Archive | July 2012

Bee’s Cleaning

An unusual (for this year anyway) number of bees have been hanging around the entrance of White Hive for the last few days, and I finally went over to see what they were doing. They were washboarding, much like the bees at The Honeypotters’ blog! Here’s a link to one of her posts about it. http://honeypotters.wordpress.com/2012/05/31/not-so-zombie-bees-just-some-clean-freak-bees/

Why is that not hyper-linking? hmmm…

Anyway. The link on Honeypotters’ blog shows her bees washboarding. Her bees are only washboarding around their reduced entrance. Mine are currently washboarding across the entire length of the entrance, as well as down onto the sloping entrance landing pad. Its rather funny seeing about two dozen bees lined up in neat little rows licking the outside of the hive.

The other thing of note for the bees today is the smell of honey that has filled the air. I was watering a freshly-transplanted catmint and noticed the smell of honey. Some 10 feet up-wind of my hives. Thats some strong honey! There also seem to be more bees in the yard than usual. They’re all over this weird looking succulent ground cover. It’s got large (for its size) clusters of yellow flowers, which the honeybees seem to love for both their pollen and their nectar. There have also been a fair number of bumblebees on it constantly as well. The honeybees have been covering it en-mass though. There has been at least 1 bee for every 2 clusters on this succulent for the last week. I wish I knew what it was called, and that my camera was working so I could take a picture of it for you all. The bees have also been on the leaks, which bloomed last week but which the bees have only taken notice of in the last few days.

Anyway, that’s all I’ve got for you today!

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Visiting My Aunts

My cousin finished two of the four boxes I asked him to make. My aunt wanted them to all be window boxes, which is the main reason it’s taken him so long. Here’s a picture of his handy work!

The cover for the window has a second piece of board attached to it on the inside so that there’s a bit of extra insulation around the window for the bees. I put one box on the bottom of my aunts hive, and I’ll hold onto this one for next year.

My aunts hive felt nice and heavy; at least 40 pounds. I don’t expect the bees to fill in the third box before the end of the year, but it’d be nice if they did. Except to say that bees in Warre’s are supposed to overwinter in just two boxes, so I’m not sure how I’m supposed condense the bees down without killing off some brood. I’ll have to re-read the book to see what it says.

Oh, I almost forgot to mention I made the novice mistake of not zipping my veil shut. I put it on but was talking to my cousin and completely forgot to zip it. I discovered this when I had two bees flying around in my helmet. I was fortunate enough not to get stung by either of them.

My aunts hive also has some very interestingly colored drones. They’re a combination of the ugly blue-ish color that Agatha’s drones were (and Trunchen Hive’s still are), and a wonderful deep-amber color. I accidentally squished one and tried to show it to my cousin, but a couple of bees were not happy about the loss of their brother and angrily buzzed my cousin before I could show him. The variation in color between the drones in this hive is much more pronounced than White Hive’s solid gold drones, or Trunchen Hives ugly blue ones.

My cousin is going to try and work out a way for the top bars to become frames. I’d be perfectly fine with a Warre Hive if it had frames. I won’t use foundation, I just want four pieces of wood hammered together (maybe with some wire through them) so I can actually look in the hive. That said, my aunts bees had drawn out the wax properly to the underside of the top bars, instead of to the sides of two of them. I was going to pull one up to look at it, but the bees had attached it to the wall. It was nice that I could actually see in between the comb though, which I can’t with mine.

Return Frames Here

I know it hasn’t been 7 days yet but my mom foolishly put all of my extracting equipment on our barbecue at our back patio. I went out with a friend and came home to find several dozen bees buzzing around my patio. I decided to put the frame back in the hive because being unable to go outside is not fun!

The bees in White Hive are bringing in lots of honey, but wax production is at a bothersome low. They haven’t made hardly any new wax this year, aside from the cappings for the brood and honey. The super is being capped, as are several frames throughout the brood chambers. The queen has moved back up into the top brood box, and there were a few eggs in there, but not as many as there easily could be. Maybe she’s only a 1 brood box type of gal. Anyway, I put the empty frame on the edge of the bottom brood box and left them alone. The book I’m currently reading (Guide to Bees and Honey) says that it should take you less than 10 minutes to look through a hive. I usually take about an hour… I tried not to take so long today, and it helped that I was able to find the queen (who I like to see every time I’m in there). I still haven’t decided on a name for her yet. Anyway, there is a lot of pollen and capped honey, but not much in the way of eggs, or even capped brood (though I didn’t search this out, as I had found the queen and eggs). There are also a lot more of the golden guys walking around.

