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.

Thank you – you sweet girls.

Comments Off on Thank you very much, girls

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).

 

Comments Off on Yellow hive inspection quickie & prep for honey extracting

Aug 20 2016

Peeking and pulling honey

I decided to inspect my hives, pull what honey was actually capped and ready (70% capped) and then extract all the stored honey later this week.  If the girls won’t cap off the honey, I’ll just leave them with it all for the winter. I just can’t be extracting later into September or I risk them getting really mad and risk robbing. I already noticed today that the fall wasps were hanging out around the hives, and it will just get worse the later it gets.

At 9am it was 60 degrees outside. By the time I finished at 10am, it was 74 degrees but about 120 in my bee suit. Once again I was a complete sweaty puddle. So I only got through 2 hives.

Orange Hive Inspection

You can see fat pearly white open larvae curled up in their little beds while the nurse bees bring them food and keep them the right temperature

You can see fat pearly white open larvae curled up in their little beds while the nurse bees bring them food and keep them the right temperature

This hive started with 4 boxes – 3 boxes, a queen excluder and a box of nectar.

I did not see the queen, but I saw plenty of fresh eggs and tiny brood so Queen Innfødt was at least working today.

There were 7 frames of bees, 5 frames with open brood/fresh eggs/tiny brood, 9 frames of capped brood, 5 frames full of nectar, 3 frames full of pollen and I pulled 1 frame of capped honey. 

I managed all the open brood to the bottom, with the capped brood on top of that. I removed the queen excluder and finished with the boxes of nectar and cleaned out frames. The bees and queen need to be able to move all the way up during the winter, so bye bye excluder.

This is not really a lot of nectar, but I have a lot of nectar on the other two hives (more than they need) so I’ll move the nectar to this hive a little later in the season.

The girls were busy and basically gentle although a couple of times I had a bee fly right out of the top of the hive into my face net buzzing loudly and zooming me until I smoked myself.  So they are starting to get more defensive. Another good reason to stop pulling honey.

Purple Hive Inspection

This hive started with 5 boxes – 3 boxes, a queen excluder and 2 boxes of nectar.

I did not see the queen, but I saw plenty of fresh eggs and tiny brood so Queen Iskald is doing a great job.

There were 8 frames of bees, 3 frames of open brood/fresh eggs,6 frames of capped brood, 13 frames full of nectar, 2 frames of pollen and I pulled 2 frames of capped honey.

I managed the open brood to the bottom, then capped brood with some expansion frames, removed the queen excluder and topped it off with the nectar. It ended with 5 boxes.

These bees were pretty gently – no zooming from them.

 

I’ll inspect the yellow hive, which is the one I treated for mites last, in the next two days. I may or may not pull honey. If they have a lot of nectar I may just move some over to the orange hive.

On Wednesday or Thursday, I’ll clean and sterilize all the equipment – buckets, filters, capping box, extractor and all it’s parts. And I’ll set up the whole operation and hook up electric to the building for the capping knife and the window fan.

Then on Friday, it’s supposed to be 88, so a nice hot day to extract (since the honey needs to be hot to spin out easily) and we’ll start extracting at noon. I have a niece coming over to help – that’ll be fun.

Comments Off on Peeking and pulling honey

Aug 03 2016

uh oh – We got mites

This is one of the frames with capped brood and bees all over it cleaning out the cells from which bees have already hatched

This is one of the frames with capped brood and bees all over it cleaning out the cells from which bees have already hatched

Today I had to wait until 9am to inspect my hive. It was still only 58 degrees and the bees were barely getting out of the hive because it was very overcast. But I wanted to get out there before it got hot.

This time, I was inspecting the yellow hive with Queen Løper and to do a mite count in that hive.

I took out boxes, extra frames, a container for any honey frames, a jar with alcohol and a  1/2 cup measuring cup, got the smoker going, since I knew they would pretty much all be in the hive.

When you inspect and they’re all in the hive they can get a little grumpy because as I remove boxes from the top and go down, the hive is already so crowded there’s really  nowhere for them to go and they have to fly out of the box.

frame full of white pollen

frame full of white pollen

Yellow Hive Inspection:

This hive started with 5 boxes – 2 on top, then a queen excluder and 3 brood hives. It ended with the same.

