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Monday, January 30, 2006

A look back...

Contrary to anything I've said, the hive I have now is not my first hive. I tried a little over one year earlier on March 23, 2004. I wanted to keep them in an observational hive so I could look at them any time I wanted. I ignored all the nessesary equipment such as a veil, smoker, hive tool, gloves...everything. Basicly, I was an idiot. The hive died on July 17, 2004 after it absconded. They swarmed for the first time in June with a productive queen and just as I once thought they were dead for sure, I found a queen laying happily. I realize this is kind of random but, I just wanted to show you a really cool hive. The sides are made of glass so you can see the bees at any time of day. I still have the hive so, if I were so inclined, I could repopulate it and make another blog about an observational hive. I would even be able to show pictues of the queen at any time, show her laying eggs and the workers doing various duties that are impossible to capture in an ordinary hive like the one I have now. By the way, when I say the colony died by absconding; absconding is the act of abandoning a hive. When they left, Small Hive Beetles devoured the comb, honey, and pollen left and tuned it all into a foul-smelling rottting pile of slime. Here are the photos at its prime in may 2004.

Here is an overview of the entire hive...only 2 frames. THe duct tape was used to keep the two sections together...wouldn't want 6,000 bees flying free in my room.

Here's a close up section.

I wish I would have taken more photos. Probably the coolest thing to watch in the hive were the dances. By recording them and playing them slow speed I could tell the direction of the nectar/pollen/water/propolis source in meters and the direction relative to the sun at that time.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

I got the MONEY SHOT!

Today's inspection began like any other, with the exception that I remembered the camera. I decided to actually search for the queen this time using minimal smoke. I got down to the brood nest and this is what I saw.
Needless to say, it's a good thing when so many bees are covering the frames. The queen had layed eggs like crazy. All those frames of capped brood are now filled with eggs and larvae. They've even moved some honey up into the supers to make room for egg laying! I did find one thing that tells me things aren't well...a bee with deformed wings. This could be a sign of that dreded varroa mite. There were also some "sick" bees that seemed to stumble on top of the bars. So much for my bragging that I don't have any mites. The good news is that, maybe, the screened bottom boards I installed will help with this problem. The honeyflow has also continues and strengthened with the blooming of the ornamentals in parking lots. Here's the big moment, I found the queen...AND GOT HER PICTURE. Now you can see the mother of the hive. (please excuse the blurrieness)
http://i18.photobucket.com/albums/b136/Apis629/DSCN6866.jpgWith an inspection well done, I diagnosed a possible disease, checked how the honeyflow was going, checked on broodrearing and even found the queen alive and well. I think in that last post when I said there was another queen, I caught her running across the top bar and must have missed the dot...or maybe it was one of those "big fish" stories. But, now I have irrifutable evedence that I saw the queen, now to today's topic...What's her name?!

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Excelent Brood Patern...wait, who are you?

I did an inspection of the Italian hive today and I think it was one of my better ones. I got everthing assembled and put together, suited up and hoped that the bees wouldn't sting too much. The Italian hive at my house had become increasingly aggressive throught the fall and, needless to say, I was concerned for my own sake. Today I would do a full inspection, not a touch up of the supers, I mean all the way into the core of the brood nest...where bees are most defensive. Here's how the journey went. The bees haven't even begun to draw out the top super and however, the one below it was probably 70% filled with capped honey. I smoked them and they roared...a few hundred had taken flight and were hoveing around me. It was probably the most bees I've ever seen flying in one area! Granted, the roar was loud...louder than an airconditioner. I removed the super just above the brood box and nearly dropped it given its weight. It is 100% full of capped honey. I finaly got down to the brood nest for the first time in almost 2 months. While this may seem neglegent keep in mind that I was being repelled by stinging behavior, and to this point I didn't have even one sting in my gloves. I picked through the frames and found that every one of them had brood in them. The four or five frames that make up the center were completely full and branching out from that frames were 2/3 full of brood and the two end frames were about 1/4 full. In the center of the brood nest I actually found the queen but, I found out why it's been so hard to locate her. This queen is not the one I installed with the package, she had no white dot on her thorax. Either way, I'm keeping her, she's fueling an army of bees to make gallons of honey! I got one sting in my right glove when I picked up a super and accidentally squished a bee. It was the only sting I got in the entire inspection. Not bad for such a large colony. One thing I do have to bring up is when I got back into the house my father said, "Did you see how many bees were in the air around the hive?! There was a cloud of bees!" Just to put this into perspective, it looked like what would be equall to the entire Russian hive taking to the skys. Anyways, the hive is loaded with bees, brood, pollen and honey. Drone numbers, however, seem awfully low. I think the honeyflow may be in a lull of production. I could easily, however, pull off one super full of honey almost any time. I'm just waiting for that other super to be filled. G4st...your birthday present should be ready in time!

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Much Better!

I checked on the Russian hive today for the first time in over a month, probably a month and a half. While I wasn't looking forward to it given the dismal condition it was in last time I had to do it anyway. I wasn't even sure if they were alive. When I got there they seemed to be in heavy foraging. This was a good sign. I suited up as usuall, lit the smoker and got to work. The population had much improved and now they're probably at close to half of the population of the Italian colony. They seem to be gathering nectar and have stored entire frames full of pollen. I think I've identified the primary attributes which make them uncomfortable to work with. Listed in order they are: Loud noise, balling tendencies, head-butting tendencies, lack of honey production and stinging behavior. While some people think I may be over reacting about the loud noise..I have to tell you, it is just kind of hinting of unfortunate things to come. In the italian hive, they buzz for a few seconds after I smoke them and then it tapers off. In the russian hive it just grows into a roar. From 30 yards away it could still be heard. Back to the inspection, this queen appears to be doing better than before. Egg laying is much improved in grouping...there's actually one frame in the center that is enirely filled. The other frames aren't great but they're better than before. The brood nest now, at least partially, occupies four frames. It was more spread out at first but, I suspect that the warmer temperatures of spring and summer will become the catalyst for lateral brood nest expansion (I like using BIG words.) Next time I'll get photos...maybe that's what I should do with the Christmas money...buy a camera! Tomarow I'll open the italian hive and see how far along that honey is!

