Jun 29 2016

Yellow hive inspection – upside down, too

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

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

Yellow hive inspection synopsis

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

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

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

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

 

So I now have two hives that have gone queenless.

Assumptions:

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

Plan:

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

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

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Jun 28 2016

You girls can be frustrating; orange hive inspection

Sometimes, I almost want to say that the girls can be frustrating enough that I’m ready to call it……nope, I won’t say it. OK – quits. Nope, not really.

So I WAS going to quickly inspect all three hives this morning about 8am, but it was so hot, I could only get through one. At 8am it was already 75 degrees and by 9am it was 80 (high today, 93).

I took out 2 tubs with empty boxes in case I needed to collection honey off the hives; took out a box with 8 empty frames; and took out the new queen excluder since my orange hive doesn’t have one.

I got the smoker going, suited up, knocked on the front door and under the lid and opened up the orange hive.

Orange hive Inspection synopsis

This hive started and ended with 6 8-frame western boxes.

There were 6 frames of capped brood, no open brood or eggs at all, no queen sighted, 16 frames of bees, 3 frames full of pollen, 21 frames of honey half capped, and plenty of other frames of nectar.

2 frames had 1 queen cell each that were almost capped, just the tip left uncapped yet.

Hive management

one of the girls in the blooming lavendar

one of the girls in the blooming lavender

I put all the brood in the bottom box and put only 7 frames in the bottom with room for an empty frame (see “Plan”). I put the queen excluder between boxes 4 and 5 so there are 2 full boxes of half-capped honey on the top and this will keep them from brooding up in the honey.

Problems

As you can see, I have a queen problem. Clearly no queen has laid up for at least 9 days (when they cap the worker cells).  14 days ago at inspection in this hive, I saw Queen Frodig and fresh eggs. I didn’t see Queen Frodig at all, but I wasn’t looking really really carefully because I was seeing no eggs.

I have no idea if they’re two little half hearted queen cells have queens in them, because the queen cell is capped at 7 days.  If there are no fresh eggs, that means she quit laying 9 days ago and they need a fresh egg for the queen cell.  So they would have to have put a 2 day old egg in the queen cell – which is right on the ragged edge because they make queens out of eggs 3 days or less old.

So where did Frodig go? Did she die somehow? Get sick?

It’s clear they didn’t swarm because there are so many live bees in the hive – there would be half or less that many if they’d swarmed.

this is a northern California bumblebee I took a picture of this week at work, up in Humboldt county

this is a northern California bumblebee I took a picture of this week at work, up in Humboldt county

Plan

Tomorrow I’m going to inspect the yellow hive. If they’re doing well and they have a spare frame with fresh eggs, I’m going to brush off the bees and put the frame of fresh eggs down in the bottom brood box of the orange hive. Then if they want to make more queen cells, they can. I’ll just leave them to it, rather than going out and buying another queen for $35.

Here is a movie of a tiger swallowtail butterfly pollinating my lavender.  This is Pollinator week – go bugs!

 

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Jun 17 2016

Removed FlowHive from Yellow hive

About 5pm it was sunny and cooler so I went out to remove the FlowHive from my Yellow hive before it got too heavy for me to lift again.

This is the hive that may swarm.

I took a big rubbermaid tote with lid out to store the FlowHive, and another box with 8 empty frames to replace the FlowHive.

The hive started with 4 boxes and the FlowHive. It ended with 5 boxes.

I moved the FlowHive to the tote, about 10 feet from the hive.

I then pulled off the top box which is entirely full of honey (peeked first to make sure there was no brood). I put the queen excluder on above the 4th box and put the box of honey on top.

I then took each FlowHive frame out with the bees, took them over to the top of the hive and shook and brushed all the bees off the frame and into the box and laid the frame aside. I did this with each FlowHive frame until they were all free of bees and then put them back in the FlowHive box, in the tote, put the lid on and put the tote in the bee shed.

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Jun 17 2016

Purple & Orange inspection June 15

On Wednesday at about 10am it was 58 degrees and sunny so I decided to go ahead and inspect the Purple and orange hives since it’s been about 2 weeks.

