Archive | May 2015

Swarm-Hive Checkup

I bought a whole new langstroth hive a few days ago and finally finished painting the parts, so I opened up the makeshift hive with the captured swarm in it. The bees only occupied the 3 left most frames, but were expanding onto the 4th. The brood nest only took up half of each frame on each side, but the pattern was solid and all frames had capped cells on them. They had some small amounts of pollen scattered around and very small amounts of honey. I found the queen quickly and it looks to me like she’s italian. She’s caramel colored and hasn’t swollen to her full size just yet. I removed an empty frame and quickly placed the telescoping cover on top.

Then I moved over to the large colony and searched quickly for a frame of capped brood. I found one with the queen on it. She’s probably a full cm longer than the swarm-queen and a dark cherry wood color, with rings of golden hair at the end of each segment of her abdomen. I gently encouraged her onto the next frame over and removed the frame full of brood, bees and all. They were almost all brand new worker bees so I wasn’t too worried about smell issues or anything like that. I replaced that frame with the empty one I pulled from the swarm box and quickly closed up the hive. Then I took the brood frame over and put it right next to the brood cluster of the swarm hive, spraying the bees with sugar water as I went. I almost like sugar water better than smoke I think. I certainly use it more often. The bees immediately started cleaning themselves and there didn’t appear to be any issues from either set of bees.

I’m hoping this full frame of new workers (they should hatch within a day or two judging by the color of the capped cells and the frames nearby) will give the swarm bees an extra boost to get the summer going. And the established hive definitely needs some room so that empty frame should keep them busy for a day or two. I also pulled a full frame of drone brood from that hive that I use as a kind of mite-trap. The idea being that any mites in the colony will use the drone brood as a breading ground, and then I can remove it and freeze it (killing the brood and mites) once the cells are capped. It also helps me check for mites. I check a few cells around both sides of the frame to see if there are any mites present (I didn’t see any this time) and it kind of gives me an idea of how the hive is doing. It’s also a nice way to let the bees think they’re rearing drones and keep the drone population down.

I put it in the freezer a few hours ago and I’ll take it out in a little bit to let it warm up again. There was some capped honey on it which was nice to see! Everything seems to be going well this summer!

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The Drone Towers

My aunt asked me to come take a look at her hives because there were too many drones in it from what she could see, and she was right. I’m not sure why there are so many in BOTH hives, or why both of the colonies chose to make a full frame of just drone brood right next to the brood nest. They each have 3.5 full frames of capped worker cells, but no new wax is being drawn out, and there is virtually no food in either of the colonies. I work today but I have tomorrow off, so I’m going to try and find a way to feed both of the hives that I can get to them by thursday. They’re both Warre’ hives so I’m not sure what i can do. I think I might just have to do an external feeder on the other side of the yard.

I may have mentioned that I made half frames for all of the boxes my cousin built, and they made all the difference in handling the comb. I got to the hive that didn’t have half frames and half a “frame” of wax broke off because it was too hot. fortunately that was a piece I was going to take out anyway because it was all drone brood, but it was definitely not something I want to happen regularly.

Both colonies had plenty of new eggs, with most of the space being used by capped worker cells. I saw three swarm cells being constructed on the bottom of a single frame in the hive without the half frames, but they weren’t very big and didn’t have eggs in them. I switched the top and middle box on that hive in the hopes that the empty space above and below them would encourage some sort of growth. I don’t understand how they can have so little food when literally everything is in bloom right now. I just finished painting the hive boxes and parts I bought for the swarm I caught, so once I get the wire foundation in I will check on my hives. The colony I bought has been increasingly busy and pollen is constantly being hauled in. I think my aunt might just be in a food desert because the last few years her bees have never managed to bring in much honey at all. Which is weird because she lives in a very rural setting where wildflowers should be abundant. And my bees only rarely seem to be without food. Blackberries are in full bloom everywhere, so there’s definitely a flow on. I’m kind of excited to check on my bees actually. I wonder how much honey they have!

The Green Hive At Home

The Green Hive I have at home is doing very well. The bees have moved down partially into the second box, having completely filled the first one, so I switched things around to make it easier for them. There could be a little more honey in the hive but they’re certainly not hurting for any either. They have an astounding amount of pollen though, with the first two frames of the top box being completely full of it. I’d never seen so much pollen in one place before. They had a few swarm cells showing up around the bottom edges of a single frame, but they didn’t have any eggs in them and they weren’t very big. I squished them down, and with the boxes reversed I don’t expect to have any issues. The brood area did seem slightly smaller than in some of the other hives I’ve seen, and they had it pushed to the back of the hive, with a noticeable band of honey curved from the front of the hive up around the top of the frames. It kind of reminded me of a helmet.