There was one capped honey frame which I pulled and replaced with an empty, 21 frames full of nectar, 3 frames of pollen, 14 frames of bees, 5 frames with open brood and fresh eggs and 3 frames with capped brood. In the 3rd frame up, just under the queen excluder, were 3 queen cups (not queen cells) right along the middle of the frame. Weird. I saw Queen Løper who looks just fine. Again with the camera.

The bees weren’t thwacking me but they were a little bit irritated, probably because there were so many in the hive during inspection. I had one try to sting me on the glove. They can smell when one stings you as it lets loose a powerful pheromone when it stings.  I only suspected someone tried to sting me when I suddenly had 3 bees zip up out of the hive and land right on my face veil smack in front of my face – 2 inches away – staring me down. So I looked down and found a poor dead bee on the back of my glove, with a stinger and attached guts sticking in my glove. Yeaaaa, bee suit! I got rid of the guts and bee and then smoked myself pretty good and that made them back off.

the queen is sitting upside down on the middle underside of the bottom bar of this frame. You can see her long orange amber body

the queen is sitting upside down on the middle underside of the bottom bar of this frame. You can see her long orange amber body

Management:

I removed and set aside in a box all frames with open and pretty mature open brood for mite inspection and when I located the Queen, I left her on her frame in the hive. That way I could confidently remove bees from the open brood frames knowing I won’t accidentally get the Queen.

On one open brood frame I was actually able to easily scrape up a whole 1/2 cup of bees and plop them in the jar of alcohol.

I then managed all the open brood and Queen down to the bottom box, with any left over closed brood in the next box. There are plenty of cleaned out frames for expansion in the hive.

There were two entire frames of pollen that is a ghostly white. At first I thought they were open brood in the cells but it’s actually pollen. Never before seen white pollen – I have no idea where this would be coming from.

I closed up the hive, put the one honey frame in storage and did a little weed pulling and raking on the bee deck as it was starting to look like a jungle.

Mite inspection:

I then went inside and did my mite count thing – shake shake shake – pour out through the screen. WOW!  On just the first shake I counted 9 mites. So I didn’t bother with a second shake.  This is 3 times the acceptable mite load.

Mite treatment:

I waited until about 3pm to let the bees all get out of the hive and then I went out and got my MiteAway strips and equipment ready.  This is the “friendliest” bona fide mite treatment (not pseudo or wooo-wooo mite treatments) and it’s the only one you can put on a hive with the honey frames still on the hive and still harvest the honey. But you still have to use heavy rubber gloves, make sure you don’t breath it in and give the bees plenty of air – a wide open front door (no reducer), a screened bottom board and an upper vent – all of which I already have on the hive.

here are 4 alcohol pickled dead bees and 9 little mahogany colored pickled dead mites

here are 4 alcohol pickled dead bees and 9 little mahogany colored pickled dead mites

It has to be put on the hive when temps are between 50 at night and 85 during the day and it has to stay on the hive for 7 days. You can then just throw it on the compost heap as it breaks down by then. It treats mites both on the open brood and bees, but also treats for mites in the closed brood as well. Some of the OF’s state then when they use mite treatment they can get 0-10% queen loss – they leave the hive. But they still treat.

I pulled off all the boxes down to the last box.  I then donned my rubber gloves and cut open the package – whew! I could feel a little sting in my eyes. I then laid the two strips even spaced directly across the top bars of the 1st brood box, under the 2nd brood box. The bees quickly moved away and down into the hive to get away from it. I then put the hive back together, threw away the gloves and the packaging and left.

close up of 3 of the vile little creatures

close up of 3 of the vile little creatures

I’m not happy about using a treatment like this.  But it’s the mildest bona fide treatment. And hoping to let them go “natural” – well, with a load of 9 mites, that ship has sailed. If I use some “hopeful” method or none at all, this hive is doomed to die, guaranteed, either before or during the winter as they’ll all get too sick to survive. They do not “get better” or treat themselves once a mite load is significant. So once my bees have mites, I’m going to treat them.

I’m off again out of state to work next week and I feel pretty good about all three hives and all three new queens. One is a roll your own and the other two are locally grown. Go girls.

