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Last Look Before Winter

I drove home to check on the bees one last time before winter yesterday. White Hive is doing exceptionally well. I rearranged all of the frames so that the honey was primarily in the second deep box. They have reduced down enough that only 3-4 frames were left in the lower brood box. I left the honey super on for them because even though they filled 5 frames of it, but there wasn’t enough honey elsewhere in the hive for them to safely make it through the winter.

Pink Hive managed to not integrate properly, even after 3 weeks. This is the hive that had the trap out colony in the bottom box, and a very strong nuc that was supposed to merge with them in the top box. The nuc I put in the top box ate through all of its stores and all of the field bees had left so there was a very small cluster of nurse bees left onto frames with the original queen. She was somehow still laying eggs despite no food coming in. A single very solid frame of honey was located several frames away from the brood nest, which I removed to add to the lower box. The lower box, the trap out colony, was PACKED with bees. They’d occupied almost every frame, but there was virtually no food stored. The queen from the tree was still running around, and is laying eggs anywhere she can find an available cell. This means that the second a cell is available it’s being used for eggs, which also means its the most spotty egg pattern I’ve ever seen. If I was home I would treat this hive for mites, but I don’t think it will matter since they won’t see it through the winter.

Since the colonies weren’t concerned with merging properly I rearranged the frames so that they were both in the lower box, with a solid frame of honey the nuc hadn’t touched acting as the divider. Obviously this isn’t something I would ever normally do, but all of the bees that were on the two frames from the nuc were brand new nurse bees and won’t go exploring or look to kill the stronger queen. I wish I’d had time to let them steal their honey back from the tree, and I had the ability to feed them properly before winter. We’ve had an extremely hot, dry summer so food has been hard to come by for all of the hives. The colony seems really reluctant to look for food through. My mom (who has been watching the hives from a distance) has said the cluster is always visible when looking through the entrance, and at night they beard out much larger than the other two colonies. I took the second box off because it was all fully drawn out empty frames.

Green Hive has significantly less honey than White Hive, but it’s doing much better than Pink Hive. I rearranged all of the full frames between the two deeps on Green Hive so that they were only in one box. There were 3 frames with very small pockets of capped honey on them that wouldn’t fit in the box, and they weren’t worth keeping a whole second deep on for the winter. With the colony arranged properly in a single deep, I closed them up for winter. The second deep I removed and set a few feet away, along with the other empty deep. The bees can clean them up for a day or two and my mom will put them away for me. I wish I had time to feed them all properly. All of the hives could do with a good boost of sugar syrup before winter. It would be nice if it rained a little before winter so that at least something would bloom again. This heat has been terrible for flowers!

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When It All Goes Wrong At Once

So… Things have gone a little wrong. Green Hive has almost no honey stored. Like, virtually no honey at all. I didn’t check on Pink Hive because they’re still being requeened. White Hive was supposed to have been requeened by today but when I checked on them I was irritated to find that they hadn’t chewed through the paper at all. The box I put them in is one of the windowed boxes my aunt made for me a couple of years ago. The window is too high on the box so the telescoping cover hits it and doesn’t close correctly. Normally this isn’t a problem, as it just provides extra ventilation for the hive, but this time it means that there was enough of a gap for the bees to use it as an entrance. As such, neither the bees in the top box, or those in the lower box, decided to chew through the paper and are functioning as separate colonies. The colony below is queenless but had nearly capped a couple of queen cells. The colony on top is queen right, but because they have filled in almost all available space on the five frames they’re occupying (the other 5 are just wire/foundation) the queen is very limited in their movements and workers have started laying on one of the outer frames.

I moved pollen and honey filled frames from the lower colony into the box on top, giving them more stores and room to expand the brood nest. Despite an extreme lack of resources Green Hive is still maintaining a large brood nest between it’s two boxes. Obviously my goal is not to expand the brood nest significantly, just to provide extra room for the queen to deter laying workers. Green Hive has more than enough honey to make it through winter, they just have two separate colonies on the same box. The lower colony is the only one that had nectar ripening on a couple frames.

As I was working I did somehow manage to get stung on my right side, a little below and behind my armpit. I have no idea how this happened since I couldn’t have accidentally squished a bee between my arm and side here if I wanted to. It took me another 5-10 minutes to close up the hives properly, since I had to reapply newspaper and then also make sure the hole in the inner cover was blocked by a brick. The telescoping cover went on top of the brick, and then had another brick on top so it wouldn’t blow away.

Once I was back in my own house I used broad leafed plantain to neutralize the venom of the sting, and I also took the precaution of taking two benedryl. I hate taking shots so I’m really hoping symptoms don’t get worse, but I have noticed a little more swelling than usual since it took so long to apply the plantain, and my joints in my right arm and shoulder also hurt much faster than usual. I suppose I should go to the ER but it’s just such an inconvenience.

