Jul 27 2014

It’s so hard to wait

So last weekend I inspected the two hives and saw the Queen Håper and the other hive which had a busted out queen cell but who know if they have a queen.

You’re supposed to leave bees alone for at least 2 weeks after they have a new queen.

This is the very hardest thing in the world for me to do. I want sooooooo very bad to go in this weekend and peek at the girls, watch them work, see if they have a queen, is she laying well.

It almost made my skin itch all weekend I wanted to get in there so bad. But I resisted. I’m off to work in California for another week tomorrow so I won’t be able to cheat and I won’t be able to peek until next Monday.

Oooooh, but I want to.

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Jul 27 2014

The culmination of the whole venture

Saturday was extraction day. Aaaaaaaah. The big event that every beekeeper waits all year for.

Before I get into the details, first some ruminations. My “beekeeping style” is not for honey production. I decided my beekeeping style was going to be trying to do my little part to help the bees survive, hopefully pollinate my garden and then, if I got honey – well, that was just gravy.

That’s why I let them roll their own queen, even though it can set me back on honey production (this year, all my honey was pulled from the hive that got it right, while none was pulled from my second hive was had difficulty getting a queen going). It’s why I leave 85-100 pounds of good honey on the hives over the winter; so I don’t have to feed them nasty sugar syrup (although I’ll give them some in the fall in order to get HBH in them to help them go into the winter healthy) and so they come out of the spring with lots of real honey on the hive that will last them until the first nectar flow. Except for about a gallon on each hive in the fall to deliver the HBH, I haven’t fed them in several years.

Even if I had a year without any honey, I’d love doing the bees because it’s incredibly relaxing, it’s always a learning experience, it’s extremely interesting and it’s rightfully humbling to see the detailed complexity and wonder that God put into creating these little bees and knowing that if He cared enough about these little insects, how much more He cares for me.

pint jar of amber honey (about 1 pound) and a teeny weeny plastic baby bear with honey

pint jar of amber honey (about 1 pound) and a teeny weeny plastic baby bear with honey

Given all of that – it’s still just ripping exciting to actually extract honey.

On Friday, I prepped and set up the equipment. I pulled it all out of it’s storage boxes in the bee shed and onto the lawn. I hosed down the inside of the bee shed to get all the dust off the walls, floors and shelves.  I then took the capping tub/lid, the 4 food grade plastic 5 gallon buckets, the 3 plastic filters and lids, and the stainless steel honey extractor and washed them with soap and hot water and left them out in the sun to dry.

Then I set everything up in the bee shed. The capping tub went on one table, the honey extractor was set up in position and locked down tight to keep the jiggling to a minimum when it’s unbalanced. A bucket with a filter was set right under the honey gate  under the extractor (which sits on a shelf). I plugged in and tested out the hot knife and put the fan in the west window.

Every year at the bee meeting you hear horror stories of people who have outfitted their garages to be special honey extracting sheds, every hole plugged with spray foam, windows closed up tight, doors sealed with rubber seals and still there’s the one tiny hole and they end up overwhelmed with bees in their honey shed during extracting.

I have a bee shed that has a door that does shut, a screen door that has a 2 inch gap all the way around it into the garden shed which is entirely open to the garden, and a few cracks and holes. I have a screened window on the east side, just 2 feet from the bee deck and another screened window directly across from it on the west side. The bee shed is under the big maple trees out front so it’s shaded all the time and even when it’s really hot, it’s not stifling in there. We set up a fan in the west window blowing the air out so that all the honey smell goes out the west side of the building instead of the east side where the bees are. I have never had an issue with even one honey bee coming in the gaping holes around the door and bothering us. Given all that, we don’t go in and out of the shed as we don’t want to tempt fate.

On Saturday morning, we put the 3 big black totes with honey boxes out in the sun so they’d really warm up. I ran up to the bee supply place to get myself the cutest little plastic baby bear honey jars (hold 2 oz). My nephew, the one who got me started in beekeeping, came over to help me extract for the first time.

We had a 5 gallon bucket of water in the shed for cleaning our hands off, a couple of clean towels, 3 big containers of ice water and (later since we forgot) a big long rubber spatula.

