Monday, November 16, 2009

The Citrus Queen

This post is about a hive that the President of our local beekeepers association rescued from a citrus tree in someones back yard and a delima that we were facing.
We had originally thought that one of our major hives was in trouble and was without a queen. When we went into them about a month ago for winter preparation we noticed a lot of queen cells pulled out on most of the frames.......further inspection revealed no queen. We went into a bit of panic because a hive cannot survive without their queen and this is NOT the time of year this sort of thing needs to happen. We weren't able to make a complete inspection of all the queen cells because of the weather. Some of the cells had been sealed over on the inside and some of them just hadn't been completed but we didn't look at all of them.....lesson learned. Apparently at least one of the cells we "didn't look at" was sealed with a queen growing inside, meanwhile we had called our local Pres. beekeeper and he told us we were in luck, he had a small hive we could have.
It was raining when we picked up the small hive and brought them home after dark. The next day it was still raining off and on so we went in between clouds and put a screen wire (recommendation of the pres.) over the top of the hive that was "queen less", then placed the new hive on top of the screen. Now, if you've read my bee blogs you will remember when I combined two hives into one over the summer, but on that combination I used paper, a method that I had read about. This method with the screen wire was a life saver! But, at the time we didn't realize just how much! The reason you put a barrier between the two is so they can get used to the scent of each other and the queens pheromones can travel through to the "queen less" colony, therefore acceptance will be more likely.
After about a week we went back to see if they were ready to combine........I caught the citrus queen in a queen catcher to protect her because we just weren't sure what the reaction from queen less hive would be. One reason is because the queen less hive is a double hive meaning that it was possible that the bees in the bottom box had not made contact with the upper box and would possibly kill the new queen. So I placed the citrus queen at the entrance of the bottom box to see if they would except her........they didn't! The guard bees jumped on the catcher and started attacking it. I immediately took her away and got the guard bees off and put her back in with her hive......we were totally at a loss as what to do. Lucky for us it was still early in the a.m. and it was a beautiful sunny 80 degree day, perfect for getting into a hive! We moved and securely covered the citrus tree hive then went into the "queen less" hive because things just weren't right with them.
One of the first things we noticed, there were no queen cells to be found on the frames that previously had quite a few.......we know what that means......there was a new queen running around in our "queen less"hive......and we found her!! We were soo delighted!
We have gotten so attached to the bees, they are such a huge part of our lives now. We worry too much about them sometimes and we become afraid for them when it seems harm may come to them....well, I feel like I'm talking about my sons as well! LOL I guess when we love something, anything.....we get attached and worry, worry, worry. The honeybees are in such trouble all over the world right now and if we don't worry and try our best to take care of them then they will no longer "bee"here....then we are next.This is the picture where the honeybees built their hive on the citrus tree. The white stuff is the comb that they store honey and brood in. It is truly beautiful. I am amazed at the different colors of comb that they produce. It depends on the age of the bee. I have seen a fairly new hatchling have wax coming from the minute slits on the sides of her abdomen, it's pure white and sometimes looks like crystals. New pure white wax grows darker over time and the more it's used by the bees. Some frames of wax that we have in the hives looks and smells like creamy butter, (sometimes I think it's my imagination) but really if you close your eyes it does smell like creamy graham crackers, it smells so good.
The rest of these pictures are of the citrus queen and her girls. Can you see her? Look at the end of the tweezers. Look at how dark she is, most of her girls are dark or black. They seem way more calm than the Italian bees. Most of them look like Italian honey bees. This could just be an older hive. Honey bees grow darker the older they get, but we have seen in some of our calmer hives, "newbees" that are dark in color. Not sure what type they are. It depends on what breed of drone the queen mated with.

In the upper picture she is lowering her abdomen into a cell to lay an egg.
Here she is again pulling out from the cell just after laying the egg in the upper picture. Can you pick her out? She looks disconnected, but she's looking into another cell to see if it's ready for an egg.
Feel free to leave a comment, question or complaint, I love feedback. It always helps to know what readers see or think.
Thank you for dropping by, please come back.
Until next time.........
Bee alert :0)

Monday, October 26, 2009

Where have all the HoneyBees gone?