Anyway! None of the hives are ready for winter and I leave for school on the 14th! Not sure how I’ll manage to correct everything but helpfully it all works out!

And All Were Queen Right

I picked the trap out bees up last night instead of today because I wasn’t going to have access to a car that could hold bees comfortably today.  The hive is very full of bees, but I don’t know how they’ve kept themselves going because they have almost no honey. There’s a solid frame of pollen which is great, but honey is nonexistent. I opened the box up today and was very surprised to find a plump laying queen. Eggs were few and scatered, but she looked mature which makes me wonder if maybe she was the queen from the tree. She was a rich dark brown color. There was a swarm cell in the colony that had been visibly impacted, with a clearly cut ring around the entrance of the cell that the bees had resealed. I pulled the cell out and found the queen inside fully developed but dead.

Since they have virtually no brood I decided to combine them with my last remaining nuc. The queen in that nuc laid a solid frame of eggs, without skipping a single cell, top to bottom, side to side, which I haven’t ever seen in person before. The nuc also has a single capped frame of honey. I’m leaving for school this winter, so I decided to combine them with the idea that it would be easier to take care of a hive than a nuc, and the idea that the bees would be able to combine their strengths and get more honey before winter comes. The box is completely full of bees and they were boarding heavily when I picked them up. For whatever reason none of them seem keen on leaving the hive though, which worries me greatly. I don’t understand what’s happening that staying in the hive is a better option than searching for honey.

I used a spare deep to combine the nuc and trap out colony through the newspaper method. Once the colonies have successfully integrated I will rearrange the frames so they fit in a single box, since they only occupy 10 frames total between the two colonies. I plan on doing this with White Hive as well. Oh! The new colony is officially going to be known as Pink Hive. I had to buy a new base board and roof to get this colony out of the tree, and I thought pink would be a fun color to paint the new equipment. Here’s a picture from this evening of them gathering at the entrance!

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Lots To Do And Very Little Time

Ok! Lots to go over today but I’m going to try to keep it quick. All of my hives are doing great! The two nucs are both very strong and have 3 solid frames of capped brood in each of them. The stronger of the two colonies had more cappaed honey but that’s the only difference between them at this point. The hive that had laying workers (White Hive) seems to have corrected itself, so I decided to add the stronger of the two nucs and give them a queen. I put the honey super on the bottom, an empty deep box over the full one, with newspaper inbetween, and put the nuc frames in that. With any luck the bees will do what they need to and I can move frames around so they have two solid boxes!

I moved the second nuc slightly to the left, so any returning field bees from the strong nuc would go into into it. I’m planning on using this nuc to give the trap out bees a proper queen. They have a few queen cells on the frame I’ve given them but there won’t be time to raise a strong new queen before winter, and combining will give both colonies a strong boost of field and nurse bees.

I left Green Hive alone since I treated them with MAQS a few days ago.

After everything was done at home I ran over to the colony in the tree to make sure I had finally managed to seal them off properly  they had found an entrance on the opposite side of the tree some 10 feet off the ground. I shoved the hole full of duct tape and that seems to have kept them out. They were bringing in loads of pollen, which is interesting because none of the workers in the hive box I set out seem to be bringing any back… Obviously I don’t have time to properly complete this trap out but I will get a whole deeps worth of bees so that’s still helpful. I wish there was time to let them rob the tree because I know there’s a ton of honey in there, but I don’t think there will be. I’ll give it a couple more days and then go and bring the hive home.

All in all I would say this has been my most adventurous beekeeping year to date. I’d never made nucs at home before but I found them incredibly helpful and will do so again next year. I hope that with at least two strong colonies going into winter I will have some bees in the spring. The fact that I only treated them once this year does worry me, but I’m hoping the greatly reduced brood levels in all of the colonies will have kept more levels low as well.

 

Queens Galore!

Today I decided to check on the hives I have at home. I checked in on the two nucs and was thrilled to find that nuc 1 (by Green Hive) has 2 frames of capped brood and a third frame of half capped brood with a bunch of eggs. The queen is plump and honey colored. Nuc 2 has 4 frames of eggs, but the queen is noticeably smaller than the queen in Nuc 1. She’s a coffee color with light golden hairs all over her body.

White Hive is packed with honey, but they don’t have a queen which makes no sense to me. They had dozens of queen cells, all of which hatched, so I don’t understand how they managed to end up without a queen. Workers have started laying and eggs were scatered throughout the hive, including in pollen cells. I closed the hive up and did some quick research. In the end I decided to swap White Hive and Green Hive on the stand and add a frame of fresh eggs from Green Hive.  The idea is this will confuse the colony enough that the field bees returning to the wrong hives will correct the behavior of the laying workers. They should also attempt making a new queen with the eggs and that will indicate they’re ready to get a queen introduced. I’ll use the stronger of the two nucs for this.

