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! :)