Aug 05 2017

Aaarrrgh ye smarmy weather – I stab at thee

Yesterday, at 8am and 86 degrees, I went out to inspect the Blue Hive.  This is the hive that swarmed on July 10 and had clearly not only created a queen but had one live in the hive because they were busy chewing out the remaining queen larvae in their cells at the end of that week.

This hive started as a 4X4.

Blue hive inspection – Queen who-knows-who

So this hive had lots of nectar, at least 15 frames of nectar. They had also made 4 full frames of pollen and were bringing in pollen like crazy. There were at least 16 full frames of bees, plus a lot more in the hive.

There was no queen, not a single egg, no capped larvae at all.  What there was, was one frame in which in the middle of both sides of the frame were 3 day old bees. How do I know this? The queen lays an egg. At day 3 a larvae hatches out, which now lays down in the cell like a tiny “c” instead of standing upright like a grain of rice (which is the egg).  At day 3 is when the bees start feeding it royal jelly, which is milky white and viscous.  By day 5, the larvae is a fat white thing that can hardly fit in the cell all curled up.

So this frame had tiny little “c”s floating in royal jelly – 3 days old.  That’s it – just those, just on this one frame.

That means on late Tues or early Wed, she laid these, and then quit laying – just quit.

I shook bees off frames down and down and looked at the frames in the bottom and could not find the queen.

So I wasn’t sure what I was going to do with her but I wanted her isolated in case I decide to combine the hives with a new queen.

I shook the bees that had been on the frame below the queen excluder down into the bottom box and looked at each frame with their few bees left to make sure the queen wasn’t on them.

I moved this pathetic little frame of pathetic little babies down to the bottom box, one frame in from the west side of the hive.

So the bottom/1st box has this frame, the queen (if she’s still alive) and 7 empty frames. I then plopped a box of nectar on top. So 7 frames for expansion, 1 box of food.

I then put on the QX to keep her from moving up at all. That way, I have her isolated if I need that. Above the QX is an empty box and 3 boxes of food. So the hive is a 2X4.

Time to visit The Wiz

So this morning I took a drive across the river to see The Wiz. He was out in his honey castle, which is actually quite cool, never been in there before. All sorts of big extractors and machines and factory lines for wax making, extracting, uncapping. It smelled wonderful.

I told him my dilemma.

He said the bees have been doing all sorts of really weird things because of the horrible weather.

*note on the horrible weather*

As I’ve mentioned, it’s been over 90 for days and weeks now. It will continue as such for days or weeks. Meanwhile, British Columbia (a scant 2 hours north) is basically burning down. The entire state of WA has a low pressure zone hanging over it for the past 5 days and they don’t see anything changing for at least the next 10 days, possibly all of August. On satellite pictures, you can’t even find the state of WA – it’s just covered in smoke (stop your fires, Canada!).  The air quality in Seattle yesterday was worse than in Beijing. Here, they’re telling everyone to stay indoors for the next several days. The sky outside is filmy, grungy and everything has a weird orange cast because the sun is a big red ball. You can’t see the ranges of mountains we’re literally in the middle of because you can’t see anything past a short ways because of the smoke haze. They said this is the worst combo of smoke and heat we’ve had in over 5 years.

My weather station last night showed the humidity was so low outside that it was too low to register. Otherwise, it’s been hovering at about 9-11%, which is less than the Sahara desert.

*OK, back to The Wiz*

He said the smoke is confusing them. And when it’s this hot for this long, sometimes the queens just shut down and won’t lay at all. That can go on for weeks, and it can get hazardous if they end up with not enough young nurse bees left alive to take care of any new babies.

He’s not sure either hive is actually queenless. He thinks there could be a queen in each hive that has just quit laying because of the horrible weather.

He said the way to find out is to put a feeder on the hives and feed them a 2:1 solution for just a couple of days. If there’s a queen, for some reason this stimulates the queen to start laying.

Since I have one little frame of brood in the blue hive, keep it where it is and feed the hive. In the yellow hive, he suggests I find one frame with eggs and open brood from the orange hive and just pop it in the bottom of the yellow hive and go ahead and feed them, too.

If in 3 days there is still no laying in either/both hive, that means there probably really isn’t a queen.

Then what I’ll do is combine the two hives using the newspaper method, and put in a new queen in the bottom of the hive. Let them go into the winter with a super strong, giant hive, which means they’ll probably need to be split. But he wouldn’t bother with buying two queens and trying to coddle along two hives, even if they have a lot of bees.

He doesn’t have queens right now, but is supposed to by Wednesday.  Lora at his place said they’ve had some queens dying right in their cages, possibly from dehydration because of the smoke and heat.

PLAN

So tomorrow morning, because it’s already 90 and smokey and hot on the bee deck, I’ll:

  • move a frame of open brood to the bottom of the yellow hive
  • pop a front feeder with 2:1 solution on each hive
  • on Wed morning, I’ll check for eggs and make plans from there

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Aug 02 2017

Sometimes this is a lot of maintenance…

So this morning at 8am I inspected the yellow hive, which is Queen Livlig. It was already in the mid 80’s and getting hotter by the minute.

