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...