Sunday, May 17, 2009

It’s not over yet

It’s been a good start to the year but the honey season is far from over. Here is my bee yard, from left to right my Top Bar hive…
I’m in complete awe on the progress this colony is showing, can it have something to do with the type of beehive?? There are too many variables to really make a call. What I do know is that I provided 3 partially drawn out frames to the TBH and they have, in 2 weeks, pulled 5 more. I didn’t forget to remove the queen’s shipping cage this time, and I removed it causing minimum damage. I do need to be more careful about lifting the top off. It had glued itself to a few bars and when I lifted the top a few bars also lifted. Luckily there was no damage done to anything. Below are a couple of the new Top bars.

Next to it is my original hive. These guys started it all. Last time I looked in here I notice a lack of stored honey. Until this weekend I was a little apprehensive. I almost pulled my back removing the bottom super. The top is about 75% full and 50% of that is capped. I hope it can wait two weeks until I return from vacation. Here is the outside frame of the top super.

Next to my original hive is one of my NUCs from last year. One of the supers I robbed last week came from them. There’s not much activity going on in the current super. Palmetto and Palms flow is about to begin so maybe then it will pick up. No second super for them since they haven’t touched the one they have now.
Next we have the new Nuc of the year. I’m not feeding them but I decided to leave the feeder to block the entrance some. I want to keep these gals small and in the NUC for the rest of the year. They right now hold my emergency queen. If anything happens in the established hives these gals with their queen will step in. I like to take pictures while inspecting to catch and review what I may not see. I was worrying about not seeing any eggs in the Nuc. The pictures proved me wrong. There are plenty of eggs in 3 frames, it’s just hard to see with all the bees over them.

Finally my ex-angry hive with a whole new hard working pleasant attitude. No idea why they like to hang out as much as they do. The bottom super is 75% full, and the top super I placed on today. It’s one of the supers I extracted last week. Maybe this will give all the slackers hanging around some work to do. I’m hoping to have 2, maybe 3 supers to extract in a couple of weeks.
Oh yeah, I didn’t get stung stealing honey supers, but I got stung replacing empty supers. I’m glad the reactions are getting milder and milder.

First Honey Harvest of 2009

How much honey do two supers/twenty frames hold??? I was able to fill Thirty-four 12 ounce containers and seventeen 6 ounce containers, plus about 10 ounces of my personal jar for an approximate total of 515 ounces.
The 5 gallon bucket in the picture below was about 7/8 full, and holding the bucket on my home scale added 45 lbs to my body weight.

It took me several days to bottle all the honey. I need to revisit my choice for a spout. I didn’t feel like paying shipping for a honey spout and thought a regular spout would do the trick. It took just about 10 minutes to fill the 12 ounce jars, and the flow out of the bucket slowed down as the level dropped.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Time To Get The Honey

There is nothing more fun than having to put on a jacket and a veil and then starting up a fire in the smoker when the temperature in the shade is in the mid 80’s.

From left to right: Yours truly wearing my jacket and veil. The TBH (Top Bar Hive), Old Faithfull (My original hive), my eager hive (NUC from last year), my NUC (from this year), and my Mean hive with a whole improved attitude ( NUC from last year).Below are a few easy steps to rob honey from a beehive. Required tools: Bee Quick, cloth material (two pieces), inner cover, and a bee brush. Step one, remove and place out-of-the-way the super to be robbed. Step two, place the inner cover on top of the hive and then place the super on top of the inner cover. Step three, spray a cloth with Bee Quick on top of the super and put a hive cover on.
Wait about a minute or two and then remove the super. The smell of Bee Quick will drive a large number of bees out of the super and onto the inner cover. The inner cover will prevent the main body of the hive from being accidentally effected.
Place the super on top of the second piece of cloth, also sprayed with Bee quick. This will drive the rest of the bees out of the super.
Take the super 10 to 20 feet away from the hive and brush off all the bees hanging on it. Aside for a few stubborn bees the super will now be empty of them, and the bees you just brushed off will fly back to the hive.
I would prefer to rob the supers in a more natural way by using bee cones or Bee escapes. These methods take a day for the bees to naturally exit the super. I decided against this because it would give the Small hive beetles complete freedom to runaround in the honey and have a one day gorging feast.

Once in the garage I armed myself with the shop-vac to vacuum up any bees that may have still been in the super box. I cut the honey combs off the frames, dropped it into my nice clean honey cooler and crushed it. I retuned the super minus the honey back out to the bee yard for cleaning. Below is a picture of twenty (two supers) crushed frames.
Since this is a crush and strain method, it was then time to strain. The reason why I selected this cooler was for its nice draining spout. Below is a picture of the cooler draining into a five gallon bucket with two filters, a coarse filter over a fine filter.