My theory, they packed up and flew to Arizona!My husband and I took a much needed and way in advanced, planned trip to Sedona Arizona a few weeks back. It's such a beautiful, tranquil place. We saw some amazing sights and had a glorious time together.
We traveled from Phoenix to the Grand Canyon, and stayed the night along the way. The land changed it seemed every time we went around a curve or over a mountain. Some places were flat even in the highest part of the mountains, the scenery was spectacular everywhere!
The most fascinating thing to us was seeing honeybees.....everywhere we went! We asked everyone we met about them but no one even knew they were there! We wanted to find a beekeeper but still no luck.
When we got to the Grand Canyon, sitting in line we noticed honeybees all over the flowers outside of the ticket booths, I asked the Park Ranger about them and he said he didn't even know they were out there and knew nothing about them. I thought No wonder they moved here! They can live in peace! Another thing I noticed was the bees were the only pollinators with the exception of a butterfly now and again. It may have been the time of year, I'm not sure. Here we have lots of different pollinators, more now that they've cut back on spaying for mosquitoes. (didn't kill them anyway, just the good insects)
When we got home I did manage to find a "retired" beekeeper over the internet. He told me he stopped keeping bees years ago because a law was passed (because of FEAR) that no one could keep bees in the rural areas any more. Everyone had become "afraid" of the honeybees! He also said that the "African honey bees" had pretty much taken them over since then and the honey bees "as we know" is probably long gone, he said the honeybee is defiantly in trouble.
The media has really messed this country up! They are the puppets of major corporations and government! I am a skeptic from WAY back and have a hard time believing what the media and government throws our way. Honestly!! If someone were to stand back a distance when I get into our bees they would swear that I was being attacked by the vicious killer bees! PLEASE!! When in reality all they are doing is flying about trying to figure out what I'm doing and for me to hurry up and BEE on my way! Sure every once in a great while one of the guard bees gets upset and will warn me for a few days when I pass by, to stay away, but I don't blame her and I certainly don't think she's gone "killer" on me! For heavens sake! Scare tactics from these groups bring my blood to a boil! Maybe we do have some aggressive honey bees, I know our girls get pretty upset at us sometimes. But geez wouldn't you get pissed off (sorry) ;-) if someone barged in and disrupted your home that you've worked so hard on??? Some people just don't get it! We want and want but what's going to happen when we no longer can get or have??? Other than relying on the "government" and hey they can't do ANYTHING for themselves! Wake up People! Stop believing all their Bull!AUGGGGGG!
Okay, I'm still mad and upset and I won't get over it! But I will move on to brighter things!
Although, the get away was wonderful it was nice to get back home to those that missed us. I love my girls, they are the sweetest!

BEE Knowledgeable in what you "Believe"

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Fall cleanup and Honey in a straw

Remember in my last post I talked about combining two hives to make one?
Well, I didn't realize it would be so quick! I put them together the afternoon of Aug.19th and the morning of the 21st I was walking around the yard and I saw white powder???....or is that dust???? Did I powder sugar them when I was in there last???? Well if I did it surely wouldn't be on their front porch and all over the ground?? (It's funny how when you're telling what is running in your mind it seems like the thoughts take longer than they actually do) In this case nanoseconds LOL:O) Anyway it hits me...bam! You Nut! It's the paper from in between both boxes!
This top picture is the back of their hive (the back porch) Some of them enjoy hanging out back here.
This is the front of the hive
This is in the yard. Those girls were bizzy! that paper was all over the place! But they made a successful combination. I opened them up long enough to slide the frame they were on into the box with the rest of the bees, took off the extra box and put them back together. Everyone seemed happy and content.

