Sunday, December 20, 2009

Winter Check-in

I have been quiet on here for a while - so have the bees. I went out today and replaced the feeders on the hives (quart jars filled with sugar water). Two of them were empty and one (Hive #4) was still full. This is the second time I have gotten this result, I am hoping that Hive #4 just doesn't like sugar water instead of a more deathly answer. I will not go in them until we get a really warmer day(in the 40s here). That's all for now.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Fall Harvest

I went into the hives on Friday to do a "sugar shake" and came back with 10 frames of honey.

So, the sugar shake. I have been working since the inception of these hives to keep out any pesticides. I realize that may cause me some trouble, but I just hate pesticides. One of the problems the bees face at the end of the season is that the queen is slowing down making new bees (because there is no more nectar for them), but that mites continue to reproduce. Mites are a pest that lives on the bees and reproduce in the bees brood chambers. If the mite population gets too large it can overwhelm the bees and cause them to decline.

In place of pesticides one "natural" treatment is to shake powdered sugar over the bees. This does two things - the powder on the bees' bodies makes it tougher for the mites to hold on to them and they fall off the bees; it also causes the bees to groom themselves which also dislodges the mites. Once the mites fall off, they drop to the bottom of the hives, and since my hives have screened bottom boards, they drop to the ground, and they do not have the ability to climb back up again.

I broke down all of the hives and deposited the powdered sugar, with a sifter, on top of the boxes with bee brood in them. The bees looked hilarious all covered with white powdered sugar, especially flying around - they looked like ghost bees. I am supposed to do this three weeks in a row and I already know I will miss next week due to travel - oh well, it is something.

When I went into hive #4 and started going down to get to the brood chambers I found 2 and a half boxes of honey on top. I thought this was too much to leave, so I went ahead and took a box of honey off. I then made a mistake that will go into my "learnings" memory bank. I set the box out in front of the hive, on end, hoping the bees would just naturally return to the hive (I had read this somewhere). After a length of time I went back to see how they were doing, well it didn't look like they had moved off of the box at all, so I started smoking it, and I smoked and I smoked which moved a bunch of the bees off. I then removed the frames and put them all in a cooler to extract later.

On Saturday I got the coolers to begin the extraction process. However, when I opened the coolers there was a strong smell of smoke. The excess smoke I had used, had permeated the wooden frames. Fearing that I had ruined the honey also, I extracted these frames separately from any other honey I had collected. As we tasted the honey we are not sure if I did actually ruin the honey, but we will still probably keep it separate just to make sure. Anyway, no more smoking to move the bees off of a honey super!

Finally, after removing the box of honey from hive #4 all of my hives now have the same configuration which will make an interesting experiment for seeing how they do over the winter. All of them(three hives - 1, 3 & 4) are four boxes high, the bottom two are brood chambers, the next is a full box of honey and the top box is a partial box of honey. This feels right going into the winter, but we'll see. I do plan on feeding the buggers starting in a couple of weeks to make sure they always have enough food source.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Dragon run, then check up

My wife an I spent Saturday representing the Colonial Beekeepers Association at the Dragon Run Festival held at Thousand Trails Campground in Gloucester, VA. We had a display of Beekeeping gear and I sold some of my honey (the first public sales). The people we very nice and quite interested in the bees - a great experience.

I went into the hives today just to do a check. They seem to be doing fine. All of them had what seemd to be a good store of honey at this point, but no extra that I wanted to take off. Probably done for the season.

I still have a 5 gallon buvket of honey from the last extraction that I need to get into bears...

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Weekend Check-Up

I needed to put the wet frames back on the hives, so I went into them today.

Hive #2 looked very similar to how it appeared a couple of weeks ago, perhaps they have put up a little more honey, but they seem to be holding their own at this point. It is in four mediums.

