May 21 2017

Boy did I blow that

So I was out of town and needed a new queen to get my little blue hive split going. I called on Saturday morning and had the bee supply place set aside a Carniolan queen in a cage with attendants and then HB went up to get her. He put her in a safe warm place in the bathroom with the heat on low. I came home on Saturday evening, went to a party and then checked on her before bed. She and her girls were safe and snug and quiet in their little cage in the bathroom with the heat on low.

On Sunday, at about 10am it was already 64 degrees out and very sunny so I went out to get everything ready to pop her in the blue hive.

I got out a couple of sorting boxes; a queen excluder, and a box full of bare and empty frames for expansion. I got suited up, got the smoker going, and pulled all the divider boards and door blockers from the two hives. I smoked the blue hive.

Blue Hive

It started with just 2 boxes. I assumed that I would find some queen cups that needed scraping out since I had left them with some fresh eggs and new brood. I looked all over and found not a single queen cup, which is kind of odd since they were queenless and had fresh eggs. I looked down into the bottom box and – wait a minute here – tiny little brood. I looked some more. Fresh eggs all over. Whaaaaaa?

Then in the middle of the bottom box, I spotted the queen. What queen? What’s going on here? She’s not marked and looks pretty amber but with a brownish butt.

I stepped to the back of the bee deck to think a minute. It takes 15 days for a queen to hatch out. She then has to get properly mated, which could take 2-3 weeks depending on if it’s raining a lot. I put this split in place a week ago. Clearly, this is not a queen they made. Again with the whaaaaaaa?

So I set a queen excluder on top of box 2 and placed a box full of empty frames on top for honey.

OK, now what do I do? So I decided to look at the original orange hive.

The blue hive is now the home of Queen Innfødt.

Orange Hive

I removed the box of honey above the queen excluder. I started to move down frame by frame through the hive, looking carefully for Queen Innfødt. Then I moved from bottom to top again looking for her. No Queen. 

Here’s what I did find:

  • 21 fully formed and capped off queen cells, and several queen cups, all of which I scraped out and mashed.
  • Still about 20 frames of brood, all capped except a few with large larvae and not quite capped.
  • Not a single tiny brood or fresh egg.
  • 20 frames of bees and 4 frames of new nectar plus the 8 frames in the top box.
  • And more drones and drone brood than I’ve ever seen in my years of beekeeping. There are drones EVERYWHERE. And drone brood EVERYWHERE.

Again, with the stepping back and thinking.

I looked at the picture of this queen from a few weeks ago. It looks just like the queen now in the blue hive. When I set aside Queen Innfødt last time, I must have set her aside in the box of frames I was going to move to the blue hive accidentally instead of setting her aside to put her back in the orange hive.

So I took a perfectly robust hive with a perfectly good queen and yanked the queen from them. Which then set them to making queens like crazy since they figured their queen went missing. Which probably kept them from swarming (no queen to take with them to a new hive), but still.

So now what? I decided to stick the new Carniolan queen in this Mt. Spokane hive of bees. I had no idea if they’d be hostile towards her since they had a few dozen queen starts. I laid her in her cage on top of the bottom box frame bars for about 5 minutes just to see how they reacted to her. They just swarmed over her cage. I wanted to see if they were “jawing” her cage (clamping down on the cage netting hard with their jaws and not letting go – which would mean they want to kill her. When they do this, you have to literally scrape them off the cage and dislodge them).  I could gently brush all the bees off and they’d just pour over the cage again, but no jawing.

OK, what the heck. I placed the new queen in the bottom box, candy plug down, cork up, between two bars. I made sure this box has 4 bare frames in the middle and 4 bare frames above her for expansion. I then moved all the honey and food to two boxes on top and put the queen excluder below so they have to work to get the food. I also checkerboarded the rest of the bees, just to slow them down a bit.

I’ll go out in 3-4 days and release her into the hive.

Lesson Learned

Always, Always slow down when working in the hives, have a plan, and if something odd happens to throw you (like they look like they want to swarm and you suddenly have to split them), slow down, back up, think out your new plan and then execute instead of doing things on the fly.