I took out 2 sorting boxes and 2 boxes with 8 empty frames in case they needed some room.

Purple Hive – Queen Lilla

This hive started with 5 boxes and ended with 5 boxes.

Synopsis:

12 frames of capped brood, 16 frames of bees, 6 frames of capped honey, 8 frames of nectar, 2 frames of pollen, about 10 empty frames.

Problems:

No Queen Lilla spotted. Not a single cell that had any open larvae at all  – no eggs, no tiny larvae, no open brood – nada.  There were 4 complete and capped queen cells.

2 of the capped queen cells in the purple hive

2 of the capped queen cells in the purple hive

Hmmmmmm.  So how did this hive manage to go queenless? It’s been that way for at least 8 days because that’s when they cap their brood.

Conclusions:

Clearly the hive is healthy – there are a ton of bees, a ton of capped brood, tons of food and they’ve created queen cells.  So I’m going to leave them as is and let them work on it.

I managed the hive down so that now the bottom two boxes have brood, 3rd has all empty frames, 4th has food, then a queen excluder, then the 5th has honey

I talked to The Wiz at the farmers market that night and he said he had a hive that went totally queenless, too and he has no idea why. Always makes me feel a little better when it’s not something I’ve done and it happens to the best of them.

Orange Hive – Queen Frodig

This hive started with 5 boxes and ended with 6 boxes.

Synopsis:

There were 10 frames of capped brood, 16 frames of bees, 15 frames of nectar, 3 frames of pollen and just 3 empty frames. The top box had one frame with brood.

I saw Queen Frodig and there were fresh eggs and small larvae. I also found 2 queen cells.  

Here is a short video of Queen Frodig on her hive. 

Management:

I managed the hive down so that the bottom two boxes had brood checkerboarded with 2 empty frames, the 3rd box had brood checkerboarded with 4 empty frames, 4th box had food with 3 empty frames, 5th box is all empty frames, and the 6th box is entirely nectar.

Conclusions:

They’re doing great. I need to get another queen excluder for the top two boxes on this hive so they won’t brood up in the honey.

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Jun 14 2016

Yellow (FlowHive) inspection and FlowHive pros and cons

So after we extracted the FlowHive, I needed to do an inspection of the Yellow Hive because the last one was May 18, about 3 1/2 weeks ago.  That’s a long time for an 8 frame western hive – they need to be done every two weeks (I’ll explain below).

But the FlowHive is so heavy when it has honey, I estimate about 65-70 pounds,  that I actually could barely lift it off the hives and I can’t get it back on top of the hive. So I have not inspected, waiting until I could extract the FlowHive and get rid of some of the honey weight.

My Bro actually hefted the FlowHive off the hive and we set it aside and I did a quick 10-12 minute inspection of the hive. I actually found not only what I expected to find, but actually a worse version of what I expected to find.

Yellow Hive inspection

The queen had “chimneyed” all the way to the top, just under the queen excluder. The top box (beneath the FlowHive) had a good 5 frames full of capped brood and all the brood were in the top 3 boxes.  The bottom box, as I thought it would be, was basically a bunch of empty frames.

There were probably 30-35 fully formed and capped queen cells, all lined up along the bottom of the frames of several of the frames in the top 3 boxes.  These are swarm cells. I’ve never seen so many in any of my hives, ever. This is telling me they are really ready to swarm. Bees want to swarm when they feel crowded.

I saw a lot of teeny weeny larvae, like 2 days old, but I could only find a very few (half a dozen) brand new fresh eggs laid that day.  That’s not always a sign, but just one of the signs of getting ready to swarm is stopping the queen from laying new brood. So this has me more concerned.

I managed the hive down by putting all the brood back down in the bottom two boxes, putting all the empty frames in the 3rd box up, then the 4th box has honey/food, then the queen excluder, then the FlowHive.

I did not remove any of the queen cells.  If they are going to swarm, they’re going to swarm. I’m hoping that managing them back down will slow them down and make them not swarm.  But that is an awful lot of queen cells they made.

