Archive | July 2011

Still Checking For Swarming Signs (With Lots Of Honey)

I opened the bees today. I can understand why they’re wanting to swarm. The top box is extremely full with honey, most of which is being capped And there was a frame of honey in the bottom box as well. There were still some empty cells on a few frames though so I moved those around to the middle in the hopes the queen would start laying in them. And I moved a few of the fuller frames down to the lower box, refilling the empty space in the top box with a few brood frames. They haven’t started drawing out the super yet, but I’m hoping they will take the hint since I stuck all of the burr comb I scraped off back onto one of the frames.

The drone population has more than doubled again. I counted two frames with more than 20 drones on them, and many more with numbers in the teens. There were two large patches of drone cells so I squished them because more drones would not help the swarming problem. And the extra space will allow the queen more laying room.

There were three new queen cups in the hive, but none with eggs. Two were on the edges of the frames and one was up closer to the middle. I squished all of them.

I found the queen in the top box, on one of the two frames that had eggs in them before I moved things around. There’s only one frame that has yet to be completely drawn out. There was some honey on it but not much, so I put it in the center of the top box in the hopes that the queen would start laying on it and the bees would move the honey out.

There is only one full frame of pollen in the hive, but not much anywhere else. Which does slightly concern me. The good news is that I’ll get to plant more poppies next year. We have a ‘wild’ one in the front that just popped up randomly. It’s a bright red one that’s really pretty though, so we left it.

Most of the honey in the hive is in the process of being capped. If they cap a whole frame I think I’ll take it out for harvest. Or at the very least put it in the freezer in case they need it later. I’d really like to get some honey this year though. And with any luck they’ll draw out the super completely and have it filled by the end of the month. It would be really awesome if they did!

Hopefully you won’t see a post from me for another five days. If you do it’s likely to be a swarm post. I don’t think they will without a queen fully capped though. Anyway, see you in five days!

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Swarming Inevitable?

I feel like I start al these posts out with the same “I opened the bees today”, but I haven’t got any better introduction figured out yet, so that’s all you get. I didn’t take any pictures of anything but there were a new color of drones in the hive today. And there were more than twice as many. The newer ones were more honey colored and had more fur on them. I liked them better than the ugly looking blue ones. Unfortunately however, I think they’re going to swarm. They’ve filled in the entire top box with honey and aren’t doing much to expand upwards brood-wise. And there’s almost no honey in the bottom box. Like, at all. There’s a good bit of pollen in the bottom box, but there’s really not much of that either. I found three swarm cells. By swarm cells I mean queen cups on the VERY edge of the frame. They didn’t have eggs in them yet, but I squished them anyway. I read the Supering part beekeeping book and found out that I should’ve put the super on probably a couple weeks ago. The urge to swarm has already been established because the bees have run out of upward space to expand into. I’m going to put the super on tonight and hope that the nectar flow the bees have been using to expand isn’t close to being done yet. I’m just not sure if I want to get rid of the foundation and allow the bees to draw things out how they want to. I’m not really sure what I should do though. I feel like putting the super on won’t really help, but my mom doesn’t want a second hive in the yard. I would split the current hive, incase that was unclear. For the moment though, all I can do is put the super on top of the current hive and hope the bees draw things out. I think I’ll leave the foundation in on the super. That way everything is consistent and I don’t have to worry about having different parts in one hive. *sigh*. I really hope they don’t swarm. I’ll get in big trouble with the city. I’m not too worried about the health of the colony though because they’re clearly going to be fine either way. I feel bad even asking about this, but wouldn’t killing the queen sort of solve the problem? The bees would make a new one and the almost month long pause in egg laying would reduce the population to a manageable size again. I know that’s really not the best option though. Uggggh. Wish me luck! Until next week then.

Drones Gallore, The Queen, Honey And More

Since today was really awesome, weather wise, and I had a friend over to take some pictures, I opened the bees up.

I found the queen in the top box which was really exciting because it means they’re finally starting to expand properly into the new box. On the same frame I found a bunch of really odd, ugly looking things that actually made me say “ewww”. They were drones. Here’s a picture of one.

