Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Late Summer Nectar

It has been an interesting summer.  Swarms, honey-bound hives, and lots of bees.  Some hives went queenless, apparently, while others have swarmed multiple times most likely.  It's hard to be there when they swarm.  It did happen about a week ago, when I was out working with my grapes and became aware of a growing hum.  I looked up and saw the swarm in the air.  I should have stayed and watched to see what they were going to do but instead I hurried back to the barn to grab a nuc, sprinkle some lemongrass oil in and hurry back.  No swarm in sight.  I looked at the nearby trees, posts, etc., but they were long gone.  My swarm trap I had hanging in a nearby tree did not have them either.  Could have used a queen in hive #2, but hopefully will have one made soon.
The bees have brought in a lot of honey, but not always in the right places.  We were gone quite a lot in June, and the bees really packed the hives full of nectar.  I had two hives quite honey-bound, and could find no evidence of queens in either.  In fact, I haven't seen a queen all year but I certainly know when they are about.  One of the hives eventually started to produce brood and I've put eggs and even some culled swarm cells in the other to hopefully get a queen there.

Hoping for a good fall flow.  The prairie ironweed really attracts the honeybees.  We have a fair amount of it particularly in the prairie nearest the house.  The bees have also been all over our red raspberries, which will continue to produce until freeze.  The bees love the cup plants as well, both for the water the leaves hold but also the yellow blooms.  Goldenrod is now beginning to bloom and we have quite a lot of that.  We did not get buckwheat planted this year which has always been a plant they love.  Still, there are nectar sources around.  We will have a moderately good honey year but  it would be nice to have a great fall flow and have a very good year.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Honey Flow!

We have been coming and going a lot lately, so monitoring the progress of the bees has been a little difficult.  Today was forecast to be a bit cooler (it really wasn't!) so after having been gone for a week I knew I needed to check the hives.  My objective--see how the bees were drawing out the comb in the supers, check on hive #4 to see if it was successfully queenright and check the other hives to make sure queens were laying and hives were not becoming honey bound.

Hive #4 seemed very busy and happy, and yes, young larva!  Good news.  That's about all I did with that hive.  I am almost totally out of frames (more coming tomorrow from Mann Lake!) so I didn't have enough to even put half a box of frames on this hive, so that will be something I need to do ASAP.

Next I looked at Hive #3, my 8 frame hive.  I only had one super on it (again, due to low number of frames) and found they have really been busy filling out the frames in the super.  I removed 3 good frames of capped honey, leaving a 4th that was filled and capped on one side and half of the other. I went and got Kathy, needing an extra pair of hands.

Looking further into the hive, I was surprised to find no larva. Before we traveled, I had taken a frame with eggs from this hive to put into #4.  So what has happened to the queen?  Possibly there has been a swarm (swarms?) and this hive just hasn't gotten the new queen into laying mode yet.  Still, I decided to put a frame with eggs into this hive just in case.  The bees in this hive were really very animated, flowing out over every box I opened.  Huge number of bees.  

I opened hive #2.  Some progress at drawing out comb in the two supers but not much else.  I set those aside and started looking for brood.  The top box of the brood chamber was totally filled with honey--very heavy.  I won't take any of that.  I looked in the second box, also very full of honey and nectar.  Same thing in the bottom box, though not as much capped.  No brood.  I did find at least 6 swarm cells that had been occupied and chewed through. My guess is there is an immature queen present. I will wait a week and check this one again.  I closed this one up.

Hive #1 had young larva and eggs, so I did transfer a frame from this hive to hive #3.  Again, the top box of the brood chamber is heavy with honey, with some new comb in the supers but nothing close to being filled and capped.  I removed the queen excluder from this hive and hope they get busy soon.  A flow is definitely on and they need to fill supers now that brood chambers are definitely heavy with honey.

So what is blooming?  The bees have been all over the spiderwort, which has beautiful blue blooms through mid-day, then the blossoms close up.  The bees really love it.  We have a heavy cover of sweet Dutch clover as well, and the bees have been on that.  

Blueberries and honey bees have little in common, but the berries are really coming ripe right now.  Apple trees are very full, the grapes look great and raspberries are coming on and the honey bees love the red raspberries as well.  Hopefully the honey flow will go on for several weeks.  We're positioned to have our best honey harvest in several years, so fingers are crossed.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Two Swarms

Last week, May 11th, I got a forwarded email from our club's secretary from a man in Coralville who had a neighbor who had a lot of bees going in and out of a black composting bin.  The owners were interested in having them removed.  I called the neighbor and set a time to come take a look. I spoke with Jeff, the neighbor, again before I went and he said there was also a small swarm on a young tree near the compost bin.

 Unfortunately, I don't have any photos of the colony in the composting bin. It was huge.  They had drawn out about 8 combs, about 10 inches in length.  It was a much larger group of bees than the swarm in the tree.  I had only brought one box, so took the bees out of the compost bin. It was easy removing the comb and most of the bees, but hundreds were still in and around the bin.  I decided to leave the box near the compost bin and pick it up the next day, as well as an extra nuc in case the swarm was still there.  It was.  I removed it successfully and brought that home.  I'll either keep it as a nuc or combine it with hive #4, which has one capped queen cell as of this past weekend.  I'll have to see if a queen develops there.  Or I may just go ahead and combine anyway if I find a good queen in the swarm.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Quick Update

Just a note that I did a small split yesterday from hive #1.  May have been a capped swarm cell on one frame I transferred.  Will have to monitor it.
Fruit trees all blossoming.  The bees love the big sweet cherry.

2nd update (5/3)  Added a frame with 2 queen cells.  A number of bees were dead in this split, but the lid apparently had  leak, so replaced that.  Hopefully this hive will take off now.