I could split the hive right now to try to keep it from swarming, and that might do the trick. But if they have in their heads to swarm, it’s going to happen no matter what I do.  So call I can do is wait a few days and see if they settle down or if they swarm.

So here’s what I had to think about the last two days.

First, a synopsis of beekeeping in 8 frame Western hives and why I use them.

It takes 2 8-frame western hives to equal 1 10-frame deep hive (the regular size boxes used by commercial beekeepers – all big burly men).

A 10 frame deep box full of honey can weigh anywhere from 85-95 pounds.

An 8 frame western box full of honey weighs about 35-40 pounds.

I started beekeeping from the beginning with 8 frame western boxes because I want to do this a long time and I can handle 35-40 pounds.  All the OF’s in beekeeping constantly brag about how you know a beekeeper by their bent back, how they all have bad backs, etc.  I don’t find that funny. I want to keep my back in good shape. Over the past 6 years, the local bee supplier has gone from keeping nearly no 8 frame western equipment to a very huge supply of 8 frame western equipment, because a large majority of the backyard beekeepers are women and they want the lighter weight boxes. It’s no longer exclusively a man’s world in beekeeping (move over, drones).

The only “problem” (if you want to call it a problem) with keeping 8 frame western hives is that the bees, more than in any other of the hive types (10 frame western, 8 and 10 frame deeps), tend to “chimney” – which means that the queen quickly moves straight up the middle of the hive as she lays, to the top, ignoring the side frames, and as the bottom frames hatch out, she does not go down to lay there but just keeps going up to the top.  So she gets to the top, thinks she’s run out of room, and instead of going back down, she wants to swarm to find more room.

That means that you have to “manage the hive down” constantly. That means, moving all the brood back to the bottom of the hive, the food to the top of the hive, and the empty frames/expansion frames above the brood and below the food.  You put the open brood in the bottom, then the capped brood, then empties, then food.  It’s just a cycle that you get in and each time you inspect, you also have to manage.

I’ve found over my very few 6 years in beekeeping that the perfect inspection/management cycle is 2 weeks.  Last year I tried waiting 3 weeks instead and found that they started building queen cells and were crammed along the top of the hive.  But at two weeks, the queen will have just laid some fresh eggs in one frame in the top of the hive and I can easily manage them down again and get her back on track.

This “managing down” issue would not be an issue if I kept larger boxes – 10 frame westerns would be less managing and of course 8 or 10 frame deeps would be less of a problem. I could wait 3-5 weeks between inspections.

But I can’t comfortably lift 50-85 pound boxes, and it would limit my lifespan of being able to beekeep.  So the answer is NOT to move to bigger boxes.

The Pros and Cons of the FlowHive for me

PROS

  • way less work and way less time extracting honey (note: I kind of like the old fashioned process of putting the frames in the extractor, cranking away and filling the bucket with the honey)
  • only pre-clean and sterilize jars, not equipment (note: it took about 20 minutes to extract into clean jars. On regular extracting day I need to clean and sterilize the equipment the day before so it can dry, then spend anywhere from 2-3 hours extracting, then wash all the equipment again)
  • much less waste – honey goes in jars, any left over honey stays in the hive. During regular extraction there is a lot of honey you just can’t get off the sides of the stainless steel tank and it gets wasted as you wash out the tank
  • don’t have to brush angry bees off honey frames as you remove them from the hive
  • bees didn’t engage or even seem to know extraction was happening (at least from the outsiders view)
  • not necessary to wait for the honey to “filter” because there are no exploded bee body parts or chunks of wax thrown from the centrifuge of the extracting machine. Regular extraction spins the combs fast, throwing both honey, bee parts and wax chunks out, which go into the honey bucket. You then have to filter out the big bee parts and wax chunks

CONS

  • The FlowHive 8 frame deep box empty weighs in at 18.5 pounds. Full of honey, it weighs in at about 78 pounds according to FlowHive
  • I can’t inspect the hive at all while the bees are making honey in the FlowHive, prior to it being cured and ready for extraction, because the FlowHive box is so heavy, I have to get a big, burly man over here to move the FlowHive off the top of the hive. If this takes longer than 2 weeks, I risk my queen feeling cramped and the bees swarming

 

So that’s really the only con.  However, it is such a big, unworkable con that I’ve decided, regretfully, that it can’t work for me.

