Monday, April 26, 2010

You Can't Stop Nature!

Last year I was ridiculed by many, for being in our bee hives so much. We had several hives and about seven to ten days I would be into them, rotating days, therefore it seemed that I was into them everyday, to some. Well, this year I gave into the ridicule and look what has happened! We have had hives swarm on us at least three times that we know of. SO, to those that think I'm into the bees too much.....
Our bees did exceptionally well with my intrusions, they overwintered wonderfully and we did not lose any. I caught a lot of pests that would have other wise taken over a few hives last year and this year they are busting at the seams with vigor!
We have one hive we call the mega hive.....they had a mega swarm yesterday! Up in our little oak tree. It has been thirteen days since we were in them last and we were a day or two to late! This hive had so many queen cells it was unbelievable. They started hatching out of their cells as we were looking at them. The tree hive that we rescued from my moms hollow tree had lost their queen so I took a frame with two queen cells to their hive and as I was putting it into the hive a queen hatched out and went on into the hive like she had been there all along! It was awesome to watch! I went back later to see if they excepted her and they did! Acceptance must be better at hatching because they don't have the smell of the other bees? Not sure on that one but it happened!
Queens, by the book don't hatch out until the sixteenth day, but as I've said over and over we don't have textbook bees! There has been a few things we can totally rely on the books for but mostly it's hands on experience and knowing what our own bees do. I urge you if you have honeybees to get to know them and their behavior. They in turn will get to know you and yours, you'll bee glad you did. :o) I know I am. I am speaking of course to those that are doing this for enjoyment, weekend beekeeping, backyard beekeeping, hobby beekeeping, etc. Those that do this for a business, well, that's another story. Although if you are any of the mentioned above it can turn into a business very quickly!
Our "mega" swarm, These girls weighed at least six pounds easy!
My hubby to the rescue!
Is that a monkey in our tree?
He handed me the branch
They all went in, well the most important part anyway, the queen, the rest followed.
A lot of people ask if they are so calm why do we suit up, well, I have long hair, when the bees are flying they don't distinguish things that they can get caught in, such as spider webs, hair, etc. and like us when they get tangled (have you ever ran into a spiders web)? they panic and when we get something tangled in our hair we panic...get the picture? I admire the beekeepers that go into their hives ungloved and unsuited. That is a goal for day ;o) I have been into swarms unsuited and no gloves several times, yesterday though, we were already suited up into the mega hive when my husband kept saying he thought they must have swarmed already, as we were discussing this I told him the only possibility would have been if they swarmed that morning or the evening before......he then stepped away from the hive and said "well, we haven't looked up in the trees"....then he called my name......"oh"...I said ..."say it ain't so!"
Well, I'm off to look up into the trees LOL
Have a wonderful day!

Friday, April 23, 2010

Beekeepers On Call

My husband got another swarm call yesterday afternoon. If I haven't learned a lot from keeping honeybees, the one thing I have is, spring time is a "bizzy" time! And a beekeeper is always on call.
In the early beginnings of spring the queen starts laying eggs to reproduce her colony. The worker bees (all female) start foraging for food (nectar and pollen) to feed the new baby bees, which we call c-cells. C-cells- because when you look inside of the cell after about a week from being laid the egg looks like a very tiny c, a bee larvae.
The foragers bring the nectar(which they make into honey) and pollen back to the hive and place it around and in the four corners of the comb around the larvae. They use this to feed the growing babies.
When they start "feeling" cramped for space they start pulling down a queen cell...actually several queen cells. This is a time for the beekeeper to "bee" on time and check each frame carefully. Honeybees can hatch a queen and swarm before you realize it. The days go by so fast! lol

A lot of people have been asking me certain questions about our bees. Here are some pictures that I've taken over the time we've had them.

Capped honey, Once spring has sprung and before the nectar flow we put what is called a super onto the top of the hive. It has smaller frames, the bees will pull these frames out into cells and store honey in them. After it is capped this can be taken and harvested. Provided the beekeeper hasn't used any medication during the flow. We are all natural with our bees. No medication at all, I feel it brings them down worse than letting nature take care of things. If you keep your hives as strong and healthy as you can, they'll pull through a lot better and stronger without medications.
Un-capped honey, can you see the taste tester? LOL
Honey starting to be capped.

