Saturday, November 29, 2008

Getting ready for Winter

Did some cleaning up to get ready for winter. I went into the top box of the hives to see what was going on. A fellow beekeeper recently reported a hive collapse, so I thought I should take a look. I had put additional supers on a few months ago to give the bees some room to put up additional stores. It seems like they did not take advantage of the space. I went ahead and took the additional supers off of Hives 1 and 4. They had not put anything into these supers and there were only a few bees hanging around in them.
Hives 2 and 3 both had lots of bees up to the feeder in the top box, so I left them there.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

More Feedin'

Went out and checked the syrup today. Hives 2,3 and 4 were all empty. Hive 1 still had a full jar - no clue. Everybody looked fine from the top.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Feedin' and hopin'

Seems like I am doing OK at the present as a beekeeper, but not so well as a blogger.

In the last month we had a little run-in with the mosquito sprayers. I had just returned to the house with empty sugar water jars when I heard the plane fly directly over my house. I went out to the hives and added a little cover, but you could already taste the pesticide in the air. I left them alone until the next day and found piles of bees outside each hive :( The next day I went back out and the bees had cleaned up their dead and I put on full feeders.

Last weekend I went back in for a full inspection and things looked amazingly well. There was brood and honey in good quantities across the hives. Of course hive 4 was still smaller, I am not sure exactly what to do with these guys. I checked the syrup jars this afternoon and found that Hive 2 was empty while Hive 1 was full - no clue. Hive 3's jar had clogged to I unclogged it. Hive four had only taken about a third of their syrup. It is amazing how different they are.

That's all for now.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Fall is here!

Well I am back from my trip, and there is definitely a cool down in progress.

I went into the hives to see how they were doing. Generally, hives 1-3 are in similar states. The top box has a little or no honey, the next box down has about 70% honey and brood begins in box two. I did not go any lower but assume box one has mostly pollen as it was a month ago. Hive 4 is still only in two boxes with mostly honey in the top box and the brood in the bottom.

So, I decided to go ahead and begin feeding these buggers to get them set up for the winter. I really do not have a good idea how much honey they need to get through the winter, but since there is room, I'll give them the chance to fill it up.

I got quart jars on two of the hives then ran into a snag on the other two. I had made inner covers for these hives, but had not included the normal lip. The resulting box was therefore not tall enough to cover the jar - I'll have to fix this tomorrow to get the other jars on (or maybe I'll just put on pint jars...).

Sunday, August 31, 2008

The Lazy Beekeeper

Do to a variety of circumstances, I have really not gotten into the hives in nearly two months. I did a couple of honey checks in early July, but have not really looked further. I must admit to liking Michael Bush's suggestions more and more -

So, I went into the hives yesterday full bore not really knowing what to expect. There has been a lot of talk with some of me fellow beekeepers about hive beetles and summer feeding. I have been watching the entrances to see if they looked weird (not that I am sure that I would know). I also put up some beach umbrellas to try and protect them from the summer sun.

Hive #2 is in three mediums (on left), the top box had about 50% honey and the rest empty, the bottom two boxes were a mix of brood, honey and pollen. Seemed to be in pretty good shape. Perhaps they could use some feeding, don't really know if the "fall nectar flow" will take care of them or not. The lazy in me says that if they made it through the hot summer, certainly they will make it through the cooler, more flowerful fall.

Hive #1 (2 deeps, 1 medium, on right above) was unusual (as usual). The top box was nearly empty (this seems to have been the pattern even through the honey flow). Interestingly the bees had joined four of the foundations together in a zig zag pattern. I think they were just playing around up there. The top deep box was jam packed with honey and brood. It weighed a ton and seemed very healthy. The bottom deep, surprisingly to me, was full of pollen. Row after row of pollen. Is this good or ?

Hive #3 (4 mediums) had a completely empty top box. I went ahead and pulled it off. The next three boxes were very similar to hive #1. Partially filled top box, followed by a heavy honey/brood box, followed by a box full of pollen. Well, maybe this is how they like it! (picture is after I had moved the empty box)

Hive #4 (2 mediums) looked as good as I have ever seen it. They had essentially filled up the two boxes with honey, pollen and brood. The patterns looked good and all seemed well. I went ahead and put the box left over from hive #3 on top of this box to give them some more room. I'll probably need to feed these guys at some point to help them pull out comb in that top box.

