I had been leaving my hives alone after I got them moved, and gradually let the laying-worker-colony die off. I went to collect the box a few days ago, to the dismay of the wasps that had been cleaning it out for me. I also decided to check on the hive I had moved across the lawn, which I thought had been without a queen. I was overjoyed to find eggs present on at least two of the frames, and quickly closed the hive back up again, as it was technically too cold to be working with them, even though the sun was out and lots of bees were flying from the hive. I was dismayed to see that the hive had mites, however. I saw one on a worker as I was closing up the box. They have almost no honey stores, but a very large amount of pollen. I’m going to try to feed them through the winter, in the hopes that it will help. The mites really dishearten me though.
In much more uplifting news, I have been asked to table at a movie event for the city of Issaquah. I was recommended to the event’s coordinator by someone who works for the office of sustainability and is the go-to person if we need things in the garden where I intern. I was asked to bring all of the props I brought during the summer for my internship, and I was also asked to find 2 or 3 expert beekeepers who were willing to speak after the movie. We’re watching Queen of the Sun, by the way. I found two people from the Snoqualmie association who were interested, and now all we have to do is wait until December 12th for the event! I’m really excited about it, and I’m hoping it creates some new opportunities for me, since I’m finished with my associates degree on Dec. 6th.
I’ve also finally made the effort to get certified as a master beekeeper. I have to become an apprentice and a journeyman first, but those shouldn’t be too difficult. Community outreach is one of the requirements for getting certified, and since I did that all summer I’ve definitely got those hours covered.
My mom asked me to mow the lawn today, and because I hadn’t moved the bees entirely out of the way yet, that required suiting up. I made up 6 cups of sugar syrup, set up the lawn mower, and donned my suit. I decided to open the bees before mowing the lawn, just because I had heard that lawn mowers often irritate bees a great deal when used in close proximity. I was very excited to find that honey had made its way into the hive since the drought ended a week or two ago. There was some capped honey on the outer frames, with even less in the middle. It wasn’t anywhere near enough to get them through the winter, but I was happy they had any at all.
I grew less and less cheerful as I neared the middle of the colony. There didn’t seem to be any eggs on any of the frames, despite the two full frames worth of pollen scattered around. I got all the way to the other side of the box without seeing any sign of queen Samantha. There weren’t any eggs or young larvae to be seen anywhere. So, despite the honey stores, there’s no queen to rejuvenate the population. I thought the last time I opened the hive looked hopeless, but today proved me wrong. I’m going to look around online and see if anyone has any queens for sale, but this late in the year I would be beyond amazed. I suppose I could try for a nuke, but with so little stores I don’t see the point in getting that many more bees to feed.
The dirtiness of all the capped brood makes me think they’ve been capped for a while. Maybe since a few days after I opened the hive last time? I’m thinking I must’ve squished Samantha accidentally. I don’t know why the bees wouldn’t have made any effort to make a new queen though, because there wasn’t any sign of that at all. I saw a single swarm cell at the bottom of a frame, but it was dirt and old, and hadn’t been used in a while.
I moved the colony 5-6 feet closer to the house, into a patch of the lawn that hasn’t turned green from the rains yet. Then I filled up the plastic container on the top of the telescoping cover, inside the empty warre’ box sitting on top of the langstroth, with the sugar water I had made. I put the empty measuring cups in the lawn, a few feet from the hives previous location so the bees could clean them while I mowed the lawn, and keep them out of my way a bit. This didn’t work as planned, as half the flying bees went to the location I’d moved the hive before I had moved it into the green part of the lawn. The other half seemed torn between following their sisters the wrong direction, and investigating the measuring cups. As a result there was a large cloud of bees about 10 feet long, going from the first moves location to the hive. I quickly mowed the lawn, still fully suited, and retreated. The bees hadn’t finished with the measuring cups, so I left those where they were.
I then decided to open the queenless hive, just to see what was going on with them. I was surprised to find a fair amount of honey capped in there. Drones were emerging on several of the frames, but no new eggs were visible. One of the drones had a mite on it, so I decided to shake the bees out onto the ground next to the hive in the hopes of shaking loose some of the mites. Most of the bees returned immediately to the hive, so I’m not sure how much good I did. The population is pretty small; if I hadn’t seen any mites (or deformed wings) I may have combined the hives. As it stands I’ll probably just wait a few days before I open them up again and collect all their honey. I’ll need to clean all of the frames off too, to stop the spread of disease to next years bees.
