Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Bee Log 51; November 24, 2010

Review of the movie Colony

My husband and I saw the movie Colony at the tiny Northwest Film Forum on Madison and 12th on Capitol hill in Seattle. The theater we were in seated about 49 people in old style movie seats. The ambiance was old fashioned cute. Also attending the screening was a host of two of our bee hives. That was a pleasant surprise. They came with friends as did we so there was some lively bee talk among the 8 of us before the movie started.

Colony has three different themes. One was the disappearance of many hives of honey bees just before the California almond pollination in 2009 due to colony collapse disorder. Another was the disappearance of many bee keepers from the business of bee keeping. And the third was a documentary style focus on the Seppi family with two young bee keeper brothers in their early twentys. The Seppi brothers had a contract with a local almond grower to provide bee hives for $170 each. The price had dropped that almond growers were offering beekeepers and the almond grower was wanting to renegotiate his contract. The Seppi brothers' mother (queen bee of a large family) was pushing the young men to hold the farmer to his contract.

The cause of colony collapse had not come close to being solved as of the making of Colony. The cause of family collapse is all to obvious in the film. The Seppi brothers are delightful but have not moved away from the family nest or do they have plans to. Marriage is mentioned by their mother in sentences that usually started with "You will never..." and ending in some economic reality of the beginning bee keeper.

The Irish Film Board had something to do with the making of the movie but I am not sophisticated enough to know just what. The whole of the movie was about U.S.A beekeepers and mostly concerned the California almond pollination. The Irish music by the Clogs was enjoyable.

If you are an experienced beekeeper, you might enjoy the plight of the hive-bound Seppi brothers. If you aren't a beekeeper, you will learn of a situation that could affect your food prices and supply in the near future if there are not enough bees or more importantly beekeepers.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Bee Log 50: November 20, 2010

This broccoli did not get harvested before going to flower. The bees are all over it on a nice day in late October.

This is one type of bee feeder that we are using. It holds a gallon of syrup and sits on top of the inner cover. An empty box surrounds the feeder with the telescoping outer cover on top of that.

The weather has turned very cold. Freezing temperatures and even snow are in the forecast for Seattle. We don't see the bees very much these days. If the temperature is above 52 degrees F. they come out to forage. There are flowers, nectar and pollen all year long in Seattle if the weather is nice enough for the bees to fly. Right now, I have noticed heather and rosemary blooming. There are also the fall blooming camellias.

On December 1, a film about the current disappearance of honey bees will be shown at Kane Hall on the UW campus at 7:15. Come early for a tasting of local honey including Seattle Urban Honey. The title of the film is "Vanishing of the Bees". The cost is $15 at the door or $10 advance purchase. The organization putting this on is Essential Arts, Creative work for the common good.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Bee Log 49: October 14, 2010

Our hives are in 8 back yards around the north end of Seattle. This is one group. We plan to expand to another 3 backyards next spring.

Another group of hives.

My husband with a beautiful frame of capped honey. We were taking off the supers (top honey storage units on a hive) from this hive and getting the last of the honey for this year. The bees will still keep gathering honey on nice days but they get to keep it for their winter stores. Also, we wanted to get all of the supers off before the ivy started to bloom as the ivy honey doesn't taste or smell good.

The season is over. The supers have come off of the hives and the bees are being fed sugar water to make sure that they have enough stores for the winter. The last of the honey has been taken and extracted. This season has been a poor one due to the rainy, wet weather. We averaged about 25 pounds of honey per hive with some hives producing much more and others having no surplus honey at all.

I am already looking forward to next year's harvest. I have learned that I love the honey that is produced when the linden trees are in bloom. We have also discovered that we have a lot of linden trees in our vicinity. I know that I don't like ivy honey AT ALL. Ivy is blooming right now and the bees can have that honey for themselves for the winter. I am glad that ivy doesn't bloom when other important, tasty flowers are blooming. If you smell ivy flowers, that is just the way that ivy honey tastes! Yuck.

We loved being at the Phinney Farmers' market. We loved meeting people from the community and educating them about bees and honey. Thank you customers and supporters. I will go make sugar water so we can keep feeding the bees so they have lots of food for the winter.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Bee Log 48: September 23, 2010

The plastic construction is our dehumidification chamber. Also in the picture are our new honey extractor and boxes of jars for honey. I think we need to rethink the design(?) of our dehumidification space.

This is the first official day of autumn. This year it really feels like fall. It has been so cool and rainy in Seattle. Our bees continue to struggle to get enough nectar to store a surplus for us to take and sell. The last honey that we took seemed sort of runny so we bought a refractometer to check the water concentration. Honey might ferment if the water percentage is higher than 18.5%. Our honey had a water concentration of 19%.

