May 04 2016

Just pictures of the girls

Hundreds of chives are in bloom and the girls are loving them

Hundreds of chives are in bloom and the girls are loving them

the first irises just opened today and here's a girl relaxing on one

the first irises just opened today and here’s a girl relaxing on one

Sweet little wild bumblebee making a raspberry for me in my raspberry patch

Sweet little wild bumblebee making a raspberry for me in my raspberry patch

A tiny pear starting that one of my girls made for me

A tiny pear starting that one of my girls made for me

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May 02 2016

Bee poetry

There’s a rich tradition of poetry from ancient times to modern about bees. Here’s a modern poem that makes you really feel the bees.

Screen Shot 2016-05-02 at 8.48.17 PM

The Hive

The colony grew in my body all that summer.
The gaps between my bones filled
with honeycomb and my chest
vibrated and hummed. I knew
the brood was healthy, because
the pheromones sang through the hive
and the queen laid a good
two thousand eggs a day.
I smelled of bee bread and royal jelly,
my nails shone with propolis.
I spent my days freeing bees from my hair,
and planting clover and bee sage and
woundwort and teasel and borage.
I was a queendom unto myself.

By Jo Shapcott

 

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Apr 30 2016

orange hive inspection – Welcome Queen Frodig

At 12:30pm today it was 59 degrees and overcast, but the bees were out so I decided to go out and inspect the last of the three hive, the orange hive.

Dogwood tree in blossom

Dogwood tree in blossom

The orange hive is the hive with the brand new package and queen and they started on bare frames (scraped last year). They have 3 boxes and a front feeder, which still has a 1/2 a quart of 1:1 syrup in the jar.

Orange Hive Inspection

I took out a sorting box, a box of extra frames, some wet and one that had honey from the winter honey bank. I first went around and weeded the area around the beehives. Despite the cement pavers, all sorts of tall weeds have sprung up in the cracks making a little jungle out there.

I smoked the front door and under the lid, then popped the lid and the cover.

In the very top box were mostly bare frames, although there were 3 that had been half drawn out and had – – fresh eggs.  And all three had every cell that was created filled with fresh eggs.

In the rest of the boxes I found a total of 4 frames pretty stuffed with fresh eggs, 3 frames with open brood and some capped brood, everything from tiny little c’s to fat larvae.  There were 9 full frames of bees.

There were 3 frames full of nectar (two new nectar and one from last year’s honey bank) and 1 frame stuffed with pollen.

There were a good 9 frames still bare. So I managed the hive down and put all the brood in the bottom box with food, the next box is bare frames for expansion and the top box has food. I added 2 wet frames and a frame full of honey from the honey bank and took out 3 bare frames so they have more food.

I did not see the queen, but because she has capped brood, 4 frames with eggs and lots of tiny brood, she must have hit the ground running (or laying) as soon as I let her out of her cage.

Look close. These are brand new drawn out cells, with tiny little white eggs standing up on their ends in the bottom of each cell

Look close. These are brand new drawn out cells, with tiny little white eggs standing up on their ends in the bottom of each cell

It was a pretty quick inspection with only the three boxes and I wanted to keep her undisturbed as much as possible.

The new queen has proved to be quite fertile, so she is now Queen Frodig.  Welcome to the world, Frodig, and may you reign long.

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Apr 28 2016

Purple Hive Inspection – welcome Queen Lilla

frame with some capped brood and 3 queen cells

frame with some capped brood and 3 queen cells

So at about 4pm it was 62 degrees out, overcast and calm, and the bees were out so I went out to inspect the purple hive, which is the one that I split from the yellow hive.

Purple Hive Inspection

This hive was split from the  yellow hive, and had several frames of brood and bees brought over. It started and ended with 3 8-frame Western boxes.

I took out a sorting box, a box of wet frames in case they needed expansion (which they didn’t), and got my smoker going.

Synopsis:

There were just a smattering of fresh eggs on the middle of two frames – I almost missed them there are so few

There was a good 8 frames of bees

Still some uncapped brood left

10 frames of food and pollen. They still have a half a quart of syrup left and I’ll just leave it on the hive to let them finish that off, but they’re bringing in enough of their own food

I managed all the frames with eggs and any brood down to the bottom box along with the queen and put her on the frame in the middle of the bottom box.

The next box has mainly frames that are being drawn out with some food and the top box is all food.

