Monday, July 26, 2010

Switched frames

Well, we switched the frames this morning.  I couldn't believe how many bees were in hive #2.  They certainly seemed a bit more upset at our interventions than the bees in hive #1, but though the air was filled with bees, no stings.  The comb drawn out in hive #2 was a mess--all over the place.  We tried cleaning up things a bit as we went, but since our main objective was to take frames with larva into hive #1, we didn't want to linger too long.  We were about an hour from start to finish as it was.  Fortunately, it was warm but not as hot today as some days have been recently.  My only concern is not seeing eggs on the 2 frames we moved, though there was some very young larva, so I think they will do for making a new queen, if indeed a new one is needed.  Keeping fingers crossed.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Your majesty.....Your Majesty???

Hmmmm, not good.  We have observed our first hive (hive #1), has not looked as vigorous in recent days as the newer hive (#2), so we decided to open up today and take a look.  We didn't like what we saw.  Well, some of it was ok I guess.  There was honey--lots and lots of honey--in fact the super we plan to extract in a couple weeks probably weighs well over 50 pounds--but no eggs, no larva, no capped brood.  And, for all we could tell, and we looked at every frame, no queen.  We did find several swarm cells, all empty, and one supercedure cell, also empty.  I couldn't tell, and not sure if I know how to tell, if the supercedure cell has been occupied.
There were also bees, thousands of them, and they are well-stocked for winter already.  We examined everything, switched out some frames so we could give them more space in the brood chamber in case a queen is lurking around somewhere and we just could not find her, and closed it up.
I got on the internet and started looking for queens and ideas.  I knew buying a queen at this time of year was going to be difficult.  I did find one supplier who put me on a waiting list, about 3 weeks.  It would take almost all that time to make a new queen if we were to choose that route.  I decided I did want to try to make our own queen, so went to the message boards and did some hunting.  I didn't know if it would be best to take some eggs and larva from hive #2 and make a nuc or to put some frames from #2 with eggs/larva into #1 directly.  After listening to folks on and talking with our instructor, Bob, from the beekeeping course we took, we decided we will switch out frames and perhaps also rotate the bottom several hive bodies, to make sure there is plenty of room for the queen to lay.
So, that is the job for tomorrow.  I wasn't going to go in and totally disrupt them again today, though perhaps that decision is more based on my mental well-being than that of the bees.  I did sustain my first sting today, as did Kathy, but both were not based on aggressiveness from the bees but just by accident.  In fact, the bees were very cooperative and well-mannered.  I took one on the belly, bending down to pick up a frame on the ground.  There must have been a bee on my shirt and when I bent, the folds of the shirt compressed it and she stung.  It is now a big red welt on my stomach but didn't really hurt much at all, even when it happened--a slight burning sensation mostly for a short while.  We left some frames and a box that had gotten honey on them near the hive so the bees could clean them off and I brought them back up to the barn later in the afternoon.  As Kathy was picking up the frames to put them away, there was still one bee on them and she tried to shoosh her away with her finger.  Bad decision.  So, we've both been initiated.
It was suggested that perhaps we do have a queen, possibly still a virgin, who has just not begun to lay yet.  That would be the ideal, so I'm not panicking yet.  If that is the case,  we will check in about a week's time (probably longer than that since we will be on the go for a bit) to see if any laying is taking place or if a queen cell has been made from the new eggs/larva and we will have a queen in about 20 days.  Only time will tell.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Getting ready for extraction

The day will soon be approaching when we do our first honey extraction.  I mentioned we had borrowed an extractor from some friends, Jim and Beth Peterson.  It is an old extractor and although we cleaned up the flaky rust and gave it a good scrubbing, I still was a bit concerned about the screens in the device being galvanized.  Although use of galvanized metal, which is a zinc coating on iron to prevent rust, was used fairly commonly in the past on cooking utensils and other food preparation tools, today we know the potential hazards of using such items.  The U.S. army used to line up soldiers to watch atom bomb blasts, too.  Not a good idea.
Fortunately, Kathy found a product which may help us out a lot.  It is a clear-coat epoxy called Camcoat, available through many beekeeping supply places.  It is a very hard, clear epoxy coating, applied with brush or spray, that is food-safe and can be used to coat  metal surfaces, including those with a galvanized finish.  In the message boards, some suggest using a vinegar/water solution to prepare the galvanized metal for painting, so I did that.  I will give at least two coats, and also in the message boards people suggest waiting about a week before using the equipment after applying the coatings, which I think is a good idea especially considering the humidity and slowness of drying.  We will wait probably until mid-August anyway but I sure feel better about using the equipment now.  Jim and Beth were happy with the decision as well.