Oct 09 2014

It’s been too long…

It’s been 3 weeks since I was in the hives. That’s a lot of self control. It helped that I’ve been working out of town so much that I didn’t really have time.

So yesterday it was a beautiful, warm (72) fall day so about 2pm I went out to see how the girls were doing.

My goals were to:

  • check the food stores
  • check on the size of the hive
  • determine if they need food
  • get both hives down to 5 western boxes
  • move them together so I can prepare them for winter when the time comes

I wanted to make the inspections thorough, but quick, as the girls are usually crabby in the fall when you go digging around in there, as they’re protective of their food now. And the wasps can be a royal pain this time of year, too.

I got 3 extra boxes to haul off any empty frames, suited up, and went out and started the smoker. The smoker was being a kind of bugger, wouldn’t keep a fire going. I kept having to pump it and pump it to get it going again so the burlap would smoke. I can buy an electric smoker that has a battery (not plug in) which is absolutely guaranteed never to go out while you’re using it and supposedly has the right amount of heat to make perfect smoke. But it’s about 120 bucks and I paid $10 for my good ol’ metal smoker with the little hand pump bellows. So I’ll stick with that.

Orange Hive – Queen Håper

This hive started with 6 western boxes.

The top box has 6 frames and an empty and dry gallon feeder with wire mesh ladders.

As I went down through the hive, I set the boxes aside so I’d be able to move the hive stand over once I got to the bottom.

I was pleasantly surprised in this hive. They have a lot of honey – the top 3 boxes were pretty heavy and the 2nd box from the bottom was all new nectar. I have no idea where they’re getting this from. They had 2 frames about 1/2 full of pollen.  I was able to pull out 6 empty frames and get this hive down to 5 boxes with the feeder still on top.  I did see the Queen in the bottom box with some (not a lot) of capped brood.    Video of Queen Håper on the move. There were a lot of bees in this hive, about 20 frames, very full.

Once I only had the bottom box, I moved the stand over halfway to the other stand and then put it all back together.

Blue Hive – Queen Siste Sjanse

Blue hive box full of bees

Orange hive box full of bees

This hive just had 5 western boxes. The top box also has an empty and dry feeder with ladders.

This box also actually had a lot of food in the top 3 boxes and some pollen further down. I didn’t spot the queen, but she’s wild. I did spot a frame in the 2nd box that had fresh eggs so she’s still laying some. There were also about 18 frames of bees in this box so quite a few.

When I was down to the last box, I moved this hive stand over to meet the other hive.

I was pleasantly surprised that the girls weren’t touchy at all. They were active but really quite nice – no thumping or dive bombing and no girls lined up on the bars glaring up at me (that’s always a bad sign).

I’m leaving the feeders in right now even though they have plenty of food. If the fall remains warm for quite some time and the food sources go away, they could eat up some of their food before huddling up for the winter. So I’ll go out every once in a while and give them a gallon of syrup and see if they take it in a day or two just to keep them topped off with food.

Way to go girls. I missed you but you did amazing without me.

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Sep 21 2014

I’m home, Lucy

Well, I got home from a long week away working. The girls appeared really busy outside the hive.

So last night I made up two gallons of 2:1 syrup and this morning about 7am I went out, put on a jacket/hood and gloves and really quickly popped each top.

Both hives had quit a bit of bees in the top, and up under the lids. I carefully poured a gallon in each feeder and then shut them back up.

They’re really funny early in the morning when it’s a little chilly (not cold). They walk in slow motion like someone put the film on super slo-mo. Move right front leg forward, left front leg forward, right middle leg forward, left middle leg forward……

They look kind of funny, like they’re all drugged up.

I’m pretty busy tomorrow morning so I’ll pop out early and feed them if they need it. Then Tuesday is supposed to be around 80 so mid morning I’ll go out and do a quick inspection of the food stores. It’s getting too late in the year to do a low and slow inspection of the whole hive – they’re a little bit grumpy the longer you stay in the hive. But I’ll see if I need to keep making more food for them.

I’m still seeing them all over the sedum, Russian sage and a few new dandilions getting pollen.

