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Saturday, October 29, 2005

...light for the first time.

I went to that colony I made from a split and I will now and forever refer to it a the Russian colony. Anyways, I DID IT WITHOUT GLOVES! Hooray for me! I didn't even get stung, I was shaking alot, though. But seriously, I opened it and unlike running up the frames like my Italians they seemed to acknowlage my presence and then continue working. I lifted one fram and there was a patch of 3 square inches of bees chewing their ways out of their cells. I forgot the camera but, I will take a picture next time I see it. It really is a beautiful sight. There were maybe one or two very angry bees that were repatedly trying to dive-bomb my veil and sting my hands. I just shooed them off and eventually they stopped trying. Anyways, there is clearly a honeyflow going on and at the rate this hive is spreading I'll need to put on a super in two or three weeks. I think they're building up faster than my Italians. One thing that cought my eye was one bee that was about half the size of her sisters. She was practicly miniature. I've never seen such a small honeybee. I can't tell if she was malnurished, paracitized, or just sick. I also took off the straps today as well as the bricks and noticed something I overlooked earlier. The bottom board which I converted into a flat top for the Russian hive is warped. The bees should propolise it up in the comming few days but, I should probably replace it. I am, however, noticing that these bees really do use propolis extensively. The cover was practically cemented on and the Top Bars are already covered in the stuff. Cool part is if I start harvesting it I can make floor polish, ointments and just use it as an adhesive. On the plus side is that once this hive really gets growing and uses more propolis the cover won't come off in high wind. I'm not going to open the large Italian colony until next week. I've already disturbed them this week to take their honey.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

2 Gallons 3 Quarts and 1/4 cup...

That's how much honey I harvested yesterday. I din't take to many photos because I was worried about getting the camera sticky. Anyways, the temps were in the 70s so my inteded meathod of fumigating bees out of the super wouldn't work. I had to go to plan B: maunual brushing of bees off of frames. It took about an hour and at the end there were about 1,000 very confused, very angery bees in the garage. Not exacly the best place but, they all cleared out and I didn't get a single sting! Anyways, with all the bees off the comb I could see how great it looked. The cappings were so white I'm thinking of using this colony for comb honey production next year. Anyways, here's a picture of the comb I'm talking about...

The extractor was, of cource, the centerpeice for the honey extraction. Unfortunately, I'm a little inexperienced at balancing frames so, half of the time the extractor was jumping around like a salad spinner filled with a brick. The honey came out ok, but, the straining is what really took the time. I clocked it at about 3 tablespoons per minute. That gave me plenty of time to put the super back on the colony. Strait out of the hive the honey had a mild bitterness to it but, after about three hours the flavor completely changed. Now it tastes like sugar but, has aromas and flavors that couldn't be found with table sugar. Here's a little interesting tid-bit, if I sold all the honey from that one super I'd have made a little over $100.00! To bad that became illegal. Anyways, here's a picture of the honey...

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

A Long Explanation of Events...

We all heard about Wilma, right? Anyways, she came and went and was a hick-up compared to Francis. Nothing really interesting or scary even happend. Around here there was no flooding, no real wind damage and the house didn't even lose power! I know that just 100 miles to the south it was terrable but, we didn't feel any of that here. Anyways, I prepared for the worst. I tied down the hive and weighted the top of the smaller colony.


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I wasn't too worried about the one here given it was so heavy. Around 5:00am the winds reached their highest with sustained 40 M.P.H. and gusts up to 60 M.P.H. At this point I was worried about the smaller hive but, the weather was too inclement to go check on it. I waited through the day either by staring at the large hive throught the window or reading up some more on bees. Eventually, the hurrican passes and, to my surprise, the temperature dropped from the mid eightys to the upper sixties. It got cold and, believe it or not, my bees went into a winter cluster and I think expelled some drones. I could see that the large colony here was about 500 bees smaller as it looks like the beird was blown down into a puddle. While that's no problem at all, it still isn't nice to see drowned bees. The weather passes around 9:00am and I went out to check on the smaller hive at about noon. As you can imagine, I became very concerned when I saw this:

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an empty enterence. So, like an idiot I stuck the camera under the hive and took a photo.

