Wednesday, April 25, 2012

School Visit

I'm taking my observation hive to the School on Friday! The queen isn't laying in the observation frame probably because it's been too cold lately!

I think I have realized the queen must stay in the nuc box part of the hive most of the time and should only be moved when she is to be observed!

You live and learn!


I was booked solid at the school! Word got out that I was coming and I was scheduled every 30 minutes between 9am and 3pm to talk to a class, sometimes 2 at the same time! I think I saw at least 12 classes!!!

The kids had some great questions and really got a buzz out of the observation hive! Me? I think I enjoyed almost as much!

And it seems that I was wrong about the queen not laying. She clearly had been as on Monday evening I found there was tons of brood in the nuc. So I got that wrong!

More Inspections

Things are looking good in my hives! I went in again on Saturday (April 21)

The two hives in my backyard are putting on honey. I should think one hive has 20 kgs stored! Both queens are present and laying well. I took the opportunity to equalize the brood and I moved it to the bottom deep in both hives. This should provide sufficient space!

The two previously nasty hives have both accepted their new queens. I added a deep to one hive (with just foundation) which was probably a mistake as there really wasn't enough brood in the hive. We'll see what happens!

The botanical garden hive is doing well to! Bee numbers are increasing here and I added another super!

I just have the nuc at the Botanical Gardens to deal with now! I ordered a new hive for this and I hope that it will arrive in the next few days!!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Another round of inspections.

I only managed to take a quick look inside the Observation Hive yesterday.  But it was just long enough to find the queen and move her into the observation frame. I found that no syrup at all had been consumed in the last week, which I think is excellent!  This means the hive is finding enough food through forage so I therefore replaced the feeder with an empty drawn frame of honeycomb.

I've enjoyed watching the bees at work the last couple of evenings and one interesting observation has been the amount of drones that seem to be just milling about the hive. Is this normal? Just by sitting near the hive it is apparent that there are a lot of drones flying in the late afternoon.  I'm not sure if the guards are simply not letting them back in?

The weather got worse throughout the day yesterday and I didn't manage to do any other inspections. Thankfully the weather improved this morning and I managed to look through the other 4 hives I have at home (or near my home); I managed to peek inside the hives long enough to get a feel for what was going on. The two hives in my backyard are thriving.  I actually put additional supers on both. The large hive now has 3 supers, the other (formally weak) hive 2 supers.  There is a lot of nectar coming in and I thought it prudent to give them some space to work with. There is brood in the top deeps of both hives, but not enough to warrant a reversal. Perhaps next week.

The old "nasty" hives that came from the city appear to be in good shape too.  I saw the new queen in one, but as I found her on the top of the frames in the deep I decided not to delve further into the hive for fear of killing her!  I have "previous" in this respect! So I left the hive with a single deep and a single super.  I will put another deep on in a week or so.

The other "nasty" hive I found to contain both brood and larvae, but I didn't see the queen - this time. I therefore don't know if the queen in the hive is the new queen or the old one but I guess I'll find out in due course.  You will remember the hive started as the top deep of the combined hive that I split in an attempt to determine where the old queen was, just so that I could kill her!  Like the other hive I found a lot of nectar in the deep so I added a super on this hive as well.  I will also add a second deep in a week or so.

What is good is that the temperament of both hives seems improved.  Yes, bees are flying in my face as I inspect the hive and they follow me, but they were not as aggressive and didn't sting me today!  I take this as a very good sign!

I will try to look over the Botanical Garden hive in the next couple of days, to see how my super and the hive are doing.  I will need to think about making preparations for a second hive here!

I have enough just about enough equipment to tide me over but I will need to order some more this week!!

Monday, April 9, 2012

Hive Inspection Sheet

I have been working for some time with Bob Sears at the Eastern Missouri Beekeepers Association on the preparation of a Hive Inspection Sheet.

This sheet is aimed at new beekeepers and we hope they will use it to start to get into the good habit of effective record keeping but to also encourage them to get used to looking for key indicators in the hive e.g. the presence of supersedure cells, swarm cells, lack of eggs and larvae etc. etc.

I openly admit to being a bad record keeper and I prepared this sheet! So I do promise to work harder and keep better records!.

For those of you interested here are some jpg images of the form... I'm working on how to attach a pdf of the document to the blog!

Observation Beehive - Now set up!

My final queen was used to populate my new observation beehive!

I got some eggs and brood from Susan's strong hive and simply added my queen in this nuc sized observation hive.  I've had a ball looking at the bees in the brood cleaning, waggling and generally bustling about!  I will let the queen settle in for a couple more days tbefore I move her up into the observation window.  Then I hope we'll be able to see the eggs change into larvae and grow!  Should be fun!

The local school is interested and I hope to be able to take the hive into the school in a week or so.

Blooming Garden Bees!

Saturday saw me down at the gardens attending to the hive there.  The bees are still in the medium that I moved to the bottom of the hive.  I didn't see any signs of the queen in this super.  There was however enough brood in the deep hive boxes to enable me to make up a nuc.  I took two frames of eggs and brood, a frame of nectar/pollen etc. and an empty frame placed and them in a nuc box along with a division board feeder.  I left this overnight and went back on Sunday with a new queen to introduce her to the nuc.

