Archive | April 2011

The Last Of The Last

The bees are down to their last dozen. I’ll be amazed if they recover from this. Some how the queen has managed to live through all of this.  Opened the hive today because they weren’t out and it was much too nice for them not to be. There was mold on four of the frames and the last of the bees were clustered as far away from it as possible. There were no eggs or anything. I know there’s really nothing I can do for them at this point, but the queen is much too resilient to allow dying, so I swept all the bees into a plastic container and cut out some clean comb with pollen in it to be added to the mix. I really hope the bees will manage to turn things around for themselves. There are literally just over a dozen of them alive still. I can’t believe they made it through the night.

My mom wanted me to put them in the box with only a little bit of comb on it but I don’t think they could handle the cold like that. I’m hoping that they’ll take the wax I gave them and rework it into new comb for some eggs and eventually the population will get to a decent enough size that I can put them back out in the hive. I was thinking I might keep them in the garage and put them outside when it’s warm enough for them to fly.

I have to throw out the entire box they were living in before. I’m either going to buy a new box to replace it or buy a whole new hive. I was thinking about getting the Warre style hive. I like the simplicity of it and the bees will draw it out faster. I won’t get as much honey supposedly, but I’m ok with that. To be honest I’m not all that interested in having a ridiculous amount of honey. I’d love some of course, but right now I’m more interested in just kind of watching them. And taking honey from the Warre hive is supposed to be easier because all you do is cut off the comb, crush it, and strain out the honey. We’ll see if I can convert what I’ve got though. Getting a single box for my current hive is much easier than getting a whole new/ different hive. We’ll see if my bees even make it though!

I emailed B about all of this. I’m pretty sure I’ll be buying a package of bees from him regardless of whether these bees live or not.

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Yet Another Feeding

It was sunny out so I decided to feed the bees AGAIN. I want to pack as much sugar water as I can in so I won’t have to worry about them again if it gets colder. I scraped off the frames that had dead capped brood on them. It was disgusting. They oozed grey blech stuff and squished horribly. I scraped off two frames and then went and rinsed off the ooze. I had to sacrifice some of the pollen stores, but in the end it’ll be worth it. A mite did pop out of one of the combs as I was scrapping it off, so even though a ton of brood died it was for the better.

The bees now have, well, about 7 frames worth of sugar water. I found eggs today which I was really exited about. I did see one bee with a mite on it though, which was annoying. I tried to kill it but it disappeared into the masses. There were plenty of bees coming and going with pollen, even on the frames I was holding at the time. I love bees. What other creature continues working like that?

The bees have started drawing out some new comb on the frames that weren’t completely drawn out, so I’m glad about that. They also have two or three queen cells starting up, and I think I’m just going to leave them. It’s very likely that the current queen was damaged in the cold snap and I don’t want to interfere with the bees if they feel she’s not fit to rule anymore. I wish I had some pictures but I don’t. I might take some pictures of the wax that I removed if it’s nice enough tomorrow.

I’m going to leave them alone for a while now though. They’ve got enough sugar water to last them a good long time and I switched the boxes so the brood nest box is on top again. So the heat should be kept better. All I can do now is wait and hope for warmer weather!

Another Feeding

 

I opened the bees up again since it felt so warm out and it was sunny. I think my internal thermometer is broken though because it felt like it was in the high 60s but was in fact in the high 40’s. But the bees were out so I didn’t see a problem with opening them up.

I pour another 4 cups of 1:1 sugar water onto the frames today. I found the queen again, but there wasn’t any new eggs or larvae that I could see. I put the sugar water in the mostly empty frames on the edges of the hive and moved them closer in to the center of the ball they’ve made themselves into. They’d completely abandoned a full frame of capped brood and larvae (I think I mentioned this before) so I moved that to the outer edge of the hive to give the bees a faster comeback. That way they don’t have to clean that frame out until they’ve got the numbers to spare a few workers give the hive the thorough cleaning it needs. I might just scrape that frame clean and have them draw it out from scratch again actually. It’d probably be better for them in the long run.

The entire hive has a sour smell to it. I think it’s because some of the pollen stores got sugar water in them and have started to rot. Not to mention the inch of dead bees at the bottom of the hive. I took the main brood box off so I could shake off all the dead. I was leaving them there because I thought it might help with insulation, but there were so many of them that they were going to decay and cause more problems that anything before the bees could clean them out.

I feel really bad about their lack of food stores. There really wasn’t anything I could’ve done though. It was rainy and cold all last month. Stupid Ella Nina. This winter killed 70% of the roses in the yard too. Winter is far too long in this state. Xp

There were several loud bumblebees flying around though. I’d really like to make a nest box for them, but it’s supposed to be difficult. It’ll give me something to do though, so what the heck right?

She’s Alive!

