Archive | June 2012

Agatha Is No More

I had several titles for this post. “UGGGGGH, Ok, seriously?! No honey this year, and This bitch” among them. Trunchen Hive swarmed at 11:05 today. My mom had JUST left for a funeral and I had stepped outside to finish my morning cup of tea, when the bees began clouding in front of Trunchen Hive. I ran to grab my camera, and my phone to call my mom, and came back out to snap a few pictures. I’ll post them later, as today my aunt and I are putting beauty bark down over the first level of my garden and I don’t have enough time to do more than write a hurried post.

The bees made a bigger cloud than the first swarm, in my opinion. They occupied the air space all the way from the back edge of my yard to the roof of my house, some 50 feet away, if not more. My aunt was pulling up with a load of bark in her husbands truck in time to see them. This is the aunt who helped me move the last swarm mind. I told her to look back from where she was and she replied “no! I was coming around the other way to avoid seeing it!”

The bees moved up into my neighbors yard, just to the left of me, so I was able to go through her house (she wasn’t home, but I let myself in with my spare key) and watch as the swarm landed some 15 feet up in one of her trees. I have absolutely no where to house this swarm and I’m really not interested in risking my life to catch them, so I’m just going to let them go. Besides, Agatha is clearly a queen I can’t handle. Its frustrating though, because she’s obviously a great layer, and has now headed two sufficiently strong colonies. She headed a colony that was able to be split three ways, and one of those splits, headed by her, was able to swarm again. If any of these splits make it through the winter, it will be the one with her at its head. That said, it’s nice to be rid of her, because the new queens will hopefully make nicer bees than she did.

I was worried about swarming, but I couldn’t get into the box to look at any of the “frames”. This colony swarmed while only occupying ONE box. They had just begun expanding into the lower box, and now that all of the field bees are gone, I don’t know if they’ll be able to sufficiently fill in the lower box before the end of the year. I’ll post pictures of the swarm later. Right now I have to go finish barking my garden.

*****EDIT*****

After waiting for over 7 hours, the bees had not relocated and it was beginning to rain, as well as get dark. So I broke down and asked my aunt if I could borrow her extendable ladder to go capture them. This of course meant that both of my neighbors came over to watch me, as well as my uncle who came to retrieve his truck (cousins came over, errands were ran; long story short my aunt had two cars of hers at my house that needed to go home with her). So. After having spent an entire day hauling bark all over my yard, I climbed up the ladder with cardboard box in hand to capture the bees. I have absolutely no spare hive parts lying around, so a cardboard box was literally the most convenient thing I could use. It was about the size of a Package (one that bees actually come in). Oh, haha, I didn’t even realize the serendipity of that.

Anyway. The I thought there were less bees than there were (they had wrapped themselves farther around the tree, so I didn’t actually see how many there were until I was up the tree), but the box was by no means full after I finished collecting them. The box had come with something wrapped in paper inside of it, and I still had that, so I just crumpled that up and put it in the box for the bees to hold onto, instead of a stick or something similar. So these bees are literally up a tree, homeless, in a cardboard box that say’s “will work for flowers” on it (one of my college friends had the clever idea of writing that on there).

I called my cousin as soon as I was back home and asked him to finish constructing the hive boxes he was making for his mother and I. I’ll get them sometime tomorrow and transfer the bees into that. So… Agatha lives on!

**********SECOND EDIT**********

 

Moving Frames

I really want to see the new queen in White Hive. I searched through the entire top box, and most of the bottom, but didn’t see her. There was a capped frame in the top box, and they were capping two more. There wasn’t much in the way of new eggs though, but I think a part of that has to do with the fact that theres a lot more honey stores since the last time I opened them, and there just isn’t enough space in the top box for more brood. So, I took a frame of honey off of each end of the top box and put them on the edges of the lower box. I replaced the frames in the top box with empty ones from the bottom, placing those two empties on the edge of the brood cluster. That way, its not disturbing the cluster, but the queen has easy access to more space. Almost all of the frames in the bottom were empty of anything. A few had some pockets of pollen, but for the most part the boxwas empty, save the bees.