Friday, April 15, 2016

All Hives Queenright

     These are our hives after working with the bees today. All 3 hives are strong colonies, and now all 3 are queenright.  Hive #3, the one on the right, was seemingly without a queen on St. Patrick's Day.  No queen to be found, no brood, no pollen being brought in, unlike the other hives.  I put a couple frames with a mix of capped and uncapped brood hoping for an early queen but uncertain if it would work with typically few available drones at the time the queen would emerge.  Apparently, though, we were successful in getting a queen or else she was there all along, just taking her time getting started on the season.  Who knows?
      At any rate, things are  looking good.  We added a box of undrawn frames to hive #2 and planned to do that to hive #1 as well, but I'll do that next week.  We ran a bit short of frames today, since we had to remove about  half a dozen due to a greenish mold that was on the frames.  These were all older frames and it's good to recycle some frames each season anyway.  We'll also do a split next week and start nuc or two.
This was one of theframes we removed, showing a bluish-green mold on top of the frame.
     If anyone is familiar with this type of mold, I'd like to hear about it.  The mold appeared on top of the frames in the lower boxes, and also in many of the cells of the frame as well.   This winter and spring we put winter patties from Mann Lake in the hive, sugar water and  sugar patties we made.  In the fall we treated with MAQS.  
     This week I also hung a swarm trap on a dead pine tree near the hives, about 6 feet off the ground.  I put several frames in the trap as well as a cotton ball with drops of lemongrass oil on it.  If we're lucky...
Our first swarm trap.  Hope to catch one!

Monday, March 21, 2016

First Pollen

Our red maple just outside the house is in full bloom and our honey bees are all over it.  We've been giving them pollen substitute but I'm glad to see that real pollen is now available to them.  They're going crazy.

Bees were busy bringing in the pollen,

This is the new outer feeder we bought at Theisen's.  It is very easy to refill.  I think I'll get more of them.  This is on the hive that I discovered is queenless.  I put some frames with young bees in on St. Patrick's day, but that may be too early develop a queen that will be able to mate. Time will tell.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Pollen Feeder

I bought some of Mann Lake's Ultra  Bee pollen substitute earlier in the winter.  I had planned to make pollen patties to feed the bees, but after thinking it over I decided I didn't really want to make patties with high fructose corn syrup, which is what the Mann Lake recipe calls for.  Now there may be other recipes out there that don't call for hfcs, but after some reading I thought I'd give dry feeding a try.  I looked at various feeders, and probably didn't go with the simplest one out there but this one didn't take much to make either, though it was a little pricey.
I used 4" pvc, with the white T at the bottom, a tube extending vertiaclly with a reducer to 3" pipe, with a removable cap on top of that, for feeding.  The horizontal tubes I cut at an angle to help reduce rain from getting the powder wet.  I cut semi-circles from 3/4" pine (attached with screws) to fit inside those to allow the feeder to hold more feed yet allow the bees plenty of room to enter the feeder.
It took no time at all for the bees to find it, on this February day in the low-fifties.  The bees were flying like crazy, and not just out doing cleansing flights but I saw a number up by the front of our house, a long ways from the hives, looking for any type of pollen.  The crocuses are still snug in the ground, though, so there just isn't much for them to find except for the bird feeder.  I hope this will keep them busy and allow the birds to feed in peace as well.  It probably was a couple weeks early for pollen feeding, but I will make sure they don't run out and the 10 day forecast, at least, is for above-normal temps and dry, so I'm hopeful.  I won't remove the winter wraps to check on brood production for at least another 4-6 weeks.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Still Alive and Buzzing!

 It's the final weekend in January, and the temperature today, even with a layer of snow remaining on the ground from our December storm, reached the mid-40's.  With another storm coming in early next week, followed by a cold front, we decided to take a look at the bees to see how they were doing with supplies.  As you can see, there remained plenty of food yet from the feed we gave two weeks ago.  There is even still some of the sugar cakes we had put in in December.  So, we didn't add any.  You can see a number of bees clinging to the cloth on the bottom of the quilt box.
Last year at this time we were down to one hive already, so it is good to see the bees appearing to be well.  There certainly were big numbers in each hive and it's good they are able to get out for cleansing flights and to get needed water.  There is still a lot of winter to go, but I continue to be optimistic about the use of the quilt boxes for humidity control.
If we get a warm spell in several weeks, I might mix up a bit of the pollen feed and begin feeding that.  Typically queens have begun laying by mid-February here.
Update:    Superbowl Sunday.  Temps in the forties and bees flying at all hives.  Gave each a little food.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

January Doldrums

I checked the hives the other day.  It was only in the low 30's, but I wanted to check the hives for food.  Anyway, it was full sunshine and quite warm really back by the hives.  Bees were flying about.  All 3 remaining hives (we lost the little colony we had started late summer, which probably should have been combined but I just felt the other hives were so full of bees they didn't need more company).  I gave food to all and the bees, from my minimal investigation, looked ok.  I ordered more winter patties from Mann Lake and a bucket of their dry feed which I will give them in the spring (fingers crossed!!) when we want to get a good start on brood production.

I wrapped the hives in tarpaper this year, with the quilt boxes and feeding spacers in place as well.  If I can continue to get food out to them, I hope to get them all through the winter.

I've been reading more about oxalic acid treatments.  I'm just not sure the MAQS treatment worked well this year, but I might try it again in the spring and consider the acid treatment in the fall.  I think I'm favoring the dribble method instead of the vapor, but I may reconsider if I can spend some time in the summer tinkering with a vapor method.

My daughter sent me a link to a nice graphic showing the movement of honey bees in the U.S. for pollination purposes, put out by the National Geographic.  It's worth looking at.  In my mind, we need to change the way we pollinate our crops and efforts should be made to increase the number of native bees in these areas.