Solomon's seal in the front yard

Solomon’s seal in the front yard

Interesting details

So I found about 7 queen cups along the bottom of a few bars, and I found 5 honest to goodness queen cells, the size of peanuts. 3 were shredded with only about half the queen cell left. 1 was uncapped, where someone external sawed off the bottom of the cell like a trap door (nothing inside). 1 was still intact and capped. And 1 had been sawn through the bottom to make a trap door but the door was still there. I undid the door and looked inside and nothing was left in there.

Euphorbia in the front yard

Euphorbia in the front yard

Hmmmmmm.  I’m thinking that when I brought over the frames of closed brood for the split, there were probably a few fresh eggs on those frames. I put a queen in the very  next day and released her the day after, which was quick. But I think they still made a few “backup” queens in case this one didn’t work out.  Then clearly, someone, probably the queen, went around and opened and killed any queens still in their cells.

In the outside frame of the 2nd box I found the queen.  She is unmarked but I honestly don’t remember if she started out marked. She is definitely a carniolan and was walking calmly around, even backed her little butt into a cell as if to lay. She had attendants and has laid a smattering of fresh eggs, so she gets a name.

She is Queen Lilla – which means Purple Queen.  Here’s a Video of Queen Lilla on the hive.

There were bees on the top bar of the frame with Queen Lilla and they have their little butts up in the air fanning the air. They use their nasonov glands to fan a scent into the air of the queen and of the hive to draw their bees into the hive. Here they are fanning the scent into the air in this video. 

sweet woodruff under the trees

sweet woodruff under the trees

There is just so much in bloom right now in my yard and in the neighbors yards. I have blossoming cherry, lilacs, tulips, solomon’s seal, sweet woodruff, vinca, euphorbia, dandilions, strawberries, chives and blueberries. No wonder the girls are so happy.

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Apr 27 2016

Inspecting yellow hive and FlowHive, a little feeding

So today about 11:30am it was 61 degrees and sunny and I had on my calendar to inspect the yellow hive – Queen Freyja’s hive.

I had also been watching the quart feeders on the new hive and the split hive. The girls had left the food alone for quite some time, and then suddenly a couple days ago started drinking it down. I’m thinking they’re building up comb, hatching out the split babies in the split hive, and both queens are laying up.

We’ll see when I inspect them later this week.  But meanwhile I made up two quarts of 1:1 sugar syrup to take out and replenish the quart jars.

I took out a box with bare or empty “wet” frames from last year in case the yellow hive needed more boxes. Got my smoker going (always a joy to keep it going). So here’s how it went.

Yellow Hive

This hive started with 3 western boxes and then the FlowHive on top, which is an 8 frame deep.

FlowHive

I popped the top on the FlowHive (and immediately one of the wood pieces dropped off on the ground – one of the few little tweaks that they need to fix). There were bees up in the FlowHive but it wasn’t covered in bees.

It’s a little difficult to pop out the FlowHive frames because they’re tight, but not impossible. They have special little wire string handles you can pull up. There were 7 frames entirely bare. The frame right in the middle had bees and a circle in the middle of this frame, on both sides, about the size of an apple, that was being filled with nectar.

This is a flow hive frame through the viewing window. You can see how deep the pre-formed plastic cells are and a few bees on this frame

This is a flow hive frame through the viewing window. You can see how deep the pre-formed plastic cells are and a few bees on this frame

I’m sure these guys know what they’re doing – they put in 10 years on this project. But it struck me that this is supposed to be a more “natural” way of beekeeping, and yet there could be nothing more unnatural about the FlowHive frames.  Some people think that the regular frames I use are a little unnatural because they have a flat wax foundation in the frame, coated with beeswax for the girls to start on. And some beekeepers swear that bees don’t like to build out or start on plastic bases. I’ve seen them build out on one of these frames a combination of cells sized for babies, drone cells (much bigger and deeper), and queen cells and queen cups.

These FlowHive frames are completely plastic and already built not only out by 3/4 of the entire cell but all built the same size. So the bees have no flexibility at all and have to stuff an already built, plastic cell with nectar and then cap it. I’m not saying that’s bad – I’m just saying it’s anything but “natural”.

I put the FlowHive box to the side and started the regular inspection.

Rest of the yellow hive

There was a queen excluder on top of the 3rd box and they were really trying to jam that thing up with beeswax. So I scraped as much off as I could.

The queen was right up in the top/3rd box on a frame stuffed with pollen trying to find a place to lay – go Queen Freyja!

