Monday, December 15, 2008
Monday, November 17, 2008
I made the whole thing out of some leftover cedar boards and plywood from a construction project. The only thing I had to buy was some $4.99 red stain for the plywood parts. I can't wait until spring to put it out and see if some bats take up residence.
Below is a shot of the four inner chambers. There is only 3/4 of an inch between them, but that's enough for the bats:
Some bad news on the front of hive number two, however. The hive is situated on a place on my property where I do not see it everyday. I went out one Saturday morning to check on it, and it had been knocked over onto its side. I have no idea how long it was like that, and it rained the day before. When I put it upright, it felt much lighter than I expected, which indicates that the bees may not have enough stores for the winter. I have not inspected the hive, but I think that the queen is still alive because the hive is generally quiet and appears to be acting normal. Even if being knocked over does not do them in, lack of food probably will. I'll try to do some emergency feeding over the winter and see what happens. I have heard that fondant makes good emergency bee feed.
Sunday, October 5, 2008
The plastic top of the box that they are in is a little cloudy, so it is not possible to get a really clear picture. But you can still make out the pollen pots and see some individual bees. While I was observing them, I saw a new worker crawl out of the cell where it developed!
Pretty soon, these bees will start producing lots of drones and queens. The queens will mate and then hibernate underground for the winter. The drones and the worker bees will die in the fall. In the spring, the queens will emerge and look for a new nest so they can start laying eggs and start the whole process over.
From what I understand from the host of this display, the bees were purchased earlier this year and are used for pollination.
The only thing that I did do was treat for varroa mites. In my first hive I used Apistan strips, and the second hive I gave them one packet of Api Life VAR. The directions called for two packs, but the mite counts were so low I did not think that a second pack was necessary. I guess the consequence of this is that the mites that were in capped cells for the two weeks that the Api Life VAR was on the hive were shielded from the mite treatment, but I am not too worried about this given the low mite drops prior to treatment.
Saturday, August 23, 2008
Tuesday, July 29, 2008
This hive was started with four frames and a caged queen. They are on plastic foundation, and were not drawing it out very quickly or very well when they had only one box. Before I added the second hive body, I coated the plastic frames with beeswax and they drew that box out in no time flat. They got so strong that I took off the hive top feeder and am just using a feeder jar. My other hive, although healthy, is much weaker than these guys. Of course, I am not feeding the other hive, but I have not removed my only honey super yet either. I fear that this hive may swarm early next year.
Saturday, July 12, 2008
The only draw back of plastic frames is that bees just don't seem to want to draw comb on them as readily as bees wax frames. Last year my hive drew a medium super of plastic frames pretty easily, but I was feeding them very heavily with a hive top feeder when they were drawing comb on these frames. This year, my second hive is all on plastic frames, but they did not seem to want to draw them out. When they did draw comb, it was shallow and not what I consider to be quality drawn comb.
Although plastic frames are advertised as "beeswax coated", I could sneeze more beeswax on them then what they come from the factory with. I had read in various bee magazines and heard from other beekeepers that coating plastic frames with beeswax will entice the bees to draw them out much better. I tried this, and boy did it work. The frames I had coated in beeswax were drawn out quickly, and the comb looks like the kind of high quality comb you see drawn on frames with bees wax foundation.
Below is a pic of a deep frame before and after being coated with beeswax. Keep in mind that the frame on top was advertised as "beeswax coated". I like Pierco frames, but I criticize them for the scant amount of bees wax in which they put on these frames. I would even be willing to pay for these frames if they came with a decent amount of beeswax on them.
If you are having trouble with plastic frames, purchase some beeswax that you know is disease free, melt it down, and spread it on your plastic frames with a paint brush. Your bees will draw it out much better.
Wednesday, June 11, 2008
There are 5 colors to paint your queens, the color you use depends on what year the queen was born in. Years ending in 1 and 6 are white, 2 and 7 are yellow, 3 and 8 are red, 4 and 9 are green, 5 and 0 are blue.
"When You Read Good Books" is how I remember this.
You can buy queen marking pens, but we just used child safe paint (i.e. non-toxic) and a small paint brush.
Not too shabby for a first mark.
