Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Very angry bees, and mis-understandings...

So finally this afternoon I looked at the bees in my own garden.  If you remember I was concerned that I saw some queen cells in them last weekend.  Well, put it down to inexperience, or just the fact that it could have been blind panic at the time, but clearly I confused a drone cell (which was all on it's own) with a possible queen cell.  I am now certain these queen cells were actually not that!  How am I sure?  Well I looked through Susan's hive this afternoon and saw very clearly what a queen cell looks like!  They are much, much, bigger! How could I forget?

There I was, fully expecting to see queen cells throughout my hives, but I saw none!  I think the fact I was in a hurry on Sunday made me make the confused diagnosis.  What this all meant was that I didn't feel I needed to carry out any swarm prevention measures. I was fully prepared to implement the Demaree method and had all my excluders and frames ready etc. But on seeing they were drone cells I backed out and let the queens pretty much carry on as they were.  I did leave some syrup in one of the hives, but come Friday I think I will remove this.

Now on to Angry Bees! Susan had a bad experience yesterday.  A bee got into her veil and stung her on the lip while she was looking through her hive. Another bee then stung her on the arm. She suffered some considerable swelling!  The other result was that she didn't get to look properly in her hive. This afternoon I offered to take a look - probably bravado after feeling good about my hives!

Her split was pretty calm, but somehow a bee also got inside my veil!!!  Thankfully I did not get stung, but I did re-tie the veil!  What did I see?  Well no queen that was clear, but plenty of capped queen cells at the bottom of the frames! This is confusing. Susan had already spoken to Eugene about this and his suggestion was to just let the bees replace the missing one.  Why not, it could be interesting and I suspect the gene pool in the neighbourhood will be good.  I know of at least 4 hives nearby with 'hygenic' queens, and so good drones for the new queen should be easy to find. Susan will loose some production on this hive, but as she was trying to build this up to go through winter then she is probably OK.

Susan's parent hive was next and this was just plain nasty !!!!  My gauge is my own hives and one is very, very, calm and does not get very excited, even when I rip it apart.  My other hive gets more agitated; the bees tend to fly about and around you a bit, but they don't do much else.  I was thinking these bees were a bit unpleasant, until I met Susan's!  Wow they are brutes!

I had to get right inside her hive and so there were bits of hive body lying about on stands, the ground etc.  So bees everywhere.  I pretty quickly established that there were capped queen cells present (together with the existing queen) and so we have implemented the Demaree method.  I put the frame of bees with the queen in the bottom deep, added an excluder over it and then popped some supers on.

Then I had to deal with the deeps. The 'fun' started when I started to remove the queen cells!!  The bees came for me and started stinging my veil and suit and gloves.  Stings embedded everywhere, but thankfully NOT in me!  My son, who was warned about the nature of these bees, was watching from about 30 feet away and got stung twice! Yes, I did tell him he wasn't going to get any medals for being stung, but did he listen?  Anyway, we succeeded to remove all the queen cells (I hope).  We'll give it 8 to 10 days before going back in to remove any further queen cells we find; to check on the queen and possibly remove brood.  Can't say I'm looking forward to that!

Personally, I think this queen needs to go, and soon. You really can't beat a good execution when it comes to royalty!

International Institute of St. Louis

The other nuc now resides within the city bounday in McRee Town, on the site of an Urban Farm that is being run by the International Institute of St. Louis (THEISTL).  I am very excited by this development and I will be blogging the news of the bees and their development on this site!

The THEISTL runs programs for refugees who came to the USA and helps retrain them. I understand the idea of the farm is to help refugees to adjust to growing different crops in conditions they are not necessarily used to.  I also heard that there is a Nepalese guy who was a beekeeper back in Nepal.  Im looking forward to hearing his view on how I manage the bees on the site! and to find out how my bees differ from the ones he was used to dealing with!

