Thursday, December 30, 2010

First warm day in ages.

It's been cold for so long I can't remember when it was last warm enough for the bees to be out. But they were today! Both hives are active and busy cleaning out the dead bees. Good news, but I think I better start planning on how to deal with two over wintered hives. Maybe I'll try a top bar hive?

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Winter Bees are different…

So Winter Bees are different.  Here’s a nice article and explanation of this, courtesy of West Mountain Apiary.  Winter Bees have a different blood protein profile and fatter bodies to Summer Bees and are reared in the fall as number of bees reduces in the hive.

Here too are some pretty cool infrared photographs of some hives in winter.

How do honey bees survive winter?

It seems topical given the cold weather we have at the moment, and it should help me to answer the single most popular question I get asked at this time of year. Follow this link to Kim Flottum’s article in The Daily Green.

I need to do some more research on this, but I understand that honey bees slow their metabolism down over winter and that helps them to survive for longer without having to rear brood. What this means is that in the depths of winter the hive doesn’t need to be as warm as 93F; a suitable brood rearing temperature.

I don't expect my girls to rear any brood in December through to mid to late February. That's about 10 weeks (70 days).  Normally a worker bee lives for about 7 weeks (42 days).

Sunday, December 12, 2010

A freezing cold day!

It's now freezing!! The overnight temperature is expected to be -14C (7F).  It's blowing a gale (50 mph gusts), and the wind-chill is an incomprehensible -20C (-4F)!  It's cold enough inside by the fire, let alone being outside in a wooden box!  I hope my girls are OK!!!

This afternoon was cold too and here are a couple of photos!  I'm not planning to clear the entrance to the hives just yet, but I am worried that leaving a screened bottom board in place was the right thing to do? I supose only time will tell on that one!

Friday, December 10, 2010

A warm day.

After a period of some pretty cold weather it warmed up today - but it will be only for today if you believe the weather forcasters!  It reached about 10C (50F).  So my bees were out taking advantage of the warm temperatures; they were on cleansing flights, removing debris and dead bodies from the hives etc.

I say hives, but actually there was really only activity in the smaller hive (the one that had the SHB problem in the summer).  The larger hive didn't have much going on at all.  I was concerned enough to crack open the hive and look inside, and I did see some bees; I didn't want to take too close a look as I didn't want the hive to cool down inside. So, am I worried?  Well perhaps a bit, but there is nothing I can do if the hive dies off.  So I'll just have to sit tight and wait it out.

I'm still wondering if my hives are in the best position.  Susan's hive gets some direct sunlight in the winter (mine don't get any) and there was quite a lot of activity at her hive!  Perhaps I would have been better off placing them so that they would have been in the winter sunshine - perhaps next year!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Bee activity is slowing; did I choose the best spot in the garden for my hives?

Are the two related? I’m not sure, but now that the sun is getting lower in the sky, there is only a limited window of opportunity for my hives get to be warmed by it! They are unfortunately being screened by the shadow cast by the house and also a large tree trunk. It was strangely noticeable that one hive (the eastern one, and coincidently the ‘weaker’ single storey hive) gets more direct sunlight and it was this hive that showed more activity at the weekend!

Basic physics: direct sunlight = heat gain by radiation = warm happy bees!

That said neither hive was particularly active, so I thought that might mean my girls are eating the syrup I added, instead of foraging outside. Nope! The syrup remains pretty much un-touched. Maybe now perhaps it is time to give up the syrup feeding, remove the feeder and put on the insulated top cover and shut up for winter. I’ll let nature do its thing, and with luck, both hives will survive the winter and will look strong going into 2011! Shutting them up does not of course exclude some winter feeding with Pollen Patties or “Ted’s Mush” (if it gets warm enough to open the hive), but I reckon I won’t start looking into that until Late January at the earliest!

Better get thinking about some more equipment….

Queen of the Sun!

Susan and I went on a beekeeper outing last night to see a new documentary about CCD; “Queen of the Sun”. Overall it was beautifully shot, interesting, thought provoking and quite inspiring - a bit of a reaffirmation of why I started beekeeping in the first place.

My gripes with it were that it was a little disjointed and there didn’t seem to be a progressive flow through the film, but that is only a minor gripe. My main problem was that it tended to marginalize and stereotype beekeepers – I bet you didn’t think that was possible! Yes, I know we all like “interesting characters” in our films, but looking at most of the participants you'd be forgiven for thinking that in general beekeepers were slightly weird hippies who believed in biodynamics, and probably astrology too! The only ‘normal’ beekeepers that were depicted (with one notable exception, and I’ll come to that later) were those “money grabbing, evil, factory intensive” beekeepers (that’s me demonizing them), who transport thousands of hives across the country in order to pollinate the monoculture of almonds in California. Well fortunately, most of us really are normal, honest! If only they had filmed at a few local beekeeping association meetings!

The film could also have made a lot more of the urban beekeeping movement, and how anybody can get involved i.e. broaden the appeal. Sadly, I left feeling that either you had to be a slightly odd biodynamic farmer (thankfully located away from any centres of population) or a dredlocked gay hippy living in a deprived city neighbourhood. There wasn't enough time given to the middle ground. Hey, but least the most normal beekeeper appeared to be the English (of course) city beekeeper and his step son!

Marks out of 5? Well on balance 3.5. It’s a worthwhile, enthusiastic film that presented a very serious issue in an engaging way and which left people feeling that there is real hope our pollinators can be saved, so long as we get involved, and stem our current thirst for industrial agriculture.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Winter's coming!

It was cold the past two mornings. And now that the clocks have gone back winter feels like it has finally arrived.  That said it is forecast to be warm this week.  So that might mean there is still a chance that some sugar syrup may be consumed.

I took a look today to see what syrup was consumed over the past week - well not much as it turns out!  I think this might have something to do with the fact that I fed the syrup in zip-loc bags with holes pierced through the top to help the syrup ooze out, but this didn't seem to work well as little syrup has been taken by either hive.  So I cut a cross in the top of each bag and folded the flaps of plastic down into the syrup.  Perhaps this will make it easier for the bees to get to the syrup.

I'll check their progress next weekend, if it is warm enough. I'll also probably put a 2" thick insulating board on top of the inner cover as well, just to make sure as much warmth as possible is retained in the hive. This board has a channel cut in it to give the bees access to the top of the hive as well as the bottom.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

They may not read books, but they can solve complex Maths!

Some research has just come to light, that despite only having a brain the size of a grass seed bees are able to solve complex mathematical problems computers have problems with!

The problem in question is the "traveling salesman" problem. The one where the salesman would love to know the shortest most efficient route between stops.  Well bees have been found to do this! 

All we have to do now is ask them to write out how they do it!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Bees don't read the books!

Why don't bees read (any of) the text books?

I went through the Daughter hive this morning.  The super that was at the bottom of the stack of boxes has not been emptied - well perhaps a bit, but not as much as I would have liked and certainly not enough to warrant removing it!  There is however a nice brood cluster on 3 frames of the lower hive body and lots of stored honey also. So I did some equalisation in the hive. The top hive body is pretty empty, but there were some signs of some stores being put away. At least there is plenty of drawn out comb available for them to fill. 

So what do I do to prepare my girls for winter? Well, as part of the preparations I want to feed them some Fumigelin-B to treat against tracheal mites, but I'll need them to take a couple of gallons for that.  The answer (for me at least) was to put the heavy box of brood and honey on the bottom, the partially full super on top of that and then the other (empty-ish) hive body on top of the stack. I put a division board feeder in this last hive body and added 1 gallon (3.75 litres) of 2:1 syrup with a heaped teaspoon of Fumigelin-B mixed in.  

This means I will at least be able to feed and feed the bees from the top.  I hope there will be another couple of weeks window for feeding. We will see.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Treatment Over

It's been 4 weeks since I started the Apiguard treatment.  I came home tonight and removed the foil tray and the inverted feeder. I also opened up the access hole in the front of the top hive body.  I noticed a few SHBs on the top cover, but only a few.  I will wait for the weekend before I do a more thorough inspection.