Yellow Hive Inspection – Queen Livlig

Well, Queen Livlig sure didn’t livlig long. She was released and named on May 15 and today she’s nowhere to be found.

This hive started out as a 4×2 (4 brood boxes, QX and 2 honey boxes) and ended up as a 3X3 with 2 brood boxes and a bare box, then the QX and 3 boxes for honey.

The honey boxes had nectar, but no capped honey, and only a little under 1 1/2 boxes.

In the bottom boxes, the 4th/top box was still 8 completely bare frames for expansion.

There was quite a few frames of honey, some if it capped, about 5 frames, making about 23 frames of nectar all together. There were 20 frames of bees who were docile and busily bringing in a TON of pollen – 7 frames being made.

HOWEVER – there was not a single egg, not a single open nor capped brood in the entire hive and I never saw a queen. There was no evidence at all of any queen cups or trying to make a queen at all. There was no worker laying in the hive. I looked and looked for a virgin queen (impossible). I suppose in the last few weeks they could have:

  • lost the queen
  • made a bunch of queen cells
  • hatched out a queen
  • managed to shred and get rid of any evidence at all of any queen cells

But that seems pretty unlikely. Even if they really did make a new queen, this is really really late in the season to get a proper mating. There weren’t any drone cells in the hive at all and none in my orange hive so these ladies are not making drones and I assume no other hives are either.

 

Sometimes managing and managing these hives can get a little tiring.

If there were hardly any bees in this hive, I’d just combine the hive with the 2 other hives (1/2 in each other hive). But there were at least 24 frames full of bees and the other hives have a lot of bees so combining them would make 2 humungous hives.

So I put a screen entrance reducer on the front just to keep them from getting robbed or bothered by VSD’s because they’re queenless.

I guess the only thing to do is go over Saturday and pay for a mated queen and put her in this  hive. That’ll be two paid queens within a just under 3 months. What a pain.

 

 

 

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Aug 01 2017

Orange Hive inspection July 31

So  yesterday I wanted to go out and inspect one hive by about 7:30am before it got too hot. The problem is that the girls are in the shade and even though it’s hot, they weren’t coming out of the hive. And you really don’t want to go inspect a hive that still has all the bees in it. You want the vast majority out and about.

So I waited until 8am, but it was already 83 so I went out.

The weather has been in the mid to high 90’s now for days and is supposed to stay that way for at least the next 10 days, with it hitting 100’s this weekend. Still no rain in sight for the foreseeable future and since this is Spokane in the summer, I doubt we’ll get any measurable rain in August.

It takes a little more preparation to go out  now on the bee deck, now that I’ve burned up my storage unit. So I had to go in the bee shed and get the burlap, and the fire starter and the tools and the starter and the smoker.

Queen Dagmar with all her admiring attendants surrounding her

Queen Dagmar with all her admiring attendants surrounding her

Orange Hive inspection – Queen Dagmar

This hive started as a 3QX4 because I’d put a box of wet frames on top of it last Friday night.

I pulled off a box of clean frames. The top boxes were pretty full or nearly full or getting worked on with nectar, but not capped honey.

I found the Dagmar in the top box under the QX, second frame from the side. I carefully set this box aside.

I did a quick inspection. There were plenty of bees in this hive, at least 15 frames. There were 3 frames with new eggs and tiny larvae. There were 5 frames full of capped honey and there were 6 full frames of capped brood. They we bringing in a ton of pollen with at least 4 frames not full or getting full, but with pollen being put in all over.

I managed the queen down to the bottom box and put a box with bare frames just under the QX for expansion. So this hive is now a 4QX2 with nectar in the top 2 boxes.

Quick in and out in about 15 minutes which was good because it was blistering hot.

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Jul 28 2017

The great gold heist of 2017

Here's the gold heist with faithful doggie guarding the stash

Here’s the gold heist with faithful doggie guarding the stash

So today was the day – honey harvest!

I want to emphasize that without many hands and help, we wouldn’t have a bee harvest. HB may not be the official person who wears the bee suit, but without him there wouldn’t be a bee deck, a bee shed, a bee fence, bee boxes and hives that he builds, all my shelves and special spaces and set up for equipment, and so much more.

HB got the shed all ready, cleaned off the deck going into the shed and in the end when we were all inside, he tacked up a packing blanket that he kept soaking down on the outside of the door so bees wouldn’t get in the cracks. Worked like a dream. Thank you, my sweet HB.

Girl Power

This is my hot knife in its special holder my little bro made for me for Christmas. Note the metal bee on top, the hook for hanging and the little bowl for catching the hot honey and melted wax from the knife. Ingenious

This is my hot knife in its special holder my little bro made for me for Christmas. Note the metal bee on top, the hook for hanging and the little bowl for catching the hot honey and melted wax from the knife. Ingenious

Given that, this is still a day all about Girl Power. It’s a celebration of what 120-180,000 girls have done all summer. So we make it a girls day in the bee shed so it’s all about girls.