Some other notes:
I must also say that Hive #1 is the feistiest hive that I have, it is where all of the stings that I have gotten (save one) have occurred. As I worked the hive yesterday I had a group of bees around each hand and had to walk away several times to catch my breath. My heavy gloves have been worth every penny.
I used the smoker yesterday and was able to keep it lit pretty well. Used paper in the bottom and a cut up old mop on top. I am still, however, not sure about its usefulness. It is definitely useful to move the bees, i.e. if I want to get them off of the top bars, the smoke works great. But it certainly does not seem to quiet the bees, in fact every time I use it the noise in the hive goes up, indicating to me that they are aggravated, not quieted.
I also saw (I think) my first hive beetle in the hive. It seemed bigger than I remember, but I squished it anyway. It was in Hive #2.

All in all, my lazy beekeeper style seems to have paid off :) I am about to go away for about another month so I am hopeful that they will be fine. I assume I will be readying them for the winter by then.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

The end is near :(

I got the honey back from my extractor helper - 3 more quarts. This honey is darker than what I have gotten up to now. We'll see how it tastes.

I put the empty frames back in the hives. I only found one full frame of honey that I was willing to take - this may be the last for the season.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Honey and mix-um up

Into the hives again. It is the end of the nectar flow in this area so I also decided to take a look all the way down in the hives to see what was going on.

Hive #2 & 3. I took one frame from hive #2 and four frames from hive #3. When I went through all the boxes I found that the bottom box in both hives were essentially empty. They had pulled comb but not much of anything in them. So in both cases I swapped boxes 1 and 2 and put the brood filled box on the bottom. I hope this makes sense, I'll check with some of the experts and see what they say.

Hive #1 has essentially mixed brood in with all of the honey. There is a lot of honey in the box but I am not willing to sacrifice the brood to get it.

Hive #4 is still a small batch of bees, they are still mostly in one medium box. If they do not start to grow I will probably need to combine this hive with one of the others at some point.

From last weeks honey run - we got 6 quarts of honey! All of this is now in cute little bears.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Bears and more honey!

I took the honey that we had been temporarily storing in quart jars and put them in 8 oz. plastic bears. I bought a case of 396 bears and after today am glad I bought that many! The jars I had on hand filled up over 30 bears.

I also went into the hives an removed 8 more medium frames of honey. Probably two of them could have stayed, but I pulled them first before getting to the heavy ones. One of the frames I cut out of the frame for my family to use for comb honey - yummy!

For the record, I got five of the frames from hive #2. The heavy ones were down in the second box The other three frames came from Hive #3, again down a box. I didn't get anything off of Hive #1, but there was a mess of brood in there. I think they are a little off normal timing after the swarms. I also took a look in Hive #4 and found that it had not changed or grown much, it may still be a little early. We'll keep watching it and see what happens.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Bottom Boards

I have two different bottom boards (the boards on the bottom:) on my hives. Simple solid boards and screened bottom boards. Supposedly the screened bottom boards are good for two reasons: they allow for better circulation in the hive and they allow any "mites" to fall through to the ground and therefore it is more difficult for them to climb back on the bees. Here is a picture of my two hives on the stand with two different bottoms.

The one on the right is solid and the one on the left is screened. Notice that the bees are huddled near the entrance on the right - they are actually trying to cool off the hive in the blistering heat we had today. So - it looks like the screened bottom board is working!

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

4 more quarts = 5 more stings!

Well I have to fess up and admit that I have not used the smoker the last two times in the hive. It is a pain for me to get going and I have read that it may cause the honey to taste smoky. But, of course, this could be the reason I have become a human dart board.

For the records I got 4 more quarts of honey from the last pull. This means from Hive #1 I have gotten a total of 6 quarts of honey and from Hives #2 and #3 about a quart a piece. This is actually pretty amazing to me as folks had lowered my expectations to the point that I thought I might not be geting any this year.