Hive #4 - after taking two boxes of honey off of the hive last week I hurridly placed a box of foundation on top to make sure they had something to do (and didn't think about swarming). Looks like it was a good move - they were pulling comb all the way across this box and had already put up a substantial amount of honey. I did go down to the third box to see what was going on there. I just pulled up a couple of frames, the ends were packed with honey, but by the third frame I saw a bunch of brood, so I just left this box alone. I put the new foundation box back on top of it and then put a box of wet empty comb on top. I would not be surprised to take some more honey from these girls in a week or two.

Hive #3 - I finally got into this box. I had run out of time two weeks ago so had not been in this box in over a month. It looked ok. I was hoping it was going to be busting but it was just ok. It was in three boxes (all I am using now is mediums). The top box had full frames of honey in the middle frames with a couple of empty frames on the edges. I went down to the second box and it had brood in it, so again, I left it alone. I put the other box of wet frames on top of this hive to give them some roon in case they want some breathing space. Not sure what to expect from this group, should be interesting to see.

I did extract the honey from the frames I took out a couple of weeks ago, I have about a 5 gallon bucket of honey to put into bears - but hey, I am out of bears! I bought 397 of these two years ago!

Friday, September 18, 2009

The bees stole my honey!

After the inspections on Sunday, I put the coolers of honey on my back porch to be extracted later. I have done this several times before so I had no concerns. However, my wife called me at work on Monday to tell me that there were bees all over the coolers and all over the back porch!

When I got home - what a mess. Bees crawling over the coolers and a mass of bees flying around. I really wasn't sure what was going on. My wife told me she had pushed the top down on one of the coolers because she thought it was open. I took the coolers (after netting up) to three seperate locations in the yard to see what was going on. One of the coolers actually did not seem interesting to the bees and looking inside looked fine. When I opened the cooler my wife had closed the top on, I found that it was full of bees. Also, the third cooler, I found out had tiny holes where the handles were attached and the bees had found them. In both cases the bees were robbing the honey out of the combs and taking it back home :\ The cooler with the handle holes had lost about half of the honey that was originally there, two of the frames were completely empty! The other cooler obviously got slowed down when my wife shut the top completely so I did not lose as much. So after smoking the coolers to get the bees out, I took out the frames and placed them in other coolers and took them inside the house.

Hopefully all of this honey is back in the hives and I'll get it next time :)

September Surprise

It had been over a month since I had gone into the hive - so it was time.

Hive # 2 is in four mediums. Top box, some honey, some empty space. Next box, brood and honey. Second box, brood, pollen and honey. Bottom box - pollen. The hive seemed OK, but not overwhelming. I am a little worried about its long term survival, but it is OK for now.

Hive #4 - Holy Schmolly. This hive is in five mediums. I had put an empty medium on top of this hive last time because it was doing so well. Well - they had packed out this hive competely. There was comb built between the frames and even on the inner cover. As I tried to take out the frames they was even comb built attaching them to the frames below. They were heavy as stome with all the honey. After emptying the top box into coolers I went to the next box - and it was packed too! Same story second verse, packed with honey from top to bottom. Well, after emptying this box I was out of coolers, out of light and out of energy - it was a lot of work to get this honey out. The next box looked like it also had considerable honey but I am guessing that it also had brood in it, but that look will have to wait for another inspection.

Hive #3 - I never got to it! It still looks like it is doing ok, lots of bees going in and out. It may be a little cramped, so I need to get in there.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009


Well spring is finally over. I went into the hives today and the bees have put up some honey but not nearly enough for me to think about harvesting any. All three hives look good at this point and I am hopeful to carry them through the winter.

I did move a relatively empty box from hive #2 to hive #3. Hive 3 has recovered nicely from my requeening experiment and needed some extra space to put up stores for the winter.

I will just let them hang out for a couple of weeks before thinking about fall managment.

Monday, July 13, 2009

RIP Hive #1

Well - Hive #1 did not make it. I opened it up this weekend and it was filled with wax moths and no bees. No bee bodies, just no bees. What a mess to clean up. That was my last frame on deeps so, the good news is that now all of my hives will be on mediums - it makes it easier to swap boxes around. The sad news is that it was my first hive of bees :( As to why, I don't really know, it appeared that the queen was week or disapeared (perhaps I killed her) and they never recovered. I put a frame of eggs in the hive hoping they would produce a new queen but for whatever reason it did not seem to take. Perhaps I should have combined the bees with another hive earlier - but it is not clear how I would know the difference between this hive and hive #3 which appears to have recovered nicely. The uncertainty of beekeeping, at least for the neebee.

