Showing posts from 2012

What Are These Bees?

I was looking into stories about the loss of the Brooklyn Grange's apiary, destroyed by Hurricane Sandy, when I came upon this story about bees in the aftermath of Hurricane Irene in 2011.  (Feral Bees)
Aside from coloration, the long, extended abdomens really make them look more like queen bees.  Is this typical of feral bees?  Does the photo just distort their shape?  Can anyone explain what they are?

Second Harvest!

A bit less than two weeks ago, I treated hive #2 for mites and checked the progress on the honey in the one remaining super.  Though they had been filling out cells pretty well, few were capped, so I placed it on top of the hive for them to take back into the hive and clean them up.  In hive #1, on which I still had two medium supers, I thought it was a good possibility they might finish capping at least some of the frames, since many had one side capped and at least part of the other.  So I left them. 
    Today, knowing I would be pretty busy this weekend and then leaving early next week, when it is to turn cool and rainy anyway, I decided I had better pull the supers off the hives and treat hive #1 for mites.  I had decided that I might be able to get a few frames to process and the rest I would split between feeding back to the bees and making some mead.
     To our surprise, after we treated the bees and took a look at the two supers on #1, we found all frames were better th…

Honey Day

Finally got a wonderful break in the weather, with temps only in the upper 70's and DRY (the humidity, here--we still could use some rain though we got just under an inch when the cold front noisily passed through, taking out a number of trees and limbs in the area.)

As I indicated earlier, we knew we were going to have a good honey season, with all the white clover this year.  I'll go through the process the way we do it.
We work in our "barn", where we can keep the bees out and have plenty of room to make a mess if need be.  Here we have a bowl of water, our uncapping tray, the 5 gallon filtering pail beyond and then the old A.I. Root Extractor in the background.
Here are a few of the nice frames of honey we have this year.  Today we extracted 19 frames. Here you see Kathy uncapping the frame with an electric knife.  She likes to use that--I can't handle it.   Give me a long, serrated bread knife anytime.  We don't have a heated uncapping knife.  We feel we…

Ok--I'm Confused

Sorry, no pictures, but my plan was to simply go out and pull off a honey super, brush what bees were still on the frames and bring them in to extract this weekend.

This was the hive that, on July 9th, had no apparent queen.  I had decided I would let them finish curing their honey, take what we wanted, then deal with the queen situation.  I did put a frame of young larva in at that time but haven't really been in the hive since, other than to set the bee escape under the supers two days ago.

To my surprise, as I was pulling frames out  of the honey super, the third frame was full of capped brood.  Not just a random smattering, but a good pattern with a solid middle section of worker brood.  Needless to say, I was pretty dumbfounded.  Even had I accidentally put the frame with young larva in the honey super, the time frame just doesn't quite add up to produce that much brood.  There was brood on the next frame as well and some on the one after that.  I did find the queen, thou…

Honey Time

Honey time has arrived here early, at least from the perspective our somewhat limited experience.  This will be our third year of honey harvest, and the very earliest we have extracted honey.  The past two years, it has been the end of August/beginning of September when we harvested.  I could have taken honey several weeks ago, actually.  Most was capped and ready to go.

Kathy and I pulled two medium supers off the first hive this morning.  It amounts to roughly 75 pounds, counting the weight of the frames.  I had the bee escape on and it worked fairly well.  We still had to brush off some bees but brushing gently didn't seem to bother them much.  We put the bee escape on hive #2.  We'll pull probably 8 frames off that hive.  Since they are likely still queenless, their numbers have declined and they haven't been able to produce as much.
Here are a few of the 1 frames we took this morning.  Though these two have a couple blemishes, most frames were simply gorgeous, complet…

Honey Bound

It's been too damn hot to even think of opening the hives until the heat broke Sunday.  I've been anxious to open up the hives and see what is going on, especially after reading this post from Jim, in Stillwater, Minnesota, from his blog What Should I Be Doing With My Bees This Month?
I wanted to make sure my bees weren't showing the same type of crud he has been experiencing.  Kathy has been concerned about hive #2, since they just weren't showing the type of activity (i.e. bearding in masses) we were seeing at the other hive.  I also wanted to see what kind of progress they're making with the honey, and additionally take a frame of young larva to put again into the nuc to try to get a queen going there.