Fortunately, I have a near infinite supply of quart jars. I have ordered some plastic bears to put the honey in - it will be our gift of choice this year if we get enough to go around :)

Back to the hives - In hive #1 I had put in two medium frames were I took out the deeps to extract the honey. On the bottom of one of the medium frames they had pulled the most beautiful comb in just four days! They had it partially filled with honey. This is were I got in trouble with the bees. I was afraid to shake the bees off too aggressively for fear that this comb would break off and fall into the hive. So I decided to just brush them off. They didn't like this one but. Three of them got me on the back of the hand again simultaneously. I yelped and jumped a few feet all the time brushing the rest of the bees off of the comb - it would have made a good video :). If I had been smarter, I probably should have just cut the comb off the bottom of the frame and shook the remaining bees in the box.

I got into similar trouble in Hive #3 when replacing the emply comb and got stung two more times on the same hand.

OK, so smoke next time and minimal brushing.

Again, fortunately, the ill effects from these stings have been nonexistent after the first 30 second - ouch. But the honey is goooood.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Stung! but more honey :)

Well, I finally got stung, I knew it was just a matter of time. She got me right through the cloth part of my glove. It hurt like heck for 30 seconds then essentially went away, it was red later but not for long.

Well, I collected honey from three of my four hives.

Hive #1 produced two more deep frames. Last week we pulled four frames from this hive. I replaced the empty frames with now pulled comb back in the hive last Friday. Two of these were already full! Here is a photo of these frames in my cooler.

Hive #2, my captured swarm hive, produced three mediums full of honey. Here I am brushing away the bees from the frames so I can put them away.

Hive #3, the hive produced from my first swarm, produced two frames of honey. Here is one of the frames set in an empty box for transport. Some of the honey is already capped.

Finally here is what is going on inside Hive #4, the last swarm hive. If you remember I described the comb that the bees pulled from the top cover that we placed in empty frames with rubber bands. Here are two pictures of that comb in place. The bees have already attached the comb to the top and bottom and filled it with brood and honey - good work girls! Not expecting any honey from this hive this year, just hoping they continue to thrive.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008


What a turn of events. I asked my mentor to come over and see what was going on with my hives.

We started with the Nuc swarm (Hive #4). When he pulled the top off of the Nuc there were two full length combs pulled from the top cover! They were beautiful white perfect comb. Unfortunately, this is where I had put the syrup jars. But the bees did not care, they just built the comb over and around the jars. In fact, when he pulled up the top and comb the jars came with it. It was a real sight, unfortunately, I did not have my photographer :( Interestingly, the bees had not used the bottom box at all, they were laying eggs and storing honey only in the top box with the mess. Anyway, we moved all of the frames from the Nuc to a new 10 frame box. We took the large pieces of comb (which had some eggs in them) and put them in some empty frame with rubber bands. I'll try and get some pictures of these tomorrow. There were some pieces of hive that we could not use back in the frames, so we collected them. One chunk of comb was full of honey - woowe it was gooood :)

So, Hive #1, the trouble maker. It seems the more I learn, the dumber I feel. This hive is doing just fine! My mentor has much better near sight vision than I do and could see a mess of eggs on several frames. In fact the frames that I thought the bees were storing honey in they were actually laying eggs in. In addition, there were several frames that were packed out with honey.

OK, so a major learning from this interaction - my mentor pulls honey from the hives as soon as it is put in, he does not wait for the bees to cap it. So, we took four full frames of honey from this hive, about half of it was capped. Normally the bees cap the honey after evaporating water from the honey to make it the right consistency. This means this honey will have to have some water removed before it is good honey. My mentor is set up to do this, so he agreed to extract my honey using his process. I'll take this extracted comb and get it back on the hives to hopefully collect some more honey!

Here is a shot of the three quarts of honey we got! Our first yield. (The middle one has been tasted :)

Monday, May 19, 2008

After vacation update

So part of what I need is a reset on my expectations. When I hear people talking about harvesting honey it makes me wonder what I should be expecting. Since I do not have drawn comb and my bees are having to draw comb and collect honey should I be expecting to harvest honey this year or just be happy to have drawn comb for next year?