Here's Queen Freyja with her blue dot. You can see the frame she is on is just packed with bee bread (pollen)

Here’s Queen Freyja with her blue dot. You can see the frame she is on is just packed with bee bread (pollen)

I moved her carefully to a sorting box that would have all brood, hopefully all open brood.

As I moved down through the 3 boxes I found and sorted:

  • Plenty of fresh eggs
  • 10 frames of brood, both open and capped, although at least 6 of the frames were capped
  • Plenty of frames of bees
  • 2 frames very heavy with nectar and 2 frames that must have weighed in at 10 pounds of capped honey – they had built out the sides and up and down and just stuffed them. That’s interesting since they have an entire FlowHive they could have been stuffing all this honey in.
  • 2 frames really packed edge to edge and both sides with pollen/bee bread.

I removed the entrance reducer screen I had thumbtacked on the hive.

here is a frame of capped brood. The outer ring around the capped brood had open, small brood and they had honey in the center

here is a frame of capped brood. The outer ring around the capped brood had open, small brood and they had honey in the center

I then managed the queen and brood down to the bottom box with 6 of the frames of brood, Queen Freyja and 2 frames of food.

The next box was the 4 other frames of brood, 2 frames of food and 2 empties for expansion

The top box was 4 frames of food and 4 empty frames for expansion.

Then the flow hive on top.

The girls were busy and calm, although by the time I got to the bottom box and nowhere else to go and they started boiling out of the box because there was no more room, a few of them flicked at my face net.

Feeding

I then went to each of the other boxes and pulled up the quart external feeder, which were dry, filled each back up with a quart of syrup and put them back on the hives.

 

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Apr 18 2016

Queens released

So very quickly today, about 11:30am when it was 65 degrees and sunny, I went out to manage my new queens.

I suited up and just got the smoker going. I looked at the new package hive first, the orange hive. I smoked and then took off the top 2 boxes. The bottom box had the queen cage. I could see here in there and it was covered in bees. They were not jawing her or acting aggressively, just like they were attending her.

So I decided to do a quick release. I pointed the end of the queen cage down and used a fondue fork to gently pull out the cork and made sure the cork opening was actually resting on the top bars with the opening between two bars. Then I pulled the cork out and let the queen just walk out into the hive. The bees immediately followed her.

So I popped the other 2 boxes on top and left them alone.

I then checked out the purple hive which is the split hive. I smoked and popped off the top boxes and then pulled out the cage in the bottom box. I had already put a marshmallow in place of the cork on Saturday. Sure enough, no marshmallow and an empty queen cage. So she’s out, too.

So I put the hive back together.  Now I’ll wait for a couple of weeks and just leave them alone (leave them alone, leave them alone, leave them alone…).

I’ll name the queens once I know they’re actually doing their job and laying eggs.

Feeding

Both the orange hive and the purple hive still have their quart jar of sugar syrup on the hive and I don’t think even a 1/2 inch has been removed. So clearly the bees are going for the honey frames already in the hive instead of the syrup. I’ll still leave the syrup on for the next week.

Then when I check the queens, I’ll see if the bees are making new honey or bringing in nectar.

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Apr 16 2016

Splitting and getting ready, placed FlowHive

orange hive getting ready for new package, with a walk up ramp to get into the hive

orange hive getting ready for new package, with a walk up ramp to get into the hive

So yesterday was busy. About 3pm it was 55 degrees and sunny. I took a bunch of boxes for sorting out to the bee deck, boxes with some wet frames and about 4 frames full of winter honey, some pieces of OSB board, rigid insulation and bricks, and a bunch of hive lids and my FlowHive. There.

Yellow Hive Inspection

I very quickly inspected the yellow hive as I definitively needed to find the queen – and there was Queen Freyja right up in the top of the hive laying fresh eggs. There a plenty of bees in this hive and plenty of open and closed brood and food, with about 4 frames stuffed full of pollen.

So from there I sorted out a box of nothing but open brood with Freyja. Then I sorted out a box and a half of capped brood and sorted out the food.

Then I started piecing the hive back together, along with the new purple split hive and the hive for the new package.

I was hoping I’d have enough food for all three hives, but I had enough for two hives.

So here’s the synopsis of what I ended up with.

Yellow Hive

The yellow hive now consists of 4 boxes.

The bottom box has Queen Freyja, 6 frames of open brood and two frames of food.

2nd box has 6 frames of capped brood and 2 frames of food.

3rd box has 5 frames of food, with 3 empty for expansion.

Then there is a queen excluder and on top of that is the FlowHive box.

