Monday, April 30, 2018

A Smithfield new beginning

Well, this blog has been dormant a long time.  The beekeeping has been spotty over this time period.  We moved to Smithfield Virginia during this time and am starting some new hives in this locations. 
I actually started two new hives from packages last year.  There was some trouble with the shipper and we got the packages in June.  I think this led to a slow build up and not enough strength to make it through a weird winter.  I lost both these hives, which was consistent with many of the local beekeepers.  Anyway a new beginning...

April 17

I got two nucs this year from Richard Taylor, 164 S. Birdneck Road, Virginia Beach, VA. 23451, 203-803-5262.  He got an order of nucs from a provider in North Carolina.  They are a hybrid bee that is supposed to be a strong producer  These were overwintered nucs.  My son-in-law also got four nucs from him, so it will be interesting to compare notes.

Here are the nucs in the back of my truck.  The boxes were a little beat up, but they were heavy :)

After setting up my son-in-law's hives I brought my two back home.  I had previously set up two deep boxes with 4 frames and an extra medium on top as Richard said these would build up rapidly.  On the opening the nucs the bees were very active and full.  I moved the frames into their new homes.  I put four of the frames next to each other but split one apart with an empty frame to encourage them to build out.  I put an inner over on the top, with a quart jar of sugar water over the opening and covered it with another deep box and cover.

Here is the set-up with the empty nuc boxes set to allow the remaining bees to find their new home.  I took the nuc boxes away the next day as they were empty.  I saw lots of orientation flights as the bees got used to their new home.

April 27, 29

I went back in to check on the bees today.  They were doing great!  Bees had already moved up to the top box and had already about 1/4 filled the box!  It was a nice warm day and the bees were out enjoying the weather.  So - I needed to get some new boxes ready to go on top.  I had some old comb and frames set aside, but also made some new frames with reinforced foundation to put on top.  I went back in on Sunday to add the new boxes.  It was a much cooler day and as such the bees were much quieter.  Although I had the smoker going, I really did not need it except to move the bees a bit.  I put a queen excluder in the second box then the new box on top of that.  I have mixed feelings about queen excluders - so this is another experiment to see how they do.  My worry is that the bees will not move up past the excluder and I may be promoting swarming, but it is nice not to have brood in my honey supers....we'll see.  Here is a pic of the final set-up:

Saturday, April 21, 2012

A new year....

Well it is spring again, so time to give some time to the bees. I haven't posted in a while, so I will try to recap the last couple of months.
Back in early March I went through all of the hives and tried to give them a little room for build-up.  We had a really warm winter, so I thought they might be beginning to think about swarming already.  I did not manipulate the hive as much as I have done in the past, but still trying to figure out how much manipulation is enough.
I did split Hive #M as it was packed out with bees in four boxes.  I just took two of the boxes and put them on a new bottom board and let them go.  I made sure I had larva (and hopefully eggs) in both hives so that the one that ended up without the queen would make another one.  We'll call these hives M1 and M2 from now on.
Basketball sized swarm
So, of course a couple of weeks ago I had a giant swarm show up in the back yard (thankfully).  This is no doubt from one of my hives - I am really not sure which one.  I captured it into a couple of medium boxes with some old brood frame - they seem to have settled in.  The next day there was another swarm on the same bush - it was much smaller and I think just some residual bees that couldn't figure out where to go.  I dumped these into the new hive also - didn't see a lot of dead bee bodies, so they must have gotten along OK.  Additional bees hung around that bush for a couple of days before finally giving up.  I'll call the new swarm Hive - #1 (the old Hive #1 died a couple of years ago, I have never reused the number :)

