Archive | May 2012

Inspections After The Swarm

I wanted to check in on the girls, since I haven’t in more than two weeks, and they swarmed.

Trunchen Hive is doing really well, they’ve completely drawn out the top box, and there are several frames of capped brood, with a frame of fresh eggs at the far edge of the box. I took a couple bars out (painstakingly) to examine the comb, and found that the center of the frame, the most concave part, was filled with capped drone cells. This kiiind of worried me, because that means those cells are too large for workers, which means those cells can’t be used for anything other than drones and honey. I tried to peek into the bottom box, but the bars stuck to the top box so I had to reorganize everything again. This is quite a bother. They hadn’t drawn anything out in there yet.

White Hive had capped drone cells in the super. This immediately sent me into a panic, because there shouldn’t be brood in the super, and because I didn’t remember seeing eggs in there when I removed Queen Agatha during the split. After dispatching of the drone cells, I prepared myself for the worst and began digging through the top brood chamber. I was amazed at the complete lack of brood in the hive. It was a new experience to see the frames completely devoid of their usual white glow. The drone population is rampant, and there are almost more drones than workers. No wonder they swarmed, they wanted to get away from all the boys!

There was a LOT less honey then there was last time I opened the hive. I guess I didn’t realize how much the bees would take with them when they swarmed. I still expect being able to harvest at the end of the year though.

The frames were all connected with burr comb. The hive looked like such a mess. I didn’t make it into the lower box because the bees were getting really angry. I didn’t see the new queen, and there was no eggs yet. I was concerned a few weeks ago about her not having enough room to lay eggs because of how much honey she had, but with all the honey gone, she’s got two boxes to hurry up and fill! The bees level of irritation makes me worried about if they have a queen though, cause they shouldn’t have been as angry as they were with the lack of brood and honey to defend. I dunno. Anyone have anything to say about what might be going on in the hive? I’ve never experienced a swarm before, so this is all new to me.

Swarming, Catching And Transporting

I didn’t think I’d need to open the hives for a couple weeks, because I didn’t want to disturb the growing queens in White Hive, and Trunchen Hive is supposed to be left alone for the most part. I knew that the queens should’ve been hatching a few days ago though, so I was looking forward to seeing what was going on in White Hive later in the week. I’ll still be interested to see what’s going on, but I know that multiple queens were allowed to emerge and live, because the bees swarmed today. They were acting kind of oddly before it happened, and actually, now that I think about it, they’ve been doing it for weeks. Something was off today though, I could feel it. I even pointed it out to my neighbor. The bees were just too busy around the entrance and the hive in general, but nothing was really happening so far as I could tell, so I couldn’t figure out what was wrong. Here are some pictures of the hive before it swarmed.

I’ve taken a few pictures of the bees like this before, but there was something different about today that kind of alerted me that something was amiss. However, I didn’t put two and two together, because I was completely shocked to see the cloud of bees that were suddenly in my yard after stepping away from the window for a moment. I literally was only away from the window long enough to go to the bathroom.

My jaw literally dropped when I saw this, and I honestly don’t think that’s ever happened to me before.

All those little specks of light ‘on’ that tree? Those are honeybees. Thousands of them were flying around. These pictures don’t do the sight of a swarm justice. The swarm was probably 30-40 feet across, 20 feet deep, and 20-30 feet tall. It was intense. The bees were definitely ‘nicer’ than they’ve ever been though, because I walked out into the middle of it to get pictures of the hive and the bees didn’t bother me at all.

Again, this picture doesn’t do it justice, but the bees were shooting out of the hive.

I like this picture because you can see the bees against the sky too even.

The bees were slowly making their way over to my neighbors yard, and they were beginning to condense at the bottom of that cloud, on the shrubbery. I texted my neighbor, JB (J’s roommate) and told her to come outside to watch the bees. I also hoped the bees would land in her yard and I would be able to easily get to them. Naturally, this was not the case, BUT they did land in the yard behind me, so I was able to run around the block and find them spread out across 6 feet on a shrub. Thank god JB was home to help me, cause I honestly don’t know how I would’ve done anything. All I had to use for a hive was the two boxes I had yet to put on Trunchen Hive, and really nothing else. Before I get ahead of myself, here are the bees clustering on the shrub.

