Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Open Air Feeding and Our Log Hive

We have had a dry summer this year and as a result, some of our hives are very low on honey stores. I don't like to feed them unless it's really necessary OR when they start robbing my neighbors hummingbird feeders ;0). I've tried all sorts of ways to open feed and this is the best one I've tried. All the others tend to kill more bees by drowning and that breaks my heart! SO, I bought some sponges of different sizes, rinsed them really good, mixed up my sugar syrup water and soaked the sponges in the syrup. I then placed the sponges in various containers, the top of my birdbath, saucers, etc. It needs to be shallow so the bees can get out safely. I don't fill the containers up because if too many bees come in for a drink they'll get stuck in the syrup and drown, that's another reason for the sponge, it gives them better footing, so to speak. These also need to be placed out of the way of human/animal traffic, because it can get very "bizzy" with "beez buzzin" every which way! They won't set out to sting you, they'll just bump into you because they're so "bizzy" ;)

All it takes is for one little bee to find it and then the "wiggle dance" tells them all. I'm sure that today there will be so many bees on these sponges I won't be able to see it! I'll post more pics.....
Before long they are happy with their find.......well, until the blooms start again. I'm sure they would much prefer Natures nectar over this.....but sometimes when you're hungry.....
I want to add that we left a super of honey plus what they had in the deep brood boxes, on our hives this spring. I don't/won't pull all of their honey because our summers here are just as bad on them as the winters are. If we don't get honey, well, we just don't get any! The health and strength of our hives is more important to us than getting honey. I know so many keepers that have lost hives because they pull to much honey from their bees then the weather changes and the bees suffer. That's just sad to me!

These girls are our newest addition. A nearby city was going to cut down the tree this limb was attached to. The entire tree was hollowing out and honeybees had taken up refuge in this part. A fellow beek was called out for the job, but he didn't want to over winter them. My husband told him we'd take them so they wouldn't be killed. We sealed the cut end (containing the most bees) with a board.
The pic above is the top, it still has enough rotting insides to naturally seal this end. We will close it up before the coldness of winter arrives. They have two entrances/exits in the knots. I was really worried about them and was contemplating on removing them from the log and into a bee box. It was late when we got them home and had to seal them, and at the time we didn't notice (or couldn't remember) how their comb was facing. I was worried that the comb was laying on it's side and all of the brood, eggs, honey, etc. would fall out.....or the bees couldn't get in between to care for things.....and then an even bigger worry (which I'm still worried about) the Queen! So we went back out and opened them up and they are fine, the comb was a little off so we straightened them up...but about the queen issue, I can't get inside so I still don't know how she is, I'm just hoping they had enough eggs that if they need(ed) a new queen they can draw one out.

This last pic is of their main entrance, they are doing really well and bringing in lots of pollen. They are a very strong and sweet colony, a wonderful addition to our bee yard!

Until next time....

Friday, July 22, 2011

Hitching a Ride

My husband and I were leaving a friends place where we have a couple of hives, on our way to another lot to do more inspections. I felt something crawling on the back of my arm......and there she was, a little nurse bee. I could tell she was a *newbee* a nurse bee because she still had fuzz all over and she didn't try to fly. Her wings were folded one under the other.

When we finished up at the next stop and powdered the hive with sugar (for varroa control) she was excepted into the hive.
I love these little creatures! They're the sweetest things!

Until next time.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Saving The Nurse Bees

This is where we bumped/brushed the nurse bees off yesterday, some of them could fly a little, but not very far.

I glanced out of the window today and saw more flights going on, but I didn't go out to see. I was afraid of what I might see and I didn't want to face it.
The ground was empty of them this afternoon.

Before I go any further, I want to say that I have the sweetest and most kind hearted husband ever! I Love him more than words could ever say! It's awesome being able to share a passion about something with someone you Love!
He came up with the sweetest idea when he saw the bees clinging to life... huddled together in a ball under this old boat trailer.

He came in and talked to me about seeing if we could maybe start them over in a nuc box of their own, putting in a frame of eggs or brood and a queen cell from my queen hive. An amazing idea to me! IF the little worker layer is still in there maybe she will have halted her production and will let one of my new little queens hatch.

We sprayed them with a little sugar water and brushed them in with some soft dog fennel.