Right now it’s 89 out and they’re very busy around the front of the hive and darting in and out and up into the sunshine. I’m assuming they’re having to go farther afield for food now (maybe the Home Depot garden store about a mile away?). There’s certainly not much left in my yard.

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Sep 13 2014

checking for food stores

It was a lovely, sunny afternoon today, so about 2pm it was 75 degrees and I decided to do a check on the girls for food stores. I suited up, got a couple of sorting boxes and started the smoker going out on the bee deck.

Blue Hive

The girls were active around the front of this hive, but not really active. Just bees going in and out, maybe 5-10 at a time.
There are still just 5 boxes on this hive

I smoked the front door and under the lid, then opened her up.

The top box had the empty feeder, then 4 full frames of honey and 2 frames 1/2 full of nectar.

The next two boxes had 8 frames about 3/4 full of nectar.

I started spotting wasps snooping on the open boxes and the girls started getting a little grump, bumping my head on the suit. It’s fall, so they’re a lot more guarded about their hives since they don’t want anyone taking any honey and they know the VSD’s are active.

So I quickly pulled some of the center frames from the 2nd box from the bottom and found 4 frames with capped brood and some cells with fresh eggs. I found 3 frames with a good amount of pollen, too.  There were plenty of bees in the hive, in just the boxes I looked at about 15 frames of bees.

So I quickly put the hive back together.

Orange Hive

The girls were very active around the front of this hive, with quite a bit of activity and bees, very loud humming. This hive has 6 boxes.

The top 2 boxes are very full of honey, and they have the empty honey feeder. The 4th box had about half the frames with honey or nectar.

I started seeing capped brood in the 2nd box and again, wasps started showing up and I started getting bumped by the girls.

I did not see any fresh eggs, but I didn’t get down into the bottom box as I wanted to get out of the hives. There were a couple of good frames full of pollen. Again, lots and lots of bees in this hive.

I closed the hive back up.

Food

I think I’m going to go ahead and put a gallon of food in each of the hives tomorrow morning before they’re up. Even though they have a couple boxes of honey, there are frames only half full and I want them to really fill up for winter.

It’s going to be warm this week, back up into the low 80′s again, but it’s been getting cold at night, near 38 and I’m going to be gone all week, so I’ll top them off with food tomorrow, then when I get home I think I’ll feed them for about 4 days in a row (if they go through it each day) to get them really stocked up.

 

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Sep 06 2014

Feeding the healthy girls

One of my girls and a visiting bumblebee on a sedum

One of my girls and a visiting bumblebee on a sedum

I hadn’t put food in the bees during the week because there were 3 mornings when it was drizzling and one day where it just poured rain, hard.

So yesterday morning, Friday Sep 5, about 7:15am before the girls and the VSD’s were awake, I went out, put on the bee jacket, boots and gloves, and took out 2 gallons of 1:2 syrup with HBH in it.

A girl on a flowering lime mint

A girl on a flowering lime mint

I quickly popped the top of each hive one at a time. There were girls on the lids, moving really slowly because it’s cold now in the morning. In each hive I poured a gallon of the syrup, put the lid back on and I was in and out in 3 minutes.

Then the sun finally broke out onto the front of the hives about an hour later and it was sunny all day. The girls were just flying like crazy.

They were outside all over the front of the hive, with lots of them doing their “cross” orienteering pattern. So I assume a lot of those capped brood finally hatched out.

They were up sparkling in the sky, all over the yard and very heavy on anything that was flowering or starting to flower.  There were a lot of little bumblebees, too, on the same flower. I saw girls on the Russian Sage, the Goldenrod, Borage, zucchini and eggplant blossoms, tomato blossoms, and they are all over the sedum, which is just opening up.

A girl on the flowering Russian sage

A girl on the flowering Russian sage

Here’s a video of the very active front of both hives. Video of girls busy at the front of the hives.

Today, again, it was cold early on, but very sunny, and now the girls are out and about. I can see them from the windows just darting everywhere.