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Take special notice to the fact that there are bees OUTSIDE the screen and were seperated from my hand by about 1/2 inch. Oh, and, one more thing, before I closed up the hive I did a quick inspection and someone wanted to take some photos of me in my new bee suit.
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Sunday, October 23, 2005

Status...

Here we've been getting the outer bands of hurricane Wilma for the past few hours. The rain has been light to moderate, and the wind has bearly blown. Wilma is expected to make landfall about 6:00am eastern time just 200 miles south of me. The winds are expected to climax at that time and so far (12:00am) power is still on. Oh, and, one more thing, Hurricane Wilma has increased in spead to a strong Catagory 3 out of 5. I checked out the beach this morning and the waves were about eight feet higher than normal. On a more satisfying note, if the rain gets much harder the main hole covers are goin' to burst. Last time it rained like this there was a two foot fountain of water streaming out of one just down the street. If it happens, I'll get photos.

The Russians are coming...The Rusians are comming...

The Russians are comming...out of their cells. The Russian honeybees that is. I quickly checked on the hive I made from a split a few weeks ago and the population is definately expanding. I saw the queen and could compare the old Italian honeybees from the split and the young Russians that are now starting to emerge en masse. The main reason I went to check it out was not for just an inspection. I went over there to tie down the hive to some cinderblocks as 40+ MPH winds are expected. I even used a shovel in an attempt to prevent the water immidiately eating at the sand underneith the cinder blocks. The hive is still very light, about 40 pounds, so that's why I took all the precautions. The larger hive of Italians here I'm confident are so heavy and propolized that I don't have to worry about them blowing over. Assumming power stays on throught the storm (Wilma) I should be able to extract the honey on Tuesday afternoon.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Just to give you an idea...

Just to give you an idea of how many bees are in the hive, think about it. It's at night, all the bees are in the hive, and they're so short on room that they're hanging off the enterence like this.


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(Photos taken October 19, 2005)

If you look carefully you can see my regestration number.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

My New Extracting Equipment

The extracting/bottling equipment actually got here in only a week. Here's a photo of all of it...


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The large stainless-steel cylender is the actuall extractor which holds two frames and spins the honey out of them with cyntrifical force. Leaning up against the extractor is a very large, very long and very weird looking knife. This is called an extracting knife and is used to cut off the wax cappings that the bees seal their honey with. There is also a white jacket sitting on top of a bucket with a flow gate. This jacket is just the same as my bee veil but, provides more protection for if the bees are a little "nasty". The bucket is called a bottling bucket or settling tank. The little particles of wax, pollen, and bee parts will float to the top where they can be skimed and only honey is left on the bottom. The flow gate works like a valve to let honey out so it can be put into jars. Just to the right of that is a shiny, metal covered peice of wood. The bottom of this is felt and is used in conjunction with the bee repelent to chase the bees out of the supers. The repelent is in a little bottle just beneith it. Hopefully, this harvest will go quite well.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Something Wicked This Way Comes

Wilma is approaching fast and could pose a major problem for my bees. For those of you that don't know, hurricanes Charley, Frances and Ivan last year destroyed about a third of the beehives here in florida and now, hurricane Wilma, could pose some problems for me and my bees. I was planning to extract about 60 pounds of honey this weekend from my top super but, now I'll have to let it stay there depending on how high the winds get here. The whole reason I'd stay out of the hives this weekend is that the longer I stay out, the more propolis gets applied to the sides, cover and joints. This propolis will hold the hive together through the wind and if I opened the hive I would end up getting rid of the propolis so the hive wouldn't have anything holding it together other than the weight of the wood. Given the national weather says that the hurricane will probably be a catagory 3 out of 5 when it makes landfall, the bees are going to need all the help they can get. So, I'll probably have to stay out of the hives this weekend.
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8 HOURS LATER...

Wilma is now a catagory 5 hurricane with sustained winds of 175 miles per hour! It could make some major probems if it comes within one hundred miles of here. It's already more powerful than Charley, Francis, Ivan, Reta or Katrina. I just hope that it skims a cuban mountain range and slows down.