What do we do with runny honey? We purchased a dehumidifier and some heavy plastic sheeting. We used the plastic sheeting and a desk to make a little room in which to put the dehumidifier and the honey in an uncovered bucket. It took less than 12 hours to dehumidify the honey to about 18%. The operation produced a bit of heat that built up in the plastic room. We did not feel comfortable running the dehumidifier when we were not home or when we were sleeping. I would guess that the temperature generated was in the high 90's so it was not overly dangerous. It was hot enough to cause us to be vigilant.

We are starting the process of preparing the hives for the fall. The supers (boxes where the bees store excess honey) come off the hives and most of the hives will get fed sugar water. We are very busy with our day jobs (teaching), the farmers' market and the bee chores.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Bee Log 47: September 13, 2010

Our honey in front of one of our bee hives.

Seattle has looked pretty gray all summer long.

It is a bad year for bees in Seattle. If you are a new beekeeper, I hope that you have not become discouraged. I can't imagine facing some of the problems that we have had this year as a beginner. The worst thing over the last month has been the cool weather. The bees just are not getting the flying time that they need. Also there are not many nectar sources this time of year. The bees are having a hard time getting enough to store and enough for me to take as honey.

We are hoping for another harvest to take us through the last 3 weeks of the Phinney Farmers' Market. We will see if we get it. I think the weather this week is supposed to be better than last week so at least we can get in the hives.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Bee Log 46: August 31, 2010

Wild Aster by Green Lake
Good bee food

Mimosa Tree
Attractive to bees

Japanese Knotweed
Very invasive, non-native species but the bees love it. The honey is very dark.

Drone larva on a white plate that were disected out of some brood comb that was culled from a hive. The black spots are varroa mites that were on the brood.

The last time that we went into the hives to collect honey (August 23), we did not find as much honey as we expected. Evidently, there was not a whole lot for the bees to eat after the linden trees stopped blooming and before the Japanese knot weed started to bloom.

We are selling honey at the Phinney Farmers' Market and the Bothell Farmers' Market along with selling to neighbors and friends. The honey supply is ok but not abundant. We hope for some nice weather on Thursday Sept. 2 when we will start to look in the hives again for some more honey to harvest.

School starts soon and my husband and I get back to our day jobs as teachers.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Bee Log 45: August 10, 2010

At last we have honey to sell at the Phinney Farmers' Market on Friday nights from 3 to 7pm. Look for us there.

My husband uncapping a frame of honey. Note the dark honey in the center of the frame. The bees were collecting from two different flowers.

The extractor with a frame of honey inside.

The garden is producing despite the cold summer that we have had in Seattle. Shown is an orange cauliflower.

Six year old Belle wants to be a beekeeper. Her parents brought her over to our house to look at the beehives. The bees were a bit scary but that did not deter her interest. I have to admit that I am a little afraid of the bees too. One should respect a stinging insect with a powerful venom inserted with a barbed needle connected to a pumping device.

All of our bee suits were all hopelessly too big for tiny Belle. It was raining so we had a really good excuse not to look inside a live hive. We did watch the bees at the entrance of the hive for awhile. We also looked at an empty hive with frames inside and at our honey extractor.

I hope that this interest in bees will grow into a lifelong hobby or business. One never knows with a 6 year old. One must be careful not to discourage good things because of youth.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Bee Log 44: July 6, 2010

Solar Wax Melter

My husband built a solar wax melter. It is a box painted black inside with a window. The window is in a frame that is attached to the box with hinges. The box is setting in a wheel barrow so that it is tilted toward the sun and can be turned as the day progresses. The box is large enough to hold queen excluders which the bees are always clogging with wax.

Wax Moth Larva

One of the banes of beekeepers is the wax moth. We are processing our wax just in time because the wax has some wax moth larva in it. Up until now we have not seen this pest. You can see two wax moth larva in the above picture.

Our Garden on July 6, 2010 Two Beehives in the Background

Finally the sun has come out in Seattle. The bees are flying with intensity. The blackberry honey flow is almost over. Clover is blooming and will be a major source of honey for the next few weeks as will lavender. We were not able to be at the Phinney Farmers' Market on July 2 because there was no honey to take from the bees. We might not make this weeks market either. The bees are storing honey in the supers (top of the hive where excess honey is stored) but there is not enough capped honey to make it worth our while to extract and bottle the honey to sell. We will check again on Wednesday and make a final decision for this weeks market.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Bee Log 43; July 1, 2010

In mid-June, we drove from Chicago to Los Angeles with our daughter who was moving from the mid-west. We stopped and bought honey from Mystic Maze Honey located in Needles, CA.

