Tuesday, June 11, 2013

New Arrivals

Well June has gotten started and the weather for my bee's has not been real cooperative.  We've had 80+ days, just to have them followed by 20 degree days for May.  With this crazy up and down in temperature I ended up losing the Peach hive, from what I could tell they broke cluster and during one of the freak chills they clustered in two small separate balls and then went downhill from there.

Cherry Blossom is still kicking but, we've have so many days of rain I started to worry they may fall too far behind.  This past weekend I was able to get in and take a look at the bee's.  I couldn't do a full inspection as it wasn't as warm as I would like.  They seem to be doing ok but they're refusing to move up or down in the hive.  This was the only hive to use deeps and I'd like to get them to move to mediums because the deeps are just a pain.  This highlights one of the things I've hated about the deeps while using them for the brood chamber might be great, I can't easily interchange the frame to open the brood chamber.  I had thought they would fill the deep and then the queen would move up or down and start laying then I could use a queen excluder to keep her out of the deep, but so far I haven't been that lucky.

The other downside to our terrific midwest weather, its delayed the arrival of my new bee's.  Here it is the June 10th and my nuc's haven't arrived.  I can't fault the vendor because they're working with livestock and unless the weather cooperates there's nothing they can do.  I could have picked up some packages but I missed that window because I was dealing with the arrival of my new chicks.  So now I'll wait for my nuc's they'll be behind but at least they'll be semi local bee's.

These little guys arrived 2 weeks earlier than expected and their chicken coop remodel wasn't done so they ended up spending two weeks in the horse trailer.  It took a bit longer to get the chicken coop back to a stage we could let the chicks in but we've finally got them in.
Now we just have a few walls to finish up and the ceiling and the chicks will be all set.

The last couple weeks of June I'm hoping things calm down a bit, and I can get my new bee's.  I also need to get a couple batches of wine and beer in the fermenters because July is just around the corner and I'd like to have some home brew ready for the summer bash.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Winter Recap

So we're into March already, and I've gone all winter without an update.  I'll try much better this year to keep this up to date.  This has been a rather rough winter for my livestock, not just my bee's but my horses, chickens, dogs, and saltwater fish.

I lost my 10 year old chocolate lab, he was my best friend but considering the vet said he wouldn't live past 3, the additional 7 years of life he had made him an extremely pampered puppy.

He was never one to hold still for a picture but here's the kids hoarding the bed leaving me wondering where I'd get to sleep.  The two labs at the back are his kids, Princess (black) and Dusty (Yellow), Wrangler is the blue healer they were good buddies.  Comanche will be missed greatly but he's moved on to a better place.

I've kept a small flock of chickens for a few years and always just let nature take its course to get a few new hens each year.  Except this year it went all haywire.  I went into October thinking I had 7 new hens, plus the 4 original and the rooster.  Turns out the roosters were just extremely late bloomers.  So well into winter when they're cooped up having 6 roosters and 5 hens is a terrible mess.  I ended up loosing 2 hens to the roosters fighting and then the cold took out another 2 hens and a rooster.  So we decided to just finish off the rest of this batch and I've placed an order for 17 buff Brahmas, 5 White Brahmas and 3 Amerucana's to start fresh.  They'll be arriving the first week of April hopefully.  If not it'll just mean buying store bought eggs this summer.

I have 2 saltwater aquariums a 55 gallon, and a 90 gallon, which took their fair share of losses this year. I've always ordered my saltwater livestock online because I usually get a decent price and I can get my hands on aquacultured pieces instead of things ripped from the reef.  Well with the crazy weather somehow one of my orders got messed up in shipping and arrived frozen solid 2 weeks late, the company took good care of me and replaced the order but I hate loosing livestock to shipping errors.  We also experienced a couple days of no power and a -10 degree windchill.  The battery backups I had lasted for the first day but didn't make it through the second day.  I ended up loosing the male of my breeding pair of Maroon clowns, and two small coral colonies.  Its next to impossible to re-pair maroon clowns because they are incredibly aggressive so I'm not sure what I have planned for her at the moment.