Tomarow: Pictures of Equipment

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Honey, honey, honey, ho-ney.......HONEY

We all know that song from the Aprentance® and I must say that if honey were money I'd have alot of it. Right now I have two full supers, on for the bees and one for me. They're each about sixty pounds so that's 120 pounds right there. If you include the honey in the brood chamber that brings the total amount of honey on the hive to about 140 pounds. That super I put on Wednesday is doing quite well as well. In less than a week it is already half way drawn, now the bees just have to fill it. I'm thinking that once that super is full, or near full I'll give it to that split colony I made to get them through the winter. I think the honey in the super I'm going to take is mostly palmetto while, the honey in the super I'm leaving for the bees is mostly Brazilian Pepper. The bees weren't exactly plesant today so I think I still had some alarm pharamone on me from the stings yesterday despite showering. Oh well, they should be better next week. I didn't take any photos since I was in and out in under 10 minutes. It looks like there's going to be a good honey harvest this year despite getting started so late.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Remember that Split I Made?

It's been a few weeks and every week I've checked on that hive. The population is very low, it will have to be nursed through the winter. ON the plus side, however, there is a flow of Brazilian Pepper and palmetto in the area. So far, about four of the five frames are drawn and the queen is pumping out eggs. There is a fair amount of capped brood but, hopefully, it will start emerging soon so the hive can grow. The photos are mostly self explanatory, one shows the entire hive with the nice, new bars, another shows bees storing honey and the last one shows some capped brood and bees. Right now the colony looks like my package did when I first installed it. The nice part is that this colony is so small that it is very easy to work without being stung and requires minimal smoke. Over the next few weeks the population should increase and, worse come to worse, I'll bring over a super of bees and honey from my other colony.


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Assosiation Work Day

Today was a work day for the Tampa Bay Beekeepers Assosiation and I must say that it was very enjoyable. The apiary has fallen to ruin with only a quarter of the hives there were two years ago.(This is going to be long so bear with me...) Anyways, I showed up there at about 8:50 and the entire place was overgrown with grass waist high. The bees weren't really active so the eight of us that showed up waited for about half an hour for some of the bees to leave the hives. Eventually, we all donned our veils and lit out smokers to begin a few hours of work. There were about 20 colonies there but, not all were doing very well. They were on pallets for easy movement and apearantly, it got cold enough the night befor that dew was on the ground. Anyways, I watched what other people were doing for a while and moved onto my fist colony. It was BOOMING! The three medium supers on there were filled with honey and it needed a fourth. That's roughly 180 pounds of harvestable honey on one hive. After a little more rumaging around in the brood box some distance below, I concluded that this hive was healthy and moved on to the next one. It was acutally not doing so well. There were probably 30 pounds of harvestable honey and the colony itself was failing. I was instructed to grab a super full of honey off another colony and place it, bees and all, onto the colony. I did and so moved onto probably the most visious colony I've ever seen. I lifted the cover off and there weren't very many bees. I tought maybe it was queenless so I took off the honey supers and the queen excluder and came to the bottom brood box. It was terrable. It turns out that this colony swarmed in in the last month. It was actually an unused deep box that was just set off to the side with a few supers on it given the colony was a dead-out. All the frames were either foundationless, just wires or warped so, about half of them were taken out and replaced with foundation frames. It was at this point that I noticed that there were probably about a dozen bees trying to attack me through the veil and everyone else in the area. David then said, "I think it may have some africanization in it." I definately agreed when I felt a sting right through my jeans just above my knee. My bees have never stung me through a shirt or pants. Anyways, after working on scraping burr comb from that colony for about half an hour it was time to work another palet. I moved over to the last three hives I would do that day(bringing my total to six). The first one was so heavy with honey that I needed some help lifting the supers off. I got down to the brood box and was noticing a specific problem with queen excluders. Unless the propolis is carved all the way around(which is impossible given the setup) bees would be flung strait into the air like a trampoline. They really didn't like that. The hive was doing very well anyways, so I put the queen excluder and supers back on and went to work on the last two. The next one was basicly the same so I'll talk about the last one I did for the day. It wasn't much better than the visious one I talked about. But, this time, I was stung just below my left shouler blade through my shirt. Someone near me commented,"I think they take a short cource in human anatomy to know where it hurts most." I ripped out the stinger with my hive tool and continued working on the hive. It was definately on its way to becoming a dead-out. We worked on exchanging brood from other hives just to get this one "back on its feet". Oddly enough, non of the hives there had screened bottom boards or upper enterances; both of which I've found key for colony success. Anyways, the day was concluded with five of us, standing in a circle, all with our veils on, discussing our worst stings. One man said that when he started beekeeping he would remove comb with honey, brush the bees off, and eat it. Apearently, once he missed a bee and it stung him in the tounge. I was so thirsty after all that work but I had a few dozen bees on my veil and didn't want to take it off. I grabbed my bee brush, brushed them off, and grabbed a much needed sip of water. The bees still flew around as I had alarm pheramone on my from the stingings. It was a great deal of fun and I can't wait 'till next month.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Stand Tall!