My extractor holds 4 frames and is a hand crank. You can buy a motor for these to just turn it on but I really enjoy the old fashioned, hands on feel of cranking that puppy up, letting her spin and cranking her up again. It makes you feel connected to the process.

Our  bounty of honey this year, all jarred up

Our bounty of honey this year, all jarred up

THE PROCESS

First we find four frames that are relatively the same in weight. You can’t have heavy and light together or the spinner gets really out of balance. Then one by one, we take a frame over to the capping tub. Nephew glides the hot knife down the face of one side of the honey frame, then the other, and the wax cappings just shave off in a sheet. Any that didn’t get shaved because they were concave, I have a little wax capping scratcher that looks like a very sharp afro pick and scratch at the capping to break them. The tub is hard clear plastic and has an upper liner with holes so that the capping drain their honey down into the bottom tub, which has a honey gate.

As soon as one frame is shaved, I place it in the extractor and we do the same process 3 more times. Then we put the lid down on the extractor and start cranking. It doesn’t take too long, about 4-5 times cranking her up good and letting her spin out. Then you pull out a frame, you can see the frame is bare now, you turn them all around and you do the same for the other side.

You then transfer the “wet” frames (empty cells but coated thinly with honey) and put them back in the rubber tubs with the lid on.

After about 8 frames you start to see – the golden, thick liquid come slowly burbling out the honey gate on the bottom of the extractor and into the upper sieve on top of the honey bucket. You put your hands and arms down into the wash bucket because you have honey all over your hands, and then you keep going until you’re finished.

Lastly, we scooped up all the wax cappings in the top of the capping tub, put them in the filter on top of another honey bucket. Then nephew put the lids on the 3 buckets, and on top of the capping tub, and he and HB took them quickly into the kitchen. I suited up and took the 3 boxes that had the “wet” frames and put them (plus one box with drawn out frames) onto the top of the hives so the bees could clean them out. Now each hive has 6 boxes.

Then nephew and I took the equipment all out onto the lawn and left it there for the bees to clean off for awhile.

We cleaned up stuff in side and decided we needed to let the stuff drip through the filters for another day as the honey was really thick and going very slowly through all the cappings and the filters.

We all celebrated with BBQ filet mignon steaks, corn fresh from the cob, roasted beets from the garden and baked potatoes. It took about 3 hours total.

Later we went out to hose down the equipment. There must have been 1000 bees on it. So I sort of misted it all down to get the bees out of there. then we hosed off the equipment, took out a 5 gallon bucket of hot, soapy water and cleaned and rinsed off all the equipment; let it dry in the sun and put it all away.

BOTTLING

We waited until Sunday afternoon to bottle. First I weighed an empty bucket, then weighed each bucket and totaled it up. Not as fine as last year, but our yield this year was exactly 60 lbs. of honey. That sounds like a lot, but honey is really heavy. Still, I’m not complaining.

HB and I love the bottling process. I had already sterlized gobs of half pint, pint and quart jars in the dishwasher. HB set up a system for himself and I brought him jars, he filled them, I took them away (he’s really good – nary a drop out of place) and put the lids on and we just kept at it.

Every year watching that first jar of honey fill, we just both laugh and say we can’t FLIPPING believe this. We have bugs in our back yard that fill our jars up with this thick, golden, sticky honey.

The crop this year is thick, glossy, is not sickening sweet like some of the stuff you buy where it kind of stings the back of your throat, you could just keep eating this stuff, and after you’ve swallowed it, you taste a kind of nutty spiciness.

When we were all done, HB took two pieces of toast, used them to mop out the last honey bucket, got a glass of cold milk and ate a honey sandwich to celebrate. Divine!

pot after melting the wax capping and letting the wax rise to the top and cool. There's slumgum underneath this and then brown water

pot after melting the wax capping and letting the wax rise to the top and cool. There’s slumgum underneath this and then brown water

WAX RENDERING

All the cappings were in one bucket. I put cool water in the bucket to well cover the capping and stirred, then poured out the water over a filter and did this about 5 times until nearly all of the honey was actually out of the cappings.

I then put the cappings in a big stainless steel pot I have for this purpose, just cover the cappings with water and put it on medium low heat on the stove. It melts into a peanut butter looking gummy mess. You stir it up and take it off the stove and let it sit 2 hours in a tub of cold water. The wax rises to the top and makes a disk.