Monday, May 11, 2009

TBH Package Follow Up

An inspection to confirm that the queen was release from her shipping cage (click for picture) must be done four to five days after installing a package, whether it is in a Langstroth hive or in a Top bar hive. On Sunday, six days post package installation; I found time to look in on the two new packages, one in the TBH and the other in a regular Langstroth Nuc. Below is a side view of my TBH.

I gave the colony a great kick start by providing it with 3 partially drawn out top bars. Not only did the colony repair and expand the 3 bars I gave them, but they have already drawn out a fourth one. Below is my 1st picture ever of the inside of the hive. To get a better idea of the internal view, tilt your head slightly to the left until the hardware cloth on the bottom of the picture becomes the horizon.

Brood is capped approximately four days after the eggs are laid. Since it takes 3 to 4 days for the queen to be release, there won’t be any capped brood six days after the package is installed. Not even if the queen began laying the minute she was release from her cage. It was hard to get a picture of any hatched eggs or eggs with all the bees hard at work on the honeycomb.

I gently slid the bars from back to front using a box cutter knife to unglue the bars. Many beekeepers claim to use a lot less smoke in Top bar hives, I did use a lot less smoke with this colony, but they are hardly up to full strength and hardly have anything to protect. My guess is that is too early to make a call either way on that myth. Once I made my way to the 3rd bar where I hung the queen’s cage, I gently and nervously pulled the bar out. I needed to remove the queens cage, but I was very apprehensive about dealing with new honey comb wax with no support what so ever. Unfortunately I didn’t catch a good picture of it.

Below is my Top bar hive without its top after my 1st inspection. I’m very pleased with the end result of the design, the paint job colors, the incredible progress of the colony after only a week, and …………….. Wait a freaking minute!!!!!!!! What’s that on the 3rd bar from right to left?? Did I forget to remove the queen’s cage? But I removed the top bar; I have an out of focus picture to prove it!!!!!!! DO’H !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

By next weekend when I do an inspection to see if there is capped brood, that cage is going to be permanently part of the honeycomb in that top bar.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

TBH Package installation

Thank you to TyraTech and Jason who paid for one of my packages in exchange for allowing them to collect a hundred or so bees. Wouldn’t you know it? My two packages arrived last Monday just about a week early. I arrived home from work after the Post Office had close, but I decided to call them to find out how early they open in the morning. I was thrilled when they told me I could knock at the back door and pick them up. Two buzzing boxes of bees really freak people out.

I was completely unprepared since the packages were not suppose to arrive for another week, but I made do and put together what I needed to install the packages that late afternoon. All you really need to install a package is a spray bottle with sugar water (1:1). The first step is to profusely spray the bees inside the box. Tap the box on the ground to drop the bees to the bottom of the box. Spray them some more, pry the syrup can cover, spray them some and tap the box on the ground once again. When pulling the syrup can out along with the queen cage, it is not a bad idea to spray and tap the box one last time. It is a good idea to keep the can cover handy to close the hole after pulling the queen cage out.
Inspect the queen and confirm she is alive and looks healthy/active. Then MAKE absolutely sure to remove the cork on the candy end of the cage. Place her in the hive using the metal tab to dangle her from one of the top bars. I chose to place her between the 3rd and 4th bar
I placed one inch starter strips on all my Top bars, but I also outsourced (the current American way) some honey comb construction to my other hives. I removed one of the outside frames that had not been worked on from their Suppers, I slid all the frames out, and placed one top bar right in the middle of the supper for a total of four days. Below is one out of three bars with the results of the four days of work.
Although we are currently in a dry spell, the nectar flow is on. Some 10 ounce of sugar water and the remaining contents of the package’s feeder can is not going to hurt.
Now prepare the hive by removing enough bars to make a large opening in which all the bees can be dumped inside the hive. Before dumping the package spray them some more. The busier the bees are cleaning themselves the less likely they will fly out as you dump them in.
The picture below shows my TBH with the bars back in place. The metal tap to the right (front of hive) is the where I placed the queen’s cage, and to the left (back of hive) you can see the top of the feeder bottle.
Now leave them alone for at least 4 to 5 days

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Wax Melter

WARNING: Wear garden gloves or use heat pads. The Temperature inside the box will exceed 130F after an hour of sitting undisturbed in the sun. It’s hot enough to burn your finger tips if you touch the baking pan. Trust me, I know for a fact.
Key components:

  • I chose a 13x9x2 baking pan to hold the wax to be melted $ 7.50
  • A bread loaf pan to catch the melted wax $4.50
  • Wood to build a box $6.00
  • 22x16 Pane of glass $6.50
  • Optional candy thermometer $2.50

It is not a bad idea to take the new purchased pans into the kitchen and swap them for an older set. You will need to make a wooden box big enough to accommodate the pans; the larger pan must drip into the smaller pan. Then make a frame for the pane of glass and seal it all with some door and window caulking.

