Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Spring plan and gearing up for it

The kids had the day off from school so I stayed home with them, and took advantage of my sort of free time to build my NUC. It took me all day to build a box, but at least it’s done. Well, for the most part, it still needs a few coats of paint. I need to look in the garage to see what sort of paint leftover’s I have.I could have worked on my TBH today but I’m going to need the NUC before I need the TBH…… why??? Spring is fast approaching in Central Florida. We may still get one or two more cold fronts, but they usually just last 2 or 3 days tops.These are my Azaleas and they just began their annual blooming. The odd thing about it is that the bees are completely ignoring these blooms. I remember in past years everyone at home staying away from them due to the bee, and bumble bee activity around them. I just don’t remember when the bees become interested in them, but eventually they do....... that much I’m sure of.

I video-taped the hive entrance for about 30 minutes today. Not a sign of drones, unless you count the dead ones by the entrance. Tons of pollen being brought in by the bees. As far as color there is dark yellow, white, and red color pollen.
So, here is the spring plan that begins this upcoming weekend.

  1. Let the bees clean the honey from the wax I saved from the last crush, and strain. This should begin my artificial flow.
  2. Place the feeder and continue feeding 1:1 sugar water once the bees clean the honey off the wax. Feeding for a total of 6 weeks.
  3. Got an Australian queen on order that is due to arrive the second week of March from Weaver Apiaries out in Texas.

In the second week of March I’m going to do a double screen split. A double screen split consists of placing the split/nuc above the parent hive (hive having been split), with a double screen in between them. The queen stays with the bottom hive, and you give the top enough resources and bees to survive until (A) they make a new queen or (B) they accept a new purchased queen. The goal of the double screen is to split the bees enough to convince them that they are now a new hive, but keep them close enough to allow them to regulate the environment of the dwelling. The two screens should be apart in a way where the bees can’t make physical contact. If, for whatever reason, the split fails the screen is removed and the hive is reunited.Here is the set up.

This is my Beemax bottom that I don’t use due to the scores of ants at my location. It originally comes with a screen bottom. So I made a frame, and placed a second screen. Here is my 1st ever five frame NUC built from scratch. It’s not perfect, but it will do and it will hold. I won't point out my mistakes, but they are rookie and poor planning mistakes. Everything is glued and screwed together. All I will have to do is remove the top of my hive, put the split in the Nuc and place the entire set up on top of the hive with the Nuc’s entrance facing the opposite direction. Stay tuned for how good double screen splits work…

Monday, January 21, 2008

Fight…… Fight…… Fight…… Fight……

You know it had to be a good fight when someone misplaces their head. I can only offer educated guesses as to why these drones are in front of the hive.

Above - Drone's head on the left been dragged away by the bee, it's body to the right.
Above- lower left bee (fuzzy). Bee dragging head of drone away. Middle, back side of second drone.

Below- Close up of second drone.

Weather had been wonderful for the last few days. Then we get hit by a cold spell.
If the drones are from my hive were they removed to save resources? Not knowing that the cold spell will just last a day or two.
Are they drones from feral hives attempting to come in uninvited for a free meal.

Either way, is good to know that there are young drones in the area already. Spring is around the corner, pollen is coming in, and the number of bees is climbing. I need to keep an eye out for an early swarm, and I need to build my NUCS just in case. When to split is the million dollar question right now. My goal right now but subject to change..... Split Late February early March.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Things as Expected

The weather was perfect on Saturday, 80 and sunny. It’s the middle of January and I could not ask for better weather to make my 1st inspection of 2008. I have to admit that I was a little hesitant at first, but once I popped the top off it was business as usual, and the bees seemed to vaguely care that I was there.Things appear to be progressing flawlessly. This supper has about 2/3 of honey left,

But believe it or not …… over the winter three of the plastic foundation frames were drawn out about 35% to 40% and right now are mostly capped with honey stores.

There is another cold front moving in this week. It should last just a few days which is the normal winter pattern for Central Florida. I’ll keep an eye on things but I’m sure they won’t be starving any time soon.Still, I do have a few things to worry about. I’m attempting to get a more accurate daily mite count. It seems higher than it was back in November but no where near the critical 60+ count for Florida. In this weather it’s going to take a few weeks to dry any tobacco leaves for a treatment so Mites are something to keep an eye on.Next, as seen in the last picture from right to left, frame #3 is warped which impedes the access to its cells and the adjacent cells of frame #2.Last year the hive ran out of room for the queen to lay eggs. The queen resorted to laying eggs in the burr combs below and above the brood frames. I believe I can see in one of today's pictures a few eggs on the burr comb between the deep and the medium supper. I read of some beekeepers in Florida keeping what they call 1.5 hives………. a deep body and one medium supper. I’ll see what the hive does with the current configuration. If by March they have expanded the brood chamber into the medium, I’ll just let them have it.
Last but not least, the top cover I made last year is also warped. My bees are not fond of a top entrance so they have wasted a lot of resources closing the one created by the wood warping. I replaced it with my old Beemax cover while I clean and try to straighten that one. I’m looking to start feeding the 1st week of February to create an artificial flow and hopefully split no later than the second week of March. The lingering indecision is what to do about a queen for the split. It is almost impossible to purchase one that early.
But first, I need to build the nucs and finish the TBH.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Happy Beekeeping New Year

All great artists do a self portrait, here is mine contemplating how to place my future hives.

