Sunday, July 24, 2016

A Nice Surprise

I had planned, yesterday, to simply remove the "full" super I knew I had.  I had also some sketchy plans with Dave to do some inspections on the other hives and so we arranged to meet late morning.

To my surprise Dave had managed to find space and the equipment to extract the honey from the super, so while I removed frames he removed the cappings and extracted what I think is in the order of 8kgs (18lbs) of honey.

To my surprise the other two supers on the hive have also filled in the course of the last week.  I reckon there has been a nectar flow from local Lime trees so hopefully there's another fifteen kilos or more to come in; all very nice.  It will be interesting to see the difference between the two extracted honeys.  I think lime honey is quite light; yesterdays harvest was quite amber and strong in taste, but still very pleasant.

Apart form the extraction I took a look through 3 of the 4 hives.

Hive 1:  I found a frame of eggs in Hive 2 and donated this to Dave's hive.  Hopefully there will be some suitable eggs for the bees to make a new queen from.  If not, Dave said he might buy in a new queen. There is some honey in the supers, not as much as I would have hoped for, but with the Lime trees blooming there is hope these will fill as well.

Hive 2: We will remove the remaining two supers from this hive next week.  Otherwise, it appears to be in good shape.  I didn't go through it in great depth.

Hive 3: I didn't look at this hive.  It was recovering well from the poor state it was in about 6 weeks ago.  I'll take a closer look next weekend.

Hive 4: Dave told me this hive swarmed in the week.  But there were so may bees in it I'm not too sure this really can be the case. I nevertheless attempted to go through the supers to reorganize them; I had planned to put frames of honey in one super and brood in another and separate the two with a Queen Excluder.  But there was so much brood in the supers and so many agitated bees I left them alone.

I'm fairly sure they will swarm in the week (or by next weekend) as there were several capped Queen Cells present.  Either way, a reduction in bees might not be such a bad thing.  If they have swarmed by the weekend I may go through and try to remove some remaining Queen Cells to try and stop
further cast swarms.  One idea we had was to put the remaining QCs in Hive 1.  We shall see what happens and decide on a course of action next weekend.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Queens still missing but Supers are coming...

So Dave's hive didn't have a queen in it and it therefore remains broodless, which is a bit annoying. Dave will hopefully find a frame of eggs to donate to the hive later this week and we'll start all over again!

And we're not quite there with removing the supers but we did at least put a bee escape under the full super yesterday!  Dave will take this off in the week - getting quite excited now! I reckon we'll have about 30lbs.

And we also had a little extra help this Friday from Rob.  I think he's a little bored at home. Too much time on his hands after completing his exams!  Still I'm Not complaining.  It was nice to have him come along.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Alternative Universes!

This may be the first time I've blogged about wasps!  But I was asked by my Dad to look in his attic as he thought there might be a wasps nest up there!

Yep!  Found it!  What a beauty!

Lots of brood coming along too!

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Things have moved on!

It's been a month since my last post, which in June is an age in beekeeping terms...  Things, quite predictably, have moved on...

Hive 1: Well, this hive is still Queenless, I'm not sure why but I had to drop a donor frame of eggs in it from Hive 2.  The good news is that there are now 4 or 5 capped queen cells in the hive and I hope in a couple of weeks there'll be a new laying queen.

Hive 2:  This is still quite strong.  Supers remain full or filling - I must pull one soon.  I've donated eggs to other hives from this colony and they seem to be doing ok. Need to consolidate the deeps.

Hive 4, Artificial Swarm:  This nearly collapsed.  I had a case of sacbrood and I lost the queen.  However, I have successfully donated a frame of eggs from Hive 2 and the colony now looks good with a nice strong brood pattern.  I have removed a deep and some old frames of comb. 

Hopefully the broodless periods in Hives 1 and 4 mean it's hit any varroa mites hard and their numbers are down!  Every cloud has a silver lining I guess!

Hive 3:  This is the swarm hive.  The queen excluder was pulled a couple of weeks ago and there is brood throughout the supers and deep.  It's a healthy mess, and a feisty one!  I did not spend long in it as they were a bit too pissy today!


So I'll wait a couple of weeks before going back into Hive 1.

Hive 2 needs to be consolidated into 1 deep and to have a super pulled.  I need a nice warm day for this; the bees were a bit tetchy today.

Hive 4 is ok and I'll leave it alone.

Hive 3 needs sorting out. I think I'll need to isolate the queen in a single deep and let the supers clear.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Manipulation Update...

Two weeks ago I did some swarm control and today it was time to see what had resulted.  I'm not sure exactly what happened but it doesn't look all that great!

Hive 1: Dave's hive has several closed Queen cells on 2 or more frames; they look like swarm cells judging from their position.  I didn't see the Queen so it's possible that this hive may already have swarmed!  Nevertheless there are about 2 supers full of honey, so that's a result!

Hive 2:  This is the hive I combined and the one we performed an artificial swarm on a couple of weeks ago.  It's looking quite good; two full supers, so I bottom supered and added third.  No queen to see, but I think this is OK.  No sign of any queen cells either.

Hive 4, Artificial Swarm:  This was looking weak; I am not sure the swarm took.  I saw no young brood and only capped spotty brood. So I  took a frame with a couple of queen cells from Hive 1 and dropped it into this hive.  In a couple of weeks, with luck, this will be stronger.  I also saw some dead larvae - I will have to do some research to see if I can tell what is effecting the bees.

