Mar 19 2017

Pop up inspection

A girl working the crocuses today

A girl working the crocuses today

It got up to 46 degrees and was very sunny so I went out to inspect the garden, now that every bit of snow is finally melted.  I noticed the bees out in the two hives and quite active. So I decided to do a mini-popup inspection. Just to see the top boxes and what the bees are doing.

They were all over in the yard on the crocuses which just showed up in the past two days.

So at 1:00pm, at 46 degrees, very sunny with no wind, I went in to the bee shed – mmmmmm, that delicious smell of smoke and honey and beeswax – suited up and went out on to the bee deck.

I got out my tools for the first time this year and started up the smoker. I went ahead and smoked the 2 hives I know are alive and then proceeded to go ahead and remove all of the winter insulation, beehive wrap, the top insulation and the bricks. So the hives are all bare and ready for spring.

I then took off the wire mesh entrance reducers and stick a really long paint stick in under the front door and went about trying to sweep out as many dead bees from the bottom screen that I could. They are pretty jammed in there but I got quite a bit out.

I’m not going to do anything but look in the top boxes since it’s still to cold to actually remove boxes and disrupt them. It’s supposed to get down to near freezing tonight.

All the insulation and paper I removed from the hives

All the insulation and paper I removed from the hives

Orange Hive – Queen Innfødt (local queen)

I smoked under the lid, removed the lid, smoked the opening in the inner cover and removed the inner cover. The entire top box is just full of bees.

I pulled out the middle frame and – waalaa – about half a frame on both sides of capped brood and also fresh eggs. There are two middle frames like this. I took a peek at the rest of the frames in this box. There is a good amount of pollen but also 4 of the frames are full of fresh nectar. I have no idea where they’d be getting that at this time of year.  There can’t be that many crocuses and primroses around here.

I closed it back up and moved on to the yellow hive.

Yellow Hive – Queen Løper (roll your own queen)

This hive also had a lot of bees up in the top box, although not as many as the Orange Hive. They also didn’t seem to be as wildly active as the orange hive, although they were active.

I peeked at the middle frame and they, too, have some capped brood and some fresh eggs. They do not have 4 frames of nectar – just a couple of pollen and about a half a frame of nectar.

So when I found 4 frames of left over honey in the dead hive, I put them in a box, with 4 empty frames in the middle of the box, and just plopped this on top of the yellow hive in order to give them a little more food.

Starved bees - butts up, heads down in the cells

Starved bees – butts up, heads down in the cells

Purple Hive – Queen Lilla (local queen)

So this hive was as I expected – all dead. There were a combination of signs in the hive (one said “help help we’re dying”) but I’m not sure exactly what it is that actually took them down.

Clearly bees starved – there were several frames with bee butts up, faces buried in the cells, and other bees on top of them with their faces in the cells. This means they died trying to lick out the last of the food in a cell. There was also mildew throughout the hive, but this would have happened if they died because there was no longer a heating and ventilation system produced by the bees.  A lot of the cells were full of basically water from the moisture.  There were 4 frames that were about half full of capped honey.

What I did notice was that even though the bottom screened board was full of dead bees, it didn’t look to me like a LOT of bees – not as many as if an entire hive died.  So I’m also thinking that they just didn’t have enough bees to hit critical mass in order to survive.

I cleaned out this entire hive, tore it all apart, dumped all the bees, scraped the dead ones off any of the frames and put all the frames back in the bee shed.

WEATHER AND PLAN

So with bees way up in the top boxes and already laying up babies and capping some off (which means they’ve been laying up for at least a week), this could create a problem of swarming. They might feel they have no more room to expand (even though the entire bottom 3 boxes of the hive are probably empty).

Mildewed dead bees

Mildewed dead bees

It’s supposed to rain all week long – no sun. Since I leave tomorrow for a week out of town for work, I’m hoping that holds true as that will keep them in the hive and they won’t want to swarm. Then when I get back, hopefully we hit a day where it’s warm enough (and not freezing overnight) to actually do a full inspection or at least get in there and rotate all the babies down to the bottom.

HB, meanwhile, will be busy this week putting together a bunch of new frames. I need to start swapping out the really old frames with dark, used brood comb.

