Jul 30 2015

Orange Hive inspection

Boy, I’m liking this new schedule of just doing one hive a week a LOT better than doing all three or even two at the same time. It’s so much more relaxed and I don’t get nearly as sweaty.

The high today was 96 so I got out in the hives at 9am when it was still 73 and by 9:45am when I finished it was up to 78. I went ahead and put on a wet d0-rag that that helped.

I took out two empty boxes for sorting.

I suited up, took out the boxes, took out a container for extra wax, and started my little smoker with pine chips and then stuffed in my burlap and got a good smoke going and “knocked” at the front door with a little puff of smoke.

Orange Hive

This hive started with 6 boxes – two above the queen excluder and four below.

DATA SYNOPSIS:

There were 17 frames of capped honey or nectar; 5 frames of pollen; plenty of bees (2 full boxes); 7 frames of brood, but 3 were capped, 2 were open and the other two just had about 1/4 of the frame with capped brood that was hatching out.  I did not see Queen Håper. I saw a good bit of 3 day old brood, tiny bitty little “C”s laying in milky solution, and I saw 2 fresh eggs, although I didn’t move the bees off all the uncapped brood.

I was able to remove an entire box of 8 drawn and entirely cleaned and empty frames.

There was brood in the 4th box (just under the queen excluder).

I sorted all the open brood into one empty box and all the closed brood into another. Then I managed them down, putting the open and some closed brood in the bottom with pollen and honey on the outsides, then the rest of the brood in the 2nd box with an empty frame in the middle and food on the outsides, then the other 3 boxes of honey and nectar and a few empty frames above.

So this hive ended with 5 boxes and a removed queen excluder (see below).

DIATRIBE:

So I’m a little concerned about the small amount of brood in this hive.  There were a few fresh eggs, and there were some 3 day old larvae, but not a lot of brood at all. I didn’t see the queen. On the other hand, the bees haven’t even made a queen cup so they aren’t looking to replace her.

And they had 5 packed frames of pollen, which tells me they’re stocking up to feed babies. And they have the amount of honey they’d normally go into winter with, and at least half of that was new nectar.

So they’re still doing fine and I’m not worried about their numbers. It just seems odd they aren’t building up more. We are having another record breaking year of heat and drought (although they’re finding nectar). I just read that brood production usually peaks in June and takes a downturn in July and August, so this might be normal.  It could be that after seeing the Italian hive, which is going like gangbusters, this just seems small.

I decided that this late in the season, with less bees and less brood in this hive, they’re probably not going to be making a lot of extra honey. They obviously ate through one box. So I removed the queen excluder and decided no matter what, I won’t pull any more honey this year from this hive. They can keep what they make. Therefore, I won’t care of the queen lays some up in the honey frames.

I guess I shouldn’t really be concerned. We’ll see how they do going into the fall.

It’s supposed to stay in the 90’s and high 90’s for the next week and there is no rain in the foreseeable future on the weather forecast. People are not watering their lawns but they are watering their flowers and veggies and trees. My bees are soooo much better off being in an urban environment than out in the fields reliant on crops that are done blooming or all dried up and nothing to irrigate.

Keep flying, little girls.

 

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Jul 24 2015

Blue hive inspection

So today was the day to inspect the Blue Hive with Queen Siste Sjanse.

I got out there right at 9am. It said it was 69 degrees, but after 30 minutes in that beesuit, it felt like 85.  HOWEVER, only doing one hive inspection is really great. I just start to really build up a sweat and had just started dropping sweat onto my glasses when it was over. If I had moved on to another hive, I would have been miserable.

I wanted to take a lot of time with this hive. But about 4 boxes in, I had to crush two wasps going into the hive. I went ahead and looked at every single frame, but I didn’t linger a long time, watching the girls working. It will only get worse as it gets closer to the fall, so inspections may have to be a little quicker.

This hive started out with 7 boxes total. 5 boxes, then the queen excluder, then 2 boxes on top of that.

LESSON:

I’ve learned after 6 years that this queen excluder actually works keeping the queen from laying brood in your honey. Every year, I have problems with lots of beautiful frames of honey and a little pocket of brood right in the middle. I never wanted to use an excluder because some of the OF’s call them “bee excluders”.  But it has worked fantastic this year on the two hive. No babies, nice frames of honey. And there are always bees in the frames above the excluder.

 

I had two boxes for sorting purposes, one for open brood and one for closed brood and I used them to sort. I did find brood on one frame in the 5th box, so Siste Sjanse would have moved up into the honey if there wasn’t an excluder.