You can see them with their little hinnies in the air fanning to let the others know they now have a safe new home.....I reached across the box to brush the rest of them in and I couldn't believe the air that I felt coming from those little wings! It was like there was a tiny fan inside of that box! Bless their little hearts they are so amazing!

All tucked in for the night....I had to agree with my husband...they sounded so happy!

I was thinking a lot about that little layer today....she had leadership qualities. She saw that the hive was in danger and even though she couldn't keep them george, she was going to give it a try! She wanted the hive to think they had a queen so they would keep the colony alive;) She had hope!
I think next time (if we ever have to do this again), we'll just brush them off in a box from the start. But we'll see if this one works out first...and I'm hoping we won't go through this again, but at least we know how to deal with it if we do.

Until next time.....

Worker layer

April 9th 2011, I posted about losing part of one of our hives to a swarm. When we went in- to inspect the hive we found a new little virgin queen. So we left them to grow with her.
Sometimes things happen to the queens. Year before last it seemed we lost a lot of our queens, while last year wasn't so bad. This year it seems we're losing them once again. I've checked for asian wasps and hornets, but can't be sure if they are around as I haven't seen any, but the bees have so many enemies that anything could have happened. Something could have gotten this particular queen during her nuptual flight. At any rate...she's gone.
When a hive is without a queen or eggs and brood the workers or "nurse" bees panic. A nurse/worker assumes the role of "Queen". All workers are females and they can all lay eggs, the only problem is the eggs aren't fertile and can only produce drones (males). Allowing this to continue in the hive will cause the death of them. Certain steps have to be made in order to keep the hive from dying.
one- You have to take all of the frames at least 30-50 feet away from the hive and bump ALL of the bees off.....this part to me is the saddest of all things for a beekeeper to have to do. You see, most of the bees that are on the frames are nurse bees, they either don't know how to fly yet or they haven't ever been out of the hive to know where to go back to, this is including the "worker layer". Unfortunately, they all have to suffer because you can't tell which one she is. IF, you don't do this and you leave her in the hive no matter how many queens or queen cells you put into the hive she will kill them because she is convinced she is the queen and the other bees are too! Even if they want to replace her they can't...they have no eggs! She will lay them some but they are no good! We learned this the hard way when we first started with bees, we ended up losing the hive completely.

You can click on the pics to enlarge.....

In this picture above you can really see where she is laying sometimes close to ten eggs per cell. Some of the eggs have hatched (they look like little c's inside the cell) and she's laying eggs in with them.
She even laid on top of the pollen.

two- You should always have more than one hive...even if it's a small one. When we have lots of extra sealed queen cells I carefully cut them off of the frames....
then I take them to my "Queen" hive and select a frame to put them on.
We have a very special hive I like to get the queens from because they are excellent producers of honey and sweet queens that make very calm bees.
I then scrape a small area of the comb away to very gently place the queen cell into it. No need to press her in there too hard....... and make sure you don't cover the slender tip up with comb. Once she's in there the bees will secure her in. It fascinates me how ingenious these creatures are!

Anyway, as I was saying...once you bump/brush ALL of the bees off and I mean all of them (even if you leave one on, it could be the layer) take them back to the box and put them back together, with your frame of queen cells OR a frame of brood and eggs. If you don't have queen cells they will make their own queen with new eggs from another hive.
Most beekeepers would just buy a queen, but the way I see it, is there is a 100% chance that the hive will except the queen that hatches in their hive (provided the worker layer is gone) verses a bought queen.
Nothing but a little time...and NO money spent, verses time in finding a queen...going to get her or waiting for her to money.....and did I mention waiting for the hive to except her...and if they don't....more time....and money.....

I do hope this post made sense to you. I tend to get ahead of (sometimes behind) myself trying to explain things. ;0)
I welcome questions and/or suggestions.....

Until next time....