I know its hard to see, but there are about 10 clusters of bees spanning around 6 feet of the top of the shrub.

And naturally, this shrub is a shrub, which means that the bees had a million different surfaces to be holding onto, and as such, a million different surfaces I had to worry about getting them off of. Here’s how I started.

The clusters were all about 8-9 feet up in the air. Thankfully my neighbors (who, by the way, weren’t home at the time, so I just had to go around the back and do all of this while they were gone) had a giant ladder with a fold out piece for paint or something. Unfortunately, this was too small to hold a hive with no bottom. So, I had to put a board underneath the hive, but all I had were giant boards. Which meant I needed to use long poles to make things a little more stable. Also, keep in mind that my yard is about 30 feet below this one, so JB was hopping their fence and all the terraces in my yard to bring me these supplies. I needed a board, two long, thin, poles, and some pruning shears. Seriously could not have done this without JB, cause without her I would’ve been running around the block 4 or 5 times trying to get everything to this yard. Cause hopping a fence in a bee suit is nigh impossible.

On top of all that, I still needed to decide on how I wanted these bees to sit in these boxes. I ended up putting 8 bars in the bottom box, and then leaving the top box bar-less so I could dump the bees into that one and give them an opportunity to hang onto something. The second I dumped the first clump in (I didn’t consider using pruning shears until 2 or 3 clumps after starting) the bees started pumping their wings furiously while holding onto the walls, to get their pheromones into the air and help give the other bees a way to find them. I would’ve like to get a picture of it, because they ended up in kind of neat little rows fanning their hearts out. Note: I didn’t use smoke, because the bees were so ‘calm’ that smoking them would’ve just been counter productive.

After the pruning shears came into play, getting the bees in the box became MUCH easier. I was forced to scoop them into the box before hand, because the configuration I had it set up on was by no means stable enough to easily move things around. Oh, that was the other thing; after getting the right half of the swarm, I had to hover the ladder 3 feet to the left, while balancing a hive full of bees on it. It was so chaotic and crazy, I honestly still have trouble believing I managed it all.

See, cutting the bees out of the shrub made collecting them muuuch easier. That little clump of bees probably weighed 3 lbs. I’m not exaggerating. I couldn’t believe how much it weighed after I cut it loose. And its just a little tip of a branch, that weighed nothing on its own! After I got all of the clumps into the hive, I brushed off the shrub because some of the bees were starting to try and reform clumps. It sent all of the bees into the air, but so many girls were fanning their scent from inside the hive, there wasn’t much confusion for long.

Then of course, there was the wonderful task of putting top bars into that mess of bees. Normally I would say it was impossible, but considering what I had to do to capture this swarm, and the amount of work involved, putting those bars in was cake.

I have 0 spare hive parts at my house, so to improvise a roof for the hive, I used a garbage can lid (we use the garbage can to hold extra yard waste when our bin is full, and the lid is usually sitting full of water for the birds and dogs). I put a rock on it to make sure it wouldn’t blow away. I would’ve used another board, but the only boards I had were too big and wouldn’t have allowed the bees not in the hive a way to get in. So the garbage can lid worked great!

Here’s a picture of White Hive after I captured the swarm. These bees barely moved from these spots for the rest of the day. Eventually a bunch more guard bees came out, but they all stayed right around the entrance. There were only ever 1 or 2 bees coming or going at any given minute, and 0 were flying other than the foragers.

This picture, taken minutes later, shows all that was left of the bees on the outside of the hive. They were all fanning like crazy. I would also like to note that throughout this whole thing, I noticed bees with pollen and several drones. I didn’t think the bees took pollen with them when they swarmed, but oh well.

Now for the moving of this hive. I wanted to wait until later in the evening (the bees swarmed almost exactly at 1 in the afternoon) to make sure the bees all made it into the hive before I moved them. So, I left a note on the door of my neighbors, explaining why there was a hive of bees on the top of their ladder in their yard, and that I’d be back later to remove them and gave them my phone number. Waiting the 6 hours until 7:15 was bothersome. Anyway, my uncle drives a truck, but it was my aunt who drove it over to help me move this. My moms foot was broken, so she couldn’t help me, and for some reason the aunt who wanted this hive was unable to help move it. So my second aunt was stuck assisting me.