Altogether, there were 14 frames of entirely capped off honey; 12 frames entirely full of new nectar brought in that they were starting to cap; 4 very packed frames of pollen; a few frames just being filled with nectar; a good 20 frames of bees; and 8 frames of brood (3 open and 5 capped).   I saw fat brood and teeny “C” brood curled up in royal jelly. I did not see the Queen and I did not see fresh eggs, but I was traveling a little fast by then because I’d spotted the wasps on the open brood.  However, I did see 3 day old larvae and there are no indications they’re making a queen, so I’m not worried.

Here’s a Video of the girls just working away on a frame full of capped brood 

And here’s a Video of the girls coming and going from the hive after inspection

All in all, I think the blue hive/Italian hive, is doing great.

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Jul 21 2015

Girls are enjoying July

girl on an orange zinnia

girl on an orange zinnia

girl flying over a pink zinnia

girl flying over a pink zinnia

So the girls are enjoying July. It finally got a little more “normal” temperature wise – high 80’s up to 90 every once in a while. Still no rain, but I’m watering the gardens like crazy.

 

The girls were out enjoying the veggies and the zinnias, along with a few friends (grasshoppers, a baby praying mantis, bumblebees, fat green beetles) and a few VSD’s not worth mentioning.

 

They’re busy giving me string beans, pinto beans, lima beans, lots and lots and…..lots of cucumbers and eggplants.

girl working on a cucumber blossom

girl working on a cucumber blossom

 

 

ridiculously huge monster of a bumblebee on a zinnia. This was a big as my thumb.

ridiculously huge monster of a bumblebee on a zinnia. This was a big as my thumb.

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Jul 16 2015

Yellow hive inspection

bees on open brood. In the middle left gap, you can see a cell with a fresh egg (looks like a little white piece of rice in the bottom of the cell). Then in the gap in the middle bottom, you can see little C shaped tiny larvae, floating in royal jelly, which are just a few days old

bees on open brood. In the middle left gap, you can see a cell with a fresh egg (looks like a little white piece of rice in the bottom of the cell). Then in the gap in the middle bottom, you can see little C shaped tiny larvae, floating in royal jelly, which are just a few days old

So I’ve decided I need to get myself and the girls on a regular schedule. So far, I tend to go out to look at one of the hives, and as long as I’m out there, I end up looking at all three. I end up hot and sweaty and tired and take 2 hours doing it.

So I’m going to inspect one hive per week, which at the shortest leaves 3 weeks between inspections for each hive, and if there’s a rainy week, then it will leave 4 weeks between inspections.

That’s better for the girls as they seem to do better when left alone. And then I can spend more time enjoying just one hive.

So today was YELLOW HIVE DAY. QUEEN FREYJA’S HIVE.

You can see capped brood on the right and then big, fat, pearly white larvae to the left of them

You can see capped brood on the right and then big, fat, pearly white larvae to the left of them

This hive started with 5 boxes, because I put one of the “wet” boxes after honey extraction on this hive, under the top honey box.

I got my smoker going with pine chips, then put in a strip of burlap. I had two empty boxes for sorting brood just in case I needed them (ended up I didn’t). I also took out a box for collecting wax.

There is a LOT of honey and nectar on this hive, basically the top two boxes.  The top box was entirely full  and heavy with honey, fat frames, nearly all capped.

The next box was the “wet” box given to them on Sunday night.  The cells were all cleaned out and dry, and every frame has some new nectar being brought in, with most of the frames about 1/2 full of clear nectar already. So the girls are getting it from somewhere.

The next box had honey, plus a little nectar and about 3 frames still basically bare, but being drawn out.

The last two boxes had all the brood and the queen. Since the queen had not started laying in the top 3 boxes and the bottom box was not full of empty frames, I didn’t do any management down of the brood.  I did manage the honey and nectar by putting the least full frames and half drawn frames just above the brood box, the next box is the formerly “wet” box with nectar but room for expansion, and the heavy honey box on top.

This gives Freyja room to expand up if she thinks she needs to.

Here's Queen Freyja with her big blue dot. She kept moving fast trying to get out of the sun so it was hard to get a focused picture

Here’s Queen Freyja with her big blue dot. She kept moving fast trying to get out of the sun so it was hard to get a focused picture

SYNOPSIS:

  • 5 boxes
  • 16 frames of bees, all friendly, busily working, not easily distracted, not grumpy in the least
  • a full side of one frame with pollen, otherwise all brood frames had a little pollen and capped honey in the corners around the large oval of brood, just like the textbooks say they should (Freyja must be a reader)
  • 23 frames of either capped honey or new nectar
  • 12 frames of brood including fresh eggs
  • Saw Queen Freyja in 2nd box from the bottom (top brood box), scuttling around looking healthy and trying her darndest to get out of the sun everytime I tipped the frame towards the sun so I could see  her.

