and a screen duct taped over the top.  I thought it was a great idea.  I wouldn't have thought of it myself.

This is the inside of the lid.  The screen is taped in, and I added some heavy duty staples to help keep it in place.

Tomorrow I will also be checking hive #1.  I am hoping that they have drawn out  some more comb for the queen and some eggs.  I'm thinking that some of the brood should be close to hatching by now.
More tomorrow...

Monday, June 20, 2011

Baby Bees! Slow comb building.

I was thrilled with what I found in the hive today!  BABIES!  The new queen has been very busy, filling at least 4 frames with what is now sealed brood.

It looks like she ran out of room for more eggs though, even with the extra box I put on last week.  The bees seem to be a little slow in drawing out comb, but I'm not going to worry just yet.  I figure the hive is pretty small by now, and once the new bees hatch, I should see a dramatic increase in activity and comb building.  I'll keep feeding them syrup to hopefully help the process along, even though they have definitely slowed down their sugar consumption.  To the best of my knowledge, the hive appears to have finally taken a turn for the better.  Although I didn't see the queen, I did find eggs in the newest drawn comb.  What a sight for sore eyes!  Here are some more photos of the brood.

Saturday, June 11, 2011


We have success!!!  Opened the hive today and found the queen plus eggs!!!  I am SO relieved.  At first I wasn't sure if I was seeing eggs, or the bottom of the cell with the other side showing through, but after closer inspection, I saw a few dots that were not exactly centered - they were EGGS.  YES!  The queen appeared to be doing her thing with her back end in a cell, so I very carefully put her back in the hive.  To say I am thrilled is putting it mildly.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Time goes so slowwwwwww

The suspense is killing me.  I am dying to know if the new queen is "doing her thing" and filling all those empty cells with eggs.  I must wait till Sunday...

Monday, June 6, 2011

So far so good

Queen has been released and cage removed. Hive seems calm. Added medium super as lower box seemed full of honey. Wanted to be sure there was enough room for her to lay eggs. A quick inspection revealed no eggs, but it is a little early. Will deem Sunday as our hive check day from here on out. I hope this works!

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Queen saga continued

So I rechecked the hive again today. It's a wonder the bees haven't packed their bags and left yet. There are still NO EGGS and the hive is calm again, but now I found 3 supersedure cells! I have to do SOMETHING. Upon the advice of someone from the Wasatch Beekeepers Association, I removed all the supersedure cells I could find, sprayed the hive (mainly the frames but the bees too) with sugar syrup and bee oil and re-installed the new queen. The bees aggressively crowded the queen cage again, but I really need to let the bees work things out. I will check again in 4 days to see what is happening. I hope I can stand it. Here are what the cells looked like -

Supersedure Cell
Beginning of a supersedure cell

See - no eggs... :-(

Some pollen

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Oh the agony

I couldn't stand it any more. I think I'm loosing my mind. I removed new queen from the hive. She is still alive in her cage and the hive is still aggressive. The original queen must still be in there. I'll add more syrup tonight and let it rest for a few days while I figure out what to do. In the mean time I have a queen and about 30 attendants in a package cage sitting on my dining room table.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

New Queen concerns

I feel so bad thinking I am sending our new queen to a certain death. All the feedback I've received is that the original queen is probably still in the hive. A queenless hive is usually aggressive, and this one is calm (until I installed the new queen). But I can't find the old queen! I had to go check and see how Queen #2 is faring. She is still alive in her cage. Bees are still surrounding queen cage with a not so friendly demeanor. Hive is grouchy and aggressive today. I'll leave her in and see how the hive is tomorrow.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Starting to worry

This morning I did a more thorough inspection, and still saw NO EGGS, LARVAE OR BROOD. I looked for over an hour and could not find the queen or eggs or larvae or brood. The hive was quite calm through all my poking around, but it is obvious that I need to do something... So this afternoon I purchased a new queen, likely Italian, from Jones Bee and after another thorough search for the old queen, installed her Majesty #2 in the hive. The hive was fairly calm until I started brushing bees off the frames (I was desperately searching for any signs of a queen at that point). But when I installed the new queen, the hive completely changed. They were obviously unhappy about this intruder. The bees covered the queen cage immediately and I don't think they giving her a very warm welcome. The entire hive became aggressive and very defensive. I decided to close up the hive and get out of there. I did however see a few capped honey cells in this ordeal.

