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.

It's been a long day.

I never want to have to clean a slimed out hive again.  I'm like 80% sure that if there's a next time then I'll just burn the frames and be done with it.  That sucked.  The smell.  The slime.  The gross little larvae crawling around.  No thank you.  I still need to treat the ground with a drench, but I seem to have misplaced the bottle of Gardstar that I had.  And I almost passed out from the heat.

What I ended up doing was pulling the entire slimed out hive off the stand and replacing it with the queen and five frames of brood from the orange hive.  I left them in a single deep box for the time being.  Just like starting a nuc, only a little later in the season than I'd prefer.  I'm hoping that this will do two things.  First, I hope that this will be a strong enough colony in a small enough space to ward off the small hive beetles.  Second, I'm hoping that cutting down the size of the orange hive will make them a little less defensive once they've (hopefully) become queenright.  They definitely remembered me this morning.  Like 10 of them met me at the gate.  I guess that means that my Sunday morning coffee time next to the hives is over for the year.  But the joke's on them because I wore double gloves, jacket, and pants today so none of them were able to get through.  The heat was a bitch though.

I reduced the other hive in the outyard down to a single deep too.  They have a queen, but I didn't see a whole lot in the way of open brood.  Maybe between the dark comb and the bad lighting there's something there that I'm not seeing, but it's not looking good.  If I don't see an improvement next week then I'll pinch the queen and give them a frame of eggs from somewhere, but that will be the last resources I throw at them this year.  This is the second queen that has returned to that hive to only to seemingly quit laying after a week or two.  Add that to the two virgins that never made it back to other hives and it's been a very bad year for queens here.

I ended up doing the OAV treatment on the light green hive first thing this morning.  I'll be taking samples each week for awhile to see what my mite numbers look like after isolation plus OAV.  I really need to peek into the nucs and the white hive in the backyard, but I just didn't have it in me today.  I'll probably regret that.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

0/10. Would not recommend.

Well, last week I said that things could be worse.  Apparently, the universe took that as a challenge.  Today was one of those days where I ask myself "Why did I think that beekeeping was a good idea again?"

I woke up excited because today was going to be honey-spinning day.  The weather wasn't cooperating, so I suited up in full gear and headed out between rainstorms.  I started at the outyard.  I only had supers on the hive sitting in the new stand.  I open it up to an odd smell.  Small hive beetles had slimed every frame in my super!  That's odd.  That hive had been doing really well prior to my putting supers on it.  It appears that they had done so well that they decided to swarm.  Four weeks ago if I had to guess.  And the virgin never made it back (that's par for the course this year).  This is totally my fault.  I assumed that because they were the queenless half of the split from early April and that they had plenty of room in the supers that their swarm impulse would be quashed.  I was wrong.

Right now, the plan is to remove all of the slimed frames and clean them out.  I'll probably just shake the bees out.  Then I'll move one of the nucs from the backyard to that place and feed them until Goldenrod starts.  I'll treat the area around both of the outyard hives with Gardstar to keep the problem from spreading to the other hive because it's got a queen, but she's not kicking ass.

That brings us to the orange hive in the backyard.  They were not happy to see me.  They were even less happy with me when I started pulling frames of honey.  I ended up having to add a second bee jacket on top of the one I was wearing because they managed to get through the first one.  they landed about a dozen stings, including two on my ear from some determined girls that managed to make it inside my veil.  It wasn't pretty.  They surprised me by filling out one full super of honey (less the two frames that they decided to turn into brood comb) and making a good effort on a second one.  I got 12 frames of honey from them and gave them 6 frames back, on top of a queen excluder, to finish curing.  Next time they will get a bee escape.

See all the stingers?  I probably took a couple of hundred stings with about a dozen getting through.

More stingers
Their population is massive.  So much so that I'm afraid of a swarm.  We're in a dearth, so I hope that will prevent it until I can do something about it.  I think that I'll pull them into a nuc to replace the one that's going to replace the slimed hive in the outyard.  I had planned on isolating their queen for mite control today, but that's on hold for now.  I still have to treat the light green hive with OAV tonight.  I need to get my jackets in the wash before I do that.

It's still draining, but it looks like I'm going to get between
3.5 and 4 gallons.  Not bad for one hive.  
But then it was time to extract.  I got to use my new toy.  It took five or six frames to really get the hang of cutting off the cappings.  I can really see how using a nine frame setup with the correct spacing would make life easier when it comes to decapping frames for extracting.  I think we'll give that a try next year.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Happy Father's Day

Today's theme in the apiary is "Well, that could have been worse."

I think I need to break out the weedeater.
Today's weather has been hit or miss.  I took advantage of a small break in the clouds to get a little bee work in, but the bees were not in a very good mood.  First on the agenda was to release the queen that's been in queen jail for the last 18 days.  They'll get an OAV treatment on Saturday night and then I'll take mite samples for the next couple of weeks to get an idea of how effective the queen jail technique really is.  The queen release went a lot better this time than the last.  Slightly twisting the cage before pulling it out seems to be the right technique.  The queen walked out and seemed to immediately start looking for cells to lay in.  I then said the beekeeper's queen prayer and closed up the hive.  You know the one.  "Please don't let me crush the queen closing the hive up."  

Anecdotally, I had to cut out a queen cell found in the middle of the frame where the queen jail was located.  I believe that traditional wisdom holds that an egg only exists where the queen lays it.  But recently, there's been rumblings in certain corners of the bee world that bees can actually move eggs around if needed.  I'm beginning to believe that there may be something to that theory.