I moved over to Trunchen Hive in the hopes I might be able to peek in and examine some frames. I’ve officially decided I hate this hive type. The bees draw the wax out between the bars, instead of directly on them, which means I’m unable to look at anything in the hive. The book says that I’m supposed to only take boxes without brood in them to harvest, but I have absolutely no way to get in and see if there’s brood in the boxes or not. I cut through lots of wax that was connecting two bars and pulled one up, but the wax had been attached to the walls and floor so all I managed to do was uncap the top honey cells. The chunk of wax was large enough and so well connected it didn’t fall over though, so that was good. I tried this in several places and only succeeded in getting one bar, from the edge, up. The bees hadn’t completed drawing this out so I was able to look at it. It was extremely difficult to manipulate and I had to be careful not to break it’s “roots” (the two places where the wax was attached to the edge of the bar, not the bottom like it should be). I took the top box off and pulled what remained of the newspaper off of the edges of the box below, as no newspaper remained where it was accessible to the bees.

The other problem with this hive is its construction. The wood in the pieces I bought from Bee Thinking is warping terribly, and it was cut wrong. One of the handles on the second box (the original top box of the hive) is warping and has a split in it, which makes me weary to use it. It has bowed away from the hive, so that there’s a gap between it had the hive. There is also a huge gap between the boxes on the handle side, because this piece of wood was cut too short, where dozens of bees are using it as an entrance. This will be a huge problem during the winter when the wind comes rushing through. I picked up this box (with great effort and care) and found that the bees hadn’t completely filled in the box below. That’s the lower of the two original boxes. The top box and the one beneath it were almost completely full, as was the bottom box so far as I could tell. The bees had also glued the wax from the second box to the top bar of the third, which had nothing drawn on it and so came up without issue, which is why I was able to see so clearly into the third box. There were probably 2 or 3 bars that had yet to be drawn out in this box, which is definitely a part of the brood chambers.

I do NOT like this hive as it is currently. If the bars had some wires on them that allowed things to be manipulated easier I wouldn’t mind them at all, but the fact that I can’t see anything in the hive is a nuisance. How am I supposed to tell if they’re going to swarm? Or if they need more room? Inspecting for disease is impossible, unless the hive is horribly overrun by mites or has brown smears all over it. Unless I can somehow make frames from the top bars, I think I’ll replace Trunchen Hive with another langstroth, because this Warre is really only for people who want to ‘have’ bees, not ‘keep’ them. The only good thing I have to say about this hive is that it’s cheap to make (though, not to buy) and requires no attention (simply because you have no way to give it any). The bees also behave better because you can’t get in to bother them.

Day One After Combining Hives

I have to say, I’ve enjoyed watching pieces of newspaper fly themselves around my yard more than I should’ve. I almost feel the need to put newspaper in again just so I can watch the bees haul it out, lol. I noticed an oddly shaped white-orange glob flying around the hives and could not, for the life of me, figure out what it was. It was darting around almost like a dragonfly, so I assumed that’s what it was, but when it suddenly fell from the sky I had to go and check it out. It was a large scrap of newspaper, with chewed edges. Fantastic. Another similarly sized piece made it to my neighbors yard before it was dropped. There’s a fine dust of white on the ground around the hive. I should’ve taken a picture of it before I watered the garden… It’ll be a week before I can peek in and see how they’re doing.

My extracting went better than last year I think. It was easier to do with just one frame. I’m going to have to come up with a proper extracting process by the end of the year though, because doing things a frame at a time is going to take forever. It took me at least 3 hours to completely harvest this frame. And I know there’s still some more honey on the bottom of the wax-mass, but I can’t get to it. I did much the same thing as last year, where I cut the comb off the frame and put it in a turkey pan. I squashed it all down with a fork, then used a sieve to strain out the wax into a small jar below, switching out empty full jars with empty ones as the need arose. After I got most of the honey out I put the turkey pan in the oven and turned it up to 300 to melt the wax and separate things out. I filled another two jars and then was finished! I filled 8 jars, but they’re so small that I would’ve had to fill them to the brim to make them a proper half-pint. So they each only have 6 ounces in them. 8 jars at 6 ounces each maths out to 48 ounces; divided by 16 ounces (one pint) = 3 pints. Its not that exciting, but still, I get honey, the bees get more space, and everyone’s happy!

It’s a MUCH lighter color than last years stuff, which surprises me a little. Except to say that last years harvest was a result of stuff from later in the season, so I suppose I really shouldn’t be that surprised. It also means I’ll get a second harvest later in the year. I’d be surprised if I didn’t get a harvest from Trunchen Hive as well, because they’ve almost filled the 4 boxes required of them and we’ve still got months of good nectar flows left.