I can’t risk my bees swarming or having to hire some guy every 2 weeks to come over and move the FlowHive box off the hive, then back on again after I’ve inspected.

My wonderful HB is a big, burly man. He has built the bee deck, built all my equipment, built my hive stands, built my custom bee shed, built the protective see-through screen fence around my beeyard, carted countless equipment around for me. But from the beginning he did not want to be actually suited up and out in the bees – which is just fine with me. He does all the work, I get all the pleasure. He’s a little freaked out about being in the bees. I’d be freaked out completely if he started keeping spiders as pets. So to each their own.

Conclusion

Until FlowHive manufactures FlowHive honey boxes that weigh in full of honey at about 35-40 pounds, this is not the method for me and possibly for a large amount of women beekeepers the world over.

So I’m going to sell my FlowHive to my Bro and let him use these for his hives. He already has an entire FlowHive package of one hive and now he can have the equipment to have two hives next year.

 

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Jun 14 2016

First extraction with the FlowHive

So in this entry, I’m only going to talk about the experience of harvesting honey with my FlowHive. I’ll then post an entry about the subsequent hive inspection and my conclusions.

On Sunday afternoon, about 2pm, it was sunny and warm. My Bro and sis in law came over to help and film our first FlowHive extraction.

I cleaned and sterilized several quart jars and took out 6, plus a large roll of plastic wrap. We took out the jars, plastic wrap, all the drainage tubes to the bee deck.

We needed to build a little shelf to hold the jars while the honey was draining from the FlowHive because you can’t just stand there with a jar in your hand that’s going to end up weighing in at 4 pounds for – 15? 30? 60? minutes waiting for it to fill up.

So just behind the hive boxes, on either side, we put a cement construction block (8″X 16″) horizontally on the ground (8″ tall), then stacked another one on top of that one the long way up (16″ tall), then stacked two regular bricks on each side, then put a 2X6 board straddling the two bricks to make a shelf.  When I placed a quart jar on top of the shelf, the lip now sat about 2″ below what would be the drainage tube for the FlowHive.

We were suited up, smoked the hive a little, and went ahead and popped the top to quickly look at each of the 6 FlowHive frames to see if they were ready for harvesting.  4 were very nearly full and 2 were about 3/4 full.  All were about half wax capped, but they have remained this way for a couple of weeks.  So I tilted the frames and there was no moving of the honey (so it was very thick or cured) and tipped a tip in one of the cells and the honey did not drip, so the honey is cured and ready for harvesting.

We then opened up the back of the FlowHive. We placed a jar beneath one of the frames, took the plastic cap off, put the drainage tube in, then took plastic wrap, went around the jar and tented over the drainage tube and sealed it in the back so there was a little tent of plastic wrap around the whole top and no honey smell could leak out to attract bees, wasps or robbers.

We then put in the magic FlowHive “key” and tried to turn it to “crack” the wax seal and open the channels for the honey to flow out.  This was a lot harder than it seemed it should be. It took enough downward pressure to turn the key/handle that I was a little worried about bending the key. But at one point, you feel a little tiny breakthrough when the wax cappings crack, and then you just slowly and smoothly turn the key the rest of the way.

We could see the end row of cells on both sides of the FlowHive frame, filled with honey and you can watch it run down. Then it was in the drainage tube, filling it up, slowly creeping to the end and drizzling into the jar. Hooraaah!

And we just stood around watching it fill up the jar.  It actually filled up much quicker than we thought it might. We had to do a quick switch between jars when the first one got full, which can cause a little bit of a mess – not too much. We then replaced the plastic wrap tent and let it drain again.  We staggered the timing of the jars and made sure we were only draining two jars, far apart, at a time so that we didn’t have to be swapping out jars in the middle of a honey flow out of the drainage tubes at the same time.

