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.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Festooning on the 1st bar

One question keeps been ask about the TBH. Why use foundation? Isn't the idea of a TBH suppose to be about all natural? Well ... yes, but I'm no expert at this, so last thing I wanted was new wax breaking during an inspection. Notice in the pictures the type of foundation I chose: Is wire reinforce wax.

A few days ago I figured out the best way to take good pictures through the observation window.

For weeks I have been fighting three hurdles when taking pictures via the observation window of the TBH; the sunlight reflection off the plexy glass, the reflection of the camera’s flash on the window, and the camera’s auto focus.
Dusk and early morning (light is not over my shoulder) turned out to be the best times to take pictures.
By reading online I learned that turning the camera upside down is an old pro’s tip to reduce glare on subjects during close ups, this greatly reduces the flashes glare.
The auto focus problem is created when bees attempt to attack my face the minute I open the window and get up close (you wouldn’t like a voyeur on your bedroom window either). The camera can’t seem to make up its mind between the bees on the window and the bees in the background. It has been a long time since I used the manual focus.
Regardless, I finally got some good pictures and now I can inspect the progress.
Here are a couple of pictures I took today. The 1st shows the bees festooning. It took me a while to figure out what the clump was about, but they are festooning the way I drew the lines. This means they are preparing to draw out comb on the 1st bar. Technically is the 2nd bar. The 1st bar is a hollowed out bar that allows the bees to move up to the NUC cavity.

Finally, good activity in the THB. The last pictures are close ups of this next picture.
Close up of center show the bees have sealed in between all the Top bars.
Close up of top right ……. Little unwanted SHB visitor. If they get bad I’ll think about baiting a trap in the inspection drawer.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Busy Apiary

From right to left; my empty ten frame deep hive, just in case my main hive decides to swarm, I hope they go there. Mike purchased some swarm bait (Lemon oil, I swear it smells like wood furniture polish), and he let me have a few q-tips soaked in it. I used two to bait the hive. In Florida we need to be aware about African honey bees. There is no difference in behavior of swarms between European or African honey bees, so they can pose a deadly danger. My best and safest scenario are the two 3lb packages on order due to arrive early May; if no one moves into the empty hive one of these packages will get installed in it.

In the middle is my main hive. The bees decided to supersede the queen, ever since there have just been small amounts of eggs. The honey flow has begun, and instead of being up to strength or growing, the hive has been declining. I popped off the top today. There were a handful of bees working the supper, and more of the frames have been drawn out. Definitely not close to the strength it was before the split. An inspection on the 1st week of May should reveal a new laying queen. Sometimes I wonder if they swarmed, aside from the diminish number of bees signs don’t point towards that.

Finally on the left the Top Bar Hive with the Nuc sitting on top of it; this hive is slowly captivating more and more of my attention. I think it might be the fact that I build it myself. I’m waiting for the bees to decide to move down so I can remove the Nuc. The kids and I enjoy taking a peek now and then via the inspection window. The number of bees in the TBH cavity increases daily, but I still have not observed any work been done on the foundation or the top bars.
Below is the view into the TBH. The Boardman feeder can be seen behind the follower board. The bees are no longer taking any sugar syrup. On the other side of the follower board are eight strips of wax foundation, and the hollowed out 1st Top bar that allows the bees to move up into the Nuc cavity.

I decided to pop the top off the Nuc for a quick inspection. I didn’t pull any of the frames out; I didn’t feel it was necessary. The Nuc looks strong, and the Australian bees are starting to out number the local bees that came from the split. Right now all the bees that came with the split are foraging, and all the Australian bees are doing the inside work. My guess is that in less than two months the local bees in the TBH will die off, and the Australians will completely populate this hive. I replaced the top of the Nuc with a top that has zero clearance between the frames and the cover. There was too much burr comb being built in the space. I’m doing anything I can think of to make it as uncomfortable as possible to encourage the bees to move down.
I noticed one thing today on my inspections. The small hive beetle trap was full as usual in my main hive, but there were no beetles to be seen in the TBH. I could only guess why at this point.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Redirect Traffic on the TBH

I’ve been somewhat disappointed in the lack of interest the bees have shown on the cavity of the TBH. Observations in the window were rather uneventful. Usually 3 or 4 bees exploring the wax I used to install the starter strips.

Saturday I decide to take drastic measures. I closed the Nuc’s entrance, and forced traffic to have to redirect down into the TBH’s entrance. There was a huge jam for 10 minutes were the Nuc’s entrance used to be. Eventually a couple of bees found the new entrance, began fanning, and traffic resumed in and out via the TBH entrance. Inspection today (looked into the observation window) revealed several dozen bees showing interest in the 1st bar inside the TBH

I rather this group wouldn't waste too much time, energy, or resources building up the nuc. I would like to use the nuc and the drawn out frames to kick start my packages due at the beginning of May.

Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

My aspiration is to one day run three functioning hives (2 langs, the TBH, and a NUC maybe two). Three weeks ago I split my hive in the hopes that I could begin my goal. As I moved forward; I may inadvertently slightly slowed progress.

Last week I found an uncapped supercedure queen cell. A supercedure cell is the way a hive replaces a failing, sick, old, or injured queen. That means the old queen is still around. How do I know the old queen is around?? There are 4 to 5 day old larvae. Not much but there are some.

Since I wasn’t sure of what to do, I spend the week reading and informing myself. I used the beekeeping forums and a Florida beekeeper got in touch with me to offer his advice. All in all, a great bunch of helpful people. There are definitely many ways to skin this cat. Meaning there are many paths to being a successful beekeeper, and to mess things up. Was the queen injured during the split???? By removing so many eggs and brood, and breaking up the brood nest did the bees think that the current queen was failing???????

Who knows for sure! Right now the cause is rather useless. The facts are the hive has four queen cells and I find myself referencing the bee math once again (last year for the 1st time). The pictures below show both sides of the same frame and a queen cells on each side. The location of the queen cells makes them supercedure cells. Swarm cells would be located at the bottom of the frame.
(Above Queen cell to the right) (Above Queen cell to the left)
In about 16 days one queen will hatch, kill the un-hatched queens, fly out to mate, and eventually take over the hive. I will leave the hive alone for 20 days, and hopefully an inspection by then will reveal new eggs from the new queen.

PS. when it rains, it poures. I don't know what I was thinking when I placed my hot smoker on the Beemax top. Some fiberglass resin should fill the hole nicely

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