Wednesday, June 21, 2017

SR Hive Check 6/20/17

Despite it being extremely hot out at 100-degrees, I wanted to check in on the bees because we couldn't find the queen last time, and I was going to be out of town for a while. So Tristan and I wandered to the back-40 at around 6:00pm and looked in on them. It was getting a little overcast at that point. Well, the shade back there must have been working because, while it was still warm, it wasn't intolerable and the bees weren't bearding.

Because we wanted to work fast and just get things done so we could get back into our boxers instead of wearing long pants, Tristan and I forewent the smoker and just opened up the hive. They were actually pretty tame until the last few minutes.

The top box they have actually done a bit more expanding, but haven't really been filling the comb. And it was strange -- I'll probably get onto the NMBKS list and ask about it -- because the comb was empty, but the sides were a brownish color. I was wondering if they were just starting to fill it with pollen, but I was mostly concerned about disease or something.

In any event, the bottom box was full! They have used all the available space and almost every frame was full of comb that was being utilized. I mean, the end-frames were half-full with comb and underutilized, but I expected that.

First of all, we found the queen! We also found evidence that she's going; capped brood, less drones, lots of larvae. I think they've finally hit their stride! We made sure she was inside the box and moved on, looking at the rest of their frames.

We also saw lots of honey. They have one full frame of honey, and lots of honey at the top of their other brood frames.

In order to encourage them to expand, we took two of the full frames of brood and put them into the center of the top brooder box and added empty frames at the ends of the bottom box. I'm hoping that encourages them to move up and find that they can expand even more, so that later this summer we can start placing honey supers.

In any event, a successful trip to the hives! They're happy and industrious, and they are doing well!

Monday, June 12, 2017

SR Hive Check 6/11/17

I finally made it back out to Sunflower River on Sunday evening, June 11. I met up with Tristan around 6pm and we went out back to look at the hive. The sky was clear and the wind calm, thankfully, and the temperature was somewhere in the 80's.

Tristan checking out the bees!
Our smoker went out after the first couple of puffs, but the bees were all relatively docile and we continued without it. It was Tristan's first time actually getting into the hive, so he did a lot of the work, the both of us alternating looking at the frames.

We found that the second box that we added a few weeks back was still mostly empty. A skeleton crew of bees were working on building some comb in a couple of the center frames, but mostly it was empty of anything. This is probably because for so long the boxes had a large gap and they had a dry feeder for about a week, which probably stressed them out.

Look at that beautiful frame!
However, the bottom box was more or less full. The middle 8 frames were absolutely full, with two full frames of mostly nectar/honey, and the rest full of mostly capped brood.

And that was the problem. We were unable to find the queen, but we saw lots of capped brood...and not a lot of larvae. It makes me think that maybe they have lost their queen. What I am going to do is see where they are in two weeks, look for the queen again, and then decide what we'll do. I'd much prefer to find her, but if there's significant evidence that she is dead, we'll either get another one or encourage them to make some. There were no supercedure cells on any of the frames, so they don't seem to be too concerned about it just yet, so I feel comfortable waiting to see.

We decided to keep feeding them through the summer, as the hive is still small and they have been stressed. So Tristan is upping the number of times he will go out and check the feeder.

Mostly they were busy bees, happy and docile bees, so I'm glad to see the corrections to their hive have (hopefully) calmed them and they are under less stress.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Hive Checks 6/6/17

It's been a couple weeks since I've been in the hives, and I was a little afraid of what I'd find. I've become a little remiss in my checking the hives, and part of that, I realize, is fear. Not really fear of the bees, but of messing it up, not knowing what to do. When I realize that, it's easy to get through, but it keeps me dragging my feet.

Source Hive
Today was a little overcast, but it's my only day this week I can check the hives. It's hot out, finally, after a cool and rainy May. It's also quite muggy, today, for the desert, and that is displeasing. I went out at around 2pm and opened the hive. I actually got the smoker going and kept it lit for a while! I may become a firebug yet. Luckily, the wind didn't start to blow until I was closing up, but there's quite a bit of gust out there, now.

standard brood and honey pattern on most of
the bars
I was amazed at how much they've grown! In two weeks, they have expanded to 13 full bars of comb, and two that are half-made! And all except one of the latter are being mostly used. They are gathering nectar like crazy!

The queen is still at it -- she's fat and happy -- and they are certainly busy. I scraped quite a bit of wax off the sides, and I see that they are bulging out on the ends. I am not entirely sure what to do about that, but where I could, I reversed the bars. I put one empty bar in the middle, giving a bit more room so hopefully they might correct course. I'll research in Les Crowder's book later on for other solutions.