Purple Hive

This is the new split hive and it now has 3 boxes

The bottom box has 6 frames of capped brood and 2 frames of food.

2nd box has 3 frames of capped brood, 3 frames of food and 2 empty frames.

Top box is all bare frames for expansion.

There is no queen – I left them without for a day so they get a little desperate for a queen.

Orange Hive

This will be the hive for the new package today. Right now, there is just one box of bare frames ready for the queen.

 

new configuration of all 3 hives

new configuration of all 3 hives

In this picture you can see the current configuration of the bee deck. The orange hive is way on the east side.

The yellow hive is where it was but it now has a board laying across the front to force the bees to go around to the outsides of the front porch both coming and going, and it has a long board on the west side to keep them from veering off to their new split.

The purple hive is the split, it is facing at a 90 degree angle towards the west, with it’s back to it’s original yellow hive. It also has a board on the south side to keep the bees from veering around to get to their original yellow hive. And it also has a board laying across the front porch.

So for either of the split hives (original and new split) they have to get around 3 barriers to get to each other.

 

Now I head up to get my bee package, a new queen, and my BB’s bee package and then installation starts.

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Apr 10 2016

Inspection and plan for the coming week

The flowering pear tree right next to the bee deck, in full bloom right now. The girls are all over it

The flowering pear tree right next to the bee deck, in full bloom right now. The girls are all over it

So today at 3pm it was 73, sunny and calm. I knew it was going to be hot, but I didn’t get home from church until 1pm and then had to run to Home Depot to get the stuff to tweak the FlowHive. So I didn’t get out there till the hottest part of the day.

My plan was to pull a honey box off the yellow hive, store it and put on the FlowHive. But as mentioned in the previous blog entry, the FlowHive needed some tweaks so I abandoned this plan.

I took out 2 extra boxes for sorting or removing empty frames, started my smoker, smoked the front door and under the lid.

Yellow Hive Inspection

There were 5 boxes on the hive and 5 boxes remained after inspection.

On one frame in the the middle of the 5th/top box, there were fresh eggs. So I started sorting and managed the brood down.

I did not spot Queen Freyja, but didn’t do a really thorough job of looking for her since I found plenty of brand new fresh eggs laid today. This girl is really working it and her girls are super hard workers.

There is none of the winter honey left on the hive.

I found brood in all stages – fresh eggs; teeny little “c” larvae swimming in milky royal jelly; larger “C” larvae in clear jelly; big fat pearly larvae and at least 10 of the frames of brood were capped and filling 7/8 of each side of a frame with honey in the corners.  All together there were 18 frames of brood. That’s crazy.

There were 3 good frames stuffed with pollen and plenty of pollen stuffed in the corners and edges of other frames.  There were 10 frames of brand new capped honey, with about 3/4 of the frame filled and capped and still drawing out and filling the rest of the frames with nectar.

I found 8 frames that were either entirely emptied out (hatched and cleaned out) or brand new drawn out from the bare frames I put in last time, and about 4 other frames that had some empty and some food.

This is my espaliered pear tree that will actually make pears someday, on a fence in the yard and the girls were on it, too

This is my espaliered pear tree that will actually make pears someday, on a fence in the yard and the girls were on it, too

End Hive picture

Bottom box has 6 frames of eggs and open brood with a frame of honey and a frame of pollen on either side.

2nd and 3rd boxes have 6 frames of capped brood and then a frame of food on either side of each box.

4th box is an expansion box with 8 frames of mostly empty, with a smattering of food.

5th box is entirely new honey frames.

Plan

So next week I pick up my new package of bees & queen and I have my empty hive (minus frames) set up on it’s stand to the left of the the yellow hive. This is the orange hive.

However, I’m thinking I also want to split the yellow hive since they’re busting out at the seams and I don’t want them to get swarming in their brains. So far there were not queen cups but she’s laying up so fast this could happen quickly.

These are the blossoms on the espaliered pear tree

These are the blossoms on the espaliered pear tree

I left a message for the Wiz to see if he has any Queens I can buy. If he does, when I pick up my package next Saturday, I’ll also pick up a queen.

Then I’ll install the new package on Saturday morning, help BB (baby brudder) install his new package, then zip to a family party at 4:30pm. I’ll put the new Queen and her attendants in a warm spot in the house until Sunday. Then I’ll set up a third hive in the split configuration and split the yellow hive.

This will involve moving about 5 frames of capped brood over to the new hive, along with the bees on the frames and a couple more frames of bees for good measure, and some food frames. This way the new queen will have newly hatched bees to take care of the babies she starts laying.