C-cells, can you see them? On the ninth day the worker and queen larvae is capped. You can see the capping in the lower part of this picture. The mixture and texture of the capping is different from the capping of honey which is pure bees wax. The capping of brood (baby bees) has a papery texture very easy for them to chew through.
Here you can see the papery capping's of brood. The honey is above and on the sides and corners of the brood frame.
Here is the begging of a queen cell. She has to have a much larger cell.....after all she's going to Bee a Queen!
Another picture of capped brood, c-cells and uncapped honey and the queen. Can you pick her out?
The swarm of bees ball up around the queen to protect her. This swarm was from a wild hive. It was on land where beekeepers don't have hives for many, many, many miles. They more than likely came from a hollow tree deep in the woods. During this time of year "controlled" burning takes place and that's probably what spurred the swarm into action. I'm so glad we were called.
Lucky for us this swarm was at a good height and I was able to put the truck underneath the ball of bees. I also brought the six foot ladder and my husband climbed up to cut the branch. The trouble is he only has two arms! LOL

As you can see he needed them both to cut the limb, so I climbed up to hold the branch. No one is around willing to take pictures of this feat. I might add that I was not suited up at all for this swarm rescue either! Boy, I'm getting braver the younger I get! LOL Braver???? More like nuttier!! But here again, no stings! They can sense fear and my goal as a beekeeper is to be able to go into our hives gloveless. I was around the bees yesterday with them flying all around me and I even caught the queen with a queen catcher. How cool is that!
This is before we found the queen, when my husband tried to shake them into the nuc box the queen flew off onto the back of the truck. Right there around the back light next to the box. After I caught her I put her into the box and a while later we were on our way home.
All tucked away safely in their new home.So, spring is swarm season....I do hope that more and more people will come to realize that we need our pollinators. They are NOT out to do us harm...please let them live and in turn they will provide us with a bounty of food and enjoyment beyond measure! Parents please teach your children...young and old! You'll "bee" glad you did!
Until next time.......

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Our First Tree Hive Rescue!

I got a phone call this afternoon from my mom. She had an old oak tree cut down that was in her front yard. She said the guys had gotten there early and limbed the tree, mulched the limbs and had not seen anything until they cut it down. Then the yard was full of honeybees! They were flying everywhere! The guys cutting the tree had thought when they came pouring out that they were yellow jackets but when they weren't being attacked they knew it was honeybees. They told my mom and she said she was calling me. They had more trees in the neighborhood to cut down so told her they would come back.
It was a young hive (probably the one we lost due to a swarm last week)! LOL You can tell they were just starting out with the pure white comb and the brood that I saw was still in the c-cell stage. Very little honey. I'll leave you to enjoy the pictures......

The entrance hole

We found where the main hive body was and my husband cut that section off of the main tree trunk. He then stood it upright and assigned me the task of vacuuming them.
We vacuumed them out with a bee vac that my husband made, it has very very low suction and inside the box that they are sucked in we have a cushion pad. If any beekeepers are interested in making a bee vac let me know and I'll post the instructions.

All tucked into their new home for now. You can always tell when you get the queen, the bees stay where she is. We haven't seen her yet but after a day or two more I'll check in on them and try to find her.
This was amazing and should really show people that these insects are very gentle and do not go out of their way to sting! Not one person was stung today!

BEE Not Afraid of Honeybees :o)

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Beekeepers Look Up!

This is a swarm of honey bees......."our" bees this time. Up in "our" tree from one of "our" hives..... My goodness this has been a very "bizzy" year. Last year was busy but we only had one major hive and the busy part was going out to calls and rescuing swarms. Well, this year we have those same swarms that became "our" hives over the year and trying to keep the girls from wanting to swarm, which by the way is in their nature, plus rescuing swarms, has been,well, just plain "Bizzy"!
My husband and his brothers tried to get these girls down but wasn't able to, so we called a husband/wife team in. They have been married for 48 years this year and he has been around honey bees all of his life. His dad had honeybees!'s a good thing:o)The girls had settled on a small branch at around 52 feet in the tree. This top picture you can see when he shook the small limb on how they scattered in flight. The queen went into the box and the others followed her. We held it up there for a few minutes to let them settle and then lowered it down.
I have these pictures out of order but the one below here is of them raising the pole with the line up above the swarm, see our little future beekeeper? He is so precious, he's three and goes just about everywhere with them, he's their grandson and he loves his grandpa's bees.
The picture above here is when the pole reaches above the bees, they then lower the rope over the top of the branch of bees, bring it on down and tie the box to the rope and pull it up again.
Notice they aren't wearing bee suits??? And he is wearing dark brown??? Honeybees are at their calmest when they swarm. I kept thinking "I need to go suit up, I need to suit up" but for goodness sakes! look at the little guy! I honestly believe insects as well as animals can sense fear. There was no fear of the bees and actually I was very calmed by their fearlessness and experience, plus after all these girls were mine they "know" me right? lol
We were all so proud of me ;o) No stings, you just have to remember don't swat at them even if they are buzzin in your face...they just want to know who you are. :o)
I was so glad I had my other nuc box, it came in very handy....another home sweet home. :o)
After they left and things settled down I got into another hive to cull out queen cells....we didn't want this to happen again. Here is a new queen, just a bit to the right of my tweezers. She has a larger more pronounced spot behind her head. Her body is more of a honey color without the stripes like the workers have.
And look at the different colors of the pollen! It's beautiful! Depending on what type or kind of flower(s) they gather from is what color the pollen will be.

Look high up in the tree....what is it that you see?

BEE Courageous!