Saturday, April 27, 2013

Lighting a Smoker Video

I posted a new little video, 5 minutes long, below, showing how I light the smoker.  After seeing fairly regular comments about difficulties lighting smokers on message boards, I decided to make this video.  I used to take much longer to get mine started, but this technique seems to pretty much always work fine for me.

With temps forecast to be above 70 degrees tomorrow, I plan to do a split.  I'll move the queen, provided I can find her, into the new hive, with some capped brood, plenty of honey and pollen frames, and will make sure there are frames with eggs and young larva left in the other hive.  I'll do a follow-up post to tell how that goes, hopefully with some photos.

Update: We did the split today, but were unable to find the queen even though we did a very thorough search.  There were eggs and a lot of capped larva in both the top and bottom boxes, with mostly honey, pollen and some new nectar in the middle box.  We put several frames with eggs, young larva and capped brood in the new hive and closed things up.   I'll check in a week and see if there is a queen cell being produced.  The original hive appears very healthy, with many bees in each box.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Reversal, minimal hive inspection

With a temperature in the mid-fifties, and with rain forecast through the coming week, I decided to take a look into the hive and do a reversal.  I also wanted to do a spring mite treatment and put a new bottom board in place. 

She loaded up from one of the few blooming crocuses

Bees were flying as we came to the hive.  They have only been using the top entrance, which is one reason I wanted to replace the bottom board.  Either there was a big blockage, a lot of dead bees or some other explanation.

In the top box (of 3 mediums), I pulled a frame second from the end.  It was pretty much empty, drawn (older) comb, but covered with bees.  The next frame towards the center had some honey and, thankfully, some capped brood and young larva.  Hurrah!  I slid that frame over and checked the next, which had even more capped brood.  I looked quickly for the queen but didn't see her.  On the next frame, though, I spotted her right away--a big, fat queen.  She looked very healthy and very capable of laying many, many eggs.  I snugged that frame carefully right back in place, pulled the box and set it aside, with the inner cover on top to help keep it warm.

Bees were settling down quickly after the reversal
In the middle box, we found plenty of frames of honey.  Clearly, these bees had more than adequate stores for the winter, which is what I experienced with both hives last year and which makes the death of the other hive even more puzzling.  Now, instead of thinking I had just miscalculated the amount of honey I had left the bees, I'm thinking more in terms of disease or poisoning, and leaning towards the former.  Disease may have ravaged what had been a very healthy looking hive when I wrapped it for the winter, leaving not enough mass of bees to keep warm, even though they must have eaten a lot of honey.  In cleaning up that hive this past week, though, I discovered much more remaining honey than I had originally thought in January when I took the hive apart.

We pulled the bottom box off, removed the old screened bottom board and replaced it with a new  one.  There was a fair pile of dead bees on the screen, and perhaps this was why the bees were not using this entrance.  We re-assembled the hive, in reverse order, putting Hopguard strips on the bottom two boxes.  The 8 or 9 frames of honey that were left from the old hive I put into a box where the old hive had sat, on a bottom board and covered with a lid so they can go ahead and rob that.

My plan is to do a reversal towards the end of April.  This hive looks very healthy, has a vigorous queen, and once the temps get up in the sixties or seventies, I'll do a split.  One further interesting note--there were many, many bees loaded with pollen already.  It was a very light color, almost white.  With very few blossoming flowers, it has to be from trees.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Cold--but flying!

After being gone for 11 days, I had gotten pretty anxious about our bees, considering we're down to one hive now.  Checking right before we left, things looked good but there was a cold spell, as well as some warming into the fifties, while we were gone so I had some concern.  Today it's in the low 40's and, though too cool to open up if there is brood inside, it was good to see bees flying at a steady pace in and out of the hive.  It wasn't just cleansing or orienteering--they looked purposeful.  Temps are to warm into the upper 50's and maybe 60's by the weekend, so I do plan to open it up fully and, if brood is present and numbers and health appear good, I will do a split.  I'll try first having them raise a queen, and if that fails May would be a good time to get a new queen anyway.  I do think I might try to get to 3 hives this year.  Coming close to losing them all makes me want to have some good back-up.

It was nice to get outside a bit.  We were in upstate NY, where we had snow most days and it never got much above 40.  Pretty dark, cold and damp most of the time.  Not fun and a far cry from last year.  I looked around a bit at the yard.  I was excited to see our osprey have returned, likely while we were gone last week.  They occupy a nest in a cell phone tower just beyond our property.  We have a good view of it from the second floor of our house and I've taken a number of pictures in the past, including videos of feedings.

Here is a regrettably grainy image of her sitting on the nest this afternoon.  I'll have to set my better scope up for some good photos.  You can see a bit of the white on her head as she is sitting just behind the center upright post on the tower.  I saw at least two others when I was outside, so I suspect perhaps at least one offspring from last year has returned as well to the area.  A little bonus--while I was looking at her through the telescope, I saw a flock of American Pelicans flying in the background, so they are back as well.  Spring is in the air!

Getting back to bees, I have put a link up on my Links sidebar to the BeeInformed web site.  If you are a beekeeper and have not done so yet, please take about a half hour to complete their Winter Loss and Management Survey.  The more good data that can be collected and analyzed, the better off our bees will be.