Hive Locations
Last week, I went into all of the hives again.
Hive #1 (the swarm hive) - is building up new comb quite nicely, I had put some sugar water on the hive and they went through two quarts.  Looks like a healthy new start.
Hive #2 - this hive seems very healthy, in four boxes, perhaps I should have split it, perhaps it is where the swarm came from - don't know.  Still seems to be doing well.  Went ahead and put another box on top for honey.
Hive #3 - looks OK (brood, larva, honey) but they do not seem to be building up much, may be an old queen.
Hive #4 - looks strong, lots of bees across 4 hives, but not sure there is a queen, there is brood, but not sure I could find larva?  Will keep checking.
Hive #M1 - looked OK, but I think they did not restock their queen when I split this one.  I went into Hive #2 and removed a couple of frames of larva/eggs and placed them in Hive #M1 - I am hoping they will make a new queen for themselves or this hive will be in trouble soon.
Box mess from empty slot
Hive #M2 - this is obviously where the queen ended up, they have packed out this hive with brood and honey.  I had inadvertently left to frame positions open (ie no frame or foundation) well they filled this space with new comb and packed it out with larva and honey.  One of these they also attached to the inner cover, so when I opened it up all of this comb came with me.  I went ahead a cut this cob off of the inner cover and placed it into an empty frame with rubber bands, but I did a lot of squishing to get it in there - if any of these larva survive, I will be surprised - but I did clean up the mess.  Since this went so poorly, I decided to leave the other open frame area alone, we will see over time if this was a good decision.

This week, went into the hives again to see what was up.
Bee larva and some capped brood
Hive #1 - again looked like a good young hive, new comb being built and filled, brood and larva sufficient.
Hive #2 - The box on top with new foundation was built up - good.  I looked one box down and there were brood in the fourth box.  I am guessing that not all of the boxes are full down below, but I don't care at this point.  It will be interesting to see what this looks like in the Fall.
Hive #3 - Again this hive looks healthy but slow - I guess they just are on vacation.
Hive #4 - This box was busting with bees and honey.  I want ahead an took 9 frames of honey from this hive.  I checked below, as I was worried about a queen, and saw some open queen cells hopefully this will turn into larva in a couple of weeks.
Hive #M1 - some honey put up, but down below where I had put the larva and eggs, again I saw some queen cells, so this is a good sign, hopefully this hive will haver a laying queen soon.
Hive #M2 - New box of foundation on top was being pulled and filled diligently, below all looked good, these guys might produce honey this season.

Cooler full of honey frames - mmmmm
Came inside and filled up 18 pints!  Finally some honey for family and friends.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

RIP Hive #4

Well Hive #4 finally died. It had been looking weird since early spring and finally succumbed to the wax moth. I think this hive lost its queen early on and could not make a new one. I let it go to see what would happen. I probably should have combined it with a stronger hive earlier on.

I did pull 5 frames of honey from Hive #5 and #M. This will probably be all of the honey I pull this year unless there is some unusual Fall nectar flow. Hives 2 and 3 looked fine, just not any fully capped honey frames.

More Honey

This is a report on honey collected on July 17.

I went down a box deeper in all of the hives to see what was going on. I collected some honey from hives 2, 3, 5 and M as long as it was well capped. I did not collect honey that was next to brood. The brood was typically high up in the hives. I am curious about what is going on in the two bottom boxes in the larger hives, but will not disturb them for another month.

I ended up with 11 frames of honey a couple of them in shallows from hive M. This came out as 40 pints of honey.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Honey Slowing

Well, again here is a report of two past visits. I don't seem to be getting the volume of honey that I have gotten in previous years - may be the queens, may be sun spots?

Removed seven frames the first week (6/12?) and 6 frames the second week (7/4). I have not gotten much of anything from hive #2, which is weird because it is a large hive with lots of bees, they are just not putting up much extra honey. Hive #3 is still producing well, I always take a couple of frames from it. Hive #4 is still just strange, I am just letting it go to see what happens it may have a laying worker at this time as there seems to be only drone brood.

Hives 5 and M are doing well. I removed the first honey from Hive #M on the 4th, it is in shallow frames, but I got four of them. Hive #5 still putting up honey, but not capped yet.

For as little as I am putting in to them, they are all doing just fine :\

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Honey coming

I haven't updated this in a while, other priorities.

