Sunday, July 17, 2011

What kind of dummy...

I decided to do a little problem solving with the bees today. I decided to do a little artwork so it would be easier to talk about which hive was which. I was getting too confused talking about left and right. It was really very arbitrary given that I often took pictures from different angles, so the left was often on the right. I couldn't call them the "good" one or the "bad" one, because constantly in a state of flux. So now, we have Luna and Dia: Luna for night, Dia for day.

Oil pastels. Perhaps not the best idea. I didn't have any paint. 

There will be a little more artwork later on. I was forced to retreat a little early. 

I also decided to add a new super to both hives. They had been getting really full and I wanted to give them a little more room. Crowded bees can lead to a couple of different problems. #1: Swarming. #2: Swarming. They had really been hanging out on the front of the hive quite a bit. Of course, the heat index has been over 100 degrees earlier in the week. However, the front of the hive had been getting increasingly populated and I saw a couple of weeks ago that both hives were pretty full.

Pretty durn full. 

I added a new super to give them some room to grow. Also, MAYBE they will bring in a little honey during the fall honey flow. I would love to taste the "fruits" of "my" labor this year (so not really MY labor, but whatever). 

You may be wondering, "Do you not have any honey now?" Technically, we do. The formerly top super is pretty full of honey. However, this honey is mostly made from the sugar water I had been feeding them and would not really be good for eating. Also, that is food for the bees. Hopefully that will get them through the winter. 

This was going to be a pretty easy job- just take off the other top, put on the super. So I suppose I got a little cocky. No smoke, no socks, no problem. Right? I felt one of those little girls get in my suit, and crawl up my leg, right up the leg of my shorts. I know that as a bee keeper, getting stung in part of the game. However, if possible, I would rather not be stung on the rear. I decide to abandon ship and get her out of there!

I did successfully avoid getting stung on the rear, but she got me on the calf. Lesson learned. Good beekeepers wear socks. 

Independence! From Mites?

We celebrated Independence Day with the Bee Man and the rest of the family here in Athens. This was my first family cookout at our "new" house. It is a little embarrassing that it has taken us this long to invite the family over, especially since they just live an hour away (except for mom and dad). But we had a great time.

As an added bonus of fun for the weekend, I got to spend some time with mom in the kitchen and dad in the bees. We decided to make a little something "sweet" in both places. In the kitchen, we made a lemon ice box pie. In the bee yard, we did a sugar test for mites. Yummmy......

So the sugar test is one way to see how bad your mite problems are in the hive. Do all hives have mites? Probably so to some extent. Mites are parasites that hang out in the hive and really sabotage the larva. They can make your bees weak and deformed. If you are interested in mites, there are many sites and books you can read. Here is a great link on the powdered sugar test.  The Bee Man talks a little about mites here.  So here is our try at the sugar test. 

Here is the bee man laying out something white to dump the mites out on after shaking the bees in a jar of powdered sugar. The idea is to coat a small representative of bees in powdered sugar, they will then fiercely try to clean themselves off, in the process getting the mites off of their little bodies. The mites are then left in the jar, then shaken out, and counted to see how many there are. The more mites, obviously the worse off you are. 

Bees are NOT that easy to get in a jar. We didn't quite get enough in the jar. 

Shakey- shakey!

Do you see anything? We didn't. 
Probably because we didn't do it right.

Returning these sweet bees to their home. 

Ghost bees. 

So you may have some questions- such as "Why didn't you do it right?" Good question. Sometimes dad and I don't quite read the directions. First, we didn't get enough bees. We didn't really think through the whole "getting them in the jar" thing. So we just got as many as we could. You need a hundred or a couple hundred typically. We may have had forty. Then we shook them and immediately dumped them out. We should have let them sit for a little while to give them time to clean themselves off, thus releasing the mites. So this was really just a "trial". The Bee Man will try this on one of his hives soon to get the method perfected. Then he will tell me how to do it, I will remember about half of what he tells me, and we will try it again here. 

Another question you may have is "Surely, it can't be good to coat them in sugar! Doesn't it kill them or bother them?" The answer is No and Yes. No, it does not kill them. Yes, it probably bothers them. Not that I have ever been coated in powdered sugar and forced to lick myself clean, but perhaps the human equivalent is walking through a spider web or stepping in dog doo. You won't die, but you either panic and flail about until you are free, or you are really ticked off and walk around half the day trying to get it out of the tread of your shoes. In short, they spend the day cleaning themselves off.

This is a good thing in reality because through the cleaning process, the mites fall off. You can also do a powdered sugar treatment on bees in the hive as well. You shake it all over the top, ensuring that many bees will have a bath that day, thus allowing them the opportunity to get the mites off of their bodies. 

Independence from mites? Probably not. I just hope that they stay under control. 

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Bees don't celebrate Father's Day, but I do!

So it has been a little while since I have updated. Let's just say that I waited on purpose to be able to show you real changes going on in the bee yard (or I went on a super awesome vacation!).


If you will remember, in early May, I added the first super to all the bees to get that honey flow rolling in. The hive on the right was rockin out: great brood pattern, I had actually seen the queen and she looked good, lots of brood= good things.  The hive on the left had some brood, but no young brood as far as I could tell. The pattern of the brood that was there was acceptable, but not the best. There were MANY less bees than the hive on the right. 

Mid-May, I left the queen cells in the left hive hoping they would make a new queen as I suspected the old one was gone. I also added a frame of brood from the hive on the right to the bottom box (I just switched out the frames, trying to leave all the bees in there original box). The hive on the right was filling up the super with honey, so I also switched a frame of honey to the left hive to even it out. 