One thing that happened before I got busy installing Queenie #2, which is REALLY NEAT, is that my kids and I were having a snack (with the new queen in her container on the table) when we heard this strange peeping sound. We discovered that it was coming from the container, and that it was the queen piping. Of course hearing this changed our relationship with this queen. She peeped herself a warm spot in our hearts. We're such suckers don't you think? ;-)

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Where are the eggs???

Today I refilled the inhive feeder and entrance feeder. The bees are calm. Weather will be getting colder again. I am seeing NO EGGS OR BROOD, but pollen and sugar syrup is evident in some cells. The past few days it was finally warm enough for the bees to actively fly. But why are there NO EGGS??? Maybe it's the weather. I suppose I'll wait till the next inspection before I take action. The Beeline was noted and I observed a 3pm rush hour. It looks like a thin cloud of bees hovering in front of the hive. I am happy to see the bees doing their thing.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Little piggies

Wow - these bees are hungry! The entrance feeder is already empty. I suppose they need all the help they can get so I put the hive feeder back in and refilled the entrance feeder. They can have two sources of syrup, at least for now while they get going.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

First Inspection

It's finally (barely) warm enough to check the hive! Weather has been cold and miserable all week. I have no idea how the bees are doing, or if they have any syrup left.  Here is my inspection report;

Bees are calm and queen has been released so I removed her cage. I didn't check for eggs at this point since it is still very early.

All syrup has been consumed from the in-hive frame feeder. It is bone dry. I was worried about this since it has been too cold to open the hive to check it. I decided to switch to an entrance feeder. At least then I could see how much they are consuming, and can refill without getting into the hive.

Bees have started to draw comb on 4 frames, but it is still thin, but encouraging nonetheless.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Installing a package of bees

Here are some photos of our new additions to our household.  The fuzzy ones were taken by my son through a screen door.  There were just too many bees buzzing around for his comfort.  Enjoy!

The syrup can is really hard to get out.  I had to split the box to get it out.

Queen in her cage

Shaking the bees out of their box.

More shaking.  Bees all over.  Nerves of steel required for a newbee.

All done!

Bees fanning to gather the crowd.

More serious fanning going on here.

Got Bees?

I have been fascinated with bees for the past few years, and finally this past winter I decided I would finally take a shot at beekeeping.  I ordered (well in advance) two 4 lb. packages of bees, ready for delivery sometime in Spring.  I couldn't wait.

So as life would have it, lots of changes took place in my household and family in the months while waiting for my insects to arrive.  I ended up putting my house up for sale, and in all the chaos, I thought it wise to cancel the honeybees I had on order.  It really didn't make sense to acquire bees when I knew the possibility of moving was in our not-so-distant future.  The kids and I were sad, but accepted the reality of our circumstances.

We did decide though that we would take a field trip to at least see other people getting their bees.  Wow - what a sight!  Hundreds of thousands of bees, all packaged in neat wooden containers with screened sides. At least 4-6 pallets stacked full of bee boxes.  Escaped bees confused and aimlessly buzzing around, people coming and going, some with pick-up trucks for larger orders, most simply putting the bees in the trunk of their cars, but all of them with a nervous smile plastered on their face.  If only I would have remembered my camera!

We enjoyed meeting beekeepers and connecting with the local beekeeping clubs, seeing the bees, and wishing we would have kept our order in place.  Then the strangest thing happened...  In speaking with the organizer of the entire sales event, knowing that all the bee packages were spoken for, we were offered a package of bees (but not for free)!  In my weakness, I eagerly accepted the treasure box presented to me.  We rushed to the car with the same nervous smile as everyone else, put the buzzing bounty in the trunk and headed home.  About half way home I really began questioning my sanity, but kept going until we stopped in our garage.  We opened the trunk and gazed in amazement.  Now What??? 
A 3 lb package of bees in my driveway.