Two weeks ago I got into the hives and pulled out my first honey, then I went in last weekend a pulled some more - here is a recap.

Hive 2 - looking much better than previously, looks like it has settled down to be a solid hive this year. On the first trip I did not pull any honey from this hive, but on the second trip I did pull three frames of good solid honey. Looking forward to more.

Hive 3 - This is the monster hive this year. On my first trip I pulled 9 frames from this hive all packed with honey. On my second trip I pulled another 5 with many almost ready.

Hive 4 - Is still in a questionable state. It may be that this hive is a goner, but I am still waiting on it. On the first trip I went ahead a took a frame of larva/eggs from hive #3 and stuck it in this hive to see if they would generate a new queen. On the second trip these cell were all covered over as brood cells. There was an open queen cell - so perhaps (but I wouldn't put any money on it).

Hive 5 and Hive M again seem to be on similar tracks, they are building up well, they have moved brood up, which is OK with me because it means the queen is laying well, but it means that there is no honey to remove at this time.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

A good spring check-up

Went into all the hives today to see how they were doing. In the order I checked them...

Hive #5 and Hive #M looked almost the same. Both had good brood patterns in box #2 and some honey put up in box #3, they look healthy for this time of year.

Hive #3 is my best hive this year. It has a full box of honey almost fully capped. I went ahead and put another empty box on top, and could probably harvest the full box next week.

Hive #4 - this is still a weird hive. It is down to two boxes, there is some spotty honey in the top box and spotty brood in the bottom box - this is better than no brood, but not much. Not a lot of bees here.

Hive #2 is another weird hive. They are putting up honey like gangbusters but I had not seen any brood til this week. There was brood in the hive this week, but it was in clumps rather than spread across a frame - never seen this before, no clue if it is good or bad. Will be interesting to see where this hive goes.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

A new hive

I had a great experience this week. I went with some friends to pick up some old beekeeping equipment. They also told me there was an active hive there that I could have.

When I first got there I went to the active hive to see what was going on. It was set up in one deep and four mediums. Oops - that big of a hive would not fit in my car! So I went into it to see if there might be some empty boxes. So, the top box was in fact empty, the next box - empty, then I finally got a box that was pretty full of honey. Under this was a queen excluder and then the last medium box. This box was full of brood - yeah, so a active queen. Finally I went down to the deep and found it also to be empty. So, I took the deep off the bottom board and put the medium with the brood on the bottom, and the medium with the honey on top of that. I then put an inner cover on top of these two boxes with a screen cover over the open hole and let the box settle down for a while.

We then went down to a barn that was full of old boxes and frames. For the next several hours we scraped and cleaned boxes, frame, cover, etc. I ended up with a car full of equipment!

Finally back to the active hive. I took some straps and wrapped the the hive together. I had a hive entrance block that I inserted at the last minute and placed it in the car. Now hopefully the bees will stay inside for the 3 hr trip home. Actually the trip home took over 4 hours because I ran into some wicked weather and tornadoes. When I got home I had to place the active hive out in the rain. I did not want to keep them cooped up any longer. I checked on them the next day and they seemed fine.

So, I am going to label this hive #M to remind me of where I got it. If it does well, I may place this in my friend's yard for some variety :)

I also checked the other hives.
I am still not seeing any evidence of a queen on Hive #2, but they are putting up honey like crazy :?
Hive #4 still has no brood, but there is evidence of some empty queen cells, so I will give them some more time.
Hive #3 seems to be doing well, but no honey being put up :?
Hive #5 seems to be doing OK, I am hoping it is going to build up well soon....

A lot of question marks, but that is not unusual for me :)

Sunday, April 10, 2011

More bad(?) news

Did another inspection today. Started with hive #6, the weak split. It still looks like these guys did not produce a queen. I went ahead and took the one box that had bees left in it and put it on hive #5, the other split. Hive #5 seems to be doing well, hopefully their new bee neighbors will get along, they were going to die anyway.