Anyway, I moved the bees from my porch first thing this morning. I closed them up late last night while it was raining heavily. How brilliant an idea of mine was it to put the nucs on the porch! I think the unrelenting rain meant that all the bees were sheltering in the hive and so I'm pretty sure I took all the bees to the 'farm'. There were no stragglers seen hanging around the porch today!

Whitney getting involed!
The new apiary!
View from the landing area!
So my thanks go to Whitney the farm coordinator and to Zach for building a very nice hive stand!  I hope this proves to be a fruitful liaison for us all!  Can wait to get back on Friday and see how they have been behaving!

Busy, Busy Day

Well I was up early with my bees this morning!  Both the Nucs I had stored on my porch have now gone to great new homes.

One is now residing in the Botanical Gardens!  I received a call from a fellow beekeeper saying that someone at the gardens was interested in keeping some bees and did I have a hive I could sell? Brilliant!!!  I was told they would need some help to get them used to keeping bees and also to coach them through the first year! This should be fun!

So after some discussions with one of the horticulturlaists we got a hive location sorted out and a stand set up and at about 7.30 this morning the nuc was installed on a lovely hive stand on the edge of a lake within the grounds of MOBOT!!!

I have not yet met the lady who is going to keep the bees, but on Friday I hope to meet her and show her around the hive.  I also want to make sure there is sufficient syrup in the feeder. The hive comprises one deep full of drawn comb and brood etc. and a second deep with just a feeder and some foundation. I anticpate this deep could be drawn out in two or three weeks, maybe earlier and I also think it's not impossible for the bees to consume about 4 gallons of syrup during this period! That's about 30lbs of sugar!

But, if we can't make beekeeping work here with all these trees and flowers I guess I should hang up my smoker and hive tool and try something else!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Testing times...

So I went through the hives again today.  I removed some brood and combined it with the frames in my nucs. Hopefully I have made some space for the bees in my hives.  Will it work?  I don't know yet!

The upshot is that I now have two small hives on my porch, each with some 8 or 9 frames of brood and stores.  These will get moved to their new locations on Tuesday if all goes to plan. But the weather is proving to be totaly disruptive. Storms and heavy rain all weekend, plus no end in sight this coming week. So bees cooped up inside, not doing anything other than thinking about swarming.  They're like small children - I just have to get them to think of something else!!!

Just to compound the issues and add salt into the wounds, during all of this I found a queen cell in one of my nucs!!  The new queen was there as well!  What are the bees doing to me?  Did I upset them? I'm now really confused! What will happen? I suspect I'll just have to wait and see.  If my new 'nucs' swarm, what can I do? My objective is to build them up for next winter.  So as long as I can do this I reckon we'll be OK. If they swarm I guess I'll need to get a new queen!

If my own hives at home swarm, that may be a different kettle of fish.  I need to sleep on this and ask around for some advice.  The Demaree method seems worthy of some reading up on.  Maybe if I can get hold of a couple more queen excluders I can make sure both don't swarm!


Saturday, April 23, 2011

Swarm Preparations?

I'm not sure about this, but when I was in my hives this afternoon I may have removed a couple of active swarm cells.  One was open and full of milky white royal jelly, the other was closed and had a pupa in it.  It could have been a drone cell, but I don't think so.  Both cells were on the bottom of a frame so in prime position for a swarm cell!

There were plenty of queen cups too. But these were all empty and I've sort of got used to finding them.  I am more concerned about the possibility of queen cells as I do not want the hives to swarm!

So what do I do?  My initial thought is to make nucs from some of the brood frames in the hives, thus making some more space for the bees.  But I only did this a couple of weeks ago!  Quite aside from the fact I don't have any queens right now, can I do this again? I can't see why not.  One complication will be the fact that the two nucs I have currently contain bees - and will do so into next week.  I am going to prepare new hives from these, but I don't this until Tuesday.