No problems!  I took the opportunity to add a second super to the hive and placed this on top of the deeps. I then put the super containing the brood on the top of the stack.  I'm fairly confident the queen isn't in the super so with luck she won't move from the deeps across the super of empty frames. The brood in the super should therefore hatch and leave the frames vacant for honey!

Fingers crossed!

Where did she go? Was she tipped off?

On Friday I prepared to go into my nasty hives to locate and KILL the queen.  I got all suited up - with 3 layers on top and bottom! I had smoke and an additional spray bottle of sugar syrup - just in case they got really mean and I had to douse them. I even made sure that I wasn't alone.  Susan helped me with the spraying and smoking.

Needless to say none of my preparations were needed! When we opened the hives up the bees seemed quite settled - not exactly calm; they were flying about us but not attacking us. Makes a change!

When we looked in the hive we saw plenty of bees, but nothing else. No brood or eggs or queen!  Now, if we had removed the queen and left some eggs and larvae I would have hoped to have seen some supersedure cells.  But nothing! The same was true of the adjacent hive! Nothing!

What has happened?  Should I suspect the work of counter revolutionaries liberating their monarch? Nah! I could easily have killed her last time I was prodding about! But that doesn't explain the lack of brood?  Could they have swarmed?  But that doesn't explain the lack of brood! Mmmm, I'm confused!

Anyway maybe in the end this isn't all bad news.  With the arrival of the new queens I now have two single boxes contining brand new queens! OK, so there is little in the way of brood, but I can live with swapping the bad bees for a couple of well mannered albeit "weak" hives.  I added the new queens on Saturday.  I taped over the end of the candy on each of the cages and left them for a couple of days.  Tonight I went to remove the tape and let the bees release the queen.  There didn't appear to be any balling of the cages so I am hopeful both queens will be accepted!

Curious isn't the word to describe this!

Monday, April 2, 2012

Regicide - The first steps!

The push to overthrow the old queen has started! Moves have just been put in place to topple the regime and replace it with an all together more benevolent monarch! Yes! It's time to kill the queen and get a new one!  But what/how do you do this with a hive that's unbelievably nasty!  The short answer is "carefully". For the longer answer read on...

You will remember that my urban bees were very defensive. VERY! So I moved them back to a yard near home with plans to re-queen the hive. I managed to reduce the hive to a single deep a few weeks ago. I then added a second deep to this easily enough, but the time has now come to replace the old queen. My new queen arrives next weekend.  However, working the hive is particularly nasty and I have to be very well protected. The last time I was in it I only got to the 6th frame before the bees were all over me and stinging my suit. And me!  I literally ran away!

So my plans for a coup have been formulated....

On Sunday (yesterday) I split the hive into two deeps.  I started from the assumption that the queen would be in the top box laying. I then very bravely (well I thought so) moved the top box to a new base board without using smoke!  No smoke?????  Well I didn't want to chase the queen deep into the bottom deep.  I'll explain why later. By the way, I was stung while doing this split!

My theory is this...  If I move the queen in the single "top" deep, when the foragers leave (i.e. the bees that fly and sting) they will go home to the deep that wasn't moved. As a result the queen should be left with just a few "nice" nurse bees around her! It should also mean that when I look in the "top" deep to find the queen she will be much easier to find and therefore KILL!  Secondly, by splitting the hive 6 days before my new queen arrives I should be able to quickly and easily tell in which deep the old queen is present.  If there are supersedure cells in the "top" deep then she must in the other lower deep - I sincerely hope she is not! This is why I didn't use smoke. If there are no supersedure cells then I'm looking for larvae and eggs of up to 6 days in age. Easy? No?

So once I have found her I will kill her and a day later introduce the new queen in her cage. As soon as the new queen is installed I will place a sheet of newspaper (with cuts across it) on top of the deep and then relocate the lower deep back on top of the deep containing the new queen. Still with me?  Anyway, I hope the bees will gradually adjust to their new monarch and will become much calmer. Finally, I will go back to the newly combined hive in another 3 days in order to release the new queen and after that I hope things will be back to normal.

So what if the queen is not in the "top" deep as I hope?  Well, I should be able to tell this by spotting supersedure cells that are being developed in the "top" deep. I'm not looking forward to determining that the queen is located with all the stinging foragers, but I'll just have prepare myself for going through the hive as best as I can! This time I will be armed with smoke as well as sugar syrup in a spray bottle.  

If it becomes too much for me I will try to kill the bees using dry ice! I figure if I put a lump of dry ice inside an empty super placed above the inner cover over the hive then the gaseous carbon dioxide will permeate through the hive and kill the bees off.  I'll then use the bees that were in the "top" deep and therefore fortunate enough to escape the gas chamber as the start of a new colony.  

I'm not too concerned about finding supersedure cells as any cells will only have larvae in them and should not be capped. I'm hoping the bees will deal with the supersedure cells by themselves, after the deeps have been recombined. 

Oh! I neary forgot! before I go working the "top" deep looking for the queen I will seal the nasty hive shut so that these bees cannot come out and harass me while I'm installing the new queen. If the bees in the deep I'm working send out an alarm pheromone the last thing I want is for loads of nasty aggressive bees to come out of the neighbouring deep gunning for me!

Wish me luck!