This time, cousin G and her wife N and my BFF were in residence, ready to rock and roll by about 11:15. It was already 86 degrees out. The bee shed is shaded, there is a screened window on each end for air flow with a fan in the window to blow the honey smell out the end of the shed away from the bee deck but it’s still pretty sweaty work since it really needs to be hot so the honey will come out.

I love the old fashioned feeling of getting 4 girls into a crowded shed, shut in, fans going, glasses of ice water, a pitcher of water, a 5 gallon bucket full of water with towels to wash off our sticky hands, cold and wet scarves tied around our necks to try and cool off, wearing nasty old shorts and T-shirts and sandals that can get sticky. Then, except for the electric hot knife (thank you, technology!), it feels like it must have 100 years ago in the old south during honey harvest.

The Atmosphere

Girls jabbering away about foreign trips, food, cooking, family, health, grandkids. Someone pulls a frame from a box and hands it to another girl. That girl puts the frame in the uncapping box and carves away the cappings on both sides. She then hands the frame to another girls who sets it down inside the steel cylinder and shuts the lid. Another girl starts cranking the handle and you hear the creaking and rumbling sounds as the drum goes round and round, starting out really fast and finally slowing down.  Then more cranking, and once more. Checking the frames, turning them around, cranking again and finally removing the wet frame to a box again. Someone goes and dunks her arms in the water bucket and dries off; someone else dabs a wet scarf on her face to wipe away the sweat. Someone says “look, here it comes” and we all stop to go over and watch the first honey start to come glurbling out into bucket at the bottom of the extracting tank, then back to our work. Only girls could talk about a million and one things while doing this complicated dance in a tight space moving around each other, doing their job automatically and just getting it all done while having a great time. Kind of like all the girls in the hive – just dancing around each other, in a tight space, doing their part without thinking while communicating with each other constantly.

Here's the first dribble that started to come out of the extractor into the bucket

Here’s the first dribble that started to come out of the extractor into the bucket

The Process

  • I’ve got some videos to show you the actual process, but here are the basic steps:
  • Open a storage tote that has a box with 8 frames of honey
  • Pull out a frame at a time and put it in the capping box. The frame can be really heavy, anywhere from 5 1/2 to 8 pounds
  • Take the hot knife and slowly slide it down the front of each side, melting and sloughing off the wax into the cappings box. Here’s a video to show this portion. Uncapping frame with the hot knife in the capping box
  • That frame goes into it’s little niche in the extractor. There are 4 spaces for 4 frames and you try to even out the weight distribution. Here’s a video that shows Placing the frames in the extractor
  • Close the lid to the extractor, start the crank up and crank it til it’s running fast and smooth, do this about 3 times
  • Check the one side of the frame. You can see all the honey’s been blown out of the frame.
  • Turn the frame around and do the cranking process again. Here’s a video showing the hand crank spinning operation of the extractor
  • Take the frame out – it now weighs hardly anything
  • Put the frame back in the honey box. These “wet” frames will go back on the hive as a treat for the girls, who will clean out the honey and repair all the blown out wax cells
  • Keep exchanging the buckets under the extractor so they don’t get too heavy
  • Take all the buckets and the cappings bin into the kitchen
Looking down into a 5 gallon bucket of honey ready to bottle it up

Looking down into a 5 gallon bucket of honey ready to bottle it up

Bottling honey

There’s just nothing like bottling that first jar of honey. You open the honey gate at the bottom of one of your buckets with a jar under it and the gold just comes flowing out into the jar, right up to the middle line on the jar. Shut the gate – waaah laaaah – a jar of honey. Wipe off any drips, put the lid on.

HB and I combine all the honey into the buckets that actually have honey gates, using a rubber spatula to get every drop we can out of the buckets.

Then we set up a little production line with all the jars on one side. HB fills jars, I wipe and cap them.

We set them all over on the table and apply our honey stickers to the job.

I have a kitchen scale that I can tare for anything so I get a tare weight for both the pint and quart jars, then weigh the full jars to know exactly how much honey is in each. A quart jar holds 2 lbs 12.5 ounces. The pint jar holds 1 lb 6.5 ounces.

Clean up

Aaaaah yes. The clean up. I put the parts of the extractor out on the lawn for a couple of hours and let the girls at it. I don’t want to leave it there too long and encourage a robbing situation with either other bees or wasps.

All the rinsed and dried wax cappings, about 6 cups

All the rinsed and dried wax cappings, about 6 cups

I lay the long black hose out in the sun, turn on the water and put the fire hose nozzle on.

Inside – wow. Cleaning up with warm soap and water all the buckets, lids, course filters, capping bin, rinsing with cold water all the wax capping til they’re nearly honey free and dry, cleaning up the kitchen floor and counters of all the sticky mess.

About every 15 minutes I go out and spray down the equipment with really, really hot water from the sun heated black hose which gives me about 60 seconds of steaming water, until it’s cleaned enough that no more girls are going after it. Tomorrow some time I’ll actually hook up the outside hot water to the hose and wash it all down with soap and water and put it back.