That was the plan, anyway.  First, the local weatherman (do they collect their paychecks without guilt or remorse???) blew it again.  According to his forecast, it  was supposed to be very mild, with highs in the afternoon only in the low 80's.  Of course, it…

June and things are growing

I decided to take a peek at the new hive we're trying to get started.  I put a frame with eggs and larva in on  May 23rd, so I thought a queen might have emerged.  Last time I checked, last Monday, I thought I found a queen cell though the bees continued to cover it so much I couldn't really be sure.  Today there was clearly a queen cell at the top of frame #3.
It has been 17 days, so I'd think she would be coming out very soon.  I'll check back mid-week next week.
The clover is slowly getting past its prime.  There has been a lot of it and the bees have definitely been working it.  I also found some bees on our blossoming cilantro, but more often the little dark bee in the photo below.
Not the best photo, for sure.  Probably a type of mason bee?
The bees are doing well, but other things are looking good here in Iowa in June.  It's been quite dry, but we're heading into a great berry season nonetheless.  The black raspberries should be plentiful, though we'…

Early June Inspection

I first checked the nuc today to see if there was any sign yet of a queen cell from the frames I put in on May 23rd.  There clearly seems to be at least one queen cell, which would be approximately two weeks old.  It is in the photo below, but a little group of nurse bees kept covering it, lending credence to the likelihood that it contains a queen.

I contemplated adding another frame from one of the other hives, but I think I'll do a wait-and-see here.

I checked hive #2, the stronger of the other hives, to see how they had progressed during our week away to northern Minnesota.  I had anticipated possibly needing to add a second super.  The bees have been building comb and adding some nectar but no frames full of honey yet.  I looked deeper into the hive and found the top hive body (of 3) is almost totally full of honey, most capped.  It's quite heavy.  I began to be worried that the hive was getting honeybound, so looked deeper.  The middle box has a lot of ugly frames, and I…

No Queen in the New Hive

I checked yesterday to see if the presumptive new queen was busy laying.  I found two frames full of bees on both sides.  The bees had been filling cells with nectar, which they were busily gulping down thanks to the smoke.

Both queen cells, which had been capped, were empty but there was no sign anywhere of a queen.  Am I wrong in thinking that it they should be done with mating flights by now, at least a week since they emerged from their cells?  Did they both succumb in a fight?  Did the remaining queen fail to survive her mating flights?  Another question came to mind.  The bees will try to make a queen if they discover they are queenless if available young brood is present.  Are they always successful in determining if the larva is sufficiently young enough to be a viable queen candidate?  In other words, can they go through the process of continuing with the royal jelly,  constructing the queen cell and capping that only to have an ordinary worker bee emerge at the end?  I have …

Good looking nuc

I checked our little 5 frame nuc yesterday.  It was full of bees.  There were two queen cells hanging side by side, both capped.  By my calculations, they should emerge today or tomorrow.  I decided since they hadn't emerged yet, I would go ahead and expand the hive.  I placed the five frames in a 9 frame super, setting it on top of a friend's new 10 frame large hive body.  Once the queen gets established and begins laying, he can take this setup to his land.  He may or may not take the queen.  If he decides he wants her, I'll start another in a nuc.  I've decided we need to keep a backup.  Last year, with both hives failing, it was a scramble to get them queened.
Since this one is right outside our barn, I'll keep an eye on it.  If I'm lucky, I'll see a queen take off on a mating flight!

Laying Queen Confirmed

Last week we found the queen in hive #1 but no sign of larva yet.  I opened again today and there are already capped worker cells and plenty of larva.  Sorry about the blurry picture, I was trying to take the photo with a glove on and must have moved.  So, I put it back together and they are ready to go. 
I also checked the little nuc I had put a frame in last week and found two supercedure cells with larva in them, though not capped yet.  So they will be making a queen as well, which I'll likely give to a friend who lost his bees and wants to start up again.


Both hives are queenright!  We inspected both today and found the queen in each right away.  The brand new queen did not seem to be laying yet, though there could be some eggs.  After finding her, my main objective, I didn't want to disturb the hive even more so closed it right up.  I'll check again in 6 or 7 days.  By then, we should easily find some larva at least.
The other queen, in hive #2, was still in the top box, middle rows of frames.  I set her aside and pulled the frame she was just on, along with several others, and started up a nuc.  Hopefully this will work this time to have them rear another queen.  All the bees died from the first nuc, including some frames that were fully capped but the bees never emerged.  I think it had just been too cold, and the little nuc couldn't stay warm enough.  Maybe we'll be lucky this time, with the temps forecast to be in the 70's pretty much all week.

At least this frame will get put to use.  I have to give a talk on F…

Queen cell--maybe

I spotted what looks to be a queen cell in hive #1 today, so possibly they are making a queen after all.  One cell was on the middle of a frame, with the opening pointing down and a larva in it, attended by a couple bees. I did put a frame with young larva in from hive #2 and will try to do so once a week for a couple weeks.  There were a lot of capped cells and young larva in #1, so the queen must be alive and well.  Since there would still be some larva after one week, there should not be any next week if the queen is absent.
I also checked on the nuc.  No sign of a queen cell there though there is still some uncapped larva.  I'll wait and see on that.

