Sunday, March 27, 2011


After watching a very exciting and satisfying  NCAA  basketball game (sorry, KU fans--go Rams!), I decided to walk out back and check on a few things, bees included.    Only 39 degrees for a high today, but they were still flying.  I walked over to the birdbath we had set out last week or so to see if there was any action, and found this:
I guess they were pretty thirsty.  You can zoom in on this photo if you'd like.  There were a few dead ones but most were being careful and not venturing in too far.  I did pull one pair out and hopefully they'll survive the chill.
This morning, I finished off melting some beeswax.  I took some of the cleaner, lighter comb from the frames I swapped out and ended up with a nice little cake of wax.  I used the method of boiling the comb with a good quantity of water for about half an hour, then set it out to cool.  I removed the wax once it hardened.  It is lighter than water, so it floats.  I broke it up and set it overnight on an old towel to dry, then put it in a double boiler made from a tin can (with the wax in it) set in an old pan with several inches of water.  I gently boiled the water, then poured the melted wax out a bit at a time into my mold (cottage cheese container), straining it through an old t-shirt.  The final product was a nice, clean hunk of wax I can use to help make some starter strips for some foundationless frames.  I plan to ultimately have all of the frames in the brood boxes foundationless.
The wax chunk, next to a loon decoy for size comparison

I also checked out the osprey.  We were more than a little concerned, since no sooner had they arrived last week than a crew went up on the tower to work and ended up being on the tower for 5 straight days.  The birds were not happy and circled around, and we did not see them at all the last day the workmen were here but they did show up the following day and have been there since.  Here one, the male, I think, is perched atop one of the uprights.  I think she is down on the nest.
Since I'm talking about birds, if you do enjoy raptors you might want to look at this.  North of where I live a couple hours, near the town of Decorah, Iowa, eagle lovers have been watching a live webcam of a bald eagle nest.  She is sitting on eggs, which are due to hatch within the week I believe, around April 1.  No foolin'.  Here is the link:  You do have to watch a short commercial before the live video kicks in.

While out back, I also checked on the vineyard.  We have about 35 grape vines and make wine and juice from those.  They are all trimmed and ready for my first dormant spraying, hopefully to be done this coming week.  Keep thinking spring.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Return of other flying creatures

Yesterday, as I have daily, I looked up at the cell phone tower we see out our back window to see if the ospreys have returned.  Sure enough, one sat on the highest post atop the tower surveying its domain.  There were workmen up on the tower last week, and we wondered if they would try to dismantle the nest but it seems like they were fine with it being there.
I shot this photo two years ago, through my telescope, when the osprey had their first pair of nestlings.  They raised more last year and we will see what this year brings.
As for the bees, they continue to enjoy the comfortable temps, in the 40's and even up to 60 today.  They have still been bringing in lots of light colored pollen.  I found about a dozen bees in the mud down by the woods where I was dumping some tree trimmings.  It looked like they were after moisture from the mud.  I placed the birdbath out near the hives, so perhaps they can use that as well.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

March Pollen!

After opening the hives yesterday and with temps today reaching the mid-60's, I walked out back to check on the bees.  I expected to see them flying, but did not expect to see them bringing in huge caches of pollen.  Zoom on the photo to see full  sacs of a light-colored, amber pollen.
They were working hard at both hives.  If the temps keep up and the pollen supply continues, given how full the hives were of bees and honey, I'll need to throw on some supers here in a week or so.  Last year our honey was put on early, in June.  This is still mid-March, but I also did splits last year, so numbers in the individual hives were down.  Still debating doing a split this year and adding a 3rd hive.  Have to think about that some more.

On another note, having found no worms in the hive yesterday, I did pull out the trays today and found a very large cockroach. Perhaps the mystery of the poop is finally solved in favor of the cockroach.  I'd much rather see that than a wax worm infestation any day.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011


We had a nice,60 degree day today, though a bit on the windy side. Our goal was to reverse the hive bodies, while looking for any possible intruders, wax worms in particular.
I made a little video which I will post below once I have it all edited.
To our surprise, we found many, many bees, in each hive, spread pretty evenly among the 3 hive bodies.  There was still an incredible amount of honey, even in the lowest box though it clearly had the least amount.  We found no evidence at all of wax moth intrusion, though strangely I found a live, adult moth on the foam insulation I had removed from the hives when I was putting it away in the barn.  I made sure she would not have a chance to lay more eggs.
We did not see any larva in either hive, but it is early and we did not remove many frames from the top hive body, which is now on the bottom.  I suspect that is where the queens were located, or in the middle box though in the first hive the middle box was almost totally full of honey.
We pulled 3 empty or near empty frames from each hive and replaced them with fresh, to begin to recycle old frames to help prevent AFB.  Though our examination was not thorough with each frame, I saw no evidence of disease or invasion of mice, moths or other insects.  With the number of bees as high as it was, I can't imagine how that we had any moth problem in the hive, though I will be more diligent about checking for their presence under and around the hive.
Bees were in full flight around us, but were not aggressive.  I had one frantic moment when a bee made her way under my veil.  Kathy had the same experience, but no stings today.  Bees were very good.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011


We went out yesterday to take a look at the hives since it was edging above 40 degrees.  I wanted to see how many were flying and pull out the tray on each to check them.  Bees were flying, more from the newer hive.  In hive #1, though, when I pulled out the tray I noticed right away some small black particles.  They appeared to be a couple millimeters long and segmented.  They were located in the same part of the board as the cappings that have dropped through between several frames.  Each time I examine the boards, the cappings are confined to a couple long strips from between several frames.  The particles weren't located generally around on the board, and this is the first time I've seen this.  My first thought was mouse droppings, but they appeared to be segmented in 3 or 4 segments.  Then I considered eggs of some kind.  Unfortunately, I cleaned off the boards and I didn't save them yesterday but did go out and take some photos and collect some today.
In the first photo, you see the dark specks on the tray.  The rows are not clearly defined since I had just cleaned it.
This photo shows the size, between 2 and 3 mm.  The object is sitting at the 5 cm mark.
This photo shows a view through our microscope at about 80 X power.

In this, you can see 3 segments, but it does not look as smooth and rounded on the ends as it looked with my unaided eye.  I'm thinking droppings of some kind, probably roaches.  If you look at this website page, you can scroll down and see some roach droppings.  Seems very similar:
Mystery solved??

Post-note--A member of the forum suggested perhaps they are droppings from wax moth larvae.  It might be possible, if the larvae emerged reicently from eggs, there are some occupying the lowest hive body, since most bees will be in the upper boxes.  Unfortunately, the weather is not expected to get much above 40 degrees in the next 10 days so all I can really do is monitor the pullout tray and use a flashlight to look up into the hive for any signs of the larvae or webbing.  Ironically, I'm hoping we have cockroaches!