I came up with a really cheap way to feed the bees. I poked some holes in the bottom of a plastic tub (a salsa thing or something like that) and put it on top of the telescoping cover of Samantha’s Hive. I then put an empty warre’ box around that to help keep in some of the heat. Unfortunately the feeder’s holes are a little too big and thus the sugar water drips out, but I think it’s slowly enough that the bees can manage it. It holds about 4 cups.
Hopefully these girls figure things out and get enough food collected before it gets cold again. I don’t think I like italians very much. The queen hasn’t slowed egg laying at all. How are they thinking they’re going to feed all of these bees when they haven’t got more than a few pounds of honey?
I did go over to my aunts recently, but I didn’t want to open up the bees because it was getting too late. I peeked through into the box with the window on the back and found they hadn’t moved into it. It was the 4th box down, so they’re still in the three boxes I moved them to my aunts house in. I think I might over winter them in those three boxes, depending on how heavy they feel. I can’t imagine they collected enough honey for me to take.
I was able to open the bees today. It monsooned yesterday and the day before, with at least two inches of rain yesterday alone. Here’s a picture of my “lawn”.
It rained like crazy for a bit, which allowed the lawn to fill up with water, and then it stopped and the water drained out. It rained again and filled the lawn up, and kept the water level like this for about an hour. Our lawn is horribly compacted sand. We had puddles all through out the garden, and plenty of little streams where the dirt was washing away. I’ve asked my mom for a couple of yards of good compost to help improve our soil. Its horrible right now.
Anyway, I opened the bees today and was disappointed to find that they had collected very little honey. One frame had nectar curing on it, and a small pocket of capped honey. I found a smaller pocket of capped honey in the brood nest and that was all. Queen Samantha has not slowed egg laying at all, and there were 6 frames of solid brood present. Well, solid meaning there was brood from the top bar to the bottom, but it was awful patchy on some of the bars. I think that may mostly because the bees were emerging today, but it was hard to say.
I expected there wouldn’t be much in the way of honey stores, so I brought a spray bottle full of sugar with me, and sprayed it all over the bees. They didn’t seem concerned (or even interested, even though the sugar ratio was 2:1) that I was spraying them. It was kind of odd how little they seemed to care about anything I was doing, actually. And there were wasps all over the place. I killed 4 of them, but the bees didn’t seem to care about them at all. I saw one walk right into the entrance of the hive, completely unchallenged. Except for the part where I squished it as soon as I could.
I don’t have any form of feeder for the bees, but I’m definitely going to have to get one because these bees won’t last a week without flowers. I did see a few of the bees without any hair on them at all, so I assume they’ve taken to trying to steal from other hives in the area. This year was extremely dry it seems like. My mom and I missed the rain so much that we walked around while it was dumping. I had to change my clothes twice in between the breaks in the rain because I got so wet.
I’ll go and check on my aunts bees soon. I expect that they’ve done better than mine have because they’ve got a lot more flower options in their area. And there wasn’t a break in egg laying like my bees had to deal with. I think next year I’ll buy a queen when I split them, instead of letting them make a new one on their own. That hasn’t seemed to go well for me at all…
Oh, and I moved the Samantha’s hive into the lawn. We desperately need to get back behind the bee’s area and clean it out completely. We’ll also need to do something to make sure it doesn’t wash out over the winter. Whoever landscaped this yard did a horrible job. All of the tiers slope, and we don’t have enough plants to keep all the dirt where it should be. I managed to get one shrub planted this year (a clipping of the native Red Osier Dogwood) and some Borage and Sea Holly starts came from my internship. Which should help the bees next year after the plants are established!
I finally opened the bees today. I can’t believe its already been two weeks since I last checked them. This summer is going by so quickly; August is already 2/3 of the way over!
