• Tag Archives Bees
  • Cautiously Optimistic

    In my last bee post in June, I mentioned the weak hive. My remedy of putting in a few frames of brood from my other hive did not work. The next time I went into the hive, it had been heavily invaded with wax moths. There evil invaders take advantage of weak hives. Normally, the bees are able to fight them off but my hive was just not strong enough. It is just ugly: they make sticky webs across the frames and the worms eat into the wax. The only positive part was that there were still a large number of bees in the hive.

    I made an emergency call to a bee keeping expert. Could I at least try to save this hive? He advised swapping frames with the healthy hive again, adding any unaffected frames from the invaded hives and reducing the whole hive to one box. I ended up with six frames of bees, brood and honey and added four empty frames to fill the box.

    I am lousy at finding queens so couldn’t find one. But, after a week or so, I found the evidence of the bees making an emergency queen. This is another one of those fascinating things that bees do and one of the reasons I don’t buy queens. It just makes sense that having the bees make one is better than introducing one.

    Once they make a queen, it’s all a game of timelines and numbers. From laid egg to hatch is 16 days for a queen. Then another 5 to 6 days  until she is ready to make her mating flight. Then, a few more days until she lays eggs. It can be 28 days plus or minus 5 days.

    So, today, when I pulled some frames, I saw larvae. Yay! That works perfectly with the timeline. I reduced the hive to one box on July 12. Around July 31, I saw hatched queen cells. That’s 19 days. Larvae show up in about 3 to 5 days after the eggs are laid. That means my larvae were eggs around August 6, 25 days after this all began, just about a perfect timeline.

    It is going to take 20 days for those larvae to turn into bees. Workers bees live about 40 days. I put capped brood in the hive on July 12. There wasn’t a whole lot left on July 31. That means the current bees in the hive are anywhere from 14 to 28 days old. So, I am expecting to see the population go down in the next couple weeks. I may need to add one more frame of brood from my healthy hive, which had plenty of open brood.

    So…I am cautiously optimistic that I can save this hive. I did commit to getting two more nucs of bees. If all goes well, I will have four active hives.

    Today was also the first day of dusting the bees with confectioner’s sugar. It is a known, organic method for fighting varroa mites. They live on the bees so when you dust them, they clean off the sugar and get rid of the mites at the same time. I have sheets with grids that I can slide in the hide to do a mite count and may do so the next time I check the hives.

    I continue to balance nature and management. All the beekeepers I know are having a tough year: the late frost killed off the blossoms that fuel the spring flow and some hives, like mine, never requeened. This is the most management I’ve had to do int the three years I have had the hives and I’m hoping it will save my hive.

    One item of interest: I am getting nucs from someone who practices Slovenian bee keeping, a method that makes it easier for people to manage a hive. A typical hive box can weigh 50 pounds. It is right on the edge of what I can lift so if I am going to continue this hobby into my next decade, a friendlier method would be welcome. I am looking forward to seeing the operation.

  • Bee Log Plus

    I’ve been keeping an eye on the hives, and one of them has been noticeably inactive compared to the one on the left. A few bees coming and going. I haven’t been able to get down to open the boxes: it’s either raining or just too hot. But, today was pretty perfect for putting on the suit and heading down to the bee yard. I checked the quiet hive, and there wasn’t much brood. There were a few new babies but very little brood. I didn’t see the queen or even queen cells so I may have a queenless hive or a very new queen.

    My other hive had a TON of brood and babies. So, I did something I’ve never done before: swapped some frames of brood into the weaker hive. The idea is that the brood will both provide new bees and encourage the hive to create a new queen. For me, it felt a little like major surgery. I swept the bees off the frames with my brush and then popped them into the other hive. This meant both hives were open at the same time. The bees were busy around me but not particularly aggressive.

    I am traveling for the next ten days and will check when I return to see if the remedy worked.

    Meanwhile, we’re getting steady vegies from the farm: lovely roma beans, kale, yellow squash, chard, beets and turnips. I put up a half gallon jar of pickled turnips and beets using this recipe. I threw some small turnips and beets into tonight’s crock pot chicken. My oven was being used to heat dirt to sterilize it. I have 100 lavender seeds to get started.



  • Suddenly Spring!

    A gorgeous Saturday and the big job was to do the first post-winter bee hive checkin. I’ve been watching the hives for the past month or so and seeing lots of activity. They’ve been on the to do list for awhile but when I had time, the weather was too rainy, or windy, or cold. Today was perfect! I donned the suit, fired up the smoker and headed down mostly just to remove the feeders and see if there were babies.

    I fed them three times this winter: twice in December/January time frame with a thick syrup (2:1) and then in February with a lighter 1:1. The feeders were empty, and both hives had started building comb with lots of honey along the underside. I took them off, scraped up the excess comb and honey and put them to the side. They’ll clean them out.

    I’m happy to report that both hives have LOTS of bees but they were not overly aggressive. I used the smoker, of course, but they mostly left me alone as I worked, too busy with their own Spring chores to worry much about me. And, I think I have gotten less intrusive, feeling more confident about moving boxes and pulling up frames.

    They seemed to have a fair amount of honey and pollen stores and bees were flying in with bulging legs. It’s the Spring flowering season with fruit trees and early flowers providing plenty of foraging.

    There was also evidence of brood in all stages including eggs and larvae so that shows evidence of a queen. I am not good at locating the queen and did not want to pull out lots of frames. This was a check in after all. I did switch the boxes for one of the hives, putting the deep on the bottom and the medium on the top.

    Next week, I want to replace one of the hive boxes on the other hive as it is in pretty bad condition, starting to rot at the top. I’m also going to put on the honey supers. I may look a little more closely then since I will have to pull all the frames out of the box I’m replacing and see if I can find the queen.

    We’ve been enjoying our honey all winter and if I get that much or even more this year, I’ll be a happy camper.

  • A Tale of Two Hives

    Natural Comb Attached to the Inner Cover

    Many, many thanks to the beekeeper who came to help me today. I learned so much!

    It turns out my inactive hive did not have a queen but probably had an egg laying drone. Not much to do but break it up and let the bees go of to find new homes.

    The second hive was VERY active but they had built all sort of comb in the top super. We broke it up and rubber banded it into empty frames. We also found, marked and clipped the queen. (Well, my beekeeping buddy did that while I watched. Not sure I would ever have enough confidence to clip the wing of a queen.) Then, we assembled two hives in a more open area where they will be in fuller sun and also be easier to work.

    Securing the Comb with Rubber Bands

    One has lots of the comb but no queen. Once the bees realize they don’t have a queen, they will produce queen cells to make their own. The cells should appear this time next week with a queen coming out around June 8. She’ll be a virgin so will take her own flight into the world where the drones will mate with her. Then, she returns and starts laying.

    The other has two boxes with frames drawn with some comb along with the queen. She has work to do to lay eggs and the other bees will need to start drawing comb.

    Marking the Queen

    I am just amazed by this whole process and eager to learn more. For now, my hives are under control and just need watching, something I will do everyday when I stop by to feed them. We are feeding them inside to help keep wild bees from robbing their food supplies.