Then I put all the buckets, etc. that I cleaned up back in the bee shed and hosed out the bee shed again.

And here is the finished product

Look at that golden goodness with all the little bits of pollen floating in the jar

Look at that golden goodness with all the little bits of pollen floating in the jar

Look at all those specks of golden pollen goodness in that jar, the great light amber color. Our honey label this year says “MooseMoon Raw Honey Backyard, small batch, hand spun” and the words around it say “never heated or ultrafiltered, naturally crystallizing. Tastes just like God and the bees intended”

RECIPE

N – this is for you. You wanted the recipe for homemade granola with honey. Here is the secret to this recipe that makes it better than any other (besides the fact you make it with my girls honey).  Most granola is stirred every few minutes while it bakes and it ends up in dusty little dry pieces.  On this recipe you put the granola on parchment paper or a Silpat in the baking pan, use a potato masher and mash that granola down, all over, good and hard til it’s all compacted down in the baking dish.  Then you bake it and NEVER STIR IT.  When it’s done and cool, you hand break it up into chunks and it’s chunky and not dusty or dried up.  No kidding – that’s the secret. And if you decide to add dried fruit, do NOT add it prior to baking – do that after it’s all baked. Otherwise the dried fruit bakes and turns into little rocks.

Preheat oven to 325.

Prepare 2 rectangle baking pans (like lasagna pans) or 1 pan and halve the recipe. Line each pan with either a Silpat or parchment paper.

  • 5 cups old fashioned rolled oats
  • 2 cups chopped or slivered almonds or walnuts or pecans or macadamia – your choice of nuts
  • 1/2 cup of shredded coconut

Put all these ingredients in a giant bowl and stir up.

In a small bowl, mix together:

  • 2 TBS warm water
  • 4 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup of liquid honey
  • 1/2 cup canola oil

1 cup dried fruit if you wish, added to the cooled granola after it’s all done.

Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix until it’s a big sticky mess. Pour evenly into the two pans. Take a potato masher and compress and compact the mixture down into the pans til it’s all compacted. Put in the oven on two different levels and bake for 15 minutes; turn. Then back for another 15-20 minutes, until the top has turned golden brown (not burnt). Take out and put the pans on cooling rack and leave til it’s completely cooled. Break into chunks and store in any good airtight container or jars.

TALLY AND YEARLY HONEY TOTALS

2010 – 18 lbs

2011 – 85 lbs

2012 – 27 lbs

2013 – 75 lbs

2014 – 60 lbs

2015 – 135.5 lbs

2016 – 119.5 lbs

2017 – 81.75 lbs

 

Taking a quiet break with the girls

It’s such a busy, noisy, messy, sticky, hot, sweaty, hard working day. At the end, about 6:30pm in the cool of the evening (OK it was still 92 degrees outside but at least the bee deck was now in the shade) I put on my bee suit, took out the smoker and went out to visit the girls who did all the hard work.

I took out the 5 boxes full of wet honey frames for a treat for the girls. It was quiet, shady (but sweaty hot), just me and the girls. I went to each hive, knocked on the front door with some smoke and under the lid. I then told each hive thank you for the honey this year, told them I was giving them a treat.

Then I whispered to each hive a “telling the bees” that I should have told them 6 months ago but just couldn’t get up the courage to and didn’t have the heart to. Me and the girls had a quiet little cry out in the beeyard while I told them. They thanked me for telling them and said they’d stick around now they know the latest family updates. He would have loved that first taste of this years honey.

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Jul 27 2017

Note to beekeeper – keep a hose handy

So tomorrow is honey extraction day and today was prep and pull day.

I have washed all the course filters, washed and sterilized countless jars and lids, washed with boiling hot water all the extraction gear (uncapping bin, stainless steel extractor, etc.), hosed out the entire beeshed (HB painted it with waterproof shiny paint so it can be hosed out) and beeshed floor (which is sitting on a bed of sand and is all pavers to allow for drainage – again, yeaaa HB).

Tomorrow I have 3 honey helpers coming at 11am – two cousins and a friend – and it’ll be an all girls day. Just 4 human girls and about 120K bee girls.

I still need to do tomorrow morning:

  • Get the heavy duty extension cord out to the shed
  • plug in and test the hot uncapping knife and the fans
  • get the packing blanket wet and ready (HB will tack up a packing blanket over the beeshed door and wet it down to keep bees out of the cracks around the door)
  • Take out a pitcher of water and 4 glasses of ice
  • Take out a 5 gallon bucket and fill with water for washing
  • Take out the giant rubber spatula for getting honey off the side walls of extractor

I went out at 8:45am to pull as much honey from the hives as was ready. It was already 82 degrees.  Three weeks ago, there were a good 6-8 boxes of completely capped frames of honey.

I put out 6 cleaned out storage totes, one for each honey box. Got out the bee brush, the bucket of pine shavings for fuel starter, the tools, smoker and burlap.

First, a note about my bee deck.

