Monday, September 1, 2008

Finally Good News…

Once things dried up the middle of last week, I ventured for a look see on my last remaining hive and found two capped suppers and a very strong hive. Talk about being caught completely unprepared. I also got stung once on the back of my upper arm which upped the sting count to 10. My reactions are definitely diminishing by the sting.

Unless your goal as a beekeeper is to have your hives swarm out, two capped suppers and a strong hive is a good indicator for the beekeeper to take a supper or two off. My plan was remove both suppers off (9 frame wooden frames, 10 frame plastic frames), and replace them with a new nine frame supper (Wooden frames). Things didn’t go as planned. I’ll write a how to when things go right, but for now up the sting count by another three. One found a way under my veil and got me on my neck, one got me on my right shoulder, and one followed me all the way to the garage. The minute I removed my veil it got me on my ear.

The current configuration of the hive is as follows. Deep 10 frame (plastic), queen excluder (which I would like to remove), 10 frame supper (plastic) that can come off in a week or two, and a brand new 9 frame (wooden) supper.

I removed six wooden frames from the nine frame top supper. Two frames were about 30 percent drawn out with no honey, and one was fully drawn out, but the honey was only capped on one side.

How much honey from 6 frames? 264 ounces = 22.01 cups = almost 1 ½ gallons of Honey. Two 32 ounce jars have honey, all others are just filtered honey.

This is how I processed the raw honey. Once indoors I:

  • Cut the honey comb out of the frame.

  • the comb that will be use for comb honey (do not uncap) and then everything else is crush and strain. Here I am crushing comb with a mash potato masher.

  • Once it’s mashed I pushed the comb to one end of the Tupperware and inclined the container so the honey runs to the side free of comb. In Florida the heat of my garage helps the honey run to one side in about 10 minutes.
  • Allow the frames and crush comb to drip some more

  • Drain the separated honey into a bucket with a filter. I like to use a two stage filter. Medium filter, and then a fine filter.

  • Bottle and label if you wish

Wonder what the stomachache is??? One too many helpings of raw honey…the kids and I love comb honey. I hope to repeat this in a few weeks with the bottom supper, and then hopefully once more in November with the Pepper tree flow

I’m a Slacker

It has been a while since my last entry. I was on vacation for several weeks, dealing with Tropical Storm Fay effects and aftermaths, and weeks of sad heart breaks when it came to coverage of the hives.

First the Top Bar Hive – I installed a split from my hive with an Australian queen. Talk about docile bees, they were a joy to work with, but way too docile for my local environment. These ladies worked extremely hard and fast, but would never hurt a fly. Eventually they could not outwork the damage created by the Small hive beetle and ants.

Then there are the two packages I ordered at the beginning of the season. I believe they sat at the post office for one day too many. My guess is that ½ of the bees in the packages had perished by the time I got them home. The bees released the queens, but they never laid a single egg. Both packages collapsed.

Soon after, I purchased two Nucs from a local beekeeper. Both Nucs collapsed or absconded ……. I’m not sure why. Harassed by ants and small hive beetle is my best guess.

With my evil beekeeping streak, I decided to leave alone my last and only remaining original hive.

Soon after, we had Tropical Storm/Hurricane Fay which hung around for about five days, dumping over two feet in my area. That is correct ……… 25.8 inches of rain in 3 days.

Below are pictures of what happens when you get tons of rain. Water level on my yard rose about 14 inches on this side of the lot. Thank God for the new stand, six more inches and everyone would had gone for a swim.

Below is my chicken coup. (note: chicken poop marinating in water for a few days is really stinky)

My shed, it was close, but it never made it in,1/4 of an inch and it would have

Path of Fay. Arrow indicates my location

Can someone please remove my area from the drought list ...............

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

What is missing?

I’m somewhat puzzle by what I saw today. It most likely has been a very stressful month for the bees. Up until this past weekend we had not seen any rain fall for over a month, and wild fires had all of Brevard County on edge. Thankfully not too close to my home to worry about them, but close enough for the winds to bring a constant smell of smoke for a several days.

I did some rearranging of the apiary. Trying to make it look neater and preparing in case of hurricane. I can tie down each of the hives (not including the TBH). The new base also lifts the hives more so I have to bend down even less now. It had to be a husband and wife effort to lift the hives and move them back. All she said was “If I get stung I’m going to kill you”

I did a light inspection but enought to see that something is missing from each of the pictures below, what is it?? Can you tell?

Front and back of the 1st bar out of the TBH.
Front and back of the middle frame out of the 1st supper from my original hive. Everything looks normal here and I didn’t go any further, but maybe another month and I can take the honey from this supper
Not much progress from one of my purchased package (installed in the 10 frame body). The frame on the right came from the NUC that used to sit on top of the TBH. Aside from the perpendicular mess on the frame to the left, not much growing going on. I’ll deal with the mess once the package is stronger and it has time to deal with the remodeling.