Comments Off on uh oh – We got mites

Aug 02 2016

wow – 2 functioning local queens

Yesterday, Aug 1, I did a full hive inspection of the Orange and Yellow hives – the ones that had the new, locally raised queens. I went out at 8:15am when it was 61 degrees and by the time I got done at 10am, it was 79. Although it felt like 95 in the bee suit. And it was not a dry heat.

PREP

I took out a box for sorting.  I realized I’m kind of running short on Western boxes. I have a few in the bee shed holding stored honey frames. If I had another hive, I’d need to get more boxes. I also took out a box for any frames of honey to robbed from the hives.

I also took out 2 quart glass jars 1/3 full of alcohol, with lids, and marked O and P for orange and yellow, and a metal 1/2 cup measuring cup.  These were for my mite inspection.

And of course the usual stuff I haul along with me every time.

 

I was anticipating, honestly, finding no queens or laying in either hive and figuring out what my plan would be at that point.

Orange Hive Inspection

This hive started with 5 boxes and ended with 4. There were two honey boxes above a queen excluder. I pulled 8 frames of honey into storage and there were plenty of cleaned out frames so I didn’t replace this with another box.

So it ended with 4 boxes, just one full box of nectar above a queen excluder. Throughout the other 3 boxes there were about 4 more frames of nectar.

Synopsis:

8 frames of bees, 8 frames of honey, 12 frames of nectar, 4 frames of pollen, 5 frames of capped brood and some open brood around the periphery and 1 frame full of open brood and fresh eggs. There was 1 mite on inspection.

Queen Innfoldt near the middle of the picture

Queen Innfoldt near the middle bottom of the picture

I saw the queen scuttling around. She’s not dark brown like a Carniolan and she’s not that sunny amber color like an Italian. She’s a dark orangey brown. I have a picture here, but something’s wrong with my camera (note to beekeeper – your camera is about 15 years old so go get a new one) so the pictures are a little blurry.  But I watched her for quite some time and she’s really beautiful and fat and fast. And since she’s a local queen, raised about 20 minutes from my back door, her name will be Innfødt, which means “Native” in Norwegian. Hail, Queen Innfødt. May you reign long and slay dragons.

The queen and brood were up in the 2nd box so I managed brood down and queen down to the bottom box, empties and food on top of that for 2 boxes, then the excluder and the honey box.

Plan:

I will not treat for mites at this time. There’s no reason to.

Mite Inspection

So to do a mite inspection you need to pull 1/2 a cup of bees (300) from a frame of open brood because these bees are taking care of and feeding the newbies that haven’t been capped yet, and therefore the mites that are invading these newbies will get on the nurse bees.

Tricky, because the Queen is usually hanging around on frames that have open brood.

So I found the queen on the only frame of open brood, made sure she was on one side, turned the frame over and gently ran the edge of the measuring cup up the face of the frame, scooping bees into the cup. I then have to quickly dump them into the open jar with alcohol.  Scooping them up like this really makes them grumpy. Since I couldn’t get a whole 1/2 cup (maybe 1/4), I have to put the frame back to let them all settle back in and cover the frame, make sure the Queen is on the backside and do this again. Not happy.  They weren’t stinging or thwaking me, but they were up in the air all around me and buzzing very loud.

So I awkwardly managed to get 1/2 a cup in the alcohol and get the lid on.

I used to think this method really sucked, because you murder 300 bees.  However, I’ve heard, read and talked to enough people who use the powdered sugar shake to think that doesn’t work so well.  And the mite count on a sticky board – fuhget ahbout it. There is no way I can find mites in among all the detritus that falls out of that hive. And if I don’t do a mite check, my bees could all die.  So I’m good with “the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few” rule (thank you, Spock).

You do not want more than 3-4 mites per 300 bees. If you have that many, you need to treat for mites so they can go into winter healthy.

So the mite inspection involves laying out a thick old towel on the counter in the kitchen, then a pile of flattened paper towels (so I have a white background), then I have a stiff screen that has holes plenty big enough for mites to drop through but not bees.  I then take each jar with the dead bees and alcohol, shake and swirl them vigorously for about 2 minutes, put the screen over the jar opening and pour the contents out onto the white towels. I then put more alcohol in, do this again (to dislodge every mite), really shake the dickens out of them.  Then I see what’s on the white towels. You can clearly see the little dead mahogany colored mites with their teeny weeny legs folded up under them. Disgusting little creatures.