I have a large, heavy duty plastic storage container from Home Depot on the bee deck. It’s about 5 feet long, 2 1/2 feet deep and about 2 feet wide. It has a hinged top, double walls and lid for insulation and also acts as a high bench to sit on.  This is perfect for storing all my 5-gallon Home Depot buckets with all my bee stuff, like fuel starter, burlap, wax containers, notebooks and all the other stuff.  I can put 4 – 5 gallon buckets in the container and shut the lid.

When working the bees, I take out the buckets and set them on top of the bench, which is at the perfect level to work with. The bench is rainproof and doesn’t get to hot or cold because the walls are double and have air in between. The bench sits nestled up against the outside wall of the house, right outside the living room windows.

A pretty frame of capped honey

A pretty frame of capped honey

Pulling frames:

I got the smoker going with my pine shavings and a big ol’ piece of burlap because I didn’t want to have to keep stuffing burlap in the smoker.

I worked through each of the hives, which each have 3 honey boxes above the queen excluder. I purposely did not do an actual inspection because I’ll have to put the wet/extracted frames back on the hives on Friday night and I want the bees to be able to clean them off for the next couple of days.

I was a little surprised when I got in the hives because instead of 6-9 boxes of capped frames, there were really only 4 1/2 boxes of capped or nearly capped honey.  There were 4 1/2 boxes of newer nectar being turned into honey. That means the bees have been eating through the capped honey and then replacing it with  new nectar.

This shouldn’t be surprising because we had a honey flow but since June we have had 21 days over 90 degrees and not a stitch of rain since June 26. That means a big dry-up and probably no nectar or flowering out there except watered back yards.  And the next 10 days shows all over 90 degrees.  So I just pulled the honey that was capped. Near the end of August, it could be that they have made enough more honey to do a 2nd extraction – or if it’s been really dry the rest of the summer, they could just have enough to get through the winter. We’ll see.

The smoker kept going out, probably because the burlap was too big for the smoker, so I pulled out the big piece of burlap, looked at it, made sure it wasn’t actually burning or glowing or smoking at all. There was about a 1 inch charred edge was all. So I set it down on the storage bin and got out a smaller square of burlap which worked much better.

I smoke a box, pull a frame of honey, gently brush off all the bees on both sides with the soft bee brush, carry the frame over to the storage totes, put the frames in an empty honey box in the tote, make sure there aren’t any errant bees and pop the lid on to keep bees out.  I did this for 36 frames.

Now, to the hose……..

I’m pulling frames from the second hive, sweating like a pig already, distracted because I found a little girl stuck to my glove who apparently tried to sting me but her stinger was stuck in my glove so I had to flick her off (silly girl – I wasn’t going to hurt you). My back is to the house when I’m working the hives.

The burned hole in the lid of the bee bench. It's 23 inches long and about 14 inches wide.

The burned hole in the lid of the bee bench. It’s 23 inches long and about 14 inches wide. You can see my foot in a flowered rubber boot at the bottom right for reference

I turned around to get another bee brush from the bench and – I see a giant hole in the bench, with flames about 8 inches high all the way around the hole, and I see plastic just melting and dripping down into the the insides of the bee bench. Holy Crap!

Apparently, the charred burlap retains quite a bit of heat and set the plastic bee bench on fire. Whaaaaa? Plastic? This should not have come as a surprise as my little brother reminded me later that plastic is basically just a big piece of solid petroleum fuel.

I made a dash out the bee gate, grabbed the hose, turned it on and dragged it out to the bee deck. I doused the flames, opened the lid and found the entire inside wall/chamber of the bench was burned out and burning, the floor of the bench was burned and melted and I could see the pavers from the bee deck (yeaaa for cement pavers) through the floor of the bench and a big puddle of melting plastic goo on the floor of the bench.

I doused and doused. I knew the lid and the walls were double chambers with air in between so I stuffed the hose into the holes in the wall and lid and literally filled the walls and lid with water in case there was still smoldering fire in the walls or lid. I flooded the bee deck with water and pulled the bench about 3 feet out from the wall of the house.

The inside of the same lid. You can see the chambers and the holes melted through to expose the chambers

The inside of the same lid. You can see the chambers and the holes melted through to expose the chambers. That’s the wall and window of the house behind it.

I then kept the running hose on the bee deck, on the aspen trees and after I was all done pulling all the honey frames, putting them in totes, and then hauling 50 pound totes full of honey into the bee shed, I doused the bench inside and out again.

So that’s the worst mistake I’ve ever made yet in my beekeeping.

Notes to new beekeepers:

  1. Burlap retains heat and burns slowly
  2. Plastic is flammable
  3. Make sure your bee deck/yard is non-flammable
  4. Keep a hose out on your bee deck since you have fire out there

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Jul 23 2017

waiting waiting waiting

Ginormous queen bumblebee on an echinacea with a regular orange bottom bumblebee

Ginormous queen bumblebee on an echinacea with a regular orange bottom bumblebee

So I’ve decided to just leave the bees alone until honey harvest, which will be this coming Friday, July 28.  I’m going to be disturbing them enough that day taking their honey stores. I don’t want to disrupt them by doing a hive inspection.

one of the girls working a cucumber flower. So far, the girls have made 5 jars of refrigerator dill pickles

one of the girls working a cucumber flower. So far, the girls have made 5 jars of refrigerator dill pickles

The next day after honey harvest, I’ll do an inspection and management as I put the wet/spun honey frames back on the hives.