There is some good news!  My 'Blue' hive has started to draw out honey comb on some of the plastic foundation in the deeps and on the pure beeswax foundation in the supers.  Maybe this will keep them busy and take their minds of swarming.  I can always cross my fingers.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Earth Day in Forest Park

The EMBA had a stall at the Earth Day event held in Forest park today.  There was HUGE interest in keeping bees and in general bee health. OK so we did have an observation hive, which always helps bring in the public, but nevertheless tons of people took a very genuine interest.  Several took away information on starting hives and I hope they will take the plunge, get some bees and come to the beekeeing meetings.  Who knows I may even have sold one of my nucs!

On Friday I went to the International Institute of St Louis' farm to check out thier site and see how it will be for some bees. Little did I know there was an article in the STL Post Dispatch (also on Friday) about the project. Really interesting stuff is going on there and I'm really excited about being asked to help in my own little way.  There's a video which very neatly explains what it's all about.  Anyway I hope I'll have a new hive installed there this coming weekend! The site is great. OK there's not much visible right now, but lots of planting going on will see to that.  My plan would be to have a single hive there this year and hopefully split it this time next year! But I better not get ahead of myself just yet!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Settling in and moving on...

I was a bit worried about removing the division board feeders from the nucs just as I had introduced the queens. But there didn't seem to be sufficicent room for the queen cages, 4 frames of brood and honey as well as the feeder. Something had to go and it was the feeders!

I was telling Susan about my predicament last night, and also the fact that I felt the feeders were just a little too wide to fit comfortably in the nucs.  She kindly offered me 2 frames of honey she had taken from her hive earlier in the season and wasn't going to use! I gladly accepted these and set about inspecting the nucs this evening after I got home from work.

Both queens appear to be well settled in, and they're laying eggs too!  Great News!  So I have two good nucs with brood on 3 frames and I will be in a position to sell one of these and use the other one myself.  Which brings me nicely on to the other news I have.

There was a call in the "Waggle" newsletter this week from Bob Sears for anyone who was interested in starting or moving a hive of bees to a couple of urban farms in St Louis.  One of these farms happens to be located quite near the Botanical Gardens - WOW!!! what further motivation could I need!!! and it is run by the "International Institute of St Louis".  I don't know a whole lot about the organisation but from what I have read online they run programs for immigrants to the US to help get people get started in agriculture and other things.  That sounds like a good fit for me, what with me being an "alien" myself. So I called the people involved and I have set up a meeting on site tomorrow lunchtime.

I'm quite excited about starting a third hive, having it near the Botanical Gardens and on a site where there should be a lot of interest generated. Don't worry I expect I'll blog about this ad nauseam!

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Queen Installation

I picked up 5 queens this morning; not all for myself. It was especially interesting to hear them 'piping'.  I was reading that piping is common when there is more than one queen in the hive. So I wonder if they were piping because they sensed there were other queens nearby?

I put my two queens in the nucs at lunchtime, without any incident.  I even did it without wearing gloves! My first time this year.  I left the cork plug in place in the queen cagesand I will go back in a couple of days (probably Monday) to remove the plug and let the bees loose on the candy.  I hope by Wednesday the queens will have been fully released and accepted by the bees in the nuc.

STOP PRESS: The apparant nosema streaking I noticed the other day all seems to have dissappeared. Was the medication successful? Did the bees just get over it? or was the streaking just the result of the bees being "mightily relieved" after being cooped up for a couple of wet days?  Who knows, but it all looks good for now. I saw my first hive beetle yesterday - boo!!!

Friday, April 8, 2011

Nucs made!

It turned out perfect for making nucs this morning, once I got a trip to the dentist out of the way! I made up two nucs from my two hives!

There was plenty of brood in the hives. I took two good frames of brood (capped and uncapped) and two frames of food.  For good measure I added a division board feeder to the hive too! There are at least 6 frames of brood remaining in the hives. Most of this in the bottom box and I will have to take a look next week and see whether I need to reverse the brood boxes again!

Tomorrow my new queens are due to arrive; one for each nuc.  I hope the weather will be sufficiently good to enable me to install one in each of the nucs - I'm sure it will. I have put the nucs on the porch where they are sheltered. I will be able to open them up and install a queen (inside her cage of course) even if it is raining.

