Tuesday, June 22, 2010
Starting from left to right: #7 hive inside, #1 hive inside, #1 hive's Queen.
As shown in the pictures above hive #7 was really booming, I was very pleased with #1 (as I call it Lazarus) since it has really grown from almost nothing to a large nuc size, I'm confident it will be big enough to winter by august.
Sometime latter that afternoon I get a call, it seems a bait hive I had hung in a nearby tree at the same location I cut the "lazy hive" out of had bees in it! This is the first time I had ever tried baiting a hive, it is really something when bees willingly move into a hive you built. I was so pleased, I like this kind of bee removal, drive over after nightfall when all the foragers are in the hive, staple screen over the entrance, remove hive and take home! Simple.
Above are pictures of the bait hive bees, In the center one you can see the queen laying eggs!
Day 2: June 21st (the madness continues)
Now with this cut-out I had as (I do with every cut-out) surveyed the situation before loading up the car with my equipment, most cut-outs I do take about 5 to 8 hours total, so it isn't quick. These bees were nice enough when standing outside their hive initially. Once I started pulling off the wood they became downright nasty, now I wouldn't call them killer bees since those will chase you for miles, but they were still very unhappy with me, I had to use my smoker to keep the alarm pheromone covered up a little, I could actually smell it when I was close enough to the hive itself. It took some doing but I managed to remove brood and bees, using my bee vacuum and brush I got the brood comb into my nuc with bees to cover it, then sucked up 95% of the leftover bees. Unfortunately I failed to find the queen. Now she might have gotten sucked up into my bee vac, in which case I should have her here. If I missed her leaving her behind she will probably die. This sounds sad but realistically it's only a small setback for the colony, they will raise a new queen using eggs, then roll right along like nothing happened. I'm positive I saved some eggs, to be sure I'm going to check in three days to see if I have new eggs (in this case the queen is still here) or new queen cells (this means she isn't and the bees are fixing the problem). If I don't see ether of these things I will wait another three days and check, if needed I will add a bar of new eggs from another hive. By the way working on top of a ladder is nasty business I wouldn't recommend it. I got home installed the bees, installed the bait hive (it was just resting on the lid of a full length hive), then crashed.
Day 3: Cycle of life
Day three was turning out to be just another average Tuesday, until we noticed that hive #7 was swarming! A swarm is like nothing else, basically an entire hive is flying around, swarms are how honey bees reproduce, the old queen will decide to swarm when there are enough bees to leave behind a healthy hive and enough to take and start a new hive. She takes some (ten thousand or so, some swarms are bigger then others) bees and leaves the old hive, usually she lays eggs in several queen cups before leaving so the old colony has new queens on the way. the swarm will buzz around for a while then settle on some branch or other place until a new home can be found by scout bees, once the new home is located the swarm will take off and colonise this new location. In this way one colony becomes two. Effectively reproducing the species. All of this is OK if the swarm is a normal size and the hive is strong and healthy and swarms for normal reasons, a lot of bee-keepers hate swarms simply because their bees are leaving, as long as the bees have enough space inside the hive then they shouldn't swarm unnaturally often. At any rate once they have decided to swarm there isn't much you can do to stop them aside from artificially swarming a hive by removing the old queen and some bees/brood to start a nuc. Swarms are notoriously quick at building new colonies so if you can catch them they make exellent hives. One problem is often they will settle on a tall tree out of reach, as happened this time. Well I got a ladder and pruner (the kind that is mounted on a long pole with a rope) wiggled up the tree and cut the branch off. I had no idea what would happen when the branch fell some thirty feet to the ground, it wasn't a large branch so hopefully the bees wouldn't get damaged. It all turned out well once the branch was on the ground the bees just settled on it making it easy to pick up and shake off into one of my hive bodies, poof insta hive! I kept an eye on them for a bit to make sure they didn't leave (as they sometimes do) that was that! Three new hives in as many days.
Sunday, June 13, 2010
We caught a sunny break in the weather so I was able to finish off inspecting my five hives. I only had two left. A full brood inspection usually takes me about an hour per hive, what I realised though is that if the bees are drawing comb on the guides and are doing well I don't have to do a full inspection just inspect the honey storage end so they don't get crowded. This would save lots of time for me.
I removed the lid for Hive #6, I always start at the far end from the entrance this is were the bees start building large cells (for storing honey and raising drones), they also space their comb further apart so it starts moving off the center of normal brood bars (1-1/4"), some people use honey bars (1-1/2") I just cut 1/4" strips and space out the brood bars in the honey part of the hive. I had a follower board at the honey end about 2 bars. Once I removed these bars I had ANTS! I don't like ants in my hives nether do the bees, they usually freak out and buzz around, this time though I actually saw a bee fight an ant. Bees can't sting humans (and other soft skinned animals) more then once, their stingers have microscopic barbs on them, causing the stingers to anchor in our skin, this then causes the lower abdomen to tear away from the bee leaving behind a poison sac attached to the stinger. This sac continues to pump poison into our skin (for a short time) unless removed. Now it is my understanding that bees can actually sting most other insects multiple times causing the death of said insect! What I saw looked exactly like this, a couple of bees actually fought the few ants that scurried under the follower board. I had previously only seen them buzz and run around, I have never seen them fight ants before. I'm not entirely sure but I think the ants and the bees that fought them all died, since this is north of the equator we don't have the really nasty kind of ants. At any rate I finished then closed up the hive without and space for the ants to hid from the bees.