I then looked into hive #4. This is the other one that looked like there was not an active queen. There is still a goodly number of bees in this hive. I did see what looked like larva in this hive. SO again, I am not sure what is going on. I am going to just leave it alone for a while. Either the number of bees will just decrease over time or if there is a queen there will be some brood show up.

Then the new bad news. Although hive #3 looked fine, hive #2 also looked like it did not have an active queen :( This is the box that I split to to make #5. Obviously the queen went with to hive #5 and left hive #2 without a queen. I did see some queen cells in the hive, but did not see any sign of a queen. There are a LOT of bees in this hive, so I hope this one is just slow developing - we will see.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Inspection time

Had a couple of nascent beekeepers with me and went through all of the hives this weekend - and got some bad news :(

First the good news - Hives 2,3 and the new split #5 are looking very good. Lots of bees, larva, drones, all looking good for this time of year. If all these continue to do well, I will be in the same state I was last year at this time - not bad.

Bad news - I mentioned that split hive #6 did not have many bees going in and out, when we looked inside we saw very few bees and no larva. I guess we never got a queen developed - could be I did not leave enough eggs and larva with them to create new queen, or she didn't find any drones to mate with or who knows. There was an open queen cell in the hive, so I will give them another week and then probably combine these bees in with the new split hive #5.

Worse news - It looks like hive #4 is in the same state as hive #6. This was my large honey producing hive last year. However, something weird went on with this hive last fall that I never could understand - this may just be a result of queen gone bad. I am surprised they did not replace the queen, but oh well. Again, I'll wait a wek than decide what to do with these bees.

But the new beekeepers seemed to enjoy the experience :)

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Just an update..

The day after the March 13th post, I put an additional box of honey comb on top of hives 2,3,4 and 5. I know it may be too early for such, but better that than late.

The splits seem to be doing OK. Number 5, has the most activity with bees moving in and out on a regular basis. Number 6 is less active, in fact I thought it had failed completely (ie all the bees had left), but when I popped the top on it today, there were bees roaming around. It still may be too weak to make it, but for now, I'll leave it alone and see what happens.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

The lazy beekeeper gets to work!

Well it is that time of year, that if I am too lazy, I will lose some bees to swarms. So I dove in today to do some work.

I started in hive #2. At this time of year typically the bottom box is empty because the bees have moved up during the winter. So, I wanted to get down to the bottom box and remove it. The top box surprised me because it now had brood all the way up to this box. The next two boxes down also had healthy amounts of brood including drone cells. The bottom box was indeed empty. So, in real time, I decided to make a split from this colony. I took the second box from the top, put it on a new base and put a cover on it on the other side of my yard (I'll call it hive #5). I took the bottom box (the empty one) and put it on top of the original stack. So for hive #2 I have two boxes with brood topped off by an empty brood box. I also did some checkerboarding, which means interspersing some empty brood comb into the brood area.

So, what does all this mean? There is only one queen between these two hives. I do not know where she ended up. She may be in hive #2 or in the split hive. My hope is that wherever the queen is NOT, that those bees will produce a new queen from the eggs that are in it. This is the same method that I used to produce what is now hive #3. It takes some time, because the bees have to realize that there is no queen, that they need to produce a new one, then wait for the queen to mature, mate and then begin breeding. It means that for one of these hives, they will not produce much if any honey this year, and to be honest, may not make it through this much effort. Most beekeepers would buy a new queen and insert her into the split hive - but remember, I am a lazy beekeeper :)

Hive #3 was in essentially the same condition as hive #2 - so I did the same thing - another split (I'll call it hive #6). This time, I took the empty brood box from the bottom and put it on top of the single brood box of the split, so this one is two boxes high. I took an empty brood box from Hive #4 to put on top of Hive #3, so it is now standing three boxes high, two brood boxes and an empty comb box.

Hive #4 was a little different. It had two empty boxes at the bottom. So, I simply removed them and put one of them on top and one of them I used to top off hive #3 as mentioned above. I also moved this hive about two feet and put it up on concrete blocks.