BROOD:

The brood frames were all pretty perfect. Middle filled with capped brood or nearly filled with obviously some bees that had gotten free, then surrounded by fat pearly white brood, then surrounded by little floaters in royal jelly, then some fresh laid eggs, then honey and pollen in the corners.

These are the two sheets of wild honeycomb that the bees built on two different frames. They're already filled with honey and capped off

These are the two sheets of wild honeycomb that the bees built on two different frames. The sections that had nectar are already capped off, so they’re honey and the rest were dry and empty

WAX:

These girls have a weird gene when it comes to wax building. From day one, this hive has had wax all over the place. Bridging between the frames, all over the top bars, bridging the tops of frames to the bottom frames of the upper box, they keep making ridges of wax perpendicular to the frames in ridges.

I found two frames in which they had built a kind of bridge or extension with was from the top bar of the frame, so that the top bar was “thicker”, then proceeded to build a wild come curtain hanging down from this bridge. So I had a sheet or curtain of wild honeycomb, attached at the top to the frame, but then hanging down the side of the frame, with about 3/8 of an inch of space between the frame and the back wall of the honeycomb curtain. There were bees working the comb between the bare frame and the honeycomb curtain. Both of these curtains were filled with honey and capped.

I went to the shed, got one of the honey buckets with a filter and lid. I then carefully used my hive tool to cut the top of the curtain away from the top bar of the hive and was then holding a frame sides sheet of wild honeycomb with bees on both sides. It’s fragile, so I laid it down on the filter, brushing the bees on the bottom side away with my hand. I did the same with the other honeycomb sheet and brushed all the bees out and put the lid on. It would have been a mess if it ended up breaking off the frame in the hive – honey dripping all down through the hive to the bee deck, attracting predators.

I took these inside, crushed them and left them in the filter so the honey will drain out overnight and I’ll have a little bit more honey.

 

So Queen Freyja is doing great, laying great, the girls are hard workers, still bringing in nectar and making honey, but they have a penchant for wild honeycomb making.

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Jul 13 2015

Honey honey … doo doo doot doot doo doo aaaaah Sugar sugar

Honey blurbling out of the honey gate on one of the buckets into a jar out of view

Honey blurbling out of the honey gate on one of the buckets into a jar out of view

Ahhhhh, Honey day!

Sunday was sunny and bright. I took the big black tubs with the boxes of honey and set them out in the sun for about 2 hours. Not toooo long or the wax will melt. Then I took them back into the bee shed.

LB and his wife came over about 11:30am. We carbed up for the big event with spaghetti. Then got ourselves together and took out to the bee shed:

  • big glasses of ice water
  • 5 gallon bucket full of water for washing gooey hands
  • 3 towels
  • a long, rubber scraper

We shut the two doors tight. Tight is a relative term. I have about an inch gaping clearance hole at the top of the door to the bee shed. I also have another door that leads into the garden shed, which has no doors or windows so is totally open to the yard and the bees. That door is a screen door and has about 1 inch gap on the bottom and a 3 inch gap at the top.  I have one screened window facing the bee deck which is about 5 feet from the bee shed and a screened window on the opposite end facing the street.

I put a fan in the window facing the street to pull the honey smell out that window and away from the bee deck.  I do this every year and have never had a single problem with bees or wasps getting into the bee shed.  I know beekeepers have horror stories about sealing up their honey shed and then having one tiny hole and bees galore just streaming into the honey shed. I have no idea why I don’t have an issue.

I keep my honey boxes sealed up in the big rubber totes and only take them out as we use them.  But the big uncapping tub is open, the extractor is open, the tubs with filters catching the honey are open, we have honey on ourselves. I just don’t know what all the fuss is about.

I showed LB and his wife how to use the hot knife to uncap the honey, how to scratch open the cells that didn’t get uncapped, how to put them into the extractor, spin the extractor, check to see if we got all we could out of one side of the frame, flip the frame over and spin the extractor, then start over.

After that, they basically did all the heavy lifting. I just ferried full frames to them and empty frames back to the boxes. We got all done, probably about 2 hours, and LB hauled the 3 buckets of honey into the house because they were too heavy for me. I set them up on the counter and to finish draining through the filters.  We took apart the honey extracting equipment and put it out on the lawn for the bees to feast on.

