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.