I got to see the queen out on the first frame in the hive. She was definitely looking for a place to lay eggs, and was swollen and completely black. She vanished fairly quickly with all the drones running around. This years packages had a lot of drones in them for some reason, and they are all a very dark color like the queen. I made sure to put that frame back quickly and removed the one next to it so the queen would stay next to the wall and safe out of the way. I was happy to see her so quickly and I don’t have any worries for these bees this year! My garden is in full bloom and i’ve got bumblebees and birds everywhere. The fountain I installed a month or so ago has bees on the sunny side of it every day, and birds are slowly realizing it’s here and using it regularly.

A Swarm In An Unlikely Place

Some of you may know I work at Starbucks, and just transferred to a new location. The new store is its own building and has big windows all the way around it in the lobby, so its full of light and you can look outside all day long. On Saturday I was on drive through register all morning, which means I was the one standing by the window and handing out drinks to people in their cars. Towards the end of my shift everyone got very excited all at once, and looked out to see a swarm of bees come fly towards the store, and the opposite end of things. The swarm flew halfway around the building and then across the street to Walgreen, where it landed in the parking lot. Those bees couldn’t have picked a more inconvenient spot than if they landed on the front door itself, haha. As soon as my shift was over I rushed home to get my suit and an extra box I had been intending to use as a super for the hive I already had. I parked in one of the handicapped parking spots, right by the doors, and took two steps to the left to find the bees had landed on a very small shrub, with the bottom of the cluster literally touching the ground.

I don’t have any extra parts for this kind of hive, so I grabbed the roof off of the one in use (I left the telescoping cover on it and put a brick over top to keep the hole covered) and a wet towel on my way out the door. I put the roof on the top of the box and then flipped the whole thing upside down, so the bottom of the frames were upright. Then I put the wet towel over half of the box, and got to work. It was the easiest thing ever. I cut the main branch off and shook the whole swarm into the deep hive body. A few minutes later I had most of the bees in the box, and completely covered it with the wet towel so no bees could get out. I took the box home upside down, and then once I got home I rushed to set up a very makeshift hive stand of bricks and an old piece of plywood. Once that was relatively level I carried the box containing the swarm over and took the towel off. The box didn’t seem nearly as full of bees as I thought it would, but they weren’t clustered together either so that made a difference.  Once the towel was off I carefully flipped it right side up, and then made sure one of the corners stuck out over the edge of the plywood so the bees could get out.

They have been very happy ever since, so far as I can tell. I won’t get to check in on them until this weekend, but I think they’ll be alright. If it hadn’t been so late in the day I would’ve taken a frame with some eggs out of my established colony and put it in the swarms box. Unfortunately by the time I was finished setting everything up it was after six, and I didn’t want to bother the established colony.

So now I have 4 hives instead of three! I’m gonna go buy some hive parts later today so that I’ll have everything I need to get the bees ready for winter.

Three Hives In 2015

On the 18th I picked up three 4 pound packages of bees and installed 1 at my house and two at my aunts house. I just checked all of them yesterday and they’re all bursting with bees! The two hives at my aunts house got two pollen patties each, because we really wanted to make sure they got a good head start this year. The bees at my house got to use all 100lbs of honey and pollen from last years bees, since everything was so crystalized I had no way to extract it. The result being that my hive is much further ahead than either of my aunts, and they already have some frames of caped honey. They had several full frames of brood, honey, and pollen. And most importantly, all three colonies have several frames with capped larvae! This year is gonna be good.

There was a slight bit of confusion when I picked up the bees, because my aunt was the one who ordered and paid for them and they sent her the wrong pickup date. One email said we were supposed to pick them up over here, and the other said we should’ve picked them up over there a week earlier. Thankfully the guy selling them had a few extra because otherwise I wouldn’t have gotten anything but a refund. So instead of 3 packages of italians we got 3 packages of carniolans. And that’s fine with me. This year I’m going to finally break down and try using some miticides before winter comes. I’m tired of loosing bees every winter and its beyond time I started doing everything I can to keep them safe.

I don’t know that I will post as much as I have in previous years this year, but I will try to keep everyone updated! So far things are looking great. Oh! And with that new pond I installed a month or so ago the bees have got a new place to drink. There is always at least a dozen bees getting water, which is surprising to me because I’d never seen them drink so much in previous years. I would assume they’re using most of it to dilute the crystalized honey, but its hard to say.

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Until next time!