Honey was sold on the honor system out of this trailer.

This coyote was walking along just across the road from the honey sales trailer.

Our bees about June 10.

We do not have any honey to take from the bees yet. We will not be at the Phinney Farmers' Market on July 2. We hope to have honey to harvest for the July 9 market. Only two hives our of our 19 hives have some capped honey in the supers. When the bees are finished dehydrating the nectar that they have collected, they cap it with a thin coat of wax. This protects and preserves the honey. This is our signal that the honey is ready to harvest. The super is a box on top of the beehive meant for surplus honey storage. We only take honey from the super leaving any honey in the brood box for the bees.

This cold, wet weather we are having in Seattle is hard on the bees. We have had swarms but the new queens have not had warm enough weather to mate (70 degrees needed). We have purchased mated queens and placed them where needed.

The main nectar flows in western Washington are big leaf maple and blackberry. Maple is long gone and blackberry is blooming right now. Lavender will be next in our area of Seattle along with many garden herbs. Watch to see what the honey bees are visiting in your yard. Let me know what you see.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Bee Log 42: June 24, 2010

My husband is showing a guest our bees. This young lady and her grandmother spend the afternoon with us looking at the bees and eating hamburgers. She showed a great deal of courage after she got stung through her jeans by going right back to look at some more hives.

Seattle has had a wet cold spring with lots of rainy days. The bees are not collecting much honey yet. We are hoping to be ready for the Phinney Farmers' Market on July 2 but I don't think we are going to have honey by that date. Some of the bee hives look like they are really low on food which is strange this time of year. We have had a few nice days this week so maybe the bees will be able to gather some of the currently abundant blackberry nectar flow.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Bee Log 41: June 10, 2010

In early April, we moved a mature hive to a yard in Bellevue just before the cherry trees were in bloom. That hive got really mean and aggressive and had to be requeened about a month ago. Aggression in bees is a matter of genetics and the queen is the mother of all of the bees in a hive. Aggressive bees are dangerous to have around. Yesterday we got into that formerly mean hive and found a brood box (lower part of the hive), full of eggs and larva. A bee lives for about 6 weeks in the summer so there were still some aggressive guard bees in the hive but nothing like the buzzing attacks we experienced in mid May. Then, the guard bees would follow us away from the hive. We had to walk into the deep shade and wait for them to leave us alone before we could take our bee suits off. On this visit, no bees followed us as we left the hive.

We also saw honey in that hive!!!! The bees have one super (upper part of the hive where the surplus honey is stored) almost full of honey and capped. Capping is the final step in honey production for the bee. It is a thin coat of wax over the ripe honey.

I am so glad to see honey. We have worked through some problems this spring that we have never had before. I started to wonder if the bees would store a surplus that we could take. This spring, we have seen drone laying workers, drone laying queens, queens missing in action and queens with mean genetics along with swarms that left behind hives with new queens that couldn't mate because it was too cold and rainy.

We are thrilled and thankful that the requeening of the mean hive went so well. The two hives in our own yard that we requeened in April seem to be building up a good population but aren't storing surplus honey yet. We requeened 5 more hives almost a week ago and the new queens should be out of their cages now and starting to lay eggs. There is a candy plug in the queen cage that the workers eat through to let the new queen out. The bees need to be introduced to new royalty slowly or they will kill the new monarch.

I will try to get some more pictures so you can see the things that I am describing.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Bee Log 40: June 7, 2010

This is the year of the queen installation. We bought 5 queens at Beez Neez on Saturday and installed them all. I think the problem is that the weather has been too cold for the queens to get out and mate. It needs to be 70 degrees at least. We have not had many days that warm this spring. In some hives, the bees are even having trouble bringing in enough feed for their young. We have had one swarm in the last month that I know about. I suspect another. We split one hive that had a brood box of 3 deeps and was only producing drones. The swarm that I collected was without a fertile queen. If the new queen developing in hive from which the swarm issued does not get out to mate within a certain time period, the hive will not have eggs or larva.

This is not a good bee year. March was so warm that the bees swarmed. We put supers on our hives in March. April and May have been cold and rainy. With supers on the hives, we have not been able to feed the bees. The bees that we started this year in yards around Seattle are doing well because we have been feeding them.

We are getting concerned that we will not have honey for the market on July 2. This is the date that we are supposed to start selling. We will see. The blackberry flow is just starting in Seattle and that could yield significant honey if the weather cooperates. The black locust trees are blooming now and the lavender is starting to bloom.