Thanks LB and wife!!

I had two 5 gallon food grade buckets with honey gates that had been under the extractor and had their filters on top with lids on top of that. I let them drain all night. Then my other food bucket had a filter and had all the wax cappings crushed and piled on top and I let that drain all night.

Then I ran out about 7pm to clean the extracting equipment. I have a 100′ black hose that was laying in the sun so the water was REALLY hot. I used this to completely clean out all the extracting equipment.  Then I hosed down the whole bee shed inside (HB made it all washable – floor, walls, ceilings, shelves), and put all the cleaned equipment back in it’s bins.  I soap wash and sterilize (with boiling water) the equipment just before I extract, but this washing gets all the honey and stickiness off them.

Then I suited up and on each hive (even the yellow one that didn’t contribute any honey), I put a box with 8 wet frames on the hive above the brood and under the current boxes of honey.  They can clean these up and decide whether they want to use them for brood expansion or honey, and get a treat in the meantime.

In the morning, the honey was all drained and the wax capping were dry. I packed up the wax cappings and junk and put them in a big tupperware in the freezer. Some rainy day when it’s cold, I’ll pull it all out and stew it down on the stove to render the beeswax. But that’s a long, hot job and not for the middle of July.

Here's this years beautiful, light amber haul.  I'm getting quit a collection of jars and bottles. Everyone I know gives me theirs, hoping to get some honey back

Here’s this years beautiful, light amber haul. I’m getting quit a collection of jars and bottles. Everyone I know gives me theirs, hoping to get some honey back

BOTTLING

HB and I spent the evening bottling up our honey. I’m never sure how much it’s all going to come to.

First, I take one of each of the shapes of empty glass jars I’m going to use (all sterilized in the dishwasher) and mark on the bottom the weight of the jar.

Then I fill each one of these jars with honey and weigh it again – subtract, I have the net weight of the honey in each type of jar. I mark this on the bottom of each of my types of jars so that when I’m done, I put all the same kinds of jars together, count them up, and I get my honey weight.

This years take – 74 2/3 pounds of honey. Wooohooo!

So here’s the take since I started in 2010:

  • 2010 – 18 pounds
  • 2011 – 85 pounds
  • 2012 – 27 pounds
  • 2013 – 75 pounds
  • 2014 – 60 pounds
  • 2015 – 75 pounds

Hopefully since I have a third hive, next year when they’re established, I’ll have more honey (depending on drought and rain conditions of course).

 

Thank you thank you thank you little girls. You are a delight to work with, fascinating to watch, missed greatly during the winter months, and pampered as much as I can during the spring and summer. Fly fly fly.

 

 

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Jul 12 2015

Honey day – I’ll get there yet & Bee classes

HONEY EXTRACTION PLAN A:

We’ll the plan was to go to the bee meeting Friday night, reassure myself that I could pull some honey off my two hives without jeopardizing them in case were in for a drought for the next 90 days, then Saturday morning about 9am pull however many boxes of honey off the hives, and my LB (little brother) and his wife and I would extract the honey in the bee shed about 11am.

It was pretty sunny Friday afternoon, but I didn’t want to pull honey until I asked the OF’s at the meeting, so I left the bees alone. The chance of rain was 20%.

Our weather has been ridiculous.  We get an average of 15 days a year with weather above 95 degrees in the summers here and that’s usually all in August.  We have already broken the amount of days above 95 and we’re not halfway through July.  Last year was our hottest and driest season on record, and the worst fire season ever.

Watered plants = nectar

Dry plants = no nectar, and the possibility that they finish their season early so no more nectar the rest of the year

No nectar = no honey

Hence – my concern. I could end up needing to basically keep honey stores on the hive for a summer of drought just like I’d have to keep honey stores through a winter. A little bird told me a rumor that the planet may be heating up…..

CLASSES:

I went to the bee meeting, which was great as usual. I counted 129 people there, lots of then newbies.

The OF’s have this year in the association hives put these high tech temperature gauges that send data to a software. They put the gauges in the middle of the brood and in the middle of the food. This shows them the internal temperature of the hive.  They had it sending data every 15 minutes (which ended up in data overload), so they changed it to every 30 minutes and then every hour.  What they saw was that the hives that had queens kept the internal temperature in a rock steady line between 92 and 95 degrees.  As soon as one of the hives went queenless, the temperature was all over the place.

They’re not sure what to do with this data yet, but it has caused us to want more gauges, more monitoring and more data over a few years to see what this all means.  The other question it brought up was:

  • Would the temperature of the hive change if the bees are getting ready to swarm?
  • If so, how soon before swarming?

