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Sunday, April 30, 2006

A [realtively] Clean Bill of Health

Overall, all three colonies are in good to excelent condition by my standards, with the exception of varroa levels. On the good news I have managed to order some Apiguard from Dadant and I'm not seeing quite so many bees with deformed wings.
Harvest in three weeks...or so.

Italian Hive:
I was concerned about these bees for the past few weeks given the queen was developing a poor laying patern and the number appeared to be dropping. Currently, they have two supers filled with capped honey, and the bottom brood box has capped brood, eggs, larvae but, oddly, hardly any honey. Pollen levels were also a little on the low side but, with some flowers constantly putting out pollen despite the lack of water, that is low in my concerns. Traffic near the enterence has been relatively low, but, I assume that's mostly due to the lack of nectar given the dry conditions. Given how few bees there are (still plenty but, conciderably lower population than the russian hive), I think that they won't really build up their population untill July. In the next three weeks, I expect to harvest at least one super, just so they don't have quite so much surface area to protect...and also since I'm starting to run low on my own supply. Today, just as I was closing the hive up, I actually got stung where I've never been before, on the back of the left thigh. Definatly painfull!

Captured Hive:
They currently cover two frames and the queen appears to be laying abundantly. They are very docile given, I probaly didn't even need smoke when I opened them up. Still very small, they cover two medium frames which have some honey and pollen but, mostly brood, and given their light weight, I think feeding will be required. They also have a very nice, leather back italian color. Next week I'll get a photo or two.

Russian Hive:
Currently the most populous hive, the russians are the most aggressive and have the most honey. Two supers are just about capped and, the swarming impulse is ever present in the colony. I had nearly an entire frame of queen cells and plenty of queen cups. Oddly enough, two frames are very poorly drawn and they are actualy building comb near perpendicular to the frame. One is full of capped honey and I figure I'll cull it next week as well as the other one. Between the one filled with honey and the wall of the hive, the bees actualy built a solid side of honeycomb filled with capped honey. Upon scraping it off, it fell to the bottom of the hive and I had to stick my hand down inside with about three inches of manuvering room in a box lined with thousands of honeybees. They didn't really like me sticking my hand in there and, to be honest, even after the second super was removed, the bees kept becoming louder and more took flight. While the russians are intimidating, they really don't sting too much.

All in all, I'm confortable with the state of each of my colonies and they seem to have a secure future.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Status Report


Captured Hive:

The population continues to decline but, I transfered some brood and bees to help. Not much has really changed since the last time I looked.

Italian Hive:

The queen has massively decreased egg production and the number of bees appears to have fallen. There is vertually no brood in the intended brood chamber and she's laying in the supers. I've done all I can to try and get here to go back down and, if she's not down by next week I'll have to just run all the bees down with some Bee QuickĀ®. I was able to test for varroa and, the hive is crawling with them. I'm gonna try to get my hands on some ApiGuard given the honeyflow is pretty much over and I'll probably harvest soon.

Russian Hive:

This is currently my most populous hive. The bees are litterally boiling out and two supers are just about filled with brood. They clearly want to swarm given I removed probably 30 queen cups and 3 queen cells. Given the eggs hatched in some cups to create queen cells, also refered to as "peanuts" given they resemble them in shape, I now have to move from swarm prevention to swarm control. In swarm prevention, the only steps are to clip queen cups and add supers. In swarm controll I have to take much more extensive actions. I have to lessen the size of the brood nest and even possibly split the hive. On the plus side, that may mean that I'll get a cheap source of bees for my Kenyan Top Bar Hive. The bees were also oddly aggressive. A sure sign that the older ones are "hanging around" waiting for a swarm to commense. I will probably have to split them next week or lose them in a swarm. That's beekeeping for you...constant new challenges.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

IPM time!!!

I have failed to keep varroa levels acceptable and due to tardiness of administration of combative chemicals, namely due to the fact that I could not get my hands on and ApiguardĀ®, given the entire county is out, I shall begin an IPM(Intigrated Pest Management) regemin. I plan to use powdered sugar dusts, drone comb trapping and the screened bottom board. The powdered sugar encourages bees to groom themselves thus, removing the mite. Varroa mites are actually attracted to drone comb given it allows them greater reproduction time and therefor, more mites. When the cells are capped the varroa are essentially trapped with a seemingly lemitless food supply. In drone trapping, the bees are encouraged to draw drone comb on one frame and the varroa mites are trapped when the cells are capped. Then, the mites can be measured by counting the mites in cells ripped open. The rest of the cells are left capped and placed in a freezer overnight to ensure death to the varroa "vampire" mite. Why all this sudden draw of pest preventors and treatments. Varroa in my colony have climbed to destructive levels as, I am now seeing week, deformed bees on the ground in front of the hive and defformed bees inside. Even the brood pattern has gone awry with brood deaths. If I am to have any hope of bringing this colony though to next year...(dramatic pause)...I need to get my act together!

