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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Aug 27 2016

Thank you very much, girls

This is the kind of sunset that's produced in August during fire season in E WA

This is the kind of sunset that’s produced in August during fire season in E WA

A big thank you to the approximately 180K girls in bee form who contributed to the honey harvest this year. And a big thank you to the 3 girls in human form who also contributed to the honey harvest this year.

Yesterday at about 12:30pm it was 88 degrees outside and I, my niece and 2 cousins locked ourselves up in the hot and sweaty bee shed and commenced harvesting honey.  None of them had done this before so it was all new.

The total haul for this extraction

The total haul for this extraction

We had both windows open across from each other with a fan sucking air and honey smells out of the bee shed and to the front yard under the trees. It didn’t take too long before we had a little cabal of bee girls floating around right outside the screen trying to figure out where the honey smell was coming from.

The bee shed smelled like baking cookies because of the hot knife that uncaps the honey from the frames. It’s so hot it kind of cooks some of the honey left on the knife and there’s this toasty honey caramelized smell.

There was uncapping going on; moving sticky oozing honey frames across to the extractor; placing them in just so to the bin; closing the lid; then cranking and cranking and getting that thing whizzing around; bucket and filter under the gate just waiting for the honey to first start oozing out.  Then it became a production line.

One cousin decided the production line could be more efficient so she rearranged things to get them closer to the source – there we go. A quicker process. We had 4 western boxes of honey, which was 32 frames. After we extracted, I put all four of the boxes with the “wet” frames on the hives, giving the purple hive 2 boxes for the ladies to clean out.

It took just an hour and a half and then we started hauling 5 gallon buckets with their filters into the house and on to the counter. Each girl went home with a quart and a pint of honey (and more if they want it).

It took me a half day on Thursday to clean and sterilize the equipment, hose out the bee shed, get the equipment set up and organize it all.  It took me half a day on Friday and all morning Saturday to clean up all the equipment, get the honey off everything, hose all the honey off the floor of the bee shed, clean all the sticky honey from the floor in the kitchen and get everything all back in place and packed away for next year.

 

NOTE on the FlowHive: It was definitely WAAAAAY easier, cleaner and faster to extract from the FlowHive. No mess, no fuss, no cleanup.

However, I do like the sweat and the rhythm and the old fashioned work that it takes to hand crank out the honey, 4 frames at a time. I sort of feel like I could be back on a farm in the 1800’s doing the honey harvest.

2016 HONEY PRODUCTION:

A total of 94.5 pounds of honey, which was 21.5 quart jars and 21 pint jars.

Look at this beautiful jar of raw honey, with all the little specs of light and dark pollen suspended in the honey

Look at this beautiful jar of raw honey, with all the little specs of light and dark pollen suspended in the honey

Add the 24 pounds extracted earlier in the year off the FlowHive and that’s a total of 119.5 pounds for 2016 off 3 good hives.

This crop was very sweet, but not cloyingly sweet, went down smooth without a stinging or harsh flavor like some honeys when they’re too sweet. It has a bit of a kind of nutty flavor and also takes a little like mock orange blossoms smell.  Really flowery, fruity and nutty. Mmmm.

YEARLY HONEY TOTALS

2010 – 18 lbs

2011 – 85 lbs

2012 – 27 lbs

2013 – 75 lbs

2014 – 60 lbs

2015 – 135.5 lbs

2016 – 119.5 lbs

Thank you – you sweet girls.

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Aug 25 2016

Yellow hive inspection quickie & prep for honey extracting

So today, at about 11am it was 76 degrees out and I needed to do just a quick inspection of the yellow hive. The wasps are starting to come out in force now and there are always about 20 just milling around in the bee yard, looking for any opportunity to get into the hives.

The girls are a little grumpy when you pull the honey and open the hives, because they don’t want  these VSD’s in there.

So really my purpose today was just to make sure the queen is still laying, that they have enough nectar for themselves, to remove the queen excluder and see how much extra honey they have for sharing with the other hives if that’s necessary.

Yellow Hive inspection

This hive started and ended with 5 8-frame Westerns.

I very quickly moved through the two honey boxes above the queen excluder. They are very heavy, full of honey, with no frames that were 70% or more capped off. That’s fine – I’m going to leave all this for them and the other girls.

I removed the queen excluder and put it in storage for next year because I want the queen to be able to move all the way up during the winter.

In the other 3 boxes, I managed the hive down – moved open brood and closed brood to the bottom box, any extra closed brood to box 2, making sure they have pollen in each box.

This hive had 10 frames of bees, 2 frames with open brood, 4 frames with capped brood, it was obvious that just in the last few days a bunch had hatched out because the frames were cleaned out and there were a LOT of bees orienting in front of the hive. There were 17 frames full of nectar and 4 frames of pollen. I did not see Queen Løper but I really wasn’t looking. I did see lots of brand new fresh eggs. I took a total of about 10 minutes for the inspection.

PLAN:

I’m going to just leave all this nectar on this hive. That’s about 4 or 5 more frames of nectar than they need for the winter. But later in the fall, like end of September or early October, when we get a nice 60 degree, sunny day, I’ll look in all 3 hives and see if they all have enough honey.  If I need to move honey from one hive to another to even out the honey distribution, I’ll do that.

Prep for honey extraction

So tomorrow is honey harvest day – wooohooo! I have a niece and 2 cousins coming over to help extract. They’ve never done it before so this should be fun. 4 people will be a little crowded in the bee shed but we’ll figure it out.

Prepping for honey harvest is a lot more work than actually harvesting the honey.

I had to take the 6 5-gallon food grade buckets, their lids and the honey filters and wash and sterilize them and let them dry in the sun. I did the same to the big capping box, filter and lid and all it’s parts and pieces. I washed and sterilized the stainless steel manual crank 4-frame extracting machine.

One of my nephews set it all up for me in it’s proper place, all tied down nice and solid so it won’t bounce off the shelf when we’re spinning the honey frames.

We tested out the extractor – moves smooth as butter, baby. Hooked up the electricity to the shed and tested out the window fan – check. The electric hot uncapping knife – check. Moved stuff out of the shed and hosed down the entire inside of the shed (HB painted the whole thing – ceiling and walls – in washable paint and the floor is bricks on sand) so it’s sparkly clean. Put a garbage bucket in there; lots of paper towel rolls; a bucket for soapy water for cleaning our hands, arms, legs and whatever else gets all sticky; a giant spatula for getting out every last drop from the extractor; my uncapping tools for whatever the knife can’t uncap; the tiny allen wrench that tightens up the persnickety rotating gears on the extractor; and moved all four honey totes to the right place.

Tomorrow before noon, I need to put all the honey totes, which are black, out in the sun. The trick is to warm the honey frames inside up enough in the sun to get them nice and runny, but not hot enough to melt the wax which would ruin the honey.

Can’t wait – this is the best day of the year (except of course Christmas and every day waiting for Christmas).

 

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