Interesting questions. Data always leads to more questions, which is great.

I talked to an OF mentor and he gave me a formula for drought that says how many Western boxes of bees I have and then how many boxes of honey you need to keep on the hive.  We figured out that I could pull the equivalent of one box off each of the two hives with 3 boxes of honey each on them. Wooohooo.

  • Also IF it starts to rain in time that all the plants aren’t already dead, it could mean another honey flow later

So, ready to pull honey tomorrow morning.

HONEY EXTRACTION PLAN B:

It started raining, really raining, about 2am and didn’t let up. It was still raining at 2pm while the weather was still stating there was a 20% chance of rain, and that the rain would clear up by 10am. Should have pulled the honey Friday afternoon.

So we put of honey extraction until Sunday afternoon (today). Yesterday afternoon about 3pm it got clear, sunny and hot so I ran out to pull the honey.

After looking at the two hives, they both had a good box of new nectar and wax they were bringing in. But it was also obvious that they had started eating through the frames in the 2 boxes each of honey that was previously all ready and nearly capped.

So there wasn’t an entire box on each hive ready to pull. Instead, I pulled 4 frames from each hive (1 box) and feel good about that. I didn’t even look in the new hive.

Honey ready to go

So I have 3 boxes + 2 frames ready to go for today for extraction. I put them in big black totes out in the sun this morning to get warmed up and just went out and pulled them into the bee shed since they were getting warm and I can’t afford to ruin the honey by letting wax melt in the sun.

Honey temp = 92-95 for best flow

Beeswax melting point = 120

Frames of honey at 120 = melted wax and honey which is a total waste, not fit for consumption by either bees or man.

 

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Jun 30 2015

hoo boy is it hot

this is a giant bush of something or other that is just behind the beehives. there is a lot of pollen on this (shake it and you end up with a pile of yellow). This is one of two of these plants, and they are both about 6-7 feet tall, about 6-7 feet wide and covered in these flowers.

this is a giant bush of something or other that is just behind the beehives. there is a lot of pollen on this (shake it and you end up with a pile of yellow). This is one of two of these plants, and they are both about 6-7 feet tall, about 6-7 feet wide and covered in these flowers.

So it was 107 two days ago and the last two days hovering around 99 at our house. There is no end in sight for the next 15 days, with it getting back up into the 100’s by the weekend.

The Italian girls are bearding all the time now, especially in late afternoon and into the evening. I’m assuming they have a lot more bees in the hive.

I was going to wait to go out and check if I needed to pull honey and give them more room until it cools down, but that’s not going to happen.

So this morning at 7:15am it was only 79 degrees and I went out to check on the girls. I took out:

  • 3 giant rubbermaid totes with lids, each will hold one western box
  • my last 2 western boxes and 6 empty frames
  • a receptacle for wax
  • got out the soft bee brush

Previously, the orange and blue hive each had 4 boxes, then a queen excluder and then 3 boxes with honey (some with brood); and the yellow hive had just 4 boxes, the top two with some honey and some bare frames.

I started with orange and then moved to blue. On each hive, I smoked a little, then started at the top (I had to move the top box down because the hive is so tall, the top box is at my eye level). I culled through the top 3 honey boxes and sure enough, the queen excluder kept the queen from coming up and laying and made the girls concentrate on making honey.

Whenever I found a great frame of honey that was capped off, I pulled it, smoked it, gently brushed all the bees off the frame, then went and put it in the box in the tote with no bees left dangling and put the lid on the box.

After I got to the queen excluder, I started moving any brood I found down.

All three hives on their bee deck. The weeds are starting to take over in front of the hive but it's just too hot to go out there in a bee suit and pull them up right now.

All three hives on their bee deck. The weeds are starting to take over in front of the hive but it’s just too hot to go out there in a bee suit and pull them up right now.

I saw both Queen Håper in the orange hive (her “spot” has worn off so she’s now just a dark brown Carniolan queen) and Queen Siste Sjanse in the blue hive (golden Italian) and found fresh eggs and brood in both hives.

There was a TON OF HONEY on both hives. There was at least 1 1/2 boxes of brand new nectar, not even started capping yet. And also tons of honey about 3/4 capped or honey in which the middle of the frame previously had brood so now they are cleaned out and filling it with nectar. There was also more than 4 solid frames of pollen in each hive.