The good news!! is that I got another 14 frames of honey from the other hives. This time 4 frames from Hive #2 (lots of partially filled frames left) and 10 frames from Hive #4 (this was a real surprise). There are only 9 frames in the boxes in Hive #4 - I think this is the way I will go in all the hives in the future. First, it reduces the friction between the frames as they go in and out of the hive box and also it gives the bees more room to pull wax and put up honey! The results are that the frames that came out of Hive #4 are packed with honey and seem twice as heavy as those coming out of Hive #2.

I also checked Hive #3, it seems to be doing well, they have put up some honey and the boxes seem to be filled with bees, so I will leave them alone and try to get them through winter.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

94 Bears!

This post is actually two weeks old. On June 20-21 we went into the hives and pulled out 18 frames of honey! 14 of the frames came from hive #2 and 4 from hive #4. Hive #2 is still a monster, we did do some rearranging as they have been moving the brood up and on the left side of the hive. We moved it down and more boradly spaced it across the hive. I know the bees do what they want - but hey, I can try.
Hive 4 is looking good now, a solid hive, producing nice honey. If these guys had just started a little earlier they would have been a very strong hive. Hive #3 looks like it might make it, there were brood and honey, I just left it alone, we'll see how it it look next time. Hive # 1 is not looking good at all, two of the frames (it is only in one deep) had wax moths on them. I took these two frames out and replaced them with clean ones - but we'll see.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Finally - an update

It has been over a month since I updated this blog - medical stuff has kept me from the bees for too long. I spent the last couple of days catching up.

Lazy beekeeping has paid off in Hive #2 and we put up a mess of honey in the last couple of days. I actually extracted honey a couple of weeks ago and we bottled this and the honey we extracted in the last couple of days.

Here are some pictures of our "processing". My daughter and grand-daugther were big helpers. You can see some decapping on the right and bottling on the left.

My son did all of the hive manipulation as I am under restricted lifting currently. Most of this honey came out of Hive #2, it continues to be a strong hive, 5 medium boxes tall. We took 9 full frames of honey from the top two boxes.

Hive #4 appears to be finally building up, it is now three medium boxes high, we took two frames of honey from them, but left quite a bit since they are still building.

Hive's #1 and 3 still seem to be a questionable state. If they remain this way I will probably have to combine them with each other or other hives later in the year. Hive #3 seemed at least to have a bunch of newly orienting bees out and about, so I am hopeful.

I also put together a simple solar wax melter today. Of course it rained, so I don't know if it will work yet, I'll put it out again tomorrow and take some pictures for here.

Glad to be back!

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Where have all the queens gone?

It appears now that I have three queenless hives :(

I went ahead and put a frame of eggs, larva and brood from Hive #2 into Hives #1 and #3 to see if they would go ahead and make a new queen. Hopefully, I did not move the queen from hive #2! Hive #2 is still going strong.

However, as I looked into hive #4 I could not find evidence of a queen there either! Yikes, I 'll check on this one again soon.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

2 Weeks after the split...

Two weeks after the split and hive #2 is still doing well, but it looks like the other half of the split (#3) is still queenless. Last week when I went in I saw some queen cells, this week none. Not sure if this is because she is out and in the maturity/mating process or if this hive is in serious trouble (ie no queen and no eggs for new queen). They still have some unopened brood and stores, but that's it. At this point I will let them go another week (that will be the 21 days), if I still have bees and still no queen then I will do some emergency treatment (ie add some eggs and perhaps some additional brood from another hive).

Hive #1 is also queenless. BTW - I now can hear the queenless roar and know what it sounds like - both #3 and #1 make the same sound. This hive however still has several supscedure queen cells in progress so I have hope...

