Saturday, July 29, 2017

Queen, Queen, Who's got a Queen?

I'll start out by apologizing for missing a week.  I did get into the hives last week, but had a closer-than-I'm-comfortable-with brush with heat exhaustion, so I never got an entry written.  It's been some hot, as you can tell from the all the girls hanging out on the front porch last week.

You can tell it's July in Alabama
I did pull a mite sample and the numbers were not good.  There were at least 12 mites in the sample.  That's more than twice the number from last week and well above the 6 mite per sample threshold to treat.  I believe that I'm going to treat with thymol this go around in order to rotate the treatments.  I'll use thymol now and OAV again around Thanksgiving when brood rearing has slowed down some.  It's been a little too hot to use the thymol around here.  Plus my husband stored it in one of our out-buildings and temperatures in there get to be about 343,082 degrees which is well above the recommended storage temperature of 85 degrees.  That means I've gotta order some more.  So, all that is to say that I do plan on treating, but will have to wait a bit to do so.  Will I regret waiting?  Probably, but it is what it is.  I also pulled the last 7 frames of surplus honey off my hives last week.  They have been in the freezer this week and will be used for chunk comb honey which is what several people have been asking for.

On to today.  I actually dreamed about my bees last night.  I think I'm officially a beekeeper now.  So, I did a full check on all the hives today; just to see how everyone is doing.  In the outyard, the hive that swarmed last did not successfully requeen and has been overtaken by SHB.  It sucks, but it's too late in the season to be throwing good resources after the bad.  I'll treat the ground with a drench once it gets dark to keep the problem from spreading to the other hive.  Speaking of the other outyard hive, the queen has really started laying well.  They seem to be bringing in a little nectar from somewhere.

In the backyard, the dark green nucs are looking....okay.  One half cast a swarm a few weeks back as best I can tell.  I didn't see a queen, or eggs/larvae, in the hive today, but they didn't act queenless.  I'll give them another week or two and if I don't see anything then I'll combine them with the other half.  Speaking of that other half, they have a queen, but look like they might be in the process of impeaching her.  I saw the queen, but also saw a sealed queen cell..  If they aren't happy then I'm not happy and I'm going to let them do their thing.

In the Auburn nuc, both halves look fantastic.  So much so that I ended up going through every frame to make sure they weren't making any plans to swarm.  I didn't see anything.  I think it's getting too late in the year for them to really have the urge to do that, but I thought that two weeks ago too and lost two swarms.

All of the full-sized hives looked good too.  Everyone has a queen and eggs/larvae/brood.  Everyone actually seems to have pretty good stores of nectar too.  I'll probably have to feed the nucs a little, but the full sized hives are okay right now.  As long as it rains more than it did last year and goldenrod doesn't fail again, we should be on track for minimal feeding this fall.  Woo hoo!  I'm pretty sure that the girls at the grocery store thought I was making moonshine last year with all the sugar I had to buy.

Finally, I went out to look at a removal for a friend of a friend.  Neither one of them knew anything about bees, or exactly what they were looking at so they couldn't tell me what kind of job it was going to be.  So, I pack up all the stuff for a cut out, a trap out, and a swarm removal.  I get there and find out that the neighbor had bought the house a few months ago.  The previous owner had two beehives and had only removed the hives two weeks ago.  These were the stragglers that were left behind.  They had become defensive so that the new owner couldn't even get out and work in his garden.  There was also a MASSIVE SHB infestation on the wooden siding of the out building that one of the hives had been sitting on.  When I first looked at it, I was almost sure that it was going to be a cutout because bees were covering the siding in one place.  When I started brushing them aside I found hundreds of SHBs.  It was absolutely disgusting.  On the bright side, I got to play with my bee vac.  It definitely needs some tweaking.  So all-in-all, even though I don't want these bees anywhere near my yard, it was a good experiment.  I left a cardboard nuc box with baited frames to pick up the bees that I couldn't vacuum up and I'll go get them next weekend.  I feel bad letting the bees die, but I figure that if the SHB problem was that bad then they are probably suffering from mite infestation too.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Out of the frying pan...

...And into the heat of an Alabama summer.

Did a check on (almost) all the hives today.  In the outyard, the hive that I have been concerned about has finally started getting rev'ed up.  The pictured frame is like like this front and back.  The pattern isn't going to win any awards, but I think it will be enough to get them through the winter.  The queen has gained some size and has started on a second frame of eggs.  Whew.  I guess the bees really did know what was best.  

The new queen has finally gotten busy.

The second hive in the outyard has a virgin queen, pictured below.  They also have an unhatched queen cell.  I left it in and am questioning that decision, but the virgin walked right by it and didn't attempt to cull it.

Another (blurry) queen pic.

