Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Late Summer Nectar

It has been an interesting summer.  Swarms, honey-bound hives, and lots of bees.  Some hives went queenless, apparently, while others have swarmed multiple times most likely.  It's hard to be there when they swarm.  It did happen about a week ago, when I was out working with my grapes and became aware of a growing hum.  I looked up and saw the swarm in the air.  I should have stayed and watched to see what they were going to do but instead I hurried back to the barn to grab a nuc, sprinkle some lemongrass oil in and hurry back.  No swarm in sight.  I looked at the nearby trees, posts, etc., but they were long gone.  My swarm trap I had hanging in a nearby tree did not have them either.  Could have used a queen in hive #2, but hopefully will have one made soon.
The bees have brought in a lot of honey, but not always in the right places.  We were gone quite a lot in June, and the bees really packed the hives full of nectar.  I had two hives quite honey-bound, and could find no evidence of queens in either.  In fact, I haven't seen a queen all year but I certainly know when they are about.  One of the hives eventually started to produce brood and I've put eggs and even some culled swarm cells in the other to hopefully get a queen there.

Hoping for a good fall flow.  The prairie ironweed really attracts the honeybees.  We have a fair amount of it particularly in the prairie nearest the house.  The bees have also been all over our red raspberries, which will continue to produce until freeze.  The bees love the cup plants as well, both for the water the leaves hold but also the yellow blooms.  Goldenrod is now beginning to bloom and we have quite a lot of that.  We did not get buckwheat planted this year which has always been a plant they love.  Still, there are nectar sources around.  We will have a moderately good honey year but  it would be nice to have a great fall flow and have a very good year.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Honey Flow!

We have been coming and going a lot lately, so monitoring the progress of the bees has been a little difficult.  Today was forecast to be a bit cooler (it really wasn't!) so after having been gone for a week I knew I needed to check the hives.  My objective--see how the bees were drawing out the comb in the supers, check on hive #4 to see if it was successfully queenright and check the other hives to make sure queens were laying and hives were not becoming honey bound.

Hive #4 seemed very busy and happy, and yes, young larva!  Good news.  That's about all I did with that hive.  I am almost totally out of frames (more coming tomorrow from Mann Lake!) so I didn't have enough to even put half a box of frames on this hive, so that will be something I need to do ASAP.

Next I looked at Hive #3, my 8 frame hive.  I only had one super on it (again, due to low number of frames) and found they have really been busy filling out the frames in the super.  I removed 3 good frames of capped honey, leaving a 4th that was filled and capped on one side and half of the other. I went and got Kathy, needing an extra pair of hands.

Looking further into the hive, I was surprised to find no larva. Before we traveled, I had taken a frame with eggs from this hive to put into #4.  So what has happened to the queen?  Possibly there has been a swarm (swarms?) and this hive just hasn't gotten the new queen into laying mode yet.  Still, I decided to put a frame with eggs into this hive just in case.  The bees in this hive were really very animated, flowing out over every box I opened.  Huge number of bees.  

I opened hive #2.  Some progress at drawing out comb in the two supers but not much else.  I set those aside and started looking for brood.  The top box of the brood chamber was totally filled with honey--very heavy.  I won't take any of that.  I looked in the second box, also very full of honey and nectar.  Same thing in the bottom box, though not as much capped.  No brood.  I did find at least 6 swarm cells that had been occupied and chewed through. My guess is there is an immature queen present. I will wait a week and check this one again.  I closed this one up.

Hive #1 had young larva and eggs, so I did transfer a frame from this hive to hive #3.  Again, the top box of the brood chamber is heavy with honey, with some new comb in the supers but nothing close to being filled and capped.  I removed the queen excluder from this hive and hope they get busy soon.  A flow is definitely on and they need to fill supers now that brood chambers are definitely heavy with honey.

So what is blooming?  The bees have been all over the spiderwort, which has beautiful blue blooms through mid-day, then the blossoms close up.  The bees really love it.  We have a heavy cover of sweet Dutch clover as well, and the bees have been on that.  

Blueberries and honey bees have little in common, but the berries are really coming ripe right now.  Apple trees are very full, the grapes look great and raspberries are coming on and the honey bees love the red raspberries as well.  Hopefully the honey flow will go on for several weeks.  We're positioned to have our best honey harvest in several years, so fingers are crossed.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Two Swarms

Last week, May 11th, I got a forwarded email from our club's secretary from a man in Coralville who had a neighbor who had a lot of bees going in and out of a black composting bin.  The owners were interested in having them removed.  I called the neighbor and set a time to come take a look. I spoke with Jeff, the neighbor, again before I went and he said there was also a small swarm on a young tree near the compost bin.

 Unfortunately, I don't have any photos of the colony in the composting bin. It was huge.  They had drawn out about 8 combs, about 10 inches in length.  It was a much larger group of bees than the swarm in the tree.  I had only brought one box, so took the bees out of the compost bin. It was easy removing the comb and most of the bees, but hundreds were still in and around the bin.  I decided to leave the box near the compost bin and pick it up the next day, as well as an extra nuc in case the swarm was still there.  It was.  I removed it successfully and brought that home.  I'll either keep it as a nuc or combine it with hive #4, which has one capped queen cell as of this past weekend.  I'll have to see if a queen develops there.  Or I may just go ahead and combine anyway if I find a good queen in the swarm.