Here is the box sitting in the sun. The dark lines along the seams of the box are door and window calking.
I made a bed on my holding pan with hardware cloth to filter larger pieces of wire out of the starter strips and whatever else may be in the wax. It also holds the wax off the pan so that heat can reflect off it.
The old wax from brood frames is not a good wax to try and melt. It’s not only ugly but it never melts enough to flow out of the top pan. I had mixed wax from old brood frames that were replaced, and wax left from the crush and strain process obtained while robbing honey.

Below is the result of my 1st solar wax melter trial. The stalactites of wax were formed because the sun went down before the wax in the holding pan had dripped down.

A few more hours the following day did the trick. Notice in the picture how one side of the wax is thicker than the other. The pan in the melter is not level. Allow the pan of wax to cool down over night. Once the loaf of wax is cool, place the pan and wax for five minute in the freezer. Remove and immediately twist the pan to remove the block of wax out of the pan.
This block of wax has really not been properly filtered out of impurities. Some people choose water in the collection pan. The wax sinks and the impurities float, therefore separating the two. Others use paper towels or coffee filters as a filter medium. I decided to use an old pair of panty hose. Below is my block of wax in the panty hose melting once again in the solar wax melter.

The weekend was clear, sunny and high of 82. The solar wax melter reached a temperature of 90 within 10 minutes, and within the hour the temperature inside the box had reached 130 Fahrenheit. That was hot enough for the wax to begin flowing down
Time for candles?

Saturday, April 11, 2009

It has been three consecutive weeks of inspecting hives. The first week was a search for the old queens, killing them, and then introducing new ones. The following week I opened them to remove the queen cages, at which point, I decided it would be a good idea to leave them alone for a few weeks. After speaking with Mike and reading his blog I decided maybe it would be a good idea to see if my new queens were laying eggs or had been replaced like his. Just in case things were fine, I decided that it would be a good time to super the last two hives. Here are my last two supers, one has wooden frames with starter strip, and the second has hollowed out plastic frames.
With all the practice I’m getting good at planning and carrying out the inspections. Below is a picture of the back of the hives, my saw horses with a board to close the bottom of the super when it’s place on top of it, and a sheet of plexy glass to close the top of the super. I don’t have to deal with all the bees in whatever box is placed here. On the floor are my two new supers (and last) for the two hives on the left. I like to light my smoker (hanging on the left hive) and smoke the hive that is to be inspected and then wait a minute or two. While I’m waiting I arrange all my tools and aids to make sure I have everything I could possibly use. After the wait, I give the 1st hive another puff of smoke and I also smoke the next hive to be inspected.

I began the day by inspecting the middle hive (The Eager colony). I took the super off, placed it on my saw horses and closed it up. I removed one of the outer frames to create more room to inspect the other frames. My main goal today was to look for brood in the middle frames. Below is the outer most frame; the hollowed out plastics frames look great. The bees build whatever size they desire and things are a little more natural.
After removing the outer frame and sliding a few frames out, I pulled one of the middle brood frames. No queen cells and some uncapped brood. Uncapped brood means the egg in that particular cell was laid 4 to 8 days ago. Since the new queen was installed over 14 days ago, the uncapped cells are from the new queen, and since this frame had no eggs the day I killed the old queen….All this is work of the new queen.
Below is the flip side of the frame above. A lot more uncapped brood can be seen towards the right on this side of the frame. That was enough to convince me, the new queen was accepted.
Now I placed the super back on and took a quick look at the future honey crop. Below is one of the outside frames. It is not fully drawn out yet and has very little honey in it.
Below is another medium frame from the same super. This one is pretty much fully drawn out, has tons of uncapped honey, and a few capped drone cells.
And finally a frame full of uncapped honey. How can you tell it is full of honey? Well, aside from zooming in and seeing the syrup in the frames, notice the color difference of the wax between this frame and the pure white color of clean empty cells.
This hive was definitely ready for a new super.
Next I moved over to inspect my Angry hive. These ladies are going to drive me nuts the way they draw out comb. It is like there are two comb building groups that usually begin working at opposite ends of a frame, and by the time they meet in the middle they are always off center. I began inspecting on the super with this one. Below is a super frame, and notice towards the left how that side comes out allowing the right side to slide behind it.
Here is one of the outside frames from the deep brood box. Notice how the comb has the same overlapping problem as the super frame above. Also, as in the previous hive, the outside frames have drone cells.
Here is one of the brood frames, the main reason for opening the hives. There is tons of capped brood with a few un-hatched eggs and brood under four days old. There is more on the opposite side but I forgot to photograph it.