The NUC really has done nicely with its limited space. 75% of the medium body has been drawn out. For their great effort they get a deep 5 frame body with the foundationless plastic frames, but as good as they look something is missing here too.

Aside from the one frame (from the supper) that I pulled out of my original hive that should not have the one thing missing ……. what is missing??????? Anyone see any brood or eggs? I didn’t …… anyone know why?? There are two ponds with in 50 feet so is not lack of water. The hives had plenty of honey stores and pollen stores. so why is no one laying???? Are there queens? Not much I can do now. I’ll wait two more weeks and go in for a full queen search, and maybe prepare to combine hives.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Upgrades and Experiments

Below is a 5 frame deep body complete with a screen bottom. The 5 frames going into the NUC will be part of a personal experiment. Sometimes I think I should learn basic beekeeping before I try experimenting……………. But today will not be the day.

The experiment:
I want to see what the bees will do with a plastic frame that technically is foundationless.
My personal opinion of Plastic frames is mixed. It has pros like giving a head start to newly introduced packages. They don’t warp or expand with humidity. They are one solid molded piece of plastic which means is not going to easily break apart or come unnail. Unlike wood it doesn’t absorb bee’s wax which I think makes it easier to pull out from a hive. On the other hand, the beauty of natural comb is just unmatchable by any comb build on a plastic foundation frame. Plastic frames make it easier for invaders (like small hive beetles) to cohabit with in the hive. Basically when there are only enough bees to protect a few frames, intruders will make themselves at home sometimes on an adjacent frame away from the cluster. Basically out of sight out of mind for the bees.
Five hollowed out plastic frames with enough foundation left to act as starter strips. The side and center strips I left behind to keep the integrity of the frame. With out it I believe the frame (sides and bottom) will droop out of shape. Last, the new modified bottom of the TBH. This is the inspection drawer that slides in and out. It used to be solid, but after the inspection window was fogging up, I figured it was time for a screen bottom to help with ventilation.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Things change overnight

The NUC looks very strong and active.

The new hive has taken in about 32 ounces of sugar water in 3 weeks, and is beginning to look stronger. Obviously they have a long way to go, but they are off on the right path for now.
My original hive is once again looking good with its robust number of bees at the entrance.
The obvious U-turn in the apiary was taken by the TBH. It's my belief that there isn’t a single root cause to their problems but a complex combination of problems. Then again, since I’m the one in charge of the apiary it could be said the beekeeper is the sole root cause.
First – Invaders: during the week I noticed a few small hive beetle larva on the bottom of the TBH. A quick inspection revealed that the bees had completely moved out of NUC, therefore the NUC began to be over run by beetle larva. I quickly removed the remaining frames and the NUC, froze the frames for 24 hrs, and later attempted to let the bees clean the four frames. Four hives and none of the bees would have anything to do with the frames. My guess is that the honey had been completely fouled up by the SHB larva.

Second – Lack of ventilation: condensation in the inspection glass, and some honey running out are the obvious clues. I removed the inspection drawer which doubles as the bottom, and inserted some ¼ inch hardware cloth. I’ll make something more permanent later on. A non solid bottom should greatly improve the ventilation. Today’s high was 95 and it has been weeks since we had some significant rain. (Picture, bottom right is honey from the 1st couple of top bars)
Third – The occupants: the NUC was a split from my original hive with an introduced Australian queen. The local bees are familiar with the Small hive Beetle and are aggressive against them. They are more likely acclimatized to the local hot and humid weather too. It seems that as soon as the local bees were replaced completely by the Australian bees, the invaders and the temperature problems began. Fortunately the Australians seem to be efficient, tolerant hard workers. With some help they seem to stay one step ahead of invaders, and don’t know any better to abscond for a different cooler place. In two weeks they have drawn out the 1st four top bars.

Thank God for partial shade, but I know other Florida beekeepers keep their hives in the full sun. HOW do the bees do it?

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Couldn’t Imagine…

being a professional beekeeper and having hundreds, maybe thousands of hives to inspect. Just examining a Top Bar, two Langs, and a NUC hive were enough to make me break a good sweat today. It has to be hard work doing it day in and day out.

As I did my rounds, the kids took some time to decorate my spare Beemax mediums.
Overall results of today’s inspection: Both new packages released their queens from their cages ………… and the whole lot is looking great.