Here is a link to 3 videos of the process. Go to this YouTube channel and watch the videos of “SlowMo Bees” which is my bees coming and going from the hive;  “Flowhive 1” which is a picture of the honey actually coming out of the FlowHive frames, into the drainage tube and into the jar;  and “honey feast”.  This is a great video of girls on top of one of the frames where honey spilled and pooled and you can see a circle of girls with their maroon “tongues” (proboscis) lapping up the honey and their little antennae seem to be dancing in time to some music.

I had to run in the house and get more jars.  Within about 20 minutes, we had 8.5 full quart jars of honey – that’s about 24-26 pounds of honey. It came out perfectly raw.  No bee body parts, no other little parts of wax or anything – just honey and bits of pollen.

honey harvest from 6 FlowHive frames

honey harvest from 6 FlowHive frames

We went ahead and decided to leave some pretty wet frames for the bees, so while it was still barely drizzling honey into the jars, we took the key and closed the frames, which aligns the cells back closed and put the caps back in the openings. The entire time the bees just worked around and on the frames.

FlowHive need for improvement

The little round caps that are on the end of the drainage holes, where you insert the drainage tubes are flawed. You just “push” them back in – there is no screw.  So twice, the pressure from the honey backflow popped them out as they are quite loose and I had honey draining out of the hive.  They need to put just a quarter screw in this capping mechanism so these will stay put.

 

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Jun 01 2016

Queen Lilla – ah hah! Just as I suspected

I found the perfect temperature to inspect a hive – 62 degrees.  At 9am, it was 62 degrees and sunny so I went out to inspect the purple hive with Queen Lilla.  All suited up and perfectly comfortable – not cool, not even warm – just right.  By the time I was done at 9:45am it was 66 degrees and I was sweating profusely.  So 62 is the right temperature.

here's a brood frame with the bottom covered in capped drone brood.

here’s a brood frame with the bottom covered in capped drone brood.

I did a quickie inspection of the hive basically just to manage them if I had to and to see if they needed some room for expansion. I took out a box with 4 empty frames and 4 bare frames and a couple of sorting boxes. I smoked the front door and under the lid.

I found one frame with the middle laid in fresh eggs right in the top box. So I knew I’d have to manage the brood back down again.

Purple Hive – Queen Lilla

This hive started with 4 boxes – I added one last time. And this time, I had to add another.  There were only a couple of frames that were about half drawn out left that weren’t full of food or brood so they were getting a little cramped.

I ended with 5 boxes.  The bottom 2 boxes each had 6 full frames of brood, either capped, larvae or fresh eggs (and there were a lot of fresh eggs) and 2 frames of nectar/pollen. The 3rd box had 4 full frames of brood, I checkerboarded 3 bare frames and there was 1 frame of food. Box 4 is entirely empty or bare frames. Then the top box/5 was full of 8 completely stuffed frames of capped honey. There was a good 12 solid frames of bees. So 16 frames of brood and 11 frames of food.

All three hives now have 5 boxes

All three hives now have 5 boxes

I found Queen Lilla and I was right – she was NOT the white spot queen I bought and put in the hive. They did make their own and she must have killed Queen Lilla (being a svelt and quick virgin queen when she emerged) and torn up and killed the other queen cells I saw torn open. The good news is that they did make a Carniolian and not an Italian this time and she is laying up like gangbusters. Hail Queen Lilla!

Here’s a video of Lilla moving about on a frame.

There were several dozen very newly emerged baby bees (just born today).  I call them “ghost bees”

Here's fuzzy wet new baby right in the middle, much paler than the two on each side of her

Here’s fuzzy wet new baby right in the middle, much paler than the two on each side of her

because they are tiny and kind of gray, a little colorless, and they are covered in wet fuzz and kind of wobble around aimlessly. Here is a picture of one of them, right in the center of the frame. If you enlarge, you can see her fuzz is wet on her head and she’s pale colored.