I did go into the hives on Friday and this is the status.

Hive #1 (the split I got from my mentor) is still in a no expansion mode, they seem to be holding their own, but no expansion. There were open queen cells (from which I assume the swarms I captured came from but I do not see eggs or larva. I have not seen a queen, but that could just be my own inability. There is still some capped brood but it is split up – in other words there is a frame of brood than a frame of honey than another frame with some brood – it just seems odd and certainly would not look healthy if I were going into winter. There is empty foundation that has remained empty for several weeks now with no drawing going on. So I am worried that although this hive has two queens earlier in the season that it may not have one at all now? This is the hive I am most worried about.

Hive #2 (the captured swarm from a co-beekeeper). This hive seems to be doing fine, expanding brood area, lots of larva, lots of nectar put up, but not much of it capped. In fact there is not much capped honey anywhere in my hives. Is this because of them pulling comb or ???

Hive #3 (my first swarm). This one is almost of replica of Hive #2 seem to be doing well.

Hive #4 (the latest swarm in a Nuc box). I have made a mess here. I put 5 frame in he lower box and three frames in the upper with two jars of syrup in between the three frame. Well the bees have been pulling comb all over the place, from the top cover , from the jars.... So, I am still assembling, sealing boxes to hopefully transfer these bees over later in the week. This is like the dirty closet I don’t show people :)

Sunday, May 11, 2008

On vacation

Well, I am on travel for a week and cannot check on the girls :( Before I left on Saturday I checked in the hives.

Hive #1 is still looking funky, there seems to be a bunch of brood in the chambers, but the patterns were weird, there were full frames of nectar in between frames of brood? I am beginning to wonder if this brood is chilled (dead). There also seemed to be an inordinate number of drones and several open queen cells. Although, I have checkboarded it they still are not pulling our any new comb. I am also not seeing any new eggs/larva. So, I am wondering if this hive that once had two queens now doesn't have any? This has certainly been my problem child hive :)

Hive #2 seems to still be doing well, they are pulling lots of new comb and filling it with nectar. I am not seeing a lot of capped honey (some around the brood, but not much in the upper supers) in any of the hives but I am being patient. I left this hive with a mostly empty upper super.

Hive #3 also seems to be doing well, lots of new comb bing pulled, stores bing put up.

Hive #4 (the Nuc swarm) is a mess. It has a five frame deep in the bottom which has five medium frames. I wanted to have the medium frames for when I moved this to regular boxes. I did not look into the bottom box, but I am sure they are pulling all kinds of stuff below these frames. In the upper box (a medium) I put three frames and two jars of syrup. Well the bees are trying to fill the whole box with comb, incuding all of the spaces between the jars. This box will be a mess to clean up when I get back in town.

Well, I hope they have nice vacation :)

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Hive #4!

Believe it or not another swarm in the back yard. I am thinking at this point that it is again from Hive #1 - they decided to swarm a long time ago and are continuing to fulfill that mission.

Unfortunately I am out of boxes! I quickly assembled a makeshift hive from a couple of unfinished mediums and some plywood boards. The bees were in the middle of one of my blueberry bushes :( which I had to cut up a bit to get them out. They did come our rather easily and I dropped them in my makeshift hive. Since I had no real bottom board, I just put a stick under the top piece of plywood to make an entrance.

Meanwhile, I contacted my co-beelaborer who lives nearby and borrowed a Nuc to put these girls in for at least a little while. This morning, I went out and transferred the bees from my makeshift box to this Nuc. The bees were already distributed across several frames so moving them was pretty easy. The Nuc has a bottom entrance so they were looking a little confused about how to get into the box, but enough were figuring it out that I assume they will spread the word.

I went ahead an bought another top and bottom board and a couple more boxes - I have got to spend some time putting all of this together!

BTW - I also checked on the other hives to see what was going on and Hive #3 (the first swarm I captured) had completely filled their boxes! I went ahead and put another (unfinished!) box full of foundation on top. Well, even if I do not get a lot of honey this year I should have a bunch of comb ready for next year!