I am starting to sound like my farmer grandfather!!! He made a living on 120 rock strewn acres in northeastern Iowa. He raised hogs, corn, soy beans, oats, hay and dairy cattle. There were always worries about the weather, the prices or bacteria counts in the milk. Pay days were few and far between. He couldn't count on pay days even happening.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Bee Log 39; May 19, 2010

Swarm Capture Bucket

Beehive with Swarm

I captured a swarm today. No, this video is NOT me. It was my inspiration and what I wish I had looked like. Thank you Jeff McMullan for your excellent footage of a very experienced beekeeper.

I had seen this video on Youtube and had a similar situation developing at my house. The bees landed in a pear tree on the alley about 4 houses down the block. I was home alone so it was up to me or wait. Bad weather was forecast so I chose to act. I taped a 5 gallon paint bucket to the bottom of a 12 foot pruning pole with duct tape (see photo). I prepared a box to receive the bees complete with bottom and top. I practiced getting near the swarm but not hitting them. I practiced dumping the bees in the box from the ladder. I prayed and then I bumped the bucket as hard as I could up under the swarm. I did not anticipate the weight of the swarm. I must have had 5 pounds of bees. It took me a few seconds to readjust to the weight and get the bees safely out of the tree. I dumped the bees in the waiting hive and put the lid on askew and sat down to wait (see photo). There were still a significant number of bees in the tree. I was worried that I did not get the queen. I waited. The bees started fanning at all open points on the hive. Bees started filling the air. I could not tell if the bees were headed out or in the hive. I waited. The bees were going in!

About this time I talked to a neighbor, Tony, who was taking out his garbage. I explained what was happening as there were still a lot of bees in the air. It is a bit alarming to see a swarm.

I waited for about an hour until most of the bees were in the hive. Then, I put a strap around the hive and pulled it home on a dolly. I hope they like their new home!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Bee Log 38: May 13, 2010

This video was taken by Theo while we are going through the hive we placed in his yard.

Bee Log 37: May 13, 2010

I deposed a queen today. We had one bad tempered hive placed with Mike as host. This is the hive of bees that stung me on the nose and cheek two weeks ago. I was worried about their aggressiveness after that event. The bees had followed me well away from the hive area and got the second sting in. Well, they did the same thing to Mike two days ago. He was mowing well away from the hive area and we walked toward him after we finished our examination of the hive. We must have brought the guard bees with us intent on stinging because two of them got him. We still had our bee veils on.

Today when we left the hive area we walked away from the house and homeowner and waited until the guard bees stopped flying around us before we walked back to the house (it is a big yard). They were following us and it took a few minutes of patience to get them to forget about us.

This kind of nasty temperament is not what we want when we place bees in someones yard. Genetics determines temperament so we decided to requeen. We are thankful to have found her majesty on the fifth frame that we examined. So it was off with her head and tomorrow we will place a new queen on the throne. It will take a few weeks for the new queens genetics to take over but if the hive accepts her, this should help.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Bee Log 36: May 11, 2010

Busy time of year. Beautiful time of year.

Our 12 new hives are mostly doing really well. We have two problems in the group. One hive ended up without a queen. They swarmed out of the hive and then went back in alarming Russ, the homeowner. Then there was a big bee battle with the other hive on the property. I still don't know what was going on there. Maybe one group tried to rob the other group. Russ reported that both the hives at one point were just covered with bees. I wish I could have seen it. There were dead and dying bees littering the ground. I purchased a new queen and she is dangling in the hive in a little cage while the hive gets used to her pheromones. There is a candy plug in her cage that the bees will eat through releasing her in about 2 days.

The second problem hive has all drone brood. See the picture for what it looks like. I think we have an unfertile queen because the eggs are laid in the bottom of the cells and are laid one to a cell. A laying worker, which would also produce only drone brood, lays eggs that are on the side of the cells and usually puts more than one egg in each cell. We hunted and hunted for the queen but couldn't spot her even though there are not a lot of bees. We put a frame of brood from another hive in the hive in hopes that the bees will raise their own queen. If this fails, I think this hive will not make it.