Dad says the trick is to keep things strong, which is why it is best to have more than one hive. When you have more than one, you can take from the strong to strengthen the weak (I bet you would have never guessed my Dad is part Democrat ;). Political leanings aside, it's a smart idea.  He also thinks that for this same reason, it is good to have nucs at all times. I hope to be able to get at least one from what I have and try to winter it. That is a task for another day though. 

So after I did that, I went in to take a look. Low an behold, the left hive had made a queen. She was pretty new as far as I can tell, but I actually got to see her! Can you spot her?

But still, the right hive was much fuller than the left. I am at the front taking these pics so the left is on the right and vice versa. 

This is the right hive. Let's just say the left did not look like this really. 

Here are just some shots of some good brood, capped honey, and uncapped honey. Most of these are from the good hive.

So, let me tell you my concerns... I am sort of a perpetual cynic, so as soon as I saw one hive doing AWESOME, I thought that may come to an end. They were pretty full and I thought they may swarm. I was REALLY concerned when I looked out on day and saw this:

I am not sure if you can really see what is going on there, but you can tell there are a lot of bees at the entrance of the hive. They are also all wadded up in a ball hanging under the lip of the hive.  I was very concerned as I thought this was a sign that they may swarm. So I called the Bee Man to report what was going on. Turns out, this is called "Bearding". Yep, kind of like a beard of bees that you see on those crazy people who put bees on their face. They do this when it is hot. So, what I did to help give them a little ventilation was to raise up the super and put a stick between it and the hive body. That created just a tiny gap for some air to get through. I also laid the feeding jar down partially covering the hole at the top to give them more air. I have since removed the feeding jars (no reason to feed if the box is full of food for them) and have put the bricks with the holes over the feeding hole. This allows for ventilation and also keeps the rain out for the most part. 

So after my super awesome vacation, 

(This is a honey dispenser at Pike's Market in Seattle)

I came back with a few supplies. I thought maybe I would have to put another super on at least the one on the right. I decided not too, as the Bee Man pointed out, the honey flow is over, so they should not be filling anything up right now. I may keep that around till Fall in case we get some Fall honey here (you get honey flow when the bees are able to bring in food, or rather, things are blooming. When things aren't blooming, they have nothing really to bring in). 

I took a look at the girls today and what do you know... I think my cynicism was a self-fulfilling prophesy. I think the hive on the right swarmed and the one on the left got strong. Take a look:
Remember the right is on the left... I am going to have to paint these boxes. Right and left is getting confusing. 

Even a little bearding going on today. Trust me, today I would have bearded too if it would cool things off a bit. 

This is just some pretty capping. 

So this is a picture from the back of the hives, so the left is really on the left and the right is on the right. You can see NOW the left is pretty full and doing well. The right is doing just fine, but it is just not as full so I guess some of the girls high tailed it out of here. As the Bee Man says, we are just contributing to good feral stock (good for our mating queens). Both hives have some brood and it looks pretty good (not as much as a month ago though) and both have pretty full supers of honey. It seems as though everything is going ok.  I will check again in a couple of weeks to see how things are going and what they need for the heart of summer. 

In other bee news, my lovely friend Connie made me the most awesome pillow ever! Thank ConCon! You are the best!

And I found out that bees can in fact sting through gloves. If you grab one of those critters the right way, they can get you through the glove. 

In other news, today is Father's Day and I sure wouldn't be the Bee Man's Daughter if it weren't for the Bee Man. So I want to tell my Daddy Happy Father's Day! I miss you very much and hate that I am not home for father's day. But I made sure to go out and to share in the the thing that you have taught me to love. Thank you for teaching me everything I know and showing me how to live with passion. I love you!

Saturday, May 28, 2011

2 Story

On May 5th, I decided it was time to add a second story on the hives. The extra boxes are called "supers". Sometimes on hives, you will see several supers stacked up, sometimes very tall.  Mine are just shorties right now, but I have plans to possibly add another top box in a few weeks for a little possible fall honey gathering. Supers usually hold honey (or you want them to hold honey only). A whole super full of honey is what the bees eat over the winter. As I understand it, any other supers full of honey are yours to keep. I kind of think of it this way, the fruit fruits are your investment, giving it back to nature.

So here is how things looked on May 5th.  Here are the supers getting ready. These are small framed supers (the frame is shorter than the frames in the main hive body). This is mainly because I am a weenie and this one, when full, will weigh less.
My supplies here are my two supers, my regular supplies in my very first tool box from when I was a little girl, my smoker, some sugar water for feeding, and some sugar water in a sprayer. The sprayer is to spray the empty frames to make the new addition a little more attractive to the bees.

So, after getting them sprayed, we were ready to go! The install is easy (just put it on there!), but I wanted to check out how the girls were doing. I have two hives. I will just refer to them as left and right so you will be able to tell the difference. 

Left  was strong in the beginning, but it had weakened considerably over the month. Upon counsel from my mentor and all-knowing bee man, we think it probably swarmed early. So you saw that beauty of a queen from the hive on the right in the previous post. I had never seen the queen in this hive (the picture from the last post was a drone, or boy bee). On May 5th, I think there was still a queen though. Here is some evidence that the hive had had a queen in the previous ten days or so. I did not see any young larva and that worried me a little. You can see she had an ok pattern.

Here are some other pics from the left hive. 
This is honey being capped. 

I left these queen cells because I was worried about the queen being gone (there was no young larva).

I just love the bee chain. I asked about this last time and Dad and Steven from Steven's Bees confirmed this is part of the wax making process. Thanks for the help!

So that is the hive on the left. Let's see how the right was doing on May 5th. I want you to see the comparison. This is the left:

This is the right:

A little more full, eh? This queen was on the ball. Here is a little of what she had been doing. 

So I felt good about this queen. So the next step was to see what happened with the left, weaker hive and the queen cells I left in there. Stay turned for the next update!