Purple Hive Inspection

This hive started with 5 boxes and ended with 5 boxes, with 2 full boxes of not totally capped honey above a queen excluder. I didn’t harvest any honey from this hive.

Synopsis:

There were 6 frames of bees, 18 frames of nectar, 2 frames of pollen, 3 frames with capped brood and 3 frames with open brood and fresh eggs. There were zero mites.

Queen Iskald near the top of the bar, center left in the picture

Queen Iskald near the top of the bar, center left in the picture

I saw the queen here, too. Again, not a great picture, but she’s big and fat and orangey brown and quick. She’s obviously laying up well and had quite a retinue.

The queen and brood were in the 3rd box, so I managed the brood and queen down to the bottom box, then 2 boxes of food and empties, the excluder and the two boxes of not capped honey.

Since the queen is doing her job and I’m hoping that since she is also local she’ll survive the winters here much better than those pansy California bees, I’ll call her Iskald, which is Norwegian for Icy.  Hail, Queen Iskald, may you find favor in battle with the valkyries.

I did the mite collection same as the other one with the same hurly burly bee results.

Interestingly, what I did find was the leftovers from the mayhem left by the laying workers in this hive. I had tried to disrupt or scrape out all the crazy multiple eggs in one cell laying that the workers did when they were without a queen.  And what I found was about 4 frames in which 2/3 of the cells were empty and cleaned out and about 1/3 were capped drones (which is what workers lay).  That means drones are going to hatch out and then get kicked out of the hive right away since they’re no longer needed. Sorry guys.

This is a frame of open brood in the purple hive. These are the nurse bees. You can see fat pearly white larvae curled up and in some frames near the center left you can see what looks like a white grain of rice standing straight up out of the middle, which is a fresh egg

This is a frame of open brood in the purple hive. These are the nurse bees. You can see fat pearly white larvae curled up and in some frames near the center left you can see what looks like a white grain of rice standing straight up out of the middle, which is a fresh egg

Plan:

I will not treat for mites at this time since there’s no need.

 

 

Comments Off on wow – 2 functioning local queens

Jul 16 2016

Well. That was interesting

So I got home from work in CA on Friday about 6pm and decided to run out and do a quickie inspection of the two hives with the queens and quick release the queens into the hives. I was supposed to rain on Saturday and I didn’t want to delay.

It was about 64, overcast, and a little windy and the bees were not out, so I knew there would be a LOT of bees in the hives and they may get grumpy. They didn’t get grumpy – they were perfect ladies.

I suited up quick like, got the smoker going, took out a blade to pull up the wire screen on the queen cages.

Orange Hive

I just moved the two top boxes of honey over to the deck. I then smoked the Queen excluder to get the bees down, put aside the queen excluder and started to just quickly inspect to see if there were any eggs in the hive.

As you look down into the hive, you can see bees working or covering the frames.  If there are eggs or brood, they will be completely covering the frame like a blanket. If there is honey and nectar, there may be a lot of bees on the frame, but they’re moving about.

So I grabbed basically the middle frames of each of the next two boxes as they had a lot of bees on the frames. I looked and no eggs. OK, so far good news – no virgin queen was laying.

I then revealed the bottom box with the queen cage wedged between the 2nd and 3rd frames on the right.

The first thing I thought was – wait a minute – I didn’t buy a queen with attendants – why are there bees in the queen cage?

queen cage with the very stiff wire mesh pulled up

queen cage with the very stiff wire mesh pulled up

I pulled out the queen cage and – interesting. The very stiff wire mesh on the cage, which is held down on the cage by a runner on each side of the cage (see picture) was pulled up from the cage (see picture) and the queen was not in the cage.  That means somehow several bees have to have really really pulled hard on that wire and bent it up to let the queen out. Whaaaaaaa?! The candy plug in the cage was also entire gone and cleaned out.

Now I’m wondering – so where’s the queen? And why aren’t there any eggs in the hive if they released her? If she was out for more than a day, she should have been laying. Great.

So I looked again at frames as I put the boxes back together, looking for eggs and a queen, but not in huge detail because it was getting a little cold and darker and I needed to get to the purple hive. Soooooo, I closed up the hive.