Saturday, May 31, 2008
This is a frame from the established hive that is full of eggs (the white specs). The eggs contrast nicely on the black plastic foundation:
Below is a frame from hive #2 which shows some eggs if you look closely. This queen, which is Italian, is doing fine also. This hive just needs to draw out two boxes of comb this year and they will be fine.
Here is a pic of the Italian queen that I installed myself in hive #2:
Below is a pic of the Carniolan queen that my establish hive raised themselves after they swarmed. She is laying nicely as the first pic on this post shows. Notice how much darker the Carniolan queen is when compared to the Italian queen:
Sunday, May 25, 2008
A gentleman who retired from beekeeping 15 years ago gave me some unprocessed wax cappings and let me use his solar wax melter to process the wax. If you have never seen a solar wax melter work, you would not believe how hot it gets. I put my beer making thermometer in the melter along with the wax, and it got up to 180 degrees F. It was not even very hot today, but the sun was shining. This goes to remind us how much energy the sun sends us for free each day, but the plants are the only ones who seem to be able to harness it effectively. We humans resort to paying $135 for a barrel of oil!
Sunday, May 18, 2008
I found a hornet's nest in a flower bed, and I put it along with its sole inhabitant (the hornet queen) in a plastic bag and put it in the freezer so I could inspect the inside later.
Below is the hornet queen after she spent 24 hours in my freezer. She looks pretty mean.
Below is a photo of the hornet larvae. I am not an expert on hornets, but I assume that the queen starts building the nest, laying the eggs, and gathering food all by herself until the "worker" hornets are born to help her out.
In hive number two, which is my new hive that has only four frames of drawn comb, I did not see any eggs or larvae, but I did see the beautiful Italian queen walking on the comb. I need to mark her next time I inspect this hive. You can use any child safe/non-toxic paint to do so. I also noticed that both hives were quieter during my inspections. Hive number two seems to be starting to draw out the plastic frames, which they did not want to touch last time I inspected. As soon as they get some room, I expect this queen to be laying like crazy.
In hive number one, my original hive, I did not see the new Italian queen but that in itself does not concern me, because there are a lot more frames and more bees in hive number one. What does surprise me is that I saw capped brood! I inspected this hive one week ago and saw no eggs or larvae. It takes 9 days for worker brood to be capped, so either there was a queen, eggs and larvae that I missed last week or this new queen is breaking the rules in the book. I am really not sure what to make of this. This brood was on a white plastic frame, so I guess it is possible I could have missed the white eggs or white brood last week, but I am not so sure. I still did not see a queen, but given the capped brood and visible larvae, I am not to worried about this hive.
I have gone from not knowing anything about bees, to knowing everything (so I thought!) about bees, to realizing that they are complex creatures that will take years of study to understand. They are a challenging hobby.
Saturday, May 10, 2008
Well, after a careful inspection neither of my two hives show any evidence of a queen. I don't see any queens, nor do I see any eggs or larvae. Therefore, I need to purchase a queen for each of my two hives. I called around and found two unmarked Italian queens for $20 each. I installed one in each hive, and I have my fingers crossed that the queens will be accepted by each colony. The queens come in a cage with about 5-10 attendant bees. I have read it is best to remove the attendant bees before putting the queens in the hive. I chose not to do this, because I did not want to risk losing a queen.
The cage the queen comes in has candy on one end that bees like to eat. The theory is that once the queen cage is placed in a hive, the colony will eat the candy and release the queen. By the time the candy is eaten which takes a few days, the colony will have become accustomed to the queen and she will be accepted rather than killed. Fingers crossed...
Here is a crucial swarming fact that I learned: after a swarm, it will take 55-60 days before a new bee emerges that was laid by the queen that the bees raised themselves. Given that it takes 21 days for a worker bee to emerge, that means that the post swarm queen will not lay an egg for 34-39 days! Summer bees only live for about 6 weeks, so the population of the hive will dwindle pretty significantly after a swarm. This is the primary reason that it is difficult to get a crop of surplus honey after a swarm. IMHO, this is also a good reason to purchase a queen rather than let the bees raise their own. However, this break in the brood cycle that results from letting the bees raise their own queen is a good way to kill off varroa mites since the VMs reproduce in capped brood cells.
