Thursday, June 23, 2011

Supers, new comb

     I checked both hives today to see if they needed to have more supers added.  In hive #1, comb was drawn out and being filled on better than 80% of the frame space, so I did add a super there.  I also checked the condition of some of the comb on the several frames we have in that super that have just a strip at the top rather than foundation. As you can see in the photo, there is some lovely white comb getting filled with honey.
     Now, I was a bit surprised at the size of the cells.  My understanding was that the bees would naturally produce cells that are smaller than the standard cell size one gets with foundation.  I didn't measure these, but they certainly appear big to me.  Do they make cells different size when they want to store honey rather than brood?  At any rate, we'll look forward to having a bit of comb honey this year. One foundationless frame they had not begun to draw out at all yet.
     Hive #2, which just last week had a new laying queen, has only drawn out about 3 1/2 frames, so I didn't add a super yet to that hive.
     The weather continues to be quite strange.  Cool, with the highs only in the upper 60's and intermittent drizzle.   Definitely not "happy bee" weather, though the bees have been very well behaved.  Hopefully, the big honey flow is yet to come.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Fingers crossed

We did a very thorough search of hive #1 and found no queen, eggs, larva or any type of capped cell.  There continues to be a huge number of bees in this hive, which remains pretty well-behaved in spite of being queenless.  Two weeks ago, our inspection also showed no queen.  So, we added the queen from our nuc and hope for the best.  I debated using the newspaper separation method, but felt it was important to get her in and going ASAP.  In checking the nuc, we found no eggs.  We just released her from her cage two days ago, though, so I didn't really expect to find any.
We'll check again in a week or so.  Meanwhile, they have been drawing out comb in the super and, I imagine, putting nectar in the cells though my concern today wasn't checking that out.  I'll add a super to both hives later in the week.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Released

We released the queen from her cage yesterday.  There was still quite a plug of candy in the end of the tube, and the bees seemed to be around her cage though not attacking it.  She wandered about a bit on top of the frames before crawling down into them.  Hopefully now she'll be able to get to work and in a few days we'll check the hive to see if it indeed needs a queen or not.  If not, then we'll just keep this little nuc going as a back-up.  Or give it to a friend who lost both hives this past winter.
Click on photo to see video of queen piping
One interesting part of this experience was hearing the queen piping.  I had seen it on videos, but had never heard it in person.  This queen was pretty vocal, and we heard her loud and clear a number of times. Very cool.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Re-Queening

Our queen arrived in the mail Wednesday (this is Friday).  The post office called around 6:30 a.m. to tell us they had her and we could come pick her up.  I opened the package in front of the curious postal worker, who was wondering how anything could be alive in the package. She knew it contained something living because of the air holes in the envelope.  I pulled the container out and showed her the queen and her attending bees.  She asked if we planned to release them in our garden or something, but I explained she was to go in a beehive.
It was a drizzly morning, but more rain was in the forecast and we had a lot of things on our agenda, so we decided to go ahead and start the nuc.  We opened hive #1, first taking a look at the super which last week had shown little change.  We were happy to see that it was really filling out with fresh, white new comb and the comb was being filled with nectar.  I'll have to look at that again early next week and add a super if needed.
The top brood box was very heavy and completely full of honey.  There was no larva to be seen in that box, and because of the time and wetness we didn't go any deeper in the hive. We pulled a couple of frames, replaced those with new frames which Kathy had to run and retrieve from the barn since I had forgotten we'd need those, and put the hive back together.  We brought the nuc up near the barn, over 200 feet from the original hives and put the queen cage between some frames.  We did not get a lot of bees, so I'm hoping we got enough.  I saw no immediate reaction from the bees to the queen cage but they had probably not gotten her full scent, given the smoking they had just received.  We closed it up and will check tomorrow (Saturday) to see if the queen has been released and, if not, will release her.  Then I'll check next week to see if we have any larva in hive #1 and, if not, put the queen there.  I'm still trying to decide exactly how to do that.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Queenright!

