Friday, November 23, 2012

Sugar installed - 11/23/2012

I have been worried lately that the bees may not have enough food stores to get through winter.  We have had a very mild winter so far, which equates to faster food consumption.  Two of my hives are of particular concern since they went into winter on the light side, and one of those two has been the repeated victim of robbing as well.  Although it feels rather early to be installing sugar patties, I decided I would do so just for some peace of mind, especially since we have a very long way to go before spring (which doesn't happen until mid June here in the mountains).  I would hate to find out (like I did last year) that I waited too long before offering them some survival rations.  So today, although it is chilly, I made quick business of installing a king sized lump of sugar in each hive.  I am very happy to see all hives are alive and well, although they are enjoying life in the penthouse.  I have not been able to remove the quail feeders I put in some time ago.  The weather has been too cold, and the bees are at least in part clustered on the jars.  At least they are all still buzzing.

I am excited about cyber Monday when I will be ordering a bunch of bee stuff from Brushy Mountain Bee Farm (free shipping!).  I signed up with them as a distributor, but the cost of shipping quickly dissolved any hope of my business plans.  So, as a consumer, when their annual free shipping sale comes along, I am jumping for joy.  It will be a hefty bill, but I will be set for the entire next year.  I love free shipping.

Happy Beekeeping!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Last minute feeding 10/28/2012

Well we survived our first cold snap.  The temp went down to 15 degrees night before last, and 25 degrees last night, but now we have a warm spell.  Since I didn't do so well with feeding the past month, I am jumping on this last minute opportunity to get some syrup in the hives.  Each hive got a quail feeder full of 2:1 sugar syrup.  I'll be adding more in a few days.  I am thankful for the warm weather we are being blessed with!

The problem with feeding though is robbing.  I highly suspect that at least one hive is getting robbed.  I have all entrances reduced down to a one-bee-at-a-time hole, but still there is chaos at the front of the hive.  I think it is time to shut all hives down for a few days.  Robbing is one of those things which causes me the most displeasure as it relates to beekeeping.  It is (in my humble opinion) one of the most difficult scenarios to deal with in beekeeping.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

First snow - 10/23/2012

The first snow of the season has arrived tonight.  I didn't get into the hives the way I wanted to the past few weeks, so I am hoping that the girls are in good enough shape to manage through the winter.  I really wanted to get lots of syrup into the hives before snow fell, but life got in the way.  I hate it when that happens.  It is supposed to snow the next few days, and then the weather is supposed to warm up again.  I will add some more syrup into the feeders then, and hope it will be warm enough for them to take it.  I'll definitely be adding some sugar blocks on top of the hive for emergency feed as well.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Apiguard #2 + feeding - 10/2/2012

Today I installed the 2nd dose of Apiguard and inserted a quail feeder of sugar syrup in each hive.  I also reduced the hive entrances as much as possible, but it appears one of the hives is getting robbed nonetheless.  It wasn't the hive I anticipated (which is good), but I am surprised that it is one of the stronger (or so I thought) hives.  I have the entrance narrowed down to a single hole which only one bee at a time can pass through.  It is creating quite a log jam however as the foragers are coming in faster than they can enter through the hole, but it does appear the robbers are being deterred.  Let's hope that things calm down quickly.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Honey Harvest and Winter Prep - 9/17/2012

The time of year for honey harvest as well as beehive winter preparations has arrived.  Varroa mite counts and treatments are at the top of the list.  The weather is still nice, but I really should have done this at least two weeks ago.  Ah well, better late than never.  I hope...
Before harvesting and digging through the hives I debated over which winter treatments I wanted, or needed to do.  I am leaning toward the idea that a hive should be strong enough to survive without medications, but I really feel that anything I can do to help the hive survive, I should do.  So I chose a middle path.  I elected to not treat for Nosema since I really saw no signs of it, but I did treat for Varroa.  I have been reading about how some beekeepers are having success with using only 25g rather than 50g of Apiguard, so thought I would follow suit.  I know that last year I used the full 50g and it seemed a little overpowering and lingered for quite a long time, so the half strength idea just makes sense to me. We'll see how it goes.
So I pulled what honey I reasonably could from the hives, and installed 25g of Apiguard in each hive.  The bees took the process quite well.  I was pleased that they all seemed to be quite calm, especially compared to their disposition last spring.  The Apiguard did set off a lot of immediate fanning, but by evening everyone was back inside safe and sound.  I think that the hives might a little light, so I will be feeding them when I install the 2nd round of Apiguard.  I am waiting to feed since I would like to avoid the potential for robbing for as long as possible.  I hope the weather holds out long enough for them to get enough stored.  Let's hope that I'm not making a mistake by waiting.
I didn't get as much honey as I had hoped for, but I did get enough to make the effort worthwhile.  I know that my late start in spring had much to do with a smaller harvest, but it was a lesson well learned.  The incredibly dry season we had didn't help much either.
Off to the extractor we go!  Will be installing round 2 of Apiguard on October 1.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Keeping notes - worth gold

I really need to be sure to post my inspections here - EVERY TIME I do one.  That will be my goal from here on out.  I have learned a valuable lesson about record keeping.