There’s clearly a nectar flow happening, because Trunchen Hive has finally begun expanding into the lower box. They tried to connect a piece of comb from the top box to the new one they’ve drawn out in the lower box though. That was trouble. I wanted to move the comb over, just enough to be under the bar the girls has tried connecting it to, but it wasn’t going to move easily because it was attached to the wall. I then thought, Oh, I can just put the bar on top of it and push it down a little so that the bees will connect it and I can move it easier later. Big mistake. The whole heart-shaped chunk fell to the bottom of the box. It was too complete of a piece to just leave it where it fell, so I picked it up and tried to squish the upper part of it to the bar. Wax is annoyingly not sticky.

After crushing it to half its size with no hope of it sticking, I flattened the entire piece and tried squishing it to the frame that way. Success! I had some extra wax though, so I squished it to another bar. So, even though I lost a frame, the bees now have two bars with ‘guides’ on them, which will encourage them to draw out the wax faster, and correctly. There wasn’t any eggs on the frame thankfully, but there was quite a bit of clear nectar-honey that came oozing out of the top once I started squishing it down. I feel really bad about ruining a whole frame, but 80% of the wax is still in the hive, and all was not lost.

Aunt’s Queen Found

Due to my being at the science center all of monday, and all of the rain, there wasn’t an opportunity for me to open my aunts bees. I was over there with my other aunt and my cousin all of yesterday to do yard work though, so I got to take a look. I just wanted to make sure they had a queen and everything was going well.

They had 3 bars with wax on them, all full of eggs, and we even got to see the queen. She’s a lighter color than Agatha, and smaller too. She hasn’t quite come into herself yet I think, because her abdomen wasn’t the regular full length, and was puffier towards the front that it should’ve been. But other than that, the hive is fine! My aunt was standing less than 5 feet away the entire time, so she got to see almost everything right up close. I don’t think she got to see any of the eggs though. If I had been thinking about it I would’ve had someone get a camera, so she could take a picture of her queen… meh, oh well. I’ll try and remember next time.

I’ve managed to convince her to not put the rest of the four boxes on all at once. The Warre’ book suggests doing that in early spring, so the bees have ample room to spread out and the beekeeper has less to do. That’s for a hive with two full boxes of bees though, not one with only three frames. Since she got to look into the hive herself, I think she’s got a better idea of their current space usage.

There was a relative lack of nectar and pollen in the hive though, so that is worrisome. We were supposed to have thunderstorms yesterday, and rain today, but it was in the 70’s  with relatively clear skies yesterday and its looking to be another hot day today, without a cloud in sight. All of the hives have queens and eggs and plenty of foragers, so I’m not worried about any of them! Whether I’ll be collecting honey from either of the Warre’ hives is unlikely however.

A Queen And Beheading

White Hive has a queen! I didn’t get to see her, but I found 2 frames of eggs and some were just beginning to tip over on their sides. I only inspected 5 or 6 frames of the top box, stopping after the patch of eggs stopped. I’m so glad the wait is over! I don’t know what I would’ve done if they hadn’t had a queen. Oh! And they were SO much calmer than they’ve been in weeks. The sound of the hive was a lower tone, the bees weren’t clouding around me, and there weren’t as many bees poking their heads out from in between the frames to watch me. I’m excited to see what her Royal Highness looks like. I smoked the bees quite a lot, assuming that there wouldn’t be a queen, so I have a feeling she ran down into the lower box. The good news is that I’ll be getting a little bit of honey this year, as they’ve already capped some in the super. It’s probably not more than a pint, but it’s enough for me!

I also peeked in Trunchen Hive to see if they had expanded into the lower box yet. They had glued the bars down to the box, so I was able to lift the top box off the lower one without things sticking together. There was an “emergence” a few days ago, so the lower box was full of clustering bees, but not of wax. The weather has been decent for the last few weeks. Even if it rains its not too cold, and the bees have been out every day for the last couple months regardless. The drones in Trunchen hive were all killed and thrown out of the hive. There is a large pile of them on the ground at the entrance. Most of them are missing their heads. I’m not sure if the bees did that, or the ants, but I found it morbidly humorous. Agatha Trunchbull is a little Queen of Hearts-ish apparently. “Off with their heads!”

I haven’t got a chance to look into my aunt’s hive yet, but tomorrow I’ll be at her house and will open them up. She also found a recipe in the Warre’ book that I gave her for a flour paste type thing. Apparently you’re supposed to put a flour paste thing on the cloth that goes in between the top box and the quilt to keep the bees from drawing wax on the cloth. I missed that page the first time through the book I guess. Oh well, the inspection and the floured cloth will be done tomorrow!