 

Purple Hive

I did the same, moving the top 2 honey boxes off, smoking the excluder, moving it off and quickly going through the next box.  In the 2nd box from the bottom, I found eggs.

But wait a minute – there were eggs all over this frame.  First, a digression.

Sometimes when bees are panicked without a queen, the worker bees start laying eggs. These eggs are all sterile and produce only drones. And since the worker bees don’t really know what they’re doing, you can tell they’ve been laying because they’ll lay 2 or more eggs in a cell, or lay the eggs up the sides of the cell – all wonky because they’re not queens and don’t know what they’re doing.

OK, back to the frame with the eggs…..these cells had 5, 6, 7, 8 eggs in a cell. All over the frame. Most of them were not floating in royal jelly – they had just dried up where they were at.  A few were in the tiny stage (2-3 days old) in jelly, but 1 or 2 in a cell. There were about 3 frames with this same scenario on both sides. Whoooboy. I wish I had my camera or cell phone on me, but I didn’t.

I then exposed the bottom box and there was the queen still in her cage. I pulled the cage out and inspected the bottom box and found 3 more frames with these eggs all over. This is the first time I’ve ever seen workers laying eggs.

Here’s the problem – some of the cells have just 1 egg.  So were there all worker cells? Or was there also a virgin queen laying? I have to go with the most likely, which is these are all workers laying eggs.  So I took all the frames with eggs in the cells and scraped and scored the cells to destroy the eggs.

I then put the queen cage down in between two frames, peeled back the stiff wire mesh and tapped the queen cage hard. No more queen in the cage. I assume she went down in the hive. I hope she went down in the hive instead of flying away (they usually won’t do this).

I quickly closed up the hive.

So my plan of action?

Leave them both alone for 2 weeks. I’ll then take a peek.  If either of the hives is still not laying eggs, I am not buying more queens. I’ll let the hive cure their honey and slowly die a natural death and then any bees left in the hives end of August, I’ll combine with the one or two good hives left for the winter. I’m not spending another $100 this year on queens.

 

Comments Off on Well. That was interesting

Jul 09 2016

The deed is done

bumblebee on pink yarrow

bumblebee on pink yarrow

So I talked to The Wiz at last nights bee meeting and he agreed it’s getting too late to let the girls make their own queen. He also said it’s no big deal to put the queen in her cage in the hive and leave her for a week.

black bumblebee on salvia

black bumblebee on salvia

Because I’m not totally sure that they don’t have a virgin queen running around, he suggested I put in a new queen into each hive, in her cage (do not quick-release her), leave her there the whole week (the ladies will feed and take care of her through the holes in her cage) and then next Saturday when I get home, first look in the hive to make sure there are no eggs laid.

If there are eggs laid, it means I did have a virgin queen, she’s finally laying and I just take out the queen in her cage and take her back to the honey house and they’ll take her back.

If there are not any eggs laid, we’ll assume there is no virgin queen and I’ll release the queens into their hives.

So I went up today to the bee supply house to get my queens. They have Carniolans and Italians for $40 each (yikes). These are the queens they always get from Chico, CA.

one of the girls on a daisy

one of the girls on a daisy

But one of the OF’s, the big teddy bear, who has written some papers on bees and was experimenting with Russian bees for several years, has apparently been working on making local queens for the last several years.  This year, he has a few local queens ready to sell that he’s mated.

They are the product of 3 year old queens – queens who are still going strong. That’s a crazy long life for a queen nowadays. You’re lucky if they last two years. My great queen that they just replaced lasted 18 months.

These are a combination of Caucasian and Carniolan and are supposed to be gentle, and bred in this environment. He’s calling them “Mt. Spokane queens” since he lives on Mt. Spokane. The catch is that they’re $50 each.

one of the girls on the pink yarrow

one of the girls on the pink yarrow

So I’m thinking – ta heck with these pansy little California wimps that can’t hack it up here. The ski lift at Mt. Spokane is 25 minutes from my back door. So these girls are super local.

So I bought a couple of Mt. Spokane Queens. They are labeled “C” and “BT” – don’t have a clue what that stands for but I need to keep track so I can report back to him how they are doing. It’s something to do with tracking their breeding/genetics.