The drone laying colony has very little food, but the bees are still bringing in pollen. Their numbers are dwindling, but they have managed to successfully cap a queen cell in the middle of one of their frames. I really have no idea how they’ve done that, but I’m just going to leave it. I squished all of the drone brood I saw, in the hopes that if there were any mites left (I didn’t see any) the eggs they may have laid would not survive. The bees were extremely agitated, and it was only after I had opened the hive that I remembered the rule that you shouldn’t open the bees in August.
I moved on to the hive with a queen, excited to see how they’ve progressed. They hadn’t moved up into the super like I hoped they would’ve, mostly due to the fact that they have almost no honey stores. They were even more agitated than the drone laying colony, and they had the numbers to be a nuisance. I moved as carefully as possible, but they still were fly aggressively at my hands in very large numbers whenever I reached down to lift up a frame. Eggs were laid in every available cell, and at least 6 frames were completely covered in brood. There was a nice blanket of bees on all of the frames with brood on them, but I still managed to find the queen. She looked healthy and plump! I really should name her. How about Samantha? That’s the name that’s just come to mind. huh. Samantha it is! It only took me how many months to name her?
My mom wants to completely clean out the bees area, because its full of grass and weeds and looks terrible. As a result I moved Samantha’s hive three feet forward, and turned it around so the entrance faces the hives old site. I also turned the drone laying colony to face away from Samantha’s hive, and I leaned Samantha’s hive stand up on the drone laying hive to create a clear barrier for the bees. I also put a log in front of the entrance of the drone laying colony; I’m hoping to deter drifting as much as possible. I think I’m just going to wait for the drone laying colony to die off. Buying a queen this late in the year, and with so little food available and with mites in the colony, is going to make saving them difficult.
Its been an extremely dry year. Our rhododendrons are wilting; even the large one thats under the cherry blossom tree and has shade almost all day. All of our native ferns have turned brown and are crispy. The peonies all have browned tips on their leaves and look burned. I can’t imagine there’s much in the way of flowers anywhere in the neighborhood. My neighbors have more flowers than we do at the moment, but that’s because they water constantly. Their water bill last month was $300.
Anyway. Samantha’s hive should be ok as long as flowers show up soon. I think I’m going to have to feed them. I hate doing that, but I’m tired of watching my colonies die.
I was disappointed to find that the 50/50 hive had not successfully raised a queen. One had definitely been reared, but it appears as though she did not successfully mate. there were pockets of drone brood scattered around the hive, with drones emerging from them, and dozen that had already emerged sauntering about. I couldn’t find the queen, and almost thought the workers had gotten rid of her, but I found several random queen cups, some with larvae a few days old that were flooded in royal jelly, and others that had freshly laid eggs in them. The bees were bringing pollen in, and there was a frame on the right side that was full of it. I saw an egg that had actually been laid in the pollen, which makes me wonder if the bees haven’t started to become drone layers. There were only 4 eggs that I saw though. Everything else was capped.
I really wanted to find the queen to that hive, but I couldn’t so I moved on to the colony that I knew had a queen. I found her in seconds, but she hadn’t done much more egg laying since the last time I’d inspected the hive. There were 3 full frames of capped brood, one of which had a small portion of brood that was much too young to be capped. Young larvae were also to be seen in spaces around the edges of the frames, which makes me wonder if they just took their time getting through the honey stores and that’s why those spaces were filled in later. A 4th frame had newer larvae on it, and on the frame next to that one was a large amount of honey stores. I moved an empty frame in between the newer larvae frame and the full frame of brood next to it, in the hopes it would encourage the queen to increase her egg laying.
I’m not quite sure what to do about the 50/50 hive; the one without a functioning queen. Do I wait and let them sort things out for themselves with the new queens they’re raising, or do I buy a new queen for them and hope they take to her? I can’t imagine these queens they’re raising are going to be too successful. And then if the workers have started switching to egg layers I don’t really know what to do to correct that. I’ll talk to my mom about buying a new queen tonight. I need a second hive tool anyway; I may buy a new queen while I’m at it. What do you guys think I should do?
Oh, and I took one of the warre boxes off of the 50/50 hive, because there was no reason to keep it and stress the bees with trying to heat it at night. I left the top warre box on because I don’t have any other way of roofing that hive.