Sunday, May 4, 2008
This leaves me with two challenges. Number one, I must make sure both hives requeen themselves. Number two, I want to try to get a honey crop off of hive #1 even though this is more difficult after a swarm.
I think getting a crop of honey off the main hive will be very possible, mainly because I simply pulled the honey super off of that hive and moved a medium super that was sandwiched between two deeps and being used as a brood chamber to the top of the hive. I put a queen excluder beneath the medium super, and hopefully some honey is on its way. To my surprise, the medium super had hardly any brood in it and already had a good bit of honey.
I'll have to wait and see about challenge number one, making sure both hives requeen properly. I did not thoroughly inspect hive #1 because the weather was a bit chilly, so I did not see a queen or eggs in that one, but I will be able to better assess the situation after a thorough inspection. I did thoroughly inspect hive #2, and no queen or eggs was present, although the queen cell had hatched. I also spotted an emergency queen cell. I would expect the queen that hatched to be laying eggs by next weekend, so I know more at that time.
Wednesday, April 23, 2008
Today is somewhat of a sad day for me. I noticed lots of queen cells during my inspection last weekend, including one that was capped. I put that capped cell and three other frames into a nucbox to start a new hive and possibly prevent a swarm. Unfortunately, that course of action was unable to prevent a swarm. I arrived home from work today and my omniscient assistant beekeeper immediately noticed that there were only a few bees bearding the landing board, which is unusual. Since my hive is on a scale, I checked the weight and I noticed that it decreased 9 pounds from last night. That is a sure sign of a swarm. The above pic is the last picture that was taken of my queen, which was taken during Saturday's inspection before I pulled the nuc off of the main hive.
So, the good news is that I now have two hives since I did a split last weekend, but the bad news is that the main hive swarmed. I was unable to find the swarm anywhere.
Where ever you are queen, good luck and thanks for the memories.
Wednesday, April 16, 2008
Another downside is that I will owe my wife $20. She claims that she can read animal behavior very well, and before I even inspected the hive she bet me $20 that the bees were planning on swarming. I agreed to take the bet. She told me that she can read animal behavior so well, she could see that our cat wanted in on the action for $1. So now it looks I am out $21. Rats.
The benefit of letting your bees raise their own queen is that it causes a break in the brood cycle, which does not hurt the bees so much but it does hurt the varroa mites which reproduce in capped cells.
Thursday, April 10, 2008
The nectar flow must be starting in my area. I put my hive on a scale last week, and with the cold weather it has been steadily losing about half a pound or so in weight each day. Today, however, the weather was quite nice and my hive gained four pounds. On my way home, I noticed there are quite a few dandelions beginning to bloom. This all suggests that the nectar flow is here and it must be time to put on the honey supers!
Sunday, March 23, 2008
Sunday, March 16, 2008
I obtained two viles of swarm lure from the State Department of Agriculture to improve my chances. I set up one bait hive "by the book". That is, it is the size of two medium bodies and it has a one inch hole for an entrance. It is also about 10 feet off the ground, sitting on the stairs leading to my woodshop. I would have liked to have some empty drawn comb to put in it, but I have don't have any that is not being used. Instead, I just have a couple plastic frames and foundation in it.
The other bait hive breaks the rules. It is simply two medium nuc bodies stacked on top of each other, and it is sitting right on the ground. I threw in two frames of plastic foundation for good measure.
With a whole lot of luck, maybe one of these hive will catch the eye of a swarm.
Tuesday, March 11, 2008
Monday, March 3, 2008
Sunday, March 2, 2008
Obviously, this time of year the nest was not in use, and the gray paper wrapper that would normally surround the comb was gone. There were two distinct layers of comb were the hornets were raising their brood.
The below pic is pretty cool- it is of the lower layer of comb. The cells on the bottom layer are much larger than the cells on the first layer. I think the larger cells are queen and drone cells. Like bumblebees, hornets produce queens and drones at the end of the season. The queens mate and then go underground where they emerge in the spring and build a new nest. This is totally different than what honeybees do. A strong colony of honeybees will make a few new queens, and then just before the new queens emerge, the old queen and half the workers will leave the hive and start a new hive somewhere else. This is called swarming. Back at the old hive, the new queens then emerge and duke it out as to who will become the new queen.