I did use some brood and bees from the inspection on Monday to help that hive I captured. The cluster of bees is too small to have survived on their own so I added nurse bees and brood. They did, however, draw out a small, dollor coin sized area of comb and filled it with eggs as well as pollen and cell of nectar. Hard work, but, not enough bees to work. With this new addition, these bees should see it though. Afterall, the colony they came from had to be resistant to varroa given it prospered enough to create a swarm. I should assume that they probably have a minor resistance. Oh yeah, they passed the aggressian test.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

How'd she do that?

Well, the queen at my russian hive..."pulled a hudini". Somehow, she got around the excluder which shouldn't happen. She's clearly only been above for less that 2 days given there's only eggs and, not alot. As for honey, one super is capped to the "extraction" point or the point at which I can harvest it and it won't ferment or spoil. The other super is filled with ripening nectar and a few eggs, as stated above. I had to smoke the queen down which usually creates a bit of a panic in the hive as it becomes shrouded in smoke...which the bees like probably about as much as the average person. Tomarow I'll probably open the italian hive, maybe get some photos, and super them. Maybe I'll even get the excluder on.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006


Today I installed the captured bees into a nuc. There weren't near as many as I thought and they formed into one clump the size of probably a navel orange. Bee will only form clumps like that when they are in the presence of their queen as it is her pheramone that makes them so attracted. I sprayed them well with sugar syrup and carefully removed the peice of cardbroard they were clinging to. Then I slid it near a frame and allowed the bees to crawl off. Then, I carefully brushed a few bees aside and there she was. All I can say is that she deffinately wasn't from my swarm. She was reminicent of carniolan with deep almond, almost chocholate colored bands flanked with black ones. I have to say that the color is very nice. I'm not sure if they have enough bees to draw comb well or feed the resulting larvae but, by this time next week I can find out. This weekend I may just shake a few bees from the adjacent colony into there just to give them a little more strength. I went back down to where the colony was to tell the land owners that I had the queen. They were out but, the people cutting the trees were still there and just finishing up. So, I went over to ask if there were still bees around and to tell them that I had the queen. He's also appearantly interested in some unpasturized local honey...just what I have. I can't wait to see how this queen preforms.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Bees are gone!

I came back after a few hours and found the bees all clustering in a small area in one of the logs on the ground. After making a few improvisational cuts and such I modified a vacume to hold a box for the colection of bees. Everything worked relatively well, then the sun went down. I'm not quite sure if I have the queen or not but, I should be able to find that out soon. Tommarow afternoon, I'm planning on taking the bees from that box and shaking them into a super on top of the hive here and separate the potential two queens with a queen excluder. This way, I'll be able to tell if I have a second queen, without risking either being killed. The bees in the box have heardly made any noise so I'm also concerned about thier condition. I guess by this weekend I'll know if I have a new queen and the makings of a new colony.

My 4th Hive Removal Call

Some neighbors about 6 blocks from here called saying they had a hive in a tree which they were removing before hurricane season starts in a few months. Wouldn't you know it...these bees had about the right about of comb and population to be that swarm that escaped not to long ago. The brood is of the right age and the population is the right size. Even the temperment seemed to match my bees. When they were cutting off the branch and lowering it only one person got stung, and just once. I probably got a few but, I was having some very direct contact. These bees weren't even headbutting. They were just clustering up 30 feet in the tree where the nest had been and in a log on the ground. Despite people working all around them with chainsaws and axes, the bees still weren't peruing to any real level. When I saw how the bees were bearding and all gradually drifting up to the tree I was relatively possitive that the queen was up there. I scooped and cut up the log on the ground and checked every dozen or so for the queen. Then I would mist them with water and plop them into the box. After I went through the entire log with no more than a few hundred, I looked back up at the tree and a secion of limb, about 2 feet long was covered/flooding with bees. Then, sweaty and with a sting or two though my jeans, I had to tell them that I wouldn't be able to get the bees away unless I have the queen given, the bees will orient to her scent. Tommarow, they're bringing in a crane to finish the job and take down the tree. Then, that will be when I get the new colony. On a side note, one of the men was convinceed that he had honey. Oh yeah, they were so gentle that he could take their honeycomb from them with out being stung. Sound like gentle bees? Darn right! Funny part of the story is that he thought it was honey, took a bite and got nothing but brood. I explaned to him that this colony, given it's size, probably doesn't have much in the way of honey. Tomarrow, these bees will be mine...that is assumming, they don't abscond later today. We'll see what happens.