Thats all for now...

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Major Manipulation

Well I continue to learn and I will certainly learn after today. I had two problems which I tried to solve simultaneously - we'll see.

First, to go back, it looks like the swarm I captured may, in fact, have been from my hive #1. As I have noted before, they have been reticent to move up to a new box and got brood bound - in other words they had no place to lay their brood, therefore they had to swarm to continue to reproduce. So swarm they did.

As a result I have been thinking about how to break up the brood area. One method is called checker boarding - this is when you make room in the brood nest by taking out some of the frames of brood and replacing them with empty foundation or comb, this gives the bees something to do instead of swarm. Usually you would take the removed frames and put them in a box on top of the brood box and thereby expand the brood into the upper box. However, in the set-up that I had the upper box was a "medium", and the bottom box was a "deep", ie they were different sizes, therefore I could not move the frames from the bottom to the top box - they would not fit :(

Problem #2 - Hive #2 was from the first captured swarm but was also originally on a deep. However, this deep had a mixture of deep and medium frames (the medium frames will fit in a deep but the deep frames will not fit in a medium). These bees had already pulled and populated a full medium with brood, pollen and honey on top of this deep.

SOoo, what I did today was take the deep box from the bottom of hive #2 to the top of hive #1 thereby making the brood nest for hive #1 two deep boxes. I only transferred over the deep frames and brushed all of the bees off first. I also did some checker boarding with the bottom box so hopefully the bees will have plenty of room to expand the brood.

Then, I took the full brood box(medium) from the top of hive #2 and made it the new bottom of hive #2. I added the partially drawn medium that was on the very top of hive #2 and the medium frames from the deep that was the bottom of hive #2 and this became the top brood box of hive #2. Now in doing all of this I tried not to confuse the bees. I brushed all of the bees into their respective hives regardless of what frames they came from. There will be bees that emerge from brood cells that came from the other hive, but I am hoping they will adopt them.

My real worry is the queens. I looked as I was going (but I did not want to take the time to look real hard) but I did not see them. As I said, I brushed or shook all of the bees into their respective hives, so I am hoping that they are where they belong.

Honestly, I have no idea what confusion I have caused. Either I did a really good thing or a really stupid thing - we'll see...

Here is a picture of the hives in their new configuration. Hive #1 is on the right and hive #2 is on the left.

Here by the way is hive #3 - the captured swarm - they have been building like crazy - but I have yet to see any brood. Aargh, I still don't get these bees! :)

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Swarm = Hive #3!

I got a call from my wife that there was a swarm of bees on one of our camellia bushes in the back yard. Yikes - was this my bees leaving the hive?

So I got home and found a beautiful swarm embedded in the camellia bush, I decided to not worry about where it came from until later, right now I needed to get this swarm boxed. Well, I did have some more mediums, and some foundation (no drawn comb - this could make it less likely that they will stay), and a bottom board, but no top. I improvised and then went over to our favorite wooden ware guru later and got another top. Here is a picture of the box next to the camellia. I had strapped it thinking I was going to move it and then decided to leave it right were it was. The box had frames in the bottom box, but had an empty super on top to catch the bees.

Here are a couple of pictures of the swarm. I am cutting away the branches around it so I can get the branch out with the bees on it.

So, it is a mass of bees! As I am cutting all of a sudden half of the swarm drops and almost falls to the ground - there were two branches in there! So I took a small portion of the swarm and dumped it into the box. This picture show the swarm after the branch dropped off and almost split the swarm in half.

After I cut the main branch that contained the swarm I jerked the branch over the box and the bees fell neatly into the box (it was amazingly easy). The picture below shows the bees right after jerking the branch.

As I was getting the smaller branches with a few bees still hanging on the bees began collecting in one corner - I am hopeful that they were collecting around the queen (meaning I got the queen!) - see the picture below.

I then took about 6 frames frames of foundation and placed them in the top box. I only had six left made up, plus I did not want to squish the bees collected in the corner. I then put a couple of jars of sugar syrup right on these frames (I don't have another inner cover either) and closed them up.