You pick up the disk and pour out all the gunky water. There is stuff called “slumgum” on the bottom of the disk which is this disgusting, chunky, gooey brown mess of all the solids that are not wax (bee parts and bodies, propolis, pollen, goop). You scrape this crap off the bottom of the disk as best you can.

Then I break up the disk into chunks, put it in a big pyrex glass 4 cup measuring cup, put it in the microwave and 40% power and nuke it for 30 seconds at a time, just low to melt it, not make it actually sputter and cook.

whip cream carton about half filled with hot, melted, pure beeswax

whip cream carton about half filled with hot, melted, pure beeswax

I have a cleaned wax coated whip cream carton. I have cut several chunks of 4 layers of cheesecloth. I lay a cheesecloth over the carton, push down a little and pour the melted wax into it. This filters out the rest of the nasty, cooked slumgum, which I throw away with the cheesecloth.

Then I pop the carton into the fridge and I have a block of pure, unadulterated beeswax that I can use for making my homemade lip balms, furniture wax and lotion bars.

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Jul 20 2014

Inspection for both queens

This is regarding my inspection on Saturday, July 19.

The bee deck is to the right, and this is the new guardian of the girls, guarding the bee shed.

The bee deck is to the right, and this is the new guardian of the girls, guarding the bee shed.

I decided to get an early jump and got out to inspect the bees at 8am, which was a good idea. It wasn’t nearly as sweaty. The girls weren’t really out and about a lot, but they weren’t grumpy, the sun was up and it was already 73. I used the smoker, but I’m wondering if the girls already thought we were in a fire – the smoke from the forest fires surrounding us in this area are absolutely choking. The sun this morning was a dark red ball, there’s a creepy orange/brown haze over everything and the smell of woodsmoke was so strong in the night it woke us up.  We can’t see them from here, of course, and we’re safe in the city, but the fires jumped into our county last night, the winds are strong and there are hundreds of acres of forest burning to the west, north and east of us in different spots.

Soooooo, I suited up, got my smoker, my wax collecting tub, camera and little notebook.

Speaking of wax collecting – I really have collected very, very little – scant little pieces. The girls in both of these hives are pretty neat and aren’t prone to making crazy wax all over in appropriate places like some of my past hives. They’re a little more orderly.

My goal today was to see if either of my hives still had a queen and if they were laying. It’s been a week since I found both hives without any open or capped larvae, didn’t spy either queen, and found a great big ol’ capped queen cell in the blue hive where Queen Kloke had been installed.

Blue Hive

SYNOPSIS:

  • There were 5 boxes on this hive.
  • There was a total of 13 frames full of capped honey, 6 frames pretty full of pollen, some frames with some new nectar.
  • There were 11 frames of bees
  • All the rest of the frames were empty and cleaned out
  • There were no capped or uncapped brood, no larvae in any stage and no eggs
  • I did not see a queen
  • The very large queen cell I saw last time is now torn open on the bottom. It did not have a little trap door, but looked chewed out – I don’t know if that was from within or without. I tore it open and looked inside and there was nothing

This means I may (or may not) have a virgin queen on the loose in the hive. I looked carefully but there was no motion, entourage or anything else that indicated the presence of a queen. That means absolutely nothing since virgin queens are notoriously hard to spot and very, very quick. I’ve only seen one in my entire time of beekeeping.

PLAN:

I’m going to let them figure out their own thing here. I’ll check them again next weekend and leave them alone this week. At the very worst, if they actually don’t make a queen at all and I go 3-4 weeks with no queen activity, I’ll combine it with the orange hive for the winter.

This is the girls waterer. It's an old Red Flyer wagon with a faucet on continual drip at the back end, stones inside and it just drips over the edge.

This is the girls waterer. It’s an old Red Flyer wagon with a faucet on continual drip at the back end, stones inside and it just drips over the edge.