I believe the blue hive is still somewhat crowded and I’m just banking on the fact that there should be a big hatch pretty soon which will give them empty frames; and the fact that the virgin queen needs to get her mojo going and hopefully that will take her 2-3 weeks.  Then by the time I put wet frames back on the hive, I can give them 4 boxes for room to expand their brood.

Meanwhile, it’s been high 80’s into the low 90’s every day and back up into the mid 90’s this week. Supposed to be about 88 on harvest day.

The girls are really working in the gardens right now. I attached a video here of a bee on the Russian Sage. This is kind of fascinating and creepy all at once. She keeps putting in and out her proboscis (her “tongue” or straw that she sucks up nectar with) and cleans it off with her front feet, then puts it back in her mouth, then out it pops again.

one of my girls working the echinacea

one of my girls working the echinacea. You can see lots of pollen on her back left leg

I also found a regular bumblebee, which is not a baby but a regular sized bumblebee, sharing an echinacea with a queen bumblebee. You can see how truly gargantuan the queen is – she was as big as my thumb up to the first joint. I would NOT want to encounter that stinger.

a girl working the pollen on the zinnias. You can see the big pollen bag on her back right leg

a girl working the pollen on the zinnias. You can see the big pollen bag on her back right leg

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Jul 15 2017

Murphy’s Law and bees

Swarm in the neighbors plum tree

Swarm in the neighbors plum tree

Monday morning, I got on an early plane to head of out of state for work. And 90 minutes later while I’m waiting to change planes in Portland, I get a panic call from HB. Nephew was mowing the lawn in front of the beehives when he came bounding across the lawn to HB saying “Did I tick off the bees? A huge cloud of them went right over my head from the hives!”

Then the neighbor came over, all excited, saying “there’s something wrong – lots of bees in my plum tree!”

And – Murphy’s law – literally as soon as I leave town for a week, one of my beehives swarmed. It landed about 7 feet up in the plum tree that hangs over into our yard.

several queen cells

several queen cells

HB called me at the airport. Guess what? There’s absolutely nothing I can do. So I told him to call The Wiz to find out who could get capture a swarm. The Wiz told him he had a perfect guy, one who had just lost his hives and wanted to get his beekeeping started again, so he sent the guy out to our house.

HB said the guy was out in under 20 minutes, dressed up with a box some tools and a ladder. Climbed right up, put all the bees in the box and took them away. He was in and out of the yard in 5 minutes.

I also knew that sometimes hives will swarm again, and if I was at home, I’d find out which hive (although I was deeply suspicious of the Blue Hive since it was the one I hadn’t been in for about 3 weeks) it was, disrupt them and probably put a wet sheet over them for a couple of days. But guess what? I wasn’t home. So it’s all just up to the bees.

queen cells, one with the bottom already chewed out

queen cells, one with the bottom already chewed out

Today, Saturday, at about 8am it was 72 degrees outside and the bees were out so I decided to go out and look at the blue hive.

I suited up, took out a sorting box, got out my notebook, took my new Iphone (improved camera), got the smoker going and went to take a look.

Blue Hive – Queen Innfødt

This hive was 3X3. I pulled off the top boxes of honey. There are 9 fat and fully capped frames of honey and 15 frames of fresh honey. I removed the queen excluder. I found no queen, but there could very easily be a virgin queen that I’d never find.

There were 11 frames of bees, no eggs at all, 8 full frames of closed brood, 1 frame of pollen, plenty of nectar. There were also 2 frames that had very small, still “C” floating in Royal Jelly, larvae and some fat larvae.

queen cell being chewed out; queen larvae still inside

queen cell being chewed out; queen larvae still inside

Hmmmm – Question

How are there 2-4 day old larvae in this hive? There is no possible way a virgin queen got out on Monday, got mated and laid by Tuesday.  Could the old queen have laid eggs right before she flew the coop/hive Monday morning at 9am?

OK, back to the inspection……

So there were 22 queen cells in this hive, all hanging from the bottom bars of frames, a couple near the bottom. Some were fully closed, some were chewed open, and two had bees actively chewing out the side of the cell, with an exposed large queen larvae inside.

I went through the hive and moved all the capped brood down to the bottom, and put the frames that had been hatched and cleaned out in the 3rd position, and moved any empty or nearly empty frames from the honey boxes down into the brood chamber, too (swapping them out for full honey frames) to give this hive more room to expand. So it’s still a 3X3 hive.

Yellow and Orange Hives

girl working the lavender

girl working the lavender

I decided to go quickly into the other hives and take the completely bare boxes for honey that I’d plopped on top last Sunday and I moved them just under the QX. That way each hive now is a 4X3 and has an entirely bare box on top of the brood to expand into before hitting the QX. If they want to put honey in it, fine. I just wanted them to have plenty of room so they don’t swarm.