I looked briefly at the yellow hive. They are bringing in a lot of nectar and still had just two boxes of honey on top with about 3 empty frames. I didn’t delve down into the bottom boxes to look for the queen or babies since they are still working and there are a very good amount of bees in the hive. This hive seems to be having trouble building wax in an organized fashion. There are rows of wax they’ve built perpendicular to the rows on the frames, in fat bars. There was an entire frame in which they had basically hung a wild curtain of wax from the top bar of the frame, paralleling the actual frame and filled it with nectar. So when I tried to lift it out, it started tearing away from the frame in a sheet. I put it carefully back in with a frame pushed up against it to hold it in.

I de-beed (by smoking a lot and thumping) a full box of honey from one of the other hives and moved it to the top of this hive to give them more food, and room to expand brooding up in the bottom boxes.

All in all, I pulled 17 very fat, heavy frames of capped honey from the two hives and put them in storage.  This and moving a box to the yellow hive had me end up with the following configuration on the hives.

  • Both orange and blue hives have 4 brood boxes, a queen excluder and then 3 boxes left of honey not capped off yet
  • Yellow box has 5 boxes, brood so far in the bottom two, no queen excluder, and 1 full box of honey and two boxes of mixed nectar and wild comb

I got done about 8:50am and was absolutely drenched in sweat, with sweat pooling all over the insides of my glasses. I had to go in and take a completely cold shower.

 

The blue hive bearding last night about 8pm

The blue hive bearding last night about 8pm

CHECKLIST    In two weeks, I’ll be ready to pull more honey. At that time, I’ll look at the next 15 day forcast. If it’s still in the 100’s for two more weeks and we’re in a drought, I’ll need to look to see if they are still bringing in new nectar. If they’re NOT, it will mean the nectar flow has stopped and I’ll leave most of the honey on the hives. If they ARE still bringing in new nectar, I’ll probably be able to pull another 16-30 frames of honey and still leave them with 16-20 frames of honey each, with a whole 8 weeks of summer still to go.

Then I’ll actually extract all the honey in storage and on the hives at that time and put the wet frames back on the hives.

Then later in the season (middle of August) I’ll look one more time to see if there is more honey to pull for the honey bank, how much to leave on the hive and if there is still more to extract.

 

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Jun 20 2015

2 days, 2 peeks and more

On Thursday, it was going to be 89 degrees, so I did an inspection at 9am. My BB (baby brudder) came over to participate.  He and I have invested in the Flow Hive project and he’s going to start beekeeping next spring, so he came over to get into the hive. It was warm and overcast but the girls were out and about.

Bees "bearding" on the front of the blue hive. They do this because it's hot, this gets some of the bee bodies outside of the hive to cool off, and they fan air from outside so it will circulate into the hive through the front door. When it's very hot, they can form a "beard" over the whole bottom of the hive and down the front stoop.

Bees “bearding” on the front of the blue hive. They do this because it’s hot, this gets some of the bee bodies outside of the hive to cool off, and they fan air from outside so it will circulate into the hive through the front door. When it’s very hot, they can form a “beard” over the whole bottom of the hive and down the front stoop.

I didn’t do a full inspection, but looked at all three hives to see whether they needed more room. The Italian hive has been “bearding” on the hive, probably because they have so many bees in the hive.

I was looking for the following:

  • Was there honey to pull?
  • How much honey are they making?
  • Does the queen need more room to lay (does she need some empty frames)?
  • Are they too crowded (do they need another box and more frames)?
  • Are the queens laying?
  • How is the new hive doing (last time they only had 2 boxes of bees and 2 boxes full of empty frames)?

We revved up the smoker, and got into the hives

The orange hive had 2 top boxes that were just heavy heavy with honey. We actually pulled to beautiful capped very full frames of honey and put them in the storage bin, after brushing the bees of, which makes them kind of grumpy.  Both boxes had 8 very full and heavy frames of honey, just not quite capped off yet.  AND right in the middle of the honey frames – capped brood.

The rest of the boxes were full of honey, full of bees, full of babies, including fresh eggs. There were 3 bare frames and I put 2 more bare frames in to substitute, but they are going to need more room.

The blue hive was just crowded. Again, the top 3 boxes were just packed full of not-quite-capped honey, but many of them also had capped brood right in the middle of the honey frame. They had no bare frames at all, so they need room.

So it took me a few years before I could actually spot the queen in a hive on purpose. I’m pretty good now. I’m just saying to BB “gee, I sure wish you could see a queen” because, like I used to, every time he saw a big fat lumbering drone, he would point and say “is that the queen?”.  And WHAM, BB just points his finger and says “is that the queen?”.  And there she is, scuttling around the frame.  I couldn’t believe it – he spotted her right off. So, he’ll be a good beekeeper, yards ahead of me.