Hive #4 has moved some brood up into the top box, this is encouraging for a hive that has spent most of its life in one box. I hope this is a harbinger of good things to come. For now they have plenty of room, but I'l have to watch this one closely.

It was hot today, 80's, sweat dripping down in my face, it skipped spring entirely here.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Hive Update

So I snuck out of the bee meeting around lunch and took a brief look at the hives.

Hive #2 - this parent of the split is obviously were the queen ended up. The hive is booming again. I went into the top box and found honey in a large majority of the frames. I added another super of frames with combs to give them more room to store, this could be a big producer (if they do not swarm...). I took the feeder off of this one as there is plenty of stuff blooming at this point.

Hive #3 - the split. I am just keeping my fingers crossed on this one. When I went out to look at it today they were dragging out pupa and dead bees! However, when I looked in the hive they looked OK. There is a lot of activity although I never did see any bees bringing in pollen. I don't want to look in for fear of messing up a new queen in development. So, I'll just wait this one out.

Hive #1 - it looks like they have given up on their queen. I saw several superscedure cells in this one and not much else, a little brood, but no eggs or larva that I could see (I didn't look all the way through). Just realized I didn't see much honey either, I will put a feeder back on this one - but they have not taken the food very well in the past.

Hive #4 - I was encouraged by this one. There were finally bees up in the second box. They had several frames in that box with honey in it. Lookin' good.

That's all for now...

Bee Overload!

Queen rearing class, Va State Beekeepers Mtg and a weird hive has me over my bee - limit!

I had the opportunity to go to a queen rearing class Thursday evening and Friday morning. Keith Tignor the State Apiarist and Rick Fell from Va Tech taught the course. They knew their stuff. We spent Thursday evening in class learning about queen and drone biology and a review of queen reaering techniques. Friday morning was a "lab" outside in the bee yard to look a "starter" and "finisher" hives. Honestly, I do not intend on raising queens for sale or anything, but I learned a lot about replacing my own queens information that will be useful for splits in the future.

Key learnings for me:
  • queens take from egg through development (15 days), maturity and mating (5 days) - all toghether about 21 days before you should see new eggs.
  • When making a split make sure their are new eggs (1 day old the best) and the workers will begin making a new queen after just 8 hours of quenlessness.
  • You can mark queens with just your fingers, a toothpick and tempura paint from the art store. Keith picked up the queen with his fingers and put her in a pill jar while he worked the hive.
  • Drones must be present before queen mating flights (ie don't try this too early in the season).
  • Best time for splits is nectar flow.
  • Easy method for raising 8-10 queens the Miller method
I also attended the Virginia State Beekeepers Assiciation meeting (it was being held about four blocks from my house!) Lots of interesting presentations, some better than others. Here is what I picked up:
  • I think I have heard this before but it is the first time it clicked. To set up a split you should have five frames center frame should have new eggs (these are needed so they can start "emergency" queen cells) then two frames of brood with nurse bees, then two frames of food (honey and pollen). This can be done in a 5 frame nuc or the center of a 10 frame with empty frames outside the center 5. They also suggested shaking some extra nurse bees into the split, as many of the forager bees will return to the original hive unless you set up the split 1 or 2 miles away. Make splits during the swarm season.
  • Several splits (nucs) can be made from one strong colony.
  • Fumagillan is the only effective treatment for Nosema
  • If you put a swarm cell in a nuc you want no eggs in the nuc (or they may start another queen cell)
  • Virginia queens -
I know there was lots of other stuff, but this is what was useful to me. Hey and I won a hive tool as a door prize!

I think I'll post my hive update as a seperate post...

Friday, April 10, 2009

Split = 4 Hives ?

Well I am about to learn something, it may be a positive learning or a negative learning.

On the advice of my mentor I went ahead and split Hive #2. However, I made two big errors which may or may not be very bad.

So, I will back up. Hive #2 was my very successful hive. I got home a little early today, 80 degree weather and dug into it. The hive was still going strong, bees all the way to the top (4th) box. The top box was mostly frames being drawn and honey stored. The bottom three boxes were each 3/4 filled with brood frames, many had larva and eggs, many with honey around the edges. So, I decided to go ahead and do the split. The reason for the split is essentially a controlled swarm. The bees want to swarm when they get this big, so instead of letting them, the hive is split so that two hives now exist.