I can’t even explain how happy I was after I opened the bees today. It was wonderfully warm out so I made 4 cups of sugar water and opened things up. The population has dropped DRAMATICALLY, but they’re all still alive. Bees are programmed to continue out their normal routines, even without their queen, or so I’ve read, so that’s what I expected to be happening. The bees had moved themselves over to the three or four frames in front of the entrance, even though there was a frame of brood two frames away. I’m guessing it must’ve froze and was unable to heat back up during the cold snap so they abandoned it. But I checked all of the frames, just to get a full effect of the damage. And I found her. The queen! She was alive and walking around and fine by the looks of things! Here’s a picture. Of course the weather changed as soon as I opened the hive and immediately started getting cold and windy, so the bees clumped together a lot more and she got hidden but you can still find her if you look.

 

She’s the much darker dot towards the bottom right of the center of the picture. You can only see her behind because the bees started clumping together at this point (and the picture was taken at a weird angle), but she was definitely alive and well!

There’s no new eggs and all the food I gave them last time has been eaten. I would’ve fed them more today but I ran out of sugar. But the queen is alive which means that as long as they can stay warm enough they’ll be fine. I pray it’s warm again tomorrow so I can run to the store and grab some sugar for them. Feeding them store bought honey can be bad because sometimes there’s high fructose corn syrup in it which the bees can’t break down. Which is why buying local honey is always better! Plus it tastes differently every year, at different times of the year.

Anyway, here’s another picture of what the bees have been reduced down to.

 

I hope they make it through the cold! They’re pretty resilient though. I didn’t know bees could come back from the “dead” like they did. So exciting!

Beeless Once More

It was warm when I came home today; warm enough that the bees should’ve been out. They weren’t though. I mean 0 activity. So I went over and lifted the lid to have a look and the bees weren’t moving hardly at all. The majority of them didn’t move at all. Which I took to mean they had died because I moved them too far apart and they couldn’t handle the cold. So I went inside, put on all my gear, and went back out to seriously investigate. I took out some of the frames from the top first. They were all bunched together, as expected, but none of them moved. I brushed them off onto the hillside behind me to start the process of cleaning out the hive. Some of the bees had gone into the combs to stay warm and died there. It was kind of sad to see. Like each individual bee had her own little wax tomb. Some of the bees that had been on top of the combs were moving sluggishly, but I’ve seen bees do that when they spent the night outside of the hive and they usually end up dying the next day.

I left that frame out and pulled out a second one, which was in a similar state. I brushed off the bees that I could, left that frame next to the other and moved on to the second box. There was a mound of dead bees lying on the top of the frames, which I moved onto the hillside also. By this time some of the bees were getting warmed up from the sun and were beginning to move around, so I took my brush and ran it over them, in the hopes that it would aggravate them and get them more active. Some did start flying around but for the most part those that were alive just got a little more excited and then calmed back down.

I picked up each frame individually and looked through them for the queen. I took care to shake as many bees as I could off on to the hillside in the hopes that it would warm up more of them and the death toll wouldn’t be as large as I thought it was. I found the queen and I’m 90% sure she was dead. I picked her up and took her over to show F and S, my neighbors, who were watching me from the fence. She didn’t move at all but I left her in the sun just in case.

There was about an inch and a half of bees at the bottom of the hive and I left those there. I left the bees out on the hillside to warm up and went in and made 4 cups of sugar water. They had NO honey in the hive whatsoever, which makes me think that it was a combination of starvation and cold that did them in. Which made me feel slightly less guilty, but still bad because it means I should’ve fed them sooner. There just wasn’t an opportunity with the weather and all.

So, what this means is I’ve basically got a dead hive. If the bees couldn’t handle the cold then the larvae sure couldn’t, and with no queen the hive is doomed. I’m just hoping the remaining bees will help remove some of the bodies from the frames. I’ll probably buy another nuc of bees because I want honey this year. I’m debating whether I want to buy them from B or not. I’ll probably get them from him, just because his bees are good native bees. If my hive had had enough food they would’ve been fine. That’s my belief anyway.

I am sad they died though. L

Thunderstorms And New Boxes

It had been sunny all day, so when I got home at 4 I wanted to hurry up and put the second box on the hive because I knew I wouldn’t have another warm day to do it for a while. It was barely in the 50s today, and it was windy, but there were bees occasionally coming and going so I figured if I was quick I wouldn’t hurt things too much.

I used the checker boarding method I’ve described before, spacing out new frames in between the old in each of the boxes. I wanted to find the queen if I could, but she was elusive again. There were new eggs laid in a small corner, though much less than the last time I looked. The varroa mite infestation has gotten worse. There were dozens of bees with the red mites on them. I’d say over 90% of the sugar water I gave them last month is gone. They had almost no food. And what food they had was mostly pollen. I’ll definitely feed them the moment I can. I didn’t want to take the time to do it today and risk hurting them with extended exposure to the cold.

The population is way down too. It might just be because they weren’t as active as last time, but there looked like there was a lot less bees in general. There was a good layer of dead ones on the floor though.

I promised myself I would add the second box with the arrival of the first blossom on the cherry blossom tree in my backyard. Later (after the thunderstorm/during the hail we got today) I walked around the back yard. One of the blossoms had opened today. 🙂

The storm we had was weird though. All of the sudden thunder came out of no where. There were two loud booms and then it started dumping hail. The ground is still white from it. There was even some lightening too, which we never see around here. I hope it gets warmer soon. I don’t think my bees can take another month of cold.