The Top Bar Hive -
Earlier in the week I noticed the Aussie bees from this hive removing larva in various stages of development, and a large cluster of bees on the 1st two bars. In fact it’s so large I can’t tell if they are drawn out or not. My guess was that they were converting the NUC to a supper. If they are removing larva from the NUC above, it would explain where the larva is coming from and indicate that all new brood is being laid in the TBH cavity.
I want to remove the NUC that populated this hive ASAP. I don’t want the bees to waste labor hours and resources working in it and I really want to see the hive without all that clutter over it.
The inspection confirmed my gut feeling, and I had a plan in the off chance that I could be right. I took one of the outside frames and replaced it with a filler frame I built/designed. The plan is to remove a frame every two weeks, and replace it with a filler frame in its place. It’s a simple ¾ inch piece of wood shaped like a frame.
Above is the outside frame that was replaced by the filler. A few weeks ago this frame was brand new never used. The top bar hive is really growing and by far is the strongest hive in the apiary right now.

The Original hive - (One 10 frame deep, and 2 mediums)
It may no longer have the numbers, but it has the tools to become the strongest hive in no time at all. The hive has plenty of honey, drawn out frames, and a new queen with tons of laying room. First frame of the new queen, Good laying pattern.The medium supper that had become part of the brood box was converted back into a supper and is about 75% full. I moved the queen excluder below it and maybe in a month when the hive is back to strength the supper can be harvested. The second supper is about 25% full.

The New Hive - (One 10 frame deep)
Minimal inspection. All I wanted was to confirm the successful release of the queen, and to insert the frame that was donated by the TBH (4th from right to left in picture). Honey and some laying room will not do this new package any harm. It is great to have a strong hive that can support a weaker hive.

The miniNUC - (5 frame medium) Turns out the converted NUC’s supper is the perfect size for the weak package. The queen was also released and the bees are hard at work on 3 of the five frames. NUC’S, due to their reduced size, can out grow their hive in no time, therefore these guys are not being feed. They have just one frame with wax foundation, and the minute they have anything to spare……… it is going to be donated to any of my other hives that can use it. I have a few experiments in mind for these guys, and they are also to serve as my emergency queen hive holder.

Hive beetles are running rampant in the NUC above theTBH. Are the Aussie bees so gentle that they don’t put up a fight????? And in my original hive, they used to keep them under control; they just don’t have the numbers to crowd and protect the hive currently.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Caught Completely Unprepared

When I arrived home from work today I had a message from the Post Office. It said they had bees for me that have been there for 3 days and they were worried if they weren’t picked up soon they wouldn’t make it. THEN WHY DIDN’T they call the day they arrived!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Oh well, my only guess is that with everyone fearful of the packages, they put it out of the way and it was forgotten. This is how two 3 pound packages are shipped via the Post Office.
I was not expecting the packages for at least another week. I was going to spend the upcoming weekend getting ready for them. Well, scratch that, instead I get to show how to improvise for one of the packages. Both queens arrived in good health, but one of the packages had a lot of dead bees in it. The stronger package went into the deep body that about a month ago I set up to use as a bait hive.
The stronger package went into the ten frame hive above. It was the weaker package that I wasn’t ready for. The NUC I built is still tied up over the Top Bar Hive. The supplies I had in my bee shed consists of two medium suppers and a supper for the NUC. I decided that the mediums would be too big for such a weak package, so my only other option was to convert the NUC’s supper into a mini NUC. Why? Well, if my main hive has not been able to re-queen itself, I can take the mini NUC and insert it into that hive to re-queen it.

First I had to put all the components together. I took the Nuc’s supper and drilled a hole for an entrance. I improvised a top that I never even got around to painting. For a base I took out my old Beemax base. Now I have a mini NUC.

Then I hastily put five frames together in less than 20 minutes. The nail gun is handy as is a square ruler, foundation, and wooden frame parts. First apply some glue and put the frames together. Then square them out and use the nail gun to put them together permanently. Just one of the frames has a wax foundation installed on it.
Installing the packages was a breeze. I looked like a pro; too bad no one was around to see me.
First, separate the packages and pry the lid covering the syrup can off. The tab coming up out of the box holds the queen cage. Hold on to it unless you wish to stick your hand into a box of bees to retrieve the queen’s cage. Spray the bees with sugar water (1:1) . Gently tap the box on the ground a couple of times to drop all the bees to the bottom. Using the hive tool, lift the can of syrup enough to grab on to it. Lift it out, remove the queen’s cage, and use the lid to cover the hole.
On the queen’s cage…… remove the cork on the side of the cage that holds the candy. Punch a hole (nail or pocket knife) in the candy to make sure it has not dried out. Place the cage between two middle frames. Dump some bees over the cage. No need to make sure they all come out, specially not the dead bees. Having to remove dead bees is just something else the bees will have to do later. Leave the package close by, and the bees in the hive will call in the rest.
Yes, it’s sitting on the bird bath. Did I mention I didn't even have a stand ? Cover the hive, and wait 4 days to inspect to see if the queen was released.

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