Swarms In August

I checked in on the bees again today, this time equipped with some half full feeders (I had a lot less sugar than I expected). I was dismayed to find that White Hive has virtually no honey stores. One solid frame and a couple of super frames was all they had for honey, and there was even less pollen. I pulled 3 of the empty super frames out and put in the feeder I had. It’s just a mason jar with some holes poked in the top. There’s a base that goes with it, so the bees can easily get underneath the lid and access all the holes, but I just propped the jar up on a small rock so I wouldn’t have to remove more frames. They had about 5 frames of solid capped brood.

Green Hive was even worse off. Two deep boxes with bees and only 2 frames of honey. I was horrified to find that the colony had swarmed sometime since I last checked on them. There were about 15 swarm cells that had been used. AND they were in the process of raising more queens! I saw 3 cells with eggs in them. The queen was still in the hive and there were three frames of eggs/larvae. No sign of any capped brood. I rearranged some frames so that as much pollen/ nectar was in one box, and then shook all the bees out of the box filled with empty frames. I’m very tempted to combine the colonies. Green Hive has more adult bees, but White Hive has more food.

I’m really disappointed with how things turned out. I don’t expect that either of them will make it through the winter. Unless I added a gallon of sugar water to each hive every day, I don’t see how they will manage the winter. And this year was such a pleasant year too! There was rain consistently throughout the summer so flowers were regularly replenished.

If I get home early enough on Saturday I will try combining them then. I have a construction project happening on Monday and it will be right next to the bees so I don’t want to work with them on Sunday or Monday and risk getting the construction guys into trouble.

Prepping For Fall

After many weeks of leaving the bees to their own devices I opened them up to reduce their hIves down for winter, and to treat them again for mites. I opened White Hive up first, and was dismayed to find virtually no honey stores in either of the two deep boxes. The super I put on actually weighed more than the lighter of the deeps. I shuffled the frames around so that the majority of the important frames were in the bottom deep box. There was plenty of pollen (lots on all of the frames) but only about 1.5 frames worth of honey through the entire hive. Normally I would take the super off for winter, but given the lack of honey anywhere else I chose to leave it on. I didn’t fully close the hive up once I was done with the inspection, because I needed to put the treatment on as well, but I wanted to do that for both hives at the same time.

Green Hive had even less honey in it, but significantly more bees. After rearranging the frames there were about 8.5 solid frames of brood, and two solid frames of pollen in the top box. They had occupied enough frames in the second deep box that unfortunately I couldn’t removed it today. I just switched frames between the boxes so that the majority of the brood cluster was in the top box, and as many frames in the lower box were either occupied or fully drawn out with wax. Egg production in white hive has definitely slowed, but not so much in green hive. We’re headed into the hottest part of the summer, with fall only 7 or 8 weeks away, so I know I’ll be feeding them all winter. Green hive had 6 or 7 swarm cells on one of the frames in the lower box which I thought was weird they looked like they had been hastily drawn out, and some of them were a decent size, but none were occupied by a developing queen.

I did see a varroa mite on a couple of bees in White Hive which was annoying but expected. I decided to use MAQS for this treatment, and applied two in each colony once I had finished the inspection. The bees were NOT happy about this treatment at all and came bubbling out of the roof of Green Hive as soon as I’d put the second hive body back on. The bees in White Hive have all been hanging out on the front of the hive since I put the treatment in.

All in all things aren’t looking so great but at least I’ve got my feeders ready to go!

HopGuard week 3

This marks the third week of hop guard treatment. Last week I did a very quick check on the hives before I replaced the hop guard strips. I checked the outer edges of the brood nest to see how many frames of brood each colony had. White Hive had 8 last week, so I added an extra deep box for them with some honey stores in it for encouragement. Green Hive had 5 frames last week so they just got their treatment.

I’ll check in on them next weekend and remove the treatments. Today marks the first day of summer so things will be much warmer here on out. It’s been a perfect spring though. Rain every few days when we needed it, 70 degree days more often than not. It was actually too hot for spring here in Washington. We had several record setting days up in the 90s. Everything is vibrant and green as a result though. I’m sure we’ll have a very dry summer.

Anyway, everything is going great with the bees so far!

Treating For Mites

This year I decided to really be responsible and treat for varroa mites. Today was the first chance I had to check on the bees again since I got them, and everything looks good! White Hive has 6 frames of brood, with the other four frames being dedicated to new honey stores mixed in with last years. There was pollen coming in but not as much as Green Hive. Green Hive has 4 frames of brood, with the cluster being about an inch shallower altogether in comparison of White Hive. The pollen stores are significantly higher in Green Hive though, and there’s lots of honey as well.

I wasn’t sure how far along either colony would be already, so I grabbed an old deep box from my room just incase. I found it FULL of wax moth larvae. Each frame had  cocoons along the outer edges, and the front and back walls were also covered. I had seen wax moths fluttering around my room in the past but I didn’t think it was as extensive as it was. And I cleared out the boxes I suspected were the trouble, so finding this was really crazy.

I also was unaware that wax moths ate wood. Each of the white patches inside the box is a small divot where a larvae spun a cocoon. I cleaned off every frame and the box is still usable. Fortunately neither colony needs a second box added yet.

After fully inspecting the hives I placed a strip of Hopguard in each of them. I just realized you’re not supposed to do a full inspection before treating them, but I also am working 6 days a week and didn’t really have a choice.

After putting a strip in the center of each of the hives, I quickly closed them up. The queen in White Hive is really pretty. She’s a really dark brown color with flecks of gold along the upper edge of each cuticle. I didn’t see the queen in Green Hive so I’m not too sure what she looks like now that she’s in the swing of things.