I want to assess the overall strength of the hive and whether I need to think about combining it with the other hive. I will also try to equalize the hive and if I need to I will move the brood frames to the bottom hive body.  Finally I'll check the stores and see what feeing may be necessary and I'll decide if I need to add some Fumagellin.  So a busy weekend ahead!

I also took the opportunity to feed the Parent hive again.  They took the best part of 2 litres of syrup. So that's about 7 litres in the last 2 weeks.  As with the Daughter hive I didn't take a thorough look, but I hope the bees have been building up their stores.

I will have to take care when undertaking the inspection. I do not want to have the hive open too long and do encourage any robbing by other bees in the neighbourhood!  By all accounts this has been a problem this Fall.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Parent Update!

I thought it was about time I looked through the Parent Hive. The weather has been lovely and warm and it just seemed a good idea! While I did the inspection I took the opportunity to replace the existing hive box with another one that had a hole drilled in it as an alternative access.  Anyway, I also shuffled about some of the frames (equalized the hive) so that the empty frames are now on the outside and the cluster is in the middle.  I reckon there are:

   2 empty frames
   2 to 3 frames of brood
   4 to 5 frames (or thereabouts) of honey and pollen.

I also topped up the syrup.  The bees had taken some and I added approximately 1 litre more. I would have added even more but I had not made up any syrup. I planned to top up the syrup today.

This morning I was watching the bees with Matthew and they seem to have found a very yellow source of pollen - good news.  But this afternoon (about 4pm) there was a lot of activity outside the front of the hive.  The new opening was available and I wonder if there was some robbing going on.  I put the stopper in the new hole and within a couple of minutes the activity around the outside had subsided.  I later filled up the syrup inside the hive - I added another 2.5 litres.  Was there any robbing?  Did I stop it by replacing the stopper?  I don't know, but I think I'm happy some syrup is finally being taken in a reasonable quantity.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Halfway through the treatment

The "Apiguard" has been in the hive for two weeks now (half way through), so I installed another foil tray this afternoon.  The weather has been good for the past couple of weeks and it is still pretty warm during the day - mid to high 20's Celcius (80's F). This should be enough for the gel to evaporate and the Thymol to do its stuff in the hive! Fortunately the next 10 days also look pretty warm-ish, and the temperatures are forecast to be in the high 'teens Celsius (~60F). So I hope the mite treatment will be able to see it's full course at suitable temperatures and be fully effective.

The Daughter hive still looks strong, and as the temperatures have dropped the bees are spending less time on the outside of the hive.  Just before I added the first dose of "Apiguard", two weeks ago, I was able to do a quick check on the super that I placed at the bottom of the hive.  This was much lighter than it had previously been and so it now appears to be emptying! I hope this means the bees have moved the honey up into the deeps. Once the treatment is finished I'll check the super and remove it if I can.

I also checked the Parent hive. This is doing OK as well, and I added about 1/2 litre of 2:1 sugar syrup.  The bees are taking a little syrup and the stores in the hive are much improved.  However, they are not still building out the honeycomb that they cleared out after the beetle problem earlier in the season.  Perhaps the reason is that the comb is "contaminated"? I think I'll exchange it with another built out frame to see if this helps encourage them them to store something!  Maybe if this comb was being built out I'd be thinking about adding a new hive body in the hope the bees expand the nest over the next month or so i.e. while the weather is still warm enough for them to raise brood before the winter.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

It must be hot in there!

Since I put the Apiguard in the Daughter hive the bees have been 'plastered' over the front of the hive.  I guess it must be hot inside.

Because I want the Apiguard to do its stuff, I closed off the screened bottom board and reduced the entrance to its smallest size.  Clearly it's getting stuffier than an illegal rave in a basement and the girls are just hanging around outside to keep cool. Some are frantically fanning to cool it off inside.  I hope this is no cause for concern! I suppose they might not be enjoying the fumes the Apiguard gives off.  Some research is needed.

Oh and a quick word of thanks to my old mate Dean - He gets the "pollinator-of-the-week" award for putting lavender in his allotment to attact bees - very thoughful!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

A High Count?

I did a varroa mite count; 61 mites in 48 hours.  I'm not sure if this is high or not, but I suspect it is borderline with regard to treatment.  So, what do I do?  I reckon treatment is on the cards, but I'll do a bit of research and asking around tomorrow.
STOP PRESS: I decided to treat with Apiguard.  Although the count is borderline, there is still likely to be 4 weeks of reasonably warm weather, so it seems that adding treatment is a good idea. I therefore put on the small entrance reducer, closed up the holes in the hive bodies and put the Apiguard tray on top of the brood frames under an upturned top feeder.  I closed off the feeder entrance with tape.  I'll be in the hive again in a couple of weeks to repeat the treatment.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Further Fall Management - Daughter Hive

I don't want to give the Parent Hive any brood from the Daughter Hive for fear of weakening the Daughter Hive.  I know it sounds a bit callous, but I'd prefer go into winter with one really good hive and one weak one, rather than two good-ish ones!

So, how to make the Daughter Hive as strong as possible? Well I want to get the honey that is in the supers into the hive bodies. I've tried putting an inner cover between the hive bodies and the supers and that didn't work, so I'll try something different.  This time I'll put the super with the most honey on a screened bottom board and put the hive bodies on top of this.  The other super I will remove and store for the winter. It may be interesting to see what happens for a couple of weeks.

Before I do this I think I may do another sticky board count!

STOP PRESS:  Some work has been done on the supers as there definitely seemed to be less honey in them today (Sunday 12th) than the last time I checked.  Nevertheless, I made the adjustments as above. Perhaps I tried to get the bees to move the honey too early? We'll have to see how quickly they deal with the remaining honey.  I guess out of the other super, one frame had a reasonable amount of honey in it.  I removed and froze all the frames from this super.

Further Fall Management - Parent Hive

It was a bee club meeting yesterday so I had the chance to ask a few questions and get some opinions on what I should do with the Parent Hive.

I did a 48 hour "sticky board" count for Varroa mites before the meeting and I found only 3 mites.  So this is very good news and means I won't need to treat this hive. The added bonus is that if I did have to treat the hive, then the queen would not lay well for a month, plus I could not feed the bees either! So without applying the mite treatment the queen has a chance to lay more strongly into the later Autumn and the bees can feed, feed, feed! The downside of the sticky board inspection was that I saw quite a lot of what most people thought were Wax Moth larvae faeces, as well as some live Small Hive Beetle larvae. But we think there were not enough to be a real concern.

There hasn't been much going on in the top hive body i.e. little in the way of stores have been put away and there are few bees 'living on the comb'.  The lack of bee numbers might explain why wax moths might be present. Normally if there are enough bees around they will chase the moths out and destroy the larvae. So, after a lot of discussion I decided that I would remove the top hive body and consolidate the bees in a single hive body. This should increase the bee numbers on the combs and will help the bees fend off any intruders and pests.  I will also install a screened bottom board to help ventilate the hive and will try to intensively feed them over the next month or so!

With luck, in a couple of weeks, they will have filled out the bottom hive body and I can then consider putting back the top hive body and carry on feeding.  Maybe there will be enough honey stored away by the middle/end of October and the bees will have a really good chance of over-wintering!

Monday, September 6, 2010

If it's not Small Hive Beetles it's Varroa mites!

Things never seem to settle down!  Just when you think your weak hive is back on it's feet, something else crops us that needs attention.

Anyway, let's deal with the Daughter Hive first.  It's been about 3 weeks since I inserted an inner cover between the hive bodies and the supers, in the hope this would encourage the bees to move the honey in the supers down into the brood boxes.  Well nothing has happened. In fact, if anything, it seems there is more honey in the supers now!  So what to do, what with Autumn just around the corner?  I reckon I may have to extract the honey and hope the bees have managed to store enough pollen in the hives already.  I'll then start feeding with syrup - if they will take it, and possibly with some pollen patties if they seem weak.

But, the really good news is the queen is laying extremely strongly and there is tons of brood in the bottom hive box.  Nothing is really happening in the upper hive box i.e. no stores to speak of and no brood. I am wondering if I should move the supers to just above the brood box and remove the 'empty' hive body.  This seems a good question to ask at the next meeting. So what if the bees lay eggs in the supers over winter?