Here’s what we did. I climbed up the ladder, took the garbage can lid off, put a piece of plywood to match the one on the bottom on the top, and with the help of my aunt, strapped these pieces together using bungie cords. With the top, boxes, and top securely together, I lifted the whole thing straight up while my aunt removed the poles used to stabilize it (which had to be bungied to the floor in order to get the bungies in the right places). With the poles gone, I was able to maneuver the hive over and rest it on an overturned garbage can, so my aunt and I could kind of regroup and decide what we wanted to do next. I didn’t want my aunt to help me carry the hive, because I wasn’t sure how aggressive the bees were going to be and I didn’t want to risk her getting stung, but she was confident that it would all be fine, so we carried the hive around the side of the house to the back of her truck. My neighbors watched from the safety of their house, behind their screen door.

With the bees in the back of truck, we quickly tidied up the back yard, and then strapped the hive down in the back of the truck to prevent it from sliding around and falling apart while we drove. I thanked my neighbors and apologized for the inconvenience and promised them a jar of honey in thanks for their help. My aunt and I then drove the 20 minutes to my other aunts house, dropped the hive off, removed its bungie cords and replaced its plywood lid with the garbage can lid (so the bees could come and go freely again), handed off my Warre’ book, and were off to Dairy Queen to celebrate the success of the day. I’m so exhausted haha.

First Inspection After Split

It’s supposed to rain today and tomorrow, but since it was so nice when I got home I figured I should open the bees because I didn’t want to risk not being able to do it until tomorrow.

Trunchen Hive is doing very well as far as I’m concerned. 3 full frames had been drawn out in the top box. They were solid white and contained honey, pollen, and even eggs and larvae! I know I’m not supposed to pull those frames out to look at them, but I figured doing it just this once would be ok.

Here are some pictures my mom managed to take from the house.

They had a slight arc to them, but it wasn’t too bad and they were so fragile I didn’t bother correcting them.

Unfortunately the bees had attached this frame to the one next to it. I had to break them apart (it was easier than cutting butter) to examine it. This frame also had eggs on it, like the first one I pulled out. I would like to note that these three frames were right next to the edge of the hive, instead of the center like one would expect.

The bees had started drawing out a forth frame. It was neat to see how they began drawing out wax, since the other frames were fully drawn out.

Handling these frames was a PAIN. They’re so small and light they moved at the slightest touch after I loosened them from the propolis. You can see in the above picture that the girls had glued the cloth down to the frames very nicely.

I wanted to get a peek at the lower box, to see if they had done anything in that, but unfortunately the bees had glued the frames to the bottoms of the wax from the upper box, so the frames pulled up and then fell, causing havoc in the lower box. I had to then painstakingly put all the frames back in the lower box, and task that was all but impossible because the frames were so light they kept sticking to my gloves and then falling back into the box when I took my hand away. I won’t be separating the boxes that way again. With everything well in Trunchen Hive, I moved on to White Hive.

The bees aren’t too interested in moving up into the super, and as a result the upper deep is being filled in as more and more brood emerges. I have a feeling I’m going to have to harvest a few frames of honey out of there before the year is done, because they’re going to run out of brood space fast. I only got 4 frames into the hive before I decided to stop. I counted at least 7 queen cells, the largest of which were the 3 swarm cells that I saw last week. I decided to stop because the girls had attached that cells to the box bellow, and I broke it in half when I pulled it out of the box. Thankfully the larvae remained at the bottom of the cell and appeared unharmed. I gently put the frame back in the hopes the girls could save her. The swarm cell to her left was unharmed and almost capped.

There were lots of little emergency supercedure cells higher up on the frame. They were extremely small and drawn out oddly. All were capped, but they looked ugly and definitely weren’t large enough to support a proper queen. There was one healthy sized cell that the girls had drawn out away from the frame, instead of sideways into the comb like most of the other cells. That one was capped. The fact that they had made more than 4 supercedure cells – oh look, there goes a bee carrying away one of the girls I accidentally squashed today. Anyway, I’m really concerned that White Hive will swarm, despite my having split them, because there are so many queen cells being raised. Does anyone know if over 7 queen cells, including swarm cells,  is too many? I was hoping the bees would just raise the swarm cells as the next queen. I wasn’t expecting this kind of mass production they’ve got going on. Any and all advice is very welcome!!