Orange Hive

SYNOPSIS:

  • This hive had 5 boxes
  • There were 13 frames of new honey just capped, 3 1/2 frames full of new nectar, 7 frames full of pollen
  • There were 6 frames of bees
  • The drone trap was still empty and cleaned and this is where I spotted Queen Håper, scuttling around looking healthy. Video of the Queen
  • There were 3 frames with with large, pearly white larvae in the center, smaller and smaller brood circling out and tiny fresh eggs at the edges – YEAH QUEEN HÅPER!
  • There was one frame with capped brood
  • The rest of the frames were empty and cleaned out

MANAGEMENT:

I moved the 3 frames of open brood to the bottom box, in the middle, with honey and pollen on the sides. The 2nd box has the capped brood in the middle, and the drone trap with the queen and honey and pollen.

HONEY MANAGEMENT:

I removed 3 frames of honey from the orange hive and replaced them with 3 empty, drawn out frames. I removed 1 frame of honey from the blue hive and replaced it with the frozen drone-pop frame.

THOUGHTS:

I have no idea why Queen Håper took a 2 week break from laying. C’est la vie.

I have no idea where Queen Kloke went, why they made a new queen and if a queen is even alive in the hive or will survive. At livet (that’s c’est la vie in Norwegian).

It seems like every bee season I have one hive that does great, one – not so much. I’m either combining, splitting and re-combining, waiting for a queen to be made, losing the weak hive to wasps, or coddling along a hive trying to make a queen or replacing a queen when they can’t, or replacing replaced queens.

Each year I think I’m going to split both hives when it’s swarming season and I’ll have 3 or 4 hives and it never happens because one is struggling.

Here's the bee deck after inspection. Hives, extra stand for sorting, and the smokers in the foreground, with the bee fencing surround

Here’s the bee deck after inspection. Hives, extra stand for sorting, and the smokers in the foreground, with the bee fencing surround

I frankly don’t know if I’d do better if I just bought a queen every single fall, pinched the existing year old queen, and artificially managed the hives and their queens this way, importing them from California like many do. But I’ve decided to let my bees try this on their own, try to make their own healthy queens that can last through a winter and try and determine when they want to boot out an existing queen.

NOTE TO SELF:

I think next April, I’ll go ahead and buy a full bee package with a queen. Then I’ll have my 3 hives I’ve been wanting. If I have one hive constantly in turmoil, maybe I’ll have two hives that are always great.

 

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Jul 12 2014

Sigh – I just have no idea what they’re up to

So I decided to inspect the hives early. It was 73 degrees at 8:30am and was supposed to get to 99 today. And since I planned on pulling honey and looking to see how the newly installed queens were doing, I knew it would be a long inspection.

I got all prepared and took out:

  • smoker
  • 4 giant lidded rubbermaid totes for storing boxes of honey
  • 4 empty western boxes
  • bee brush
  • spray bottle with 1:1 warm syrup with HBH in it to spray on any empty frames I put in just for a little stimulant
  • hive tool
  • 2 queen extractors
  • wax receptacle
  • notebook and camera

I wore shorts and a tank top, wet down the tank top thoroughly with cold water, tied a wet bandana around my neck, tied my hair up and got suited up.

I started with the blue hive and Queen Kloke.

nice frame of newly capped honey. The whiteness of the capping shows it's honey cappings, not brood cappings, and it's on new wax

nice frame of newly capped honey. The whiteness of the capping shows it’s honey cappings, not brood cappings, and it’s on new wax

Blue Hive

SYNOPSIS:

Started with 6 western boxes on this hive. The top box, box 6, was a honey shallow and still completely bare so I just pulled it off.

I pulled off 7 frames of capped honey and put them in storage in the totes. I do this by taking out the frame (really heavy), holding it up and brushing the bees off each side of the frame with the brush in one sweep, then I do it again to get the stragglers and flick the brush to get the bees out of the brush. I then put the honey frame in the box in the tote and put the lid on the tote quick so no bees get back in there.

That left 13 frames full of uncapped honey or nectar on the hive.

There were 8 frames of bees, 3 frames of pollen and all the rest of the frames were empty and cleaned out.

Yes, empty and cleaned out.

Not a single capped brood, not a single larvae, not a single egg. And I could not find Queen Kloke. HOWEVER, there was a very sizable capped queen cell, which I left in place. $35 and they make their own queen.