Now to the Parent hive.  This hive was first weakened by the Small Hive Beetles, and it lost a queen, but recovered after a new queen was introduced.  Now I think (but do not know) that there may be a Varroa mite problem - groan!  A few weeks ago I tested for mites and the 48 hour count was low - just one mite, yes one! But this is probably a result of there being no brood in the hive for a while.  The new Queen is laying, just not very prolifically.  I want her to start laying vigorously now, so that bee numbers increase before the winter.  When I inspected the hive on Saturday, I noticed some uncapped brood with quite mature pupae (purple eyes) visible - I have added a photo below.

These uncapped pupae may be a sign of the bee's hygienic behavoir.  The bees having detected mites are in a cell have uncapped it and will remove the pupa in order to get rid of the immature mite larvae.  The photos I think may also show a mite on the back of a bee, but I'm not sure!

So, now I'm doing a mite count to see if the number is high, or has increased.  If it has I'll treat with "Apiguard".

Sunday, August 29, 2010

They're just not taking syrup!

I inspected both hives the other day to see if the Parent was taking syrup and the Daughter was moving the honey form the supers down into the hive bodies.

Answer:  Nothing is happening in either hive!

Is it because there is plenty of food about?  I don't know. There has been so little rain recently it is hard to believe there is much nectar out there flowing. But there is nevertheless pollen being collected - I've seen lots of yellow and orange pollen being carried in. So, I think there must be something for the bees to find otherwise surely they would have taken the syrup by now.  I have changed the syrup to see if freshening it up helps.

The same goes for the Daughter hive. Actually, if anything, they seem to have put more honey in the supers over the past couple of weeks. If you remember these supers are above an inner cover, so I think this kind of dispels the idea that by inserting an inner cover this will encourage the bees to move the honey down into the hive bodies - well at least in my case!.  Maybe the weather needs to be cooler (more autumnal) to encourage the bees want to consolidate their stores.  I'll leave the supers in place a while longer.

The good news is that the beetles, although still present, are in reduced numbers.  I replaced the Beetle Blasters and added the West Trap under the Daughter, just to see how many larvae are removed, and I'll look at the end of next week.  I am developing a new trap to be located outside the hive that will disrupt the life cycle of the beetle. I will install my first prototype after I remove the West Trap.  Photo's will follow.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Bee Grooming and the Swindon Bee

A British beekeeper, Ron Hoskins, has identified a strain of bees that is go good at grooming and removing varroa mites that they are virtually mite resistant. As a result, he has not expeirienced the levels of colony losses that others have!  Is this too good to be true?  I don't know but it deserves further study. Ron's objective is to spread the genes around the country by distributing queens and hopefully the drones produced by a Swindon Queen can spread the genes to other colonys.

Anyway as the article suggests, although this might not be a cure for CCD, having bees that are good at grooming each other can only be good for bee health!

Well done Ron!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

My Urban Bees are healthier than your Rural Bees. Discuss!

A study in the UK (link ) has determined that urban bees have a more varied diet than those in a rural setting and are healthier. Clearly this must depend on the setting but it will be interesting to see how the research pans out over all 45 hives being studied, and we can see what plants the bees favour. But overall I think my response was a “well, Duh!”.

As I think we all knew in the UK, the dreaded yellow peril that is Oil Seed Rape is being shown to give our bees a restricted diet, and that can’t be good. I’d guess it’s the same here in the US, and maybe even worse given the much larger areas turned over to monoculture. A lot of us have been saying this for ages and the findings of this research comes as no great surprise. The comments made at the bottom of the article are evidence of this.

I would however be wary of saying the urban environment is now a refuge for bees. We have some way to go before that is really a reality. How much pesticide do we really use in our gardens and do we apply them in accordance with manufacturer’s guidance? I’d bet a lot of people just use the bottle of chemicals indiscriminately and use it all in one go. There is a lot of debate about how the toxicity of the chemicals may be greatly enhanced when the application pesticides and herbicides is doubled up or applied close together.

It’s all about educating people who live in the ‘burbs so they do not treat, or over-treat, their gardens with chemicals – or indiscriminately ‘fog’ for mosquitoes. If we can move away from a dependence on having that perfect green sword of grass (which benefits no pollinators, well, not much more than a slab of concrete would) and move towards having wild flowers and plants and shrubs that actually benefit animals, and make our gardens and yards spaces that are actually used and not just viewed, then I think we’re on to something big in our towns and cities.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

We never had any doubt, did we?

Beekeeping is cool, well "geeky-cool", and it's not just me who says so...

Starting Fall Management.

It's mid August so I'm preparing to do some Fall/Winter management.  I did a sticky board count for Varroa in both hives over the weekend and fortunately I think there is little to concern me.  The Parent hive had 1 mite and the Daughter 24 mites, both in 48 hour periods.  So no chemical treatments required as yet - horray!  I will do another check in a week or so, just to satisfy myself the mite levels remain manageable. Similarly I will check on the beetles; their numbers still trouble me.

So my Fall preparations began.  I did a reverse on both hives as there was brood in the top hive boxes, but not in the bottom hive boxes.  I hope moving the brood will stimulate some more brood rearing in the few weeks that are left before the queen slows and finally stops laying for the winter. By the time winter comes around I hope the brood will be nicely established in the top hive box and will be surrounded by stores.

I fed the Parent hive some 2:1 syrup in a Division Board Feeder; about 3.75 litres. There isn't much in the way of stores in the hive, so I will be feeding in earnest over the next few weeks.  With luck the varroa count will remain low in the hive and so I can continue to feed.  If I find the bees are really packing the syrup away I may even try to get the bees to draw out the empty foundation in the spare hive body I removed the other day.  I think this is a bit optimistic, as the bees really haven't been interested in foundation bulding this year.

The situation in the Daughter hive is more interesting.  There is honey in the supers (probably in excess of 10 lbs) but I want this to be in the hive bodies. Therefore, in an attempt to encourage the bees to move it down into the hive I have moved the inner cover between the hive bodies and the supers.  Eugene assures me this does work, but how reliable it is only time will tell.  I'll check the progress in a couple of days time to see how much has been moved.  This method is at least better than leaving the supers out in the open for robbing by all and sundry in the neighbourhood! I guess if the honey does gets moved I will start to feed this hive with syrup until I am happy sufficient quantities have been stored.

I think the next 4 to 6 weeks will be very interesting indeed!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Screened Bottom Boards - Definitely a Problem.

I'm certain now.  Screened bottom boards - the type that sits above a base board to enable the use of a sticky board - are a problem.  I opened up my Daughter hive this afternoon and found piles, and I mean piles, of Small Hive Beetles. They just hide under the screen away from the bees and breed!

I think the best way to deal with them may be to install a normal baseboard with a screen so that debris can fall out of the hive, but which isn't too big to allow beetles in. This coupled with a West Trap and entrance reducer should I think  enable the bees to fight off an onslaught of beetles. So, I therefore intend to modify my bottom board this evening and install a West Trap, once I have done a Varroa count.

Back to the Daughter hive. The third hive body was still not built out so I removed it, partly to give the beetles fewer places to hide and also partly to get the bees more focussed on the brood chambers.  The supers are however filling up with honey which is interesting.  Depending on the Varroa count I measure tomorrow I will keep these on longer. But if I record a high count I will treat and so remove the supers. I will probably put the supers in the freezer to kill any beetles and then store for later extraction.

Despite the beetles, at least the bees seem healthy and have not been over-run inside the hive.  All in all it's best to keep on top of the beetle problem and trap before they become an issue!  Bit of a no-brainer really!

Friday, August 13, 2010

My Girls Rock!

Well the beetle infested hive is now doing very well.  The queen I installed a week or so ago is now laying and I saw some nice brood coming along!  Brilliant!

The hive also looks nice and clean and all the 'slimy' honey comb has now been been removed from the hive.  Some honey has been retained too, so that's a bonus!  I reckon there is still some work to do before this hive will be able to go through the winter - a lot of feeding and possibly some feed supplement to make up for any lost pollen.

I have put a sticky board under the hive to see if there is a varroa problem, but I'm not expecting this. There hasn't been much in the way of brood cells in the hive for a while, so varroa shouldn't have been able to find any brood to get into to breed.

nevertheless I will check again on Sunday, but with luck I will be in a position to feed this hive up and get it through the winter!

