The Green Hive At Home

The Green Hive I have at home is doing very well. The bees have moved down partially into the second box, having completely filled the first one, so I switched things around to make it easier for them. There could be a little more honey in the hive but they’re certainly not hurting for any either. They have an astounding amount of pollen though, with the first two frames of the top box being completely full of it. I’d never seen so much pollen in one place before. They had a few swarm cells showing up around the bottom edges of a single frame, but they didn’t have any eggs in them and they weren’t very big. I squished them down, and with the boxes reversed I don’t expect to have any issues. The brood area did seem slightly smaller than in some of the other hives I’ve seen, and they had it pushed to the back of the hive, with a noticeable band of honey curved from the front of the hive up around the top of the frames. It kind of reminded me of a helmet.

I got to see the queen out on the first frame in the hive. She was definitely looking for a place to lay eggs, and was swollen and completely black. She vanished fairly quickly with all the drones running around. This years packages had a lot of drones in them for some reason, and they are all a very dark color like the queen. I made sure to put that frame back quickly and removed the one next to it so the queen would stay next to the wall and safe out of the way. I was happy to see her so quickly and I don’t have any worries for these bees this year! My garden is in full bloom and i’ve got bumblebees and birds everywhere. The fountain I installed a month or so ago has bees on the sunny side of it every day, and birds are slowly realizing it’s here and using it regularly.

A Swarm In An Unlikely Place

Some of you may know I work at Starbucks, and just transferred to a new location. The new store is its own building and has big windows all the way around it in the lobby, so its full of light and you can look outside all day long. On Saturday I was on drive through register all morning, which means I was the one standing by the window and handing out drinks to people in their cars. Towards the end of my shift everyone got very excited all at once, and looked out to see a swarm of bees come fly towards the store, and the opposite end of things. The swarm flew halfway around the building and then across the street to Walgreen, where it landed in the parking lot. Those bees couldn’t have picked a more inconvenient spot than if they landed on the front door itself, haha. As soon as my shift was over I rushed home to get my suit and an extra box I had been intending to use as a super for the hive I already had. I parked in one of the handicapped parking spots, right by the doors, and took two steps to the left to find the bees had landed on a very small shrub, with the bottom of the cluster literally touching the ground.

I don’t have any extra parts for this kind of hive, so I grabbed the roof off of the one in use (I left the telescoping cover on it and put a brick over top to keep the hole covered) and a wet towel on my way out the door. I put the roof on the top of the box and then flipped the whole thing upside down, so the bottom of the frames were upright. Then I put the wet towel over half of the box, and got to work. It was the easiest thing ever. I cut the main branch off and shook the whole swarm into the deep hive body. A few minutes later I had most of the bees in the box, and completely covered it with the wet towel so no bees could get out. I took the box home upside down, and then once I got home I rushed to set up a very makeshift hive stand of bricks and an old piece of plywood. Once that was relatively level I carried the box containing the swarm over and took the towel off. The box didn’t seem nearly as full of bees as I thought it would, but they weren’t clustered together either so that made a difference.  Once the towel was off I carefully flipped it right side up, and then made sure one of the corners stuck out over the edge of the plywood so the bees could get out.

They have been very happy ever since, so far as I can tell. I won’t get to check in on them until this weekend, but I think they’ll be alright. If it hadn’t been so late in the day I would’ve taken a frame with some eggs out of my established colony and put it in the swarms box. Unfortunately by the time I was finished setting everything up it was after six, and I didn’t want to bother the established colony.

So now I have 4 hives instead of three! I’m gonna go buy some hive parts later today so that I’ll have everything I need to get the bees ready for winter.

Three Hives In 2015

On the 18th I picked up three 4 pound packages of bees and installed 1 at my house and two at my aunts house. I just checked all of them yesterday and they’re all bursting with bees! The two hives at my aunts house got two pollen patties each, because we really wanted to make sure they got a good head start this year. The bees at my house got to use all 100lbs of honey and pollen from last years bees, since everything was so crystalized I had no way to extract it. The result being that my hive is much further ahead than either of my aunts, and they already have some frames of caped honey. They had several full frames of brood, honey, and pollen. And most importantly, all three colonies have several frames with capped larvae! This year is gonna be good.

There was a slight bit of confusion when I picked up the bees, because my aunt was the one who ordered and paid for them and they sent her the wrong pickup date. One email said we were supposed to pick them up over here, and the other said we should’ve picked them up over there a week earlier. Thankfully the guy selling them had a few extra because otherwise I wouldn’t have gotten anything but a refund. So instead of 3 packages of italians we got 3 packages of carniolans. And that’s fine with me. This year I’m going to finally break down and try using some miticides before winter comes. I’m tired of loosing bees every winter and its beyond time I started doing everything I can to keep them safe.

I don’t know that I will post as much as I have in previous years this year, but I will try to keep everyone updated! So far things are looking great. Oh! And with that new pond I installed a month or so ago the bees have got a new place to drink. There is always at least a dozen bees getting water, which is surprising to me because I’d never seen them drink so much in previous years. I would assume they’re using most of it to dilute the crystalized honey, but its hard to say.

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Until next time!

I thought I had posted this already but I guess I forgot. My aunt agreed to buy three packages of honeybees for me this year, so I will be continuing with beekeeping. I think its time I invested in some mitecides though, because I’m tired of not having bees make it through the winter. I’ve been trying to convince myself they’ll make it through without my help, but 5 failed years in a row seem to have proved me wrong. I’ll be getting bees on the 18th of April from a company that buys their bees from a place in Oregon, instead of California. I’m hoping having some bees that were bred a little bit closer to home will help.

