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Monday, December 25, 2006

Merry Christmas

Sorry I've fallen so far behind. Between highschool, studying (the refference is obligitory), video games and such, I've fallen behind on thee updates....WAY BEHIND! My Newyear's ressolution will have to be to update this site again. Might as well start now. And yes, the time gaps between when I get out to the yards have also increased in length. Longest time between checking on them is up to 4 weeks now.
I passed the inspection and, beleive it or not, the inspector only checked the two hives at my house. Oddly enough, the "captured hive" was more gentle than usual. Recently, they're the hive I'd think twice to decide, "Do I really want to open this hive?" I'm sure they need to be requeened and, I'll probably do that this comming spring. I had hopped to keep any varroa resistance these bees may of had but, if their dispossition is as aggressive as it has been sometimes, I may think twice. This hive went on to require suppering in September and, filled up the whole supper (5 deep frames) with honey. The lower supper, consisting of medium frames in a deep body, has become a great hastle to open up. They extended the combs on hte remaining 5 inches of spaces and, being heavy, these combs like to snap. Nothing angers bees like them falling with their brood. An even bigger issue has been ripping the comb as I remove the frame from the body. Then, I have to stick my hand into this hive of annoyed bees to retreive this stinging mess. All in all, I'm hoping to more them over to full deep frames, like they should have been in the first place, and requeening with an italian queen of a gentler strain. Basically, since it's been 3 weeks since I've mustered the courage to check up on them, I dont' know exactly what they're doing at this point.

The "Italian" hive has done quite well this season. They had a battle with SHB just about all season but, managed to produce about one supper of honey for harvest in November. Two of the ten combs had to be scrapped though given they had been "slimed" by the SHB larvae. This hive has maintained a gentle disposition and, has been producing well. I'm not entirely sure of the queen though. THe comming spring will be her second build-up and, if a queen fails at that time, it usually means no first crop of the season. I suppose I'll let them go on as they are without replacing the queen though. I really don't want to go and kill queens for any reason other than having daughters too deffensive to work with. Right now, they have their deep brood chamber and 2 suppers. One of those suppers is half full, the other, completley capped. Between the two, they should have plenty of honey to make it through our Florida "winters". And, as another plus, the unusually warm conditions have led to incrreased acctivety in the nectories of Spanish Needle plants so, most of the hives have hardly tapped into their stores at all. Those blooms have also allowed the bees to store up more pollen at the last minute. Today we received a few inches of rain and, I am a bit concerned about water leaking into the hive. I have a small box with one frame and around 50 bees sepparated from the Italian hive by a sheet of newspaper and a queen excluder. (I'll explain why in the following paragraphs after the KTBH.)

The Russian hive has been less than satisfactory this year. I still have yet to harvest a single super from them despite over a year of being on their location. Mostly due to the fact that I lost 3 supers of honey to SHB this summer and, their brood comb has been in such bad shape that it's probably hard to have enough cells for a real colony to get going. At least they are producing enough honey to sustain themselves. THey are, at this point, probably my weakest hive. I am concidering requeening this hive but, I must change out all the combs in that brood box. They are a complete mess!. I had to reduce their entrance to help with a robbing problem.

The package hive has been wonderful. They have crammed brood and honey into every single available cell. I look forward to this hive doing well in the next season. They have followed a relatively simmilar build-up from when they were installed as a package that the "italian" hive followed in 2005. But, these bees required far less feed.

Finally, the KTBH. This hive, undoubtably my favorite, went on to produce quite a bit of honey. I actually stole 2 combs to put into some jars of extracted honey from the "italian" hive. These bees went onto expand their whole hive area to the 27th bar with honey from the 27th to the 6th bar. They were all set for a long winter (and it was an unusually warm and mild one so far), and, would have, undoubtable, built up excelently next year. Unfortunately, on December 22nd I received a call that suggested I come by and see the hive. IT sounded ominous. I rushed over that night to find combs scattered everywhere. The screened bottom was hanging limply on one side and 5 inches of dead bees lined the ground. Raccoons or some other animal had ripped the bottom out of the hive sometime between the 19th and the 22nd and, had proceided to whipe out my strongest colony. I came back the next day to clean up everything and see if I could figure out what had happened. I went through the bars, only finding 1 inch stripps of SHB covered combs. Ants and cockroaches had also moved in. Then, I got down to the last bar and found a mass of 50 bees all huddled in a corner. Whenever they group together, it can be a very good sign of a queen being present. I had not brought a veil or protective gear so, I ran back to the car, threw a blanket over my head and neck and grabbed a lunchbox. Using a wad of pine needles, I proceded to brush the bees into the small lunchbox. With every live bee that I could find in that box, I proceaded to finish cleaning/scrapping the rest of the hive and packed it up. The instant I got home, I fixed up my old observation hive to fit ontop of antoher hive in hopes that I could get these bees (and hopefully a queen with them) to come through. Ofcource, I have no smoker fuel and, it had been raining earlier that day. Without a smoker, I proceaded to open the "captured" hive. An already deffensive hive, on a bad day, without smoke is a VERY bad idea and, they "voiced" their objection through several stings to my gloves and thigh. Realizing this was a bad idea, I went to put these bees on the small feeding hole in the cover of the "italian" hive. I popped off hte hold and laied down the newspaper. Realizing after a few seconds that no bees seemed to be comming up, I walked off to grab the lunchbox. When I got back after maybe 30 seconds, bees were BOILING out the cover. Another mistake, another sting. Eventually, I cleared off all those bees, placed down the newspaper and queen excluder, and transfered the bees from teh lunchbox (or as I liked to call it, the "Unauthorized, unapproved livestock transporter") into the observation hive super and closed everything up. Given this observation hive is broken, most parts were substituted from a styrofoam box, cardboard, ducttape and whatever woodscraps were just lying around. I"m hoping that the queen was in there and, if I'm lucky, I may see eggs next week. If not, I'll know I gave them the best chance I could and go back to ordering anther package and redesigning my KTBH.

So, there's 1/4 of the year summarized in one post with no pictures. Overall, I'd rate this year a "D". Passed.....but just bearly. The italian hive and package hive are my only two that are on target. The KTBH is dead, the captured hive might as well be (sure'd be alot less stings), and the russian hive seems to just make combs worse. For 5 hive in one year, and receiving less than 7 gallons of honey, that is a very bad average when you take into account that 1 medium super contains around 3 gallons of honey. Given it's been unusually wet in our dry season, I have high hopes for next year. Winter is the time to look at what went wrong, what could have gone better and what can be changed. After I start passing Algebra II, then I can devote more attention to these hives and get them all running smoothly. Who knows, with 2 "not-so-good" to "bad" years in a row, maybe 2007 will be the magic one. We'll see.

Merry Christmas from Apis629. And have a Happy Newyear.

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