Well done girls!!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Small Hive Beetle update

The Small Hive Beetle problem now seems to be well under control.  Although I admit I won't really know until I check to see how the new queen is doing, and I'm reluctant to do this for another week. Anyway I cleaned the oil in the West Trap today, without opening the hive up.

Initially I had thousands of adults in the hive and what I can only describe as a beetle breeding area under the screened bottom board.  The Beetle Blasters were excellent for removing the adult beetles, but now that the adult numbers are somewhat reduced, it is the West Trap that is coming into it's own!

This trap is now intercepting the larvae as they try to leave the hive and complete their life cycle.  Although the Beetle Blasters are still working, it's obvious they can't remove the same numbers of beetles they did when they were initially installed.  So, I reckon the emphasis is now on stopping the beetles reproducing. The next thing to try is nematode worms in the soil in order to kill the larvae - I don't want to use chemicals. The only thing is I think it is the wrong time of year to get my hands on these worms.

So if you have an infestation of Small Hive Beetles I reckon a combination of both traps is your best option. Oh, and I tried sprinkling cinnamon powder in the corners of the hive frames (I read the beetles don't like this), but I really can't say this made any difference, one way or the other. The jury's still out.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Another Queen!

A queen bee came my way this afternoon - no, not the opening line to some old gag, but a spare queen had become available.  I decided to use it in my (apparently) queenless parent hive - the one that's had all the problems with beetles.

What do I have to loose?  If there is a queen already inside that's great!  If not, well the new queen should help bring the hive up to strength.  Win Win! But I don't have much time.  She's been in her cage for about a week now and there's no candy plug left - so once the cork is removed that's it - acceptance or be killed.

As she's been in so long I reckon I'll have to release her tomorrow, unless it's really clear the bees don't like her. Then maybe I'll just pull her out and hope someone else wants a queen.

STOP PRESS: The new queen was released yesterday evening.  The workers appear to have accepted her, so it's now fingers crossed for about a week!

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Yet More Beetles!

Yesterday (Friday) I checked the beetle traps I added on Wednesday.  I wasn't sure what I'd find, or how good I'd find the performance of the "Beetle Blasters" had been.  When I looked in the Parent Hive I found that some more beetles had been caught in the "Beetle Blasters", but that many, many more had succumbed to the West Beetle Trap at the bottom of the hive. So I have good reports on the performance of both traps! The bees certainly seem happier now that there are fewer beetles in the hive, but it's too early to say that they are on top of things and will recover.  There are still a large number of beetles in the hive and I will persist with the trapping for a while longer! I didn't trap many beetles in the Daughter Hive but I did get some. 

My main concern is with the design of the screened bottom board that I've been using.  I have been using the type of screen that sits on top of the base board and which also allows a sticky board to be slid between the two sections.  I removed this bottom board when I installed the West Trap and when I took this apart for cleaning I found a very large number of beetles and their larvae hiding under this screen.  YUK!

Maybe this is where the beetles have been breeding, because I couldn't see larvae anywhere in the hive!  So I'm not very happy with the bottom board as there are spaces and crevices where the beetles can hide and breed without being harassed by bees. I will not use this type again.  I've nothing against using screened bottom boards; indeed I plan to add a screen to the bottom of my existing base boards. It's just that the type that allows you to slide a sticky board between the baseboard and the screen seems to be a bit of a safe haven for pests.  In future I will only use this screen when I want to use a sticky board i.e. as a temporary measure.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Another problem - this time Small Hive Beetles.

No sooner than I get the girls home I find I have an infestation of Small Hive Beetles (SHB) in the Parent hive!

The other evening I removed the only super from the Parent Hive as I wanted to store the comb, but while working the hive I noticed a number of SHBs.  After seeing the bees exhibit some unusual behavior yesterday morning i.e. flying around up into a tree, and generally not wanting to go in the hive, last night I took a better look. I was upset by what I saw.

I found hundreds of SHB on the top cover and a number of dead bees, plus the frames inside looked slimy and unclean, oily even.  I assumed therefore that I had an infestation and the bees were not able to cope with the numbers.  All I could do last night was put a "Beetle Blaster" trap inside the hive to see what would happen. Today I called around for some help and advise.

After some encouragement from Bob, and Jane, I devised a plan.  I was going to try to salvage what I could from the Parent Hive, and trap as many beetles in the Daughter Hive as I could. When I opened the Parent Hive earlier this afternoon, there were noticeably fewer beetles on the top cover, and the trap was full, yes full, of dead beetles - take a look at the photograph.

Inside the hive the frames did not look as bad as I had expected.  Still quite oily, but not bad enough for me to wash them out an.  So I decided that all was not lost and I installed my West Beetle Trap at the bottom of the Parent Hive and 4 more "Beetle Blasters"; two above the lower hive body and two above a super which is full of of foundation. I even sprinkled some ground cinnamon around the edges of the frames - I read somewhere that someone had some success with this.  I can't imagine it would hurt the bees, but if it helps chase the beetles out of the comb and into the traps then so much the better!

The Daughter Hive looks in good shape - still, not much brood anywhere - but I did see some larvae - and plenty of honey and not many beetles.  I nevertheless put in a couple of "Beetle Blasters", just for good measure.  I think this hive is OK for now but I will keep a closer eye on it that I have been able to up to now.  What with moving the bees I haven't been able to check the bees' health.

I will inspect both in a couple of days to see what I have been able to remove! I am quite optimistic as the first beetle blaster worked brilliantly.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Plan Bee Complete!! - Back home at last!

It was all straightforward in the end, well relatively. This morning Eugene and I moved the bees home.  Apart from one hive bottom board becoming dislodged, and the bees spilling over the back of Fred's truck, all went smoothly.

Both hives are now installed in the back garden on their hive stand.  The hives are not in direct line of sight of Rob's baseball batting plate (his main concern), so that is good too!

One interesting thing is that the bees that spilled over the truck didn't stay put in the driveway, they moved to the area where their hives were previously located.  Do they remember the location, or does it have the smell of bees about it?  Who knows.  Anyway another box for the stragglers is in the place where they used to live.  I will move this tonight, or tomorrow.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Plan Bee - Phase 3 Final Move underway!

Right, the final move for the bees is underway. I got the hive lifter and other sundry items together today, and both hives were stapled together and the entrances taped up.  I left the 'holes' open in the hive bodies though.

Early tomorrow morning I will go with Eugene to the hives (probably around 6.30 am).  Although if I'm awake earlier I may pop down just to try to encourage as many girls into the hive as possible before the move.  Fred has kindly let me borrow his truck for the move too.

So all is ready - except for the fact I just heard thunder! I don't fancy doing this in the wet!, mind you thinking abut it, at least all the bees will be inside if it's raining!

Also, unlike last time, I know that this time if there are any stragglers left behind after the move there are at least some other hives for these bees to find a home in, but I'd rather not leave too many behind!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Plan Bee - Final Push, Phase 3 Started

I moved the beehive stand this morning.  But I think I may have to move it again! Elspeth, after I finished, said...

"Oh, I thought you were going to set it up at an angle - you know like the supports were lying, when they were on the floor"

The supports were on the floor because I was moving them, not because I was checking their alignment!  Agghhhh! If she had mentioned this an hour earlier, I wouldn't have fixed it the way I did.  Look, I'm an engineer, and we LIKE things when they are parallel and perpendicular! All these creative types do is say how much better it could have been if only we did it a different way, usually after we're finished - Common guys enter the discussion when it is underway - not afterwards!!!!

Well that's off my chest now! So I guess I may move the bees back either next weekend, or the weekend after. Depends on the weather mostly!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

All settled in.

I did my first proper inspection for over a month today!  Holidays, harvests and bee moves just seemed to get in the way!

Anyway, all seems to be really, really well.  The queenless Parent hive that we put the frame of brood into on 4 June now has eggs and larvae and brood in it.  So clearly the queen we reared managed to get mated and also return to the hive!  There is a very strong brood pattern, so that hive looks strong, although I didn't see my new lady!  The lower hive body looks a bit empty of brood, but there is honey and pollen, so i think the queen will find her way there if she wants to.