 

It’s the really big dark colored bee in the center of the picture. Notice how big the eyes are. They’re used for spotting the queens out in the mating yards. I counted 27 of them, with a large patch still yet to hatch. Here’s a picture of that.

 

They were just weird looking. Their coloration was weird; thick brownish-blue stripes on the thorax with weird thin yellow stripes in between. And look at how much bigger they are! I’ve never actually seen a drone before, so seeing 27 of these weird hulking things moving about the hive was bizarre. How does a wild hive actually manage so many of them? Don’t they naturally want to make several hundred? How is there room?!

Along with the excitement of the drones was the honey. The top box weighs a ton and it’s not even fully developed yet. Here’s the reason.

 

I’m kind of tempted to take that frame out for myself haha. I want some honey! But I’ll leave it. The bees made need it later in the season so I’ll wait until they’ve filled in all the frames and then we’ll see what’s left.

I found a bunch more eggs today. I wonder if the queen stopped laying in response to the crappy weather we’ve been having (?). All across the country there are ‘heat alerts’ going on, but we’re having an unusually cool summer here in Washington state. It’s nice but slightly annoying. It could be just a few degrees warmer, with about half as many clouds as we’ve had. I don’t hate having some clouds, because I find plain blue sky to be kind of boring, but a little bit more warmth would be good. Being down in the low 60’s in late July is ridiculous.

 I also found a couple new queen cups today, but I still couldn’t find the old one. These cups were a bit closer to the edges of the frames than the last ones so I squished them for safe measure.

And just because I’ve got it, I’ll show you a picture of the queen.

What, can’t see her? I’m pointing right to her. There’s also a drone up at the top left corner. The queens a bit difficult to spot though. My friend wouldn’t zoom in more for some reason :p

She’s just to the right there.

Well, that’s all I’ve got. Until next monday! Maybe tuesday, since I opened the hive earlier that I was supposed to because it was so nice out.

Possible Trouble

I opened the hive yesterday and was really excited to see three or four deep frames of honey in the top box. The bees have started drawing out all of the frames and everything in the top box looked good. There weren’t any eggs in there yet though, but I just figured the queen would wait until the cells were drawn out completely before bothering to climb up there.

The lower box, the ones that the bees have been living in for the most part all year, looked normal for the most part. Except for the serious lack of eggs and larvae. There are still a few frames of capped brood, including several clumps of drones. A couple frames of brood space have been filled in with pollen, and there are only a few scattered clumps of freshly laid eggs. And some of those eggs looked like they’d been laid off to the side of the comb, instead of directly in the middle like they should be (possibly indicating laying workers?). I couldn’t find the queen, nor did I see the queen cup they had built (there was an egg soaking in royal jelly in it) last week.

I’m a little worried that the bees are either going to swarm (they certainly have the resources to do it) or they’re queenless. Either case is not good, but I’d much rather that they were queenless since that’s something that I can fix somewhat easily. Where as swarming is something I’d get in trouble with the city for, and could possibly get fined for.

It’s been raining for the past four days, although the bees have been flying around with only slightly reduced numbers. I’m hoping that the bees have just requeened and the crappy weather hasn’t allowed the new queen to get out to do proper mating flights yet (though I know that’s highly unlikely), and that the old queen is being allowed to live to keep egg laying going until the new queen is able to. Which is what last years bees did.

I’ll be opening the bees up as soon as I can and sticking close to home so I can watch for a swarm. Let’s hope nothing goes wrong!

Honey, There Was A Swarm

Since it’s been 6 days since I opened the bees last, I opened them today. My mom bought some burlap sacks at McClendon’s, so I burned a little bit of one in the smoker. The bees were much calmer with the smoke I found.