Bottom board full of dead bees

Bottom board full of dead bees

Checklist for swapping out frames:

  1. Replace any empty, old, dark frames with drawn, empty frames that were honey frames last fall from the shed
  2. Push all the bees down and put these old honey frames directly above and between them.
  3. Put all the new, bare frames on top
  4. This will encourage them to brood up in the honey frames, which are clean, and draw out the new frames for honey storage.
  5. As old brood frames hatch out, try and grab them out of there before they start laying again and swap them out for drawn honey frames

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Mar 14 2017

It’s been a loooong winter

Well, it’s been a long, long winter here, for me and the bees. We broke a couple of records this year.

  1. Longest number of days where snow was continuously on the ground (and a lot of snow it was)
  2. Longest number of days when it was continuously below 30 degrees

There was a day about 6 weeks ago where we got a freak Chinook wind and it got up to about 43 degrees for a couple of hours and I saw bees flying out and about.

Otherwise, I’ve left them alone because there was no other option. They had snow piled up against the sides of the hive. There were a couple of times I slogged out in my knee high snowboots and dug the front of the hive out and then decided it wasn’t worth it – they have a top opening, if they want out, they can just fly out from up there.

Last week, between snowfalls, we had an afternoon where it suddenly spiked at about 50 for a few hours and I was out in the yard furiously pruning raspberry canes, bushes and forsythia. I was trimming away dead growth from the sedum right in front of the hives, in front of the bee fence, when I realized the sun was shining on my back and there should be bees darting out of the hives.

So I looked up – no darting bees.

So I went in to the beeyard and went to each hive and put my ears up against the hive walls – no noise, but it has roofing paper wrap around it. So I put my ear down by the lid on the orange hive, turned my face away from the hive, tapped the lid til I heard it crack and opened it about an inch. I could hear vociferous buzzing inside the hive. YEAAAA!

Went to the yellow hive and did the same – lots of buzzing. YEAAAA 2!!

Went to the purple hive and did the same – dead silence.  So I took a brick and banged hard on the sides of the hive with the lid open a couple of inches. Dead silence.  So sometime in this winter, this hive died.

It doesn’t really matter right now how they died. When it gets warm enough to actually do the first real hive inspections, I’ll open it up and find out what happened.

Meanwhile, this week, it’s actually looking like spring with nights around 36-40 degrees and days about 40-42 degrees. It’s raining like crazy all week.  So when it gets a little sunny and hits about 50, I’ll just pop the top on the yellow and orange hives and make sure they still have enough food.  I’ll decide at that time if I need to supplement feed them and then leave them alone until I can do an inspection.

I’ll be working out of town all next week, so unless it gets sunny this week, this won’t happen for about 10 days. Hang on li’l girls.

TO DO:

  • Check yellow and orange hives for food supplies when sunny and 50

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Oct 31 2016

Girls are ready for winter

All the girls ready for winter

All the girls ready for winter

 

purple hive entrance reduced down - dead bees beneath the front porch

purple hive entrance reduced down – dead bees beneath the front porch

A week ago on the only day we had without rain, I got the girls ready for winter. We have had rain steadily for a week, then there was a break about 9 days ago, then rain steadily.  We have already broken the record for the rainiest October ever in this area.

I went ahead and closed up each of the hives entrances down further with the wire mesh so there is only about 2-3″ of opening left to get in and out. I’ll still be able to remove the push pins in the winter and pull back the wire hardcloth if I need to sweep dead bees from the bottom of the hive during the winter.

I then measured and wrapped each hive in heavy duty roofing paper. I pulled it tight around the top, putting the top edge of the roofing paper just exactly under the telescoping lid and then using a construction stapler I stapled the paper down tight along the top edge at the corners and in the middle.  Then I staple the seam down the back of the hive tight.

orange hive entrance reduced down with roofing paper around hive

orange hive entrance reduced down with roofing paper around hive

With the paper right under the roof eaves and tight up against the box, I shouldn’t get rain down between the paper and the hive. Just in case, I leave the bottom of the paper wrap loose so that any moisture could flow down and get out.

I made sure that the upper entrances were free and bees were getting in and out. And I trimmed the paper at the bottom so that the girls can get in and out of the bottom entrance freely.  I always leave the bottom screened board as a screen instead of closing it off for ventilation.

I then put a piece of rigid insulation bigger than the hive cover on each hive and weighed it down with a big cement block or brick.