I feel pretty good about their health going into the fall. I have two hives which have robust queens laying – one bought and marked Carniolan and one home grown Italian. They have lots of brood in the boxes and actually lots of food. I’m giving them occasional feedings to get HBH in them for the winter. And the mite count, which I think I did pretty good at getting lots of bees from several frames of open brood, was nil, so I’m feeling good about not treating them going into winter.

A girl buried up to her neck in the sedum

A girl buried up to her neck in the sedum

I’m definitely going to buy another package though, next spring, so that no matter what happens with these girls, I’ll have 3 hives. Then even if these girls come busting out in the spring and ready to split, I can split them into one more hive and I have plenty of room for 4 hives on my bee deck.

 

Fly while you can girls.

 

 

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Sep 01 2014

looking for mites

So today’s inspection was all about checking for mites going into the fall. If there is a mite load of 5 or more mites per 300 bees (1/2 cup of bees), then I need to treat. It’s about a week long treatment, then you have to check again.

Bumblebee on zinnia

Bumblebee on zinnia

I’ve kind of been putting off the inevitable because I hate checking for mites. You kill 1/2 a cup of bees in the process. You have to take the bees from the open brood frames because that’s where the mites will be present as they try to hide in the larvae cells before they’re capped off so they can be multiplying clandestinely while the bees are maturing.  The open brood frames are also where the queen resides. So you have to be careful not to get the queen in your 1/2 cup of bees. Plus you’re robbing the hive of 300 nursery bees.

All in all, not a pleasant task. But it’s better than losing the whole hive to mites.

So about 9:30am I headed out there with:

  • 2 mason jars half filled with alcohol, with lids
  • 1/2 steel measuring cup
  • camera
  • 2 extra bee boxes for sorting

I suited up, got the smoker going real good, and decided to dive into the blue hive first.

Blue hive

This hive has 5 boxes. The top box has 6 frames full of nectar and a very empty and dry inline feeder.

black bumblebee on zinnia

black bumblebee on zinnia

As I went through the boxes, I sorted open brood into one empty box and closed brood into another empty box. I kept an eye out for the queen, whom I have yet to ever see since they made her. I have no idea even what I’m looking for – a dark brown Carniolan or a golden Italian. And she won’t be marked.

I sorted and sorted, keeping track of food and bees and brood. Then in the bottom box – THERE SHE IS! I finally saw Queen Siste Sjanse.  She’s a svelt golden Italian (of course – why can’t they make a Carniolan?). Here’s a video of her on her frame. Queen Siste Sjanse on the move.

So because I knew exactly what frame she was on, I carefully put her back in the bottom box. Then I knew I could capture the bees I needed for the mite check from the open brood frames that were in one of the sorting boxes without accidentally getting the queen.

I got an alcohol jar ready with the lid open, and I take the steel 1/2 cup measurer and gently scrape it along the face of a frame, scooping live girls into the cup and immediately dumping them in the alcohol jars. I did this on three separate open brood frames until I had 1/2 a cup of bees.

This really upsets the bees – they were flying around and kind of bumping my bee suite and hood. I could imaging the little girls hitting the alcohol batch and screeching out and the rest of the bees hear their tiny little last cries……..Jeeeeez.

BLUE SYNOPSIS:

  • 11 frames of bees
  • 5 frames with open brood
  • 8 frames with closed brood
  • spotted Queen Siste Sjanse
  • about 1 3/4 boxes of nectar or honey

CONCLUSION:

I’m going to go ahead and give them food a few times this week, with some HBH, just to supplement their nectar and get them some good natural medicine in their food going into the fall.

Orange Hive

This hive has 6 boxes. Again, I set aside a couple boxes for sorting, and the top box has a dry and clean feeder in line.

really nice frame of capped brood from orange hive

really nice frame of capped brood from orange hive

In this box, I found Queen Håper in the 2nd box from the bottom. Here’s a video of Queen Håper. You can see she’s marked with the green dot and it’s hard to find her because she was covered in bees the whole time.