I had another bee sting last Saturday. A bee crawled up my pant leg and I was stung at the top of my leg. This sting swelled up much more than the last one. In fact the redness and swelling covers most of the inside of my thigh. I spent one day on benadryl which I should have started sooner. Ice helps. I have an appointment with an allergist because I can't go through this with every sting. In the meantime, I have learned to tuck my pants into my socks.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Bee Log 35: May 5, 2010

It is time to write about gardening. The last few years have been frustrating for me as a gardener. First of all, each year I have not known whether I would be around for the harvest. My husband is a frustrated farmer planted in the city. We have been shopping for a farm for about 10 years and each time we have almost purchased a farm, something has gone wrong. One farm was in probate. In Washington that means that, until the judge's gavel drops, someone can come along with a higher bid and scoop the property away. We lost out just before the judge's gavel dropped to a bid too high for us to top. Last summer, our house was on the market, we had an offer on a farm contingent on selling our house, our house sold and then it unsold. Another summer, we had the highest bid on a farm near Duvall that had multiple offers only to have the owner decide that he wanted to sell to his nephew to keep the property in the family (his prerogative). One farm did not have a well. They collected surface water for their needs. There is no way to get the loan we needed (that we could find) without an approved water system. The owner tried twice to dig a well and came up with too low a flow to count as a well. One farm suffered a record flood event just as we were about to make an offer. Every square inch of the farmland was underwater. The first floor of the house was above the flood by about 6 inches. We felt unprepared for such a disaster. There were more near misses.

The second problem with gardening has been my recent inability to get seeds to grow. I have never figured out exactly what is happening. I don't know if I have some sort of sprout killing fungus in the garden or bad cut worms or rampant slugs. We have had chickens all along that do a pretty good job on the slugs. Not even zinnias and nasturtiums have grown in the last two years. I have tried seeds each year and finally in desperation, gone out and purchased starts for the garden. Paper collars around the seeds have allowed some lettuce to grow so the chief suspect is cut worms.

The third problem I have been having is lowered futility of the soil. Last year, in an effort to remedy this problem, I brought home two pick-up truck loads of horse manure-uncomposted. I understand now that this was not a good thing. Something about the bacteria that break down the manure taking the available nitrogen for themselves and leaving none for the garden. I am currently reading a soils textbook as a result of my errors. I am learning about things that I should have known like limiting reagents or in this case limited futility due to not enough of some key soil ingredients.

Our first gardening task this year was to purchase 6 cubic yards of booster blend compost from Cedar Grove Compost. This is the cities chopped up yard waste composted with dairy manure. The dump truck that delivered the manure deposited it right where I wanted it in the driveway between my house and the neighbors. I did not anticipate the smell. Sorry neighbors. (I gave them some of the offensive substance as a compensation!) Well, you can't have good anaerobic bacteria without smell. I should have known! We have put the compost all over the yard and are seeing amazing results in greener grass and bigger weeds. Most of the compost went on the garden. We are busy mixing it in with the soil. We wanted to build raised beds out of concrete blocks but that was too expensive for this year so we shaped raised beds as best we could without side supports.

I have not planted seeds yet. That is next. I will buy tomato and pepper plants as I did not start any early myself.

For the present, we have decided to be urban farmers. We have a large lot and deep, almost rock free top soil. The bees and chickens are legal in Seattle in limited numbers. (Small goats are legal too but I have had experience with billy goats and have no desire to get a goat.) We have nice raspberries and grapes that are well established. We have a great walkable neighborhood and great neighbors. Our church, family connections and friends are all centered in Seattle.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Bee Log 34: April 26, 2010

The two queens that I installed in the hives resulting from a queen-less situation are now either free and functioning or dead. The hive shown in the picture above is the one that was swarming every day out and then back in for more than a week. The swarm finally went out and stayed out. A few days later, I was able to purchase two queens and put them in the resulting two hives on April 17. Today, I went into those two hives and removed the empty queen cages. I looked briefly for eggs on one frame but did not see any. I did not want to upset the bees any more as it was a bit cool and overcast so I left them be. I really think that they are ok because of the behavior of the hives. It is calmer, more purposeful and seemingly less frantic. I should check for eggs in about a week if we get a nice warm day.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Bee Log 33: April 23, 2010

I had my first sting yesterday in three years of beekeeping. Two stings actually. One was on the end of my nose (like I needed to highlight my nose) and the other was on my cheek. (The first sting was through my bee veil and the second was later when I went near the hive without my bee suit on.) My husband and I were going through the hive without using the smoker. I have peaked in a hive before without using a smoker but not gotten into the brood box. The bees were really ticked.

The question: Is this hive aggressive and in need of re-queening or was I stupid to do as much as I did without a smoker? I will need to observe that hive closely.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Bee Log 32: April 22, 2010

This is a video taken by Theo of my husband and me hiving bees in the pouring rain.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Bee Log 31: April 21, 2010

The above pictures taken by Sharon show my husband and me installing a package of bees in Sharon's back yard. Sharon is one of seven home owners who have graciously volunteered their back yards to host our bees. We will supply the host homes with honey in exchange for a spot in their back yards and they and their neighbors will benefit from the pollination provided by the bees. We will be selling honey from these hives at the Phinney Farmers' Market starting in July.