I’ll leave the open brood and the rest of the bees in the yellow hive.

That’s the plan anyway – however –

  • there may be no queens
  • all the current capped brood may have already hatched out by Saturday and there might not be enough new capped brood to move over

 

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Apr 10 2016

FlowHive tweak

I was going to put my FlowHive on my current, flourishing hive today with Queen Freyja.

I didn’t because I discovered some tweaks that have to be made first.

  1. The flow hive box has a removable panel in front to get to the frames and drain them. However, the frames do not fill up the entire box. They have a “runner” or edging strip, but state it may not be wide enough. It’s not. This means that there is enough room that when you open the front panel to drain or extract honey, bees could fit through and come flying out of the entire honey box straight into your face, for the entire height of the box. So I went to home depot, got a flat stick about 3/8″ thick and 5/8″ wide, sawed two of them the height of the box, and then brad nailed them to the strips already installed on the sides of this box at the front and back.  This made the frames fit super snug (I’ll probably have trouble getting them out when there’s propolis in the hive), but I can guarantee bees won’t be zooming me when I’m draining honey.
  2. At the top of the box, along the entire width of the front panel, at the very top, there is a strip about 1″ high that you remove to get to the FlowHive mechanism in order to turn the key that makes the hives crack open or shut again.  This strip has two wooden dowel handles on it so that you can pull it out easily. The problem is that they were probably made just right for the lid if you buy the FlowHive roof/lid, but when I put a standard hive cover, and then a standard telescoping lid, the telescoping lid hits these two handles and won’t rest down in place. This creates an entire end of the hive in which the hive lid is tilted up far enough that bees, or wasps, can freely get in and out.  So I figured out that if you stack two standard hive covers on top of each other, with both the 2″ openings in front, and then put the telescoping lid on, it just barely goes over and rests on top of these handles but fits down snug.  This is going to create a weird double lid, with a double space on top in which bees can get. They can’t hurt themselves but I’m hoping they don’t decide to wax it all up.

Every new technology, just like computer code, even though it’s tested and tested and tested, even in the field in real situations, can’t mimic what will actually happen when it goes “live” into the real environment with more than just the programmers/creators – into a real live audience.

I’m sure there will be all sorts of tweaks they’ll need to make.

Including the one everyone I know has already discovered which is the end caps really need to have at least a haf screw thread. They have no thread right now and every time you even bump the box or move it when the cover is open, they just fall out and roll all over the floor or the ground.

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Apr 03 2016

added a box

At 4:30p it was 66 degrees and sunny outside. The girls are flying like crazy. Here’s a video of the front door, with the girls flying, bringing in pollen, and the way I reduced the entrance by half.

So I decided to take a quick peek to see if they were laying up fast enough I should worry about them swarming or getting cramped while I’m out of town working next week.

I suited up, fired up, and took out an extra box with 8 “wet” frames. Smoked the front and under the lid and counted to 10.

The flowering pear tree right next to the beeyard is just starting to flower. The girls love this tree. One more sunny day and this will be in full bloom

The flowering pear tree right next to the beeyard is just starting to flower. The girls love this tree. One more sunny day and this will be in full bloom

There were lots of girls up in the top box. I briefly looked at all 8 frames – none of them have brood or eggs, but they are filling it up very fast with newly capped honey. 6 of the 8 frames are 3/4 full and capped and the other 2 are full and capped.

The 3rd box up, which had several completely bare expansion frames, now has all the bare frames completely drawn out, 3 are being actively stuffed with pollen, then there is nectar in most of the rest of them. I did not see any eggs.

But I decided to go ahead and pop on the extra box with the empty wet frames, just under the full honey box. There are things blooming everywhere, including the dandelions, and they’re drawing out pretty fast and filling up with pollen and nectar. I don’t want her to feel cramped laying. A hive swarmed on me one year while I was out of town working and I don’t want to have that happen again.

So they now have a 4th box for expansion, and the 5th full honey box on top.

When I get back next week, I’ll inspect again, manage the hive down, and remove any empty frames and get them back down to 4 boxes if I need to.

The forsythia is huge and completely in blossom

The forsythia is huge and completely in blossom

There are flowering trees and bushes all over the neighborhood. The girls are going through the Red Flyer Wagon watering hole really fast – I’ve been putting a gallon of water in a day to fill it up and they’re drying it up. So HB will make sure to keep it watered.

Bye bye girls. Don’t leave me while I’m gone. Take care of Queen Freyja.

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