It was time to check hive #2 for a queen and to see how well the super was being filled out.  As you can see above, there was good, normal activity on the hive apron, bees coming and going with orange pollen and likely nectar.  After the swarm, it took awhile for this hive to settle down but now has a good, busy normal look to it.

The super has been getting some attention, with several frames already at least half-filled with capped honey.  I was surprised at the number of drones flying around,  something I had noticed with this hive on the previous inspection.  Things were going pretty well until I had a frame slip out of my hands, the first time this has happened.  They seemed to settle down pretty quickly, though, and we proceeded to look deeper into the hive.

This was the third frame I pulled out of the top of our 3 brood-nest boxes.  If you click on the photo and zoom, you will see very young larva and even a couple eggs.  We were very happy to see this, and I had a pretty good notion the queen might be on this frame.  I turned it over, and noticed a clump of bees in one corner--and there she was.  See if you can find her in the photo below (look just left of center).
She has the long, yellow abdomen.  Although we had only found the two supercedure cells last week when we looked, I was certainly hoping one would turn out to produce a queen.  The brood are very young, and if we had looked even as early as yesterday we probably would have assumed there was still not a laying queen.  We were certainly happy to see this.  I thought the hive was looking and behaving like it was queenright, and it sure turned out the be that way.
Our new queen should arrive in the mail tomorrow, and we'll put her in a nuc.  I'll check hive #1 next week, and if there is still no queen present there we'll eventually add her to that hive.  I think it takes about 3 weeks before a hive will begin to make laying workers, so I don't want to delay too long.  If we have a queen, we'll start hive #3.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Queenless!

     We just got back from a fishing trip to N. Minnesota.  It has been just under a month since the first swarm on hive two.  Before we left, we had placed a honey super on each hive and so decided to check to see how they were filling out and to make sure we had a queen in the hive that swarmed.
Bad news.  We searched the entire hive and found no eggs, no larva, and not even any capped brood.  Lots of bees, though, and they have been busy filling out the super I put on awhile back.  I saw them this morning even bringing in pollen, which I have been told is a sign of brood in the hive that needs to be fed.  We did find a couple supercedure cells that appeared to be occupied, so we are hoping that one queen at least will emerge.  Since the hive is almost packed solid with honey, we removed some frames and replaced them with fresh, empty foundation hoping the queen will have a place to begin to lay once she emerges and returns from her mating flight.
     In the meantime, or just in case, we thought we would put a frame of eggs/young larva from hive #1 and they could make a queen from that if they needed.  So we left an empty frame slot, put the hive back together and opened hive #1.  Worse news.  Not a sign of any eggs or larva, though there were some spotty capped brood cells on several frames.  Tons of bees, as you can see below on the hive after we had closed it back up.
     We took out some honey frames and put in fresh foundation in this hive as well.  I left them there this afternoon but will go out and get them this evening.  I'll probably extract and save the honey to feed them in the fall if needed. 
     So, what to do?  Very disappointed to find no queen.  Neither hive behaved aggressively, as queenless hives are sometimes known to do, though there were bees everywhere:  in the air, all over the hive, and all over us. Through carelessness, I took a couple stings in my glove but they didn't penetrate.  It was impossible to not be killing bees, there were so many and they wouldn't stay down in the frames.
     I ordered one new Minnesota hygenic queen.  I'm hoping hive #2 will produce a queen from one of the supercedure cells we saw.  I'll put her in #1.  If the bees begin to attack her in the cage, I would take that to mean they have a queen, in which case I'll put her in a nuc with some bees and honey and hopefully they will take to her there.  If I still see no queen in #1, I'll try again to introduce her to that hive.  Once she begins to lay, if there still is no queen in #2, I'll put some of her eggs there and see if they can make a queen.  
I feel at this point like I have no clue what I'm doing. :(