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Showing posts from 2014

Season End Summary

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I know I haven't posted for some time.  Mostly, the year was spent building hives back up to strength.  After coming out of the winter with only one strong hive, I did two splits.  Both took off very well, better in fact than the "mother" hive, which by August was looking less robust than its offspring.  The hive had filled out about 70% of one super, but waiting until mid-September did not produce any more honey than that.
The two new hives were able to fill out enough stores for winter but no excess.
In all, we only got a scant gallon and a quart.  Sadly, we had an open cock on our 5 gallon pail so when I poured honey from the extractor into the filters on the pail, we lost about a pint of precious honey before Kathy discovered our error and notified me with an ear-splitting shriek.
Upon examination of the main hive, I discovered the reason for the lack of energy we had noted was due to the absence of a queen.  She either departed mid-summer or died, and they failed…

Summer Bounty

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Summer in Iowa has fully arrived, and with it lots of things blooming and growing.  It's a busy time, with many fruits and vegetables coming on and needing picking.
First for the bees, though.  We had quite a blow come through last night with a strong cold front bringing 70 mile per hour winds and heavy rain.  Needless to say, I was quite happy to see the hives still standing erect after the storm. Bees early this morning were not very active, but at least one hardy worker was busy gathering pollen from the spiderwort.

Other prairie plants are blooming as well.  We did not do a burn of the prairie segments this year, and with the late arrival of spring it has taken awhile for the new plants to break through the dead growth but now they are looking lush.  The butterfly milkweed is certainly doing its job.
Blueberries are now ripening, about two weeks later than normal for the early varieties.  Winter damage has taken its toll and we will probably only see about half our normal crop…

Honey Flow

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The honey flow is definitely on.  I wondered today if I will ever have a season where all the hives come through winter with a queen and each fills out honey supers.  What a harvest that would be.  This year, I'll likely have to settle for honey from one strong hive, which we are probably fortunate to have.
Bees are clearly all over the red raspberries.  They love it.  Unfortunately, this first part of the raspberry season is almost finished as far as blooms are concerned.  Another week and all will be forming fruit.  So far, bees are not on the clover in the grass much, nor are they on the volunteer buckwheat which has grown in the area we planted last year.  Hopefully the flow will continue and last well into July, which should bring us at least one full super if not two.

Three Times

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I went through the entire box of hive #3, frame by frame, three times and found no queen and no sign of a queen.  This was two weeks after installing the queen. Last week, though , lo and behold, I found a frame full of eggs.  Just one frame.  I wondered if these were dead eggs, ones I had put in from another hive, perhaps one that had died.  A few days later, I looked again and there were numerous frames with eggs, all centered in the cells and a good, full pattern.  Now the early larva is being capped, workers are bringing in pollen and it looks like all is well.  I still haven't seen the queen, but she may be just very shy of the light and quickly hides.  Regardless, I think we now have two verified queenright hives.  It just goes to show that it can take awhile for a newly bred queen to begin laying, even two weeks or more after the fact.



I added a second super to hive #1, the tall hive in the photo above.  The super I put on last week is probably 75% drawn out and already qui…

Not much progress

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Disappointing day.  I had put the new queen in hive #3 on May 7th, so when I went into the hive today I fully expected (hoped?) to see some good brood production.  What did I see?  Nothing.  Nada.  Zipola.  After my near catastrophe with the delivery of the new queen, now I see no evidence of her at all.  No eggs, larva, zero.  Very upsetting.  So I moved over to hive #2, into which I had placed two frames with very good looking eggs the same day.  I looked for queen cells.  Nothing.  Nada Zip.  What is wrong with these bees??

Mostly likely, the culprit is the really crappy, cold,wet weather we've had in the past couple weeks.  One morning this week, beyond the May 15th historical last day of frost, we had frost.  We've had a lot of rain, many very windy, cool, overcast days, and just not a lot of great climate for the bees to do their thing.

So, I put two more good frames of eggs and young larva in hive #2, one frame in hive # 3. placed a super on hive #1 which is really goin…

Another Near Queen Disaster

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I did two splits two weeks ago from our one surviving hive.  Although I couldn't find the queen, I examined each frame I pulled out very carefully and was sure she remained in the original hive.  The first split, which I'll now call hive #2, I will try to have the bees make a queen.  In the second split, hive #3, I planned to introduce a Minnesota hygenic queen. 

I started today by checking on hive #2, looking for any sign of larva or eggs, hoping to find none.  I found none, which meant the queen was still in hive #1.  I found two frames with a lot of good looking eggs in the top box of #1 and put them in the other hive.  I'll pull more frames out in a week.  There were now plenty of drones in the hive, so there should be plenty to mate with the queen when she emerges.