 

 

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May 15 2017

Splitting, new queen and interesting data

EDUCATION

So I went to the bee meeting last Friday night. They had an interesting presentation on the data you can get from a hive scale.  That’s just a big, flat, techie weigh scale. Looks like this picture. It costs a pretty penny – about $580 with shipping. Basically, you put the scale on your hive stand or blocks, then put the whole hive on top of the scale and just leave it there – rain or shine, snow or sleet or hail. The gizmo in back is what uploads your data to an app on your phone.

hive scale

hive scale

The Wiz has a hive scale under his hives right across the river from me, and the bee club has one under their hives up on Mt. Spokane. All the data is uploaded to the Beeinformed.org website. I can go look at the Public map of the Sentinel Apiary program, and look at the Hive scale data to see what’s going on in those two hives, which will help me. So I can piggy back on their information instead of spending $580 myself. So I voted in the meeting to add another hive scale to the association hives so we can have scales under hives in different areas where there are different food and weather conditions.

A lady that’s a hobby beekeeper showed us how it works and what the data looks like. Then The Wiz told us how this information is helpful.  Basically, this measures your hive weight every 15 minutes. There are all sorts of things that make the weight of your hive fluctuate and when you get used to what the hive is doing, you can learn a lot.  On the app, you can also put in a note that explains big fluctuations.  For example, the weight of your hive goes up by 10 pounds because you added a super with all the frames.  Or the weight of your hive goes down by 85 pounds because you just pulled the honey off your hive.

But little weight changes can mean a lot.  When your “scout” bees leave in the morning to scout out the food situation, your hive can go down by 1/2 a pound. Then an hour later, they all come back and tell the rest of the girls and all of a sudden the hive goes down by 5 pounds because all your forager bees left the hive to get food and water.

The biggest thing you can tell is when an honest to gosh honey flow is going on.  The weight of your scale will remain pretty stable (bees coming and going, bringing in pollen and eating pollen, queen laying then hatching out bees, bringing in water and then evaporating that water). But when there’s a honey flow on, the weight will just steadily go up and up as they bring in nectar. Then when you see that weight gain suddenly flatten out – the honey flow is over.

You give them a couple of weeks to “cure” the honey they brought in, then you know you can pull the honey because there’s no more coming in, and you can treat the mites in your hive and get ready either for wintering them, or if the honey flow was early in June, you can get ready for a later honey flow.

Pretty neat. So I’ll monitor the hives across the river to figure out when there’s a honey flow in my  neighborhood instead of constantly opening the hive and wondering whether I should stop putting boxes on top.

SPLITTING/SWARMING

So I went out at 11:30am to see if I needed to slow down the orange hive from swarming. That hive is so strong, and it’s supposed to rain today and tomorrow and then be sunny for 4 days, which will be ripe for swarming weather. But I’m going to be out of town after Tuesday, so I needed to find out today if I need to slow them down.

Since I lost a hive over the winter, my preferred method of slowing the swarming is to split the hive and get a new one.

It was cloudy/sunny and 54 so I ran out to check the orange hive.

I set up a new hive ready to go, with a blue hive bottom, an empty bottom box to transfer brood and food to, and a top box with empty frames.

I suited up, go the smoker going and opened the orange hive because I knew I was going to working quick because of the weather. I pulled off the top two boxes and just as I started to inspect the frames – big fat raindrops suddenly came down. I put the hive back together, popped an extra box with 8 empty frames in the middle for expansion and got out of there.

Then at about 3pm, it was sunny and 57 and looked like I could get away with an inspection. So I started over again.

Orange Hive

This hive started with 5 boxes. The top box is nearly full of nectar, then there’s a queen excluder. Then there was a box that had lots of new food and brood.

I found Queen Innfødt in box 3 so I set her aside carefully in this box.

This hive had 26 frames of bees, 24 frames of brood, 4 frames of pollen and 13 frames of nectar.

I moved 4 frames of capped brood with their bees, 2 frames of open brood with fresh eggs and their bees, 2 full frames of nectar with their bees and 1 frame of pollen with its bees over to the new, blue hive. I filled in the rest of the hive with empty frames and topped her off.