And again, since I found the queen, I was able to gather my 1/2 cup of bees from the already sorted open brood frames in the sorting box. Again, the tiny cries…the upset bees…

SYNOPSIS:

  • 12 frames of bees
  • 2 frames with open brood
  • 11 frames with closed brood
  • 2 1/2 boxes very full of nectar or honey
  • I spotted Queen Håper

CONCLUSION:

I’m going to go ahead and give them a couple feedings with HBH, just to get the good medicine in them. They don’t need the food.

MITE CHECK:

I took the jars with the dead bees and alcohol into the house. I cut a sheet about 9 inches square of 1/4″ wire cloth. For each jar (I had them labeled blue and orange), I shook and spun the jar for a good 2 minutes.

one of the girls working a zinnia

one of the girls working a zinnia

I put a steel bowl on the counter, a white smooth cotton cloth over the top, then the wire mesh. Then I’d empty out a jar of bees onto the mesh. The alcohol goes through the cloth and into the bowl. I move the bees around on the wire cloth. Then I put them back in the jar, fill it with alcohol again, swish it around again for 2 minutes, then pour them out again. This is to make sure all the dead mites wash off the bees.

Then I got rid of the dead bees in the garbage and check the white cloth for dead mites.

MITE RESULTS:

  • blue hive – no mites
  • orange hive – 1 mite

So, you get a little nervous year after year as the OF’s tell you that you WILL have mites, you MUST have mites and if you DON’T find mites, then you’re DOING IT WRONG. I have performed every kind of mite check – powdered sugar, the oiled grid paper below the hive for a week, and alcohol washes.  One time I found a mite count and treated. Otherwise – nothing. Like today.

My theory (totally unscientific methodology) is that mites are kind of like fleas. The bees have to get them from somewhere. They crawl (they don’t have wings) and they don’t just manufacture themselves under hives. So maybe the bees get them from other bees. Or flowers that had other bees with mites on them. So the big bee guys who have hundreds of hives are kind of like the off-leash dog park – you’re dog is gonna get fleas from the other dogs.

But if my bees are just in my yard, and yeah, they go to flower within 3 miles but how many mites drop on flower? I think the backyard bees just aren’t exposed like the yard bees are.  You do have to check, especially if you buy bee packages and I’ll continue to check in spring and fall.

But I’m not going to treat this fall. If I don’t have to put chemicals on the hive, I don’t want to.

I’ll feed the bees early tomorrow morning, before they and the VSD’s are up. Here’s a movie of a big fat bumblebee working on a zinnia. You can actually see it jabbing it’s proboscis down into the flower each time to get the nectar.

Go girls!

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Aug 24 2014

Letting the girls be – que sera sera

Butterfly  on zinnia

Butterfly on zinnia

The girls seem to do better when I leave them alone for a couple of weeks. I know when I read the books and also at class they encourage you to inspect every 2 weeks so nothing gets out of hand, and state you don’t need to be in them every week. In fact, the books state that getting into them too often, especially if they’re in the middle of making or accepting a queen can actually put them back a bit and disturb them.

Leaving them along for more than a week goes against everything in my bones that just screams to get out there, open them up and look at them and watch them work.

Butterfly on zinnia

Butterfly on zinnia

I left them alone for a good two weeks when they were making their new queen and she did really well. I left them alone for another two weeks and she really built up the hive. And now I’ve left them along for a week and you should see the activity in front of the hives especially the one where they made their own queen – no really, you should see it. Here’s a video. Queen Siste Sjanse’s active hive.

Meanwhile there are other beautiful visitors to my garden that also help pollinate my veggies. Here’s one of them in this Butterfly Video.

So despite wanting in the worst way to go mess with them yesterday and today, I’m leaving them alone. Tomorrow, early morning, I am going to sneak out and just pop the top and give them some food. Then since I’ll be gone for a week at work, I can’t get into the hive.

But hoooo boy, wait til next week……..

Butterfly. On. Zinnia

Butterfly. On. Zinnia

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Aug 19 2014

Just for good measure feeding

7:15am this morning before VSD’s and bees were awake

suited up, no smoke, popped the top

poured in 1 gallon 2:1 syrup

closed them up

2 minutes in and out

Booyah!

