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.