I looked at every frame, one by one, both sides several times - and I could find no queen :( I know she is or was recently in there bacause I clearly saw eggs. So, I had a decision to make, go ahead with the split or not? I decided to go ahead, not knowing where the queen was. I took boxes 1 and 3 and left them in the current position. In box #2 there were some swarm cells (queen cells at the bottom of a frame), some were empty, one had a larva in it. I put boxes 2 and 4 in the new location. So error #1 was not knowing were the queen is.

But, lets talk about that. If I did know were the queen was I would have made sure that she was with the boxes without the queen cells. But not knowing she may be in either place (or perhaps she got lost in the opening and transfer). My hope is that werever she is, she will survive and thrive and that in the other hive they will make a new queen. Anyway, I now have a new Hive #3 - I hope.

But - Error #2, I put the new hive in the same yard as the old hive. This could be a problem because the bees may simply return to the old hive and then there would be no bees to in one of the hives and potentially an overabundance in one hive - aargh.

In addition to the massive manipulation above - I was not done. I also took some frames of foundation and inserted them in between the frames that had the heaviest load of brood. Again, I am trying to give them room to grow the brood chamber so they will not think about swarming.

OK, on to Hive #1. Again this hive did not have any activity going on in the top box (it is a deep and a medium only). Down in the deep there was some brood, but not a lot. There were also some supercedure cells [queen cells on the face of the frames] so I am hoping they are fixing their own problems.

Hive #4. This hive is still staying at one box, although they had put some honey in the upper box. I put some empty frames down in the brood area to give them some space there, but not really sure what is going on with this one.

Well, that's it. As always comments are welcome.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

3 Hives and holding

Went back into the hives today to see what was going on.

Hive #2 still going strong, four medium boxes high. Brood in three medium boxes, larva and eggs visible. Honey being put up in the top box.

Hive #1 was three boxes, a deep and two mediums. The top box was empty of activity or stores. The middle box had some honey, but not much. The deep had all of the activity. I did pull up a frame and it had larva and eggs so, I'll leave it alone for a while. I did remove the top box til they start getting busier.

Hive #4 was similar, it is two medium boxes high. Some honey in the top box, but all of the bees in the bottom box. Again, I pulled a frame and saw brood, larva and eggs, so we'll see.

I went ahead and put syrup on all of the hives. I did not see any queen cells. There were a good number of drone cells (a whole frame of them in #2).

So, I am a little worried about #1 and 4, perhaps a more experienced beekeeper would have replaced the queens - I'll wait and see, unless I get other advice...?

Saturday, March 28, 2009

A good check-up

It warmed up over 60 today and the sun came out! So the bees were out and about.

All of the hives had bees buzzing around the entrances, obviously new bees orientating. I peeked in the top of each - Hive #2 was still going strong, some honey already in the top box, I replaced the syrup. Hive #1 seemed much better than last week-end, lots of activity. I had put a bowl of honey covered cappings (from the extraction last week) on top of this hive for general feeding and unfortunately it got filled with water from the rain and drowned some bees. There were bees in the top box cleaning up the empty frames I put in there last week - this was good. Hive #4 also seemed to be doing well, lots of activity and they were all over the cappings I put inside the hive.

So, all in all a good visit!

Monday, March 23, 2009


It warmed up again so I went into the hives yesterday to mixed reviews. Hive #2 again was doing very well, three boxes full of brood, larva and eggs! This one is looking good.

Hives #1 and #4 did not look as good. Hive #1 seems to have decreased in size. All of the bees were in the bottom box on only about four frames. I did see the queen and there was brood and larva, but I don't understand the size. I did not see any swarm cells and it really seems to have been too cool to swarm anyway, but I am not sure what is going on with it.

Hive #4 was still only in one box (and a medium at that) , I don't understand why this one does not build up. I probably should have replaced the queen (I did see her) - but not sure what the trip point is.