I removed that last can of syrup I put inside to feed them -- it was drained dry -- and the wooden props for it. After examining all the bars, I see lots of honey, so I'll just let them go with what they've collected and see how they fare. Maybe it will slow them down a bit; I haven't seen any swarm cells, but they've taken over just over half of the hive, so I may have to do a split soon!

I made sure to take a couple pictures, as I haven't been doing that. Things are looking good, and you can tell from how much they're working!

SR Hive...Didn't Happen
When I got to Sunflower River at around 5pm, Tristan and I got ready and went out to the hives...to find that the neighbors accidentally overflowed their field and the entire back property was flooded. Great for the plants and bees...not so much for the beekeepers. So I will go on Sunday morning and take a look, instead.

However, while I was at the farm, another neighboring farmer and friend of Sunflower River. He has a farm nearby and has had a swarm he caught twelve years ago. He's been following my bee adventure on Facebook, and asked if I was interested in working on his hives. I told him I'd think about it, but I already knew I'd say yes. So it looks like I'll be getting a few more hives to check this season!

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Hive Check 5/22/17

Kat and I checked on the Sunflower River hive yesterday. It was a good day: warm and full of blooming things. It was off and on blustery, so it wasn't perfect, but that's okay. I think it was around 1:30 in the afternoon when we got into the hive.

My main task with today was getting the brood box I added two weeks ago swapped out with the newly routered box, and to see how they were doing. I noticed that the bees were particularly grumpy, and that was probably for two reasons: they had a huge gap in their hive that was probably letting cold and robbers in, and they were out of sugar water. So we're not caring well enough for those bees!

Kat went back to make sugar water while I got into the hive. The smoker -- which I had Kat light this time, because she's better with fire-making -- went out after one puff into the entrance. So I did this without smoke, which I don't think would have mattered, because they were pissed off already.

I checked on the various frames, finding the queen relatively quickly and making sure she was put back when I did. She's still there, but the progress from last hive check to this hive check is almost stunted. I didn't notice any growth, and I wonder how long they've been without food. We'll probably have to feed them throughout the summer at this rate, and I'm happy to do that to help them get established.

One thing of note is that I pulled one frame out and the wind gusted just at that moment, scattering the bees off of it (I'm SO glad I found the queen early and put her back) and onto me! They all fell on my shoes and I realized I hadn't tucked in the legs of my jeans. Sure enough, a bee crawled up my pants leg and I got my first sting of the season on my calf. It was my first bee sting since I was, like, 9 years old, so I was interested to find out how the sting would go. It hurt for five minutes while the venom was being pumped in (I was too in the middle of tasks to go reaching down there and scraping the thing out). But after that it was done: no swelling, no pain after the initial few minutes, just a red dot where the stinger was in my skin. I did stop breathing, but...just kidding. So it was good to get a sense of how I react to bee stings.

Anyway, I swapped out the brood box and put the hive back together. We gave them a full bottle of sugar water, and we stepped away. I'll look at them all again next week just to see how they're doing again, and get on a better schedule.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Goddess Save the Queen! (Hive Check 5/18/17)

It was a little over two weeks since my hive checks. The weather has been strange here in Albuquerque for May. Lots of rain, and lots of cold. Blustery is normal, but the rain and thundershowers were not!

Today around noon I went out to check on my top-bar hive at The Source, mostly looking for that elusive queen. It's nice out, not too hot, but a little windy. I needed to do it, since it'd been 16 days since my last check, so I just dove in.

Things are going great! The bees have expanded to make nine combs total! The one on the end is half-complete, but they've already started putting pollen in it. All except for the one on the end, which is almost all nectar, they have a strange pattern of a little honey at the top (some of it capped) and smatterings of worker brood and drone brood and pollen. Not a great pattern, but it's not super alarming. There's no cross combing, and they are all making perfectly straight comb, so I haven't had to do any repairs or turning around of the bar. I see a lot of black pollen, which is awesome, but I have seen no sign of disease or mites. They're so kind to me!

Most importantly, I found the queen! Finally! She was on the next-to-last bar, so I put her back immediately. Before I closed up, I saw her wandering toward the front again, probably to get away from me. She's nice and fat with eggs, so that really makes me happy.

I placed two empty bars between two of the most productive brood comb, to make them feel like they had room. I'll check them next week and see how they're doing with them. There were no supercedure cells, so I am not fearing them swarming. A good hive check all around!

I replaced the empty feeder, which probably won't last the two weeks, so I'll check on how their honey is doing next time I'm in there and put more in.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Hive Checks May 2 & 3

May 2: Source Hive Check
A little after 3pm, I went out to check on my top-bar hive. It was a mild but sunny day, and the hive was in the shade. It was warm out and pleasant.