I moved the orange Queen down to the bottom box, moved the brood all down into the bottom 3 boxes, and checkerboarded all the brood with bare frames to slow the queen down, and closed up this hive.

I did not find queen cells but there was a TON of drone cells (which is another indication they want to swarm) and a TON of fat drones in the hive.

I then put a blocker board on the side of this hive facing the blue hive, and diversion boards over the face/door of the hive. The Yellow Hive is in between the two hives.

Blue Hive

This is the new hive. It has no queen. They have eggs so they can busy themselves trying to make a queen.  On Saturday, when I’m out of town, I’ll have HB go up to The Wiz and get a new queen and put her in the bathroom.

I then put a blocker board on the side of this hive facing the orange hive and a diversion board over the face/door of this hive.

new blue hive on the left with blocker and diversion boards; then yellow hive; then orange hive on the right with blocker and diversion boards. Taken through the screen of the bee fence.

new blue hive on the left with blocker and diversion boards; then yellow hive; then orange hive on the right with blocker and diversion boards. Taken through the screen of the bee fence.

Why the blocker boards and diversion boards?

The biggest thing that can happen is the bees from the Orange hive, that I put in the Blue hive, will want to drift back to their home hive (Orange).  To keep them from doing this, you can “confuse” them or make it really hard to find their hive. So they have to go around two different blockages to get from one hive to the other. The bees also get diverted both coming out of, and going in to, the orange or blue hive, which makes them basically have to rethink the path that they have been using on “auto pilot” – they have to re-orient themselves.  Making them do this re-orientation and diversion should keep them from just auto-drifting back to their home hive.

Yellow Hive

While I was there, I quickly got into the yellow hive to see if I could spot the new queen and to get the old queen cage out. I pulled the empty queen cage out of the bottom. I found the Queen in the 2nd box moving around, very dark brown (Carniolan). There were about 5 frames of capped and/or nearly hatched capped brood, but that was in there prior. I didn’t look for fresh eggs because I didn’t want to completely disturb her.

She was moving around deftly on empty cells and bees were following her around. So I closed up the box, which has 4 boxes and a couple frames of nectar. I left the external feeder on which still has about a 1/3 of a quart of syrup.

I’m going to go ahead and name her, even though I didn’t see fresh eggs (because I didn’t look) and give her the benefit of the doubt. She was a pretty agile and energetic so I’m going to name her Queen Livlig, which means “lively”. Welcome Queen Livlig!

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May 06 2017

Difficult Choices….

Well, today was the day. A wise man once said “the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few – or the one”.  And today was Queen Løper’s day to be the hero.

I went to the bee house at about 9:30am and bought a new Carniolan queen with 4 attendants. The Wiz wasn’t there, but the other two beekeepers who run the place said I needed to place her, dead, on the top bars of the hive and the bees would carry her out and let the rest know she was dead. They said I could put the new queen in in about an hour.

At 1pm it was finally 51 out, and cloudy, but still.  So I trudged out to the bee deck, got out my tool, the smoker and the queen catcher. Then I went and suited up and got the smoker going.

The infamous queen catcher

The infamous queen catcher

I removed the top box (which was empty) and in the 2nd box, the middle frame was covered in bees so I knew that’s where I’d find the queen.  I pulled that frame out and, sure enough, there she was moving about on that frame.

I had the queen catcher and caught her neatly in the little cage. I then put my hive tool in between the bars and crippled her, opened the cage and laid her on the top bar of the hive, and crushed her.

You can watch in the video how the Valkyries just came up out of the hive and covered her and got ready to take her away to Valhalla where all warriors go who die in battle. Video of the Valkyries. 

I put the top back on the hive and closed her up. Farveldronning Løper. Tiden din er ferdig.

queen cage in between the bars

queen cage in between the bars

At 3:27pm it was 61 out and still cloudy.  I went out and suited up again, got the smoker going, smoked the hive gently and popped the top.  No sign at all of the queen on the top bars. I first put the queen in her cage down into the hive between the bars and watched for about 5 minutes to see what would happen.  Bees immediately swarm and cover the cage. I kept brushing them away to see if any “jawing” was going on. There was one bee that did jaw, so I took the cage out and then I put it back in making sure the candy plug is down and the cage was slightly tilted so that the queen inside can stay far back against the wall.