Drone Pictures

To be obnoxious, I’m posting some none-too-good pictures of the drones in White Hive.

That’s the best picture I’ve got. There are 3 drones that I can see easily here. Ones in the sun, one’s in the shade, and one’s in flight (in the shade). See if you can find them!

There’s one in flight. I had to use the ‘super’ zoom on my camera so I could get this close of a shot, but it reduces the quality quite noticeably, unfortunately.

This drone is right on the edge of the hive, about to take off.

The shade made getting their colorations hard, but they’re blue with thin yellow stripes. They’re so much bigger than the workers, its ridiculous. If I remember correctly this is because they have to carry the queen while mating.

Hopefully I can get some closer shots later, with better quality. I’ve got more pictures than this currently, but the detail isn’t too great, and these were the best shots.

Day One After The Split

The bees are very active around Trunchen Hive, and the air space above both hives is full of whizzing golden orbs that always indicate a lot of foraging.

The foraging bees seem to mostly be staying at Trunchen Hive, but there are a good number of them that have begun drifting back to White Hive. That’s to be expected though, since I didn’t have the space to move the hives the recommended 6 feet apart. At least not without having to move them again later.

Unfortunately all this activity has not been a good thing for the dogs. Both Buttercup and Sam have been stung, and within half an hour of each other. Its only because the bees get ‘lost’ in the grass and then the dogs accidentally step on them. And because of Buttercups fur they get stuck easily and end up stinging her before they can get out. Sam has only been stung once before, at least as far as I can remember, but he managed to step right on one today and came hurriedly back into the house with his head down looking troubled. Both Buttercup and Sam were given some bee-allergy medicine on a nice spoonful of peanut butter.

I forgot to mention yesterday that the bees had started to fill up the super, and with the lack of a laying queen for the next month; the focus will be on collecting nectar. The lack of brood to take care of will allow more bees to forage. The top box was also probably twice as heavy as the lower box. So the honey crop should be really good this year!

There was something else I wanted to mention, but for some reason its eluding me at the moment… The drone population was extremely high, but for the most part there were very little drone cells. I didn’t look through the lower box at all, because I figured it would be best to leave that alone since I had completely disrupted the top box. I’m rather annoyed I can’t remember what I wanted to mention…

Well, anyway, the bees are out in large numbers today, and there are quite a few of them drinking from the – oh! That’s what it was! Haha. The bees have been drinking from the dirt in the trumpet trees pot. Here’s a picture.

There are usually a dozen of them scattered around in the pot at any given time. The dirt is kept constantly wet because of the tray the plant sits in. I’m not sure why they feel the need to drink from this, but they really enjoy it. Its kind of a bother though because this is right at the edge of our patio, so we constantly have bees flying practically right up to our back door. Which is something we’re not overly fond of. I’m hoping to use this as another reason why we need to install a proper pond in our yard. That should definitely keep the girls away from the house.

Trunchen Hive Is Born

I spent the first half of today volunteering at a food distribution center for the hungry, and then rushed home to split the bees.

The hive got here yesterday, but I didn’t feel boring you with a post about getting it. I immediately had to stack all of the boxes up and make my living room smell fantastically of cedar.

I primed the roof in between my classes, and then finished painting it after I got home for the day. I put the final coat on right before I went to bed, and it was dry by this morning. Which meant that I’d be doing the split once I got home!

So. Here’s the picture of the White Hive (I think that’s what I’m going to officially call it) before I moved it.

They weren’t very active when I started things going, but they stirred into action once I started moving things around. I was going to try and just move the whole hive at once, but it weighed wayyy too much to risk doing that. I probably would’ve lifted that much, if it weren’t for the fact that it was a hive full of stinging insects which I needed to cooperate with me. So, I took the roof off, set that behind me on the hill side, took the super off and put that on the roof. I took the telescoping cover (? [the inner lid is what I call it]) and put that on the 4 bricks next to me like I would if I was going to just open the hive like normal. Then I took the lowest box and carried it over to an old stump (the bottom stayed glued to it so that was reaaallly helpful). Then there was the very fun task of moving the base, which is lighter than it appears, but is still rather heavy and bothersome to move when you’re in a beekeepers suit. We had 6 cement blocks holding up the stand, and since I still didn’t have an official stand for Trunchen Hive, I set two of the blocks aside to use for that. Because really, only 4 blocks are necessary to hold up the White Hive’s stand.