Full Hive Inspection

I opened the hives up to see how things were going, because it was in the 70s today. The weather has been crappy for weeks, but the bees have been out and about almost every day because of their lack of food. Remember how I mentioned the girls were dumping drones outside of the hive? I went up to Trunchen Hive and found a small pile of them on the ground, just under the entrance. I pulled a frame out of Trunchen Hive (with great care, as most of the frames are attached to the walls), at the far edge of the box, and found a swarm cell on its edge. These bees have zero stores, if they swarm, it’ll be a disaster. That said, capped bees should begin emerging soon, and clover is blooming, and blackberries will be popping open any day. Its just this terrible weather thats the problem. They haven’t started drawing out anything in the lower hive body though, so I don’t understand where this swarm urge is coming from.

I opened White Hive next, and despite the bees aggravated behavior I was determined to get all the way through both boxes, which I haven’t done in about a month. I went over every frame carefully, in an effort to find eggs. None were there. They’re bringing in pollen though, which is a sign that there’s a queen. All of the drones were still in White Hive too, and they’ve got a bit more honey stores than last time. They’ve started capping the honey in the super as well. If I don’t see eggs in the hive next week I’ll have to move some eggs from Trunchen Hive over, so the girls can make another queen. I blame the drones for all this trouble lol. Next year, the drone population is going to be kept in check! Cause there are toooo many and they contribute to congestion in the brood chamber. And they’re a nuisance and make finding the queen impossible. There are close to more drones than bees at this point. Oh! And the girls have started drawing out new swarm cells. I’m not sure what that means.

I was at my aunts for a dinner party coincidentally tonight, and did an ‘external’ inspection of the hive. Basically I just stood and watched the bees for a minute lol. They looked normal. I didn’t notice any pollen coming in though… I’ll have to ask my aunt to check for that when she gets a chance.

So! Trunchen Hive is low on food, but doing good enough to consider swarming. White Hive has enough food stored up that it can support almost more drones than workers, and its queen status is still undetermined. The queen status of the hive at my aunt’s is also still undetermined. Swarming is not ok!

Aunts Hive

I went over to my aunts to put the roof and baseboard my cousin made on the hive. Those pieces are honestly as good a quality as the hive I paid $260. And it only cost them $50 in wood. That said, they used pine instead of cedar, which does change things. But still! That’s a cheap hive!

Anyway, the girls were all clustered in the top box. I didn’t remove any frames, but it didn’t look like they had drawn any wax out. The weather hasn’t been as good as it could be these last few days, and its supposed to be rainy for the rest of the week. Both of my hives have been fairly active, despite the weather, and my aunt’s hive has been pretty active too they say. Clover is popping up everywhere, so there’s going to be a big nectar flow underway any day now. If it was only a few degrees warmer. I’ll try and get pictures of the hive next time I’m over there, just for documentary purposes.

I got there too late in the day, and it was too cold, to do an inspection. So I’ll wait another week and see how they’re doing. They may have to be fed simply because of this weather.

Drone Dispatching

It seems my observation of the huge drone population has not gone to waste. There was an obnoxious buzzing noise coming from the middle of the lawn while i was doing my thrice daily rounds about the yard, so I went over to investigate. I found a drone with the ends of his wings chewed off trying to fly out of the grass. I picked him up to take a few pictures, and show him to my dogs who didn’t know what to do with him. Kira hates the bees with a passion, but because he wasn’t buzzing her, and because I was holding him, she didn’t know what to do. For the most part she just cowered under my hand like she expected me to sting her with him. Sam, big oaf that he is, started wagging his tail and bit him playfully. He loves chasing bumblebees if they let him. Buttercup was uninterested, as she is with everything (even treats) and just brought her ball over for me to throw.

Anyway, here are the pictures!

Image

Image

Image

After playing with the drone for a bit, I went back over to the spot I found him and quickly located 2 other drones. So the girls are cleaning house of unwelcome guests it seems! I suppose this means there’s about to be a dearth (?). White Hive has several pounds of capped honey, but a greatly diminished population from the weeks without a queen and the swarm, on top of being split before that. Trunchen Hive has lots of drones from White Hive, and is raising their own, but little to no honey stores, as all of the available space is dedicated to brood. There were drones in the swarm too. So I suppose this means that I’ll need to keep an eye on the drone population next year, cause this year there are clearly too many. 

Oh! And while I was searching for other drones, I found an ant carrying away a drones head. I suppose its good the ants are cleaning things up, so I don’t have to…?