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Monday, May 29, 2006

Total Expansion!

Russian Hive:

Not much has changed. They've begun drawing out some of the frames I put in the brood box but, haven't touched the super of foundation above. They seemed a little "nervous" on the comb today in that they practically refused to stay in one spot. The palmetto on site is in full bloom but, do to a lack of rain, necar production is minimal at best. If we could just get a few good rainy days then maybe this flow could produce something. On a more possitive note, the queen is laying more eggs and I'm noticing an improving brood pattern. Oddly enough, they're not storing anywhere near as much pollen as the Italian Hive, an of cource, MUCH more propolis. I may concider making a propolis trap as, when it is mixed with beeswax and some sort of oil, it makes a wonderfull instrument varnish.


The bees are on bars 1-8 with drawn comb. Some of this comb is already about 6 inches deep and at full thickness. I've also seen plenty of eggs, pollen, larvae and now, capped brood. They're also drawing it perfectly center on the bar, making for management almost as easy as with a conventional frame hive.

Here's a picture of the sixth comb (1=front 32=back). You can see the very palmettos I was talking about earlier. If you look carefully, you can see BEES, pollen, necar ripening and capped brood.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Too much POLLEN!

Today I only had enough time to look at the hives on my property so that's the captured hive and the Italian one. The KTBH and the Russian hive will have to wait untill monday. What could possibly have taken all of today's time? BEEKEEPING SEMINAR! Florida State Beekeepers' association meeting where the TBBA meets...you know I won't pass that up. Spent the day learning about varroa and SHB research as well as honey marketing and AHB controls/detection. Anyways, before I bore you to tears, here's the update.

Captured Hive:

Not much change. They've gone up alot in population and now are drawing out the outer two frames. The center three are mostly full of brood and pollen. They have a little honey but, probably a few rainy days and they'll be completely out. The Palmetto is flowing and that's probably what's keeping them aloft...literally.(for those of you who didn't get that or are already a year into Summer Break...I was refering to the fact that honeybees fly...) They were a little "on edge" but, no stings. I'm almost convinced that they are truely ferral SMR (Surpressed Mite Reproduction). They have been removing pupae and I can see that the pupae they're carrying out all have at least 1 mite on it.

Italian Hive:

Before I opened the hive I thought I'd take some pictures of the outside for a change.

Here, they're "washboarding" which is when they crawl around the outside of the hive and appear to do "the WAVE". They use thier tounges and front legs to remove bacteria and dirt which contaminate the outside of their hives. They're hygenic little insects aren't they.

In the top super of the hive I have frames of honey which look like this. The white portion is the capped honey, ready for human consumption. A frame like this is perfectly ready for extraction and, each side is about 1 pint of honey.

Here is a frame from a half super of pollen. This is the bees' protein source and, why their storing so much of it...I haven't the slightest clue. Usually, they can use it all up pretty fast and they don't have enough to store. Soon they'll make a thin layer of honey on top of it to preserve it and cover that in a wax capping. This pollen will come in handy next spring!

I continued going through the hive down to the brood nest. The outer frame was nothing but honey and they have all stages of brood present; a perfectly healthy hive. There was also a lot of pollen there too but, that's where the pollen should be anyways. This colony is deffinately very strong and is in perfect shape for me to leave alone for 2 weeks.

This photo just gives you an idea of the population. As you can see, there's plenty of bees. If you look carefully, you can see capped honey, capped brood, open pollen and young, open brood. That last one is a little tricky...

All in all, not much to report. These hives are doing well and it seems like either varroa levels have gone down or, they've just been diluted. I plan to treat these colonies with Apiguard after I extract the honey.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Russian update...What is a KTBH

Yesterday, I went to check on the russian hive and figured I'd get some photos of the KTBH (Kenyan Top Bar Hive) aswell.