In the backyard, the orange hive has filled and capped 7 frames in the super that they were left.  It's very pretty, white capped honey.  I put the escape board down and will pull it tomorrow.  They looked like they were doing a pretty good job of filling the top box.  I didn't see any brood, but it's still a bit early for that.  

In the white hive, the bees were in a very foul mood.  When I opened them up, they poured out of the inner cover and all around me.  One of them found her way into my jacket and a few found a way through my jacket, so I had to put on a second jacket.  That's never a fun thing.  Thankfully, the beekeeping gods were shining down on me because the very first frame I pulled contained eggs, larvae, and capped brood.

The Auburn nuc looked good.  I thought I smelled slimed honey, but didn't see it or really very many SHBs for that matter.  Both sides had a strong population, so maybe I'm just being paranoid.  

The dark green nuc was a mixed bag.  The weaker half finally has a queen.  It's funny because I had to go down to the last frame in the bottom box to find any evidence of a queen.  When I did find it, I could have sworn that I saw multiple eggs in some of the cells.  I know that young queens sometimes release too many eggs at first.  I was seeing two, sometimes three, eggs in a several cells.  Just as I had convinced myself that I had a laying worker, I spotted the queen with her back end stuck down in a cell laying.  

The stronger half of the nuc has apparently either cast a swarm or decided to requeen for some other reason.  I'm thinking swarm because there were about 6 queen cells that were capped (or close to it).  They must have started building these things just after I closed it up last time because I've been keeping an eye out for signs of swarming.  This is the second time this year that I've had a hive swarm after the solstice with seemingly plenty of room left.  This half of the nuc had 3 frames of foundation that they hadn't even started to draw out.  In fact, I'm kind of concerned with the amount of comb that's not being drawn right now.  There is obviously something still coming in.  I've tried feeding twice in the outyard and both times the syrup has fermented before they used it.  So they definitely aren't going hungry.  But at the same time they aren't drawing foundation either.  This is happening in multiple hives, so I just don't know what to think.

I didn't get in the light green hive today due to a close call with heat exhaustion.  I didn't realize until it was too late that the temp had gotten up to about 94 degrees.  I tried to do too much and almost got sick.  Let that be a lesson to you boys and girls.  Drink lots of water and pace yourself.  Don't be like me.  

Saturday, July 8, 2017

C'est la vie

In the outyard, I'm finally starting to see some signs of life out of the hive in the old stand.  There is still only a little capped brood, but almost a full frame, front and back, of open brood.  I'm interested in seeing how much of that actually gets capped.  I'd been thinking that queen might have mated with a son or grandson, and that would explain why the poor laying pattern.  That hive also had tons and tons of bee bread, so they should be in good shape to raise brood if the queen is ramping up.  Overall, I'm feeling hopeful for this hive's survival.

Also in the outyard, the other hive seems to have cast a swarm.  There are a handful of queen cells and no eggs.  The youngest larva I saw was maybe 5 days old, so that is probably about the time they left.  Truth be told, I'm a little perplexed by this.  They had plenty of room to expand.  There are still at least 5 frames of undrawn foundation and plenty of room for the queen to lay.  The main flow is also over, though the frequent rains have extended this year's clover bloom some.  They were also just moved into this location two weeks ago and I would have thought that would have quashed the swarming urge.  The only thing I can think of is that this queen came from the same batch as the other queen that swarmed on me this year, though I know that swarm was totally my fault.  I feel really bad about that, because I do live in a city and I do try my best to keep my hives from casting swarms.  I don't want them moving into the neighbors' houses.

The light green hive is still working diligently to fill the top box for winter.  I went ahead and checked the bottom box to prevent any more late-season swarms, but didn't see any queen cups, so so far, so good.  I took a mite sample from the frames that still have brood in the top box.  I suspect that I will soon have to go all the way into the bottom box for broodnest samples.  I had to shake two frames today in order to get enough bees for the sample.  I ended up with 5 mites in the sample.  That's the same as it was last week.  Still not great, but at least it's not any higher than last week and it's (slightly) under the 6 mite threshold for this time of the year.

For a change of pace, I got to play with some chickens today.  Unfortunately, it's not at my house.  My city doesn't see the benefit in allowing backyard chickens.  We helped build a coop for some friends who were recently gifted some chickens from someone who was moving and couldn't take them with him.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Just a quick nuc update

Nothing like spending the Fourth of July in a hot bee suit checking on the girls.  Gotta love it!  I decided to take a peek in on the nucs yesterday.  I've decided that if I had it to do again (and for that matter might transition to n the future), I'd definitely concentrate on raising nucs rather than full sized colonies.  They take a little more attention, but inspections are so much nicer.