The Daughter hive (the one we re-queened from first Iris, and then Bob) also looks to be doing well.  Strong brood pattern, but still not all deep frames have been built out. So I gave them some 1:1 syrup to help encourage them, and I shuffled some empty and drawn comb about.  They look pretty good.

Perhaps going into winter with two strong queens from this year is a good idea, and de-populating one is not such a good plan.  What purpose would killing a hive off do? Both queens are healthy and laying. Maybe I'll start a new colony, or two, next year!  I will have to find another location and think about this a bit.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

We swept up the stragglers!

OK so the move out is now complete. The final stragglers were relocated last night, and I reckon there must only be a handful of strays now at home.

Moving them was however all a bit shambolic – which was all down to me. The move was planned for dusk, after the bees were all smoked inside, and I think this was probably the main problem. It was pretty dark when we opened up the colony the bees were being moved to, and so rather than fly about the bees crawled; onto my sleve, up my trouser leg (2 stings) and into and under my veil. Not pleasant. In the ensuing melee I lost my glasses somewhere in the field in front of the hives, and by this time it was too dark to find them! Agghhh!

Luckily Eugene and I shared my car down to his yard and so he drove us back. I spent the rest of the night wearing a pair of prescription swimming goggles! "You look weird!" Matthew observed! Felt pretty stupid too...

Oh, and yes I did have to drive to the beeyard in the morning wearing the same goggles! I’ve no idea what I would have said if I were stopped by the cops! The truth just wouldn't have been credible! Do you think Mark Spitz keep bees?

Monday, July 5, 2010

"Plan Bee" - Phase 2 complete.

I was up with the dawn chorus (5am) yesterday morning to make sure my girls were ready for their move, but it felt much earlier!  I thought that at 5am in the morning they would still be inside the hive.  A miscalculation!

I had assumed that the evening "beard of bees" (or perhaps more accurately that should be the "5 o'clock shadow" of bees!) that my hives grow in this weather would have moved inside the hive by morning.  Wrong! I reckon the bees actually hang around on the outside all night and then go out foraging at first light.

I saw a few bees leaving the hive at about 5am; so what?, but when I blocked off the main hive entrance and the holes in the other hive bodies, a great cloud of bees appeared from seemingly nowhere and wanted to get back in the hive. Great, so I thought if I move the hives now there will be a huge mass of "straggler" bees all confused and homeless. Guess how long that would take to become a "nuisance". So, I decided to try to "smoke" the stragglers to see if that encouraged them to go inside.

Well, it was like watching water flow down a plug hole!  I "smoked" the bees, then removed the rubber stoppers from the holes that had been drilled in the hive bodies at the start of the season. The bees simply marched in (rushed would be an overstatement) and over the next 10 minutes most stragglers had found their way home.

The rest of the move proved really uneventful. It just shows what having a bit of planning, the correct equipment, a pickup truck and some help can do to smooth the process.  Fred's truck, unknown to us all (and also Fred!) was already perfectly "bee equipped", thanks to the purpose built plank that can be placed across the flat bed, just behind the tailgate. The ratchet straps used to secure the hive parts together were worth their weight in gold (especially as we only had a handful of hive staples), and the hive lifter was a joy to use! Ah, I only have myself to blame for being stung - twice on the foot.  I was wearing sandals - Doh!

So, the bees are now in their new, temporary, home. Any stragglers have a super waiting for them in their old home (empty after the harvest yesterday), and I plan to take this, and the bees, to the temporary bee yard today, or later in the week. We will wait a couple of weeks before moving them all back to their new home in the back garden - once we find a suitable location!

Phase 3 - moving them home - is likely to be the 17th or 24th of July. Better tell the city what we did this weekend!

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Honey Harvest!

What a brilliant day!  Thanks to Eugene, Susan and Fred, and Iris.  I managed to harvest about 24kgs (or 53lbs) of honey from 3 supers! That's between 4.5 and US Gallons of liquid gold.  It's just amazing what one hive of bees can produce in just a few weeks!

Apart from me, Iris managed a haul of about 60 to 70 lbs from 2 hives and Eugene, well I really don't know. He had 10 supers so I think he must have collected about 150 lbs of honey by the end of the day! And he's doing it all over again tomorrow with another 8 supers!  Watch our Kirkwood Farmer's Market.

Anyway, I now have two large buckets of honey sitting in the living room waiting to be bottled, and distributed!  I will post some pics later, so bear with me...

A more sombre day tomorrow.  I have to move my 2 hives to Eugene's bee yard.  I hope we manage to do this without harming them.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Looks like a reasonable haul!

I took the supers off the hive tonight.  I reckon my initial guess of 60 pounds of honey is about right as three of the four supers were pretty much full, although not much was capped. We will see what the actual yield is on Saturday! Anyway, well done girls!

The evacuator worked pretty well.  A few bees remained in the supers and curiously quite a number of drones - how did they get past the queen excluder? I guess they must have been there before the excluder was inserted.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

"Plan Bee"

"Plan Bee" is now active and the preparations to move the bees have got underway.  It's not quite D-Day, but I nevertheless have several tens of thousands of lives depending on my expert planning and project execution!

"Plan Bee" will be to send the girls on holiday to Eugene's beeyard for a couple of weeks, where they will no doubt have a good time with his girls, and once they get adjusted we'll move them home to the backyard, here in Kirkwood. The proposal, as explained in my previous blog, has been approved by the city who have also accepted my timeline. The move will start this weekend and hopefully be completed by the start of August.

The supers on the parent hive will be removed tomorrow (I put a bee evacuator in place tonight) and the honey will be harvested on Saturday. Three of the four supers felt pretty full so I reckon there will be about 60lbs of honey! The fourth super was more or less empty. So, if that's the case that's not bad at all.

Once the supers have been removed I will add an empty super to give the girls a bit of additional space; I'll do this tomorrow. Then, early on Sunday morning we'll (that's me Eugene, Fred and Susan) move them.  Early (I'll start before 6.00am), because I want as many of the bees inside as possible and lately the morning seems to be the best time. 

Oh, and to answer a common question - "How do you move two hives of bees?".
Answer... Carefully!

I've been loaned some hive staples, a hive lifter and some moving screens from Bob. Eugene has some spare entrance screens, some hive staples and a couple of old pallets in his beeyard.  Fred has a pickup ( I really didn't fancy moving the bees in my car!) and some webbing straps to hold the hives down during the transportation. I think I just need to get some duck tape (when doesn't this prove useful) and some more staples if I can!

I hope the impending fiasco (that is bound to result) will be photo-documented!

Friday, June 25, 2010

Holiday Blues!

You're supposed to come back from holiday relaxed, calm and at one with the world.  And so I was until I opened the mail...

While I was away it seems that two people (one anonymous, isn't that brave!) complained to the city that my bees were a being a nuisance to the neighbourhood.  After what must have been a pretty short and quite superficial inspection the city agreed and I was greeted by a Code Violation Notice. In the letter I was given until 24 June to remove the bees from my property.  Yep that was yesterday, the day after I got home. Nice... Words cannot express how upset I was!

So, yesterday I tried to find out why the complaint was raised, and by whom. I was very surprised to get the letter as I have never received anything but very positive feedback from the entire neighbourhood about my beekeeping, and why we must find out why bees are disappearing. Almost everyday someone stops outside the front yard to look at the bees and see what they're doing, and to ask me about them. However, it seems this proximity to nature and wildlife is far too inconvenient for a tiny minority of small minded unimaginative individuals who complain (from behind a veil of anonymity) that they feel threatened by a group of insects going about their business.

So what did I find out? Well I found out that our city officials are intimidated by our litigious society! Apparently the anonymous complainant was stung a couple of times and this prompted them to moan to the city, and for the city to declare the bees a nuisance. Very sadly the city official even said she would consider a bees nest in a tree a nuisance - wildlife, not causing anyone any grief, labelled a nuisance! Aggghhh! A dog that attacks children is a nuisance, not bees - check the data people!