In other news, I have a picture of the blue orchard mason bees that have emerged. I put the house up for them last year and they made it through the winter!

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Look at that little guy poking his head out. So cute! All of the males of the species emerge first so that they can be ready to mate as soon as the females emerge. I would really like to put up a few more blocks around the garden but I’m not sure where I’ll find the wood for it.

I drilled some smaller holes of varying sizes in a log I had last year, and while only a few of them were filled those bees have all emerged too! I don’t have any pictures of them but I’m excited to know there will be more of them this year.

Another Two Failed Colonies

Sometime two weeks ago we had some nice weather that would easily constitute some trips outside from honeybees. Disappointingly there wasn’t any activity, so I went out to knock on the hive and see what I could find. There wasn’t any noise, so I lifted up the lid and looked down into the hive. There weren’t any bees visible at all. I saw straight through to the ground underneath. Frustrated, I decided I would carry the hive in and weigh it to get a better idea of what exactly was the cause of this collapse. The lower box weighed 49.5 lbs, and the top box weighed 50.5 lbs. It doesn’t make any sense!! This colony was in a location protected from the wind, higher up in the garden (not in a cold pocket), and they had more than enough honey to get them through the winter. They didn’t even make it through December!

I haven’t been able to find my hive tool, so I can’t get into the frames and take a look at what all was going on. The hive smells sweet though, and it’s actually been nice having it in the house, haha. I will note that the bees worked very hard to glue everything together, and they even sealed the edges of the hive around the screen bottom. I’m not sure if I’ll ever be able to remove that.

My hive was definitely the stronger of the two, so I wasn’t very hopeful about my aunts hive. I went over there a few days after pulling mine inside and found that hive weighed less than 15 lbs. My aunt had a bottle of sugar water over the brood nest, but we had a cold snap that had clearly been too much for them. A large pile of bees lay at the bottom of the hive, and there were plenty of mites visible. Mites were a problem in her neighborhood last year too. I took a picture of a spot where I noticed a lot of mites, and having zoomed in on the picture a little bit more I counted 9 of them. Between starvation and mites, they didn’t stand a chance.

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At this point I feel like the only sure way to have bees survive through a winter is to have more hives. I’m also considering switching over to Russian or Buckfast bees. Carniolans have had limited success in my yard. This was the first year with Italians, but two failed colonies, one of which should have been extremely successful, is discouraging. Any thoughts on Buckfast or Russian bees? I know they’ve got a reputation for being a little more aggressive, but they’re both supposed to be wonderful at overwintering in this damp/cold climate. I would love to hear your thoughts!

The Worst Class Ever

After a few months of school I’ve decided to move home. This school reminds me so much of high school I genuinely almost dropped out at one point. My teachers are horrible and despite this being a 16 credit program they treat it like its worth 20. The amount of work i’ve had to do is insane. We have a full book to read per week (all 300+ pages) and on top of that we have 2+ chapters for each of the three teachers. We have a lab report due every week, 20 chemistry problems, and 5 statistic problems, each requiring about a half page response. I have been killing myself to do well in this program and took midterms two weeks ago. Despite this class being considered “one” class, its being taught like its 4 separate subjects, which is exactly what this school is against. The class average for those midterms? Below 70 for all of them, with the lowest average being 58. I was above average for Chemistry and Oceanography, but my Statistics teacher had his midterm be about government which I was not prepared for, so I completely failed it.

If you thought 3 midterms for one class was fun (did I mention they were all designed to take 2 hours?) you’ll be excited to know that I’ve got FOUR midterms. My stats teacher is giving us 2 of them, one of which is actually about stats and the other about government, which he didn’t teach us anything about all quarter. Keep in mind that we meet with each of these professors literally just once a week (we have class 4 days a week, one of which is a day in which no body “teaches” us anything). So we’re expected to have learned 4 whole classes worth of material from just 9 days of class time for each subject. It’s the worst class I’ve ever taken. I learned more from the weekly seminar books (that’s the thing we do one day a week where no one actually teaches us anything) than I have from any of these professors.

Anyway, long story short this whole school thing is not working for me, so I’m moving back home. I have this week off of school for Thanksgiving, but I work tomorrow, Wednesday, and Sunday. My mom is coming down on Tuesday to pick up all of my stuff, and then I’ll spend the night down here and move back home on Wednesday after work!

The Hive That Couldn’t

I checked my aunts bees on Friday, and they hardly weigh anything. I don’t know what the issue was, because there were capped worker cells in the top box, and they had plenty of time and resources to expand properly. They never even moved down into the third box. My aunt was excited about getting some honey, but they didn’t even have enough honey for themselves. She’ll feed them this winter and hope they make it through. I would be truly amazed if they did. I just don’t understand why they never tried to requeen themselves or anything. Maybe they were being robbed all summer? There are plenty of flowers in the area, and there are dozens of different species of bees in my aunts garden alone. There wasn’t any sign of mites, and I checked the floor for them specifically. The hive was clean, the bees were active, there just wasn’t much in the way of honey or pollen. There were even empty frames in the top box!

Several of the bees in the colony had bright red/purple patches on their “skin”, and I think they must have some genetics from that strain that creates purple bees. What’s it called? “Midnight” or something? I dunno, but they were pretty. There were also some very brown bees in the mix. Almost almond colored.

Meanwhile my bees have been coming and going by the thousands, and should have plenty of food to make it through the winter. If they don’t make it through the winter then I think I’ll just stay bee-less next year because I’ll be away at school all summer and won’t have time to go up north to manage them.

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