Saturday, May 31, 2008

So far so good

As we approach the tail end of the main nectar flow in my area, both of my hives are rocking along just fine although I am worried that the swarm from my established hive may have eliminated any possibility of a crop of honey this year. Since I now have two unmarked queens in both hives, I need to get my hands on a paint marker so I can mark them. Marking is a good idea so I know that the queens I see are the ones I are supposed to be there. Here are a few tidbits from last weeks inspection that I just now transferred from the camera to my laptop:

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

Just another Tequilla Sunrise...

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

Sing for the moment...

Above is a video of two queens in cages piping at each other. Piping is what queens do to alert each other of their presence. They can do this even in cells. The piping in this video only happens once and very quickly at the beginning.


First of all, hornets are not bees. They are hornets. But they do have wings and a stinger, so I am somewhat interested in them.

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.


I installed my new queens last week, and today I inspected each of my two hives. Both hives released the queens as they should, and therefore both queen cages were empty.

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

She ain't no human being...

I continue to be lazy with my updates, so I am backdating a few posts, starting with this one. My last post noted two challenges: making sure both hives were able to successfully requeen themselves and to get a crop of honey.

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

Despite my lack of updates, much is going on

I have been very remiss in keeping this blog updated. My bees have actually been keeping me fairly busy. To recap, there were two major events that happened in my apiary recently. The first is that I pulled a four frames of my main hive (one with a queen cell) to start a second hive and to possibly prevent a swarm. The second major event is that my main hive swarmed anyway.

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.