Colossus Hive

I opened up the bees at my house today, and was shocked to find the number of bees I did. I’ve honestly never worked with such a robust hive before. I thought I had an idea of what I would be working with when I took off the telescoping cover and found bees bubbling out of the inner cover, but I couldn’t have predicted truly how big the colony was. Only a couple of the new frames I put into the hive lacked wax. Most of them had two fan shaped bits of comb drawn out on them. And they all started with drone cells at the top and then slowly changed into worker cells towards the middle. Honey was everywhere, and I could barely even see it under all of the bees. I wanted to get into all of the boxes today, but I genuinely couldn’t work around all of the bees. They stung my gloves probably 30 times, and I squashed at least two bees every time I made a move. Normally I don’t need a smoker to work a colony because they’re so docile and easily managed. There were so many bees here that, had I known, I would’ve absolutely brought one out with me.

I only got to check the second deep box before I finally gave up and put everything back together. I had a huge cloud of bees around me and was hardly being productive. I moved one of the empty frames up into the deep super, and switched it out for a new frame that was more drawn out. The upper super is all honey and a little bit of pollen. They still haven’t begun moving up into the short super, even though there were several hundred bees in it when I opened the hive, and they definitely need the space.

I’m probably going to have to split them to keep them from swarming. This colony is so large, I feel like I have a giant in my garden. And the weirdest part is, you would have no idea that they were even there! Since I moved them up onto the second tier, its like I don’t even have bees. They fly right out over your head and there hasn’t been anywhere near the same level of bees getting lost in the lawn. I’m slightly weary that they might try to swarm, but there weren’t any swarm cells in the second box, and they had a decent amount of new eggs. I kind of worry about the die off this colony will inevitably have. At the rate they’re going, the entire hive will be so filled with honey there won’t be room for eggs. Or even bees!

Successful Combo

Wednesday of this week was a day I had off, so naturally I didn’t relax at all and spent the whole day running errands. Somewhere in the middle of everything I found time to go and check on my aunts bees. They seemed a bit more aggressive than they had previously been, but I needed to know if last weeks shenanigans had been a success so I proceeded with caution. I took the top box off and flipped it over to look at the underside of the comb. There wasn’t much to see, and since that box is technically a honey super I decided I would skip it and moved on to the box underneath it. I flipped that box over and cut loose a piece of comb in the middle so I could examine it. Flipping the box right side up, I carefully pulled up the top bar and the attached comb to see what I could find. At first all I saw was pollen (and lots of it) but after searching for a bit longer I realized that every cell not occupied with pollen had an egg in it. Which means that combining the hives was a success!

I’m not sure that this colony will be strong enough to handle a second winter, and am seriously considering requeening. The drastic increase in eggs is a good sign, but I was still easily able to lift all four boxes, which is a problem. I think regardless of whether I requeen or not I’ll have to feed this colony through the winter.

I also get to check my hive later today, so expect to see a post about that! 

Hive Expansion Complete

I finally had time (at the right time of day) to add the new hive body. I pulled the drawn out frames from the edges of the two deep boxes already on the hive and replaced those with the empty frames from the new hive body. I also decided to put the new hive box in between the old two, so that I could rotate out one of the old ones at the end of the year. I want to paint all of them green, and I also want to try and have the majority of the comb be new next year. Most of the comb in the hive is several years old and a gross black color.

There were a lot more brood combs than last time, which I was excited about. There were 8 brood frames in the lower hive body alone. They definitely need this new box. I only replaced 3 frames each in the two old hive bodies, and left 4 new ones in the new hive body. Most of the brood is in the bottom box, with only a few hundred capped cells being on the edges of the frames in the top brood box. The bees hadn’t moved into the super at all, which is slightly frustrating. Brace comb was everywhere again though, so I know that they’re capable of drawing out wax.