I finally got around to super the hive today. They wern't exactly happy to see me. Just as I walked outside, befor I had my protective gear on or my smoker lit, this bees flew out at me noisely and first darted toward my face, then did a figure 8 with my legs. Anyways, I lit the smoker, carried the super over there and, with my veil and gloves on, opened the hive. Just before that, when I smoked the enterence I paid more attention to see why the bees always took flight when I smoked them. It turns out that when I smoke the enterence the few hundred bees holding up the few thousand below them in the beard all let go and all those bees drop to the ground and it is followed with a loud, VERY agitated BUZZ. So, after seeing this and having thousands of bees take to the air I was nervous to say the least. I quickly took off the cover, lined up the super, put the cover back on and, briskly walked away. After the bees calm down a bit I'll go back out and take a photo...it may be a while.
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TWO DAYS LATER...



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Sorry it's all tilted 90┬║, I couldn't get it to fit onto the camera if I did it the normal way so tilt your head...oh, and one more thing...I'M NOT GOING ANY CLOSER UNLESS I HAVE TO DO AN INSPECTION!

Come on in, Honey!

No, I'm not talking to you. I finally have enough honey on the hive for a decent harvest. There is about 60 pounds so, I've ordered an extractor and all the parts nesesary for a honey harvest. While this is not a huge crop I am quite impressed given every book I read says that "...you will not get a honey crop in the first year.". I have finally proved countless publishers wrong! This will be quite exiting. Every beekeeper I've spoken to says that bees will fight to the death to keep their honey. So, I guess I'll have to suit up, duck tape all the cracks and have a well lit smoker. I'm thinking today I'll put on a super just to see if the bees can fill it. Oh and, I've sampled the honey and observed it's color. It's about a medium table grade and tastes like palmetto honey. I'll probably be able to harvest in about a week and a half or so.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Inspection of a Heavy Hive

Today, after over two weeks, I finally got to inspect the big hive I have here at my house. And do I ever mean BIG. There are probably close to 60,000 bees in there(I don't know...I didn't count them all.). Anyways, I opened the hive as usuall today, and there is a MAJOR honeyflow going on right now. The top super was FULL of capped honey and so was the super below it. All that honey makes for heavy lifting so, as anyone would, to make it easier on myself I carried it on my thighs. It seemed somewhat easier but I got some strange looks from a few people on the street. They must have thought I was crazy to be near so many bees. I got the two supers off and had gotten down the the brood box, good. I smoked the bees thoroughly and began to remove the three foundationless frames I had in the hive. If you're wondering why they're in there, I had no foundation when I did the split so I had to put in empty frames to keep the bees from cementing the hive shut with comb, and it worked. So, I got the frames out and put them in a nuc box. Then, I quickly replaced them with frames with foundation. I could tell that the bees weren't very happy about me taking some of their comb, and since I already saw eggs and knew that the queen was present I didn't see the need to further present myself as a target. I grabbed the nuc then saw that it was overflowing with thousands of bees. I immidiatly put it down and grabbed individual frames, brushing the bees off with a bee brush. I put my smoker down and continued to carry the comb into the garage(bees will ALWAYS fly toward the light) where it was somewhat dark. I returned, profusely perspiring, and saw enough bees to intimidate even the most seasoned beekeeper. I tried to smoke and brush them out but all that got me was alot of very angery bees so, I walked away hoping that they would return to their hive upon nightfall. I have a few photos of some of the comb which I will probably upload over the next day or two. Right now I can see from the second floor of the house that bees are flying back and forth signefying that they have already returned to their daily foraging.

p.s. Don't let anyone tell you that a bee has to be alive to sting. I found out when I was running my hand across the bar about fifteen minutes ago that the bees were so furius that they had stung the wood. Wouldn't you know it that by running my hand across the bar I got a stinger into the fleshy part of my finger print area. It actually hurt alot more than the singers usually do right out of the bee.