Good, Bad News

Sorry no photos--I was working mostly by myself and had a lot to do so I didn't take anything.
It was 72 degrees and has been nice for at least a week, so after coming back from a trip out east I decided I needed to get in and see what was going on as well as add mite strips.
Bad news first.  Hive #1 seemingly has no queen.  In the top of 3 boxes, I found scattered drone cells along the bottom of several frames.  No queen in sight.  There were a few in the box below as well.  There were still several frames of honey and bees were bringing in lots of pollen and even filling some cells with nectar.  The number of bees was adequate.  They still had not touched the pollen patties.  I removed a couple old frames, rotated the boxes, put on the medication strips and closed it up. 

Hive #2 was very healthy with most of the pollen patty gone, good brood patterns and a lot of capped and uncapped larva.  I found the queen pretty easily in the middle box.  I set that frame aside in a safe loc…

First Inspection of the Year

Starting tomorrow, our temps will be above 70 degrees for at least a week.  Incredible.  My plans are to do an inspection of each hive, probably Wednesday.  I'll check for the presence of laying queens in each hive, treat for mites with the mite-away strips from Mann Lake, and generally clean them up, including removal of the styrofoam insulation from winter.  I'll give a summary here later in the week on what I find.
     Our plan is to do splits, providing I have laying queens and sufficient bees.  A friend lost his bees last year and would like to start them again.  Hopefully we can do that.
     A couple weeks ago, I finished our barn quilt and put it in place.  I had hoped to put it above the window on the end of the barn, but there just wasn't enough space.  It still looks fine here.  I chose the colors because they represent the colors of the Iowa Hawkeyes, and the hexagon design to represent the bees.  It's funny, but when a large group of hawkeye fans gat…

Why do you keep bees?

As we enter our fourth year of beekeeping, I've been thinking about why we began in the first place.  In the fall of 2007, I think it was, Kathy suggested we attend a session at a local county park on the subject of beekeeping.  We got to see and touch some of the basic pieces of equipment and paraphernalia that is part of the whole process and learned a bit about the biology of the European honey bee, its life cycle and social structure.  A bit fascinated, we decided to go into it a bit further and signed up for a year-long course, meeting roughly once a month, in which we would learn the basics of beekeeping, order and install our bees and follow them through the first season, including extraction of honey (from the nature center's bees since ours wouldn't likely be producing the first season.)
     At the first meeting, we were asked by the instructor why we were interested in pursuing this endeavor.  I responded that we were primarily interested in having bees to…

Feeding Time

February 17th, and another of a string of nice days.  Temperatures today reached the upper 40's.  We ordered some pollen patties and today seemed like a good day to apply them.
Bees were flying at both hives when we went out to check on them.  Popping the lids, we found quite a few bees above the inner cover, particularly on hive #1, and many more bees on top of the frames in the top box.  I minimized the time the bees were exposed to the air and gently placed the patties on top of the frames.  I had to adjust my first placement, since it was directly in the middle so when I put the inner cover on, the oval slot was completely blocked.
Bees looked healthy.  No sign of nosema and the number of mites on each pull-out tray was very minimal.  In fact, I had trouble seeing any at all.  Crumbs from wax cappings indicated bees have been feeding on honey.
It will be interesting to see how quickly they consume the patties.  I'll try to check in about 2 weeks.
To see a short video of to…

I'm a buzzin', Mon

We just returned from a weeklong getaway to Grand Cayman.  While gone, we missed some "almost" Caribbean-type weather here in Iowa, where temps reached over 60 degrees!  Still, it was a bit warmer there (pretty much 81 degrees every day). 
While sitting out on the patio of our nice apt. (that's Kathy in the hat), we noticed honeybees flying around the palms.  Dumbly, though I had the camera with me on several occasions, I failed to take a picture.  They were all over the little blossoms that eventually turn into coconuts.  We saw them everywhere we went on the island, so I began to wonder if there are many beekeepers there.  After just a little research on google, I found this link to a blog entry about Otto Watler, a native Caymanian beekeeper.  I think you might find it interesting.  He sounds like a busy, creative guy.  Hopefully he is still tending his gardens, and I wish we had known about him earlier.
Aside from the coconut palms, we saw bees on a number of plants.…

Record High

Just a quick note: sixty-one degrees (16 degrees C) on January 5th--shattering the old record of 54 degrees (12 C)! Of course, the bees were really flying from both hives. It is expected to be warm again today, though not quite as warm but above average temps for the next week. The "normal" average temperature for this time of year is about 11 degrees F (-12 C). Again, this probably means they will be consuming their stores even more than during colder winters, so I will really have to look at early spring feeding.