I did not do an actual inspection of these hives.

Questions for The Wiz

I then went across the river and to the bee supply place and talked to the Wiz. He said the guy who go the bees was very grateful since he now had a hive and good queen to start his beekeepig again.

He also said that the queen will often lay right up until a few hours before they swarm. So she probably laid eggs Sunday night or Monday morning, and that’s the small larvae I found in the hive.

He also said that because there are queen cells that are chewed out in the hive and being chewed out with queen larvae, it is highly likely there’s a virgin queen running around. Once she gets out, she will go around and sting through the cell and kill all the other queens in their cells. Once they’re dead, the bees go around cleaning up by opening the queen cells and pulling out the dead larvae and getting rid of the queen cells.

daisies in front of the beeyard

daisies in front of the beeyard

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Jul 08 2017

bringing in the honey and working hard

rainbow carrots from the garden

rainbow carrots from the garden

So it’s been over 95 degrees for 5 days, with over 100 degrees twice.  In the next 10 days, it’s supposed to be around 95-100 the whole time.

the blue hive "bearding"

the blue hive “bearding”

In the evening about 7:30pm when it’s cooled down to 85, the girls were out on the front of their hive “bearding”.  It’s called bearding because it looks like – well – a beard on the hive.  They’re really getting out of the hot hive to get cool and to form a little convection machine to try and draw the cooler evening air into the hive and out the hole in the top of the hive for ventilation. The girls are all over their red flyer wagon bee watering hole and the birdbath.

They gather water, bring it to the hive, set it out and then fan it to keep the hive cool with a homemade swamp cooler.  Which is kind of funny, because we have an old house that has no air conditioning and we actually cool off the house with an old fashioned swamp cooler. Pour 5 gallons of water in, open a window, turn on the pump, water goes up the pump and soaks the big coir wedge inside the box, turn on the fan and the fan runs air through the wet coir and out into your room – taa daa – automatically cools the room down by 20 degrees with only enough electricity to run a little fan and a tiny pump and water.  You need a hole/window at the end of the house to let the cool air keep moving through the house. Which is why I have a bee escape/hole at the top of the hive. They draw air in the bottom of the hive, over the water they’ve distributed all inside the hive, they fan their little wings all together in a coordinated effort so the air is moving one way, across the water, and the air goes up through the hive and out the top.

peas from the garden

peas from the garden

Mini-inspection for honey management

Friday evening about 5:30pm when it was finally only 96 degrees, I ran out to the bee deck, got the smoker going and at the very last minute, put on my bee suit. My objective was just to see what kind of honey stores each hive had in it’s three honey boxes. I’m leaving for a week to work and if the honey boxes are filled up, I wanted to just pop on one more box to give them room for more honey.

red raspberries the girls made

red raspberries the girls made

On each hive, I’d just pick up the top honey box to see how much it weighed, set it aside and look down in to see if it looked like all the frames were full or getting filled, then do that with each honey box.

OMGoodness! On both the yellow and orange hives, all three honey boxes were immensely heavy, with frames that were fat and loaded and no extra frames. On the blue hive, there were 2 very heavy honey boxes and the 3rd had 4 frames that were nearly full and the other 4 frames were just getting started.

This took all of 7 minutes to look at all of them and I was a sweaty mess.

I only have 3 extra frames in my bee shed, and 4 extra boxes.

So this morning, I went over to the Bee Supply place and got all the parts and pieces to put together 15 frames. HB and I will put them together this evening out on the patio, I’ll put them all in boxes, and Sunday evening, I’ll pop another box on top of each hive in case the girls want to start more honey boxes while I’m gone. That out to be interesting, since the top boxes right now are at about the top of my chest height and it’s hard getting them off – and harder getting them on – the hive.  But if they fill up these boxes, I’ll just take my little sturdy step stool out there to get the top boxes off.

blueberries starting to ripen

blueberries starting to ripen

Here are some pics of the product of the girls work (except for the carrots, which don’t need the girls at all, but they’re still pretty).

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Jul 01 2017

Blue Hive inspection on 6/30/17

one of the girls working the massive amounts of lavender in the yard

one of the girls working the massive amounts of lavender in the yard

Sue me – I’m behind on posting my blog. I’m going to blame it on the weather, which has gotten ridiculously hot and not having A/C in the house. Grumpy old lady.

So yesterday at 9:00am it was already 83 outside. So I went out to inspect the blue hive.

I took out an extra honey box with 8 empty frames, just in case, and 2 sorting boxes, got my smoker going, knocked on the front door and under the lid and got to work.

Blue Hive – Queen Innfødt

This hive started with 3 brood boxes, a Queen Excluder, and 2 honey boxes. So it was a 3X2 hive.

There were a LOT of bees in this hive – at least 16 frames but they were all over the place so probably more. In general, they were friendly and busy, waggling and dancing, but I did have about 4 times during the inspection in which I had either a bee buzzing me directly in front of my face right outside my veil, looking in at me and they wouldn’t go away until I smoked myself. And there were 3 times that I got thwacked by a bee on my hood, so I smoked myself and the hive and the guard bees calmed down.