Russian Hive:

Oddly aggressive, the russian hive nearly chased me out. They were nervous on the comb, prone to stinging the gloves and were head-butting to an unusuall high. I went through the brood nest and they couldn't draw comb if their lives depended on it. They seem to like doing the opposite of what I want them to. They have about 4 of the ten frames in the brood nest completely drawn out (terrible), and, won't get off of my veil. A few headbutters are usuall but, when it gets over a dozen, with stinging, that can take the fun right out of it. On the plus side, the palmetto bloom is getting into full swing and, there is one full super on the hive. They had another super but, it was filling up aswell so, on went a box of foundation. I intended on taking photos of them but, I didn't want to open my pocket. I'm probably going to have to concider requeening them.


Here is a look at the cluster (intact) in the KTBH. (I've added the K for accuracy, there are really two types of top bar hives, and this tells which one.) As you can see, the swarms was clearly good sized given, the other half of the bees is out foraging. They are still covering bars 1-9. Just to give you an idea of the mesurements, the walls are 13 inches tall, the top is 22 inches wide and the bottom is 8 inches wide. That's a good sized cluster!

Here you can see the front of the KTBH (120º). The slope makes it easier to remove the fragile comb and, the bees confuse the sides for the bottom and attach less comb to the sides. The holes plugged with twigs are used for additional space in the entrance. There is a small gap on the top between the top bars and the side which, the bees are now using as an entrance. This photo was taken on a different location, before the bees were installed.

This is a bar holder used to hold the top bar and comb so that I can make corrections such as cutting comb. It is also used to hold the bar when the comb is cut for harvest. I usually leave it sitting under the hive and, wouldn't you know it, it fits just perfectly.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

"Slam Full"

Today, after a visit to Busch Gardens, I checked on the colonies around 3:30. It's still very dry and I have my concerns about the flow. As a point of interest, I found my first SHB larva. It was probably close to an inch long and just tunneled out of a pollen cell when I was picking up the frame. I cut into the comb at a few points and found not other larvae so, that must be the 1 in a million that was able to hide before the bees could find it.

Captured Hive: (not to be confused with the recent swarm. That will be reffered to as the TBH)

This hive is still very small but, has appearantly gone through that whole presentation project almost 2 weeks ago without any affects. These bees still are on only 3 medium frames but, such is to be expected after they are removed from their old hive. I'm expecting them to use the current flow to build up in population but, that probably won't be enough. One of the biggest reasons I've wanted to keep them is that, logically, if they came from a hive populous enough to swarm, they must have some natural resistance to the Varroa mite. I have noticed them removing infected pupae and there always seem to be a few at the enterence with mites on them. These are usually carried off not long after.

Italian Hive:

These bees now have two supers SLAM FULL of capped honey. Some of the cells are even being extended into other frames. I have learned a lesson though...NEVER USE DURAGUILT IN HONEY SUPERS! Duraguilt is one of the earliest plastic foundation and, unlike the rigid Plasticell, it will warp easily and under the stresses of extracting becomes practically worthless. Good thing I only bought one box worth. Other than those two boxes, the brood nest actually has a frame on each side filled with nectar and honey, one frame in is a frame of pollen, and after that is mostly brood. This is a textbook case of a very good queen and brood pattern. Finally, contrary to my earlier concerns, it appears that I did get the queen bellow the excluder last month and she has now been confined to the brood box; right where I wanted her.

Realisticly, I could probably do a harvest this week, but, I really don't want to do that just before I go out of the contry for 2 weeks. I am expecting, however, to do a good sized harvest some time around late June. I can honestly say that I am strongly looking forward to it!

Thursday, May 18, 2006


I will be posting all my updates on the new TOP BAR HIVE under "Top Bar Hive bees" under the heading, cool blogs, to the right.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

FIRST SWARM CAPTURE; a rollercoaster of thrills.

On Friday, the same people who's hive I removed over a month ago, called in a panic about the thousands of bees in the air. The thrusday before, they called me about a hive that they found in their decorative roof tiles. It turns out, that the hive is based in the walls; a much bigger problem. The thousands of bees flying through the air were part of a swarm, showing that the bees had been there longer than they thought. I came over as fast as I could and, there was a swarm (probably about 7 pounds) hanging around 15 feet up an oak tree on a limb maybe 1 1/2 inch in diameter. I had been hesitant to capture it, given the possibility that the bees would be africanized. However, today I finally decided that I would take a chance and collect the swarm.