Saturday, April 9, 2011

It's Just Natural

No matter how hard you look, this time of year you're bound to miss a queen cell and the hive will swarm :(The hives are busting with 'newbees' and newbees are the new nurse bees. They don't leave the hive to forage for nectar or pollen, their job is to tend the eggs and brood. They do an excellent job of it too! Sometimes they will cover up the queen cells and you just overlook them.....anyway, when that happens and the queen hatches, the older queen, even if she's less than a week old will take half the hive with her to some place new, hence a swarm.Less than five days ago we checked our home hives and culled lots of queen cells... apparently we overlooked a couple :( We were out checking hives in other locations and came home to this.
A swarm.......really, really high in the tree. A wooded area that can't be gotten to easily at all. If we were tree climbers and could shimmy up that tree, I think we would have at least tried, but we're not, so here's one for nature ;)

We had to go back through the hives to see which one swarmed because if (and they did) they have any more queen cells ready to hatch it will decimate the hive.....leaving the last few with nothing.
While going through a song came to me LOL, I hope you enjoy it or at least can appreciate it ;)

sung to the tune of "Up on the rooftop"

Up in the tree tops, Oh, so high
there is a swarm hive saying goodbye;

Oh, no, no, Where will they go?
Oh, no, no, I'd like to know!

Up in the tree tops come back home...
People will hurt you, please don't roam!

Oh, no ,no, Where will You go?
Oh, no, no, Please let me know!

Up in the tree tops saying goodbye,
hanging on a large limb, WAY too high!

I hope they make it okay.......

Until next time!
BEE looking!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Singing Queens And Pure Comb Honey

When we first started keeping honeybees, I would notice, every once in a while, a sweet high pitched singing sound in our hives. It made me happy and I would tell my husband I would get this over whelming feeling that the Queen was alive and well in that particular hive. At the time I thought it was a worker bee singing to her Queen, but just last week while watching a documentary about bees, I discovered that this sound comes from the queen herself. In the documentary it shows a moth mimicking a queen bee so it can go undetected through the hive to drink honey. We found this to be true ourselves while doing a hive inspection this weekend. We had lost a queen and the hive had produced a new queen. There were no eggs in the hive and we had to look for her. My husband gets antsy with me because I don't work as fast as he does ;) He had given me a frame to look over because I can see eggs in the cells where he can't.
As I was looking I heard her! I was so excited I kept asking him if he can hear her and he said "no, give me the frame and look through this other one!" I started to get angry because I wanted to see if I was right, but I reluctantly gave in. A few minutes later he called me by my full name! And said, "you're NOT going to believe this, but here she is!" I was amazed! And so relieved that I had let him have that frame because he never would've believed me! ;) We didn't have time or the extra hand to take a picture and I would have given anything to get it on video! Now that I know for sure it's the queen I will try to get at least the sound on video to post!
I'm trying to get comb honey this year and they are doing pretty good on this frame. The brown on here is bees.

I don't have the heart to kill our queens when they just happen to hatch out before our eyes during inspections so my husband bought me a queen hive. Naturally, during assembly something went awry ;)
Over the weekend during our inspections as usual we had to cull lots of queen cells. I put them in with the burr comb we collect. Monday when I went to my mom's to inspect the hive at her house, I was getting ready, and pulled out my container and couldn't believe what I was seeing. My mom came over and we watched as this little queen hatched.

I'm not happy with my camera because it doesn't seem to let me take focused pictures or I haven't learned how to use it yet. ;) This clump looks funny and not at all like a queen cell, because it was molded in with another q-cell and burr comb. So tell me, after going through all that.......could you just kill her???
After she hatched I put her into a queen catcher and got a drop of honey from my mom to feed her. When I got back home I put her into a queen cage and put a candy end on it.

Can you see her?
I went into one of my little Nuc's and got a frame of eggs, brood and nurse bees and a frame of honey for them. I took them to my new queen box and put the new queen in with them. I'll let them *bee* for a few days then have a check on them. I hope things go well for them. I'll keep you posted.
This is the nuc I got the frames from.
Until next time!
Bee Bizzy! ;0)

Here's a picture of the inside of the Queen Hive. It's in sections to hold two frames each. There are four sections.

I couldn't stand it any longer.....we had a bad storm come through early Tuesday morning and the outside of the box looked a little messy and I got worried. There were no dead bees outside so that was a good sign.
A look inside, all seems well. There's a lot of space between the frames because I had the queen cage between them.
I pulled it out and she is gone! They ate the candy and released her. ;)

Can you see her? She's so Bee-u-ti-ful!!! I am SO thankful they excepted her.
I have found that a brand new hatched out queen will be excepted way quicker than a purchased queen. I'm not saying you should never purchase a Queen, to each his own. But I know that our bees know what's best for them and I would rather let them take care of things instead of me interfering.....too much ;)

Until next time!
Julie ;0)