This is the queen cell found about 1/3 of the way down on the frame. It's entirely capped off and very large

This is the queen cell found about 1/3 of the way down on the frame. It’s entirely capped off and very large

I managed the hive by inserting a honey shallow in position 3 with 3 frames that had some honey already and 5 frames empty sprayed with sugar syrup/HBH.

I was so sweaty by this time, I couldn’t see out my glasses as the lenses were filled with puddle of sweat. So I left the bee deck and went and hosed off my head and Tshirt again and then returned for round 2.

Orange Hive

SYNOPSIS:

This hive started with 6 boxes.

I pulled 7 frames full of honey and put in storage. This left 15 frames of almost capped honey or frames full of nectar on the hive, plus 10 frames of pollen.

This is a drone trap frame with capped larvae. You can see how much larger they are and the cappings bulge out instead of staying even with the top of the frame.

This is a drone trap frame with capped larvae. You can see how much larger they are and the cappings bulge out instead of staying even with the top of the frame.

The drone trap was about 1/3 full on each side with capped drones so I removed it and put it in the freezer and swapped it out with the previously frozen drone-pop.

There were 13 frames of bees, and all the rest of the frames were empty and cleaned out. That’s right. Empty and cleaned out.

Again, not a single capped  brood, not a single larvae, not a single egg. WTH?!

I did see the queen hustling about over the frames and followed by many bees.

After pulling the honey, this left 5 boxes on the hive and I moved the box in position 2 that had the queen down to the bottom – very carefully.

I know she hasn’t started laying and I have no idea what she’s doing, but a queen should have a name so she’s – Queen Håper (yhoh-puhrd). Which means – HOPE. Video of Queen Håper
I just have no idea what’s going on. And I have to leave tomorrow for work out of town for a week. And it’s supposed to be 99-101 degrees all week long here, and dry. Is it bad to requeen when it’s blazing hot? Am I getting dud queens? Is there something insidious going on here? I looked carefully at the bees to look for mites on their backs, deformed wings, erratic walking behavior – nothing.

Girls, you’re just going to have to figure out what you’re doing this week without me. I’m at a complete loss.

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Jul 12 2014

Still learning about bees

I went to the bee meeting last night – it was just packed, there must have been at least 100 people there, with lots of newbie beekeepers, first year students. I still learn stuff every time.

Things I learned this time:

  • pull all your honey you’re going to pull off the hives by mid to late August, never in September. This is because end of August and all September is when you’re preparing the bees for winter and you need enough time to check for mites, treat for mites and then re-check for mites. This can take 4-5 weeks depending on how you treat and all of them require warm weather in order to work, and most can’t be done while there’s human honey on the hive. Besides, if you start pulling honey off the hives in September, in the words of the OF “the bees’ll sting the hell out of ya!”
  • If you have boxes and boxes of honey on the hive, even though bees like to hoard they may get lazy and stop bringing in honey. So pull that honey off and let them make more.
  • In August, don’t put bare frames on the hive – the bees can end up shutting down wax production when it’s hot and dry and so they just won’t draw out the frames and just won’t make honey. Put on frames that have already been drawn and cleaned out.
  • Put your honey supers with the empty/drawn out frames above the beneath the honey, along with any honey frames they haven’t capped. They’ll work it sooner than if you move an empty box all the way up top

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Jul 08 2014

Release the Kraken!

So about 7pm tonight, I quickly put on my bee suit, got my smoker and hive tool and one little piece of burlap and went out to the bee deck to check on and release the new queen in the orange hive.

I smoked a little at the front door and under the lid, then popped the top and started moving boxes to the back of the bee stand. At the 2nd box from the bottom I went ahead and looked at the 6 middle frames of the 2nd box, including the drone trap frame just in case I actually found fresh eggs – then I’d know that somehow I missed a virgin queen previously.

There were a very few, spotty fat larvae only on the drone trap. But worker bees can lay drones. There were no eggs or larvae anywhere. I also checked out the middle 4 frames in the bottom box, and again no eggs.

I then pulled out the queen cage to see how they were treating her. She was alive and well, skittling about, with lots of bees over her, fawning on her, not jawing her and anxiously walking all over my fingers as I held her cage.

It was then I realized I’d gone out there without a marshmallow to plug up the hole. Hmmm.