We went to a Bee meeting last Saturday and had such a good time. It's something to see when a group of people that are interested in the same exact thing can have so many different ways of taking care of it. Some people stand back and don't really let their way of caring be known...and others (like me) just jump right in feet and mouth first! Then I want to kick myself all the way home! Not that I feel my way was or is wrong I just wish I could be one of the wonderful people in this world that could just sit back or stand back quietly and still be heard. Am I making sense?
I want you to check these two pictures on them to enlarge. This little bee came buzzing up just as I was trying out some honey....several people brought some of their honey to sample..and boy was it delicious! Even little "Miss Bee" thought so...she didn't want to leave that honey. If you look close you can see her wings still flapping. Someone had put a straw in the honey bowl for easier dipping of the honey.
Isn't she cute! She finally got her fill and flew off.
Til next time...

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Combining two hives to make one

A big dark cloud came up so I had to start my project inside....Our pee-wee hive (the last swarm we rescued) lost their queen a few weeks back and started another queen but when I went into them last Saturday she was gone as well....I really would like to know what's happening with our queens.....We decided with Fall coming on it will be wise to combine pee-wee with one of our strong that is what I did today along with investigating hive #1 (which by the way is doing well);O).*sigh* *of relief* I had a thought today while I was in hive # 1......I do a lot of talking and conversing with the girls;O)....It's part of my therapy;O) anyway, it accured to me that beekeeping is very very hard work! Not to mention that's it's HOT AND HUMID!!!! But on the bright side I do get free time with thousands of therapists....a trip to the spa....sauna and a exercise! all at the same time;O) I also came up with an idea for homeschoolers.....
If any of you out there are reading this maybe take me up on goes, it would be such a learning experience for those of you that don't live on a farm or maybe even perhaps you do, but if you could get in touch with someone that has something of an interest to you or your child(ren) if they would let you and the children come for a day and help out with whatever the interest may be. Example a day with the bees......a day with the milk cows.....a day with the goats/sheep/pigs/horses....the list could go on and on...maybe even an animal shelter....The reason I came to this is there are sooo many people that are just soooo unaware of what life is all about and where our food comes from...that's one reason why I feel we are losing America, our rights, our freedoms......Okay this post is about the bees so this subject will have to post on my "nature" blog...jump over sometime.... you can link over to it through "my profile" section....
First of all you need to place (the book calls for newspaper but I didn't have any so I used packing paper) a thin sheet of paper over the bottom of a hive body box. I had this brilliant idea that I would get a jump on this by using a box that we have extra, it's a brood box, it holds large frames. I thought that was the type I would need but it ended up being that I needed a honey super box. It holds small frames. Naturally I found this out after the big dark thunder cloud passed by and I went outside to get started......only to find I had to start all over! The thing is to place the paper over the bottom of the correct box and tape it. I didn't follow the book really at all because to me everyone has their own way of doing things suited on the project or occasion;O) But I did get the concept/idea.
Next poke holes into the paper...this allows air flow and the odors of each hive to pass through so they can get used to each other and hopefully acceptance will take place:O)
This is our pee-wee hive....notice there is little to no activity coming or going from the entrance...notice also the extra box....that's so we can feed them and keep out robbers at the same time.....(robbers are other insects that will kill a colony to get their honey or food) it can happen so easily to a small hive.
See how few of them there is??? In their defense though most of the girls are out foraging plants and flowers for nectar and pollen.
I only put one frame into the papered box because there's just not enough of them to bother with putting all of the frames in just to take them back out in a few days...
I took the top hive feeder off of the stronger hive that will be their new home and put it on top BEFORE I took them over because I didn't want a scene! A battle! They would have killed each other on the spot....or should I say the stronger hive would've rushed in to take pee-wee's honey and killed them in the process. You see honey bees can also fall into the category of robbers :O(
Here is their new home....see the little raised lip of wood on top??? We were squishing to many bees (one is way to many for me) when we put the top hive feeder on because it sets right on the top of the frames....look at where a good portion of the bees are!!! Well, not really......but you get the idea...That's a lot of bees to squash! So I asked my husband (he'll do anything to help out):;O) to make me a spacer, so he did...we now have one for every hive and it makes me so happy NOT to hear a crunch when I put them back together!
Almost finished... it's supposed to start raining tomorrow so I trimmed the paper away from the outside of the box so it wouldn't soak through
Every thing is calm and it's getting time for the foragers to make their way back home before dark.....these poor girls never take a break I don't believe.......I have gone outside before dawn and there is always a group on the porch cleaning...waiting for day break...time to take off in flight to gather pollen or nectar......from the time they start chewing their way out of their cell they are working.....the minute they crawl out of the cell they are fed by a "nurse" bee, then they turn around and go head first into their cell to clean it out spic and span! After that is done she becomes a "nurse" bee and takes care of and feeds the others that are hatching out....after a few days to weeks they start their solo flights....I love to watch these flights....they will hover off of the porch then up a little way trying out their new found skill...wings.....flight..,..during this time they are making note of what their hive looks like and where it's located. In the early morning and evening it looks like a super HoneyBee highway in our yard! It gives me such a refreshing and calming spirit.....Nature at it's best....;O)
Some foragers coming home to a hive that's moved:O( I took them over to where their new home will be so hopefully....I have read where most bees will except foraging bees into their hive "as long as they are bringing in food and not taking it away" sounds like a good deal....:O)
Until next time...

