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Sunday, February 25, 2007

My Week (Now up to 5 hives)

Well, what a week. It has ended with me having another hive, another location, and some very dirty clothes.

Wednesday:

I received a call around 5pm from a formal funeral dirrector who had seen my newspaper article. Being in his 80s, he's had a hive on his property which had been abandoned for over 2 years. He wasn't exactly able to work them, and lacked the know how, or equipment but, offered it to me. I, of course, wouldn't hessitate to get a new hive and, set a plan to come by and see it Friday.

Friday:

After school, I got a ride straight over to his house; a small house with a large backyard, lush with grass and a wide variety of fruit trees. I could spot mangos, oranges, key limes, papya, avacados, and a few others. Seems like the perfect spot for a hive of bees. Appearantly, he's been on the same location for upwards of 50 years and, we just as glad to find someone to manage the hive, as I was to have another hive. Looking over the house, there were a few tall, red maples, having just completed their bloom and popping out with the fire-red folliage. For anyone who doesn't know, red maples are a wonderful source of early pollen given they bloom between late December and early January.

The hive was under a tree, butted up against two plank fences.

Grass had somewhat overgrown, and an old hive lay on it's side, rotting in the shade. "That hive died over a year ago. We tipped it over and sprayed given it was full of ants." he said. I dug through it, and, appearantly, they had not sprayed well enough. It was filled with fireants and the old, papery pupal casings of wax moths. They had partially burrowed into the wood, creating poc marks.

Next to the rotting hive, on a rotting wooden beam stand, a hive stood tall with, from top to bottom, two mediums, two shallows, an old, rusty queen excluder, and a deep resting upon a rotting, solid bottomboard. The boxes themselves had chipping paint and, apparantly, the mediums had slid about an inch forward given the hive was leaning forward by, at least 15 degrees. About an inch gap had been created, and, was mostly filled with hard, black propolis. Over all, they had maintained quite a bit of traffic and, I was amazed to see a hive that has been on it's own this long, doing this well. Not just the fact that it was alive but, the fact that it appeared to be thriving.

Saturday:

I had made plans to check on the bees today but, became side tracked with other things. My father was going to change a lightbulb in his bathroom and came over to show me what he found in the socket. He carried the small, tray-like covering for the light over to me. It had to be filled with at least an inch of dead bees. THERE ARE BEES IN THE HOUSE. A hive.

I ran outside and looked up to the 2nd story roof. There they were, a small mass flying out of the roof in a little pocked between the chimmney and the roof itself. A hive of bees in my house. Of course, I'm thinking they may be mine and, I'm wondering what to do about them. I quickly threw on my veil, grabbed a flashlight, and stuffed a glove in each pocket. I ascended the stairs to the attic and, carefully made my way over to the area of the roof that I thought they may be in. There were no bees in the attic but, there was a small crack. I shined a light over it, and a bee or two came out. It turns out they're in a small, issolated pocket, probably no bigger than a nuc.

I went up the ladder, and two other ladders on various levels of the roof untill I got over to the spot where the bees were flying in and out. There had to be at least 10 comming and going every second. Clearly a very busy hive. Now I'm left wondering if I should do a cut-out into my own roof, 25 feet above the ground. Worst of all, it's on a very steep edge, and there's nothing nearby to tie to. For the moment, I'll be leaving them alone untill I can think of something safe and palusible to do. One would think that a beekeeper would be well equiped to take care of a hive taking residence in his walls....that's not the case.

Sunday:

I woke up around noon, having gone to sleep at about 5am. Mostly watching television or, on my computer doing random tasks from tyring to establish a postgreSQL database to homework.

After lunch/breakfast, I assembled all my gear and a super into hte trunk of my father's car and we left for the Jackson's hives. The cinderblocks from the missing TBH were still there, still standing and undisturbed. Both of hte other hives there each had two medium suppers ontop of the usuall deep. Appearantly, I had forgotten that neither hive had a queen excluder on.

I opened the Russian hive first, as usual. They hadn't even touched the super I had added close to a month ago. Pulling that off, the medium below it was as it was a month ago, if more brood instead of honey. About 3 frames were completely filled with brood in all stages from eggs, to capping to emmerging. Going down below that, I found that not only did Iforget the queen excluder, I had also forgotten that I had broken a deep last time I opened the hive and, had not replaced it. There was the gap there but, the bees had not filled it with comb. Generally, that hive is not too strong and, given their poor comb construction, lack the ability to expand their broodnest.