So I scraped up a bit of beeswax and made a little ball. I took the trusty fondue fork, carefully worked the cork almost all the way out, waited til the queen was at the bottom of her cage and popped the cork and pushed in the wax ball.

I then placed the queen cage back down in the hive between the frames. Then I put on the next box, but left it askance so I could see the top of the queen cage with the little wax ball. I took the fondue fork, poked the wax ball, popped it out and quickly slid the 2nd box over. This way the queen will just get out immediately. It would have taken them just a few hours to get her out anyway.

Then I shut up the hive, and went out and enjoyed my garden – OH SHOOT! Left the sprinkler on – gotta go.

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Jul 06 2014

Hmmmmmmmmm….. and Aaaahaaaaaaa….

newly hatched baby in blue hive. He's in between the other two bees. Notice he's much lighter, kind of gray and looks kind of wet and fuzzy

newly hatched baby in blue hive. He’s in between the other two bees. Notice he’s much lighter, kind of gray and looks kind of wet and fuzzy

Yesterday was destined to be a hottie, in the high 80′s, so I decided to get out there by 9am to inspect the hives. None to soon – an hour long inspection and the last half was sweaty. I used to tie a wet do-rag on my head to cool myself down, but I discovered it works much better to soak said do-rag in cold water, tie it around my through right up under my ears and down the length of my neck. Duh! Biology major/healthcare worker – some major, large veins are right near the surface in this area (where you take your pulse) so cooling the blood supply on your neck cools you down all over.

So at 9am I grabbed camera, smoker, burlap, lighter, hive tool, wax collector box, 2 empty westerns for sorting and a couple extra drawn out and empty frames; suited up and headed out to the bee deck – which is, blessedly, several yards closer to the bee shed. So now it’s just out the shed door and pop onto the bee deck. No climbing up stairs or a slope, no rickety bouncy wood deck. Just nice solid bee pavers and twice the room to maneuver around. I can lay down my smoker anywhere because none of it is wood. Yeah HB!

I needed to see how the new queen was doing in the blue hive, then see if the queen that was apparently laying around 12 days ago in the orange hive was still present and accounted for.

Blue Hive

INSPECTION SYNOPSIS:

  • 5 boxes
  • top 2 boxes still full of capped honey, although 3 of the frames were brand new capped honey. So they ate through 3 frames and filled them right back up and made honey
  • 13 frames of old capped honey, 8 frames of new capped honey
  • 1 frame pollen
  • 9 frames of bees
  • drone trap frame one side empty, the other side 1/2 capped drones
  • 11 1/2 frames that had about 1/2 the frame full of capped brood
  • no fresh eggs, no uncapped brood at all or larvae in any stage
  • saw the queen, moving well, followed by entourage
  • lots and lots of one day old emerged baby bees – they’re kind of gray, fuzzy and wet looking and tottering around
  • I pulled the drone trap frame and put it in the freezer and replaced it with a drawn, empty frame – even though it’s basically 1/4 full of drones, that just that many less mites that have an opportunity to infest the hive.

POSSIBLE ISSUES/INTERPRETATION

brood laid up and capped in the blue hive

brood laid up and capped in the blue hive

Hmmmmmmmm. This means the queen immediately started laying up as soon as I released her about 12 days ago, and then just shut down at least 8 days ago (they cap off the larvae when the are 8 days old). So she laid up the equivalent of about 6 frames of bees in 4 days – and then quit. The baby bees emerging are from the 2 frames of babies already laid by the late Queen Opprettet before I sent her to Valhalla.

So why did this queen stop laying eggs? She was moving around well when I saw her. What’s wrong with her? I’m about ready to christen her Queen whatever-dud-is-in-Norwegian.

Save for later.

Orange Hive

INSPECTION SYNOPSIS:

  • 5 western boxes and one shallow honey super on top
  • The honey super is still bare
  • 12 frames of old capped honey, 7 frames of new capped honey, 4 frames full of nectar
  • 2 frames stuffed with pollen
  • 10 frames of bees
  • the drone trap frame is still drawn but empty
  • All the rest of the frames were entirely empty and cleaned out
  • Not one single capped brood, open brood, larvae or eggs – empty, empty, empty
  • I did not see a queen …… and I looked and looked and looked
  • one frame had 4 queen cells built on the frame about 1/3 of the way down, not capped off, and looking inside there was no larvae

POSSIBLE ISSUES/INTERPRETATION

queen cells built in the orange hive

queen cells built in the orange hive

Hmmmmmmmmmm. So nothing has laid anything in this hive for at least 18 days. There’s no queen in here. They are making queen cells, but there’s absolutely nothing to put in the queen cells, since they need to have a fresh egg moved to the cell.