My horses while they didn't fair as badly as the rest of the livestock are extremely grumpy.  We had a fairly severe drought last year so the horses were a bit hard on the pasture.  To give the pastures a good chance to recover we pulled the horses up to what was a nice dry dock.  Unfortunately by the end of December the dry dock had pretty much turned into a mud pit which has steadily gotten worse leaving them confined to the barn and put them in a cranky mood.  Then February has brought tons of rain and snow and now the barn is starting to turn into a mud pit leaving me with a great deal of work come spring.  To keep the horses from having to stand in water too much when we get the gushes of rain they've been force to stand in the horse trailer as its really getting to be the last dry spot around.

Now for the bee report which is what this blog was supposed to be for.  As you remember I went into winter with 2 full size hives which I'm going to name Cherry Blossom and Peach to give them an official name, and 2 nuc's.  The nuc's did really well until January when we had a period of extremely warm moist weather (53F) followed that evening by some bitter cold (-4).  By the weekend when I could check on them they no longer had the slight hum of a cluster when I pressed my ear up to the hive.  The Peach hive has the queen from the original nuc's I bought last year and going into winter I wasn't feeling extremely strong about it.  The hive had built up some and had a fair amount of stores I still didn't think it was as strong as it could have been, that queen had been wacky not laying for a couple weeks off and on through out the summer.  I've fed it a couple times with sugar disks and its still going I have no idea how strong it is but at least it's still alive.  Cherry blossom is the hive that swarmed and re-queened itself with a locally mated queen.  I had the highest hopes for this hive it had 1 - deep body full of honey and a good sized amount of bee's and a second deep of brood.  It didn't need any feed in December or January, but by February the bee's were starting to cluster at the top so I gave it some sugar discs.  Now we're into March I've been able to peek in on it and I'm not sure if its dead or alive.  The bee's started on the sugar disc's but have gone back down into the hive bodies, and when I knock I only hear the faintest hum of a cluster.  So only time will tell whether it will make it to the dandelion bloom.

I had planned on coming into spring with 4 hives but since I lost 2 and possibly a third I went ahead and placed an order for some nuc's from Long Lane Honey farms.  They're about 3 hours east of me and they raise their queen's locally so they should have a better chance in this climate instead of Georgia raised queens.  Unfortunately they don't arrive until May which by then a big portion of our spring flow is well under way so they'll have enough time to build up but will most likely only produce a small amount of excess honey.

My plans for this spring are to try and get my apiary up to 6 hives, so hopefully Cherry blossom survived because that hive built up very strong and it would be great to get some splits off of it.  I've got new chicks coming next month and I think they're going to get a new hen house because the old hen house has had numerous problems and it'll be better to get things tightened up for them.  We have a ton of spring barn work to prevent future barn floods so that'll mean lots of concrete work.  Then there's the saltwater tanks  I think it may be time to consolidate down to a single tank and if I do it'll mean a minor upgrade to a 6' 240 gallon tank and we'll retire the 55 & 90 to the basement for coral grow-out/ oversize refugium.

Also as side hobby I've taken up making wine and beer.  Wine seems much more simple than beer and I've bottled 2 batches of wine the first batch a rose Zinfandel seen to the left here.  I ran out of new bottles and had to put a bit in reused bottles which was fine it was still tasty.  The second batch was more of a merlot and beyond potent.  I mixed up my math somewhere and ended up being close to 26% alcohol content.  One glass is more than plenty, and thankfully it only amounted to about 18 bottles I've put a few away in the cellar to try it after its aged a year.  Right now I've got 6 gallons of mead fermenting which will get bottled in 2 more weeks, and another 4 gallons of wine from grapes out of my grandparents backyard when I sampled it earlier I wasn't sure what to think of it.

My beer brewing hasn't been so successful.  The first batch had to be dumped down the drain as it was horrid.  It was either contamination from a blow up fermentation, or I screwed up the sparging.  Beer is super complicated compared to wine.  It takes like 8 hours to make where wine takes less than an hour before its fermenting.  The second batch was ok but rather bland.  I've held off on anymore beer as its a really short turn around and I'm out of bottles, and my 12 week diet and work out plan doesn't allow for beer.  Only 8 weeks left then I can give beer another go.