Now, for the queen I ordered.  I've been very happy with B and B Honey Farm and the queens I've gotten from them have been very productive.  I originally was told they would be available last week b…

Good News/Near Disaster

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Ok, maybe not necessarily a disaster, but I almost caused a lot of trouble for myself.
First, the good part.  It was a 64 degree day and partly sunny, and we just came back from a trip to Virginia to see our daughter and her family plus an added trip to Charleston, SC for fun.  I was anxious to see how the bees were doing, and I wanted in particular to see if we had a queen.
Kathy prepared some sugar syrup and added the fumagilin B to a gallon of that.  I gathered up my supplies and tools and headed out to the hive.  I had set up a new stand, which I plan to use to hold at least two hives.  I set it perpendicular to the line of the old hive location but only a few feet away.
I pulled the top box (of 3) off and set it aside, as well as the middle box. I began looking through the bottom box, but only found frame after frame of bees loaded with pollen but no capped or uncapped brood.  I took this box off and set it on the new hive stand, on a screened bottom board.
 After pulling one fr…

Cup 1/3 Full

Temps in the mid-forties, but that is the only good news.  Well, I guess having one hive still alive is better than none, but we lost our 8 framer.  It was really full of bees, and this last cold snap last week (15 below) was just too much.  They had consumed most of one patty, but were just too high in the top box.  I suppose if I had pulled some frames last time and put in some honey frames, they might have made it, but they were just too angry at the time and flying out all over the place when it was only 20 degrees so I didn't want to open the hive more than I did.  I suppose I should have anyway. The remaining hive looks like good numbers and there is a full box of honey in the top box yet, so go figure.  I won't know if there is a queen until it really warms up more.  The other good news is the long-term forecast, which though still on the cool side, is hundreds of times better than the past several weeks with some nights above freezing.  It's about time.

My Cup is 2/3 Full

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This is the first day anywhere approaching the warmth of just above freezing, so I had to get out to check on the bees.  It has been exceptionally cold.  It was 18 below zero the other night, a high of only 6 degrees yesterday.  Today it was edging above 35 and sunny.
I started with hive #2.  This hive came through last winter very strong, so much so that I was able to do 3 splits from it and still take about 100 pounds of honey.  We left probably 80 pounds of honey in the hive for the winter.  When I did the final warm weather check, the queen was still laying and the bees looked very healthy.
I didn't see any dead bees on the fresh snow in front of the hive and none flying, though, which concerned me.  As soon as I opened it, I noticed a lot of frost on the inner cover and this pile of dead bees.  Pulling a few frames from the middle, though, there was no evidence the bees had eaten any of this honey.  The top box was still full of food.  Looking at the frames I pulled, though, …

Amazing Bee Photos

The U.S. Army has developed a new technique that was applied to photographing bees of America.  To see these amazing images presented by the National Geographic Society, click here.

Another New Virus

Researchers have discovered a new virus affecting honey bees that is a cross-over from plants to insects.  It is called the Tobacco Ringspot Virus, previously not known to infect insects.  To read about it, click on Tobacco Ringspot Virus.

How much this virus will impact the bee population and to what extent it may contribute to CCD will likely be the focus of further research.

In a more positive vein, my daughter, Jessica, our "resident" entomologist,  sent a link about what sounds like a very good program for beekeepers in Ethiopia, a country in an area that has been involved in beekeeping since the earliest times.  Read about WEEMA.

January Deep Freeze

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"Little darling, it's been a long, cold, lonely winter."  Here Comes the Sun, the Beatles from Abbey Road.
Ok, at least it's definitely been a long, cold one so far with much more yet to come.  I did get out and check on the bees a couple days ago when the temps were in the upper 30's, a rarity this winter.  Bees are alive in all 3 hives.  The two bigger hives still felt pretty heavy, so I left them alone for now but the 8 framer seemed on the light side and the bees were clustered right at the top.  I loaded up another medium box with honey frames from the fall and put it on top.  Hopefully that won't be too much space for them to have to deal with.  I also made 3 inch spacers to put on the other two hives so I can do a sugar feed once the temperatures rise again to where I can take the lids off briefly.  Today with a high in the single digits is just too cold.

With nothing much more to do about the bees, reading blogs, message boards and other information a…

Happy New Year

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Twenty-Fourteen is coming in with a wintry blast.  Snow today, with temps dipping to the minus 20 degree range tomorrow night.  Good luck, bees!  They were flying last Saturday with 40 degree temps, getting drinks from the melted snow on top of the hive.  Hopefully they are snuggled in nice and warm now.

Happy New Year, everyone.  I hope this isn't going to be a winter like last, when nationwide we saw 40% hive losses.  The extreme cold temps early on we're experiencing don't bode well, and this may be the coldest we've experienced with our bees in the 6 years we've been fortunate enough to be working with them.  It will be interesting to see what the spring brings.

I had news this morning from Mike White, the ISU extension viticulture expert, about a free publication from ISU on how to keep your bees safe from pesticides.
Here is a link where you can download the publication.