So, the older half of the dark green hive is chugging along.  They have a good bit of brood, but they also look like they are starting to turn the upper box into winter stores.  This is a good sign.  I believe that there is still forage available because the hives in the outyard that are being fed are not taking it nearly as quickly as I would have expected if we were in a true dearth.

The newer half of the dark green hive is starting to draw out the foundation that they had, so that's another decent sign that the summer dearth hasn't totally set in yet.  They are still very slooooowly raising brood.  But it seems that there is mutiny amongst the masses.  I found two queen cups in what would traditionally be considered a supercedure location.  I believe that these are being used or going to be used because I saw workers going in and out of them.  I couldn't see for sure whether there was an egg in it or not.  (On a side note, why does the sun have to go behind clouds just as I need a good bright light to see eggs?)  I've been debating what to do about this colony for a couple of weeks now.  The queen had gotten a slow start, but now doesn't seem to be ramping up at all.  She's also still quite a bit smaller than her sister queens.  The workers now seem to have caught on to this fact too and are attempting to raise a queen before winter.  I hope it works for them.  There are still drones in other hives, so I think that we still have a little time.  I called my local source for queens, but they are out for the year, so if this colony is going to make it then they are going to have to raise a queen.

Both sides of the Auburn nuc look fantastic.  One side is starting to fill up the top  box for winter while the other is still raising a lot of brood.  That side will make an excellent brood donor if I end up needing it.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Initial Results

I did an alcohol wash on the light green hive this afternoon.   I found 5 mites in a half cup sample.   Before isolating the queen,  it had a mite count of 11.  So that's a reduction of about 65%.  It's not as effective as I'd had hoped to see, so I'd be lying if I said I wasn't disappointed.   But I'm not prepared to give it up just yet.   I'll take samples for the next couple of weeks to see what happens.  They seem to be filling the top box with honey and moving down into the bottom box for brood. 
The outyard hive in the old stand are not taking the 1:1 and they are still not really doing much in the brood department either.  There's some eggs and young larvae, so I know that the queen is there.   And they didn't do anything with the test frame I gave them so they aren't unhappy with the queen's performance.  The population got a boost from the frame of emerging brood they got last week.  

Monday, June 26, 2017

It's funny how things work out sometimes.

I've been feeling a little bad about neglecting all the nucs lately, so I decided to take a peak at them after work.  It's a good thing that I did.

The older half of the dark green hive was completely full and probably were only a day or two from swarming.  I found one frame with a queen cup that looked longer than a normal cup.  I couldn't tell if there was anything in it yet, but there was a worker going in and out of it, so I would hazard a guess and say that there's something there.  There were also two frames with empty, dry queen cups.  I pulled the frame with the queen cell and replaced it with foundation.  I then moved it down the street to the hive in the outyard with the hinky queen.  Maybe they'll decide to replace her.  I thought I saw a few eggs today, but still nothing record breaking.

The newer half of the green hive has some nice looking activity.  I saw the queen, but I didn't see any eggs.  The queen came from the Auburn nuc half that probably swarmed on June 1st, so it's likely that she's not quite old enough to be laying yet, especially if her mating flight was delayed by rain.  She has the elongated thorax of a mated queen, but she's smaller than the other queen in the dark green hive.

The newer half of the Auburn nuc, the half that didn't swarm, is also booming.  Lots of brood, lots of honey.  Enough brood that I was able to take a frame from them as a donation to the hinky hive down the street.  But no swarm cells.  It seems that this colony got the memo about it being after the solstice.  

The half of the Auburn hive that did swarm is doing alright.  There are eggs and very young open brood.  The queen made it back and is laying in what seems to be a very nice pattern so far.

I also checked the white hive in the backyard.  They look good.  Finally.  The hive in the outyard that is on it's second queen got a frame of emerging brood and a frame with young larvae.  I'm hoping that this will give them a boost.  Normally, I would think twice about throwing that many resources at a hive that has been questionable at worst.  But with the resource hives sometimes you need to pull frames to keep them from getting too full.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

On those days where I wonder why I do this:

Liquid Gold
This.  This is why.  Well, that and the fact that bees are freaking fascinating.  The total ended up being just shy of 4.5 gallons or 26 pints (I'd already sold two by the time this photo was taken).  Estimating 1.5 lbs per pint, that's 42 lbs.  Not too shabby off of one hive.  According to the USDA, the average yield per hive in my area was 47 lbs in 2015 and 52 lbs in 2016, so I'm not too far off of average.  Especially considering that they still have six frames that they may or may not finish, so there may be a small second harvest in the fall, depending on what the summer brings.

Queen, Queen, Who's got a Queen?

I'll start out by apologizing for missing a week.  I did get into the hives last week, but had a closer-than-I'm-comfortable-with br...