I know the start of this made it sound incredibly depressing as much has gone wrong but, I have high hopes for this year.  The bee's will flourish and the new chicks will be a nice addition, and we'll get the horses out of the muck, and with luck the tanks condensed.  I haven't thought about a new dog, I'm content with Comanche's kids for now.  I do swoon over pictures of chocolate lab puppies, however I think I have enough going on in my "zoo".

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

October Followup

So as you can tell I wasn't very good at keeping this up to date and now I'm doing bunch postings based off my notebooks.  October was not the best month for me and the bees sadly.  I kept up my feeding regimen even though I would have preferred to let them forage naturally, but we really didn't have a fall flow.

For winter prep I added top insulation, closed all my bottom entrances and prepped some fencing for wind blocks.  I live out in the middle of a corn field and the wind whips through here in the winter so  I thought it best to give them some assortment of wind break.

Hive recaps:

Hive 1:  Going strong, weighs a ton (had to move the hive to the concrete slab)  (Native bred queen)
Hive 2:  I'm not too worried about this hive it feels pretty heavy and should winter fine. (Carnelian from original nuc)

Hive 3: Robbed, but still has a fair amount of stores, downsized to a nuc box with 10 frames
Hive 4: Robbed blind over a weekend while I was gone lost the queen and a fair number of bee's to starvation -- remainder combined with hive 3

Nuc 1: (Hive 3&4 combine) seems to be doing alright after the combine, need to build a top entrance and add insulation still.
Nuc 2: Strong for a nuc, added insulation and a top entrance will hope it survives the winter.

Since its October 30th I doubt there's much more I can do for these bee's.  I do have the candy boards for later in the season and we'll see how they fair.  I'll keep a bi weekly check knocking on them to make sure they're still going and will probably add candy boards to them in a couple weeks.

I'm really wanting to ensure Nuc 2 survives so they may get moved to an observation hive that resides in my dining room for the winter.  However my better half is very leery of this idea so its taking a lot of sweet talking I just have to make him decide by this weekend because it's the last time it'll have enough semblance of warmth to move them to the observation hive and bring them in the house.

Late posting for September

To bring you up to speed after my last post I ended up ordering a Zia queen as one of the swarms didn't fare so well.  The Zia queen was incredible but also very wierd.  I put her in and let them be for a week, when I finally decided to peek in on them she was laying wonderfully.  So I figured I'd just feed them a bit and they'd build up great for winter, however thats not how it worked out.  After about 2 weeks I checked in on the new queen to discover 3 queen cells and no queen, I decided maybe she just didn't like my hives and left things alone.  Much to my suprise she had taken up residence two hives over.  I know it had to be her because I only had 1 marked queen and I found her and the hives original queen.  This completely befuddled me because everything I've read says 2 queens won't leave others alone, which I guess is mostly true because she ended up in one of the other nuc's and I was fine with that because that was another naturally mated queen that was doing so-so...

Fast forward to the start of September and this was my layout:

Hive 1: Originally from a nuc, swarmed and produced an incredible queen very heavy with winter stores, good bee population

Hive 2: Originally from a nuc, had build up issues and the bee bread mystery, was visited by the Zia queen, light on stores needed heavy feeding, has an ok bee population

  • I tried feeding this hive with heavy sryup 5:3 but they really didn't want to take it till the end of sept
  • Failure on my part to do a full tear down inspection -- feels like about 80 lbs
  • Made up some sugar boards to feed later in the winter

Hive 3: First swarm from hive 1, iffy queen possible drone layer, possibly laying worker, very very light on stores. Small worker population.