The yellow hive still just has four boxes, but instead of the top two boxes being bare frames, they are filling them with nectar and just starting to cap off, so I left them alone.

One of the big lavender plants in the garden that the bees love

One of the big lavender plants in the garden that the bees love

So today, Saturday, HB, Juju and I went up to the bee house to get a bunch more western frame parts, since I have lots of western boxes but I had only 3 more frames and I need to get some room in those hives. I talked to the Wiz and told him what I was seeing. He said I might just have to do some honey extracting in the next week, then let them build it up again. Otherwise, I could end up with hives 10 feet tall.

I told him the queen was laying up in the honey boxes. He said to put a box with bare frames under the honey boxes, then put on my queen excluder (make sure the queen’s down) and then just let the babies hatch out of the upper boxes of honey and then I can extract since she supposedly can’t get up there to keep laying.

Good idea.  So I got enough to make 20 new frames, and HB and I put them together when I got home. Then about 10:30am I went out to the bee deck.  I took:

  • 2 queen exluders
  • 2 boxes each with 8 bare frames
  • some extra frames
  • the honey storage bin (just in case – wishful thinking)

In both the orange and blue hive I removed the top 3 boxes, which were very heavy with honey and had some capped brood. Before I removed each box, I smoked them kind of heavy to drive the bees and any queen down into the hive (the frames were dead full of honey and capped brood so there were no empty cells for her to lay in – which theoretically means she shouldn’t have been in those boxes to start — theoretically). Then I’d remove the box, smoke the next one to drive them down, and on to the third box. When you smoke them that way, they put up quit a racket – the buzzing kind of ramps up a pitch or two and gets loud.

So now I had bees and hopefully the queen down in the bottom 4 boxes. I then put on a new box with 8 bare frames (so 5 boxes for brood); and then the queen excluder; and then the 3 boxes of honey. Getting that last really heavy box of honey up that high was a chore. It was literally at my chin height and I had to rest the heavy box of honey and bees against my collar bone and shove it up on top of the hive (boy I hope they don’t tip over!).

I got a picture of both a big tiger swallowtail butterfly and one of my girls gathering nectar side by side from the lavender

I got a picture of both a big tiger swallowtail butterfly and one of my girls gathering nectar side by side from the lavender

I should have 3 boxes of honey in the top – when the babies hatch out, they should just go about their business, clean out their cells, and the bees can either fill them with nectar, or cap off the rest of the honey and I can just pull them and extract them, maybe next week when I get home from California (working again this week).

The queen should stay out of the upper honey boxes both because she has a whole other box to lay in and doesn’t like to walk across bare frames to get up to the honey (not so sure about this one) AND because there is a queen excluder.

Here are a couple of videos I took today. One is a SloMo video of a bee working the lavender. If you look close, you can see her “tongue”/proboscis sticking out as she flies to get to the nectar.  The other video is a huge tiger swallowtail butterfly also gathering nectar from the lavender. It flutters it’s wings really fast while it does this instead of just sitting still.

OK girls, make lots of honey while I’m gone and maybe we’ll have an extracting party next week.

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Jun 13 2015

girls in the garden

Girl working the lavender. If you look close, you can see her long reddish "tongue" (proboscis) in the flower getting the nectar

Girl working the lavender. Look at her beautiful wing structure. Not a single tear yet – it’s early in the season.

Plump little strawberries

Plump little strawberries

Today was sunny, warm (about a high of 80) with blue sky. The girls were out like crazy. All three hives were loud and busy. They were just zooming out of the hives, up into the sky over the bee fence and back in again.

Here's a girl by a rose petal in the bird bath. If you look carefully, you can see her reddish "tongue" (proboscis) poking under the petal to suck up the water

Here’s a girl by a rose petal in the bird bath. If you look carefully, you can see her reddish “tongue” (proboscis) poking under the petal to suck up the water

With three hives now, the volume of bees up high in the air has really multiplied and it looks like someone has sprinkled sparkles in about 10-12 feet up as they flash about in the sunshine.

They were coming and going with pollen. There were about 5 very fat drones waddling about and struggling on the bee deck, obviously kicked out of the hive. Probably eating more than the girls think they’re worth at this point since they have 3 healthy queens.

I took the time to take some pictures of both the girls and what they’ve created for us in the garden. I harvested blueberries, strawberries and peas which we wouldn’t have had if the girls hadn’t pollinated the flowers.