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May 30 2016

orange hive, quickie inspection – FlowHive peek

This girl is working a sage flower and staring at me with her big right eye

This girl is working a sage flower and staring at me with her big right eye

So today at about 9am it was about 65 degrees and very sunny, the girls were out and I went out to do a quickie inspection of the Queen Frodig’s hive (the orange hive) and to see if she needed an extra box.

I took a box with 4 bare and 4 empty frames out and a tub just in case they had a whole box of honey to pull (wishful thinking).

I started the smoker, knocked on the front door and under the lid and counted to 10.

Another girl working the sage

Another girl working the sage

Orange Hive – Queen Frodig

This hive started with 4 boxes.

The girls were calm and very busy. There were 12 frames of bees.  I did not see Queen Frodig, but I did see plenty of fresh eggs and tiny larvae.  This was a quick inspection so I didn’t count the frames. But I did have to manage the hive down as there was a frame of new brood in the top box .

I also noticed 3 capped queen cells hanging from the bottom of two frames – hmmmmm, that’s supposed to mean they want to swarm.  One of the cells got a little squished apparently in bringing out the frame and there was some white goo from larvae leaking out, so they really are growing queens.  There were still about 4 frames that had no food and just about 1/4 drawn out cells, some with new larvae.  So I decided to give her some room just in case.

By the time I was done managing the hive, I had 5 boxes, starting from the bottom:

  • bottom two boxes each had 6 frames with brood and 2 food frames (a honey and a pollen)
  • the next box had 4 frames with brood and 4 frames with some food
  • 4th box is all the new empty box
  • 5th box is entirely full of nectar

FlowHive

I then decided just to peek at only the FlowHive frames to see how they’re doing.  All 6 frames are full of nectar with bees all over them, and each frame still is only about 1/4 capped along the top of the frames.

Here is a visiting wild bee on my chamomile

Here is a visiting wild bee on my chamomile

It was so sunny today and the girls were en masse in the gardens – just standing near the sage it was noisy with a constant, pleasant buzzing. There were also several visitors to the garden. I saw bumblebees, and 3 kinds of wild bees.

Here is a very short video of on of the girls gathering nectar on the sage flowers.

This video is very short because this wild bee only spent a couple seconds on each flower. But in this, it’s on a chamomile flower and has a very unusual method for gathering pollen. You might have to watch it a couple of times. It gathers pollen on the bottom of it’s thorax (it’s tummy and bottom) instead of in bags on it’s legs.  It does this by getting on the flower, turning around in a circle while it quickly tamps it’s abdomen over and over on the flower, which gathers the pollen up on the underside of it’s body. Very unusual.

Here is the fruit, literally, of the girls labor. Little cherry tomatoes

Here is the fruit, literally, of the girls labor. Little cherry tomatoes

 

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May 21 2016

Purple hive, renegade queen, crazy good workers

all three hives after adding a box to each. Starting at the left, orange, yellow/FlowHive, and purple

all three hives after adding a box to each. Starting at the left, orange, yellow/FlowHive, and purple

So Friday I decided I needed to inspect the purple hive before the weather turns bad. We’re supposed to get rain and storms and quite a bit of wind.

At 10am it was 59 degrees and a little overcast, which turns out to be the most comfortable conditions to inspect a hive. No sweat, perfect temperature, no sun beating down – I could have inspected 5 hives.

 

Purple Hive, Queen Lilla

So I’m real sure that the queen I bought and installed in this hive is long gone. I inspected and could not find a queen with a white dot on her back (pretty hard to miss that). I found 3 more cut open queen cells, one of them ooozing out white larvae goo. So it had been torn open and the queen inside killed.

you can see fresh laid eggs, tiny c larvae, and big larvae

you can see fresh laid eggs, tiny c larvae, and big larvae

Last inspection, there was just no evidence of new laying. This time, it was crazy. Brood everywhere, laid literally end to end on the frames, with a really good pattern, a few holes missing here and there that shows that perhaps she’s hygienic. So instead of showing the traits of the new queen, they produced a queen from the Queen Freyja, my wonder woman of a bee.

They were so busting out all over in this hive, I had to put on another box for expansion. I managed the hive down, with all the brood in the bottom two boxes and then a box with empty frames and then they had an entire box chock full of capped honey.