There were fresh eggs on 2 frames. I did not see the Queen, but it was so crowded in there that I could easily have missed her. There were 9 frames with open brood, 8 frames with closed brood, 3 fat and heavy frames of pollen, 7 frames of fat honey (uncapped) up in the honey boxes and about 5 frames up in the honey boxes that they were just starting to fill with nectar.  Many of the brood frames had capped honey in all the corners and these corners of honey were so fat they were extending up to 3/4 of an inch out from the frames so just touching them or bumping them or trying to get the frames back in the boxes caused them to bleed honey.

I moved all the open brood, plus 2 pollen frames to box #1, box 2 has open brood, and food and some empty and cleaned and polished frames for expansion, and then in box 3 I filled it all with the closed brood.  They’ll hatch out in the next few days and by the time the queen fills up box 2, she’ll have nice clean and polished frames in box 3 to fill out.

Since the girls are already filling the top honey box with nectar I went ahead and threw on a 3rd empty honey box on top. I had no idea if we’re in a “honey flow” and the beekeeping association hives that are on the Beeinformed scale haven’t had data uploaded since May 13 so they’re not doing me any good telling me if we’re in a honey flow. But I figured if I put on an extra box, I won’t have to bother them for awhile.

The honey box now has the bottom box with frames that are all under 1/2 filled or just starting to get filled. This way the girls first box up from the hive will be one they have to fill up. The next honey box is empty so as they move up they’ll have to fill this box. And the 3rd honey box is the completely full one.

So this hive is now a 3X3 hive.

a visiting Tiger Swallowtail on the lavender. She was really huge and flew very slowly around the yard

a visiting Tiger Swallowtail on the lavender. She was really huge and flew very slowly around the yard

Update on honey flow

I went over to the Bee supply place across the river (The Wiz’s place) this morning and just asked them “are we in a honey flow right now?” and Lora said Yep, it just started less than a week ago and people are saying the bees are really bringing in the honey.  So I guess that’s how you find out if you’re in the middle of a “honey flow” – you ask someone at the bee Bee Supply place.

I’ll keep an eye on the girls. If they really take off and start to fill up like crazy, I may have to actually get more boxes for honey.

CHECKLIST:

  1. Next Friday, check all the hives for honey storage
  2. If they’re actually filling up all 3 of their honey boxes (each has 3 honey boxes), then
  3. Go to the bee supply place on Saturday morning, get a bunch of frames for honey, put the frames together
  4. Install a 4th box for honey on each hive by Sunday because on that next Monday, I leave for work for a week

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Jun 29 2017

Yellow Hive for 6/28/17 inspection

Yesterday at 9:15am it was 79 degrees out so I headed out to do inspections of 1 or 2 hives. Ended up 1 hive. It’s too hot even that early in the morning to get through 2.

I took out 2 extra boxes with empty frames in case the hives needed extra honey boxes, and took out two bare boxes for sorting out frames.

I suited up, started up the smoker, knocked on the front door and under the lid.

Yellow Hive – Queen Livlig

This hive started out with 3 brood boxes, QX and 2 honey boxes.

They are finally making honey. The top two boxes were really heavy and there were 12 frames of solid honey (not capped yet) built out really fat, with 4 other frames just starting to fill up with nectar. I moved these to the side, smoked the QX just in case Livlig was clinging to the underside and took off the Qx and set it aside.

There were a good 16 frames of bees, lots of fresh eggs, 3 frames of open brood, 9 frames of closed brood, 2 very full and heavy frames of pollen, plenty of food and capped honey in the corners of the brood frames. The girls were busy busy, puttering all over the frames, dancing about, waggling their little bums, pushing pollen down in the cells, grooming and cleaning out cells. There were just about a dozen capped drone cells on 3 frames. All the girls were friendly and curious (crawling up the front of my suit and on my hands), not a one was grumpy.

I found Queen Livlig (and she was quite lively, living up to her name) in the 2nd box (from the bottom), right in the middle of the box, hustling all over the frame. She’s quite dark brown and heavy bodied.

I managed the hive down by putting the Queen, all the open brood, 1 pollen and 1 food frame in the bottom box, then a box with 1 capped brood frame and the rest were cleaned out and empty for room for expansion, and the 3rd box was full of 8 capped brood.  I want the queen to stick to laying in the 2nd box. If she gets up the 3rd box, she’ll be “plugged out” (nowhere to lay) and have to go back down to the 2nd box.

Then came the QX and the 2 honey boxes and I went ahead and added a 3rd empty honey box on top since they were just barely shy of having 2 completely full honey boxes.  So the hive is now 3X3. woohoo.  If they keep this up on all three hives, I might have a heck of a honey harvest this year.

Most of the frames with actual honey are really fat and thick, pushing outside the boundaries of the frames, so they’ll be easy to uncap.

I closed them up, said goodbye and cleaned up after myself. Left the hive tools in the bee smoker to sterilize them.

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