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.