Anyway, I won’t use any of the wax I collected because it’s a hideous black color and is mostly the lining of the cell walls that the bees couldn’t clean off themselves. Its actually kind of gross, and the last jar of honey is much darker than all the others due to the fine bits of it all that slipped through the sieve. I’ve marked that jar with a sharpie as ‘cooking honey’. *wrinkles nose* it just didn’t taste quite right as I was cleaning up. So, I’ll put it in a loaf of bread and no one will be the wiser!

The other thing I wanted to mention was all of the pollen at the bottom of the cells. There was a huge portion of the cells that were at least a 1/4 of the way full of pollen. I know bees sometimes put honey on top of their pollen to keep it for longer, but I didn’t realize they did it on such a large scale. Doesn’t it contaminate the honey? I found this kind of odd. Anyone seen their bees doing this?

I’ll post a picture of the honey compared to last years tomorrow.

The Queen, Golden Boys, And Honey!

I’ve been completely lost as to how long its been since I opened what hive, with all the swarming that’s been going on. So today I decided I would deal with both hives. Its been about a week I think since I captured the last swarm, so I figured now would be a good time to combine the two colonies back into one. I knew as soon as I started it was going to be chaos.

So, first I had to level the area (in my suit mind), because the current setup was completely unstable. Once I had the ground around the hive mostly level I picked up the top box (which was more than half full of fully drawn frames) and put that behind me. I then had the fantastically awkward and difficult task of moving the lower three boxes all at once to sit on the large stand that White Hive is on. From there I quickly moved the hive’s floor and switched out the two small square bricks that it had been sitting on for two, much larger, sturdier, rectangular bricks. The floor went on those, and then the three boxes that had originally been on it. I propped up one corner with a piece of bark to keep the floor steady, as the bricks weren’t perfectly even and caused some trouble. That done, I pulled off the cloth from the top box, put a single sheet of newspaper down, and put the top box on top of that. For some bizarre reason, the cloth that fit the 3rd box didn’t fit the top box, so the top box now has two sheets of cloth on it, as one is treated and the other covers the whole thing. The quilt and roof were put on and I moved on to White Hive. So, Trunchen Hive is one colony again! I didn’t bother looking for the queen, because there was absolutely noooo way I was going to find her in the chaos of wax and bees.

Now, onto White Hive. Where to start? The bees have finally begun producing enough wax that they’re drawing out the frames in the super. Until recently they’d been doing nothing but connecting the frames throughout the hive. There’s a fair amount of hone in the super, so I’ll definitely get to take some out at the end of the year. Or probably even sooner really. The top box is somehow lighter than it was last time. That said, they were capping honey all over the place, and had a full frame that was oddly right in the middle of things. So, I took it out for harvest. It’s early enough in the year that they will definitely make enough to replace it. And they’d probably survive the winter without it anyway.

I have some very exciting news! Not only did I get to see some GORGEOUS drones, but I found the queen! And my neighbors were over, one with his camera, so I got pictures of her! The drones were the same color as that golden girl I showed you all awhile ago, from my aunts. They were almost solid yellow, with a thin band of gold around the ends of them.

I was lucky enough to get two of them side by side, so you can see just how different they are from one another. They’re about 2 inches to the right of my finger, with the darker one standing on the patch of capped brood. Isn’t he lovely! There was a large clump of these boys hatching today (several frames of brood were hatching actually) so I left them alone because they’re just so pretty!

 

Two or three inches to the left of my finger you can see the queen climbing up the frame.

 

Here she’s just above my finger. I’m sorry these pictures aren’t any better. My neighbor has a huge fancy camera so I expected extremely close shots, but these were the best he had. Anyway, She’s nice and plump from laying so much! She’s also a much lighter color than her mother, but not as golden as the drones. Though she does have a similar dark-gold band at the end of her.

There was a lot of space going to waste in the lower box, so instead of moving all the frames around I just switched the two brood boxes. The queen and brood are now on the bottom, with a lot of ripening honey and pollen above them. There’s enough space that the queen should happily move up into the top brood box.

On to extracting! The frame I pulled had wires through it, instead of plastic foundation, so I was able to just cut the honey/wax out with a butter knife. I put this all in a turkey pan like last year, and used a fork to break all the cells and get the honey out. Right now I’m letting it separate a little and then I’ll strain it out as best as I can, into half-pint jars. This single deep frame has more than half filled the turkey pan, which held 3 full frames from the super last year. I’m impressed. I’m also surprised by the color! It’s much lighter than I anticipated! It’s practically pure clover compared to last years black stuff. It’s got a much lighter flavor, but still warms you up while you eat it. Not quite so much as last years though. I’ll let you know how the extracting goes. With any luck I’ll have a few pints bottled by tomorrow!