Moving onto the "package hive" (I really need to come up with better names for these), I found that they had drawn out roughly 7 or 8 of the frames. They were partially filled with nectar but, over all, not as much activety as I would have expected. I took it off eaily and moved onto the medium below it. This super was in a simmilar state to the super in the Russian hive; mostly filled with honey but, having a good bit of capped brood. I pryed my hivetool between this medium and the deep brood box below it and, shoving hard, It began to come up but, stopped as it had been thuroughly attached to the box below via alot of burr comb. After a few more minutes with failed attempts at prying the stuck box, I finally gave in and twisted it, breaking the comb connections but, also irritating and otherwise harming many bees. On the plus side, the broken comb was all drone comb and gave me a chance to evaluate just how much varroa they had. I saw some pupae with between 1 and 4 varrroa mites; most having 1 or 2. Given these numbers, I'm concidering applying the ApiGuard to take care of the varroa before I start seeing more cases of DWV (deformed wing virus). Quickly going through the frames as the bees were becomming more annoyed at my presence, I found a very good brood pattern and, came to the conclution that, for the most part, everything is fine. I'll begin medicating next week.

With some irritate bees headbuting me, I closed up the hive, and went to put out the smoker and head over to the new hive of mine, unsure what effect 2 years would have on it.

After a 15 minute drive, I arrived at the issolated, dilapidated hive. With some difficulty in the 15 mile per hour wind gusts, I managed to light the smoker off of some dried pallmetto and twigs. With white, volumous clouds escaping the smoker, I donned my already sweaty gear back on, and prepared for ane xpected hour disassembling the hive.

I slide my hivetool between the outer and inner cover with relative ease. Gently prying upwards, I found the varry reason why most have abandoned inner covers in my area. A flood of ants rushed out of the crack, quickly coating the outside of the super and running up my arm. Veils were designed to keep out bees, not ants. I found just what I had expected as I pryed off a very attached inner cover. There was tons of burr comb and a thick, 1/4 inch of propolis around the edges. I smoked the bees down to retreat into their hive and scraped off the burr comb. After 5 minutes or so of scraping, I lifted the first honey-soaked frame from the box. Every frame in that box was capped bottom to top with honey.

It probably took a good 5 minutes to pry that box off, going to every corner and inserting the hive tool to pry along the topbars aswell. The hive seemed to be generally good tempered. The boxes were showing their ware as they warped under the weight of themselves when lifted. I took some time to chip the propolis off each end, somehow always managing to scratch into the rotting wood. It's amazing that hive is still standing.

Gradually, I worked my way through the 4 supers, taking care to smoke the bees and scrape off as much burrcomb and propolis as possible. The edges of hte boxes showed the most ware; having small cracks that bees were flying in and out of, or had sealed with propolis. The bees had been quite nice thusfar, not giving me a single sting. I suddenly felt something on my ankle though and thought it was a sting, I looked down and found that a colony of fire ants had apparatnly made their nest in the bottomboard of the hive. Somehow, this hive had lived with fireants in it's bottom board and pharoh ants in it's inner cover. Add in the usual effects of SHB and varroa and this hive is one in a million. They were just fine and, when I got down to the queen excluder, I noticed the amount of burr comb. Basically, it would be more than I felt I wanted to stress them in one day. I gradually began putting it back together; placing a shallow above the excluder, followed by a new medium, then the other shallows and two mediums. Each of the supers that was there was full of capped honey, so, I figured an empty super couldn't hurt. It's not often you have a 5 foot tall hive. I figure next time, I'll make a point of harvesting some of that honey, just to lighten the load and repair/repaint some of those supers. That may even give me a chance to swap out the bottom boards. This hive seems to have come through it's 2 years very well, and I'm expecting big things from it.

I spent the last twenty minutes dragging out and sorting through the old, rotting supers that had been sitting on the ground, just to see if any of them were any good. Most of the frames were completely junk but, 3 mediums and 1 deep box were usable. There were hundreds of cockroaches and ants in the tangled mass of old combs. They were black from dirt and exposure. With a few flicks of hte hive tool, I scraped out any remminants of old burr comb and wax moth pupal casings. Now, they're sitting in my garage to be sanded and repainted in the comming week. The frames and broken boxes are sitting in the same pile they were in before. I'm going to ask the landowner if I can throw them away or burn them there. Over all, this will be quite a bit of fun this season and, maybe, I'll manage to breed some queens from this hive. Clearly they must have some varroa resistance to survive, on their own, for two years, on a solid bottom board.

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