So, in summary, my original three hives are now three boxes high with two brood boxes and one empty box. I have two splits, one one box high and one two boxes high.

I set out some honey comb boxes that I had put up over the winter so they could air out. I will put these on top of the hives tomorrow to allow the bees to start putting up some stores.

Well, if I did not kill all of the queens and at least one of the splits worked, it could be a good year!

Monday, February 14, 2011

The deep freeze is over!

Well, it has been quite a while since I have put anything up here, but I have not been doing much either. From the blog I posted back in October, I have pretty much left the bees alone - and it worked! I put a couple more jars of sugar water on in November but really left them alone til yesterday. I did not cover the hives or put in bottom boards or even clear away the snow. I was out of town for most of December and January so the bees fended for themselves.

I had gotten some good vibes a week ago by seeing bees flying from all three hives. Yesterday I went into all three hives to see what was going on. The three hives were virtually identical, this has never been the case before, but I am wondering if it is a result of my "management" or just a coincidence. Each of the hives had a pretty full box of honey still left on the top (this worried me at first). In the second box down (they are all on fours boxes), there was a mix. Generally it was mostly honey, but I also saw what appeared to be new nectar stored (it seems very early for such?). There were some empty spaces on several comb, I assume from winter feeding, but not near as much as I expected. On a couple of frames there was a small amount of brood on the bottoms of these frames. As I went down into the third box from the top (I just pulled a few frames) I could see more brood (somewhat spotty) and some larva (my eyes don't see eggs very well). I saw this as a really good sign, so closed the boxes back up. I took the feeder boxes off of each stack as they had plenty of honey around if the temperature drops again.
One other thing, the bees in boxes 3 and 4 (my hives are numbers 2,3 & 4 for historical reasons) were must feistier than the bees in hive 2. Not sure why, but the bees in those two boxes came out after me as I inspected the hives.
At some point I will want to go all the way to the bottom of these stacks and see if the bottom boxes are empty, and then do a little shuffling to hopefully slow down the swarming instincts, but I will wait a couple of weeks( he crosses his fingers).

So far so good!

Friday, October 29, 2010

The lazy blogger

Well, I have been a very bad blogger :(

I have done a little better with the bees :)

I did not do a good job of recording my honey receipts from the bees this summer. This year's take was somewhat smaller than last year. But I must say that the effort I put in is relatively small compared to the wonderful honey I get out - it is worth it.

So, just some summary thoughts from the summer. The honey seemed to abruptly stop in June, much more so than last year. Must have been the dryness that hit us harder than I realized.

As a reminder, I now have three hives numbered 2 through 4 (one was lost last year).

#4 which was my strongest producer this year had an odd occurrence in June. At this point, I think I must have had a swarm that left in June - I just wastn't expecting this at that time of the year, and sure exactly why, since the hives seemed to be doing fine. When I went back into the hive later in the summer there was a period when there were no eggs or lava to be found (although there were still older brood). Finally, when I did a good look at all the hives in September there were some new eggs. So, I am assuming that the new queen was created, it took the requisite time to mate and than begin laying. Right now they seem to be doing well, but I will not really now until next spring.

I reduced all of the hives to four boxes with approximately one of pollen, two of brood and one of honey. I am feeding all of the hives 2:1 sugar water to make sure they have enough stores to raise new brood to get them through the winter. (ie they need plenty of bees to keep themselves warm through the winter).

I went out an changed the sugar water tonight, after a week they had sucked the quart jars dry - that is a good sign that they are doing well.

Below is a shot of me at EarthFest 2010 at Sandy Bottom Nature Park in Hampton. Lots of fun and interaction with inquisitive potential beekeepers :)

Sunday, June 13, 2010

More Honey

Checked in again last Sunday. All of the hives seemed to be doing well. I took 10 more frames of honey from the hives. I took the first frame of honey from hive #3 - this slow producer may finally be waking up.

