Sunday, May 13, 2012

Couldn't wait

Even though it's almost 10pm and I'm going to practically die when the alarm goes of at o'dark-thirty tomorrow (cold fog and wind predicted, also. Brrr), I had such fun today in the apiary I had to share. Consider it a gift for Ribbit and Erin!

The story out there is that I have five hives -- two were "original," in that I meant to have them. One of those was a swarm I picked up from another person, and then augmented from my original hive, and three are swarms from my two starting hives. I had hoped to have four ongoing hives this year, but there was a total of four or five swarms (I gave some away) and that can wreak havoc on a hive's honey production.

Today I just wanted to see what the state of play was, and maybe add a super or a deep as needed to the smaller hives.

The first one, a two-week old swarm, had bees over about five frames on opening:


And they check out with a laying queen. This is foundationless comb, which I'd like to move to -- it's fresh wax, the bees decide what size to make, and it's easily cleaned up and out when it's old. Plastic foundation is difficult to clean and reuse. But it's sturdy! Inspecting just comb means I can't flip the frame over to look at the other side, but have to turn it like the pages of a book. The bees don't seem to mind, but they do get upset if you break the comb or it falls out. Ask me how I know. . .


Here's a closer look at the transition from worker brood -- see the heater cells in the capped brood? -- to bigger, larvae-filled drone cells. I'm not worried yet that this hive is producing drone brood. It can be a signal that they want to swarm, but these girls have nothing but room. I'm assuming they want to make them to propagate the hive's genetics because it's simply swarm season. It bears watching, though.


This hive is only a week old. This is the bunch of bees that swarmed the day before the chicken coop tour. I'm out of screened bottoms so this hive is sitting on an upturned homemade lid, and they have a teensy opening. Equipment limitation is only one reason to combine hives and shrink the apiary to four hives.


Although they've only had a week to work, this group has filled and capped a deep frame with honey and started drawing some new comb. See how white it is? These paddles will merge and fill the entire frame eventually.


AS I finished with each hive I made notes on the outside about what I was seeing -- was there a queen, did they have room, etc. My memory doesn't last that long -- and five hives is a lot for me to remember which one is exactly which, in terms of behavior. None were terrifically happy today, it was slightly windy and none are really what I'd call at an ideal stage, but this big hive was particularly grumpy.


As was I after tearing it completely apart only to not find any eggs or brood. Could be that it's queenless, which would make my job much easier. Could be that the queen is a newly-mated queen that got left behind last week by the swarm group. I did see two open queen cells. Either way, I have to get back in this hive in a week or so to make certain that they do or do not have a viable queen. Hard to imagine them not -- this is a busy hive. The white box is a new super I set in there as each of the other ones is nearly full. Lifting the top one up was a challenge.

I'm short on mediums right now, so I spent some time after the inspection banging some medium frames together. We'll have to fit them with starter strips or foundation (or a mix, just for experimenting) and get them on that medium sized hive. I don't want to deal with any more swarms!

Swarm box #2 is also two weeks old. Slightly less robust than the other two week old hive, though. Hives, like children and classrooms, seem to have distinct personalities. Just a few bees on the bars when opened.


But I discovered that they also have a viable queen. Lots of room, no hurry to do anything for them. You can see the results in this video. Sorry for the jerky end -- I'm not great as my own videographer. But if you like being a virtual beekeeper, this may work for you.


End result today, if you were keeping track is five hives, four laying queens, zero calm happy bees, but only one testy hive. Lots of honey being stored up by one hive, not much from anyone else. These hives have to be combined down to three, I'm thinking. Better find someone who really needs a queen.

15 comments:

Ribbit said...

What a way to start my morning!!! Woohoo!!!

. . . Lisa and Robb . . . said...

I'd love a queen. I don't seem to have your phone #. Lisa. 299-DAMN

Stefaneener said...

Ribbit, just what I was hoping for.

Lisa, you're up on me -- I couldn't find your email. I'll call you today.

Unknown said...

Keep the posts coming, you are doing a good job of calming me down. Melissa is picking up bees on Sunday and seeing your bee-stung face made all my bee anxiety surface. Apparently your beauty and bravery have returned....so should my courage.

I have a question on hive placement. No matter where we put the hive it will be near where I garden. We currently have it located next to a shed and we are thinking of having the hive entrance facing the shed (about 1' away). Melissa thinks this will keep me out of the bee path and that the bees will just fly up and away. What has your experience been with hive placement with regards to where you toil in the soil?

Jill said...

BTW...I'm anonymous above. Still learning this blogging thing

Stefaneener said...

Jill, you crack me up. I am no longer set on getting rid of them, so you see my grumpy only lasts as long as the swelling.

I'd have to come and see the yard. They do have a pattern as they come in -- do you remember ours?

Dan said...

Love the color hive boxes!

GrafixMuse said...

Each hive seems to have its own personality. It will be interesting to watch the consolidation from five to three.

Jill said...

I kind of remember them at the back near the fence, maybe under some trees to the right of the chickens? I had too much fun in college to have a good memory ;-) I'll draw up a sketch tonight to show our yard layout and our proposed location.

Erin said...

I'm late checking in, this is awesome stuff! I haven't announced it officially yet, but I'm on the "swarm list" with the association here so hopefully this year I will be the lucky recipient of my first hive! We are pretty excited, and I've bee taking classes for awhile but I think we are ready what with the zoo down the street LOL. Loch has his first meeting tonight of the 4-H "Foragers" Junior Beekeepers haha I can't wait I'm sure there will be a pretty cute gathering of kiddos there!

Stefaneener said...

Jill, we will HAVE to get together for a walk through at your place soon. And I need to do bees next week. . .

Erin, that is WONDERFUL! Nothing as cute as little kids in bee suits. Can't wait to read about it.

kitsap said...

I doubt I will ever bee keep but I love learning about it through your posts.

kitsapFG said...

Okay... I hit enter too fast! the prior post was from me - kitsapFG!

~Holly~ said...

Congrats on your hives! Very cool!!

Lou Murray's Green World said...

I am so happy that people keep bees. We need honey bees to pollinate our plants. My garden was sadly bee deficient this spring, and my fruit trees suffered for it. It's going to be a poor year for apples and avocados for me. We can't have bees because our houses are too close together to keep them legally. And I'm good with that. I wouldn't want to get stung.