  • Found the queen and set her aside -- Did a full hive shake out on the other side of my 6 acres
  • this hive was eating about a gallon of 5:3 syrup every 3-5 days
  • Did a follow up inspection at the end of sept laying patter much better stores much better

Hive 4: Afterswarm from hive 1, queen never spotted, after 30 days no queen sign found, installed Zia queen, 1 full medium super of honey, fair bee population

  • Did feed a small amount
  • Seems to be doing ok
  • Zia queen left queen cells behind

Nuc 1 & 2 were were just attempts at producing queens nuc 1 was a complete failure.  Nuc 2 produced queens but they didn't mate well, but was overtaken by the Zia queen who likes to run amok.

  • Nuc 1 combined with Nuc 2
  • Nuc 2 Ignoring all feed
  • Mid september inspection Zia queen missing, 3 new queen cells... (WTF is up with this zia queen)

So all in all half my hives aren't as promising for winter stores as I would like but my Zia queen has gotten around and we'll see how her daughters fair.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Bee Bread Mystery

So I did my inspection a day early I should have waited but I felt like being outdoors.  I also went gloveless today which I probably wasn't ready to do... I started with my two main hives, unfortunately after a few photos I took a stinger to the thumb which made me jump and take a stinger to the next 3 fingers.  Most of the time a sting just hurts but today all 4 fingers swelled and became too stiff to operate the camera.

The hive with just medium boxes was concerning me the most, last time I was in there I saw 5 or 6 queen cups like they were thinking about swarming.  Digging through the box they didn't appear to be honey bound but I think they may have bound themselves with bee bread/pollen.


The bottom hive body had 6 of 10 frames filled like that on both sides, the next one up had 3 frames filled both sides with the other 7 frames having a spattering of brood and nectar.  I went frame by frame and started to get a little worried that the queen had taken a swarm and left.  When I finally found her up in the honey super laying in whatever cell she could find. They've only drawn 4 of 10 frames in the honey super so I haven't been real eager to add another just yet. I did do some re-arranging of empty s with bee bread down below which is probably why I got stung.  Hopefully the queen will get to laying again and they'll give up on swarming.

The hive that swarmed had one hive body with 5 of 10 frames full of bee bread and maybe that's why they swarmed.  That hive was done with deeps and has now became the bane of my inspections.  Both of the  deeps will be cut down come spring and if I could figure out a way to do it now and let them keep their stores I would.  I didn't see the queen or any sign that they have a queen. I found where she hatched and she chewed out the other cells but I'm starting to wonder if she didn't make it back from her mating session.8 more day's will be a month since that hive swarmed so I'll wait till next Friday before I give in and order a queen.

Swarm 1:

Seems to be doing all right building comb like crazy and they're doing a pretty good job of it no wild and crooked combs.  This is the one where I got shots of the queen returning from her mating flight on Saturday. I would hope she'll start laying by end of week.

Swarm 2:

Isn't doing as well it's not drawing out comb all that quickly and I saw the open queen cell but I haven't seen her in the nuc.

The nuc I started off the extra queen cells well they built up comb but the queen's didn't hatch, this will get combined with swarm 2 next week.  Which makes sure swarm 2 has plenty of time for the queen to go out and mate and come back before I adjust their housing.  If I don't see egg signs by next Friday I may end up combining both with swarm 1, but if I have to order a queen maybe I'll just get two... but I don't think they'll build up enough to survive the winter so it's iffy.


I popped in to see if I had comments and realized I forgot to publish my last few blogs.  Sorry about that.

First week of August

While its been 2 weeks since my last inspection, I just wasn't feeling up to tearing into the hives.  My party drained me and its taking a bit to bounce back.  Also cleanup is much less fun than the party.  I did walk by and see plenty of activity from the hives so I wan't incredibly worried.  Also to make me feel alot better Swarm 1 made me feel incredibly encouraged.  Take a look at who's returning from her mating flight, she missed the door but at least I know this swarm has a queen, now to wait and see if she's well mated or if they supersede her.

I did watch her for about 20 minutes and she finally decided she'd had enough hanging around and high tailed it indoors.  For as big as she is she can really move, I tried to get photos of her moving inside but when she decided it was time to go bam she was off and before I could get her in focus she was inside.

On the 8th I'll do a full inspection of all 3 hives and the 2 nucs with photos of each.  Plus that'll give me some time to get the hardware put together and painted.