We'll check again next weekend ...

Saturday, March 21, 2009

First Extraction

I had a friend going by the Dadant so I had him pick up one of the $100 Extractors and a honey bucket (with screens and valve). I had the frames of honey from the dead-out (the hive that died) so I thought I would give it a try.

The extractor came in a box without an English word on it, it was all in some Asian language, it was pretty much assembled however, so no issues. I had to put the valve on the bucket and I was ready to go. (I did have to do the dishes from the last few days, but that is beside the point).

I took the first frame out and began decapping - ie taking the wax caps off of the top of the cells that the bees put there for storage. Below is a picture of one of the frames with my decapping tool (a fork) in progress.

When I went to put the frames in the extractor I found that the unit was set up for full size frames not medium frames. After a little finagling, I found that the medium frames could be put in a little crooked and they seemed to work just find. Here is a picture of the frames in the extractor and some honey on the sides and bottom.

Finally, once all of the frames were extracted the honey is let out into the honey bucket. It is simply a white bucket with a screen over the top to catch the debris (wax, bee parts:) that came out with the honey. Here is the stream going into the bucket. I'll leave the honey in the bucket for now.

Clean up was not to bad, all in all - fun!

Friday, March 20, 2009

Dead or Alive?

Well we had some cold weather while I was out of town so I got worried about the bees, and went out to look at the hives when the rain finally stopped on Tuesday. It was still cold so I didn't expect to see any bees - but I was very surprised to see the landing area of hive #1 full of dead bees :(

So on Wednesday the weather warmed up so I went outside to look inside. The first thing I saw was the same landing area was empty! Somebody moved all of those dead bees and I soon found out that it was the bees themselves. What I had forgotten is that I had put the frames with dead bees from the deadout hive in hive #1 and the bees on the landing board on Tuesday were simply the already dead bees that had been cleaned out of the frames. When I looked in the hives I found those frames empty of dead bees and in fact several of them already being filled with honey!

The other hives looked good, so I updated the sugar syrup and left them alone - for now...

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Three out of Four

It was a beautiful day after a week of ice and snow. With prospects looking good for warmer weather ahead I dove into the hives.

Hive #2
This hive was busting out with bees, brood, honey, and pollen. It looked more like the end of March than the beginning. It is composed of three medium hive bodies. As I took off the top, bees were boiling through the inner cover. I went down through frame by frame. Frames 3-7 of the top and second box looked like classic frames - bees and brood in the center with pollen and honey around the outside. Here is a typical picture.

Frames 1 and 2 were mostly full of honey. Frames 8-10 in both boxes were mostly empty, some honey, but mostly empty. I am wondering if they prefer the warmer side of the hive (facing the sun). Down in the bottom box, was a different story. The box was completely empty - nothing at all, just empty comb.
So, I moved the bottom box to the top and moved the other boxes down. If this hive continues as it is, it should be a strong producer in a month or so.

Hive #1 (I am writing about these in the order I worked on them)
This hive is composed of two deeps. It was my first hive that I got as a Nuc. Again, as I went into the top box, lots of bees, lots of stores and a healthy batch of larva and brood. Here is a typical frame:

As I went to the bottom box, again it was empty for the most part. The only thing left in the box was a couple of frames of what looked like old pollen. It looked kind of cakey. Here is a picture - if you recognize it, let me know.

But again, the hive looked healthy and I am looking for good things!