We’re currently experiencing a heat wave, with temperatures in the high 80s and low 90s. It hasn’t rained in close to two weeks, so I’m not sure how much longer we’ll be having a nectar flow. It’s also supposed to be like this for a few weeks. That said, I have noticed a significant increase in all insect species this year. I have more than 6 different kinds of solitary bees nesting in logs in my garden, red soldier beetles, and 2 kinds of bumblebees still visit the garden daily. We also have 4 dragon flies in the garden constantly, and today while I was working with the bees a black butterfly, with blue fringes on its wings, flew right into the middle of the bees to see what was going on. I haven’t seen one like it in a few years.

Edit: Pictures!

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I think this color green is fantastic. It’s darker than white but still a bright color, and its something that kind of blends with a garden from a distance, I think. Slowly over the next year or so I hope to have the whole thing painted.

Also shown in this picture is a carrot (in the top right corner with all those weird spiky things) that I allowed to go to seed. Carrots grow wild in my garden and the flowers are great mating spots for lady bugs and red soldier beetles. Both are great predators for aphids, and are very welcome in my garden!

 

Building The Emerald Tower

 

 

 

 

 

I went and bought my new hive body today! I decided to go with the wired frame route because it saved me $30 and the bees have never enjoyed drawing wax on foundation. The only wired frame I’ve had for the last few years has always been readily drawn out, and they fill it in perfectly every time. I bought the frames without foundation and put the wires in myself. Here’s a few pictures! 

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The guy who sold me the box and frames wanted me to buy some rivets for the holes, but it didn’t make any sense for me to buy them because the wood is sturdy enough on its own. Plus there were way more rivets than I needed and it was just going to be one more thing to have sitting around the house. He also thought I was crazy for trying to use a deep box as a super. To me it just makes more sense to have all of the frames the same size, so that I can move things around easier and not have a bunch of different sized boxes sitting around. The bees have only ever filled up the lone super I have in the 4 years I’ve been beekeeping. They take forever to draw it out, and it never fills up completely like the two deep boxes do. Having three deep boxes is going to allow me to pull the honey frames that are clogging the brood space out, and put them up where they can encourage more growth and allow for new wax to be drawn out. The wax that I have currently is all very old and a dark black color. I’ve been putting off removing it because it took forever to get it drawn. Depending on how successful the wires are, I might just replace all of my foundation with wax.

I put two coats of green paint on the new deep box today, as well as wiring the frames. I’ll wait until this weekend (potentially later depending on my work schedule) to put the new box on the hive. I decided to paint the box green because technically its illegal to keep bees on my lot, since I live in the city and my lot is “too small” to keep bees on. White is a boring color and stands out noticeably in a garden; green blends in and is also much darker, which will help keep the hive warmer during the winter. I’ll have to wait to repaint the other hive bodies, but that’s alright.

The weather has been excruciatingly hot lately, with temps up in the 80s and 90s for the last week and a half. And things are only supposed to get hotter. A large group of bees vacated the hive for an hour today when it got really hot; spending their time flying around and congregating around the entrance. Most all of them landed in the end, but they all remained out on the front step where it was slightly cooler, despite being in the full sun. I’m hoping I’ll have lots of honey by the time fall rolls around! This weather is perfect for ripening nectar.

I’ll post some pics once I get the new hive body up! The color I chose was called ‘Emerald Tower’ which I thought was fitting since that’s what the hive will look like once it’s all painted. 

 

Laying Workers Be Gone

I went to my aunts today to check on the colony with no queen. The queen cell that was in progress when I last checked in on them had been torn down, and the general population was greatly reduced. I decided to combine them with the colony next door, so that I’ll have a colony make it through the winter. I hauled the two hive boxes (which were very light) over to the other side of my aunts garden and shook the bees out into the lawn. She has over an acre lot size, but it wasn’t quite the 300 yards that most books recommend. Within minutes all the bees had flown back to their hives old spot and were covering the hive next door. There were bees everywhere.

I removed all the comb from the two boxes that had drone brood in them, but there were several frames with a lot of honey and pollen that were still worker sized, so I moved those into a single box. I then put the box full of useable comb, and the empty box on the bottom of the hive that over wintered. I figured with the population doubling over night, they would want an extra box of food and room to expand. One of the boxes had a window on one side, and that was the box I put the comb into. Once everything was done we went back and peeked into that little window. The bees all seemed happy in there, and there wasn’t any fighting. I’ll check in on them next week to make sure everything’s going well!