Waa-laaah. Ready for winter.  If we start to get a lot of snow, I’ll put a rigid piece of insulation on the top of the back of the stand to keep snow and wind from coming in that way, but I’ll keep the bottom sides of the hive stands open for ventilation.

Here’s a video of the purple hive girls  in slo-mo going in and out on their last sunny day in a long while.

yellow hive entrance reduced down

yellow hive entrance reduced down

There were already a pile of dead bees in front of each hive – the girls cleaning out the hard working little foragers that died. Go to Valhalla little warriors.

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Sep 25 2016

Hive inspections, inspecting food

Today at 2:45p it was 75 degrees and sunny with no wind. So I decided to go out and inspect all three hives since I’m leaving for a week tomorrow and I don’t know what the weather will be like once I get home.

I also wanted to see what their food stores were like. The girls drained their last feeding quarts the same day. I wanted to see:

  • Are they really short on food – eating more than they’re taking in?
  • Or are they just messing with me – hoarding food, which could leave no room for the queen to lay up?

It took just under 45 minutes to go through all 3 hives because I wanted to do it quick. They would usually be defensive this time of year, especially as I pull out food frames and I also wanted as little time with their food exposed to the air so VSD’s could smell it and zoom in.

Even so, by the time I got halfway through the second hive inspection, I was already dripping sweat into my glasses and it was dropping through my veil and onto the hive bars. Not cool, beekeeper.

I decided to inspect the two hives I’ve been feeding first. Then if I got to the yellow hive (which has extra food) and it still had extra food, and the others needed food, I’d move some food over – evenly distribute it.

But I kind of want to see how the new, local queens in the Orange and Purple hives do on their own as far as making bees that are good workers and foragers.

The girls were all out vigorously flying and coming and going. And I was surprised that in all three hives, the girls were very friendly, busy and not defensive at all – much better behaved then they were last time. At the end, I did find a dead little girl on the back of my gloved hand, her little stinger stuck in the glove. Silly girl – I wasn’t going to hurt you. And thank goodness for kidskin leather – I didn’t even know she was trying to sting me.

Orange Hive Inspection – Queen Innfødt (locally bred queen)

This hive started and ended with 4 Western 8-frame boxes.

There were a couple of frames of pollen and 18 frames of food – so they are just messing with me when it comes to needing food. There were 12 frames of bees. I did see the queen and here is a video of her. She is a nice amber color, getting a little darker amber near her tail, then with a dark brown tip. Oddly, I found no capped brood or fresh brood, even though I saw the queen. But the empty frames had cells that were very clean, and very “polished” in the bottoms (shiny) which means they had recently hatched out and the girls are “polishing” them to prepare them for egg laying. The queen was busy, so I’ll assume she’s going to start laying in those cells and that a bunch of brood just hatched out.

I went ahead and left the front feeder in place, empty, just so that, when I do an inspection later in October, if they need feeding I don’t have to mess with putting it back on again.

Purple Hive Inspection – Queen Lilla (locally bred queen)

This hive started and ended with 4 Western 8-frame boxes.

There were 2 frames of pollen and 10 1/2 frames of nectar, which is OK. I’ll leave them to bring in their own (again, left the empty feeder), but when I get back I’ll put some syrup on and see if they take it.

There were 5 1/2 frames of brood, some capped and some fresh with eggs. I did see the queen and here is a video of her.  She was a little shy thing, hiding under the other bees at first. There were 10 frames of bees. 

Yellow Hive Inspection – Queen Løper (roll your own)

This hive started and ended with 5 Western 8-frame boxes.

There were 19 frames of food – good grief. Talk about over achiever. A couple frames of pollen. There were 4 frames of brood, both capped and fresh and 12 frames of bees. I did see the queen and here is a video of her.   She was a pretty amber. They all look exactly the same to me, even though two are a local hybrid and she is a roll your own. 

These ladies had no feeder and clearly don’t need one.

 

So all in all, the girls were doing really well going into the fall.  I’ll leave them alone as far as inspections unless there is a nice warm sunny day late in October. Otherwise, fly girls fly.

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Sep 22 2016

Feeding update v1.2

one of the girls on the sedum

one of the girls on the sedum

The girls went through all their food from Monday by Tuesday late afternoon.

So I made some more food, with HBH, and on Wednesday put on another quart on each hive.