So I started with 3  boxes and ended with 4.  If this flow keeps up, by next week, I could pull 3 boxes of honey off and harvest the FlowHive.

perfectly laid frame, end to end capped, with several holes where the girls pulled out unapproved brood

perfectly laid frame, end to end capped, with several holes where the girls pulled out unapproved brood

Synopsis:

I saw no queen, but I saw lots and lots of fresh eggs.

There were 9 full frames of brood, 12 frames of bees, 8 full frames of food and 3 frames packed with pollen.

 

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May 18 2016

Yellow & Orange FlowHive inspection – yowzah

At 10:30am it was 72 degrees and I went out to inspect either 1 or 2 hives, however many I could get through before I got too tired.

Note to self: you always underestimate just how very hot it can get inside that suit. Next time, start the inspection at 8:30am. I once again was faced with not being able to see the hive because I had pools of sweat in my glasses; dripping fat drops of sweat down into the hive, which the girls clearly do not like.

I wanted to be ready for anything and not have to make multiple trips, so I took out two boxes with 8 frames, a combination of bare frames and drawn empty frames; 2 sorting boxes; and I trimmed a couple branches from the quaking aspen tree that was hanging over the path to get to the beehives because it kept slapping me in the face every time I walked by.

I cut up 4 good pieces of burlap for the smoker, and started her up. Kinda. Sorta. The fire starter was on it’s last gasp and could barely get out a little puff of flame. So I ended up after all having to go inside the house and get out another fire starter and then back out to the beeyard. Best laid plans yadda yadda yadda.

Frame in the orange hive with both capped brood, uncapped brood and nectar off to the left

Frame in the orange hive with both capped brood, uncapped brood and nectar off to the left

Orange Hive

This hive started with 3 boxes and ended with four boxes. The bees have apparently finally figured out how to forage because they were bringing in good food. They were running out of room between the brood and food, so I added a box to this hive for expansion.

Synopsis:

I found Queen Frodig. Here’s a video of Queen Frodig with her big white dot. She’s a great looking Carniolan queen, with a very dark brown body.

There were fresh eggs. 12 very full frames of brood, most capped, some uncapped in all stages. there were 6 full frames of nectar and 1 fat frame of pollen. There were 10 frames of bees.

Here you can see big fat white larvae, smaller C larvae, teeny weeny c larvae and a few fresh eggs laid today

Here you can see big fat white larvae, smaller C larvae, teeny weeny c larvae and a few fresh eggs laid today

I managed the brood down to the bottom two boxes and checker boarded in 5 bare frames so there was room for expansion.

The 3rd box is 8 empty or bare frames and the top box was 6 frames of food and 2 bare frames.

So Frodig’s girls finally pulled it off and are foraging and Frodig is laying up very healthily.

Yellow Hive

This hive started with 3 boxes and the FlowHive box and ended up with 4 boxes and the FlowHive box. This is the hive out of winter with Queen Freyja, that I split. I could literally have split them again today and done no harm to this hive.

This is in the orange hive, and is a good frame with nectar on top and pollen on the bottom. If you look careful on the middle left and top right you can see two bees with their "tongues" that are deep reddish brown stuck into the cells delivery nectar

This is in the orange hive, and is a good frame with nectar on top and pollen on the bottom. If you look careful on the middle left and top right you can see two bees with their “tongues” that are deep reddish brown stuck into the cells delivery nectar

They are completely jammed and the Queen was basically plugged out (meaning there was virtually no where else for her to lay. They had all sorts of open/empty queen cups and some open/empty queen cells, most started along the bottom third of the frames.  Uh oh.  So I’m thinking they’d like to swarm because they feel cramped.

