Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Feeding Again

The picture below is just an animated picture. It’s basically pictures (six in this case) layered on each other and animated. I hope it works, click on the picture and click the reload button on the browser to watch it again. It shows my current set up..

The TBH and the hive to the right are waiting on packages or splits. I haven't made up my mind how I'm going to work it all yet, but by the end of this season I hope to have colonies running on all of them plus a support Nuc.

My Citrus allergies began to act up yesterday. I walked over to my trees and sure enough.......Citrus has begun to bloom. Although the pollen count is currently high; I decided to start feeding again due to a cold front approaching. High winds and lower temperatures will not be ideal for the bees to forage.

On the other hand, the colony seems strong and it’s not good to have too many idle bees. A swarm from the colony right now would not be ideal. My prevention effort was to provide more room and work in the form of placing the 1st honey supper of the season.

I simply removed the last wooden frame (no foundation), and placed another plastic foundation frame in what has become my 1.5 hive (1 deep body, 1 medium body). The supper pictured below is now composed of ten plastic frames.
Next I placed a queen excluder, and a medium supper with 9 wooden frames (with starter strips), and in the middle the one full frame I removed from the medium below.

On top of this sits my feeder. Hopefully feeding should maintain the population boom, and give them resources to build comb on these frames. My uneducated guess would say that by mid to late April I should be able to fill some comb honey requests

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Holy Cow __________ !!!!!!!

Holy Cow - look at all the bees, Holy cow - I got stung …..Again!!! Holy Cow - the brood expanded into the medium supper, Holy Cow - here comes the drones, Holy Cow - is that a queen cell????? Holy Cow I think the hives look better painted yellow. Fill in the blank for the title; I couldn’t make up my mind on which one to use.

Let’s begin with the hive’s progress. I think it’s looking awesome for late February. I can not believe how many bees there are. The only frames not drawn out as of today are each of the outside ones on the supper but they are being worked on. Here is a picture of how the deep body looked after I pulled the medium off.
Well, it had been a while since I’d been stung. Looks like I’m building quite the nice immunity to it, or I removed the stinger out of my forearm before I got a good dose of poison. The area is a little sore but there is hardly any swelling. I’m just one more sting away from double digits.

The bees have expanded the brood into the medium supper. I am now the proud keeper of a 1.5 Beehive. This was an intentional move on my part (One deep body and one medium body). The following picture is a beautiful brood pattern (dark Yellow) below capped honey (white), all one of the medium frames. (click to enlarge, and roll mouse over picture for tags)
Now here is a great pattern on a deep frame.
The medium from now on will no longer be a supper; it is now part of the body. I would had preferred to have the medium on the bottom, but I can rotate them next winter when there are less bees to worry about. The pro of a 1.5 hive is a larger work force. The con is that it’s harder to find the queen. So what now??? I’m going to put on the queen excluder and another supper, and then feed one more gallon to help them draw it out. The new supper will be mine to harvest. I built eight wooden medium frames with starter strips. I will place it on as soon as I get home tomorrow from work. It will ease the overcrowding in the hive and give the idle work force something to do. Picture of Idle force below. Here is one of those wedge wooden frames with a starter strip. There are drone cells every where. Drone cells are usually described by everyone as tips of a 22 caliber bullet. According to Michael Bush’s math, the drones will be ready for matting flights in about 2 weeks (if they were to all emerge from their cells tomorrow). My new queen will be here in 3 weeks. Here is something that freaked me out a little. Is a picture of mostly drone cells but notice the larger cell? At 1st I though it may be a new queen cell, meaning the hive could be getting ready to swarm.
After posting the picture on Beesource, all worries were put to rest. One very important thing was pointed out. Queen cells are built vertical, not horizontal. I know that too. Then there was an observation made about how the adjacent cells have not been capped yet, in turn making that lone one look bigger. I should have seen that in my own picture. The Beekeeping forum community is a great asset.

I found my can of yellow paint. I can’t believe I still have 2/3 of paint left; and I can’t believe I actually think everything looks better painted yellow. The TBH looks like it belongs here now.

Click here for all of todays images

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Blink and They are Gone

I will call myself a “Beekeeper” if I’m able to pull off my spring management without much of a snag. I’m fully aware of what is about to take place, the goal of most beehives in spring is to multiply by swarming (old queen and most of the workers leave taking most of the honey crop in search of a new home). What I’m not sure about is the time table MY bees and nature have in mind. Beekeepers in the state can tell me of their usual swarm dates, but their dates don’t necessarily coincide with my area.

I’m very dependent on one single date..... the delivery date of the new queen destined for my split. I’m getting somewhat concerned that the bees may swarm earlier and for all practical purposes jump start the gun.

Here is the reason why. This is the view of the hive on the fist week of January.

The bees sucked dry the feeder over the weekend. The minute it was dry, mold began to grow, and small hive beetles began sneaking in. I decided to remove the feeder to give it a good scrub down, and take a quick look on the progress by just looking down the supper frames. I’m truly amazed at how things can change if you blink at the wrong time. I fed them a total of 3 gallons (1:1 sugar water) for 2 ½ weeks. This was the view of the hive this afternoon.(6 weeks after 1st picture)

Is looking too healthy this early in the year a problem? I need to delay them for less than 4 weeks to the weekend of March 15th. I’m going to postpone feeding for now. I want to literally tear down the hive for a meticulous inspection. I'm going to remove any old queen cells from last year so that there is no confusing any in the next few weeks, and to confirm if they are progressing as good as I think they are, and check brood patterns (drone cells being a priority). I did get some awesome shots today like this one (see them all here)

There are two positives on my side as of now. My queen is about six months old. That's way too young for most queens to think about swarming and so far there are no live drones to be found. New queens need drones to mate. I know that and the bees know that, but blink right now and you can overlook the whole thing.