Today, Thursday, by this afternoon at 1:40pm, the orange hive feeder had about 1″ left and the purple hive feeder was dry. It’s cold and windy, and supposed to rain, so I’m not going to open the hive to see what’s up with the food. But it’s supposed to be nice on Saturday and Sunday, so we’ll see then.

 

Orange hive

Tuesday Sep 13 1 full quart

Thursday Sep 15 1 full quart

Friday Sep 16 1 full quart

Sat Sep 17 empty feeder

Mon Sep 19 1 full quart

Tues Sep 20 empty feeder

Wed Sep 21 1 full quart

Thurs Sep 22 empty feeder

Purple hive

Tuesday Sep 13 1 full quart

Friday Sep 16 1 full quart

Sat Sep 17 empty feeder

Mon Sep 19 1 full quart

Tues Sep 20 empty feeder

Wed Sep 21 1 full quart

Thurs Sep 22 empty feeder

Meanwhile, the girls are all over the sedum working it. Here is a video of one little girl working the sedum. I like the way she tilts her head down and her stiff little tiffany lamp wings go up in the air. She feels around with her antennae and keeps her head in the flowers.

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Sep 19 2016

Feeding update

By Saturday evening, both hives had depleted their 1 quart feeders. It rained all day Saturday and Sunday, so I didn’t replenish them.

I went ahead and added a quart of syrup to each hive. The feeders were dead dry. I spent a few minutes smashing wasps on the front of the hive, then the ground – on the outside of the feed jar, on the roof of the hive. Feels mighty good.

Orange hive

Tuesday Sep 13 1 full quart

Thursday Sep 15 1 full quart

Friday Sep 16 1 full quart

Sat Sep 17 empty feeder

Mon Sep 19 1 full quart

Purple hive

Tuesday Sep 13 1 full quart

Friday Sep 16 1 full quart

Sat Sep 17 empty feeder

Mon Sep 19 1 full quart

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Sep 16 2016

Feeding update

So by this morning at 8am, the orange hive had already drained the entire quart of syrup.  The purple hive had about 1/5 of a quart left.

At 5:45pm I went out and refilled both hives, which were now dead dry.

 

Orange hive

Tuesday Sep 13 1 full quart

Thursday Sep 15 1 full quart

Friday Sep 16 1 full quart

Purple hive

Tuesday Sep 13 1 full quart

Friday Sep 16 1 full quart

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Sep 15 2016

Feeding two hives

can you find the honeybee? How many do you see?

can you find the honeybee? How many do you see?

On Tuesday, I decided to give some food to the orange and purple hives. They aren’t storing honey up as well as the yellow hive and they seem to be eating it faster than they are bringing it in.

Here is a girl on the light sedum

Here is a girl on the light sedum

So in the afternoon I whipped up a gallon of 2:1 sugar syrup, with 2 tsp of HBH. I filled two separate quart jar front entrance feeders and installed them by putting them in the doors. Along with the excluders, this only gave the bees about 1″ to get in and out of the hive.  This seemed to agitate them, so I pulled back the excluders by a couple of inches and so they could get in on either side of the feeder.

Wednesday each of the hives had drained a little under a quarter of the quart jars.

Today, Thursday at 11:53am, the orange hive feeder is totally drained and the purple hive is about 2/3 drained.

So on the orange hive, the quart of syrup was completely out. Dead dry, including inside the feeder when I removed it. So I filled it up with a quart of syrup.

On the purple hive, the quart of syrup was half down. When I removed it there were about 50 bees gathered on the bottom of it drinking syrup. So I carefully put it back and I’ll wait until it’s dead dry to fill it.

Meanwhile, I’ll keep a tally of how long each hive takes to drain the syrup.

Orange hive

Tuesday Sep 13 1 full quart

Thursday Sep 15 1 full quart

Purple hive

Tuesday Sep 13 1 full quart

 

Meanwhile, the bees are all over the sedum. They are on the very last of the calendula. I also have about 2 dandelions and 2 little shoots of lavender and I found bees on those. The asters are just starting to bloom. So the girls are scavenging whatever they can.

Here's a girl working the dark sedum

Here’s a girl working the dark sedum

Here is a video of a lot of the girls working all over the sedum.   And here is another video of just one girl diligently working the sedum.

And here us a wild bee on the sedum. Note the strange pattern on her back. I've seen several of these. I can't find any pictures on the internet. Does anyone know what kind of bee this is?

