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,