 

Blueberries starting to ripen

Blueberries starting to ripen

Thanks, girls. We appreciate the bounty you’re giving us.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

peas harvested

peas harvested

 

peas ready to eat

peas ready to eat

 

 

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Jun 08 2015

June 6 inspection & today

On Saturday, I went out to inspect the hives at 10am, which ended up about an hour too late. It was bloody hot, in the mid 80’s and that’s just to hot to be in a canvas bee suit for a couple of hours.

I inspected all three hives completely because I wanted to know if they were getting crowded or thinking of swarming.

I took out two empty sorting boxes, two extra boxes with 8 empty frames in each, and – just in case (wishful thinking) – a big tub to collect honey frames if there were any to collect.

Orange Hive Inspection

I started with  5 western boxes on the hive. gently smoked the front door and under the lid and then opened her up.

There were plenty of bees in the hive.

frame with black pollen

frame with black pollen – the dark spaces are not empty, they’re filled with black pollen

5 frames of open brood in all stages and very fresh eggs; 11 frames of closed brood; 1 frame of honey (woohoo – but I didn’t pull it); 9 frames heavy with nectar; and 3 frames of good pollen. One frame had a lot of black pollen – not sure where they’re getting that from, perhaps poppies from somewhere.

I did not see Queen Håper but she’s laying fresh eggs.

I sorted all the open brood in one box, and all the closed brood in a couple of boxes. Then I moved the open brood to the bottom with pollen on one side and nectar on the other, the closed brood in the two boxes above with food and the top two boxes were full of nectar with only two empty frames.

So this hive needs some room for expansion. I put a new, empty box with 8 bare frames above the brood boxes and below the nectar boxes, so the bees will have to make wax and the queen can lay below the nectar and honey.

So this hive now has 6 boxes.

Blue Hive Inspection

I started with  5 western boxes on the hive. gently smoked the front door and under the lid and then opened her up.

There were plenty of bees in the hive.

There were 7 frames of open brood in all stages and very fresh eggs; 11 frames of closed brood; 13 frames of heavy nectar; and 6 frames of pollenI spied Queen Siste Sjanse with her entourage and took a little video of this. Video of Queen Siste Sjanse and her attendants.

Queen Siste Sjanse laying an egg in a cell.

Queen Siste Sjanse laying an egg in a cell.

Then this is the really exciting part – I was taking the video and actually watched the queen put her butt in a cell and lay an egg and then pull out of the cell! I’ve never seen that happen before live. Here is a picture of her actually laying (it looks like she has a stubby body because her whole back end is down in the cell and her body is curled inward). And then here is the video of her actually laying. It’s pretty short, just 3 seconds, so you have to watch quick. It’s a little shaky because I was so excited. She is just right of the center of the screen and right at the beginning you can watch her tuck her butt down into a cell.

A-maaazing!

I also sorted and managed this hive to put open brood on the bottom, then closed brood, and this hive  had literally not a single empty frame so I also placed an empty box with 8 bare frames above the brood and below the two boxes of nectar for expansion.

This hive now has 6 boxes.

Yellow Hive Inspection

I started with  4 western boxes on the hive. gently smoked the front door and under the lid and then opened her up.

There were plenty of bees in the hive.

There were 4 frames of open brood in all stages and very fresh eggs; 6 frames of closed brood; no honey; there was nectar on the corners of all the brood frames but no full frames of nectar; 3 frames of pollen. And the top two boxes were still completely bare and not drawn out.

Checklist

  • I’ll check on these girls again in a few days and if there is still not much nectar, I may steal some frames from another hive and give them to to this hive.

So this hive is still not booming, but they’re doing fine. They are just new and also Carniolan so they start slower than Italians.

I spied Queen Freyja scuttling about in the bottom, so I let her be. I didn’t add any more boxes.

 

That was all on Saturday.

Today, it was 96 degrees. This evening I was out weeding on the other side of the fence from the hive – little girls flying all around me on their way home.  The blue hive was “bearding” on the front to keep cool, so I flooded the pavers in front of the hives with some water so it would evaporate and cool them off.

Then I felt an intense pain on the top of my foot and realized I’d been stung on the front bone and quickly brushed my hand on my foot and found a mangled VSD dragging itself across my foot! It REALLY REALLY HURT. I brushed the VSD on the ground and took great pleasure using my trowel to cut it in half and then crush each half of its body – it REALLY REALLY HURT. I had to stop everything and go inside, wash my foot with cold water, put ice on it (no stinger because it’s a VSD), and put Benadryl cream on my foot because it REALLY REALLY HURTS.

End of evening in the garden.

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