We ordered 12 packages of bees that came on April 17. We had the hives all assembled, painted and set up ahead of that date so that we could concentrate on installing the bees when they arrived. The weather was iffy all day long when we were installing the packages but it did not actually rain until we got to the second to the last home which was Theo's house. It just poured buckets while we were installing that package. That was the fastest installation of the day! Theo has promised me a video of the event. It will definitely be featured in this blog when received! We finished up the installations at Joe's house putting on wet bee suits and having Joe put on the wet bee suit that Theo had worn.

To install a package of bees, first the can of sugar water is removed from the opening in the bee box. Then the queen cage is removed from the midst of the bees. This is a small matchbox sized, screened box with the queen inside and lots of bees hanging on the outside. The three pounds of worker bees are unceremoniously dumped on top of the frames of the hive. The queen cage is opened and the entrance blocked with a marshmallow. The cage is suspended in the hive between two frames. The marshmallow keeps the queen from flying away during installation and gives the bees a few hours to settle down before her majesty walks among them. The bees eat the marshmallow and the queen comes out of the cage.

I returned to each house two days later to remove the queen cage and check on the bees. Each hive looked normal including the hives that were exposed to the rain. Some and likely all of the hives had already started building comb. I did not inspect the frames but some of the queen cages had beeswax on them. I will return in a week and check sugar water supplies, add a brood box and check the frames.

In our own back yard, the saga of the new queens continues. Yesterday was not an ideal day to work the bees as it was chilly and overcast but I did get in the two hives with the new $25 queens and take the cork barrier out of the queen's cage. The introduction period for a new queen is supposed to take 72 hours. A candy plug at entrance of the queen cage is supposed to take about 3 days for the bees to eat through. There is an additional cork barrier at the entrance. I left the cork in for 3 days so the queens could not get out before the workers were used to her scent. (With the bee packages, the queens have been traveling with the workers so the introduction period is over by the time the bees arrive in Washington state.) The separate purchased queens need this 3 day phase in or the bees will kill her. The health of these two hives is still pretty precarious. One of the hives was showing a lot more interest in the new queen than the other hive.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Bee Log 30: April 20, 2010

The queen-less hive that has been swarming out and then in each day for the last week or so finally swarmed out and stayed out. I was grateful that the swarm landed in our yard on nice low raspberry bushes. I clipped a few canes so that I could get the majority of the swarm on top of a new hive body. The bees started to melt down in between the frames. As bees moved into the hive from the top, a troop set up a fanning action on the front of the hive. They are the bees on the front of the hive with their back ends in the air waving their wings like crazy. The function of this is to disperse a pheromone telling the other bees that they want to set up house-keeping here. Notice all the bees on the ground aiming in the direction of the hive. They are being called into the hive and have started marching in that direction. Eventually most of the bees made it into the hive and we put a lid on the box.

After night-fall, we wanted to put the hive in a more convenient location. There was still a beard of bees hanging off the front deck of the hive. My husband got a bit impatient and was grabbing handfuls of those bees and trying to stuff them through their front door. Needless to say, this was not popular in beeville. Good thing we had on our bee suits. We left them for the night and moved the hive the next morning while it was still too cool for the bees to fly.

The big question is the queen. I had put the queen cell pictured in the last post in the queen-less, swarming hive to try to get the bees to hang on until we were able to requeen that hive. I don't know if that cell opened on its own or was torn apart and destroyed. The left over queen cup had the appearance of the latter. So, the possibilities for both hives are no queen or an unmated queen.

I purchased two mated queens from Beez Neez (Snohomish, WA) last Friday, April 16. The queens and attendants were in boxes about the size of a box that comes with a nice pen set. The end of the box was blocked with a bit of hard candy. The candy blocked the entrance and would provide about 3 days of food and then freedom. I did not have time to answer the queen question so I suspended the two new queens in the two hives existing after the swarm. Today (Tuesday, April 20), I need to get in those hives and see what I can see.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Bee Log 29: April 14, 2010

Two of the above pictures are of a beautiful capped queen cell taken from one of our hives. One picture includes a pair of pliers for scale. The third picture is 12 hives assembled and ready for the bees that arrive on Saturday. The hives will be placed in 7 backyards around north Seattle.

We finally got a nice enough day that we could go through our hives and see what was going on. The hive that has been swarming out and then back in (!) each day has no queen. There are a few capped drone brood but other than that there are no eggs or brood. A drone emerges from his cell in 24 days after the egg is laid so this hive has likely been queenless for about 3 weeks. A queen is coming on Friday so hang on bees!