Hive #3 (RIP)
I have to admit that I have been surprised that all of the hives have made it through this winter. Unfortunately, this hive did not. As I took the top cover off there was no activity. It also had three boxes (that used to be teaming with bees :( The top box was empty, a little honey over in frames 8-10 but nothing else. Down in the second box was the bad news - dead bees, lots of them, some huddled in little groups and some with their heads down in the cells. Below is a close-up of a lot of bee butts - the bees are down in the cells trying to find food.
Unfortunately this means they starved to death (as did the bees last year). They were mostly clumped in frames 1-6. As I went through the frames I found two very full frames of honey in frames 9 and 10, with some honey also in frames 7 and 8. The food was in the box, but obviously when it got cold they hunkered down in the first 6 frames and could not get to the food. It is possible that if I went into the hive before the freeze and moved the honey around they might have been able to reach it - but who knows. Well, I have a full hive now for the first swarm :)

Hive #4
This is the hive I have been the most worried about. It never got over two medium boxes all of last year (it was my last swarm capture) and seemed to shrink down as the winter progressed. As I took off the top cover - not much activity, a few bees, but essentially empty comb, a little honey, but not much. This is the only hive that still had sugar syrup left on top. However, as I went into the bottom box - lots of activity, a good quantity of bees, stores, brood and larva! As I looked further I spotted the queen, she is in the upper middle of the picture below.

So, I am still hoping this one will perk up as the spring progresses. It just may have an old queen that doesn't produce very much. I may look at replacing her :(

So, all in all I feel pretty good about were I am at this point. Three out of four seem pretty good if we can keep them going. Thanks to my son for taking the pictures.

A couple of more things I did, that I forgot to mention. In the brood boxes I moved some of the semi empty frames from the edges of the boxes to the center were the brood was. This was an attempt to "open the brood area". There are those that believe this will keep the bees from swarming by giving the queen something to do (ie fill up the empty frames with bees) rather than go and start a new hive (a swarm). After I did this I got a message from one of the other beekeepers that indicated that I might have done this too early which could result in "chilled" brood (ie I might kill them if we get a cold snap).

From the hive the died, I took the frames with dead bees and put them in the healthy hives to hopefully get them to clean them out so I can use them for something else. Again, I got mixed information on whether this was a good idea or not :\ I also ended up with four frames with some honey which I went ahead and took in the house.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Bees in the Snow

We had a weird March storm that dumped our first snow of the year! Here are the hives covered with the white stuff. Hive #1 is on the right and Hive #2 on the left.

Here is Hive #3
And finally Hive #4
It is supposed to get bitterly cold tonight, so it looks like the bees will have to go through one more winter freeze. Hopefully I will not have the same result as after last years snow. BTW - I did clear out the snow from in front of the hives in case they want to get out, and to give them some ventilation.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Back to Syrup

So it looks like the bees did not really like the sugar on top of newspaper trial. They just left the dry sugar untouched. I peeked in the hives over the weekend, it looks like they are still OK, but I did not want to leave them without food, so I went ahead and made up some sugar syrup and put a jar on all of them. We'll see...

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Mid-Winter Check-up

After my last post, checked the syrup one more time in December and then left town. It has been sub-freezing (20's) here since I returned to town so I haven't had the chance to check on the critters.
I will admit that I am using the lazy beekeeper strategy. If people in northern Illinois can keep hives over the winter with little intervention, I am going to try the same. So I fed the bees heavily in the fall hoping they would build up sufficient stores to take them through this tough winter. I did not wrap the hives or put any insulation in the top. I did not even put any additional ventilation in the hives (although this is the one thing I wish I had done).
Hive #1 had not been taking any syrup through out the fall, so I had some crystallized sugar that I just dropped in on top of the inner cover to see if they would take that. It may be that they simply had enough stores and were not interested in any more.
Well it warmed up to 49 yesterday and the girls were flying so I took a couple of peeks inside. Amazingly all four hives are still alive! I am surprised, particularly hive #4, it is essentially in one medium super, and I would still not be surprised if another cold snap wiped it out. With the weather being soo cold, I did not feel comfortable putting syrup back on the hives so I tried the newspaper method of feeding. I put down a single sheet of newspaper and poured granulated sugar on top of the newspaper. In hives 3 and 4 I put the newspaper right on the top frames. In hive #2 I put the newspaper over the inner cover. In hive #1, there was still about half of the crystallized sugar left on top of the inner cover, so I just left it alone.
From the activity in the front of the hives - the most active was hive #1, #2, #4, #3.
So, so far so good. I am sure we will have another deep freeze before the winter is over, so we'll see.