Right, so what am I going to do with the nucs?  Well, I may sell one and use the other to start a colony in a community garden that is located in the city.  I called the garden last two days ago but have yet to hear back from them. I am hopeful I will start this up. Eitherway I will not be shipping the nucs until probably next weekend.

Any takers? $120 each.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Last minute flurry of activity!

Last minute flurry of activity!

I got to thinking yesterday afternoon (over a glass of wine) about when I should super my hives. They seem well set up, what with 6 frames of brood, stores and some available space to move into. But the big question was when should I add supers, when will the nectar flow start?

I posted a note to the forum and waited…..

It seems that at least one person has already added supers (albeit on Saturday) as he is seeing fruit trees and dandelions in bloom. OK, sounds pretty compelling I thought, so knowing it was due to be wet today, and stormy overnight, I quickly dashed to put my supers on my hives. Now, I only have one super with built out frames of comb and this I split between two of my supers. I put the built out frames in the middle of the boxes. So my hives now have two supers on each of them – the built out frames being at the bottom of each stack! We’ll see what happens over the next few days and weeks…

Of course still being a little new to this game, I then began to start worrying about whether supering now was too early! Anyway reassurance, in the way of Eugene, came galloping over the horizon and he tells me he too has supered, and thinks I am probably fine.

OK, (breathes a sigh of relief) I think I’m probably well set up now. But I still might make some nucs from the brood in the two hives I have now – swarm control. Might also have to get some more supers ready…

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Reversals, Nosema medication and cleaning out old supers.

Seems from the title of the post that there has been a lot going on this week.  I guess that's right, but I don't think things are quite as dramatic as I have perhaps made out.  Last weekend I topped up the syrup in both hives.  On Wednesday, although it was cold, I added/topped up the syrup and I guess I added about 2 litres to each hive.  This time I medicated the syrup with Fumagellin B as I had noticed some streaking on the front of the hives and thought that this might be nosema. The Fumagellin B was really added as a precaution.  I cleaned off the outside of the hive in order to see the extent of the streaking.  The following day it was quite clear the streaking was quite extensive (see photo).

This afternoon I went through the hives with Jurgen, a German friend who is playing with the idea of keeping bees. My girls' behaviour was exemplary! They were so calm. Jurgen felt very at ease and I reckon I'll be able to convince him to keep one hive for me, even if he doesn't want to keep any for himself this year. We probably had the hives open for 45 minutes and hardly used any smoke in the first hive. We opened the hive without smoking it in order to see the extent of the brood area. This wasn't really effective as the bees were all over the top of the frames and we couldn't make out the extent of the brood! It was another 5 or 10 minutes before we realised we left the smoker lying 20 feet away!

The first hive (blue queen) had 6 frames of capped and uncapped brood in the top box but no brood in the bottom box, although there was quite a lot of food stored in the bottom. We saw the queen.  I therefore decided to a reversal.  This all seems to be very good and all appears to be going to plan right now.  I topped up the syrup with another litre or so.

The second hive (white queen) had a couple of  frames of brood in the top box  - only small areas, and there was quite a lot of brood on comb between the top and bottom box which I had to remove. The bottom box however contained about 5 or 6 frames of brood (capped and uncapped).  Interestingly I saw the white queen in the top box and in the bottom box!  She must have jumped below while I was lifting out frames! This hive, like the other one, took about a litre of medicated syrup.

So, the new queens arrive next weekend. I feel confident I will be able to make at least one nuc from what I have seen in my two hives.

Last, but not least, I put a couple of old supers out for the bees to clean.  I had these supers on one of the hives over the winter but took them off a couple of weeks ago. On advice from Bob I left these out for the bees to clean up. It is likely that the honey in them is not really fit to be eaten as it has been left uncapped over the winter and could have exposed to contamination.  So the best course of action seems to be to have the bees clean them up and then maybe I'll re-use them later in the summer.  The frames and comb are old and very dark so I am tempted to remove the wax and put new foundation in them. here are a few photos of the girls cleaning things off...