Another hive is normal, crowded and storing honey in the two supers on top of the hive. The third hive has lots of brood but no eggs. That is the hive that we got the queen cell from. We cut it out because it is still too cold for a new queen to get out to mate. We think that the lack of eggs means that the hive is preparing to swarm. If they can wait until Friday, we will split the hive and put a new queen in the hive without the queen. This is the hive with three deep boxes and lots of bees so we are hoping the the queen won't be hiding! Splitting means that we put half the frames with attached bees in one hive and half in another box. The trick is knowing which box has the current queen.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Bee Log 28: April 12, 2010

The above picture shows bees glued to rhododendron buds (taken 4/9/2010)

I knew that bees did not like the rhododendrons in our area but I did not know that bees can become trapped by the sticky stuff that covers rhododendron buds. These bees are dead after becoming glued to a flower. This large rhododendron is right near my hives. My husband is threatening to remove it after he saw the dead bees. I am inclined to agree with him.

Two new queens have been ordered from Beez Neez in Snohomish, Washington. The two her majesties will arrive on Friday, April 16. I will attempt queen introduction on that date.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Bee Log 27: April 9, 2010

Me and the Bees taken April 8, 2010
I just looked in the box with the new swarm. They are gone. I know that they did not get far because it has been colder than 50 degrees since we put them in that box. I think some of them must have gone back to the original hive. I will look for a queen in the midst of the 50 to 60 bees that are left in the new box. I am not sure that you ever really get good at bees. They keep doing new stuff that is hard to figure out. It is too cold to go through the hive to check for queen cells or eggs.

Meanwhile, today we got up at 4:30 am and headed to Gladstone, Oregon to Ruhl Beekeeping Supplies to get the rest of the absolutely necessary equipment to set up our 12 hives that are going in backyards around north Seattle. They had everything that we needed. I feel so much better now that I know that our new bees will have complete homes.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Bee Log 26: April 8 2010

So the same hive decided to swarm AGAIN (third time this spring). The weather was about 50 degrees and again there were hailstorms moving through the area. We will have to do some serious thinking about what to do with this group of bees. This swarm ended up in the same box as the last swarm which, as I had thought, left or died. We got a larger number of bees this time so there is more hope that we actually ended up with the queen in the box.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Bee Log 25: April 7, 2010

The picture is our pathetic new hive captured from the swarm of two days ago. We got so few bees into the new hive that it will be a wonder if they survive this rainy cold spell we are having. The entrance of the hive is blocked by a board and by a front entrance feeder with 1:1 sugar water. I left about a 1/2 inch opening for the bees to get in and out. That way they don't have much entry space to defend. I may combine it back with the hive of origin if we get some decent weather in the next few days. This swarm leaves the hive of origin without a fertile queen in weather too cold for mating. Back to the queen bee problems!

We are busy installing cement blocks as foundation for beehives for our anticipated bees. We plan hives in 7 locations in addition to our own back yard. We still lack some of the hive parts that we need before the bees arrive on April 17. Trees n Bees, the bee supply that we use most of the time, has our order and is still promising delivery ahead of the bees. Trees n Bees is also supplying the bees so they know our time frame!

We want to set up the empty hives before the bees arrive so that we are sure that everything is ready. We are at least able to get the cement blocks in peoples yards. It gives us one more time to discuss the location of the hives with the owners before the bees get here.

The people that have volunteered for hives in their yards have been really great to work with. All of them are avid gardeners who are excited to have bees in their yards.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Bee Log 24: April 5: 2010

The weather is about 55 degrees F and the wind is blowing. There are thundershowers moving through the area. The bees decided to swarm. You can see in the pictures above that the bees came out of the hive and clustered on the front of the hive. I think the queen ended up under the bottom board with a lot of the swarm. We took the hive apart and banged the bottom board on top of an empty hive knocking the cluster of bees onto the frames. It was a really small swarm by the time we got the bees into the new hive. I blocked most of the entrance of the new hive with a board leaving only about 1/2 inch open for an exit. I also put a feeder with sugar water on the hive. What were those bees thinking?

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Bee Log 23: March 31, 2010

I decided to combine one set of split hives and leave the other set alone. The pictures above show the new very large hive with the unoccupied pieces lying around. I will wait for the bees to go in tonight before I put those pieces away. The piece of newspaper between the combined hive bodies is for peace. It gives the bees a little time before they are combined as one unit again. The queen is in the topmost large box (deep box). The workers will chew up the newspaper into little tiny pieces and drop it onto the bottom of the hive. We combined hives one other time and the bees sounded like they were snipping with a thousand tiny scissors. This hive may have three deep boxes all summer or we may try to do a split again when we can get a queen.