Side note, my TBH is in place. It needs a landing board, needs to be secure to the stand better, and needs started strips on the bars. I also hate the color, I'm looking for my never ending yellow paint can.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Feeder Inspection

This is my Beemax top feeder; it was part of my initial beekeepers starter kit. The advantages of having a top feeder:

  • Ease of inspection – I’ve learned how much my bees will tolerate my presence. It’s also a good idea to learn the signs of when the bees have had enough of it. It’s especially important if, like in the video, you are not wearing any beekeeping defenses.
  • Quick refill – Lift and pour in the syrup, it doesn’t get any easier than that.
  • Provide large amount of syrup. – It’s hard to see that there is anything in the feeder. The best sign is when I dip the leaf in it. Believe it or not, there is over ¾ of a gallon in the feeder.
  • Sloped feeding chamber - Which I noticed for the 1st time while making the video, it’s sloped towards the bee’s feeding area by at least ½ inch. The syrup is always going to flow the proper way.
    The bee at the end of the video is one I rescued from one of the water moats. She was flying from behind me coming around my right towards the entrance of the hive. I lifted the top and she flew right into it and then bounced right into one of the back moats. A rescue was the only right thing to do. I ended up placing her and her pollen load (what was left of it) on top of the hive, where she began to dry herself.

Quick review of why I’m feeding.

  1. Create an artificial honey flow to trick the hive into building up before the real natural flow. ( about 4 to 6 weeks away)
  2. My purchased queen should be here the second week of March. At that time the hive should be strong and more than ready for a split. The current hive should have ample time to recover from the split, and be ready for the real honey flow.
  3. The split I’m creating I will try to introduce to my TBH

Advantages can also create disadvantages. Nothing is perfect.

  • It makes it too easy to inspect which is just an invitation to go intrude, set a camera and video tape.
  • Notice all the bees at the syrup level. Pour more syrup too fast and all those bees are going to go for a swim.
  • Large amount of feed is an invitation for everyone like the Small hive Beetle in the video.
  • I’ve never seen a bee drown in the feeder, but after video taping the one bee struggling to get out, I can see how it could be very possible.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Feed & Feed & Feed

I figure the wax and honey I saved from my last crush and strain wouldn’t last long. So yesterday I mixed up some 1:1 sugar/water to feed it to the bees today after work.

To make it, you bring 4 cups of water to a slight boil and then stir in 4 cups of sugar, keep boiling until all the sugar is dissolved. You then let it cool overnight before feeding it to the bees. A sample taste test will reveal a syrup tasting mixture. Very different taste as compared to the one produced by just adding sugar to a glass of water.

Today after work I removed the top, lifted the Plexiglas and smoked the feeder with a couple of puffs from my smoker. Within 30 seconds every bee in the top feeder compartment had moved back down into the hive. I quickly removed the Tupperware holding the wax, replaced the top feeder guard, and poured the approximate ¾ of a gallon of feed. Took the bees about two minutes to return and start feeding

This is the left over wax now free of honey.

Now I need to melt and filter it, and maybe use it to attach strips of foundation to the bars of my TBH. The wife wants me to try and make some candles, but my guess is that we would be lucky if there is enough for one.

The Azaleas began blooming 2 to 3 weeks ago, but they had been ignored by every single pollinator (feral bees, bumble bees, native bees) until today. I had noticed tons of activity in past years around them; I just never paid attention to when it began or what the bees collected. There are a few bumble bees and some of my bees buzzing the plants. They seem to be collecting nectar, but the activity has not peaked, not even close.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Let There Be Spring

OK not for real, but I’m feeding to create an artificial early spring flow, and the high 70 temperatures during the day should help my cause.

This weekend I went out with my new beekeeper assistants and inspiration for the honey label, my 7 year old twin girls. “A” was my photographer, and “B” was my personal assistant. This is what my bee yard looks like right now. The hive on the right is waiting for a package, a split from my hive on the left or maybe a wild swarm to move in. My original hive has a supper that I would guess is now 1/4 full, and on it sits a Beemax top feeder.

It was kind of nice to have a “go-pher”, one who also held tools so I would not have to bend over to pick them up off the ground. It was also great to have a seven year old photographer. A wild imagination and a camera with memory for 400 pictures will get you neat pictures like: My smoker and feed bag (honey and wax from last crush and strain) sitting on my dry bird bath. Standing water (aka bird bath) in Florida is a mosquito breading ground.

The pictures also have a different perspective because of her stature. Like this picture of the open hive. My pictures usually look down into the super. Her picture is a new angle and probably shows my new idea better. The plexiglass provides containment of the bees, and can be move to allow inspection of either side. I thought it worked great and kept the number of bees flying around us to a minimum. I have seen other beekeepers use a pice of wood or a cloth rag.

They both were brave and stood tall as I pulled frames out. We did a small inspection to find out if the brood was expanding into the supper, but it was not to be as the following pictures show. The supper is about ¼ full of honey, no egg laying going on here. At this pace if I make a supper for my NUC, I may be able to split the current supper and let the NUC have some frames of honey. (Pictures by "A")

These last pictures show what I did with the rest of the $10 plexiglass sheet. I took the guard off the top feeder to allow the bee’s better access into what the girls (my kids, not the bees) call the bee’s cafeteria. I think by midweek all the wax is going to be free of honey. At that point I will replace the guard, take my wax, and fill the feeder with 1:1 sugar water. I will continue feeding until March when I’m hoping for a strong hive that I can split.

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