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.