My goals today was to replace their feeder with more food, to take care of the comb they were using on the bottom board, and to look for the queen (just generally taking a look at how they're doing).

Replacing the can of syrup was the easy part. I then started going through the combs until I could get my tool into the hive to remove the comb on the bottom. As suggested by one of the instructors in my certificate program, I should just put the comb in the back of the hive and let them take everything out of it before I remove it. Scraping it up was also easy and I placed it back there without trouble, finding pollen and nectar inside. Unfortunately, some of the nectar splattered on the bottom board as I moved it, but I saw bees cleaning that up.

As far as the queen, I couldn't find her with a visual inspection. The bees were busy, having made about 9 bars of comb, with one completely empty and one of them only about half completed. I saw more drone brood than I thought I should, and some capped worker brood, so I think that they must have a queen, but the amounts of worker brood was smaller than I would have liked.

The pollen, though, is beautiful, with tons of color. They have quite a bit of nectar, too.

As I was closing everything up, I realized I need to build a better lid. The one I have simply is too tight to adequately get it on the hive without making a bunch of racket, which the bees don't like. I'll be setting up a day to make hives soon, so I'll make a new one then.

May 3: SR Hive Check

Kat Heatherington thinks these are "action
shots." I think she needs to understand what
"action" means.
Kat and I wandered back to the hive at about 7pm. It was a nice, warm day that was going to quickly become night, so I wanted to work fast. They had lots of sun this late, the shade being more of an afternoon thing, I'm finding.

Kat Heatherington likes
their cute faces. She thinks
they look like cats. I'm sure
they're offended by that.
My goals for opening the hive was to just see how they were doing, look for the queen, and see what they need. Kat's goals was to get a decent picture of a honeybee, which she obviously did.

I opened the hive and found that they were going gangbusters! All but two of the frames was mostly built with comb (so there were 8 frames). Where the old queen cage still was, they had done some cross-combing, but it was very little and easy to remove. The very first frame I pulled out, I came face to face with a very lovely queen, so I put her back in. Seeing lots of brood, and very little drone brood, I decided it was time to add another brood box.

I sent Kat scurrying away for more frames while I looked over the rest of the hive. No problems, and everyone seems happy. All the brood looked good, and I could see them in all phases of growth...it was really cool to see that in my own hive! There was lots of pollen, a good amount of nectar, and I couldn't find evidence of disease.

Once Kat was back, we added another brood box on top, putting a couple bars with some brood in it and filling out the rest of the space with more frames...

...And found out the box doesn't really fit. So add another thing to the list of things I need to make. I will definitely be making more boxes soon.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

April 26 Source Hive Check

I was going to check on my top-bar in the backyard yesterday, but it was so rainy and windy I decided to let them be. It's a nice, not too hot, but sunny day. I went out at 11:15am and there was gentle sun on the hive and lots of activity at the entrance.

My agenda for today was is to check on the feeder, make sure the queen made it out of the cage and see if I can detect her, and take a general look.

Feeder: They were still feeding from it, and from the weight check, it felt about half-full. I'm using the syrup that came with them in the package, but I think on my next check (in a week) I will simply remove it and put regular sugar water inside.

I discussed the feeding with a local beekeeper, Jessie Brown, who has had 10 years experience, and she said that it would be best to keep feeding them through the summer, so I will do that. Most sources say that once they start making honey, you should leave them alone, but Jessie said that you can't predict the weather and you don't want to stress them as they are making all their resources for the hive.

Queen: Scooting the bars back until I reached where they were building, I found the queen cage. A quick look showed that it was empty, so the queen must have gotten out. I looked for her quickly, but didn't see her, and will make that my primary goal for next week.

Comb: The bees are going gangbusters making comb! They have about 8 bars they are working on, and at least three of them are full comb now, though I stopped after the first four bars. I think that next week I will look at all of them, looking for evidence of the queen and brood, and see how far along they are. If they have that much comb, I may want to space some of it out, especially if I find that they are doing well with brood.

Unfortunately, possibly where there was some residual wax on the bottom, they have built a layer of comb on the bottom board. I know I don't want it there, but it's the only one that they have put anything in: nectar and what appeared to be pollen! On the one hand, I don't want to take their nascent resources. On the other, it's uncapped nectar, so trying to scrape it up and attach it to a bar is probably a bad idea, as all of the nectar will just run out. So I'm going to check with some folks to see what they think I should do.

My next check will be on Tuesday, May 2.