I came home and since it was sunny and 72, at about 11am I suited up quickly, took the new queens in their cages out to the bee deck and warmed up the smoker. The queens are not chocolate brown like Carniolans and they’re not a glowing light amber color like my new Italian queen. They’re a kind of darker golden with brown tips on their tails.

fuzzy orange bottomed bumblebee (my favorite BBs) on the white lavender

fuzzy orange bottomed bumblebee (my favorite BBs) on the white lavender

In both hives, I first really quickly looked at each frame in the brood boxes one last time to see if there were any eggs – zero, nada, zip.

I popped the “C” queen in the orange hive, bottom box, between the 2nd and 3rd frames from the right, tipped with the candy plug down so that if it gets hot, the candy won’t melt all over her. I wedged her in tight between the frames. Immediately she had girls all over her cage, not jawing that I could see, just covering her.

I popped the “BT” queen in the purple hive, same place with the same results of bees covering her.

I quickly put the boxes back together and was done with it.

I also bought myself a new bee brush since the old one was starting to get stiff bristles instead of nice and soft. And I bought a newfangled uncapping roller. It looks like a combination pet-hair removal roller brush and medieval torture rack that’s round. Instead of tearing apart the wax cappings like the metal fork, it rolls over them with these long spikes and pierces them. Probably a lot less wreckage to the cells prior to spinning.

one of the girls on the oregano. Notice the absolutely stuffed pollen bags on her back legs with nice orange pollen

one of the girls on the oregano. Notice the absolutely stuffed pollen bags on her back legs with nice orange pollen

It poured rain last night and the sun is out today, with all my flowers in bloom and there were my girls and all sorts of visitors all over the garden.

 

I have in bloom right now rudbekia, the last of the purple lavender, white lavender, cosmos, daisies, several kinds of salvia, the second blossoming of the sage (after shearing), mustard, coriander, calendula, white and pink and yellow yarrow, coreopsis, russian sage, goldenrod, echinacea, cucumber blossoms, 3 kinds of squash blossoms, bean blossoms, new chives, campanula, hosta, vinca, oregano, several blossoming thymes and all sorts of day lilies.

 

So I’m off to work next week. You girls play nicey with the new queens and take care of them.

This is some kind of little wild bee on the pink yarrow. She was black and shiny and about a third of the size of a honey bee

This is some kind of little wild bee on the pink yarrow. She was black and shiny and about a third of the size of a honey bee

 

I also had a telling-the-bees session and whispered a secret to them.

 

 

Close your eyes, kids. Here are two pretty little butterflies, back to back, mating on one of my calendula

Close your eyes, kids. Here are two pretty little butterflies, back to back, mating on one of my calendula

Comments Off on The deed is done

Jul 07 2016

Full inspection, all 3 hives

So today I needed to find out if there was any kind of queen in any of the hives. I have to leave for a week on Monday, so my only chance to buy any queens is this Saturday. It’s getting late in the year so I can’t wait another week to do this. Besides, as the bees numbers dwindle in the hives, there may not be enough bees to take care of the newly hatched babies.

This is the conundrum about letting them re-queen themselves later in the summer.  You don’t have to spend $35 a queen, but on the other hand, if they make a queen, there is less chance she’ll mate well because they hives are not laying up drones.  Then she still has to spend 2-4 weeks mating and getting ready to lay.  By that time, there may not be enough workers in the hive to take care of her baby bees.  On top of that, she needs to get the hive full strength to about 60-80K bees to get ready for winter and that may not happen in the late summer.

So at 10:15am it was overcast, 72 degrees with a very slight breeze. By the time I was done with all 3 hives, it was 12:15pm and it was still 72 degrees.

I went out to the bee deck, took a box with wet frames from last year; two boxes to hold any honey I pulled; and a sorting box. I suited up and got my smoker going. I decided just to move from left to right – orange, yellow (former FlowHive), purple.

In all hives, the girls were pleasant and busy. There was no aggressive behavior.

Orange Hive 

Inspection synopsis:

This hive started with 6 8-frame western boxes, with 2 boxes on top, then a queen excluder and then 4 boxes.

There were 12 frames of bees. I pulled 5 frames of fully capped honey. There were 17 frames of honey/nectar and 8 frames with pollen. There was no queen, no capped brood, no open brood and no eggs.

I pared the hive down and it ended with 5 8-frame western boxes, with 2 on top, queen excluder, then 3 boxes.

