Monday, September 20, 2010

We will fight them. . .

Well, I've remove all of the worm eaten comb and consolidated the girls into one hive. Hopefully the bee population density in one hive body will be large enough that they can control the pests themselves. My biggest concern is that it is late in the year and a lot of honey and pollen was destroyed. I am still feeding them and will continue to do so.

The End of Days?

Wax moth catastrophe. I don't have much to say about this, but it looks pretty grim for the girls. Not sure what happened but here is my supposition: Colony is weak from being queenless and possibly tracheal mites. I was housing the weak colony in two hive bodies. It was too large a space for the girls to patrol and the moths got in, wreaking havoc all the way.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The Xerces Society 2011 Bee Calendar

This is a link via a friend of mine. I don't know much about the Xerces Society but the calendars are nice and it looks like a good cause.

Here is their mission statement.
Started feeding the bees again yesterday with a 1 to 1 sugar solution. I guess I keep this up for the rest of the winter but I will double check on that. Only a couple more things in the area left to bloom and the ladies can probably use the extra juice. I think the population, though smaller than it once was, has stabilized. I am still supplying them with grease patties and menthol for tracheal mites. I will remove the menthol in about 2 more weeks.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Good News. Just got finished checking the mite board and only found 4 mites on the whole board in a 3 day period. That's just 1.3 mites per 24 hour period well below the acceptable 60-190 mites for this area at this time of year. The mite board is a white plastic sheet that you smear with petroleum jelly and place under the hive. Leave it in for 1 to 3 days and the jelly traps the Varroa mites that fall from the hive. You can then calculate the number of mites fallen in a 24 hour period and assess the mite population and pest management needed for your hive. Varroa are a very nasty pest that can lead to the death of a colony.

On another note here is a photo of a local sheriff's car recently covered in a swarm of bees.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Taking Care of Bees-ness

I ordered the menthol yesterday. Hopefully it will take take of any possible mite issue without the use of some rather nasty chemicals. Along with it I also ordered a frame perch, an entrance reducer and a couple of Imrie shims. Though it's a way off I have started thinking about the winter.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Long Time Gone

Well, it's been a long time since I have posted anything. The hive has had ups and downs. Lately it seems to be mostly downs. I had to re-queen last week. I don't know where the first lady went but it was obvious she was no longer home. I examined the hive last Monday, August 8, to find it in disarray. No real pattern to comb development, aggressive bees, one maybe two queen cells, and seemingly a reduced population. Also very little brood with no eggs in evidence. Don't know if the first lady swarmed off or died. Haven't been able to get in to look regularly due to when the weather cooperated with my days off.
Anyway, I ordered a new queen on Monday, August 9th, and installed her on Tues the 10th. Went back in today. She is out and hopefully doing her job. The bees are less aggressive at least. Didn't see many eggs but I didn't poke around too much. Don't want to disturb them any more than necessary right now.
I am also worried about trachael mites. I think I have seen several bees with the tell tale K wing deformation which indicates this might be a possibility. Not an expert yet but there are a couple of things I can do which won't harm the bees and are fairly simple. I have given them grease patties, which are a mix of crisco, sugar and honey. The bees will eat the sugar and be lightly coated with the grease which, though it won't harm the bees, will make it harder for the mites to hitch a ride. I am also going to order some menthol packets which, when placed in the hive, act as mite repellent. Fingers crossed.

Friday, May 14, 2010

This an article discussing a possible reason for bee decline. I have not heard of this one before. Long live The Queen. I first read this at:B#=....C???

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Today's Ladies Journal 3

Holy Cow, that's a lot of bees. Things are going well. The ladies have begun filling out the empty frames I moved around before. Two are half full of comb now. I think two days for two half combs is pretty good progress. Wish there was some way to be sure if moving the combs spurred this development, or if it was only due to population increase. Have to investigate more at a later date when opportunity arises.
As you can see the population has skyrocketed. I would have to say it has nearly doubled in the last week. Decided to put another hive body on top to give them more room. When I did this I moved two of the brood frames to the upper hive body to encourage the ladies to spread out into their new space. Not sure if it will speed the process at all but I thought it would at least let them know they are safe. The nurse bees are still on the brood frames, so the larva are safe. I also refilled the feed box with new syrup today. I would really like to clean it out but there are always so many bees in the entry chamber I'm not sure how to do it.
Saw four small hive beetles(SHB) at various places in the hive. Three were on the bottom board and one was in the feeder. They are bigger than I thought. If I can catch one I will take a picture to post. Anyway, I quashed the one in the feeder and two on the bottom board. The bees were really going after the one on the bottom board I couldn't get to, so all is probably well. As long as there population is strong they should be able to defend against such pests. I also saw some sort of larval worm in the feeder. I believe it was a SHB larva, but will do some research to be sure. It was quickly dispatched.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