When I phoned the city yesterday, and went over the situation, I was initially greeted by the response "well, you can always take us to court if you disagree" and "I would have to talk to the city prosecutor about that". I paraphrase this, but that was the gist of the message.  Straight off the bat, the city went on the offensive throwing their weight about! Scare tactics to make me back down and do as they say. It works too!  I don't have the funds, nor stomach, for such a fight. Anyway, I decided to try and "win hearts and minds" and not give in to the city's "shock and awe" tactics.

I tried to explain that actually the bees in question might not be my bees; there was no way of telling they were mine, or from hives or nests elsewhere. I also tried the approach "like it (or not) bees are a part of summer and do vital jobs", and, "did you know we rely on bees for a third of our food" etc. etc. but I could see I wasn't really making any progress. Not because the official I spoke to didn't agree with what I was saying, but more because I think the city is so scared of what any inaction could expose them to.  Imagine, a complaint is received about bees stinging and the city takes no action. If the complainant receives another sting, they could sue the city for not dealing with the incident or not acting proactively. What can the city do? A case of damned if they do, damned if they don't. So the city seemed immovable.  I asked "could I move them to the backyard?".  She had to check with her supervisor. OK, I'll call back in the afternoon...

When I called back I sensed the mood had changed. More understanding somehow. I was told that I could move my girls to the backyard (for future reference this will now be called "Plan Bee"). Now the city was only interested in my compliance with their order and they confirmed that my moving them to the backyard kept them happy. Maybe the supervisor understands bees better, or perhaps sensed the difficulty in proving a case, or perhaps thought as I was cooperating they could be more flexible. To help smooth things over I offered to help tell the community about bees and what they do. The city official liked this idea and said they would pass on my details to a committee that works on festivals etc.  Maybe I'll be asked to set up a display about bees (and possibly a observation bee hive) at a local event? That would be great!

So there you are, the intellectual pygmies that made the complaint, and which in effect were the squeaky wheel that got the oil, won! The silent majority had no say or influence! Makes you mad!

I wonder what would happen if, say hypothetically speaking, a dog harmed a child in the street? In Missouri a dog is given a second chance, a kind of a "one bite" rule. After a second offense, or if it is not held on a leash in public, well then I suppose the law says the dog must go. So is it fair that a dog, which I would bet is a much greater nuisance than a hive of bees, is given a second chance and that bees do not and have to be removed from a property? Dog owners that have animals that are known to have harmed children should be very careful that they control their dogs in public and make sure they are kept on leashes at all times.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Definitely No Queen!

So, Susan did an inspection for me on Sunday afternoon to see if the bees took to the frame of eggs,  Did they ever!  She reported about 15 queen cells on the frame so they were clearly in need of a queen. She did remove some.

So that means in 16 days, starting from 2 June, we should have a new Queen. There will be a "Queen Smack-Down", or fight to the death to see who the reining monarch will be.  It sounds a bit like Highlander - "There can be only one" - well, then again, perhaps not. 

Still, on or abouts 18 to 20 June the queens will hatch.  Give it 10 days for the winner to mature and mate and (fingers crossed) return to the hive and she should be laying in early July.  I will wait until then, at least, in order to see if we have a winner...

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

I have a Plan! - with a little help from my friends...

Things are clearer - and I now have a plan set out, well I think it's a plan. It's an idea at the very least.  OK so this is what happened today...

Another round of inspections was carried out, this time with Eugene. In the Daughter hive we saw the queen, so all is well, and we saw some eggs and larvae. But the main thing was we saw the queen!  We also shuffled about some of the frames in the top hive box i.e. we swapped some frames of foundation (at the outside edge of the box) with built out frames that were in the middle.  I hope this encourages some more building.

The inspection of the Parent hive pretty much has confirmed to me that the hive is queenless. This is a shame, and I think is the result of some over enthusiastic inspections I carried out earlier this month. We looked very hard but saw no eggs or larvae.  The is a lot of brood however. So this is what we decided to do...

We moved a frame of brood and eggs from the Daughter hive (making sure the queen wasn't on it) into the middle of the top hive box of the Parent hive. This is kind of the opposite of what I did at the beginning of May! Well, I suppose "what goes around comes around"!

The idea is that the bees in the parent will raise queen cells from this frame. The successful queen will then mate with a drone near by and then I hope start to lay.  This should all happen reasonably quickly.  A new queen should take 16 days to rear. Another week to 10 days will pass before she mates and gets down to laying.  So by early July I hope I will be able to see new eggs and larvae in the hive. This works out quite well as I'm off on holiday on Friday!

However, if there is already a queen in residence (and I just missed her during my inspections) then no queen cells should be developed and we have to go off and solve another puzzle, or at least try to figure out what is happening! Anyway, Susan has kindly said she will do an inspection this weekend for me and will check to see if any queen cells are being made with the new eggs. If they are we will leave all alone (but maybe put on another super) and wait to the beginning of July before trying to see if a new queen has taken.

This poses another question of what to do in the autumn.  If I rear another queen, do I really want to kill her in the autumn, as is suggested in the Minnesota H2Q system, or should I keep her and try to over-winter her? I think I'll worry about this later.

Monday, May 31, 2010

A bit clearer, perhaps...

OK, I took another look in both hives today and I saw at least one egg in the Daughter hive - so i'm pretty certain the queen is in there. However, I removed a couple of queen cells from the Parent hive, again.  There is a lot of brood and I saw some uncapped larvae, but it was really difficult to see any eggs - I'm just not sure about it.

At least there is no more new brood in the supers.  I reckon the larvae I saw in the hive bodies is smaller than the larvae in the supers (they are younger) so I think that it a safe bet that the queen (if she is alive) is in the hive boxes - somewhere.

I think I may need to call on some more experienced help this week.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

It's all a bit confusing!

Checked the girls this morning. The daughter hive seems OK, but there hasn't been much more in the way of building - so I think I will have no chance of adding the third hive box for a while. I hope I can do this once we get back from holiday at the end of June.

The Parent hive is more confusing and concerning however. There is still brood in three of the frames in the top super - but I saw no eggs, nor any new brood elsewhere in the supers, nor the queen, which is all good news as this is what I wanted to achieve. It's been a week since i discovered the brood, so this should be disappearing as new bees emerge. Brood is in place between day 10 and day 21 of bee development; so eleven days in total.  By my reckoning the brood should have all gone by Wednesday or Thursday (2nd or 3rd of June). If it is still there, I may have trouble as the queen may still be in the supers. I also saw some uncapped larvae in the supers, which again is possible, as the egg/larval stage is up to day 9. The larvae should be all capped by Tuesday!  Again, if I see larvae on Wednesday, I'm in trouble.

Not withstanding the capped brood / larvae issue I saw a lot of queen cells being built throughout the supers and also in the hive bodies - I don't think they were active cells, so they may just be "play cups" as Ted Jansen calls them.  Does their presence mean there is no queen? I'm not sure. There is a lot of brood in the hive and I looked for eggs, as this is the best sign of a queen being in residence, but I saw none!  I'm a bit worried that the Parent hive may be going the same way as the Daughter hive did, and this was queenless for a couple of weeks.

Hopefully an inspection tomorrow may prove more telling.

Monday, May 24, 2010

I was nearly right!

I was pretty much working along the right lines yesterday...

The daughter hive now has a frame of brood in the top hive box - to encourage the bees to do some WORK. They have to look after the bees in the top box so they might also build out the foundation while they are there.

In the parent hive, upon Eugene's suggestion, I have moved the super with the brood to the top of the stack. Again, as with the daughter, this is supposed to encourage some work i.e. bees looking after the brood in the top may prefer to make honeycomb lower down as they have less far to travel! Eugene also suggested I put back the queen excluder. Great idea, if you can find the queen, which I couldn't.

After looking for quite a while (and getting stung on the back), I resolved to put the queen excluder in above the two brood boxes, as I think the greatest likelihood is that the queen will be in one of these two brood boxes. I will nevertheless look in the supers over the next few days to try to locate her, or spot new eggs. With luck I guessed right. The girls were quite cross with me by the end of the inspection!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Well, that wasn't in the script!

So, I've had problems getting the girls to build where I want them to.  Typical females, they think they know (and they probably do know) best and were building new honeycomb kind of between frames of foundation, not on it.  So to encourage them I painted the frames of foundation with some beeswax and added these to the hive.

