Monday, January 26, 2009

New Beekeeping Year

Small article that made the wife remind me of why we want to stay in the bee closet. (Neighbors all abuzz about Palm Bay gardener's beehive) Now there are a few differences between the lady in the article and yours truly. Although she lives some 20 minutes south of me, I do live in a light agricultural zoned area. My neighborhood is all zoned to have one home of a lot of at least 2 acres. I am completely legal and allowed to have my hives, but you never know ……. I like my neighbors, they like me. There were bees in the area before I brought mine in; there will be bees in the area if I ever get rid of mine. I feel for her. A good beekeeper can be as responsible as owners of guns, or pit-bull dogs, but bees are more beneficial to the environment. Yet she is not been allowed to keep the one hive.

So 2009 will be my 3rd year beekeeping. After a typical Florida cold front, three/four days of cold overnight temps in the 30’s, the weather has return to a more seasonal upper 40’s overnight and low 70’s during the day. (Don’t you just love Florida?) There’s tons of activity around the hives… orientation flights and lots of pollen been brought in. The hives are ready to explode at the first sign of spring. There will be more cold fronts before then, but here in Central Florida it seems like spring begins the 1st of March for the bees. So I decided to do some cleaning around the bee yard. 1st, I needed to move the TBH out of the way. I want to make a few small modifications, and then place it on the bee stand next to my Lang hives. Therefore “Old Faithfull” (hive on the left) must move to the right. The Nuc (in the middle) must move to the right, and the Nuc that is housed in the 10 frame hive (all the way on the right) will stay where it is.

Is normal for me not to wear any protective clothing when I work around my hives, the rules are no walking close to the entrance, no sandals, and wear a hat/cap. A hat is very important. With bees flying in and out you never know when one will accidentally fly into your hair. Once in there it gets tangle in your hair, it panics, you panic …… This reminds me, up the sting count to 14. I forgot my hat a first, before taking this picture.
It was educational to dismantle and store (for now) the TBH. As the bees were collapsing, Wax Moths moved in to hasten their downfall. The collapse of the bees also means the end of the Wax Moths. What I didn’t know is how much damage the Moths not only inflict on wax, but also on wood. I found these un-hatch moths larvae between two Top Bars. After I scraped them off, I noticed that they actually dug grooves into the wood to make a nest.
Below are a few pictures of what they do to a drawn out frame. I mistakenly stored this clean drawn out frame in my shed. Nice dark dry place. I had completely forgotten I had put it in the shed, I don’t know how they found it in there but they did. Since the frame was clean of honey and pollen, there wasn’t much there for the moths to eat. The picture below shows the dead and dying moth larvae.

Here are pictures of the damage they create on a drawn out frame. Once the larva hatches it travels below the surface of the drawn out frame from cell to cell. In its path it leaves a paper/silk residue, and in the process of moving between cells it undermines the foundation of the comb rendering it useless and un- repairable to the bees. A huge advantage of plastic frames is that the foundation keeps the damage contain to one side of the frame. Had this been a natural drawn out comb, both faces of the frame would have collapsed.

Once the TBH was out of the way my next task was to remove the Queen Excluder I placed early last year on “Old Faithfull”. A Queen Excluder keeps the queen from moving up passed it to lay, so anything above it becomes storage for the bees. Now some people like to call it a honey excluder. They seem to think that bees don’t like to make their way passed it or that it slows progress too much. I don’t know!!!!! I am removing it this year to make my own conclusion. I can’t make any of my own claims until I see it for myself. Since this was the only productive hive I had last year, there was no side by side comparison. It is going to have to be last year’s performance versus this year performance. Allowing the queen to move freely creates the problem of having to select frames in this supper when is time to harvest honey. At any given time the queen may move up here to expand the brood nest. Here is a picture of the Queen Excluder in place. The holes are just the right size for workers to pass thru, but small enough to hold the queen back.
Pop quiz, there is something missing in the picture below. Yes, the queen excluder is missing, but no ….. That's not it. Something else is missing
A: There are only 9 frames. I removed the 10th frame. One frame always has to come out to allow more room to work with the other frames, and it usually sits on the ground by my feet. Always wear socks and no bell bottom pants to keeps out those ladies that decide to walk up your pant legs.
Why not always leave more room to work in there?? Simple, bees live and die by their bee space rule (3/8 inch), any space larger than 3/8 means there is room for more cells. This usually creates the problem seen below known as bridged comb. Instead of drawing out comb on the plastic foundation they draw out comb between this frame and the adjacent one.The problem with bridge comb is that it gets very messy when the frames are pulled apart. Last time I was here I probably didn’t push the frames tightly together. Some say that this is a good example that bees prefer to build their own cells with out the aid of the plastic foundation, but that wouldn’t explain why the rest of the frames look as nice as this one. In my short bee experience there are many explanations for bridge comb, but every one has one. All I do know is that by breaking this comb, and pushing the frames together, the bees will fix the problem and eventually draw it out correctly.

In conclusion: Here is how the bee yard looks as of today. To the left, and moving a few inches to the right every week “Old Faithfull”, in the middle my Eager Nuc. These ladies are hard workers and I think they have the potential to embarrass all the other hives this coming year with their work ethic. Their Ten frame hive body and base is in the mail. To the right …….. Yet to have earn a name: the Nuc in the ten frame body. They are doing OK, nothing to write home to mama that’s for sure.

1 comment:

Beekeeping for Beginners said...

wow what a great insiders look at beekeeping. We had a swarm show up last summer on our property. It got me interested in beekeeping, but I've yet to actually start a hive. Thanks for the insight.


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