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?