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Not Exactly as Planned

I had assembled every tool I could possibly immagine needing; a long knife, hive tool, bee brush, veil, helmet, jacket, cardboard boxes, bucket, super, repelent, fume board, hammer, axe, saw and of cource, the smoker and smoker fuel. I arived to a hopeless clump of wax, honey, brood, pollen and bees. The log was actually about 5 feet long and was probably close to 2 feet whide at it's widest point. This is much bigger than the landowner made it out to be! It seems that when it was cut, they went half way through the brood nest, so, there went my hope for a queen. I figured I'd clear out the trunk in hopes of finding some bees protected in some cavety. I pleeled apart the combs which had all sandwiched together like a stack of pancakes. Inbetween each pair of combs were countless dead bees; killed by the weight of their own honey. After I was about a fith of the way through the trunk, I had filled my bucket with honeycomb; dripping with honey. Unfortunately, none of it could be used as the landowners, in a panic, tried to spray the nest with wasp and hornet spray. It worked none the less. I noticed when I began to take apart the hive that there were italian, carniolan and russian bees all there. It also seemed as if some heavy foraging was going on. I realized when they all dispersed with the smoke, that this hive was practically devoid of bees belonging to that hive, all the bees I saw were bees from other hives, stealing the honey for their own uses. As I got to the center of the combs which contained some of the brood nest, it was covered in Small Hive Beetles, even if I could save the honey, it would surely become a mass of bubbling liquid before I could eat it given the Small Hive Beetle's eating habits. This hive was certainly HUGE in its prime. It even had honey from over a year ago. The color of the brood combs told me by themselves that this hive had been a perenial. All this activety had stired up the curiosity of the neighbors. One of which came over and said exitedly, "Are you like, a real Bee-man?" He was so facinated by bees that he had bees on honeycombs tatooed on his shoulders. Unfortunately, I forgot the camera but, he said he'd e-mail me the photos. In the end I endured one sting and the hive had over 150 pounds of honey. Beleive me, it was heavy, so heavy that I needed help to lift it in shifts. Feeling that I had done my job,(for free too) I took off my honey-soaked gloves and veil and had a conversation with the landowners standing next to the shell of a hive. Just as I was talking about how I had only gotten one sting and was surprised that was it, given the hive had just been fallen the day before, a lone bee flew into the coller of the shirt behind my neck and stung. It actually didn't hurt too bad...untill I tried to get the stinger out. Since I can't see behind my head, in an effort to remove it I basicly pushed it in. It wasn't too confortable but, probably the worst effect was that my neck was stiff. The burning passed in a few minutes. The odd part is, I thought a sting in the neck would hurt MORE than the fingers. It was the other way around. Anyways, no bees could be saved, the comb found its way into the dumpster with the honey, and I got nothing, not even bees in return for my work. I even ruined my shoes. The honey won't come off. All in all, I feel the better for it, I worked hard and created three more bee enthusiests.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006


I was just about to update this blog saying that nothing has happened and that I was bored. At 6:00pm I got a phone call that changed everything. Someone has an unwanted hive from a recently cut down tree and has taken the effort to research and then call me. Best of all, this hive has already been cut down and is just sitting on the ground so there's no percarious hights involved! Hear this, when I asked about their temperment, here's what I got in reply, "Well, we cut it down with a chainsaw and no one got stung." Those must be some really laid back bees! Now I've put together all of my equipment, cleaned my gloves, smoker and hive tool, as well as ammassed every tool that might me minorly usefull. I've also extravagently taped up a cardboard box that will serve as their residence for a few hours. With any luck, I'll try to combine that hive with my russian hive in hopes of helping them draw comb and kill the old queen. She's just terrible. I've complained before so I won't go in depth. It's just to the point that, as the book says, "The Queen must Die". I'll try to take many photos. Wish me luck.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Condencation Cover

Just as the tital says, I supered the hive on Sunday. Things have been a little hectic with school so I haven't had much time to update this blog. Anyways, it was a cold day so I only had enough time to take off the cover and super the colony. I'm hoping to do an inspection this comming Sunday. Who knows...they may have even drawn some comb by then. When I was putting the super on, the second I took off the cover a few drops of water came off. I gave it a hard shake away from the hive and at least a cup[ of water sheeted off. I was a little bit concerned about condencation as a result of cold temperatures and the humidity of ripening honey but, I didn't think it would become an issue. I fixed the problem by proping the cover up about 1/8" with two twigs and hopefully, that will alow water vapor to escape out of the hive rather than condencing on the cover, dropping down and chilling the bees. It's actually been cool at night to flash a flashlight at the crack and see a little stream of steam float out. It's deffinately not big enough to cause concern for heat loss. If the bees don't like it they can readily fill it up with propolis. I haven't checked on the russian hive for a while and, to be honest, I'm not looking forward to it. They're ill tempered, skitish, run on the comb, ball into "buzzing taffey" and just aren't that pleasent. Maybe I'll be able to requeen this year. That's another entry for another day.