I am finding that the records I kept last year are a HUGE help for this year.  I see that at this time last year my hives were only three medium boxes high, and that I began mite and nosema treatments mid September as well. So now I know, I better get my butt in gear and get busy with the final honey harvest and treatments.  I am also glad to know that the hives were only 3 boxes high, and not 4.  That means I can take a little more honey for us humans!

So here is the update for the past few months;

I learned A LOT after splitting the hives.

I found out that early June was WAY TOO LATE to split a hive (in this area) to effectively avoid swarming.  At least one of the hives ended up swarming within two weeks of the split anyway.  Luckily I was home and witnessed the ordeal, and recaptured the swarm in my own backyard (My first official swarm!).  The other hive may have swarmed, but I really can't tell.  After all was said and done, I had 6 hives.

Note to self:  Do hive splits BEFORE you see swarm cells.  Early May is probably a better time to do swarm prevention.

I also learned more about queens and re-queening.

Out of three new queens, only one of them was readily accepted by the hive.  The second one swarmed, and the third one just vanished.  I had the pleasure of letting one hive raise their own queen, but the last hive needed to be re-combined with the parent hive.  So in the end I now have 5 queen right hives. Whew!  I learned that it takes a lot of patience to see the results of the bees own work in queen rearing.  Just when I was beginning to panic and was ready to combine the hive, the new queen magically appeared.  One extra week is all they needed.

I think the most valuable advise I got was that if I was in doubt about the queen status of a hive, simply steal a frame of fresh eggs from another hive and insert into the hive in question.  If they need a queen, they will make one.  This is the simplest and least disruptive way to ensure you have a queen.

Note to self:  Let new splits make their own queen.  It may take a while, but they know what they are doing, not to mention it will save you from paying $20 for an insect.

So now, with the summer months rapidly drawing to a close, we begin our Autumn and Winter preparations...

The goal for this week - finish honey harvest, medicate hives for varroa and nosema,  and begin aggressive feeding for final winter build up.

Saturday, June 2, 2012


Monday, April 9, 2012

Hive #2 and #3

Finally got into hive #2 today and it is looking great. Both hives 1 and 2 look like they might be candidates for a split in a few weeks. Hopefully it will discourage them from any ideas of swarming and we got lots of honey this year.

Sadly hive #3 did not make it through winter.  Unfortunately they never made it to the sugar patty (either because I put it in too late or it was was too cold) and ended up starving.  Sad.  I had such high hopes for them.  

Friday, March 30, 2012

Hive #1 and First Pollen 3/30/2012

First pollen of the season coming in to the beehives today! YAY! Hive #1 checked, and happy to see babies. One hive off to a good spring start. ;-)

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

It's February - and still winter

WOW - It has been a very long time since I posted my inspections.  Here is a quick re-cap of what we have been up to:

I finished the Fumagillin-B treatments for all three hives. I also treated for varroa using ApiGuard.  Winter was steadily on it's way, so I continued feeding syrup at a 2:1 ratio to help build up more stores.  When the weather got cold enough, and the bees stopped taking the syrup, I pulled the feeders, added some pollen patties on top, and tucked the bees in for winter.  I decided not to do anything special for the winter.  I did not wrap the hives, nor build any surround for them since they are in a relativiely protected location.  I simply made sure the IPM board was in place, the entrance reducers were on, and that the inner cover vent was clear.   Soon enough the snow and cold arrived and the bees were on their own.
I did check on them on a semi warm day sometime around Xmas and found they were doing fine.  Stores seemed okay, but there were some bees near the top of hive one.  I did not weigh the hive, I just went by what I could see from the top.
In late January/early February, we had another warm spell and I was able to check the hives again.  Bees from all three hives were actively taking their cleansing flights.  All hives looked strong and active, but the bees in hive #1 were at the top and the pollen patty was gone, so I presumed they were low or out of food.  I quickly built a small spacer frame out of 3" wood pieces and installed some sugar patties (sugar with a small amount of water and some essential oil mixed into a paste) on top, which was eagerly accepted by Hive #1.  Hive #2 showed no bees near the top, but I added some sugar just in case.  Schoolhouse Hive #3 was keeping mostly clustered, and showed no interest in the sugar.  I installed it anyway, since I didn't know when I'de be able to open the hive again.
So now, today, we had another warm day with bees flying, so I was able to quickly check inside each hive to see the status of sugar patties.  Hive #1 still has plenty left, and the bees are definitely using the sugar.  Hive #2 still has sugar, but I did not open the inner cover to see how many bees were on it.  Schoolhouse Hive #3, is still clustered, still not on the sugar, but still looking alive.
I am happy that I took the time to build those extra spacer frames so I could fit the sugar patties on top.  If anything, it gives me some peace of mind knowing that they have something to consume in case of emergency.
We still have a long way to go before we see the end of winter, but so far, I am quite optimistic that all three hives will make it through.  (And to think that everyone was suggesting I combine the Schoolhouse hive).