Up until the past week it has been a wet and mild winter in East Central Florida. That all change mid week when we had a few nights in the low 40’s, and a “possible freeze” warning was issued by local meteorologists. Any one from up north digging out of the snow is probably feeling real sorry for me right now, right? Those two days mid week have been the only days I’ve walked up to the hive and there were no signs of bees to be found.
Since I don’t have any previous years of beekeeping experience, I’m not sure if what I’m seeing is normal winter behavior for my area. Right now the data in pollen.com is showing a spike in pollen for my area. The predominant pollen: Cedar/Juniper, Elm and Maple, are providing a steady flow of pollen into the hive.

I took the following pictures to prove that there is pollen coming in and I’m not nuts.
I’m observing just two noticeable differences between summer and winter in the bee’s behavior and the hive activity.
First, the bees seem to be more lethargic. Their passion for the job and their urgency as they come and go is half of what I noticed on summer days. Still, they are coming and going.
Second, there are far less bees visible. The landing board is not congested with bees during the day, but on a nice mild afternoon it still may get crowded

Aside from these two things it seems like business as usual for a smaller amount of slower bees. Even the ants are slacking. A bee carcass in summer usually doesn’t last more that a few hours before the ants are hauling it away. Now it lies below the hive for days

It has been over a month since I last opened the hive and I’m hoping next week the weather will be in the 70’s with clear skies. The temperature is warm enough to open the hive right now, but the skies are overcast with on again off again rain showers. I’m curious to see how much of the honey stores have been used so far. I’m optimistic they don’t need an emergency feeding; I just want to satisfy my curiosity of how things are progressing up to this point.
My Spring Management kick start date is fast approaching. A mid to late February feeding should prematurely stimulate the hive, and allow me to create a NUC (nucleus hive, consisting of five frames) by late March. If all goes well and I’m able to follow the plan by Mr. Jamie Ellis, PhD (Assistant Professor of Entomology Department of Entomology and Nematology University of Florida), I should have a strong hive and a strong NUC by my spring flow in April.

I should have started by building a couple of NUC bodies, but instead I wanted to start building my Top Bar Hive. I’m still undecided on how to proceed with my planned NUC, and my two 3lb packages of bees + queen arriving early May.
My dilemma is that I can’t make up my mind about what order to populate/create a hive, a NUC, and a TBH. I’ve got a few ideas but they change by the day, so right now I’ll just play it by ear and wait and see.
I decided to keep a very accurate record of the hive(s) since I want more than one. It includes the frame types and the age, queen age, and hive productivity.

Building the TBH

Here is a slide show of my Progress on the TBH

Feb 2008, I got the paint from the Oops shelf at Home Depot. $5.00 for the gallon. I didn't realize how good it match the shed until I stood back. I hate the color, Looking for my can of yellow paint. Also, notice I did away with the peak roof and decided to keep it simple and flat. The split ont he roof made it hard to seal for rain.

I previously have written a little on Top Bar Hives. TBH’s is just another subject in which I have no personal experience at all. I’m well read in the subject and have enough knowledge to really not know anything. With that said, here are my plans for my TBH, and below are some of the progress and some steps on how I’m building it. First I should give credit where credit is due. The base for my plans came from http://www.biobees.com/ - Check them out, great site “about sustainable, chemical-free, small-scale, 'organic' beekeeping, using simple equipment that almost anyone can make at home.” Hey!!!!!! They are right; I am building it myself at home. Also, check out http://www.bwrangler.com/bee/index.html for information that leads me to my conclusions about what I think might work for me. Finally, to Mike for his constructions tips, and discussions on the subject… It helps to solve problems and make improvements when you discuss things with someone interested in the subject. What I have concluded is:
  • Florida beekeepers keep one deep brood in Florida - So a smaller TBH should work better here. I’m building the smaller 36” version and I’ve modified the trapezoid dimensions to give me a volume slightly larger than a deep box hive.
  • Hot and humid weather means more ventilation required – building a screen bottom and adding vent holes to roof
  • Extra help required to deal with Small Hive Beetles - Building inspection drawer/ trap drawer
  • How to provide support - Roof will be split to allow me to place a medium supper or place a NUC above it to provide drawn out frames of pollen, honey, or brood from my Lang
  • Use it to support my Langs. The measurements of the Top bars will allow the top bars to be placed in standard Deep body hives.

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