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...?