I left my original hive alone today; I’ll look in it next week. I feel better after observing that everything is normal and no one seems to be planning or preparing to swarm. Here is my Apiary today. All the hives have two supers now; my TBH on the left still sits empty waiting for the 3lb package due early May. My smoker is on the background cooling off sitting on top of the bird bath.
It was a good inspection day and I need to begin preparing/planning to rob, extract, and process honey. I did have on issue today. I began my inspections wearing my mechanic gloves. I was hoping for equal protection and better handling. I was wrong on the protection part. I need to up the sting count by one, I got it good on my right hand.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Let Nature Do Its Thing

This weekend was my first inspection since I requeened ten days ago. The offspring’s of the new queens will be emerging in about 20 days, that assumes it took 3 or 4 days to release her from the cage and maybe an additional day for them to begin to laying eggs. It would be a safe bet to assume the hives attitude change should begin in about a month, and a total of 2 to 2 ½ months for all the bees in the hives to be offspring’s of the new queens.
I began my inspection with the weak NUC, sad to say, it was too weak and it didn’t make it. The traffic in and out of it was from all the bees robbing it of its resources.
I moved on to “Old Faithfull”. The picture below is of the top of the second super. The nine frames of this supper will most likely be ready to rob in 2 weeks.

The new queen was released and it moved right into the deep box. I found a small problem with the TBH bars I placed as a replacement of the two frames I removed to make room for the queen’s cage. The bees began working the comb from the bottom up, instead of working from the top down. The two TBH frames I had hoped to be drawn out were not touched at all. Instead I had to remove large pieces of cells from the bottom to make room for reinserting the frames. Weird, I though bees worked comb from the top down. The word disappointment doesn’t describe how I felt when I though none of the TBH (top bar hive) frames were worked on. I though it was a solid idea.I moved to the next hive, the Eager colony. The queen was released and to my surprise these ladies did work on my TBH bar that I left in here. Pictures below are worth a thousand words. I placed the queen’s cage (face down) over the top of the frames of the deep body.

I put the super back on minus one frame. The frame that would have sat on top of the cage and would have been pushed out. In its place I took one of my TBH bars so that today I would get a drawn out frame for the package being installed in the TBH (Early May)
Here is the adjacent frame in the super. It is a great picture to learn the differences between capped honey and capped brood. The capped honey is light in color and flat across the surface. Capped brood is darker and the individual cell caps are distinguishable from one to the other. To the left are also hatch eggs about 4 to 6 days old. They are probably the first eggs laid by the new queen before moving down to the deep body.

How can I tell the queen moved down? Simple, the frame above shows it being backfilled with honey. The workers have filled the cells below the capped brood with honey, and since the flip side is full (picture below) along with all the adjacent frames, there is no other place to lay but below in the deep. This super will probably be ready to rob in 20 days.
Finally time for my mean hive, I decided to leave them for last, since more bees from this hive will follow me through out the inspection of all the hives. When you inspect a hive a couple of mad bees from the first will be buzzing you as you inspect the adjacent hive. During the inspection of the second hive some mad bees will join the mad bees from the first hive, and by the time I’m done with the third hive I have quite the following going. Now I’m talking about 4 bees from each hive, tops.
So I open my Mean hive in which I put two TBH bars, and to my delight two drawn out TBH bars came out with the top.

I left all the drawn out frames (3) out on the yard to be cleaned. I don’t want to put cells with honey into the TBH to attract other critters before I install a package.

Now, unlike the super frames from previous hive (see nice super frame above) the bees in this hive don’t seem to like my starter strip too much. They drew out my TBH bar nicely, but the adjacent frame was completely off.

I did some minor trimming in an attempt to correct things, and gently shook the bees off the TBH bars in top of the hive. They very nicely just walked right in. OK, who are these nice bees and what have they done with my mean hive???

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