And here us a wild bee on the sedum. Note the strange pattern on her back. I’ve seen several of these. I can’t find any pictures on the internet. Does anyone know what kind of bee this is?

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Sep 12 2016

Checking food stores and pulling empty frames

So on Friday, it was very sunny out, about 68 at 2pm and I went out to go ahead and pull the extra frames off the other two hives and check and see how they were doing. I made it a pretty quick inspection, although I looked at each frame, because there are now all sorts of yellow jackets just trying to get in the hives.

I suited up, took out a lot of extra boxes and totes and started up the smoker.

Purple hive inspection

This hive started with 6 boxes and ended up with 5 boxes. I removed 8 empty frames – a full box. They had 20 frames full of honey, plus 3 frames with about 1/4 honey, which is 4 more than 2 boxes so they’re sitting pretty. I may move frames to other hives as it gets later depending on how the other ladies are doing.

There were 5 frames of capped brood and 2 with open brood and fresh eggs and plenty of bees, plus one full frame of pollen. I did actually see Queen Lilla scuttling around on a frame of open brood.

I managed the brood down to the bottom. I then put a piece of wire mesh on the front door as an entrance reducer, with push pins, that reduced the door by about 2/3 so they have about a 4″ opening to defend.

The girls were not aggressive or angry but they were grumpy. They would zip out of the hive at me and pester my face veil and did not like me removing the empty frames.

Yellow Hive inspection

This hive started with 6 boxes and ended with 4 boxes. I removed 16 frames, or 2 full boxes of empty frames.

They had 8 full frames of honey, which is 1 box and 1 frame of scant honey. They had 4 full frames of capped brood and 4 frames with just a few capped brood, along with 2 frames of open brood and I saw fresh eggs. I did not see the queen. The brood was already in the bottom so I didn’t push them down.

They were also grumpy and I also reduced their entrance, which always makes them a little frantic as they come back in the hive for the first time, trying to burrow under the wire mesh.

 

So I have a couple of hives, Yellow and Orange, that could use some more honey or food. I’ll wait and keep inspecting as we go along. If in the next 2 weeks they haven’t stored up 2 boxes of honey, I’ll give them some food until they have 2 full boxes. Then I’ll keep an eye on the food in through October and see if they are keeping the honey stores up or if I have to feed them again.

The asters are coming on, as is all the sedum which is just starting to bloom and buckwheat. I planted a cover crop of buckwheat in my raised beds and it should blossom in about 30 days which should give them some late food. So we’ll see what kind of fall food they can find and then assess their food stores again.

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Sep 04 2016

Doing a fall check on the girls

At 2pm it was just 58 but very sunny and the girls were out en masse.  Here’s a video of the orange hive swirling around the front door. They were all dashing out above the bee fence and up into the sunshine.

I decided to go out and check out the orange hive and see if they’d cleaned off the 2 boxes of “wet” frames I’d put there after extracting honey.

So I popped on the bee suit, started the smoker and got a couple of extra boxes and went ahead and did an inspection. I wanted to do this pretty quickly since there are wasps around and it’s getting to be that time of year when the wasps want to get into the hive and rob it.

Outside the hive I found a wasp on the outside wall fighting with one of my girls. I knew she’d end up losing since it was a one-on-one so I quickly smashed them both – to put her out of her misery and to kill one more VSD.

Orange Hive Inspection

I popped the top of the hive, which had 6 boxes.

I moved through pretty quickly, not really looking for the queen, just seeing how laying and honey stocking up was going.

I ended up pulling 2 full boxes of empty and cleaned out and dry frames from the hive.

There were plenty of bees in the hive, 9 frames really packed with capped brood, 3 frames packed with open brood and fresh eggs, so I know the queen is working even though I didn’t see her, and 13 frames stuffed full of honey, most of them capped off.

I managed the brood to the bottom two boxes, with the open brood in the bottom. So this hive now has 4 boxes; 1 3/4 boxes of honey on top; and the bottom two boxes full of brood, pollen and a few frames with just a scant amount of honey they can use for expansion.

I also found 3 wasps trying to get in the hive. So I went ahead and affixed one of my wire mesh entrance reducers to the front door with thumbtacks. It closes off the entrance by about 2/3. The girls are a little confused and irritated coming in to the hive, but it’ll make it easier for them to protect themselves as the fall gets on and other critters will want to get in and rob them of their honey.

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