SO. By this time a cloud of bees had formed where the White Hive used to be. They were extremely loud, and every time I got close to them, they would all come close/try to land on me (possibly mistaking me for the hive?). I’m making things up here, I honestly have no clue. I rushed to put the White Hive back together (leaving both lids and the super off, because I still needed to find the queen and brush some bees into the new hive) and then rushed to get Agatha’s hive in place. Here’s where the White Hive now resides.

As SOON as I set the stand and the first box down bees started confusedly piling into the entrance. The cloud (which was louder than an airplane when it flies overhead) quickly diminished while I worked to get the bars and the second bars in place. I then went over to the White Hive and began looking for Agatha. The bees had constructed dozens of swarm cells again, and I was thankful that I got this new hive. I became more and more apprehensive that I wouldn’t find Agatha because she had stopped laying (I was seeing very little eggs) and her reduced size would make her almost impossible to spot. To my dismay, on the 6th frame there were two swarm cells with eggs in both of them. I scanned the frame for Agatha and found her, much to my delight. She had a weird thing stinking out of her back end though, almost like she had been laying an egg when I opened the hive and hadn’t finished and just got up and kept walking around. That or she was walking around with her stinger out, which I’ve never seen.

I quickly took her over to the new hive and (GENTLY) swept the entire frame of bees into the box. She disappeared into the masses, so I had no way of knowing if she actually made it into the box, but I didn’t see her on the ground, and I put the frame into the box sideways so I could brush the bees off with a little more control. I put the frame back in the hive and left the two swarm cells with eggs in them on the frame. My thinking is, these are already queen cups that have eggs in them, so the bees don’t have to do any extra work and the eggs are already on track to be queens. I just hope that the bees don’t take this to mean that they still need to swarm after those new queens hatch…

Anyway, I went back through the top box of White Hive and swept as many bees as I could into the new hive. I then put the super and the two roofs back on the hive and quickly went to get the quilt (which I’d filled with extra wood chips we had from my aunts) and the roof for the new hive. I put the bars in place in the top box of the new hive, and then the quilt and roof, and walked away. And so Trunchen Hive was made!

Here it is! I like this picture because if you look closely you can see the girls all lined up at the entrance, presumably fanning the scent of Trunchen Hive.

Here’s a picture of both White Hive and Trunchen Hive.

That plant in the middle there is wisteria. It was really annoying to have to keep walking around, and I hope to eventually get it growing on something properly. Otherwise I’m going to chop it down because it provides no benefit to the bees and its really not that attractive.

I feel rather bad for White Hive, because all of the field bees will now be living in Trunchen Hive and as a result there appears to be 0 activity.

I’ll update this if I take more pictures.

Charger And Hive Shipping

Someone who seemed actually genuinely apologetic about this situation picked up at the bee place today. He told me he was making more hives and saw no reason why mine shouldn’t be shipped out today. I felt bad so I didn’t ask for them to cover my shipping. Even though he got it out the door too late, so it could be here as late as Wednesday. My mom is seriously considering calling them up to make them pay for shipping. She’s a little bit meaner than me, and also the one who’s paying for this, so… not much I can do to stop her. We’ll see what happens though. I’m not too sure she’ll actually call them. She gets home from work too late anyway.

I got my camera charger for cheap today! My cousin works at the camera store and got me a 40% discount, so it was a lot cheaper than I expected. And my battery is all charged up, so hopefully tomorrow you’ll be getting some pictures of the bees all over the hive. For whatever reason, almost consistently at right around 3 o’clock they all come pouring out and cover the hive. The air fills with them as well, as activity during this time increases immensely, and probably more than 3 times the normal amount of foragers go flying around. So with any luck you’ll get to see a picture of that tomorrow. It’s a shame I’ve got a completely full day on Thursday and won’t be able to split the hive then. It’s also a shame I’ll be home alone and unable to take pictures except for before and after the split. So the actual process won’t be captured on film 😦

I hope the hive gets here tomorrow anyway, because then I’ll have time to paint the roof with a couple coats and make sure it’s good and sealed. I’m also not entirely sure what I’ll be putting in the quilt (the roof, basically) to act as a moister reducer/insulator…