Thursday, June 27, 2013

Progress Check

Since it has been about 9 days since I last looked at the bees, I thought it was time to see how they were doing drawing out new comb and bringing in nectar.  In both respects, things are looking like they are making adequate progress.
Hive #2 is the strongest hive, full of bees
I spent the most time in the new 8 frame hive, #3.  I still cannot find the queen, though I've looked very thoroughly 4 times now.  All I can think is she must be pretty small.  She is a laying machine, though, as there were 3 frames solidly full on both sides in the middle of 3 boxes, with many other frames having some capped and uncapped larva as well as numerous eggs.  The eggs are looking better centered.  I posted a question about this on beesource.com and the feedback basically indicated not to worry, as long as she is laying a good pattern I shouldn't be concerned.

With the recent heat and humidity, the bees have been washboarding on hives #1 and #2.  It's fascinating to watch.  If you haven't seen it, this is a great video showing this particular behavior.



Bees are still on the red raspberries.  I'm seeing a few more now on the white clover, which is very abundant.  We've had over 5 inches of rain in the past week, and plants are growing like crazy.  The butterfly milkweed in the back prairie is exceptionally pretty this year.

It's another plant the bees don't seem to care for.  They have plenty of clover now, though, so I suspect the next couple weeks, if it can stay a bit drier, will be very productive.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

All Things Blooming

Floods, tornadoes, lightning storms aside, it's been a pretty remarkable spring--particularly regarding fruit, of which we try to grow a variety.  That is part of the reason we decided to get bees in the first place, to assist in the pollination of all the things we try to grow.  We've been surprised both at some of the plants  bees choose to "work" and some they do not seem to work.  As I went out to check the hives to see if I needed to add boxes, switch frames out, and just see how they are laying, I took some photos of some of our plants.
On the way out back, I passed the first prairie.  Spiderwort is a dominant plant right now and the prairie is full of it.  The flowers open in the daytime and close at night.  Bees don't seem too attracted, unfortunately.
These lovelies grow along our garden shed.  Again, no bees.  They don't like blue?  It seems I've read about colors and bees before and will have to check that out again.  One upside to starting to lose my memory, as I'm sure I'm doing,  is the joy of discovering "new" things all over again!
Also on the garden shed is my little mason bee hive, given to me by my daughter, Jessica.  Still none living here.  Perhaps it isn't a good location?  Something more to research.

 Have I mentioned our blueberries this year?  We've never seen such an abundance.  And I have a new treatment to try for the Japanese beetles.  I don't mind sharing my blueberries, but not with insects.  Bumble bees are big time pollinators of the blueberries but I have never seen a honey bee on them.


Our raspberries, both red (shown here) and black are also heavily laden with young berries.  The honey bees especially like the red raspberries.

We're having our first real harvest of cherries in a couple years.  I believe the honey bees were on the cherry blossoms, as well as the apples, though many other little bees work them very heavily as well.  I'm thinking cherry pie....
I did eventually get around to checking out the bees.  Hive #2, my biggest, is putting a lot of honey in the first super but has not drawn a lot out yet in the second.  I checked the entire hive for swarm cells, given the incredible population, but saw none.  Lots of brood, capped and otherwise, so she is still laying like crazy.  Hive #1 is looking good and I added a third box to the main hive (all mediums).  Hive #3 is the 8 frame hive, with the queen who seems to have trouble hitting the center of the cell when she lays.  As you can see in the image above, though, she lays a solid pattern and this hive is also looking healthy and busy.
It was too beautiful to work all day, so I headed out sailing for my first outing of the year.  Ahhhhh.




Thursday, June 13, 2013

All Hives Queen Right

Computing the time it would take for worker bee larva to be capped, I decided today would be a good day to look at my hive #3, the 8 framer.  Temperature right around 80, lower humidity, clear skies and gentle breeze--nice day to look at the bees. 
First, in the top box, I found a number of frames with eggs.  Many did not seem to be planted right in the center of the cell, which continued to bother me.  I saw no capped cells or even older larva in the top box.  Right away looking in the bottom box, however, I found frames with good looking patterns of capped worker cells.  Fantastic.  This must be a very shy queen, since I did not see her again but then once I satisfied myself that I had a laying queen, not laying workers, I put the hive back together and closed her up.