Then I closed it up and we’ll see what happens. I’ll check again on Tues and pop the cork, put in a marshmallow and let them get their new queen out and hopefully she gets busy and gets this hive going. As usual, I won’t name her until I see she’s actually doing her job.

Queen cage in the hive

Queen cage in the hive

 

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May 02 2017

Sorry Queen Loper – you gotta go

It stopped raining today and at 11:15am it was 65 degrees on the bee deck so I went out to inspect the girls. Our yard is a dandilion paradise and in our yard and from the house I can see over 15 blooming trees just in a half a block. There are blooming trees all over the neighborhood and lots of dandilions, so there are a lot of sources of pollen and food out there. I took out two boxes full of bare and empty frames for expansion, and a couple of sorting boxes. I suited up, fired up, and got to business.

Yellow Hive

I started with the yellow hive. So I’ve inspected this hive 4 times now, a week apart.  Each time, there have been 2 frames of bees, 2 frames of brood, and a laying queen.  Last time, I transferred 3 frames of entirely full capped brood, covered in their nurse bees, over to this hive to give them a boost.

This hive started today with 3 boxes.

INSPECTION:

I saw Queen Løper moving about. I watched her carefully and actually watched her back her butt down into two different cells and lay an egg and move on. Right after she pulled out of the cell, nurse bees swarmed over the cell. I gently blew them off the cell and there was an egg right down in the cell. So she was laying fresh eggs. 

Here's Queen Loper in the hive

Here’s Queen Loper in the hive

However, there were 3 frames of bees, only 3 frames of brood – which was not wall to wall brood, but more about 1/2 to 3/4 on each side of the frame – no pollen, and 1 frame half full of new nectar.  There were no queen cups or queen cells.

PROBLEMS:

So – they’re not bringing in food, even though it’s out there, probably because there just aren’t enough bees. Even with the boost of 3 extra frames of bees and capped brood, this hive continues to just struggle along with 2-3 frames of brood.

The bees apparently think she’s doing fine because they aren’t starting any queen cups or cells, even though she is clearly not doing her job. She should be laying 1000-2000 eggs a day at this point.

SOLUTIONS:

I went out this evening and put on a quart jar feeder of 1:1 sugar syrup.

On Thursday, it’s supposed to be super sunny and I’m going to go out and kill Queen Løper. This sucks wind, but I’ve gotta do what’s good for the hive. I’ll leave her poor little body in the hive so the Valkyries can come and  get her, but more importantly, so the bees can definitely know she is dead, not just missing. Then they can have 3 days to go without a queen and get to where they really want a queen.

Then on Saturday, I’ll go to The Wiz’s and get another queen, put her in the hive on Saturday with a marshmallow plug and they should be happy to see another queen. If he has any available, I’ll get another local Mt. Spokane queen instead of a Carniolan so I can see if we can keep them local.
Orange Hive

This hive started with 3 boxes, then a Queen excluder (Qx), and then a 4th box.

INSPECTION:

The top box was full of new nectar. All together throughout the hive there were 3 frames of pollen and 8 frames of new nectar. I found Queen Innfødt in the 2nd box in the middle, looking spry. There were lots of fresh eggs, 15 full frames of bees, 4 frames of open brood and tiny larvae and 9 frames that were wall to wall closed brood.

This is Queen Innfodt in her hive

This is Queen Innfodt in her hive

So this hive is going nuts. There was literally only about a 1/2 a frame that didn’t have something on it. There were no queen cups or cells, but there were quite a few frames with 3-4 rows along the bottom of capped drones, which is expected at this time of year.

MANAGEMENT:

I moved the queen and the open brood down to the bottom with a frame of food and pollen.

In box 2  and 3 were closed brood with some food.

I then added a 4th new box, which was all bare or empty frames.

Then the Qx and then the top box that has 8 frames of nectar.

Here is a video, which is a little shaky, of several of the girls doing a “waggle dance”, telling the rest of the girls where the good food out there is. They just shimmy and wiggle all over, spinning their tales.

 

This should give her another box for room to expand and not swarm. Girl Power!