My wife has created a beautiful water feature out of a 30's era clothes washer. She has placed flowers around it, water hyacinths in it to help purify the water and a few gold fish to eat the mosquito larvae. Within a day the ladies found it an now use it as a nice watering hole. We have seen quite a few lolling on the plants, taking the occasional sip and washing themselves.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Here is a little bit of bee music to brighten up your day. Bee Here Now. Now here is a flac link.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Today's Ladies Journal

Ok, I think I made the ladies angry today. First off it was a little cooler and less sunny than I would like it to have been to enter the hive, but my available days are limited so I needed to take the chance. Once inside the hive I counted the full frames; there were six full leaving half of another and 3 not drawn out. There seem to be plenty of bees. I also saw quite a bit of larva and new eggs in cells that had been used by sisters before them. This is very encouraging and a step in the right direction. I am curious, though as to why they haven't drawn all the comb out. Maybe the population density doesn't merit it yet. Of interest is the fact that they occupy the left hand side(if you are facing the hive) of the hive. Not sure why this is but it is interesting. I also noticed that they have filled all the foundation seams to the frames, except for small opening at the bottom of the frames. These must be access points allowing them to go from frame to frame across the hive without having to go up or down. Smart.
Wondering if I could encourage them to draw out the last three and a half frames I decided to move things around a little bit. I moved the core of the brood space to the right by 2 frames leaving only a pollen stored frames in position 1 from the left. I then took 2 empty frames and put them in positions 2 and 3. The core of the brood space now occupies 4 to 8. I placed the last empty frame in position 9 and filled slot 10 with the half drawn frame. The half drawn frame has no eggs nor brood and seems to be only nectar storage. Hopefully this is not a bad idea. I don't think it will hurt the bees only cause a little bit of disorder and probably set them back a couple of days. I am probably just anxious to get the second hive body on top. I also realized I should probably number the frames with a sharpie marker. I will do that next time.
I am getting more comfortable holding the frames and taking my time with inspections while the bees are crawling on my arms. Just takes a little bit of practice. I saw a hive beetle today and managed to crush the little bugger. Still having a small ant problem. They are not in the hive but definitely like the top feeder. No ant trail was visible today but I did see many dead ants floating in the syrup in the feeder. Yuck. This needs a thorough cleaning. Maybe next time I need to replace the syrup. I see no need to do it prematurely.
I mentioned I think I made them angry. Well I got stung today. It was the second time. Both times were my fault because I wasn't watching were I was putting my fingers and accidentally squashed a bee. I feel bad about that. The throbbing in my finger won't let me forget.
That's all for now thanks.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Ok. Short note. Little time. Mother's Day Weekend. Very busy. Many, many, bee babies. Yippee!!! They all seem happy and buzzing like crazy on this mid 80's sunny mid spring day. Go, girls, go. Details to follow.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Monday, May 3, 2010

A short video for your entertainment.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Some concerning news from the usda.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Today's Ladies Journal

I checked on the ladies today because I believed they might be ready for another hive box on top. When I monitored the syrup level the other day, I noticed they were beginning to build comb in the entrance to the feeder . Thinking this was an indication that they had drawn out all the frames in the hive body and wanted to move up, I needed to provide them with more room to expand. Only way to know for sure is to open it up and go in. To my surprise they had not drawn out much more comb than on my inspection from last weekend. Hmm? One good sign was the total number of capped cells indicating pupating larva. A few drone cells and the rest worker cells(You can tell which is which by the shape of the cap on the cell.). Probably a good four to five total frame of larva. Way to go Queen. What to do now?
I decided to resort to actual math. Probably should have done that before, but hey I'm not a scientist. It takes 21 days from egg to worker bee(24 for drones, they're resource hogs). I know the first day I saw eggs was Saturday the 17th, I saw larva and capped cells on the 25th. If the eggs were very new, and I think they were due to there size and position, then 21 days from the 17th would make the day of emergence the 8th of May. I probably have a 2-3 day window for this so with any luck I should begin seeing the new brood anywhere from the 5th to the 8th of May.
This is good news, though I fear the population is dwindling. This is possibly why they have not drawn out too much more comb. They are stretched pretty thin between the duties of gathering and nest building. May 8th will be four weeks since they were installed and given a bees life span is only 6-8 weeks, they are surely suffering from attrition. However, come the first week of May the population should begin to increase exponentially. Maybe by 1100 or so bees a day. Fingers crossed.
I did change the syrup today. It was beginning to get a bit funky. It doesn't look like they have been eating it. It could be because there is plenty of forage out now or it could be because it was a bit whiffy. I'll check again in a few days and if they haven't eaten it I will have my answer and possibly remove the feeder. I need to check and see whether I should keep the feeder while the population grows.

ps. No evidence of Small Hive Beetles(SHB) today. Prior to today I have seen a couple at each opening. Good deal.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Time to Close up for the day.
Quite a bit of yellow pollen stores. Go girls.