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Queens, Natural or Grafted

Queen Bees....Natural or Grafted.......This is a subject that I'm still not sure about. I first of all by every means believe that the best way is the Natural way. I love watching the process of the bees when they are making way for their new queen. They have this way of knowing if or when they will need one, but sometimes all of a sudden they sometimes find themselves queenless with no warning at all. This is our first summer with more than one hive and we have had a time with them keeping a queen. We have no idea why we've lost queens out of perfectly strong, healthy hives. Since this can happen over night (per se) it's important to go into the hives on a regular basis. In my last post I wrote about this particular hive where we went "up the country" to get a new queen.....that is a "grafted" queen. I know I should know about this grafting process by now but I don't. I've just been depending on the bees to take care of that for me:O) But I will be studying up on the subject and will let you know what I think about it. NOW...if there is anyone out there reading this and would like to give me some insight on this I would love your input. Please feel free to leave me a message/comment.PulllleeeaaaassseeeeeeeI went back into the hive Friday morning to see if the bees had eaten through the candy end to release the queen, but they hadn't so I helped out a bit....I took a nail and made a small hole into the candy and put the cage back into place, closed up and left them til Sunday afternoon. The whole time on my way out to the hive I'm saying to myself.... please let the queen be alive..... please let the queen be alive.....from what I've read it's very hard to get a hive to except a new queen.
I removed the box and no queen...still mumbling under my breath...please let the queen be alive...
Sooo I start with pulling every frame out and examining it carefully! First queen no eggs...which I was glad there were no eggs because at this point I would probably have freaked out thinking the nurse bee found her way back and started laying all over again.
Another note...if you have a layer worker (nurse) bee she will destroy the queen cells if the bees do try to hatch a new queen and if she had found her way back she would've killed the new queen!
I went through seven frames and saw nothing but bees....the eighth frame I found eggs! Oh.... My heart didn't know if it should drop or jump! I did feel a slight sinking until I pulled the ninth and last frame...
AND here she is!!!!! I have two white arrows pointing at her. I want you to notice her color.....because in the pictures at the end of this post, I have a new queen that another hive just hatched out "naturally" and I found the colors are so very different. The "grafted" queen is pretty much solid in her color on her abdomen.
Here she is again (white arrows) the blue arrows are pointing to drones, they are male bees and have really big eyes.....(they're so handsome):O)
Now this picture above and the ones below are of a new queen that just hatched from another hive we have. See her colors (she's at the bottom of the frame and arrows are pointing at her)
Here she is again, the tip of her tail is black and she has faint dark stripes. I think she's beautiful!! I also think the "grafted" one is beautiful too......I really do need to google and search the web for more information about this "grafting" thing. I've got lots of books on honey bees but none of them go into this subject...they advertise for you to "buy" one but I haven't been interested in "grafting" a queen so haven't bothered. my curiosity is up....
Gotta go surf the net.....:O)
Until next time.....