If there had been any frames in the blue hive with fresh eggs, I would have moved a frame to this orange hive so they’d deposit a fresh egg in the queen cells and make a queen. But that’s not an option.

15 days ago there were queen cups – no queen cells – and one had what looked like a larvae. But it takes a queen 16 days to hatch out.

So there’s a slim-to-none chance I have some virgin queen in the hive that hatched yesterday morning and managed to completely destroy the cell she hatched out of in one day. The more likely is that there is no queen.

I’M OFF TO SEE THE WIZARD…..

So I went up to see the Wiz (one good reason to inspect on a Saturday, because that’s when the bee supply store is open).

I told him about my queenless hive and decided to go ahead and drop $35 on a Carniolan queen – I just can’t be letting them fool around this late in the season.

I told him about the hive in which the queen laid up and then just quit laying the last 8 days.

Lesson learned: He said this is because the queen knows that at the moment, there are not enough workers in the hive to take care of the baby bees she lays. So she shuts down until enough workers can hatch out to take care of the babies she starts laying up. Otherwise, if she just kept laying babies, they’d starve because there weren’t enough nurse bees to take care of them. As soon as enough workers hatch out (which should be in the next 6-7 days) she’ll start producing again.

Aaaaaaahaaaaaaaaa. So instead of a dud, she’s a pretty wise queen.

I christen thee – Queen Kloke (KLOH-Keh) – The Wise Queen.

Queen Kloke - the wise queen. She has the bright green dot on her back/shoulder blades. Note her long and very dark brown body - she's Carniolan

Queen Kloke – the wise queen. She has the bright green dot on her back/shoulder blades – her head is under the back end of a bee. Note her long and very dark brown body – she’s Carniolan

INSTALLATION

I then hurried home and went out at 3:30pm (hot hot hot) to install the new queen cage. I put her down in the bottom box in her cage, watched the bees swarm over her and waited a good 15 minutes, tidying up on the deck. Then I pulled her cage out to see if the bees on her were “jawing” her or trying to sting her. This  could be a sign they had a virgin queen and don’t want her around.

There was no aggression or jawing at all, just all over the cage and with their little butts up fanning. So no guarantee (there are no guarantees in beekeeping), but I think the hive really is empty and they now have a queen. I’ll let her loose on Tuesday and see what happens.

VIDEO – Here’s a great video of something even I don’t see every day. It’s a baby bee fully emerging from it’s cell. You can see it’s little head popped out and struggling, then it struggles and actually works it’s way entirely out of the cell and flops along. There’s another baby with it’s head out just below it, too. Baby bee emerging.

 

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Jun 24 2014

Have at ‘er, girls

It was cloudy and overcast, but about 60 degrees and not raining, so about 1:30pm I popped outside to get the new queen ready for her new home in hive blue.

I suited up since there were not too many girls out and about, which means they were all in the hive and may be grumpy.

I just started a few pine shavings in the smoker, got out a fondue fork and a piece of a stale marshmallow and my hive tool and smoked the front door and under the hood.

I removed all the top 4 boxes and smoked lightly the bottom box.

There was the queen cage still hanging between the bars. I lifted it out. The queen and her attendants were still alive and well, skittling around in their little cage. There were about 12 bees on the outside of the cage, also attending her. No aggressiveness, no “jawing” of the cage, so they’re good to go and like the new queen.

I got the piece of marshmallow and the fondue fork. I got the marshmallow very, very close to the hole in the end of the queen cage. I very gently pried out the cork in the hole of the cage with the fondue fork. You don’t want to jam something down into the cork and end up shoving the cork down into the cage and hurting the queen. I pried the cork almost out, then popped the cork out and the marshmallow in right away.

I then hung the cage back down in the hive between the bars and popped all the boxes and lid back on.