Around 1:00, I headed over to collect the swarm. Trembling with fear, I made my way up the ladder and began brushing the bees into a box. The first brush was the worst. I poorly manuvered the box so, the bulk of the bees fell right onto my veil and chest. It was almost like a bee beard, except, with more fear. At that point, I just about fell off the ladder but, I regained my ballance and got the box under the entire swarm. I sprayed them with about a quart of water and began brusing them into the box, again. When the bulk of them fell in, they felt to be about thet weight of 2 bricks. Now came one of my largest problems, how to manuver the bees and myself down the ladder. In an act of ballancing, I carried the box in the palm of my right hand(just about spilling the bees all over the bushes) and threw the brush down to the grass. Once I had the box on the ground, and in the shade, bees began flying everywhere. In a period of about 20 minutes, all the bees flew strait into the box and, from the some thousand or so that were flying/still on the branch, there were probably 20 bees still flying. I began on my walk home but, the woman who's swarm I was removing offered me a ride home.

When I arived home, the bees were starting to chew their way out of the box and what would fix this problem?MORE TAPE! I began waxing "starter strips" into the Top Bars of my Top Bar Hive and, I would for the next two hours. After this entire process was complete, I packed up the box of bees and everything else into the car and, keeping my veil on, went over to the location of my Russian hive.

I set up the Top Bar Hive on some bricks and made room to shake in the package. Since capturing them, the bees had stopped buzzing and vibrating, so, I was worried that they may have been smothered. I opened up the box and, with the first slit, the bees suddenly came to life. There were THOUSANDS of bees in the box and, I began shaking them into the TBH. They formed a large, buzzing clump in the bottom. They began taking flight and, formed a mass in the air so thick that, they appeared like gnats in the sunset. I noticed that they were all flying back to the box, so I shook those bees at the enterance and they clustered all over the front of the hive. I got a quick look at the queen running around the front, before she was engulfed by her daughters. The bees were all starting to clearly accept their new home and, after hours of working on the bees and the hive, I decided that was enough for one day and, I fugured I'd check on the other three hives tomarrow, and, I'll get a quick peak at the captured swarm hive, just to see how they're doing.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Do these flows ever end?

I am assuredly amazed how much flowers produce nectar in Florida. In February, it began with Oak honey and honeydew, then moved to Clover in April and now, Palm Tree honey in May. In June; mangrove then moving into Brazilian Pepper in August. Now, the Palm tree flow is comming and comming strong!

Captured Hive:
This hive is showing a developing brood nest and has probably doubled in population since it was captured. The bees are being a little flighty when I opened them but, still pretty non-aggressive in terms of persuing and stinging behavior.

Italian Hive:
This hive has made a 180º turn in this last week. They had no pollen stores and almost no honey in the brood nest area. That, typically, is a sign of a sort of pollen and honey famine. Now, there are probably 6 frames, slam-full, of pollen and honey. The queen has also stepped up egg production with the suden appearance of frames full of eggs and young larvae. Today, I also ran down the bees all into the bottom brood box in an attempt to finally get the queen out of the honey supers. These are probably, now my gentlest bees and, I will probably have to super them next week to make room for the new flow. The Palm honey has an interesting flavor compared to the other honeies but, proably the most marked difference is that it's actually very "runny" not viscous.

Russian Hive:
Today I swapped out three poorly drawn frames for new foundation and, given the current flow, they sould draw it out well. I accidentally left the cover perched probably 3/8" off the box itself on one side and, the bees had already mostly propolized it shut. Unfortunately, I think they superseaded their queen given I'm finding superseadure queen cells and a few have been chewed open. I'll probably have to requeen this year depending on the aggressive atributes of the new bees. This hive currently has about two supers suitable for extraction.