Saturday, April 30, 2011

The Queen is Dead, Long Live the Queen


Finally had the opportunity to check the hive thoroughly today and found what I was afraid of. Hive A is thriving and has many capped cells meaning the queen is laying well and in a couple of weeks there should be thousands of bee babies. Yeah. Hive B on the other hand has no capped cells,the bees seem listless and are only storing nectar and pollen in the cells. This means there is no queen in Hive B to lay and nobody in the hive knows what they should be doing. What to do?
I have two options: A. get a new queen or B. combine the hives. Getting a new queen would be ideal but will cost about $25 and with the package bee's lifespans getting toward the end there may not be enough time to raise a brood before the adults die off. Combining the hives will cost 3 sheets of newspaper and maybe a couple thousand bees.
I opted for option B. and here is how I did it. Since two different hives cannot be merely dumped together, a way is needed to acclimate the bees and allow the pheromones present in each hive to equalize. This is accomplished by separating the hives with 3 layers of newspaper that has been perforated in several places with a pin or needle.
Step by step: I removed the lid from Hive A(the hive with the queen) and placed three sheet of newspaper over the top to act as the lid. I randomly perforated the paper and then placed the body of Hive B(no queen) atop of the paper on top of Hive A. Placing a lid on top of it all means that there is no exit from the top of the hive. Theoretically it should take the bees about 3 to 4 days to eat through the paper and get to one another. By that time the pheromones in both colonies should be equalized and the queenless bees will be the happy subjects of Hive A.
The loss of a couple of thousand bees, what's up with that? Well, since I performed the operation in the afternoon many bees are out in the field and when they come home, it won't be there. Here's what I did to minimize the loss.
I placed a new hive body on top of the old Hive B base and put 4 empty frames in it. I want to see if I can get returning bees to take up residence and transfer them to the new combined hive tomorrow. We'll see.
In honour of this occasion I will post the following song.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Interesting article on modern day beekeeping.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Day 9

Checked both hives at about 1pm today, this is what I found:
Hive A(with hive top feeder):
Seems more populous than hive B, Good comb production and centralized location of the main bee colony. They are storing nectar and a small amount of pollen. Are those eggs I see in the cells, hard to tell they are so small. I will check again in a day or two. Feeder is dry to I fed them more syrup
Hive B(quart jar feeder):
Definitely less populous and advanced than Hive A. The population seems to be centrally located and producing comb but not as rapidly as Hive A. Is it possibly that with a smaller feeding surface, i.e. the jar instead of a whole top feeder more of the colony needs to forage leaving less for colony construction. I don't know but it is a good question to ask at my next bee meeting. Other than the smaller size the colony seems healthy and productive. This hive actually seems to have stored more nectar than hive A.

From Sat. April 16th

So on Saturday we were set to have some pretty big storms and I got to thinking. With the new feeder model on top of Hive B it will be very easy for rain to get in around the quart jar I installed as a feeder so I needed to cover it up. I place a an empty shallow super on top of the new lid and then put the old telescoping hive lid on top of it to keep the rain out. Then I started thinking, "They are predicting 50 to 60 mph winds. Will that knock the hives over?". So I got a tie down strap and secured both hives to the pallet. Wouldn't help in a tornado but should at least keep the lids on and the hive upright in most weather conditions. I'm glad I did these things and below you will find pictures of my rig.
At roughly 3 pm we were in the middle of one of the windiest and hardest rains I have ever witnessed in NC. The bees and I seem to have borne the weather well and stayed mostly dry and safe. NC suffered from about 20 tornadoes that day and a lot of people, only 3 to 4 miles away did not fare so well. My heart goes out to everyone in the path of those storms.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Here is a nifty read from Scientific American about the antibiotic properties of honey.

Manuka Honey

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Day 5 Notes

Tomorrow will be 48 hours after freeing the queen in Hive A. I am planning to check the interior of both hives and am hoping to see a lot of drawn out comb, possibly even some eggs in Hive B as the queen has been free there longer. As the photos below show I made the new feeder for Hive B today, nothing fancy, but very functional. I am interested to see how fast the bees lap the syrup up and how quickly it needs to be re-filled. I can think of one drawback to this set up; the top is not very heavy and could easily blow off in a strong wind. It could be fastened to the hive body with buckles in the future but for now I will place some bricks on the top to keep it weighted down. Since the feeder tops don't need to be in place year round, only in times of dearth, I don't see the need to make a permanent solution to this challenge.
Here is a shot of the ladies exiting the opening to the old feeder. I wonder if they go up there and get a little lost. All these bees in the feeder aren't making comb or foraging like they should be. But, then again, maybe this water cooler behavior is common to all species.

Here is the new top and feeder I devised for Hive B. Though the quart jar is smaller than the reservoir in the old top feeder it can be easily monitored and is much easier to handle than a syrup filled box.

Music Re-fresher

Here is a link to the download of Bee Sides, 13 bee related songs ranging from artists such as Aurthur Askey to Erykah Badu:

Use the free account/slow download on the right hand side of the page. It's in a compressed .rar format so you will need to decompress before listening.


Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Day 4

Checked the hives today and this is what I found:
Hive A:
They are eating the syrup pretty well and drawing out a little comb, but the queen has not been freed from her cage. I removed the cork from the end of the cage and put it back in the hive allowing the queen free access to the hive. There was a hive beetle in the queen cage. Not a good sign. I believe the beetles may have come with the packages. The girls seem to exhibit good departure and arrival patterns and seem to be in good order.
Hive B:
These girls too, seem to have settled in. More comb is drawn out than in Hive A and it seems to be drawn out in a regular pattern from the center of the hive outward. Good indication that the queen survived my ham-fisted installation and the hive is working properly. This hive has last years top feeder and the bees keep getting into it somehow. I think I will devise a new top and feeder pattern for it tomorrow following my friend Ben's 1" plywood, hole-saw and mason jar technique.
I will leave the ladies alone for a couple of days to recover from my intrusions and check for comb and eggs on Friday. If all goes well I will have good news to report.

On another note if you haven't checked out the web cam of the Decorah, Iowa Bald Eagles I recommend you do so. Here is a link:

Monday, April 11, 2011

Photo essay: Installation Hive A

This appears backwards in time.

Here is a small photo essay concerning the installation of Hive A. It should now be all in order.

Here's the first song, not a down-loadable format and not always my type of music but I can jump around to almost anything. Lyrics are a bit risque but they'll get ya' buzzing.

Addendum Day 2

Update. I removed the queen cage from the front of Hive B and discovered it had been mounted upside down and I not removed the cork from the candy end but from the open end. This means that the bees had immediate access to the queen; meaning if they were not yet acclimated to her they may have killed her immediately. That would be bad. To add another twist I found an emergent queen cell in the bottom of storage box B meaning there may possibly be more than one queen in that hive. All very strange, but what I do know is that Hive B appears pretty pissed off. Don't know why and will wait and observe another 24 hours before making any decisions. If they settle down by tomorrow and seem to be drawing out comb things are probably ok.
Ok. We're back for our second and hopefully first successful year. I will relay last years tragedy at a later date.

This year the set up is as follows. Two hives, both with screened bottom board and 1 deep hive body with hive top feeder.

Here goes the start:
Day 1; April 10th, 2011.
At 11:00am I picked up two packages of bees, both with laying queen(non-hygienic). I got the packages from a different source this year and they seemed much healthier: more active and with far fewer dead bees at the bottom. It was a little overcast so I let the packages rest on a table in the carport while I finished preparation for installation. I placed the hive in the same area of the yard as last year, oriented to the South East. At 1:30 I installed the first package and it went very smoothly. I was not able to install the second until about 3:30. Darn life getting in the way. The second installation also went smoothly. I will refer to the hives as A and B in the future.
Both Both hives are identical in all aspect, including color, except for the type of top feeder. The feeder in hive A has a slot in the center to allow bees into the screened syrup access, hive B has a slot located to the back. Both hives seemed to progress in the same amount of time. For the first hour or so the bees were behaving in an exploratory fashion then settled into what seemed to be a routine exit and entrance pattern. All seems good. Oh yeah, I am using a 1 to 1 sugar syrup ratio to feed them.

Day 2; April 11, 2011
Overcast until early afternoon so I waited until about 4pm to make my 24 hour check. Opened hive A and the queen is still trapped in her box. Looks like it may take another day before she is able to emerge past the candy stopper. All in all it looks good. The bees have begun to draw out comb and pretty much glued her box to the frame. I pulled it loose and it looks like they were even starting to store a little honey around the box. These are good signs. I removed the packing box from the hive and replaced 4 of the 5 frames, leaving enough space for the queen box. Very active bees.
Oops, I've made a mistake. Not thinking clearly I propped open the lid on top of the feeder like one would do if lidding the hive with no feeder. This causes problems. Firstly there are a bunch of bees in the feeder and some have drowned. Second I think this gap may also attract pests. I corrected this when I put the hive back together but it was quite a bit of work to brush the bees away while trying to re-lid the hive. Note for the future: Don't do this. Hive B suffers from this same mistake and I will correct it when I do my check.
Cracked B right after I finished with A to discover pretty much the same set of information, however the candy plug is gone. I had to shake some bees loose from the box to see if she was free and in so doing I dropped the box. Nerves, I guess. Well lets hope she was free because she wasn't in the box when I picked it up. The bees in hive B seem slightly less agitated than the ones in A. I'm hoping this means that yes the queen is out and already giving direction and calming the hive. I removed the queen box and replaced the 5 frames where the packing box was.

Separate note; I left the empty queen box by the entrance of Hive B and it is neat to see the bees cluster around it even though there is no queen still left inside. Those pheromones are pretty strong. I am going to remove the queen cage now so has not to disrupt communication as to where the real queen is.

Pictures will follow. Had to order a new charger for the camera and I've dropped my phone at least one too many times for it to work.