Anyway, check out these hornet queen cells:
Sunday, February 24, 2008
As beekeepers use antibiotics or chemicals in the fight against mites or viruses, the overall ability to fight off infection declines, entomologists say. Commercial beekeepers, particularly, may turn to antibiotics because they can't risk losing bees.
But hobbyists can. And that means the bees they raise - and that survive - are stronger and will withstand whatever is decimating commercial bees. These bees, known as "survivor bees," could prove to be the saviors, some bee experts believe.
"We need the smaller beekeepers, and it's a fascinating hobby," said Ken Kloepper, president of the St. Clair Beekeepers Association in Illinois. "They can provide a great service to their communities. We need new young blood to keep this thing going."
Monday, February 18, 2008
The most surprising sight in the hive was the presence of capped drone brood on my drone frame- although I did not see any hatched drones. Thinking like a bee for second, I am a little worried that they might decide to swarm. Although this is only a second year queen, they have a ton of food stored, so the queen might decide to establish a new colony (by swarming) since this one is doing so well. If that is the case, I will see some swarm cells in another month or so, in which case I’ll split the hive. That will really put a hurting on the honey crop I was hoping for this year, but I will have two hives instead of one. The beekeeper wants the bees to make honey, but the bees want to make new colonies of bees.
Here they are trucking in a whole lot of pollen:
Here are the capped drone cells:
Sunday, February 3, 2008
One of the tasks the bees were performing was bringing out the dead. I like to inspect the dead bees to make sure there are no obvious signs of disease. It is difficult to see in this photo, but one of the dead bees had a varroa mite on the underside of its abdomen.
Thursday, January 31, 2008
I have noticed that some other courses around the country are basically set up as a crash course- a one eight hour session. I don't see how anyone could learn anything about an unfamiliar subject in such a manner.
If you can't take the course, but are still interested in learning more about bees, there are plenty of good books that you can check out at the library.
Monday, January 21, 2008
Monday, January 14, 2008
Although it does not directly relate to honeybees, the book I am currently reading is pretty good. It is about bumblebees. More specifically, it is about how bumblebees survive in a world of limited resources. Here is a hint: like the rest of us, they learn to be efficient. I had never heard of this book before I picked it up at Borders in the insect section, but anyone who knows about my other blog might find this sentence from the preface somewhat interesting:
"Ironically, while the work on bumblebees in Bumblebee Economics was used as a scientific justification for capitalism as espoused by political free-market advocates...".
Anyway, here are some interesting things that you might not know about bumblebees, and how the evolutionary strategy of bumblebees differ from honeybees:
1. All female bumblebees, like the queen honeybee, have a stinger that is not barbed. This means they can sting multiple times. (OK, most people learn this when they are 5 years old and barefoot.)
2. Bumblebees do not swarm. They produce multiple queens, who mate in the late summer and then find a place to hibernate underground. In the spring, the queens locate a new nest (usually an abandoned mouse nest) and start a new colony. Initially, the queen does all the work until brood is established, including collection nectar and pollen. As the colony grows, the queen devotes more time to laying eggs. In honeybees, of course, the queen is nothing but an egg layer.
3. Bumblebee queens do not lay eggs in cells of honeycomb. Instead, they basically make a clump on pollen, put it on the floor of the nest, and lay eggs on it. The larvae spins their own cocoons which are later cleaned and reused for storing honey and pollen.
4. Bumblebees are tundra adapted insects. Their evolutionary forefathers were from very cold climates.
5. If the queen dies, the workers will lay eggs which become drones (this can happen with honeybees as well).
Tuesday, January 1, 2008
Today, I received a bottle of Barenjager as a gift. It is liqueur made from honey. In German, Barenjager means "bear hunter". The lid to the bottle is shaped like a straw skep, and the picture is of some medieval dude luring a bear into a trap with a bee skep. It tastes pretty good straight up- very sweet and very much like honey. At 70 proof, it is honey with a kick.