Now this is something I really wanted to catch on camera, in the top right photo you can see a worker bee emerging from her cell ready to start working inside the hive.
Did you know bees sleep? Well on the left you can see a couple of workers with their buts poking out of some comb, they are on their backs motionless they aren't dead trust me. Another thing in the leftmost picture are a few drones.
Saturday, June 12, 2010
I set out yesterday to check my hives progress, feed levels and such. Hive #5 you can see to the left has a nice amount of comb built up already, they have only been working at it for four days! They were in swarm mode when I picked them up, swarms are renowned for comb building. You can see the white sugar like dusting below the cluster? This is new wax flakes, bees of a certain age produce wax from glands on their abdomen, wax is then removed and worked into comb by more bees. I always check for eggs when inspecting a hive, especially when the hive is brand new like this one, I saw eggs! This means the queen survived being sucked into my bee-vac just fine. For a new colony like this I also feed so I check feed levels. They had used about 3/4 of the syrup in the feeder, I would have refilled it but the bees had kind of overrun the feeder.
You can see them building comb inside? This would prevent my float from working properly. I think what happened is I placed the feeder at the entrance side of the hive, this way it was too close to the cluster so they started working inside the feeder. I moved it to the other side with one blank top bar between the last comb. They had some honey stored up so I'm not to worried about the rain forecast for the next three days.
Talk about grumpy bees! I think the upcoming weather had them extra grumpy, now keep in mind I didn't use any smoke at all, I got stung four times just opening three hives! That's more then I was expecting to from all five hives, after the fourth sting I doned my trusty nitrile gloves, the bees were still extra grumpy but at least I didn't get stung. Bees have (like all life forms) a biorhythm, sometimes they are grumpy sometimes sweet, weather plays a big role in this, overcast cold or coming rain makes them nasty. If its in the evening more old (old bees tend to be meaner) bees are inside the hive back from foraging all day, spring is usually better then fall since bees are building up in spring with foraging prospects ahead whereas in the fall they are protecting their hive from predictors getting ready for winter. If there is a heavy flow and warm (not boiling hot) weather they are usually sweet, conversely a sparse flow makes them grumpy. Like all things in nature bees are 100% predictable if you know all the variables and we can't always be sure we do, this adds mystery to bee-keeping!
Monday, June 7, 2010
Today I also got another hive! I put this bunch of bees in hive #5 this makes 5 hives. This latest cut out was actually a recent swarm probably swarmed 4 or 5 days ago, they didn't have any brood aside from a small comb of eggs, so I know the queen is laying. I had a hard time finding her because of the lack of a proper broodnest, she always hangs out in the center of the hive near the brood since her roll in life is laying eggs. When I cut out a hive I try to remove the surrounding comb first so she has no place to go, this makes finding her much simpler. This time I couldn't do that due to the lack of brood, I ended up removing honey comb first then vacuuming up the remaining clump of bees always watching for the queen. I almost missed her as she vanished into my bee-vac hose! So I'm freaking out a bit hoping I didn't kill her or injure her, she wont be able to lay eggs if she is damaged. Upon inspection of the bees already inside my bee-vac I saw her moving around, whew! What a relief, she didn't even look upset, but man was she small I have never seen a laying queen this small before, anyhow her size doesn't worry me, all my feral bees seem to have smallish queens as long as she is viable. So after I caught her in one of my queen clips (extremely useful little things) I got them all back to my apiary unscathed and moved them into hive #5 I hung the queen clip from a bar closed up the hive with a full feeder and let them settle down. About 5:30pm the same day I went back and released the queen, I didn't release her directly because they had no brood so I was risking them absconding if she got to agitated, so hopefully releasing her in the evening will help.
You can see the second spot where old comb was left over from the other cut out I did, bees will take over an empty hive that still has comb in it if they can. That's 5! and counting
Friday, June 4, 2010
Yes it is the begining of swarm season, or as I call it "reproductive season". I got my first indication of this exhilarating event today when a guy calls me about fifty or so bees buzzing around the inside of his window, turns out to be the same guy I got hive #7 from. He asked if he could vacuum up these fifty bees, I said yes but he could also open the screen and they would just fly away. Grateful that he wouldn't have to kill a lot of bees he hung up. As I walked away from the phone it rings again, I pick up.
Hello? Yes he says, I think I have more then fifty bees he says.
He was walking towards the window when he heard the wall buzzing, the same wall that I had cut open to get hive #7 from. He also has a lot of bees at the old hive's exterior entrance. Sounds to me like he has the lucky blessing of a new colony only two weeks after the old one was removed! So I might have hive number 5 (not designation 5 but numerical 5) if I can get these new bees out of the wall and into my box. I'm not sure what to expect, I have never removed a new swarm like this before, should bee fun!
Wednesday, June 2, 2010
Have you ever seen bee knot work? Nether have I. This is some leftover rubber bands they have been trying to remove, they even drug a bunch of them to the other end of the hive in an attempt to dump them!
Now this is an interesting example of a queens preference for newer comb, I was wondering how the cut out comb would look once they built new comb on it.