Sunday, April 6, 2014

Good News/Near Disaster

Ok, maybe not necessarily a disaster, but I almost caused a lot of trouble for myself.
First, the good part.  It was a 64 degree day and partly sunny, and we just came back from a trip to Virginia to see our daughter and her family plus an added trip to Charleston, SC for fun.  I was anxious to see how the bees were doing, and I wanted in particular to see if we had a queen.
Kathy prepared some sugar syrup and added the fumagilin B to a gallon of that.  I gathered up my supplies and tools and headed out to the hive.  I had set up a new stand, which I plan to use to hold at least two hives.  I set it perpendicular to the line of the old hive location but only a few feet away.
I pulled the top box (of 3) off and set it aside, as well as the middle box. I began looking through the bottom box, but only found frame after frame of bees loaded with pollen but no capped or uncapped brood.  I took this box off and set it on the new hive stand, on a screened bottom board.
 After pulling one frame out of the middle box, I could see right away that the next frame had capped brood.  Hurray--I was mostly sure this hive was queenless, so this was a great sight.  I pulled a frame out and examined it briefly and things looked fine.
The new hive stand
I picked up th box and set it on top of the bottom box on the new stand.  Lifting it, I saw hundreds of bees that had crawled out of the bottom still on the board.  I scooped a bunch onto the inner cover, which was lying nearby, and dumped them on the old bottom board which I propped near the new hive location.  I decided I had better take a second good look at the bees still on the board, just in case the queen had dropped out.  In only moments, I saw the queen crawling around on that board. I quickly used my hive tool to gently move her onto my hand.  I placed her on the landing board in front of the hive.  She very quickly went into the entrance and into the hive.  Whew!!!  Well, she was a good looking queen, Minnesota hygenic, and made it through the winter in fine shape.  
I put the styrofoam feeder on top and added the gallon of medicated syrup.  I left the spacer on, since there was still a bit of a patty they were busy consuming.  I'll probably take that off in a few days.
This hive was overflowing with bees.  The top box is still heavy with honey.  Why this many bees was able to make it through the winter with plenty of food left and I lost two hives is a puzzle.
I will order one Minn. hygenic queen this week and make one split.  In mid-May, I'll make a second split and let them try to make a queen.  If numbers continue to go up, I could make a third split later and see about giving that one away.

Another good sign of spring--our ospreys have returned!  They apparently arrived while we were gone last week.  Here you see her sitting on the nest.  Sorry about the fuzzy picture, taken through my telescope and a screened window.  This is on the cell phone tower just beyond our property.  I think this is the fourth year they have nested in this site.  

Friday, March 7, 2014

Cup 1/3 Full

Temps in the mid-forties, but that is the only good news.  Well, I guess having one hive still alive is better than none, but we lost our 8 framer.  It was really full of bees, and this last cold snap last week (15 below) was just too much.  They had consumed most of one patty, but were just too high in the top box.  I suppose if I had pulled some frames last time and put in some honey frames, they might have made it, but they were just too angry at the time and flying out all over the place when it was only 20 degrees so I didn't want to open the hive more than I did.  I suppose I should have anyway.
The remaining hive looks like good numbers and there is a full box of honey in the top box yet, so go figure.  I won't know if there is a queen until it really warms up more.  The other good news is the long-term forecast, which though still on the cool side, is hundreds of times better than the past several weeks with some nights above freezing.  It's about time.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

My Cup is 2/3 Full

This is the first day anywhere approaching the warmth of just above freezing, so I had to get out to check on the bees.  It has been exceptionally cold.  It was 18 below zero the other night, a high of only 6 degrees yesterday.  Today it was edging above 35 and sunny.
I started with hive #2.  This hive came through last winter very strong, so much so that I was able to do 3 splits from it and still take about 100 pounds of honey.  We left probably 80 pounds of honey in the hive for the winter.  When I did the final warm weather check, the queen was still laying and the bees looked very healthy.
I didn't see any dead bees on the fresh snow in front of the hive and none flying, though, which concerned me.  As soon as I opened it, I noticed a lot of frost on the inner cover and this pile of dead bees.  Pulling a few frames from the middle, though, there was no evidence the bees had eaten any of this honey.  The top box was still full of food.  Looking at the frames I pulled, though, I saw a lot of evidence of nosema.
Note the long brown streaks on the frame (with good, untouched honey).  I'll need to do some research to see what I need to do to these contaminated frames.  I did not treat in the fall for nosema and will need to study this as well.  I hate to lose this queen, who was a fantastic layer.
This is hive #1 and those are live bees on top.  I again saw frost on the inner cover and no sign of life upon opening, but as I began to work a frame loose bees began to crawl up through the frames.  Top box is still full of honey here as well, but I placed a patty on top anyway just for good measure.  This hive had no apparent laying queen when I last opened them up so I hope she was just not laying.  This is the offspring of the queen from hive #2 so I hope she survives.

Hive #3, the 8 framer, also had no dead bees in front or actively flying bees.  As soon as I opened it, though, there was a squirming mass in the slot of the inner cover.  I took it off and the top of the frames were totally covered with bees.  They were definitely not happy with being disturbed, and when I tried to peek a bit more at a frame to check on honey many took to the air, with quite a few striking me in the (veiled) face and buzzing angrily.  I gave them a patty and gently closed them up.  I had several follow me the couple hundred feet up to and into the barn.  I don't use smoke in the winter, but may with this particular group of characters.

So, two out of three is probably better than I anticipated, and, if we make it through into spring, twice as strong as what we started with last year.