Where’s All The Wax?

I opened my hives up yesterday, just to make sure neither of them were thinking about swarming. Everything is going really well! There were only a couple of swarm cells in each colony, and they both are stuffed full of honey. The only thing preventing growth in both of them is available wax. They both have plenty of space for growth (and last week I added my only super onto the swarm hive because I had nothing else to give them) but they aren’t building wax very quickly because the blackberry flow has stopped. The strong colony has so much pollen its ridiculous. I’ve actually never seen so much in a colony before. There were two completely solid frames of pollen in the bottom box. The queen has definitely slowed down laying eggs, but the brood nest is only slightly smaller. Honey is being stored throughout the brood nest. Around some of the frames that haven’t been completely drawn out yet the full frames next to them have cells that are almost 2 inches deep. Instead of filling out the empty frames the bees just add onto the stuff they’ve already drawn out, so the honey band around the edge of the frames is just twice as deep as usual. I don’t really know how to correct it without destroying the honey sections.

In other news! I need more hive boxes, and instead of spending a couple hundred dollars buying finished ones, I decided to be adventurous and build my own. The warre hives my cousin built have windows in them, so we took the same concept and applied it to the langstroth. So I built two window boxes for my langstroth and two boxes for the warre! All it cost was $70 for the boxes, and then another $50 for the frames for my boxes. The warre has half frames that are very easily built at home. Langstroth frames are fancier and I didn’t have any to use as a template, so I figured buying them would be easier. So that puts the total cost for 2 warre hives at $17.50 a box, and total cost for 2 langstroth boxes with frames at $42.50 a box. A quick online search shows that from a reputable supplier, a single deep langstroth box costs $62.50, and that’s without windows. I have yet to find somewhere that even sells windowed boxes like these for langstroth. So all in all I’m very excited! I’ll post pictures as soon as they’re finished.

Full Hives And Honey To Spare

I went and checked on my aunts bees today. They’re both doing extremely well, with lots of honey in each of them. One is doing a little better than the other, and that’s the one that was given two boxes of comb fully drawn out at the start of the year. The hive pieces were different (internally) from the other hive body, or I would’ve given both colonies a box of comb to work with. The colony that got the head start has filled in 2.5 boxes, and the top box had several frames of solid honey, freshly capped in white. I moved some of those full frames into the last empty box to encourage them to fill it in.
The colony that started with empty boxes is doing just fine, but they aren’t very interested in expanding beyond the two boxes they’ve filled in. So I moved the honey frames from each box into the two empty boxes, meaning all 4 boxes have 4 fully drawn frames in each of them. This smaller colony had a single swarm cell partially drawn out, with a 3 day old larvae inside. I squished it and saw plenty of room for new eggs since a frame had just emerged, so I don’t expect to see more signs of swarming from them any time soon.

All of the honey in both hives was black berry, and a few pieces of wax were drawn out incorrectly so I cut them out. The honey they contained wasn’t completely ripe yet, so it did taste a little funny, but it was still very sweet. In one box the bees were drawing the wax up from the top bars of the box below, so I cut those large pieces out and used the flat side of my knife to squish the wax into a top bar that hadn’t been used. The bees should correct any errors in the wax that was squished and finish drawing out the rest of the frame.

Given how quickly all of the hives have grown I’m going to try making my own hive boxes and frames in the next week or so, for both hive styles. The warre is going to be a lot easier, so I think I’ll try that first.

Swarm Cells And Honey

I opened my hives today and both are doing well. The swarm colony is fine, but they aren’t filling in the empty spaces as quickly as I would like them to. I moved a frame of 3-4 day old eggs over again to help boost their numbers. They have a full frame of ripening honey and lots of pollen, bringing their occupied space up to 6.5 frames. I’m debating whether I should put a shallow super on them or if I should just move the entire deep super over from the large hive. It would even both colonies out and give the swarm room to grow, while forcing the strong colony to fully draw out all of their frames.