I was really excited to be opening them up again. I’m looking forward to seeing how they expand into the second box, since last year it was at the end of the season when the bees were more interested in strengthening the one box, instead of expanding into a second. I opened the top box to find one frame (one of the incompletes from last year) fully drawn out and FULL of honey. Every single cell was filled almost to the brim with honey. It had to weigh at least 15 pounds because it was heavier than my littlest dog (and she weighs 10). I had to pull pretty hard to get it out of the box though. I thought the bees had super glued it down or something, but once I got it out I saw the actual source of the problem. The bees were starting to fill in the new space in between the boxes with wax and honey. I spent probably about 20 minutes scraping the wax off from the bottoms of the upper boxes frame and the tops of the lower boxes frames. I pulled out one of the new frames from the top box so I had a place to put the honey and wax. It wasn’t until I’d squished a few of the pieces of burr comb down onto the frame that I realized the bees had drawn the whole thing out about a centimeter. It was solid white and matched the foundation perfectly. There were a few other frames that had been drawn out, but not so extensively as that.

The bottom (and MUCH more full) box had two more full frames of just honey. There wasn’t much pollen at all really. There are a bunch of drone cells being made though. I’m just leaving them alone. The bees know what the hive needs much better than I do, so I’m going to just let them do their thing. They’ve started making a new queen too, which I find weird since the current queen is laying just fine and doesn’t appear injured or anything. There are 5 or 6 frames of brood, but the stuff on the edges is getting more filled in with honey. I took three empty frames from the top box and rotated them with 3 from the bottom, in the hopes it would encourage the bees to build wax in the right places (and confuse them a little if they’re thinking they want to swarm).

Speaking of which, yesterday there was one. Apparently there are some apartments down the street a few blocks which have wild bees living in the wall, and yesterday they swarmed. I was up north for the Sultan Shindig, but F texted me to say that a big cloud of bees had just flown in between our houses. I was worried they were mine, and then I thought F was just trying to scare me by telling me the Animal Control had come by looking for them. When we finally made it home a couple hours later we found out the real story. And the animal control guy said that I wasn’t allowed to have bees in my yard because the lot size is too small. But the hive isn’t visible from the street, and it’s 50 feet from the property line (that’s major requirement) on the side that doesn’t have a 6 foot fence. My hive is positioned at the base of the hill side, which is basically just a straight stack of rocks 10 feet high. And on top of that is a 6 foot fence. The next nearest property line has 6 foot high hedges, which are interchangeable for the fence. My neighbor said that the animal control guy said that since my neighbors are fine with it he’s not going to worry about it.
The swarm landed a block or two behind us supposedly. I wasn’t home in time to see it. I still haven’t ever seen a swarm in progress, but from what I hear they’re a sight to see.

Anyway, that’s all I’ve got. The hive is doing wonderfully, and apparently there’s a good nectar flow right now. The honey was all pretty clear (which makes me think it might be either the blackberry patch up the street, or the several thousand square feet of clover in the grass across the street). And the wild hives in the area are clearly doing well too. The good news is that if my hive does requeen there’s a wild hive around to get some good genes from.

Bees On The Fourth

I finally opened the bees today. Good thing I did too. Apparently there’s a bit of a nectar flow going on. They’ve drawn out all but a quarter of one of the frames, two of which are completely full of pollen and nectar. And to think, I was worried they wouldn’t have any food!

There are just under a dozen drone cells scattered about the hive, and the queen has laid eggs in every single available cell. I saw her and she’s looking as healthy as ever. I left the two supersedure cells in the middle of one of the frames alone though.  The bees had started connecting the empty spaces in the hive with wax and building comb because they’re getting so close to being out of room. I figured now would be the time to put the second box on.

After I was done with everything one of the bees would not leave me alone. I walked to the other side of the yard and waited and waited and eventually it went away. I went inside, changed, and came back out onto the back patio. The bee was there waiting for me and flew right at me. We played a bit of cat and mouse over the next hour (the bee being the cat and me being the mouse running back inside). It got itself stuck in my moms hair and I had to get it out but didn’t managed to squish it. And of course we HAD to sit outside where the killer bee was for dinner. It came back over two dozen times and buzzed around the area. It almost landed on my neighbors glasses (he was determined not to be as big a scaredy cat as my mom and I). It was really kind of annoying.

But, the hive is doing well. The last few days have been up in the 70s so there’s been a constant stream of bees coming and going.

At night you can get up close to the hive and watch the guards stand just outside the door and fan the cool air in. It’s pretty neat.