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.

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