It's a bit hard to see with so many bees covering the cells, but the center of each frame was solidly filled with capped worker cells.  I did not see any new drone cells.
Then I looked at the hive which I expanded from the nuc into a 10 frame medium hive body.  I was not really expecting to find a queen or evidence of a queen, but on the third frame I looked at I saw shiny, small larva down in some cells.  On the next frame I found the queen right away, a big, fat, healthy looking queen.  She looked like her mama, who has been an exceptional layer. 
It will be interesting to see how things develop.  Clearly, the hive I introduced the hygenic queen into has a head start.  If the other queen performs like her mother, however, she just might catch up.  How these queens will do as far as honey production, however, remains to be seen.  With all the bees I have in hive #2, they still are being a bit slow drawing out the comb in the second super I put on last week.  It isn't for lack of workers--there were probably 2000 bees just hanging out under the top cover.  We're a bit dry here, and plenty of clover present, so hopefully we'll start seeing some honey produced.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

New Hive

I moved the bees from hive #3 into their new home this afternoon.  For now, I put them into two medium supers of the 8 frame hive.  It will be interesting to see how this does throughout the year, the winter in particular.  From what I've read, they should do no worse than my 10 frame hives.  Time will tell.
  
Our spiffy new 8 frame hive. 




As I moved frames over, I noted quite a number of eggs.  Surprisingly, I saw no young larva.  The lighting was not the best, however, and many of the frames have newer, white wax so seeing small 1 or 2 day old larva would have been difficult.  I'll look again in several days when there should be some larger larva.  I again did not locate the queen. 
I then moved the frames from the nuc into one of the boxes I had just taken the frames out of to put in the 8 frame hive.  The queen had emerged, but I did not see her.  She should have emerged last Sunday, so I'll give them another week or so to see if there is a laying queen.  If not, I'll combine these bees with #3 and that will make it a much stronger hive.
The nuc moved into a single medium with the 8 frame beyond.   



I thought about moving hive #3 over by the pine trees with the other hives for protection, but decided they are fine in this location and I'll move them in the fall.
Bees were flowing in and out of hive #2.  I put another super on it yesterday, though the first had not been even 80% drawn out.  There is a good flow going on right now, though, and with the wet weather I decided it was best to go ahead and throw that super on. 
A very strong #2 hive









Hive #1 was also full of bees and I quickly found eggs and young larva, so that proves a successful new queen introduction.  Overall, we're pretty happy with things though I still would like to see some better success with starting my own queens.  I'm sure I'll get plenty more opportunities.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Queen Right! and other things

Whew.  Our near catastrophy at doing a direct release of the queen into the new hive seems to have been averted.  We introduced her last Thursday, 4 days ago, and weren't sure whether or not she made it into the hive.  We filled the rest of the medium super with frames and closed it up, hoping for the best.  Today, I opened the hive and noticed all the bees were clustered on one half of the hive.  I guessed, correctly, that if there was a queen and eggs or very young larva, that's where the bees would be concentrated.  I did not find the queen, but did find a good number of eggs, some sticking straight up, which would indicate one day old eggs and a number of 2 to 3 day old eggs laying on their side.  I looked carefully, since I couldn't locate the queen, to make sure they were centered in the cells and there were not multiple eggs in the cells.  It looks good, and I will look to see if they develop properly into worker cells in about a week.  Bees looked happy and busy and I saw some with pollen, which is another good sign.
The new hive is shown here.  The little nuc contains five frames.  One of the frames had several queen cells and they should have emerged one or two days ago.  I'll give that another week before I go peeking around in there.  The queen right hive will be moved into a new 8 frame hive, as soon as the new ones arrive from Mann Lake and I get them assembled and painted.  If a queen develops in the nuc, I will likely give this one to a friend who lost most of his bees this winter.  In a couple of days I will check hive #1 to see if that queen is laying as well.  I've been busy cleaning up old frames and have used up my supply of foundation, so I'll need to order some or take a day trip down to Dadant and pick some up.

White clover is beginning to go strong, but I saw few honey bees on it.  Last year, which was a dry summer, the bees were all over the clover.  I think this spring, being late and quite wet, has provided a variety of blooming plants and the bees can have their pick at this time.  As summer progresses and choices narrow, I'm sure they'll go strongly to the clover. 
Aside from all the rain, which has created some minor flooding in the area, it has been a nice spring.  We have been able to get all of our gardening jobs done.  Here are Kathy's tomato plants, which are looking very good.  At the far end of the garden is a row of black raspberries, and the bees were definitely on their blooms.
The vineyard is looking good.  This is my favorite time with the grapes, when they are just setting on and I don't see any signs of disease yet, no Japanese beetles yet, and the vines looks clean and fresh.  The winter was very hard on my vines.  I lost two completely, Cayuga whites, and had dead shoots on a number of vines.  Harvest will be much below average this year.
The late, cool spring has brought a bumper crop of fruit in our area.  Our blueberries look fantastic so far, and we look to have a great harvest of not only blueberries but apples, cherries (sweet and sour)  raspberries, and peaches.  The rhubarb has been wonderful as has the asparagus this year.



Unfortunately, with all the spring chores of bee care, gardening, home maintenance, etc., I haven't even uncovered the sailboat or our power boat for some water fun.  It'll happen--summer isn't even officially here yet!