The Nuc is Full!

I did another inspection of the Nuc yesterday and it is FULL of bees. I found the queen, after some effort, and have now transfered the nuc into a full size ten frame brood box. On the frames were nothing but eggs, and capped brood. That new Russian queen has just been pumping out eggs, and the bees have done a fair bit of comb drawing. Over all they were well tempered especially given the situation; it was about to rain. The bees had already stored a few pounds of honey too. I think there's a honeyflow of palm and palmetto going on right now. There was also some collected pollen, esspecially bottle brush, in the comb. At the rate this queen is laying she should have no problem building up a population before winter. It'll still be another week or two before the first of her offspring begin emerging. They should be chericteristicaly black and grey.

Monday, October 03, 2005

A little something I've been up to...

I've been building a TBH(Top Bar Hive). It is the only type of hive that allows one to view the natural distribution of brood and natural behavior of honeybees inside a hive. The KTBH(Kenyan Top Bar Hive) on which my hive is based, has a theory that by previding a slant the bees will confuse the walls with the floor, upon which they never build comb. In all the stuff I've read it's not exactly that simple as bees will attach any heavy comb. Anyways, here are some photos of it so far.


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In the photo of the enterence I have since attached a 1 by 4 to there to previde a landing/fanning area. The whole construction is about three feet long and later I'll previde all the dimensions. The main reason I was lured to a TBH was that there's no heavy lifting of supers, the bees are easier to work whatever their aggressian level, it's the only way to observe a natural brood nest, it can saturate the area with drones and since bees naturally build small cell comb it hinders the reproduction of Varroa mites. There are also no expensive accesories needed for TBHs. A standard langstroth hive would require boxes, frames, extractors, uncapping knives and all that stuff. In a TBH all the parts are easily manufactured. The honey harvest just requires cutting off the comb and eating, no extraction required. Granted the bees will produce a lot less honey but, no one can eat 200 pounds of honey anyway. It will truely be a great adventure when I stock this hive with bees in this comming February or March.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

A Nuc Check-up

First, befor I tell you about the whole inspection of the nuc I have some information which you will find to your liking, I HAVE PHOTOS! So, I got to the nuc, lit the smoker as usuall and began the inspection on Saturday. Unfortunetly, some of the frames slid a bit while it was in transit so there was a lot of comb that I needed to cut. The queen cage had also fallen to the bottom of the hive. After moving a few frames, cutting some burr comb and picking up the cage I began to do my search for eggs. The colony was a lot bigger than I remembered. The frames were covered in bees so I think the some 6,000 bees I brought over capped have emerged. In the empty frames, after looking carefully, they were FULL of eggs. This queen had been busy. When I installed the package it took the queen two weeks to begin laying and here, in just seven days this queen had pumped out thousands of eggs! I saw here rush along the bottom and as I brought the cammera closer to take a picture, she darted under a pile of bees and I couldn't finder her. And so after being proud of the first three frames I removed the last one, or attempted to. It was stuck to the bottom and I had to pull as hard as I could to break it loose. I soon found the culprip, a peice of untrimmed burr comb which I neglected to chop off when I did the split. I cut it off, stacked it with the other burr comb and closed up the hive. As I walked away I brushed the bees off and took off my veil for the ten minute drive home. Here are the two most impressive specimens.


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As I studied these I saw a peice with two peanut-shaped hanging cells. Immidiately I knew they were queen cells. Her highness was inside but, now killed by my handling of the comb. Given their placement, they were swarm cells from the colony I have here, at my house. So, now I knew that my colony here has gotten to such a high population that they want to swarm, so, tomarow, I have to super them with a super I was saving for the other colony. If you look carefully, there are also alot of capped drone cells in the comb of which I did my drone cut inspection for varroa mites. I didn't find a single one with any disease once so ever. Just so you know, I did disect the queen cells since they were already dead and the queens were perfectly healthy untill then. I tried to take a picture of them but, the cammera couldn't focus on such a bright white object so, the pupa just looked like an asprin. I didn't see a need to post a picture of it.