The large colony is doing well, but they’re not filling in the new frames as quickly as I would like. They have wax on all the new frames in the brood boxes, but a fair amount of it was drone cells that needed to be cut out. The honey super is filling up quickly with honey, and surprisingly pollen as well. A few of those frames have been partially drawn out, and I moved one of those down to replace the empty slot left by the frame of brood I moved over into the swarm hive. The large colony is preparing to swarm, and had 8 or 9 swarm cells being drawn out throughout the colony. They were all brown and worn looking, but one of them did have a 2 day old larvae in it that I squashed. I’m not too sure what to do about it given how much room they have for expansion. The problem is that they aren’t drawing out the new frames quickly enough and the queen is running out of places to lay eggs because the workers are stuffing everything full of pollen and honey.

That frame of drone brood was full and capped again, so instead of freezing it I just took all the caps off and moved it up into the super. The bees will fill it in quickly with honey and the soft bodies of the developing drones won’t get stuck in the queen excluder if they try and drag any of them out.

Even though this large colony hasn’t completely filled in any of the new frames yet, none of the frames in the brood boxes were left untouched. They’re drawing out wax on all of them, with two triangle shaped pieces coming downward on either side. On the ground underneath the hive you can see hundreds of white wax pellets that fell off while wax was being made.

There are dozens of dark blue/black drones in this hive, and they’re definitely part of the swarming problem. I removed any drone brood I found, and I think with that full frame out of rotation things should be much calmer. I’ll be keeping a close eye on them to make sure they don’t swarm. If the blackberry flow continues they should easily be able to fill in the new frames. I’m very seriously considering that split though… Moving the top brood box from the strong hive onto the swarm colony would give that colony a huge boost, and it would reduce the population of the strong colony by almost a third. The top box of the strong colony is mostly empty, with 3 or 4 frames full of honey. Even just switching the hives locations would make a difference…

I’ll think about it and get back to you! Right now I’m running late for work.

Growing Colonies And Feeders From Scraps

I went and checked on my aunts bees on Friday, because I was worried they were still struggling. My neighbor and I have been working on making some simple syrup feeders that I can put inside the hives, and after purchasing one for $30 from a place down in Oregon, we quickly built another 3 for (literally) $1 each. I didn’t finish them until Friday night though, so I didn’t have them with me when I went to check on the girls Friday morning. And that was probably for the best given how much the bees have expanded. Warre hives are supposed to encourage the bees to move downward through the boxes as they expand, but in the three years I’ve been using them I’ve never seen it work out like its supposed to. I was shocked to see that both hives had completely filled in the empty box I’d placed on each of their brood boxes. The boxes below them were still relatively untouched, though the hive that started the year with more wax had begun to move downward a little bit.

The blackberry flow has started, so the girls have been very hard at work hauling in all of the honey, and making wax. The entire top box on each hive was full of fresh white wax, the cleanest I think I’ve ever seen for how full it already is. I didn’t bother looking for either of the queens because I saw capped brood clearly when I separated the boxes. I moved the bottom box of each hive and put it on top of the honey super. I probably should’ve placed it in between the super and the brood nest, but oh well. I’ll move it next week if need be. If they both continue growing like this they might actually both fill in all 4 boxes, which no colony has managed to do before. Either way, they’re doing extremely well and with a couple rainy days just around the corner, there’s no reason the honey flow should stop.

Here’s a picture of the feeder I bought and the 3 that we made!

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It’s a very simple piece of equipment; just some wood stapled together to allow the bees space to move around underneath the mason jars (with holes poked into the lids) and some wire mesh to keep the jars supported and the bees from escaping when you replace empty jars with full ones. To use them all you do is place them directly above the hole in the telescoping cover in a Langstroth hive, and place a super box around the feeder to keep it protected/ the heat in. With a Warre hive you cut a small hole in the cloth that protects the quilt and center the feeder on that. Again protect with another super, and place the quilt and roof above. It’s very simple and cheap, and provides two feeding stations with no chance of drowning. Any sized wide-mouthed mason jar can be used, it just depends on how tall your super is. I have quart sized jars, which are too tall to fit in a Langstroth super, so I’ll have to use deeps if/when I need to feed the bees at my house.