I wanted to add boxes to my aunts hive, but my cousin has yet to make them. He’s started putting two together yesterday, but my aunt is adamant about having windows so it’s taking him a lot longer than it would’ve if they were just plain boxes. I’m unsure if this long delay will cause the bees to swarm, as a large group of them have already spilled out onto the landing pad because there isn’t room for them in the hive. They’ve been like this for several days now. I would blame the heat, but it was in the 60s today and they were all milling around the entrance even as I was leaving at 8:30 last night. I’m really hoping he gets the boxes done tomorrow! I may just end up working with my neighbor to make myself the two more boxes that I want, because I’m really not interested in waiting another month for mine.

 

 

White Hive Full Of Honey

I decided to open White Hive today, since it has been awhile. The top brood box was unbelievably heavy. There were approximately 5 full frames of honey, most of which was being capped, in the top box. There was also 5 full frames of lovely capped brood. Most frames had less than 2 dozen cells not in use in the main brood area. It was absolutely gorgeous. The edges were, of course, filled with honey. I didn’t get to see the queen, again, and there wasn’t much in the way of eggs. Like, there were basically no eggs. Only one frame that I saw had eggs on it, and there were only a few dozen. The bottom box was FULL of nectar/honey. Every frame I pulled was solid honey/nectar. There was one that I scrapped clean weeks ago, because it was the darkest frame in the hive, and the bees had drawn most of that out again. I moved that into the top box and moved a fully capped frame down in the hopes the queen would move down with it. Not that there’s any room for her to lay anywhere.

The super has some honey in it, but not much. If the bees cap a deep frame I’ll take that out and extract that, because the hive is full of honey, they’re just not putting it where I can get to it. They haven’t even started drawing things out properly in the super, which is weird because of this nectar flow going on. They should have more wax then they know what to do with. I thought about switching the two brood boxes, so the one with the queen in it would go on the bottom, and they would be encouraged to move upward, but the fact that there’s so much honey it makes me worried about how much I’d really help things along. The good news is, despite being split, and swarming later, I will be collecting honey this year! And its the same molasses-colored stuff as last year too! They did have some pockets of crystal clear honey, but not much. I’d really like to know what plant they’re harvesting from.

Also! In book-related news, I bought a couple books from Half-Priced Books yesterday, and ordered 5 from Barnes and Nobles today. I’ll definitely read through all of them and see what I can learn. Right now I’m reading “Getting Started in Beekeeping”. Its a beginners book, but it’s actually been really informative, and has a wonderful chart of the “life histories of queens, workers and drones”, which shows the three bee types with the days it takes them to reach each new stage. I’m going to have to memorize it, because it’s actually quite helpful. I’ve actually already recommended/ offered this book to my neighbor who is always asking me questions about beekeeping. It’s extremely informative! I’m only 40 pages in, but its a quick read and should be fun. It gave an in depth anatomy lesson on bees, which I also found helpful. That said, I can’t remember what it was I learned…

Oh, the other thing I noticed in White Hive was the almost complete lack of drones. They must’ve all died off of natural causes, because there aren’t any at the entrance like there (still) are in front of Trunchen Hive, and there’s more than enough food to feed a huge population. I literally only saw two drones. There was a fair amount of capped drone brood though, and I squished all that. I like not having drones; it makes things so much less cluttered. Oh! Now I remember what I learned! Bees don’t actually flap their wings to fly, not like birds anyway. They move their exoskeleton rapidly and that’s what moves their wings. Also! Their wings lock together, so that the front-most wings control which way the wings face. This allows them to receive lift on both the upward and the downward stroke because of the angle of the wing!

Other than all that, I haven’t got much news. Trunchen Hive is extremely tipsy though. I touched the roof, just to test it, and it moved much too easily. If a cat or a bird jumped on it, the entire thing would topple without the slightest bit of resistance. I need to make a better stand, but I’m not sure what it’ll be. How do you stabilize a top-heavy rectangle with a square base?

Golden Girl

I just wanted to write a quick post to say that I saw some interestingly colored bees at my aunts today. I was walking past of clover, watching carefully for bees, when I spotted a dark bee with lots of grey hair. It was definitely a honeybee, but it wasn’t like any of the other girls in either of my hives. I assumed it was one of the new bees that my aunts queen created.
Sometime later I walked over to look at the hive and see how it was doing. Oh! I might even have a picture for you!

Its not that interesting, I’ll admit, but there you go! We had to put those boards down to keep the grass from blocking out the entrance. It’s about 2 feet tall because there’s a rose just out of the picture that can’t be mowed around.

Anyway, I had just turned to leave when a little golden girl dropped from the sky right in front of me. I squatted down to look at her and was amazed to see her with a fully golden body!

Due to the angle and lighting, she appears to be a little darker than she was, but I promise, she was a solid gold bee. I should’ve captured her and made her into a lovely pin or broach or something.

Anyway, I just wanted to show you all that. She may be the only bee of that color in the hive, but I’m glad I got to see her!