When I looked in the parent hive today I saw that some honey storage has begun in the top built out supers, but none of it is capped. This is encouraging, I thought.  Below these two built-out supers there are two supers, which have not been built-out.  I found no activity in the topmost of these supers, but some building has been going on the lower super. "Super" I thought! And was (and am) really pleased that, finally, some new building seems to be underway.

But with beekeeping, and I am learning there always seems to be a but, there is a catch, or at least some kind of cloud to every silver lining.  On the one hand, great news - the bees are building out honeycomb in the supers.  But, not so great news, the queen went and took a look to see what her spawn had been doing and was so pleased that she decided to start laying eggs! So I have eggs in at least two, possibly three frames in one super!  I'm sure this isn't the end of the world, and I'd much rather they build out the foundation and lay in it, than not build it out at all. I guess the solution to all this is to make sure the queen is in one of the bottom hive bodies (which she was today) and then insert the queen excluder below the supers.  Then, after give it 21 days, and the new bees will have emerged, and the cells that were formed for the new bees can then be used for honey storage.  This is my theory and I have yet to check it out with others.  I hope they see things the same way as me!  Oh, and no, I did not put in the queen excluder yet.  I thought I would wait a week to see what building happens in the super with no building going on first.  Either way it will go on before we go on vacation at the beginning of June.

I also looked in the new "Daughter" hive. I found the queen, and she is busy laying in the bottom hive box, but nobody wants to, or seems interested in, building out the top hive box! What is it with 'plasticell' frames this year? Last year they loved it! Perhaps this is the difference between package bees who really want to build a home and a divided colony who seem pretty ambivalent - who can tell. Anyway, there is a lot of pollen and honey stored in a couple of the frames and I decided to move this to the top box in the hope this will get the girls to start a bit of building.  I probably should have moved eggs and larvae, but still, this is what I did.

I better talk to Eugene!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

The new Queen has taken

Well it's been over 10 days since I put the new queen in the daughter hive. They have taken to each other and there is at lease one frame of eggs and new brood now.  There also appeared to be several queen cells, but they looked unused, so I suppose they are old cells (off the frame of eggs I transferred) that were being formed while the hive was queenless.  Anyway, introducing the new queen appears to have been successful and things are beginning to get back to normal.  I didn't see the queen (and I can't remember if she is marked!), but the sight of eggs was good enough for me.  Some foundation was being drawn out and this is good too, but they have a long way to go yet.

The Parent hive remains bursting with bees and burr comb.  No swarm cells that I could see, but as with the daughter there was brood, and I think eggs!  So the queen is OK. There also appears to be the start of some work drawing out foundation on the remaining hive frames and also on the supers.  Strangely (or perhaps not so strangely) the workers have made honey comb off the side of one of the supers, thereby avoiding the plastic foundation.  This is particularly annoying as they had built nearly a whole frame's worth of comb which I had to remove. I hope they will start to use the plastic foundation soon.  It's been about 2 weeks since I removed the queen excluder!

It's been a bit of a mixed blessing today.  Good that the queens are doing well, not so good that their building has not been very productive and off the foundation. I'm not happy with the plastic foundation - the bees do not seem to like it this year, and I wonder if I will use this again.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Reversal and a Swarm!

Lovely Mother's Day here in the US. And what should come into the garden?  A swarm, and a whopper at that! We don't know where they came from but there are a lot of bees. Maybe between two and three rugby ball's worth!

It's a bit awkward to reach though as it is about 40' up in a tree with very spindly branches. So no real chance of getting hold of it.  I have tried to entice the bees down with a hive box of frames and some honey, who knows I may get lucky!

Anyway, I thought it would be a good idea to check if they are my bees!  Well they certainly don't look like they come from my parent hive as this is still contains an awful lot of bees. I didn't look in the daughter hive as I only put a new queen in there on Thursday, and I don't want to open it up and disrupt things a second time! I'm pretty sure they don't belong to me but they could be Susan's. She doesn't know yet, but will look tomorrow!

While I was in the parent hive I reversed brood boxes!

STOP PRESS:  They moved on this afternoon - we don't know where!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

New Queen installed - for the last time I hope!

OK, so we completed the home stretch tonight.  I brought the new mated hygienic queen home and gave the old virgin to Eugene.  There were 4 queen cells being formed on the frame of eggs so we did the right thing in brining in a new queen.

Now just sit back and let them get to it - without interruption.  I will wait until at least May 15th before looking again!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Yet another Queen....

After much deliberation, and advise from other beekeepers, I have decided that Iris' Queen (IQ) is not for me!  I have nothing against her it's just I have limited experience with virgins!

Having only 2 hives, and hoping to over-winter one, it seems that my best chance for success lies with a 'hygienic' queen, specifically bred. The one I will be getting hold of (via Bob Sears) is from Bordelon, we'll call her BQ for the time being. Although IQ is probably health she still has to mate with unknown drones who may not have hygienic behavior, thus she may not be as 'good' as BQ, who is form know stock.

To cut quite a long story short, BQ should arrive tomorrow, IQ will go to one of Eugenes hives and with luck we will all live happily ever after.  It was an interesting, if a little confusing, few days discussion!

Oh, and just for the record - I believe I got about 4 different opinions from 2 separate beekeepers!

The Human Bee

The Human Bee – Carol Ann Duffy

I became a human bee at twelve.
when they gave me my small wand,
my flask of pollen,
and I walked with the other bees
out to the orchards.
I worked first in apples,
climbed the ladder
into the childless arms of a tree
and busied myself, dipping and
duping and tackling, tracing
the petal's guidelines
down to the stigma.
Human, humming, 
I knew my lessons by heart:
The ovary would become the fruit,
the ovule the seed,
fertilised by my golden touch,
my Midas dust.
I moved to pears,
head and shoulders
lost in blossom; dawn till dusk,
my delicate blessing.
All must be docile, kind. unfraught
for one fruit -
pomegranate, peach 
nectarine, plum, the rhyme1ess 
And if an opening bud
was out of range,
I'd jump from my ladder onto a
and reach.
So that was my working 1ife as a bee,
till my eyesight blurred,
my hand was a trembling bird
in the leaves,
the bones of my fingers thinner than
And when they retired me,
I had my wine from the silent vines,
and I'd known love,
and I'd saved some money  -
but I could not fly and I made no

Thanks to Mum and Dad for sending this to me from 
Saturday's Guardian newspaper.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Got a new Queen - A local Girl!

Thanks to Iris Risler who offered up a new queen to me today.  She (the queen that is and not Iris) is now tucked up in my queen-less hive, albeit in a cage, probably until Wednesday.

Iris found three swarm cells in her hive this afternoon in Richmond Heights, and actually saw the queen she gave me emerging from the queen cell. She also heard it "sing" which is pretty unusual. Anyway here's a photo of the queen cell and the end of it which was snipped off by the queen inside.

With luck this new local gal' will be accepted, but even if she is, she still needs to go on her maiden flight and return to her new home - fingers crossed then!

Saturday, May 1, 2010

A Tale of Two Hives

It's about two weeks since making the split and getting a new queen, and it appears I have trouble.  The new queen appears to have been the subject of some kind of coup - there is no sign of her at all!  There are tons of bees in the hive, but there is NO new brood, and the one or two remaining capped cells are now hatching!  So, it appears she was killed, or she left. You may remember that I did see her just about a week ago, when she was being mobbed.

So what to do?  After a call to Eugene and to Bob Graham, the course of action was decided as this. Take a frame of eggs from the parent hive - which is doing really well - and move this into the daughter hive.  The idea is to see if there is a queen and I just missed her.  If she is present then she will raise the eggs and the cells will get capped off.  If she isn't present then hive will get the urge to create queen cells from the eggs and I should be able to see these cells in a few days. I suspect there is no queen as there are no signs of any eggs or larvae, and there should be two weeks after she was installed.

So I went into the Parent hive. Not much is going on in the supers, but there is tons and tons of brood (capped) in the main hive bodies. I couldn't find any large number of eggs to start with, then I found the queen on a new frame, with lots of new eggs.  I moved her off as gently as I could and transferred the eggs into the daughter hive, in exchange for a frame of honey and some pollen.

We will see what happens next...