Problems:

Clearly, no queen, at least not laying up.  There could possibly be a virgin queen running around, but I didn’t see one (not that I would) and there is no evidence she’s laying.

 

By this time I was just starting to get sweat dripping down my face so I decided not to be miserable. I went out of the bee deck, soaked a do-rag in cold water and put that on my head, then soaked down the front and back of my T-shirt under my bee suit. That made me completely comfortable enough to last the rest of the hour and a half.

Yellow Hive

Inspection Synopsis:

This hive started with 5 8-frame western boxes, with 3 on top, a queen excluder and 2 on bottom. It ended with 5 boxes, but with 2 on top, a queen excluder and 3 on bottom.

There were 8 frames of bees, I pulled 3 full frames of capped honey. There were 18 frames of full but not yet capped honey and 1 frame of pollen.

I found one of the shredded open queen cells from the last inspection.

shredded open queen cell on the bottom of a frame

shredded open queen cell on the bottom of a frame

In the 2nd box from the bottom on the frame 2nd to the outside, I found about a dozen cells that had – taadaa! Open milky white brood.  WHAAAAA?!

I flipped the frame over to see if there was more and I found about a dozen more cells with open brood and about 3 eggs.

So I started looking for motion on the frames by the bees, like when they surround a queen and – BAM! I saw the new queen.  

You can see the pearly white open brood larvae in the center cells

You can see the pearly white open brood larvae in the center cells

They clearly rolled their own queen. And, of course, because they do this every time they make their own, she’s Italian.

Queen Freya was a purchased Carniolan and I put her in April of 2015. So she was about 1 year 3 months old. I thought she’d last until next spring.  They’ve made an Italian and she’s starting to lay up. Regardless, she’s in the family now, which means she’s a viking queen, so I’ll name her Queen Løper, which means Renegade queen.

I simply managed her entire 2nd box down to the bottom, put the next box on top, gave her the 3rd box for expansion, then put on the queen excluder and honey boxes.  I didn’t complete an inspection of the other 14 frames in the bottom two boxes because I know I have a young queen laying up. Sweet, sweet Løper!

welcome to MooseMoon hives, Queen Loper.

welcome to MooseMoon hives, Queen Loper. She’s the amber yellow long bodied bee at the middle top of the frame, head north, butt end south

 

Purple Hive

Inspection Synopsis:

This hive started and ended with 5 8-frame western boxes, with 2 on top, a queen excluder and 3 on bottom.

There were 8 frames of bees, I pulled 1 frame of capped honey. There were 21 frames of uncapped honey/nectar and 2 frames of pollen.  There was no queen that I could see, no eggs, no open or capped brood.

So this is also either queenless or has a virgin queen.

 

So what’s the plan, Stan?

Well, I’m going to go to the bee meeting tomorrow night and gripe and moan with the rest of them about how my bees are not cooperating with my well thought out plans.

I think it’s way too late in the summer to encourage them to make their own queen and there wouldn’t be enough bees left for the babies. So unless I just want two hives to completely die, I’m going to have to buckle down and spend another $70 buying two queens.

These two hives that are queenless had two purchased queens put in them just this April for $70. Grrrrrrr!

What I’m going to ask the OF’s at the meeting is if I should put the queen, in her cage with attendants, in the hives and then leave her in her cage until I get back next Saturday.  I’m wondering – IF there is a virgin queen running around, if I release a new queen, the virgin will just kill her (there goes another $70 and still no babies guaranteed). But I’m wondering if I leave a queen in the hive for a week, will the rest of the hive determine the one in the cage is mated and they want her, and then go ahead and kill or kick any virgin queen to the curb?

We’ll see what the OF’s and The Wiz say. Either way, I’m real sure I’m going to be out another $70.

Comments Off on Full inspection, all 3 hives

Jul 01 2016

oh.good.grief

So yesterday, Friday, I inspected the purple hive. At 7:45am it was 68 degrees. It was warm enough for the girls to be out, but since the hives are shaded from the very early morning sun, no sun was shining on the front doors and only a few girls were up and at ’em. I guess I’d need to roust them out.

I took out to the bee deck my sorting box and a box with empty frames. Got the smoker going, smoked the front door and under the lid.