From her house I came home and looked in on my own bees. I didn’t even have the inner cover off before I realized I had made a mistake by not checking on them last week, and quickly grabbed the only super I have from my garage. They had wax all over the under side of the inner cover, and 7 of the frames in the top box were solid honey stores. Pollen was being packed into the brace comb, and drone brood was tucked in between the two boxes. I spent almost 45 minutes just cleaning the hive up so I could properly get into it. Once the top box was cleaned out I moved into the bottom box. I took out three of the fuller frames from the top box and set them aside so that I could arrange the brood a little bit nicer between the two boxes. There were honey frames between the brood in the top box, so I moved things around to make everything a bit more uniform.

There wasn’t much in the way of new brood in the colony, which was really worrisome for a while. There just isn’t room for the queen to lay eggs, but because there were almost no new eggs I was really bothered. There were 4 full frames of capped brood, with more and more space being used to store honey. They queen was hiding on the absolutely last frame in the bottom box, so I was slightly panicked that she had gone missing by the time I found her. Luckily she’s there and looking healthy! I moved frames around in the hopes she’ll lay on them, and there’s a super on top of the hive now so they should have a little more room to move around. I definitely need to buy another box or two. I’m thinking I’ll just buy a third deep so that if this problem happens again I can just moved the frames between the boxes with easy. And I’m still young enough that a deep full of honey isn’t that big of a deal.

Anyway, I’ve got lots of bees and lots of honey! More than likely I’ll have to harvest a frame or two from the deep boxes to give the girls a bit of space. They’ve only just started capping some of it, but it shouldn’t take them long. There were no signs of swarming which was really nice to find. 

Double Checking The Laying Workers

I went to my aunts house today to deal with her bees, but when I got there something told me I should peak in the hive one more time before I jumped into action. I was glad that I did because I found an almost fully drawn queen cup and a few new eggs around in. I don’t know why the current queen is not laying eggs properly but if they have a queen cup then I’m going to leave them alone for a bit. I don’t know if it will end up being a successful queen rearing, so I’ll go back next week to triple check the happenings in the hive. If they’ve torn down the queen cup then I’ll combine them with the other colony so that i’ll have at least one strong colony.

I’m really frustrated that I’m not able to just make a definite decision with these bees. They’re such fluid creatures that cut and dry decisions are impossible (for me anyway) and so I never feel like I’m making the right decisions. At least in this situation I know that both colonies will be fine for another week, and if things don’t go the way I plan then I can always change them and hopefully resolve this situation. 

Hens Aren’t The Only Laying Workers In This Chicken Run

I opened my aunts hives up (the bees I purchased this year) and found that their population was not increasing as I had hoped. I decided to risk fracturing the comb and cut it from the walls of the box to take it out and look at it. There were no eggs present except for in the drone cells. Honey stores were minimal, but there was lots of pollen. I found 2 supercedure cells, though where they think they’re getting viable eggs I don’t know. I also found an egg on the side of a cell. I’m hugely disappointed by this, but with a colony next door that’s got a functional queen I’m hoping I can combine the two hives and have one make it successfully through the winter. The laying workers certainly won’t make it on their own and the colony from last year is so behind I don’t know that it will ever get to where it needs to be come winter. Having an out apiary is really difficult, and having different hives makes it even more so.

Correcting laying workers is supposed to be impossible, but I’ve found a few sources that say that if you shake the entire colony out 100+yards away from the hives normal location, the returning workers should be mostly normal. They also say that if you don’t put the hive boxes back the bees will fly to the nearest hive and take up residence with the colony already there. I’m planning on using this technique to combine my hives and get rid of the laying workers. Success rates are low, and because the colony that has a queen is so small the chances of this working out are even less likely. But I’m going to try it because if I don’t both colonies are dead anyway.

I’m so tired of feeling like a failure of a beekeeper. It shouldn’t be this hard!

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