Today turned out sunnier and warmer than expected. The other set of split hives were from the day of the swarm one week ago. That was the swarm that went back into the hive. I understand that the swarms tend to happen about 5 days before the new queen hatches. We left plenty of queens developing in their peanut shaped cells when we did the split so I imagine that the new queen has now hatched. If the queen can mate at temperatures in the mid to high 50's then we might have a viable hive. What we need to do in about a week is go through those hives and check for eggs. In that way we will know which hives have a queen. We never did see that old queen when we were doing the split. Both hives seem normal from the outside. With the two hives that I combined, I knew which hive had the queen (saw her) and the other hive was acting frantic flying all over the place in front of the hive.

Bee Log 22: March 31, 2010

I think I have called all of the queen breeders in California that advertise in the American Bee Journal. None of them have queens that they will ship me. One firm would ship 20 queens. Not much help when you need 2 queens. I may combine the hives so that the bees have their old queen back and 4 deep hive bodies each. I may just wait and hope that the queen cells hatch in nice enough weather that the new queens can mate. I may call queen breeders in Texas, Georgia and Florida.

Meanwhile, an extremely sad event at the firm that supplies most of our bee-ware. The husband of the couple that owns the business died suddenly of a heart attack early last week. It is a tremendous tragedy and will be deeply felt by his wife who is also his business partner. The family is still planning on delivering the bee packages that have been ordered. I am hoping that I can get the parts of the bee hives that I need before those bees come.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Bee Log 21: March 30, 2010

Well the weather in Seattle has turned lousy. I really must order two queens. We have done two splits anticipating a maple honey flow so there are two hives without queens(they do have queen cells developing). The bees might not get out for the maple this year. The queen cell developing in the split hives will not get out to mate. Oh, the life of an urban farmer! I think that to farm you have to manage the stress caused by things beyond your control. You also have to guess a lot. I guess I will call an apiary in northern California and mail order queens.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Bee Log #20: March 29, 2010

We are now veterans of a bee hive move. One of the people wanting hives in their yard was very concerned about pollination of some lovely old fruit trees that have suffered from lack of pollination in the last few years. We decided to move one of the hives from our back yard into his yard. We waited until dark, taped a piece of wood over the opening, put a truckers strap around the hive and started moving the hive with a hand truck. Since we had just gone through the hive that day, the hive bodies kept shifting relative to each other (bees glue everything together and we had broken the seal). I was really worried about bees pouring out of the cracks! The bees didn't come out and we quickly re-shifted the boxes and tightened the strap.

We got the bees into the bed of our pick-up and fastened the hive into the corner. On arriving at the host home we unloaded the hive, set it in the driveway and then put in a base of cement blocks for the hive. Next time we will put in the base before the bees are delivered as were digging in the dark. It looked like we were burying things by the light of the moon.

The bees were hand trucked up a wet slope and placed on the base. When we took the wood block from the entrance, a lot of bees came crawling out. It scared the homeowners and I have to say got me a little concerned too. We left the area quickly. Anyway, the hive is in place and if we get some decent weather, the bees should be very happy and, hopefully, make lots of honey.

This beekeeping is one adventure after another. And, we keep meeting the greatest people!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Bee Log #19: March 26, 2010

Swarm. Swarm. In March!!!

A swarm is a bee hive's way of making new bee hives. The old queen leaves the hive with about half of the bees. The group forms into a ball of bees on a tree or bush or something and scouts look for a place to move into. If a beekeeper can catch this bunch of bees, they can be moved into a bee hive and will probably set up housekeeping.

I looked into the back yard at about noon on the 24th of March which was a beautiful sunny day with a temperature of about 70 degrees F and saw a cloud of bees. I went out into the bee-storm to try to see where they were headed. They circled around. Some landed here and some there. I was praying for a nice low branch so we could catch this swarm. The bees unaccountably decided to go back in the hive. We had that experience last year when a swarm of bees went back into their hive. It is like a practice swarm. A rehearsal for the real thing that will take place shortly.

We got into the hive and found it bursting with bees (see photos). Burgeoning with bees. We decided to split the hive putting frames with queen cells in each hive. We looked and looked for the queen but could not find her. One of the two hives created has a queen and one does not. Both have frames of brood and lots of worker bees and stores of food. Both have room to expand.

A split like this is a messy operation. It really messes up the bees and now one hive has no queen. There are the queen cells that are developing and a new queen will hatch. But,when a newly hatched queen is ready to mate, there needs to be a day when the weather is about 70 degrees and not too windy so she can get to the place where the drones hang out (drone congregation area). I think we need to consider buying a queen and requeening the queenless hive. Otherwise, we may be stuck with a hive that is not queenright.

The weather has gone back to rainy and chilly. I had better order that queen. Imagine ordering a queen!