 

 

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Apr 19 2017

Bolstering Loper

here's a girl on one of the first blooming dandelions growing in a crack right in front of her front door on the bee deck

here’s a girl on one of the first blooming dandelions growing in a crack right in front of her front door on the bee deck

Today was the first day it hasn’t rained since my last inspection. It was sunny, a little breezy and at 1pm it was 62 degrees outside (says my new, trusty weather station). So I decided to find out how the yellow hive was doing. Are they still limping along? Nearly dead? Robust?

I got all my sorting boxes out on the bee deck, and an extra box with bare frames, just in case. I discovered I really need to clean the rest of the bee boxes.

CHECKLIST:

Scrape and clean all the bee boxes in the bee shed on a cool morning so the propolis will crack off easily

OK, back to the inspection. I suited up, got my smoker going, took out my camera and got to business.

Yellow Hive – Queen Løper

There are 3 boxes on this hive. I found the Queen in the very top box. Curiously enough, she still has just 2 frames of bees, just 2 frames of brood with fresh eggs, open and some closed brood. The other 2 frames of capped brood must have hatched since last week. This is a problem.

Here's Queen Loper on one of her scant two frames of open brood

Here’s Queen Loper on one of her scant two frames of open brood

Digression: So I’ve been thinking all week. She really doesn’t have any good options for expanding her hive. If she lays a bunch of eggs, she only has 2 frames of bees to nurse the new babies so they’d die. So the only way for her to build up her hive is by always laying just a few more babies than the last time. That could take a looooong time. She really needs to get a donation to her hive.  I decided that if she was in the same fix today, and the orange hive was doing well, I’d move some of the brood and covering/nurse bees to the yellow hive. End digression.

She had 1 frame of new food, and still about 1.5 frames of crystallized honey from the winter. There was scant pollen.

I moved the queen and all the brood, plus 1 frame of food to the bottom, leaving a gap for 3 frames, then closed up the hive temporarily.

The girls were gentle and busy and the queen was moving about.

Here's Queen Innfodt on the frame of her hive

Here’s Queen Innfodt on the frame of her hive

Orange Hive – Queen Innfødt

I removed the top box above the queen excluder, which is still empty but had a lot of bees working on the frames. Laying right on the top of the top box, just under the lid, was a gigantic and very dead wasp or hornet. Go girls.

I then had the top box of the actual hive and that’s where I found the queen. There were fresh eggs throughout. there were 20 frames of bees, 13 frames of brood, both open and closed, 3 frames stuffed with pollen and 5 frames of new food.

The girls were very busy, but gentle. The queen was moving about well.

MANAGEMENT:

I set aside carefully 2 full frames of capped brood completely covered with their bees, and 1 frame that was half capped brood and half open brood completely covered with their bees.

I then moved the queen and most of the brood into the bottom box with a frame of pollen and food. In the 2nd box, I put the rest of the brood, checkerboarded with the empty frames. Then in the 3rd box was any food and pollen and empty frames. Then the queen excluder and the 4th box which is all empty frames.

I then opened the yellow hive again and moved the 3 frames of brood with their bees right into the center of the bottom box with the yellow queen and the rest of the brood.  That nearly triples the current population of the yellow hive.

I closed up the yellow hive.

Since it’s going to rain for another whole week, we’ll just see how they adapt and hopefully this bolsters the yellow hive, and slows down the orange hive just a bit coming into swarming season.

Here's a poor little girl who got smashed in between boxes with just her little bee butt hanging out the front of the hive

Here’s a poor little girl who got smashed in between boxes with just her little bee butt hanging out the front of the hive

I try to be so very careful putting the hives back together but inevitably there are sometimes bees who try to sneak between the boxes just as I’m placing them on top of each other. That results in a half a bee (front or back) stuck hanging outside, smashed between the boxes, little legs or head struggling. I always go around the hive and clean up by scraping them off the hive to first kill them quickly and also, if they were left there, they’re just bait for the wasps and hornets and I don’t want an excuse to attract them.

 

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Apr 12 2017

make hay while the sun shines

The beehives

The beehives

So yesterday was the first day it hadn’t rained – or snowed – since the last inspection. And it’s raining again today and is supposed to rain all week.  It snowed on Monday morning.