Oh, yeah and so you know I really am a beginner, we at first had the screened bottom board on upside down and it just looked funny - we finally had to lift the box and flip the bottom board to get it right. Hopefully I did not completely freak the bees out.

Now to wait and see if they like there new home or they keep looking.

I did go into my other hives to see if these were my bees looking for a new home. My hives were still full of bees busy working. As stated last time Hive #2 is still the most active hive just about filling up the upper second box with brood and some stores. Hive #1 still seems strong but content in their bottom box?

So it looks like I got a free box of bees (if they stay).

Friday, April 18, 2008

Hive #2 is winning!

Beautiful day so I dove in to see what was going on.

Hive #2 (the swarm hive) is doing great. I checked the top box, they had pulled out most of the frames with comb and there was brood in many of the frames. I even got to see larva (I know old hat for many). If you blow up the picture below you can see what looks like crescent rolls inside the cells - these are larva or bees in development.

The picture below is the same frame from a broader view. You can see the capped cells on the left side. This looks like honey cells (nice and white) but it is surrounded by these larva? It will be interesting to see what this looks like in a week.

Since most of these frames were pulled and many filled I went ahead and put a 1/4 queen excluder on top of this box and added another box on top for hopefully honey! I used normal foundation in this box (foundation discussion to come...).

Hive #1 (split hive) still seems to be "holding its own". It is not really growing, but seems healthy enough, lots of bees, lots of stores and brood. They have still not pulled any comb on the top box although they are walking all over it. The single frame of pulled comb that I moved over they have put nectar in but that is all that is going on. Lots of activity going in an out - don't know?

Here is what my bee yard looks like now.

Thursday, April 10, 2008


Nice warm day - went into the hive to see what was going on.

Went into Hive #2 first (the swarm hive). Things were going well. I checked in the upper super and they were pulling comb like crazy. I didn't check all of the frames but there were at least 6 of them being pulled! I closed it up and let them keep working. I thought this was a pretty picture of some of the freshly pulled comb.

I then went into hive #1. There still was no comb building going on in the upper super :( So, I went down into the brood box to see what was going on. I just looked at a couple of frames, but they were packed with stores and brood. Well, I was worried that these buggers just would move up and may start thinking about getting out of the box (swarming), so I took off the 1/4 queen excluder to give them unrestricted access to the top box. I then went back over to Hive #2 and "stole" a frame of the freshly pulled comb and put it in Hive #1. The hope is that that will get them started in the upper box. We'll see! Here is a picture of a frame of brood in the bottom box.

Friday, April 4, 2008

A new body

So my swarm catcher friend wanted his box back, so I had to transfer the bees from his box to my box. This wasn't very hard, but was a little intimidating, especially when I had about half the frames in the old hive and half in the new and bees were everywhere. They were pounding my veil but I did not get stung - yet. I also had a hard time keeping the smoker lit with all this going on. But, I got them transferred and they spent the rest of the day reorienting - again. Here is the set-up tonight:

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Building up

So, I went out this morning and added a super with frames and a feeder box to the new hive. The hope here is that the bees move up from the plastic foundation onto my wax foundation so I can give the plastic foundation back to the swarm catcher.

He came over this afternoon and we replaced four of the plastic frames, that the bees had not done much on yet, with my frames. I put in medium frames as I'd like to get this hive onto mediums eventually - just experimenting. I have also used 4.9 mm foundation on this hive to try to help with Varroa (I'll 'splain when I'm not so sleepy). The bees were definitely out and orienting!

We'll see!

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Hive #2!

Well, I got a call from a fellow club member that had captured a swarm and wondered if I wanted it. Well, of course!

He had been called to a school that had been having some bee trouble. Not being able to find any nest at the school, he decided to put a hive on top of the school an see what happened. In about a week when he went back to check on it a whole swarm had taken up residence.

So, we went over there tonight, covered the entrance and brought the box to my backyard. I'll let it set tonight and then put a medium and feeder on top in the morning. That will also allow me to take a peek inside and see what is going on. Here is a picture of the box and its big brother. Notice there are a bunch of bees at the entrances even at 8:30 at night.