Hive 3:  This is the swarm hive.  There was no young brood above the queen excluder, only capped brood.  What was left was mostly drone brood too, so that is to be expected as this takes longest to mature.  The bees here are also pulling in some nectar and are filling a super, albeit slowly.  The deep has brood across only on 3 or 4 frames and I didn't see the queen,.  However, I did see young larvae so I think she's OK.  This hive might need some TLC to get it strong enough for the winter - might have to consider combining it with another weaker one!

I think the next inspection will concentrate on looking for the Queens in Hives 2 and 3. I will hold off looking through Hive 4 and Dave's hive as young queens will or should be present and I don't want to disturb them! But I do want to make sure they are all accounted for!

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Chaos! and some Shakespeare(ish)

I was expecting something to be "up" after last week's inspection but what Dave and I found was more than a little bit interesting.... Last week Dave's old hive looked as though it was getting swarmy, so I was expecting to see some action here.  I was also half expecting my own hive to be doing stuff as well, but I was not sure what...

Hive 1: Dave's old hive.  As I said, I was expecting this to be swarmy and I arrived prepared to do an Artificial Swarm on it - expecting to find open queen cells. However, Dave and I found just a single closed Queen Cell in the hive (and we looked hard for others).  We also looked everywhere but didn't see a queen.  There appeared to be a lot of bees around so had they swarmed?.

Action?  I consulted my old mentor Eugene in Missour.  He thought it odd that there was just one cell, but that could be a supersedure where the bees only found one larvae the right age. It could also signal problems with the queen or he thought that maybe it's an old cell and the pupa is dead. We decided to leave this alone, especially as there was larvae in the hive.  Do Nothing!!!

Hive 2:  The hive I combined a few weeks back.  As I said, I was half expecting to do something here but inevitably we found more than we expected; a couple of open Queen Cells.  Fortunately I came to the apiary prepared to do an Artificial Swarm (only on Hive 1) so when Dave and I found the uncapped queen cells we changed our plans and did it on this hive instead.  All very easy and straightforward - once we found the queen - twice!

So we put the old queen in a new box of foundation with some food, and added the old supers above a Queen Excluder.  So this is still Hive 2.  The old hive that has the brood and open queen cells in it, we will move this during the week in order to keep the swarming urge suppressed.  This is now Hive 4.

Hive 3:  The caught swarm - about 2 weeks old.  We found the queen and a capped queen cell in this hive (2 weeks after catching it!), as well as brood and larvae (at about the same stage of development) both in the supers above and in the deep below a Queen Excluder!  I was, and remain, mystified by this!  Dave and I both thought the Queen looked too big to have crossed the QE.  Action?  Contact Eugene!

Eugene had heard of people catching swarms containing more than one queen - this was a very large swarm if you remember - but in this case they were both virgins. Oops!  I quoted him on that when he didn't want to be!

Our original thought (and Eugene's) was just to leave this for a couple of weeks and see what happens.  It's all very curious and I think time will sort things out.  There's the potential bonus of having a 2-Queen hive and the additional honey that can produce!


I'm reminded of a quote from Tom Stoppard's "Shakespeare in Love"...  Seems appropriate... my apologies for the hack...

Mentor Beekeeper...allow me to explain about the beekeeping business. The natural condition is one of insurmountable obstacles on the road to imminent disaster.

Me... So what do we do?

Mentor Beekeeper... Nothing. Strangely enough, it all turns out well.

Me... How?

Mentor Beekeeper...  I don't know. It's a mystery.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Something or Nothing.

It's been just over a week since the Students came to view the hives. All was well then - well kind of.

I went through the hives today and had another detailed look.  Things have changed; just a little:

Hive 1: During the week Dave put a second super on this hive (above a queen excluder).  I went through the hive this morning and found there had been some further nectar/honey collection in the hive but nothing too much.

The hive looks busy and I found the queen in the top deep.  I reversed the deeps, if nothing else than to make the queen move up again and not feel boxed in up in the top deep.  This probably makes no difference if you listen to what some people say i.e. the queen goes where she likes, when she likes.  I feel that's probably true but the likely trend is that she moves up, and besides it makes me feel proactive!

While going through the hive I did notice both the queen, lots of brood and larvae and a single uncapped Queen Cell which I removed.  I saw just the one but I will make contingency to do an artificial swarm next week when I can next get back in to inspect.

Hive 2: This has been busy and has remained very active over the past week.  The brood I found in the top super has largely all emerged and nectar is now filling the vacated cells.  The new supers I put on over the past couple of weeks are being drawn out, so that is encouraging, and there is a lot of brood in the deeps.  I decided after a while to stop the inspection as things were getting a little agitated and the bees were getting a tad stressed!

At least I have the equipment to do an artificial swarm; all I have to now do is swat up on what to do!

Hive 3:  The swarm hive has been getting more established.  The super has been filling and I replaced 3 old frames with new foundation.  The bees in the deep are still only on about 3 or 4 frames but nevertheless these have some brood and larvae on them.  I removed the feeder and let them get on with gathering nectar.  I did not see the Queen despite looking fir some time!  I hope, and trust, she is there!  Again, an inspection next week should determine that.

So now what I need to do - apart from considering undertaking an artificial swarm - is to consider making a split (or even two).  I feel there is sufficient brood etc. in the 2 large hives to manage making a split at some point in the next couple of weeks.

If I go to the hives next weekend with the required equipment prepared then at least I can have the option of doing something, or nothing!