The problem is that they refused to touch the FlowHive frames for weeks. So instead they literally packed an entire box just stuffed full of nectar which is now nearly all capped off honey. That gave them only 2 western boxes to expand babies into. They only started finally putting nectar in the FlowHive once they literally had no cell left in the bottom hive to put nectar into.

here's a frame in the yellow hive that is wall to wall capped brood, some drone brood and 2 queen cups along the bottom

here’s a frame in the yellow hive that is wall to wall capped brood, some drone brood and 2 queen cups along the bottom

Synopsis:

I did not see Queen Freyja. I did see plenty of fresh eggs. There were 12 frames wall to wall brood, 16 frames of bees, 6 frames of honey and 3 frames of pollen.

I put on another box of bare frames, moved the brood down and checkerboarded the 8 bare frames in among the bottom two boxes for expansion.

FlowHive issues discovered

So I pulled each of the 6 frames of the FlowHive.  Here are some observations. Each time I inspect this FH box, I have to meddle with the expansion/contraction screws on the ends of the frames because they slightly warp and expand in the sun. So I have to take the screwdriver and turn the screw heads on the end of each frame to get it to fit more loosely in the box. They are so tight, I have to kind of cram and force them out of the box. So I’m tamping down the screws.

The bees have literally packed all 6 frames out to the brims with nectar and all the frames were just starting to get wax capped along the top. This makes for some really….really heavy frames.

This is one of the flowhive frames. It is full of nectar and just starting to get capped along the top

This is one of the flowhive frames. It is full of nectar and just starting to get capped along the top

Because there is a queen excluder, when you remove the FH box, you have to make sure that the queen excluder isn’t stuck to the bottom of the FH box, but instead stays on the top of the hive.  Because Queens like to move up (or chimney) in the hive, you will very often find them clinging to the bottom side of the queen excluder. If you moved the box with the queen excluder stuck to the bottom of the box, you would be moving the queen, unprotected, and she or the whole excluder could fall off the hive. Bye bye queen.  So you have to carefully unstick the excluder all the way around the perimeter and carefully lift the box.  Then carefully pick up the excluder and check all over to see if the queen is on the bottom before setting it aside.

Of course, since the FH box is on the top of the hive (has to be because of the queen excluder), you have to move the FH box off the hive before you can inspect the hive.

The FH box is very. Very. Very. Heavy.  My estimation was about 85 pounds. It nearly did me in. The FH box is already heavy to start because the frames are such thick plastic. Then add the fact they are totally stuffed with nectar, and are deep frames and are extra thick.

The harder part was getting the FH box back up on top of the hive, for two reasons:

  • I had to add a 4th box to the hive so now I had to lift it up higher
  • You have to lay the queen excluder on top of the top box and then you can NOT “scoot” the FH box onto the top box of the hive like you would normally do. If you did, the excluder would simply slide off the hive. You have to actually lift the FH box and lower it down exactly placed on the excluder.

It actually took me two tries to get the thing up there and on the queen excluder.

I had to have a sit down afterwards and really think this through.  I can’t be lifting 85 pounds or more every time I inspect the hive. How could I avoid this? IF you drain the FH box before you inspect, the FH box would be lighter. But you can’t time the bees capping off the honey just exactly at the same time you have to inspect the hive.

Because I use 8 frame westerns (instead of 8 frame deeps), I have to inspect the bees about every 10-14 days and you always have to manage the hive down. The queen has a much larger tendency to chimney in the 8 frame westerns and if you wait 3 weeks, she’ll be all laid up in the top box, with the bottom boxes empty, and ready to swarm or will swarm.  This has been brought up by those in the beekeepers association. It’s just something you have to deal with (more frequent inspections and managing down) if you  8 frame westerns.

If I moved to using 8 frame deeps, I could go a month between inspections.  But I don’t use 8 frame deeps because they’re too heavy. I want this to be enjoyable and to be able to do this for a lot of years. I can’t do that with boxes that weigh 60-80 pounds.  My 8 frame westerns at their heaviest full of honey weigh about 45 pounds.

That means that every 10-14 days, I’ll have to move this ridiculously heavy FlowHive box off the hive and back on the hive. I’m not entirely sure that’s the way I want to go.

It makes me want to email those Aussie’s and ask them if the cute little wife of his has every actually had to inspect a hive with the FlowHive on top, or if it’s just been the guys doing the heavy lifting.

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