Earlier in the afternoon I also took a peek inside hive #1 (now I have to name them :). They still had not drawn anything on the super on top. I did check a few frames in the bottom box and they seem to be doing fine. Lots of pollen, nectar, capped honey and brood. So, I just buttoned them up and let them bee.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Update - A Discovery!

Well, let me first admit that I am obviously still learning!

After putting up the previous post, I described the situation to my mentor. He asked in the nicest way possible - do you really know what a queen cell looks like? Well, I don't. The cells I was seeing were actually drone cells!

Anyway, I went back in the hive today to take a second look, and I am feeling a lot better! The frames were covered with bees, many more than I saw a few days ago. We took some pictures - and have some new questions:

First, I had a new helper, he was deathly afraid of bees, but once he donned the superman suit and took hold of the camera, he was invincible.

As I said, when I started pulling the frames they were loaded with bees, here is an example.
Here is that frame, notice the yellow bulbous cells - those are drone cells, yeah, I know, it is obvious now.

Here is another one - we'll come back to this one in a minute :)

So, as I was going through the frame - I saw the queen again, this time on a frame full of bees, looking plumper and busy! Here is the frame picture, see if you can spot her!

Well, she was camera shy and ducked under some workers when we went to take the pictures - so I have blown up that section in the picture below. If you see the bee with the pollen on her legs, the queen is to her right somewhat covered by other workers. She is much longer than the others, has a more pronounced larynx and shorter wings. I have been surprised how much different she looks from the other bees, easier to spot than I anticipated.

So, all in all a good visit. When I got done I went ahead and put a medium super back on top since they were obviously doing well.

After closing everything back up and coming inside to take a look at the pictures I found something very interesting. If you look real close to the second frame I have displayed above, you will see what looks to me like another queen! Since I made such a blunder last time, I have blown up the area and I ask for your expert eyes to take a look. It was certainly not the same queen, as it was two frames away from were I saw the other queen.

So, if this is another queen - now what? Is it OK to have two in there? Will it encourage swarming? Will they fight? Or will they produce twice as many brood?

More questions . . .

Wednesday, March 19, 2008


It was 70ish today so I came home early to see what the bees were doing. I began by taking off the two top supers. First concern, neither of the boxes had any activity, no comb being built here. When I got down to the brood box it looked OK from the top, bees roaming over the top of the frames. The first frame I took out was an end frame, there was some comb drawn on it but not much else, some pollen on the inner side.

The second frame, however, was a big surprise - it was loaded with queen cells! They were bright yellow, sticking perpendicular to the frames, probably half a dozen on both sides of the frame.

As I went through the frames there were several others with queen cells scattered about - and one of them open! I also saw a queen on one of the frames, she seemed to be wandering around, without any attendants watching after her - this seemed strange. She also seemed skinny, not that I have seen a lot of queens before. There were also a bunch of drones bees in the hive.

There were also a bunch of cells that were only half filled with something. It was off white and looked pasty. I talked to another beekeeper and he suggested that perhaps it was pollen. All of the pollen I have seen up to this point has been yellow or even orange. ?

I also did not see eggs or larva or much stores! This could be my inexperience at spotting them.

So, I am guessing that the first queen left, or gave up, or was killed in the transport, or the bees started building queen cells when the queen was trapped for the split. I am guessing the queen I saw was a new one (is there any way to tell?) perhaps a virgin queen?

So, because there were little stores, I went ahead and took off the two supers, put the inner cover right down on the brood box and put on two feeder jars. I know I have a chance of crowding the bees with the one box which could cause them to think swarm, but I have to worry about them living through the next couple of weeks. Hopefully one of the new queens will mate and get to work laying eggs!

I'd love to get some feedback!! (sorry for no pictures, my helper was at baseball:)

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Out and about

The bees took advantage of the nice weather to get in some orientation flight. It looked like we might need an air traffic controller at some points.
I also added a syrup feeder inside an additional super. It is supposed to turn chilly tonight so I put the entrance reducer in at the end of the day to keep out the wind.