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Don't let go

I have been so slack on updating this blog. I've been really busy with this particular hive. Remember the last post about European foul brood? Well, from what I've read it's not uncommon for all hives to have a small amount of this going usually goes undetected and the bees take care of it. If it's a healthy strong hive that is. Which this is a strong hive but something happened to their queen and they've been on a steady decline. In the last post I mentioned they were possibly without a queen so I went back in to make sure and for sure there was no queen. My husband and I spent a whole morning taking the hive apart (this is a good thing to do every couple of months or'll see why) This is so neat how they link together holding on to each other. On the very bottom underneath the screened bottom board (we use these because of the heat and humidity in our region) there was a couple of spiders, this one is a black widow. On the other end was a different spider with 3 balls of eggs. I took them over to a wooded spot and let them go there.
On the very bottom of the platform that we had the hive setting on were these pest again! Wax moths....they hatched in the debris that fell down through the screened bottom board. We done away with this platform and just went back with cinder blocks. It's better ventilation anyway.
When you have a worker bee that has turned herself into an egg laying bee, she thinks she's the queen and so do the other bees. But this is their downfall. She can only lay male bees (drones) they have nothing to add to the hive . Their only purpose is to mate with the queen. I'm partial to mine and like to think that ours are also taste testers of the honey....I've seen them with their heads in the nectar cells eating and told my husband they tell the girls when it's time to cap the honey:O) Anyway with no queen laying worker bees (females) to keep the hive producing pollen and honey, the hive dies out, and this can happen very quickly!
So we took the hive apart....we took the hive across the yard (supposed to be at least 100 yards, but we didn't have that much yard without infringing on the other hives, so we went maybe 60-70yards) and brushed off all of the have to make sure every last bee is off of the frame. You don't want to take the risk of the layer bee to be left on there. In theory the layer bee is what they call a nurse bee...meaning that she has never taken flight. Her job until she reaches age is to take care of the brood. Honey bees go through several roles during their short time here on earth. I'll post about that another time, if I go there now I'm liable to never finish this story! Again in theory since she has never taken flight she will be left where she was brushed (I so hated to do that but we had to, to save the hive).
We went to a Honey bee Apiary that's a little over an hour west of here and bought a queen. We met the owner whose a forth generation of beekeepers and he spent quite a bit of time talking with us. The staff were also very sweet and showed us a letter they had just gotten from Egypt. They ship all over the world and are world renown for their queen bees. We didn't know that... funny how you can live close to something so popular and never even know it, huh? Wilbanks Apiaries
(The pictures got mixed the next one with the blue gloves is the one I wanted here) Oh well, this picture is when we put the queen down on the top of the frames...see how the bees crowded on the box?? Had she been exposed the bees would've killed her. Honeybees don't take kindly to intruder bees. We will keep her in this box in between two frames for the next few days and HOPEFULLY they will except her. They need to get used to her pheromones.

Here she is in between the frames.....but shes upside down! There is two end openings to the queen cage is corked and the other is filled with a soft sugar "candy" that the bees eat through to let her out. The "candy" end needs to be up because there is also "nurse" bees in the cage with her and if they die they'll block the hole and she will also die before she can get out.
This is our first experience with a bought queen, we've been through the queen replacements before (you can see in my previous posts) but they have been "natural" meaning they hatched her on their own. So I'll keep you posted on the progress of this BEE adventure:O)
Until then BEE connected:O)