On Friday there was a weird occurrence outside of Hive #4. There was a mini-swarm on the old fence sections that were laying next to the hive. There was only a hundred or so bees and I didn't see a queen. I went ahead and put them in a box with a couple of frames to see if they would either attract more bees (a queen was there) or not. After about an hour I went back and the box was empty - either they went back home or found another place to go. I may have to look more deeply into this hive to see what is going on.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

pre-Memorial Day booty

Went in to check the hives on Thursday before leaving for the long Memorial Day weekend. They are doing well!

Hive #2 - Top box that I put on a couple of weeks ago was beginning to get filled with nectar. Down in the next box, it looked very healthy, I took about three frames of honey, put in some extracted comb for them to fill up again.

Hive #3 - I had put old brood comb on top of hives #3 and #4 (because I did not have anything else). In both cases they had not done much with it. There was some nectar in it, but not much. I went ahead and removed both boxes. I had put together two new boxes of foundation during the week, so I used this along with the empty comb from last weeks extractions to put back on both of these hives. In the case of hive #3, they had brood put all the way up to box #4! SO I did not take any honey from these guys.

Hive #4 - again, this hive is going to be a big producer! After removing the brood comb box (a lesson learned), the next box down was packed with honey. I started taking out frames and ended up taking out the whole box full of honey. All of the boxes are now on nine frames which often makes them very fat and heavy. I took two more frames from the box below, for a total of 11 frames from this one hive.

14 frames overall - I do try to take an even number of frames so I can balance the extractor.

Speaking of extraction, as I mentioned above I did have empty honey comb as I extracted for the first time this year. I took out ten frames of the previous couple of weeks and got about 2 and half gallons of honey from these frames - sweet as ever!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Doing well!

Checked all of the hives - and they all looked really good. All of the hives had pretty full top boxes, so I need to get some new boxes together! I did pull three frames of honey from Hive #4 and inserted three empty frames of foundation. So far - looks like a good year ahead.

Monday, May 3, 2010

First Honey of the year!

I went in to check on the hives and came back with some honey.

Hive #2 - There was some activity in the top box, but not much. I checked below, lots of brood, some drone comb, everything looked pretty good. I left it alone. Still in four boxes.

Have #3 - I had put a new foundation box on top last time, it was without action at all. The next box down was hoping with activity - some brood, but mostly honey frames. I pulled two of the honey frames up to the top box to hopefully get them thinking about using it. Also, in four boxes.

Hive #4 - the mother load! This box was already up to five boxes and was already getting full in the top box. I pulled a couple of frames that were already capped. I then went down to the next box and found several capped honey frames also. All together 5 very full frames of honey!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Check-up and movement

Went out to check on the hives and move one of them.

Hive number two has been on a shaky stand for some time, I shored it up a little last summer but decided to do something more permanent.

I got some left over cinder blocks from a Team Impact show and used them as a base for a new stand. I also moved the hive over about 3 foot so that it gets some afternoon shade and wind block from a scrub pine tree. There were some retuning bees a little confused, but I think it is close enough that they will find the new hive location (I hope).

Inside this hive the bees have some honey in the top box, but not crowded so I'll leave them be.

In hive #3 the top box had a bunch of honey in at and even some brood in the top box (three high). I went ahead and added another box on top of new foundation - we'll see what they do with it.

In hive #4, I had put a new top box of foundation on last week and it did not have much activity in it. I went ahead and pulled up two frames of almost full honey from the box below and put foundation in their place. Hopefully they will start pulling out this foundation as they need it for storage.

Overall, not as much activity as I had expected after the extreme week of heat we have had the last week. But it looks like plenty of brood getting ready emerge.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Video and check up

I had a crew from the NASA kids program "Our World" come by to take some video shots as background for a story they are doing. I had fun talking to them about bees.

I then went ahead and inspected all of the hives. I just went into the top box to see if they were beginning to put up honey.

Hive #2 and Hive #3 looked very similar - not a lot of stores in the top box, some, but not a lot. Hive #4 had an 80% full top box! So I went ahead and put another box on top of this hive (now five boxes deep)