Hopefully the treatment goes well! I’m supposed to apply the second treatment in a week, and then let the second treatment sit for 2 weeks.

 

Bees On A Whim

I told myself that this year I would take a break from bees to focus on other things in the garden and give myself time to figure out what I need to do to keep the bees alive through the winter. Well, I got an email from a local beekeeper who said he had extra nucs for sale about a week ago, which is pretty late in the season for us around here. I ended up buying two nucs last Saturday, and have bees in the garden again. To be honest it was kind of nice not having them, but I did really miss them. When I bought the nucs I assumed they came with an already laying queen, but they actually were just 5 frames of bees and a queen from California. Which explains why there were bees available so late. I brought both nucs home last Saturday and placed the queens on the top of the frames and left them for three days like I was advised to do.

I checked in on Tuesday to swap the cork out for candy, so the bees could let the queens out on their own (as advised by the beekeeper I bought them from) and found that the queen in White Hive was dead in her cage. Naturally I was confused and upset, and prepared to do a full inspection on the hive. After getting through to the 5th frame i discovered freshly laid eggs, and on frame 6 I found a queen who had very obviously been laying for quite some time. Naturally this means I got one of the queens that over wintered from the other Beekeepers apiary, and it also means that White Hive is about a full week ahead of Green Hive in terms of development. I would even say two weeks based on activity levels. They’re definitely twice the size of Green Hive. I’m really excited to have a queen that’s over wintered here already. I’m sure I’ll have to split the colony later in the year as well, and with any luck I manage to keep them all alive. I bought Hopguard and Mite Away Quick Strips this year, and I plan on treating with both of them once the colonies are large enough. I’ll wait until Green Hive has at least 5 full frames of brood. Which may take a few of weeks.

I checked on both colonies today (specifically Green Hive to make sure their queen was out) and both colonies are bringing in nectar and pollen. The blackberries are in full bloom so there’s lots to eat. Green Hive had lots of new eggs in the hive today and only 1 frame left of capped brood. Because they’re so different in size already I may swap them so Green Hive gets more field bees.

 

Fall Report

I’ve been so busy lately that my free time and the weather never seem to cooperate. The hive on the left has been noticeably less and less active as the days go by though, and today I finally got a chance to check on them. They had glued down everything with bur comb, so getting the lid off took some work, but once I opened it up there were almost no bees inside. I pulled out 5 frames in all, and everyone of them was half filled with capped larvae, though all of it was dead. What wasn’t occupied by capped larvae was either eggs or pollen. I got to the frame that had the most bees on it and there were a few dozen eggs, and even some developing larvae. I didn’t see the queen, even though there were only a few hundred bees in the entire hive, but the eggs were all uniform and at the bottom of the cells. I don’t understand why the colony failed so suddenly. There is plenty of food (I’m amazed at how much pollen there is) and the eggs seem viable. I did see many of the workers had varroa mites on them though, which was frustrating. I missed the window for a winter treatment so there’s not really much I can do. The hive weighed a little over 60lbs and had more than enough pollen to make it through the winter. If they didn’t have varroa mites I would probably just combine them with the swarm hive.

The captured swarm is doing phenomenal. The bees had not only glued down the inner roof but the telescoping cover as well. Everything is sealed with propolis and wax. After I got the lid off I was amazed to see every frame covered in bees. The hive weighs close to 90lbs and there were no signs of trouble. I’m very hopeful that they make it through the winter, and I’m going to be monitoring them closely. I plan on treating for varroa in the late winter/early spring. I haven’t extracted any of the honey I removed from the hive yet, and I’m thinking I may just add it back into the hive as they need it.

The Package And The Swarm Prepare For Winter

Sometime last week I consolidated both of my hives for winter. I reduced them both down to a single deep box, since neither of them had enough frames filled in and in use to warrant two full boxes. The hive on the left, the bees I bought as a package, had 3 deep boxes removed, and they really only managed to fill in 3 of them. There were at least 12 frames that they hadn’t drawn wax out on. After selecting the best frames for them they ended up with 9 in the box they’ll over winter in. One of the honey frames they made they drew out so thickly it took up the space of two frames. I was either going to have to harvest it or let them overwinter with it. They actually drew out three frames like that, but I moved the second frame over into the hive on the right, which was the swarm I caught. The hive on the left has two full frames of orange pollen, and probably 60lbs of honey. I’ll definitely feed them in late winter and early spring. I’m debating making them a quilt box like the ones that go on Warre hives. They would benefit from the insulation and moister wicking properties. And now that I have all the tools I need, making one would be only an hours worth of work. Idk, something to think about.

The right hive weirdly had more honey capped than the left one, but it was all up in the super I had to put on because it was the only box I had at the time. I removed the entire box, and took three frames that were 75% capped out for extraction. The rest I left out across the garden for the bees to clean up and put back into the hives. I managed to squeeze 10 frames into this hive, and when I say squeeze I mean it. The weirdly shaped frame had to be squished against a wall to fit it in, but the bees should reshape it and move the honey a little. This hive had only a little bit of pollen, and egg laying had almost completely stopped. I may feed them sooner than the left hive because they also weighed a little less. With the rains coming back I’m hoping they’ll find a few more flowers to boost honey stores, but we’ll see. Once I’m seriously done with them for the winter I plan on moving the hives right up next together to keep warm.

All in all I removed 3 super frames and a single deep one (the last extra wide frame) for honey collection. I would prefer to have left them in the hives but they wouldn’t fit and it didn’t make sense to have partially empty boxes. I’ve never overwintered with just single deep boxes before but hopefully it will be more successful!