Wednesday, June 15, 2011
This is our Seattle Urban Honey logo on a sign at the farmers' market last summer. Our bees are not yet producing honey that we can take this summer. This might delay the July 1 date that we had hoped would be the debut of this season's honey.
Our bees are hungry. The blackberry bushes are just about to bloom as are the locust trees but they must be waiting for a nice day before they open. The maple and chestnut are finished blooming. The weather is still pretty cool with clouds, wind and some rain so the bees are stuck at home a good bit of the time. We looked through all of the hives last weekend and found that they all needed feeding because they were in danger of starvation. The population is booming in all hives so lack of feed is not a good thing. We did not have honey supers on any hives except the one surviving hive from last summer(in a yard in Bellevue).
We decided that since that hive is so populous and because it really needs feed that we would take this time to make a three way split. (You can't feed bees when there is a danger that the syrup might get stored as honey for human consumption. That is one of the ways that beekeepers cheat.) The bees were filling 4 western sized (medium)boxes. A fifth honey super (honey storage box) was pretty much untouched by the bees. We bought 2 new queens from Corky Luster Of Ballard Honey. We went through the hive and found the old queen in the third box from the bottom. She is big and beautiful. We set her aside along with a box full of bees and brood. She was going to go back on the old hive site. The rest of the hive was split into two roughly equal boxes of brood and bees. There was NO HONEY to divide up. Each box of bees got a second almost empty box on top and a feeder full of 2 gallons of sugar water (1:1 this time of year). The two new hives got a new queen inserted in a little screened box with a hard candy plug. By the time the bees eat the candy plug, they should be used to the new queen's scent. The queen will get fed through the screen.
The owner of the property had been asking for more bees. He had 4 hives last year, 3 of which died so he is happy to see more hives. This split will limit the honey that we could have gotten from such a vigorous hive but at the same time we were worried about the lack of honey and starvation. We should get three good hives and maybe some honey.
Saturday, June 11, 2011
We caught a swarm on Thursday evening. The swarm was from our own bees at the Urban Horticulture Center. I did not think of getting my camera out until we had bumped the swarm into a 5 gallon bucket and poured the bees into a waiting hive. Here the bees on the inner cover of the hive are scent fanning, rears in the air and wings going like mad, to call the rest of the bees to the hive. The queen is inside the hive and the rest of the bees in the swarm are being informed of her whereabouts.
This picture was taken about 5 to 10 minutes after the first picture. Notice that almost all the bees are aiming toward the hole in the top of the inner cover.
It takes time to hive a swarm. We spent about 45 minutes to an hour waiting for the bees to march into their new home.
Almost all the bees are in the hive now. It is time to put the cover on the hive and to place the hive where we want it. The old queen will be in the hive with the swarm. The hive where the swarm originated will be raising a new queen. She will hatch within about 5 days. The new queen will then need a 70 degree day to get out to mate.
Bees in a bird house:
This cute little bird house belongs to friends of mine, J&B. It fell out of the tree where it was hanging and B went to pick it up and was quite surprised (understatement) when bees came pouring out. In general, we do not handle bees for people other than honey bee swarms but for close friends with bees in a bird house we do make exceptions. We were in a time crunch because we needed to be at a high school graduation so my husband with his bee suit on popped the whole bird house into an empty bee hive and left the hive sitting in J&B's yard so the rest of the bees could find their home that evening. My husband described the bees as fat and fuzzy. He knew they were not honey bees but did not have time or leisure for further identification.
After the graduation, we raced back to change clothes and retrieve our hive with unidentified bees. We plugged the entrance to the hive, strapped the hive together, took it home in the back of our pickup and left it there until morning. This morning, we located a place in a tree in our yard for the little bird house, suited up and placed the bird house in the tree.
The bees are a small bumble bee. I am glad that we saved them because we need native pollinators as well as the honey bees. I will try to get a picture of one of the bumble bees.
Saturday, June 4, 2011
The hive on the left is a combination of two weak hives. We piled the one hive on the other with newspaper between. It must have been too late because both hives died. There was plenty of honey. The top box must have weighed 30 pounds or more. The hive on the right is a new hive placed in April. It is doing very well on this first really nice day of the year. The spring has been cold, cold, cold and wet, wet, dreary wet. We are on a swarm list (Puget Sound Beekeepers' Association) and anticipating calls and maybe some excitement!
Yes, a happy hive! (on the right)
A close-up of bees being busy on a really nice early June morning.
Elegy for a dead hive. We had such great hopes for this year but we are down to one surviving hive out of 19 that went into the winter. We did order 18 new boxes of bees which, despite the cold spring, seem to be doing very well. We cleaned most of the equipment that contained the dead hives with the idea that the causative organism for the bee deaths might still be in the hives. We also cleaned out a whole lot of stored honey which at this point is just waste and will go down the drain. I know that we are throwing away potential resources but there is some evidence that bees housed in dead-outs have a high mortality.
Our experiment this summer is placing bees in all new hives and in hives that have been pressure washed and bleached. So far there is no noticeable difference.