The Trap out is doing really well! I checked in on them a couple days ago (and I’ll peak in on them tomorrow) and they have started rearing a queen. Pollen and honey are both coming in in abundance, so I’m interested to see how full the box is now. When I last saw them there were about 3,000 bees in there. I’ll do a more detailed post about that tomorrow!

Trap Out Day 1

Today I went over to my moms friends house to begin trapping a colony of honeybees that have taken up residence inside a tree. Thankfully the entrance is less than 5 feet off the ground and is in an easily accessible tree. I’ve never done a trap out before so I’m excited to see how this goes!

I began the process by using poultry netting staples to attach wire mesh over the crack of the tree. I was able to cover the crack perfectly and everything was going smoothly until I realized the bees were able to slip through the mesh. I’d managed to buy the wrong gauge of wire mesh, haha. Since I didn’t want to have to bother with spending another hour driving to and from a hardware store I decided to just fold the mesh back over itself and hope that doubling it up would be enough of a barrier. It was good enough in some places but not others, so I used duct tape to cover the rest of it.

Instead of making a cone out of wire mesh I decided to just buy plastic bee escape cones. I’m glad I did because otherwise I would have had to go to the store to get the right mesh. I fit this cone onto the end of a scrap piece of tubing I had, and then stuffed the open end of the tube into a hole I cut in the mesh directly in front of the entrance.

Here’s a pic of the finished work! Bees were piling up in random places around the mesh, only to disperse and reform in another spot later. The fork of the tree seemed to be the most interesting to them and I tried to use more duct tape to completely cover it. I’m going to check back in on it tomorrow and make sure the bees didn’t find any entrances. I also want to try and direct the tub so bees are forced to walk out directly into the hive I provided. Bees found the hive almost immediately and began fanning to signal others to follow suit. I’m hoping this all works the way it’s supposed to!

1 Sucesseful Nuc And 2 Undecideds

I checked in on the bees today to make sure everything was in order. I’ve been holding off on this check up because I’ve been asked to remove a colony of bees from a friends tree and I’ll need eggs from one of the hives I have to do it. More on that in a minute.

Green Hive is doing well but there was something off about the hive today and I couldn’t quite put my finger on it while I was working. There wasn’t very much honey in the hive, egg production has slowed although there were 3 solid frame size of capped brood and 4 frames that were about 75% capped. I think the adult population was just lower than I expected; which makes sense since all of the field bees are in White Hive. I didn’t see the queen in Green Hive but I did find a patch of new eggs. Pollen stores were also low, and it looks like the hive was short on cleaners as well. Because I need a couple of empty deep boxes for the bee removal I’ll be doing tomorrow, I moved frames around and made sure any empty frames were in the top box of the hive so I can go and grab them easily tomorrow. I put a bee escape in between the empty box and the boxes with bees in them.

Moving on to the nuc next to Green Hive I was thrillled to not only find a half frame of eggs but to also see the new queen! She’s full sized and almost completely honey colored. This nuc was full of pollen and was also working on capping honey. I will probably need to swap in some empty frames for them to expand on before too long.

The second nuc was less exciting, as no eggs or new queen were present. All of the queen cells in the hive had either been vacated or partially destroyed near their base. Varroa mites were abundant but I don’t think I can treat the colony while there’s not a queen. Honey and pollen stores were also reduced, and weirdly enough almost all of the bees in this colony had their heads stuffed in a honey cell. They were agitated but I couldn’t tell if they were being robbed or what was going on. Activity levels outside the hive weren’t above average, and actually all of the hives has had a noticeable devline activity over the last week. We haven’t had rain in ages so I’m sure nectar collection is down.

White Hive had not filled in the empty frames of their second deep like I had expected them to. The shallow super is steadily being filled with honey, but the second deep was almost completely ignored, except for a couple of full frames I put in this box as bait. I swapped the bait frames out with empty frames from the first deep and shook out as many bees from the empty deep as I could. I put this empty deep on top of the other empty one on Green Hive, planning to use this second empty deep while extracting the bees from the tree when it was needed. The bottom deep did not yield eggs or a queen, though all queen cells were empty in a similar manner to the other nuc. There were honey and pollen stores in this hive, and a half frame of white wax the bees had made on an empty frame.

I’ll check back in on the brood chambers of the hives in another week, but I’ll remove the two empty deeps from Green Hive tomorrow before I go to the tree.

And now for the colony removal! A friend of my mom’s has a colony that’s taken up residence in a tree very near, and facing, her house. I’m planing on using the trap out method to remove this colony, and will begin setup tomorrow. Since this is something I’ve never done before I’ll be posting much more frequently and posting lots of pictures to document the process. If anyone has done this before let me know! The idea is that you close off all but one entrance and then put a funnel there so only two bees can leave at a time, but can’t get back in. Then you put an empty hive body next to the entrance so the returning bees have a new place to take up residence. We’ll see how it goes!