At about 1:15pm the temperature app said it was 56 degrees, but that’s completely bogus. The temperature is taken from international airport, which is up on the plateau in the baking sun. I’m in the valley. I think it was about 52 degrees. But from now on out – I’ll know for sure.

A girl working the pussywillow with her tongue/proboscis down in the flower

A girl working the pussywillow with her tongue/proboscis down in the flower

I got a mini weather station for Christmas and I installed it yesterday. It has a gauge that measures temperature and humidity and I installed it on a wall of the garden shed, next to the bee deck, under an eave and out of the rain and also out of the direct sun so it won’t melt. It has a direct line of sight to my little weather station in the house, which tells me both the internal and external temperatures and humidities.  So from now on – I’ll know what the temperature really is out next to the bee deck. Wooohooo!

It was sunny and calm and the girls were out. I assumed when I got into the yellow hive, there would be no bees. We’ll see.

Orange Hive – Queen Innfødt

SYNOPSIS:

I saw the queen right up in the top box on a frame of pollen. She kept scuttling out of the sunlight, down and under the frame to the other side, so I couldn’t get a picture. But she was moving about really well over the frame..

There were 8 frames of bees. I saw many fresh eggs, although there were a few cells I saw that had multiple (2-3) eggs laid in the same cell. This is usually a sign of a laying worker bee and can sometimes signify they don’t think the queen is doing her job. She is definitely doing her job, so I don’t know what’s going on here.

There were 5 frames of open brood in all stages and 5 frames of capped brood. There were 5 full frames of pollen, but there was literally a half frame with nectar. So they are really low on food.

cells with multiple eggs laid in one cell

cells with multiple eggs laid in one cell

The bees were busy and gentle, not grumpy at all. There were a ton of bees bringing in pollen in all ranges of yellow and orange and there was a lot of white pollen in the hive. I just read in my Bee Culture magazine that grape hyacinth makes white pollen and it’s blooming in my yard and all around the neighborhood. Here’s a video looking from the top of the hive down onto the front porch of the girls coming and going from the hive. 

MANAGEMENT:

I moved all the closed brood and eggs with some pollen to the bottom box; the 2nd box had closed brood and empty frames for expansion; the 3rd box had pollen and empty and bare frames; then a queen excluder and the top box was all bare frames.

However, after inspecting the yellow hive, I removed the box above the excluder and replaced it with an entire box of 8 frames of honey from the winter left over. About half of it is crystallized.

girls busy working the pollen in the hive

girls busy working the pollen in the hive

NOTES:

Innfødt is doing amazing. I was initially worried about leaving any crystallized honey on either hive because I’ve heard in the past that can cause diarrhea.  So I stood out on the bee deck and looked it up on my phone. There were several articles that basically said, hey, the bees have been storing up honey for thousands of years and it goes without saying the would have had crystallized honey in their hives at some time, or they would have moved in to an abandoned hive with crystallized honey and they do fine with it.

I’d rather try this out for a couple of weeks rather than feeding them sugar water. So next time the sun actually shines and I’m in town, I’ll inspect and see if they’ve eaten or rejected the crystallized honey and we’ll go from there.

Yellow hive – Queen Løper

SYNOPSIS:

Queen Loper

Queen Loper

I saw the queen in the bottom box, moving over the frames and got a picture of her. I did see fresh eggs. 

There was very little open brood (about 1/4 of a frame). There were 2 frames that had capped brood, but only about 1/2 of each frame (both sides) was filled with capped brood. There were 2 frames of bees in the hive and 1 frame full of pollen.

There was an entire box of old honey (which I moved to the orange hive), some capped and some open and crystallized and another box with 6 frames of the same kind of honey. There was also 1 frame of new nectar.

MANAGEMENT:

I moved the extra box of old honey to the orange hive. There is now a bottom box with the queen and the only 2 frames of brood and pollen. The 2nd box is full of empties and bare frames for expansion and then the 3rd box has 6 frames of old honey and 2 bare frames.