The girls should be able to eat away that bit of marshmallow in 1-2 days or less and release the queen. Then she can start making babies.

AFTER I see her making babies, I’ll name her. Fool me once…..

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Jun 21 2014

As yet unnamed Queen installed

So I actually waited about 3 hours before I decided to go install the new queen in the hive.

I again suited up, got the smoker going with just a few pine shavings, quickly took all the boxes off the hive except the bottom box. Smoked just a little.

Queen cage pinched and suspended down between two hive bars

Queen cage pinched and suspended down between two hive bars

Then I separated two of the frames, installed the queen cage down between the frames. I install it with the candy plug end down. This way if it gets really hot and the candy plug melts it won’t be dripping down all over the queen.

Both ends have a cork.

I then push the two frames tightly together to pinch the queen cage in there, and she hangs suspended between the frames. It was quickly covered by bees, many of them already putting their little butts up in the air and fanning away to spread the news.

I then closed up the hive.

I’ll check again in 3 days and pull the cork, pop in a tiny marshmallow and let them release her.

But I will NOT name her until she’s alive and out in the hive. I refuse any longer to name a queen who isn’t strong enough to survive.

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Jun 21 2014

Spock was right – but when isn’t he?

So I went up to the bee supply place, with HB and the girls new big brother, Juju. He’s a Newfie, like Arf, but he’s a landseer, a boy and weighs in at 173. He came through the Newfie Rescue Society and is 3 years old.

I told the bees they had a new guardian/big brother (I finally had the heart to tell them a couple weeks ago that Arf died – that was hard).

The Wiz came out to see HB and Juju – he liked Arf and was sad to see her go, and he approved of Juju (who wouldn’t – he’s a cutie).

I told the Wiz what was going on with my homegrown queen – how she just putters along with about 4 frames of bees and 4 frames of brood – what did he think? He drew a finger across his throat in a slashing motion and confirmed what I was thinking. She’ll never build up enough to get through the winter. He said she’ll never get any better either.

Soooooo I went in and bought a new Carniolan queen with her little attendants in a caged mini-box. Sets you back $35.00 but hey, bees aren’t cheap these days. The wiz said just to go out and kill the other queen, lay her on top of the bars in the hive for about 1/2 an hour, then put in the new queen but just don’t let her out for 3 days.

This is the queen catcher. It has a little spring and you just pinch the left ends together and the jaws open up, catch the queen and unpinch and she's trapped inside a little plastic cage

This is the queen catcher. It has a little spring and you just pinch the left ends together and the jaws open up, catch the queen and unpinch and she’s trapped inside a little plastic cage

So I went home, put the new queen and girls in the dark bathroom. Suited up and got out my queen catcher, which looks kind of like a hair comb, got the smoker going and went out to the blue hive.

Man, am I good (gotta take credit when it comes, it’s so rare). I was in and out of there in 5 minutes, didn’t even break a sweat and it was noon.

I smoked the hive, took off the top 3 boxes, then smoked the bottom two to drive them down into the bottom box, removed the 2nd box, looked at the bottom box and decided to draw out the middle frame which had open brood and lots of bees. I pulled it out, looked it over and THERE SHE WAS. Just like that. I grabbed her in my queen catcher, put her a couple inches over the bee deck, opened the catcher and dropped her onto the deck and quickly -

This is where I need to disclose that the following may not be appropriate for young readers, so remove the children -

- smushed her with the hive tool. The OF’s call this process “pinching the queen” because they literally catch the queen between thumb and first finger and PINCH her for crying out loud. I could never stand to feel that crunch, so I did it this way.

I then picked her up with the queen catcher and placed her on top of the bars in the bottom box.

The girls just swarmed up and over her. Here’s a video of them crawling up on top of her and covering her. Queue music – The Ring of the Nibelung – fade to black. Queen Opprettet’s graveside video. In true Viking fashion, the girls will cover her, pass a pheromone through the hive that will tell everyone the queen is dead, then devour her until there’s nothing left.  Farvel Opprette – Gudegave til Valhalla.

I hated doing that. But in the words of Spock -

The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few — or the one.

Farewell Opprettet. Godsend to Valhalla

Farewell Opprettet. Godsend to Valhalla

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