Saturday, April 24, 2010

A quick in and out!

The weather is not looking good for the next few days so I thought it would be a good idea to get in and see if the new queen has been released, and do a reverse on the parent hive.

The new queen has been released. I saw her on the top of a frame, some distance from her cage.  She appeared to be being "mobbed" by the workers. Was she being attacked? I don't know, but the workers were all over her.  I took the cork out of the cage on Tuesday, so she was probably released on Thursday.  So if she was being attacked, would she have been killed by now?  Perhaps they are just really pleased to have a queen in the hive.

The parent hive looks to be OK and I reversed the hive boxes.  I didn't see the queen, but then I didn't look for her.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Released at last!

I came home early from work today and Rob helped me release the new queen.  The bees seemed calm enough and accepting of her enough for me to remove the cork and let the bees go for the candy, thereby releasing the queen. Fingers crossed this works!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Cajun or Cow-Girl? The split's complete - I hope!

So, 5 days after the queen excluder was installed i.e. yesterday, Friday, I split the hive.  Of course it was a perfect morning for it, so I was at work!  The afternoon was showery and it was all a bit of a rush trying to get things done before we (me and the bees) got wet.

I have a slide-show that shows what we did yesterday.  We did look very, very, hard for the queen and/or any signs she was in the top, or the bottom two hive boxes.  Despite my efforts however, I did not see the queen at all. As far as I can tell there were no eggs in the top box, just some very small larvae. I hope these are from the eggs she may have laid last Sunday, now developing into larvae, but I'm not 100% sure.  The bottom box did not yield much different, but I think I may have seen some eggs. So that's certainty for you!  Perhaps if it had been a little brighter we may have been able to see more.

Anyway, armed with this little amount of information we proceeded to make the split.  The top box (with no queen) became the new split or "Daughter" colony and the bottom 2 boxes became the "Parent" colony. Just for good measure we reversed the Parent as well. Both colonies have been fed, the daughter with Fumagelin to treat any possible nosema virus.

Finally, this morning Susan and I collected our queens. We had the choice - a queen from Texas or one from Louisiana.  We had Louisiana queens last year which I think were good, so we went for the Cajun, not the Cow-Girl! They were introduced when we got home and it's now fingers-crossed to see if the bees accept her.  We hope so.  The idea of splitting the hive yesterday was to give the flying bees the chance to return to the "Parent" hive, leaving the nurse bees and some brood for the new queen.  Nurse bees are apparently more accepting of a new queen.

The new queen will stay in her cage for a couple of days, just to make sure she is accepted, and I will then remove the cork stopper from the cage. The bees will eat away the candy plug and release her (over a couple of days), and with luck will not kill her!

There is just one little potential glitch in all this! If the old queen is still in the Daughter hive i.e. I did not correctly judge she was there when I made the split, we may have a problem.  2 queens in the Daughter colony, and none in the Parent - not really good.  I will have a good look in the Parent hive tomorrow and try to find her, or see eggs.  I think I made the correct split, but I'm not 100% sure! If she is in the Daughter I will remove the new queen (she is still in her cage) and reconfigure the split hives!  Aggghhh! I hope it doesn't come to this!

STOP PRESS:  I found her!  After a long look, I saw the old queen hiding on a frame, way out in the lowest hive box!  Much relief! Think I'll have a beer now.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Split started - 6 days before the new Queen arrives!

Well, the first phase of the H2Q split is done. After some discussion and exchanges of e-mails with other members, I reversed the top and bottom hive boxes and inserted a queen excluder between the top and middle boxes. There appear to be about 3 to 4 frames of brood in each of the top and middle boxes. The theory is to give the parent as much brood as possible (or should that be reasonable?). The guidance is about 5 to 6 frames of brood to the parent.  The new queen, which should be young and vital, will therefore get a kick start from the remaining brood.  We'll just have to see what we have when the time come to make the split. Perhaps I won't have to move any!

On Friday I will split the hive, ready for the new Queen, which arrives on Saturday.

During the inspection and reversal the bees were very calm and good tempered - Susan's were quite the opposite!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Gilbert White, Drone Congregation Areas and Varroa Mites - a mixed bag of topics!

Today has been a lovely Easter Sunday, warm, sunny and rather contemplative.

We were discussing Drone Congregation Areas (DCAs) on Friday after inspecting our hives. These are the special areas that Drones go to to 'intercept' Queens that are out on their maiden flights. I'm not sure if anyone really knows why they are where they are, but drones (but not those not from the queen's own hive) congregate in the air and wait around for a passing queen, and then they pounce. Apparently the drones travel farther away from the hive than the queen and this somehow ensures the queen does not mate with a drone from her own hive.

One of the strange and mysterious thing about these areas is that they have been well documented and have been found to stay in a fixed location.  The first DCA to be documented was by Gilbert White in on July 1st 1792...

"There is a natural occurance to be met with upon the highest part of our down on hot summer days, which always amuses me much, without giving me any satisfaction with respect to the cause of it; & that is a loud audible humming of bees in the air, tho’ not one insect is to be seen. This sound is to be heard distinctly the whole common through, from the Money-dells, to Mr White’s avenue-gate. Any person would suppose that a large swarm of bees was in motion, & playing about over his head"

View over Selborne (144K)

Now, Gilbert White lived in Selborne, in Hampshire in England, and is a rather celebrated English Naturalist. He wrote the "Natural History and Antiquities of Selborne" in 1792, and this is one of the few books that has never gone out of print. It really sets the standard for field observation in the English language, and was a major inspiration to Charles Darwin.  Selborne also happens to be about 10 miles from where we live in the UK and is a really lovely village, and probably looks much the same as it did in 1792.

The most amazing thing (at least I think so) is that the DCA Gilbert White first observed, is still active today - more than 217 years later!  That's mind blowing.  I need to find some DCAs in Missouri!

So on to Varroa.  Well, I did a sticky board test yesterday (between 10.30 on April 3rd and 10.30 on April 4th). The result; a grand total of 16 mites stuck down.  My cheat sheet from the University of Minnesota tells me that if the number of mites was about 60 then I should think about treating.  So it seems the varroa in my hive are not in numbers that I need to worry about - at least for now. But I guess another check in a couple of weeks wouldn't harm!

Friday, April 2, 2010

Beekeeping Masterclass!

Susan and I had a Beekeeping Masterclass this afternoon with Eugene!

Susan noticed varroa mites in her hive on Wednesday and was quite understandably concerned. She discovered them after some drone brood cells got uncapped when she lifted a frame in her hive during an inspection.  Eugene kindly offered to help do an inspection, demonstrate a sugar roll test and really just give some reassurance to us this afternoon.

We first looked over my hive.  I seem to have about 2 fullish frames of brood in my middle box and about 2 in the bottom box.  There was not too much capped brood, but there were a lot of larvae and grubs.  So things have moved on, in the right direction.

Susan's hive however is "humming", literally!  She has tons of brood comb in both middle and lower boxes; at least 2 full frames of capped brood in the top box and probably more in the bottom box.  Terrific stuff.  As for the varroa, well, although the sugar roll test produced about 12 mites (which is high), Eugene said that it was likely with the bees expanding so quickly now they would likely out-pace the varroa at this stage in the season - this would be a different story if this were the Fall.  The bees are clearly well and thriving.  But how to deal with the mites? Well we didn't add any Apiguard, but we did add powdered sugar on the top of all the frames. With repeated use this may help to dislodge the mites. She will do this again in a couple of weeks time. I also have mites, and I will also do a powdered sugar treatment. I think we will both get some drone comb and try that out.

In fact the biggest potential problem Susan has, is too may bees! The comb in her top hive box has not been built out, so the bees will have to work hard in here, but there are two weeks until the new queen arrives, so there may still be time.  If her hive looks to be getting too full of bees we could always transfer a frame of brood to my hive! It's not that they are doing badly and need more brood, it's just that Susan's may need more space! I wouldn't complain if I had some more brood as right at this moment I feel I may be pushed to make a split.

We will see what happens.  Many thanks go from us to Eugene for helping at short notice and for providing a calm head!

The next big thing will be to do an equalisation on 13th April and a split on the 16th April; the day before the new queen arrives.