A girl loaded down with pollen bringing it back to the hive

A girl loaded down with pollen bringing it back to the hive

NOTES:

This is a very strange hive. I didn’t see the queen at all last time and it appeared to be failing. Now I see the queen and she’s clearly laying.

But there are 2 frames of bees, which may be able to take care of the 2 frames she’s laid. I could pinch her (she’s a roll your own from last summer) and combine the hive with the orange hive. I have no idea if this hive will be able to gradually build itself up. It’s not just the laying she needs to do – she needs to have enough grown bees to nurse the bees that hatch out, or else the new babies will die. So she has to only lay enough bees that can be cared for by the existing bees. That means she’d need to gradually build up the hive.

I’m going to leave the hive as is just because I’m curious to see what will actually happen and see if they can build up. At the worst case, if they stay small and don’t build up, I can always combine the hives later.

I’m assuming at some point in the near future, I’ll have to split the orange hive as she’s building up well. At that point, I can decide if I just want to combine that split hive with the yellow hive. And at that time, if the yellow hive is still not doing great, I’ll pinch the queen (because she’s clearly not a good producer) and put in a new queen to the combined hive or pinch her and let them build their own.

 

It’s constantly a changing scene – I just never know what I’m going to find. But I find it scientifically interesting to see these things and learn from them, rather than worrying about why I don’t have just regular, reliable hives.

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Apr 05 2017

First real inspection of 2017-Mar 30

On Thursday, Mar 30 at 1pm it was 52 degrees and sunny so I went out to accomplish the first real hive inspection.

Weird things happening in the yellow hive and the orange hive was doing spectacularly.

On both hives, the bees were all the way in the top box, so I had to basically remove the top 2 boxes, set them aside, then remove all the lower boxes and clean out all the dead bees and scrape them all out – remove all the old, blackened frames and put them on the garbage pile, go get empty frames from last years honey harvest and bare frames in case I needed to replace. I got boxes that I had cleaned and scraped last week so that I could replace all the boxes on the hive which are sticky with propolis with the clean and scraped boxes to start out the spring right.

So since it took a while to do this and the hive was all torn apart, it was kind of hard to tell how many frames of bees were in the hive because they were actually in a gigantic swirling cloud all around me and above me and in a kind of circle of about 5 feet in diameter around where their hive used to sit, which was now in disarray.

Yellow Hive – Queen Løper

So this hive has their own queen they  made last year.

I saw no queen. In the top box, there were 2 frames that each had about a softball size circle of tightly laid and capped brood. I saw no open brood and I saw about 3 fresh eggs.  So the queen was laying some time but not much – but not in the past 4 or 5 days because no open brood – but someone laid a few eggs in the past day.

There were 2 1/2 boxes of honey or nectar, most left over from last year, but some was new. There was 1 frame of new pollen, all white. There sure didn’t seem to be many bees in the hive, but again, they were all over in the air.

I searched and searched for the queen, but in case I missed her, I handed everything very carefully.

I pushed the frames with brood and some food to the bottom (box 1), topped the next box with completely empty frames (box 2) and the 3rd/top box was a box of food.

CONCLUSION:

Not sure if they are queenless

Not sure if they actually have enough bees to raise any babies

Not sure if I should just combine them with the orange hive

But since I was going to be gone all weekend, I decided to leave them as is for a week and then go out and see how they’re doing. If there are new babies laid, there was a queen. If there are not, I’ll combine what’s left of them with the orange hive.

 

Orange Hive – Queen Innfødt

This is one of the local Mt Spokane queens.

I saw the queen. She was running around in the middle frame of the top box. So I really carefully set this box aside.

There were lots and lots of bees, but again, couldn’t count the frames as after I pulled them apart, they were all in the air. There were 6 frames of brand new nectar, 3 frames of pollen, much of it white. There were 6 frames of capped brood, 1 frame with open brood and I did see fresh eggs. Go girls.

CONCLUSION:

This hive now has 4 boxes.

In the bottom box is the queen, 5 capped brood frames a pollen and a nectar.

In the 2nd box is 1 capped brood frame in the middle, 2 nectar and the rest are empty frames.

In the 3rd box are 5 frames of nectar and pollen and 3 empty.

Then I put on a queen excluder and the top box/4th is 8 bare frames.

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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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