I then spent some time weeding in front of the beehives since that’s gotten out of hand and I can only do this in the bee suit. I knocked down a good amount – the girls no longer have to feel they’re living in a jungle.

Purple Hive inspection synopsis:

a really decent frame of nearly capped honey with beautiful white wax cappings. Put into storage

a really decent frame of nearly capped honey with beautiful white wax cappings. Put into storage

The hive started and ended with 5 boxes. There were 16 frames of nearly half-capped honey and 3 frames of well capped honey, which I harvested and put in a tote for storage for extracting later in the bee shed. There were another 9 frames full of nectar, 1 good frame of pollen and 13 full frames of bees.  

There was no queen sighted, no eggs, no open larvae and no capped larvae – no brood at all. The entire bottom box was cleaned out frames. There were two queen cells which had clearly been fully capped and were now open and chewed out. WTHeck?

Management:

I pulled 3 good capped frames of honey into storage. There were 3 boxes completely full of either partially capped honey or full of nectar. I went ahead and moved all three boxes full of honey/nectar to the top and put a queen excluder between box 2 and 3. If they need more food, they can always move up into the top boxes.

I inspected each of the three boxes for a virgin queen – although I’ve never seen one live and wouldn’t expect to be able to tell if I actually saw a virgin queen. I then shook the bees from these boxes down into the bottom two boxes and also smoked the dickens out of them to drive the bees down. I don’t want a queen caught up in the top honey boxes. Then I put the queen excluder on.

The bottom two boxes have about 4 frames of food and the rest of the frames are empty, ready for brooding up.

Problem Discussion:

So I now have all of my hives queenless – or at least original queenless.  One had a great queen from last year, and the other two I spent $70 this year on putting queens into them. They all have or had queen cells.

I’m going to wait until the end of next week and look at all of them again to see if I have a laying queen.

If not, I’ll head up to The Wiz’s on Saturday morning and see what he thinks, because I’ll be out of town the week after that.  I don’t mind having them make their own.

Here are the issues with that:

  1. If they haven’t already made a queen, there’s no chance now because there are no fresh eggs anywhere to make a queen
  2. It’s starting to get late in the year, and it could be there are no more drone (or not enough) out there anymore to mate well with even if they did create a queen
  3. At some point, you get late enough in the season that ANY queen won’t have time to brood up 60-70K bees to get themselves through the winter so you need to get a queen in there

PLAN:

I’ll peek at them next Thursday and Friday

If they have queens laying up, I’ll leave them alone

If any of them don’t, I’ll get a queen on Saturday, put her in on Saturday and quick-release her on Sunday into the hive and hope to heck there isn’t a virgin queen running around in the hive to kill the purchased, mated, $35 queen so that I have to start all over.

Comments Off on oh.good.grief

Jun 29 2016

Yellow hive inspection – upside down, too

So I went out to inspect the yellow hive, Queen Freya’s, this morning. At 8am it was 66 degrees and by 8:30 when I finished it was 75. Not too hot, but again a high of 93 today so these early morning inspections are going to be routine.

I took out a sorting box and a box full of empty frames just in case I needed it.

Yellow hive inspection synopsis

This have started and ended with 5 boxes. This is the hive that had 30-35 fully formed and capped queen cells last time I looked.

There were 17 frames of bees, 15 frames full of honey but only partially capped, 4 frames of nectar and 2 frames of pollen. There was no queen sighted, absolutely no brood whatsoever – no eggs, no larvae or open brood and no capped brood at all.

Soooooo, everything has hatched out, and there is no follow up brood.

However, there was absolutely not one single solitary queen cell left in the hive. That means all of them have been destroyed.

 

So I now have two hives that have gone queenless.

Assumptions:

I’m going to assume they made at least one queen out of the gazillion in there they were making and that I have a virgin queen running around in there waiting to get her mojo on and she’ll either get mated or has already mated.

Plan:

I’m going to go ahead, like on the orange hive, and just wait them out another week. I’ll check them in a week and see if there are any fresh eggs to show that they made their own successful queen.

Meanwhile, tomorrow I’ll inspect the purple hive, just for giggles, and see if they have a queen and any extra eggs. If they do (they’ll have to have eggs on two frames that they can spare), I’ll pop a frame of fresh eggs in each of the orange and yellow hives.

Comments Off on Yellow hive inspection – upside down, too

Next »