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Aug 18 2014

Quick & Dirty

So I went out today at 7:50am to inspect the hives. Nary a girl was out but the sun was up and I knew it was going to be hot so, look out girls, here I come. Wake Up!

This was just going to be a quick inspection. They are probably getting a little cranky this late in the season because they know they’re trying to stock up for winter. And the wasps are going to be extra cranky and I don’t want them in the hive so the less time it’s open and exposed, the better.

I took out an empty box to sort brood out.

The dead bees on the ground weren’t drones, but it turned out they were from the girls cleaning out all the little dead bodies that drowned in the feeder.

I knew I’d need the smoker since all the girls were n the hive. And despite starting at 7:50 in the morning with the shade still sheltering the hives from the sun, I ended up sweating like a fat sailor in the hold of a pirate ship, even though I only ended up having about a 20 minute or less inspection time.

Blue Hive

  • 5 total boxes
  • 6 frames of bees
  • 4 good frames of open brood, most of it very tiny and fresh eggs
  • 10 good frames of capped brood
  • I did not see Queen Siste Sjanse. I looked at each frame but didn’t spend extra time trying to locate her
  • There was about 1 1/2 boxes of nectar/food, all the frames a little light (not stuffed and super heavy) but they were bringing it in.
  • The feeder was bone dry and there was about 1/3 cup of dead bees in the bottom, also bone dry, which means the girls licked every little bit of food off them

All in all, I’m pleased with this hive. I still need to give them food, which I’ll do early tomorrow morning before everyone’s up (including the VSD’s) so they can stock up this week.

Orange Hive

  • 6 total boxes
  • 8 frames of bees
  • 5 good frames of open brood, in all stages, including fresh eggs
  • 11 good and very full (edge to edge) frames of capped brood
  • I spotted Queen Håper scuttling about on a frame with tiny open brood, in the 2nd box
  • There are two very heavy boxes of nectar and capped honey, with very heavy frames of food
  • The feeder was bone dry and not a dead bee in site. So they must have been the tidy little hive that cleaned up all the dead bees

Very nice hive – I’m very pleased with this hive for the winter. I left the feeder in and will still go ahead and feed them because I don’t think they can have enough food going into winter and it’s still pretty dry out.

 

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Aug 17 2014

Mama’s home

orange bell pepper

orange bell pepper

I’m home again after a week out of town working. I was incredibly busy Saturday night and Sunday, so I’m going to peek at the girls tomorrow morning.

heirloom striped tomato

heirloom striped tomato

They’re very busy around the front of the hive, though, especially the orange hive, but there’s lots of girls around the blue front door, too.  They’re starting to cull out the bees as there are about 50-60 on the bee deck, dead. When I look tomorrow I’ll see if they’re mostly drones. I’ll see if they’ve drained the syrup (which they should have by now) and see if they’re bringing in enough honey, nectar and pollen to get them through the winter.

English cucumber

English cucumber

If they appear to have enough bees – really bolstered their population and are laying up a lot of bees – I’ll decide when I’m going to check them for mites since that essentially kills about 300 bees in the checking process.

I’ve got lots of pics of my girls on this blog, but today I took some pics of the literal fruit of their labors. I wouldn’t have any of these lovely veggies without the girls.

heirloom orange cherry tomatoes

heirloom orange cherry tomatoes

Thanks, girls, for honey, beeswax and my huge garden full of wonderful veggies.

 

 

 

great northern dry white bean

great northern dry white bean

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Aug 11 2014

Are you eating?

So at 7:30am I suited up and took the new syrup out to the hives.

The Blue Hive had eaten about 1/2 a gallon of syrup and there were a lot of dead bees in the syrup – idiots. Probably about 1/3 of a cup of bees. I topped the syrup off.

The Orange hive and eaten about 3/4 of a gallon of syrup and same on the dead bees, about a 1/3 of a cup. I topped them off, too.

So they’re eating the syrup, but not draining it. They’ll go for real nectar and honey if it’s out there and go for the syrup if they feel they need more stores. I gotta leave for work for the week so we’ll see how things are doing when I get back next weekend.

Eat up little girls. Fly out and find pollen and nectar for the winter.

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