If you look closely you can see larva as small "c" shapes inside the uncapped cells.
Here you can see the white capped honey layer over the yellow capped brood layer.

Capped Brood Cells

Newly opened hive.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Week 2

Many things have happened since the last post. Firstly, I am much calmer and less concerned about the state of the bees than I was in the last report and here is the reason why. I had mentioned that I wasn't going to open the hive for 48 hours but after talking to some senior members at my beekeeping club I decided that, given the life cycle of the bees and the time it takes eggs to develop it would be best to wait at least five days. Due to weather it took me a little longer to get into the hive but I finally did on Sunday the 18th. There was a lot of comb drawn out and many bees moving about but I didn't see any sign of the queen. How was I to know everything was o.k.? Well I called a friend, Ben Crawley, from the WCBA for help on what to look for. I got way more help than was expected. When he found out I was only about 20 minutes away from his location he told me he would be there in 30 minutes. Awesome. I now had someone who knew what to look for. He arrived and we went back into the hive. He found eggs in the center frames. He showed me what to look for and I could see them too. Yippee the Queen lives. I was relieved. I closed the hive and waited.

Due to weather and daylight I waited longer than I had planned but I finally got back in the hive on Sunday the 25th. I found lots of capped cells; this is a sign of pupating larva. I also found lots of larva yet to be capped (the pre-pupa stage). The brood is centrally located and densely packed. No spotty egg laying. She's going strong. There was also a good storage of nectar across the top of the frames and some pollen stores out toward the edge. They are yet to draw out all the frames into comb but are well on their way. By next week I should be able to put the second hive body on top with more frames. More on that later.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Day 2

48 hours after hive set up I’m much more nervous and less confident than I was before. Today I checked the hive to see if the queen had been freed. More candy has been eaten away but she was not out. I made the decision to pull the cork from the other end of her little cage and introduce her through the opening at the bottom by sliding the cage, open side in, half way into the hive. I think this might have been the wrong decision; I probably should have waited another 24 hours to do this. I seem to have read too many introductory books and am getting my facts mixed up. Risks I now face: will the colony accept the queen or kill her, did she somehow manage to escape and fly off before I got the cage in the bottom opening? I vow not to open the hive for 48 hours to let things settle down and then see how the cluster of bees looks across the frames and if I see any evidence of eggs. Patience young Beekeeper.
Side note: I am using a hive top box feeder to feed the bees sugar water. I am not a fan. It is clunky and difficult to get on and off without a lot of spillage. Must be a better design or different method. Though, when feeding a lot of syrup the box is nice because it doesn’t have to be refilled so often.

Day 1

Over the last couple of months I've gotten my hive boxes ready and painted them, anxiously awaiting my bees. Yesterday I received my bees and installed them in the hive. I got a 3# package of Italian bees with a queen. The queen comes separately in a little box with a candy stopper in the end which the bees excavate to release her. You hang the queen's box in the hive and open the other box of bees. I hear there are roughly 11000 bees in 3 pounds. I didn't count them. I'm not sure what kind of music bees like but they strike me as jazz lover's. The first song we listened to on the way home was "Beyond the Sea" and followed it up with a bunch of Ray Charles. They seemed content.
The queen is not free yet but they have started to eat the candy away and draw out the combs, both of which are good signs. They don't seem aggressive, thank goodness, and I haven't been stung yet. When she is free, which may take a couple of days, she will begin laying eggs and the colony with grow to somewhere around 50000 to 60000 bees over the couple of months. That's a lot of bees. I just checked on them today and they are buzzing around and seemingly in good spirits. My biggest goal now is to make sure they live out the year. I am currently feeding them sugar syrup but should be able to stop that after they have become established and more nectar is flowing. Won't be much, if any honey this year but if I can keep them alive next year should be sweet. Up to now it hasn't been too difficult and not too expensive. If you are considering it as a hobby, go for it.

Thanks for the ear,