Swarm-Hive Checkup

I bought a whole new langstroth hive a few days ago and finally finished painting the parts, so I opened up the makeshift hive with the captured swarm in it. The bees only occupied the 3 left most frames, but were expanding onto the 4th. The brood nest only took up half of each frame on each side, but the pattern was solid and all frames had capped cells on them. They had some small amounts of pollen scattered around and very small amounts of honey. I found the queen quickly and it looks to me like she’s italian. She’s caramel colored and hasn’t swollen to her full size just yet. I removed an empty frame and quickly placed the telescoping cover on top.

Then I moved over to the large colony and searched quickly for a frame of capped brood. I found one with the queen on it. She’s probably a full cm longer than the swarm-queen and a dark cherry wood color, with rings of golden hair at the end of each segment of her abdomen. I gently encouraged her onto the next frame over and removed the frame full of brood, bees and all. They were almost all brand new worker bees so I wasn’t too worried about smell issues or anything like that. I replaced that frame with the empty one I pulled from the swarm box and quickly closed up the hive. Then I took the brood frame over and put it right next to the brood cluster of the swarm hive, spraying the bees with sugar water as I went. I almost like sugar water better than smoke I think. I certainly use it more often. The bees immediately started cleaning themselves and there didn’t appear to be any issues from either set of bees.

I’m hoping this full frame of new workers (they should hatch within a day or two judging by the color of the capped cells and the frames nearby) will give the swarm bees an extra boost to get the summer going. And the established hive definitely needs some room so that empty frame should keep them busy for a day or two. I also pulled a full frame of drone brood from that hive that I use as a kind of mite-trap. The idea being that any mites in the colony will use the drone brood as a breading ground, and then I can remove it and freeze it (killing the brood and mites) once the cells are capped. It also helps me check for mites. I check a few cells around both sides of the frame to see if there are any mites present (I didn’t see any this time) and it kind of gives me an idea of how the hive is doing. It’s also a nice way to let the bees think they’re rearing drones and keep the drone population down.

I put it in the freezer a few hours ago and I’ll take it out in a little bit to let it warm up again. There was some capped honey on it which was nice to see! Everything seems to be going well this summer!

The Drone Towers

My aunt asked me to come take a look at her hives because there were too many drones in it from what she could see, and she was right. I’m not sure why there are so many in BOTH hives, or why both of the colonies chose to make a full frame of just drone brood right next to the brood nest. They each have 3.5 full frames of capped worker cells, but no new wax is being drawn out, and there is virtually no food in either of the colonies. I work today but I have tomorrow off, so I’m going to try and find a way to feed both of the hives that I can get to them by thursday. They’re both Warre’ hives so I’m not sure what i can do. I think I might just have to do an external feeder on the other side of the yard.

I may have mentioned that I made half frames for all of the boxes my cousin built, and they made all the difference in handling the comb. I got to the hive that didn’t have half frames and half a “frame” of wax broke off because it was too hot. fortunately that was a piece I was going to take out anyway because it was all drone brood, but it was definitely not something I want to happen regularly.

Both colonies had plenty of new eggs, with most of the space being used by capped worker cells. I saw three swarm cells being constructed on the bottom of a single frame in the hive without the half frames, but they weren’t very big and didn’t have eggs in them. I switched the top and middle box on that hive in the hopes that the empty space above and below them would encourage some sort of growth. I don’t understand how they can have so little food when literally everything is in bloom right now. I just finished painting the hive boxes and parts I bought for the swarm I caught, so once I get the wire foundation in I will check on my hives. The colony I bought has been increasingly busy and pollen is constantly being hauled in. I think my aunt might just be in a food desert because the last few years her bees have never managed to bring in much honey at all. Which is weird because she lives in a very rural setting where wildflowers should be abundant. And my bees only rarely seem to be without food. Blackberries are in full bloom everywhere, so there’s definitely a flow on. I’m kind of excited to check on my bees actually. I wonder how much honey they have!

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.

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