This was my husband's "artsy fartsy" shot
While I was out there, I went ahead and checked on the half of the Auburn hive that was split off on 5/21.  They weren't too happy to see me (and let me know LOUDLY) when I opened the hive, so I thought that maybe they hadn't been successful in requeening.  I never did find the queen, but I did find some pretty compelling evidence that she is there.  There's not much capped brood, but there is quite a bit of uncapped brood and eggs, so she's been laying for a couple of days.  I think I'll try to get an OAV treatment in this evening since they are in a good configuration for it.  Again, said the queen prayer and closed up the hive.  

I also poked around the dark green hive.  The older half is doing well and has a pretty good brood pattern going on.  The newer half is doing better than expected.  The younger queen cell was torn open from the side so it looks like she was dispatched by a rival queen.  I think I saw that rival queen walking around a frame in the first box.  She was kind of walking around poking her back end into cells, but I'm not sure that she was actually laying eggs.  I didn't see any, but the light wasn't great for egg spotting.  She was born from a queen cell that came out of a nuc that I believe swarmed on June the first.  It's not outside the realm of bee math that she could be mated and laying already.  I think I've got time to wait on the last bit of capped brood to emerge before an OAV treatment.  I think that I'll do it Saturday when I do the light green hive.  I did crush what appeared to be a small hive beetle larva that was between the inner cover and the top box.  I didn't see anything inside the box itself and really didn't see any adults in the hive either, so that's something I'll have to keep an eye on.

In the outyard, the hive sitting on the old stand has a queen and she's laying.  I even saw her.  The brood pattern isn't fantastic.  It's kind of spotty so far and there's more drone brood than I'd like to see, but the bees don't seem to be trying to replace her so maybe they know something that I don't.  I did notice a drone walking around with DWV.  That kind of surprised me.  They've had two separate brood breaks this season, so their mite numbers should be fairly low in theory.  This is something that I'll have to consider soon.  I like to have the last mite treatments done by August 15th.  It also didn't look like they had even started taking the 1:1 syrup that I gave them on Monday, so I removed it.  I don't like leaving syrup on for too long because it will ferment.  I'll try again in a few days.  Some hives will only take supplemental feed if there is nothing going on naturally.  It looks like this might be one of those hives.  

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

To Feed or Not to Feed. That is the question.

The weather down south is heating up.  Summer is officially still a week away, but as was leaving work today I noticed this:

Triple digits are the harbinger of the summer dearth.

To be fair, this was mainly due to the car sitting in a hot parking lot all day.  By the time I picked up my kiddo and made it a few miles down the road, the temp had gone down to the high 80s, which really is about average for this time of year.  

At first glance, it seems kind of counter intuitive that the deep south would have a short honey flow. But upon further inspection you see that when the temps get this high this early things start getting dry and crispy pretty early.  I generally pull honey around the Fourth of July which is kind of late for my area, but it's a that I usually have a couple of days off work to do it.  That means the dreaded summer dearth (or the June Gap as Ron over on The Bad Beekeeping Blog calls it).  And that means that the age old question about feeding comes up.

There are quite a few opinions about this.  I'm sure you're all shocked to hear that.  The old saying goes that if you ask 10 beekeepers a question then you'll get 11 different answers.  Some people believe that bees should never be fed as natural sources of food are best.  Some people believe that you should always feed under certain conditions (for example, when I installed my first package, the advice was to feed until fall).

My personal opinion is that you should feed them when they need it.  Or when the beekeeper is trying to encourage them to do something specific.  Last year, in mid-September, my hives were all very much underweight.  The fall flow had failed and they were wholly unprepared for winter.  I fed them each about a gallon of 2:1 syrup every night to every other night for three weeks in order to get them up to weight.  Between two hives and a nuc I went through at least 100 lbs of sugar.  But everyone pulled through winter (and early spring) with a little in the way of stores left to spare.

So why am I talking about feeding now?  The outyard hive that has had the queen issues this year has only barely started to touch the top box of foundation that they have had on and off (mostly on) from the early-April split.  As of Sunday, they had a laying queen so as long as nothing goes off the rails again, I've got until late October to get them ready for winter.  I decided to go ahead and give them a couple of liters of 1:1 syrup to try to a.) draw them up into the top box and b.) encourage them to draw out the comb.  Will they use it?  Who knows.  Some hives will not take syrup if there is a natural flow on and some will take whatever you give them.  I guess I'll find out when I check on them this afternoon.

For the purpose of this post, let's assume that we are just talking about feeding syrup.  There are other considerations to take into account like pollen vs. pollen sub, but the hive I'm working with seems to have plenty of stored pollen and bee bread for this time of year.  

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Long Live the Queen!

I poked around in the outyard hives this morning.  In the hive on the old stand, I was checking to see if the requeening attempt from 5/13 had worked.  On the frame where the queen cells had been, I found a queen cell that had been opened from the bottom as well as one that was in the process of being torn down by the workers.

The Royal Nursery

A few frames later, I caught sight of Her Majesty.  She's walking around and laying eggs.  I'm a bit concerned because the capped brood I'm seeing seems to be heavily weighted towards drones.  I'm hoping that is just a fluke and she did get well-mated.  If she didn't then it's really getting too late in the season and their population is too low to try to let them raise a new queen on their own.  I'll have to bring in a new queen.  Which it wouldn't be the most terrible thing in the world to expand the genetics of the yard a little.  

Yes, I need a new camera

The other hive is doing much better.  They were given a super of mostly uncapped nectar from last year and they are finishing it out.  I have six frames of beautiful, fully capped honey, two frames that are 1/2 to 2/3 capped, and two frames that were drawn out, but not filled (they were on the far end).  I moved the partially capped and empty frames to the center and moved the fully capped frames to the outside edges to encourage the bees to finish out those frames.  Hopefully that will work.  This hive has a second super of foundation and starter strips, but they have only barely started to draw it out.


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 th...