Friday, March 14, 2008

The Bees are back in town!

Well we start again.

After a couple of months of build up at my mentor's abode a new colony has returned to an old location.

I must admit I did not understand what was meant by "a split" until I saw it - and it was pretty simple. He had assembled a double brood box with my box on the bottom. He found the queen and put it in my box and we simply sealed it up and I took it away. He took the other brood box, and it became the bottom box - that's it, they were split. He will be looking for the other brood box to produce a new queen for themselves.

So, here is my box in transport mode. The top was replaced with a screen covered inner cover. This allowed the colony some ventilation during the transport. He then just stuffed a rag in the entrance and I was off.

Once at home I added a quarter queen excluder* and put two medium supers on top with bare foundation. With any luck they will begin pulling comb in the supers and filling them with honey! Yahoo!

*Oh yeah, what is a quarter queen excluder? He told me to get one, so I searched on the bee supply sites and no one sold such a thing so I went ahead and bought a normal Queen excluder. Well, when I got to his house he showed me a quarter queen excluder - it is simply a normal queen excluder cut into fourths -- quarters. The purpose of the queen excluder is to keep the queen down in the brood chamber. The problem with a full excluder is that sometimes it not only keeps out the queen but also inhibits the workers from moving up to the supers. So, the "quarter queen excluder" sits over the center of the brood chamber were the queen spends most of her time and so for the most part keeps her in the brood box while allowing the workers to come and go as they please - marvelous! So when I got home I cut (gulp) my brand new queen excluder into quarters.

And for the record, I had a discussion on BeeSource about foundation - in which I discussed a variety of foundation purchased for the supers. The supers I put on this hive contained Mann Lake "thin surplus" foundation.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Waiting and Building

Well, according to my mentor my hive is doing well over at his house - new brood is building up.

Meanwhile, I am putting together boxes and frames for honey supers and a new hive so I will be ready in just a few weeks!

Here I am (JMU sweatshirt) at the Colonial Beekeepers Club workshop last weekend - putting together some frames with their jigs and powered staple guns. Guess I'll be making another purchase . . .

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

A new start

Well my mentor took my hive to his house to clean it out and start over. He has another nuc that he will begin placing my foundation in to transfer some new bees. Once the weather warms up for good I'll get the hive back and enjoy watching the bees play.

Meanwhile, I have purchased another hive box and will be populating it with a cut-out (bees currently in a tree that the owners want removed) that another friend will be collecting in the spring.

So for now we wait and read and learn.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Death of a Colony :(

Well with the warming of the past few days (50s) I expected to see some activity around the hive - alas none. So my mentor suggested I take a look inside to see what was going on. Well - bad news the bees are all dead. I have posted some pictures to hopefully get some help in diagnosing what happened.

The first picture is a close-up of part of the brood frame. If you remember from the previous posts the bees were really only growing brood on this one frame. If you zoom in on the center of the frame you will see a lot of bee butts because their heads are down in the cells. If I have read correctly this is an indication that the bees have starved. When it got really cold they clustered and could not reach the syrup I had on top of the inner cover and ran out of the stores they had put away on the comb.

The second picture is the opposite side of the brood frame. It does look like the bees went up to find food but the syrup did not fit the bill for them.

The third picture is of the comb that they had pulled on the next frame. They had put syrup in these cells and it looks like they went through it before running out.

The fourth picture shows the opposite side of the same frame. It looks like they had stored some honey over there, but didn't make it there when it got really cold.

The final picture looks down into the hive from the top and show the bees piled up on the bottom board. The other reason for showing this picture is to note the liquid interspersed with the bee bodies. If you were a keen observer you would also have noticed some liquid on the top bar in picture number one. I am assuming that this is syrup that has leaked out of my feeder jars. Obviously this could have had a deleterious effect on the bees if they got "wet" and then the cold weather came in. I think that I have read that the syrup jars will begin to leak when the temperature gets really cold (ie it reverses the pressure in the jars).

So this is all speculation - I would really appreciate some "expert" diagnosis on what happened here and what I should do next time to keep this from happening!

I hope to replace the bees so I can still continue to learn this spring.