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

European foulbrood

My morning started off (after cleaning the house) by getting into the bee hives. I haven't gotten into our big strong hives for a couple of weeks now. The last time was when we found that we had new queens that hatched so we wanted to leave them "bee" for awhile. :O) This morning hive #1 is doing just fine...went on to # 3 hive (#2 hive is in different location and still on the small side) Hive 3 I found spotty brood and all of it was drone brood! Even in the honey super......somethings not right! Further investigation revealed dead uncapped brood....looking dark and twisted....stuck even on the wall cell..I went on in further looking solely now for the queen. The whole hive was full of spotty drone brood....some dead...and dark. I couldn't find the queen....So this means that we either have a drone laying queen which is an (unfertile) queen or a worker turned into a laying bee. BOTH of which are NOT good! By the time I had gotten into them today it was already sweltering hot, I was drenched...even my blue jeans were I took mental notes :O) pictures and some samples of the dead brood and put the hive back together. Came in, took a quick bath, put supper on to cook, my son stopped in for a quick visit. Then I set out to find out what we have in the hive....After much comparing and reading I came up with European Foul brood. (Never did find out how they get it) What it boils down to is I need to go back in look really hard for the queen(if she's there) and get her out. I also need to get as many of the dead brood out as I can to "help the bees out" (it said so in the book Penny):O)
We may also need to medicate the hive. (something of which I am TOTALLY against) but sometimes you do what you have to do. In the top pic can you see the dark spots inside of two of the cells? There was actually three but the bees are in the way.
Here's the "spotty" drone brood. The drone cells stick up higher than the worker cells because the drones are a lot larger than the female worker bees. Have I mentioned that the drones are males? The worker cells are capped even with the top of the cells. I'll try to get some better pictures posted.
On a brighter note I'd like to show some colorful pics of some "other" pollinators that we have.
A bumble bee on some of my lemon basil...... Sorry about the blurriness :O)
One of our Honey bees on my licorice basil
and a Gulf Fritillary on my zinnia

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Small hive beetles

This is small hive beetle larvae.
They are just as destructive as the wax moth.
The thing with these two pests is it's very hard to distinguish between the two at first. I had to put a few in a small jar with some alcohol in it so I could bring them in and google. I just love this information age;o)
Anywho....getting back to the hive. This is a hive we rescued about a month ago. Actually there were two small swarms(different locations) they had lost their queens by the time we got to them. I ended up combining them and if you go back to my previous post it's all there, the new queen rearing, etc. They had one frame of comb in
which the new queen had started laying. Again as I said earlier you have to stay in your small hives, they are weak because there is not very many of them to fight off pests and do everything else they have to do too. It's tough being a little honeybee:o( These pictures to the left are adult hive beetles. they have hard shells and are very hard for the bees to remove. I even have a hard time killing them, they are extremely fast and are great hiders. They can shimmy down into a crevice before you have time to blink. My husband has NO patients when it comes to me inspecting and finding these creatures. I will hold a frame for
the longest with my paring knife and nail tracking these pests down. The bees appreciate it too..I can really they jump on that wounded beetle with all their might and carry it off! It's the neatest thing to watch. One of the reasons my husband doesn't take the time to do this is my hands are smaller and I can take our "southern" heat better than he can. So he tells me:O) I know that there are a few or at least ONE of you that reads my blog, that thinks I stay in them too much....SEE what happens when I stay away?I haven't been in the hives in over a week:o( The pee-wee hives need my attention..I am a BEE
keeper after all it is my responsibility to look after my girls and give them a helping hand:O) Today after finding this mess I took some brood and comb from a bigger stronger hive and gave it to the "pee-wee" hive. They seemed so much happier. And I felt better too.
I put together a new hive box for them with new frames and discarded this bottom board (bottom picture) The reason it looks wet is because it is ;o)
When the larvae eats into the honey comb honey leaks out and gets all over the bottom. When the bees try to clean it up some of them start trying to build comb which is the darker stuff on the
bottom. Can you see the larvae? Did you see
them in the top picture? Just checking.... ;O)
I'm a "newbee" beekeeper with a lot to still learn, that's another reason why I like to much info out there, but if you have a question for me just post a comment or e-mail me, it's in my profile link up top.
So until next time... BEE STRONG ;O) Julie