Monday, May 14, 2012

Sunday's Inspection

I couldn't wait to get in and check on the girls they've been zipping in and out with quite a bit of pollen.  Which surprises me because I haven't seen much in bloom a bit of sweet clover in the ditch, and a yellow weed here and there but nothing that I thought would be bringing in that much pollen.  There's got to be at least 3 things in bloom as they've been bringing in a bright yellow, a dark orange, and this weird whitish gray pollen.

Anyway getting into the hives, Itsy as you can see isn't very lively yet but they're slowly getting there:

They've got two new frames partially drawn out and as you can tell they're not following the pattern very well.  What can you do, they've got better plans than what the foundation says apparently.

Looks like I'm going to have some drones mixed in with some workers, and a few unknown cells since they aren't full sized.  I'm starting to think I should have just made both hives foundationless.  As the one that is foundationless is going to town and has all normal cells, instead of the craziness of foundation drawing.

Now the rest of the hive was a bit concerning for a new keeper.  The brood pattern is rather spotty on 2 of the 4 frames from the nuc, and there isn't much nectar/sugar water stored.  I've been feeding 1:1 sugar water with a bit of honey b healthy in it and they've been out gathering so I'm not quite sure what they're up to.  I did see some of my pollen patty stored in the edges.  I'm almost starting to wonder if I should have left these guys in the nuc for a while longer.  It would have been easier for them to heat/cool the nuc at least until there was a bit more population.
I figured I should probably find the queen and make sure she hadn't gotten cold and died, or flew the coop.  With only 4 frames I thought it would be a cake walk to find her.  I even took pictures of both sides of the frames and examined the photos and never did see her.  I did find freshly laid eggs and some small larva so I'm pretty sure she's still there.  I also think they'll be catching up as there were a few freshly hatched bee's.  I couldn't pick out the new ones, but I did see the newly opened caps.

Here's the nameless hive after opening they're definitely keeping busy:

This one was completely foundationless except the frames that came from the nuc and they've done a good job.  3 of the 4 frames are at least half filled in and the queen has laid in the new comb which was really exciting.

In the photo on the right I think you can just see the eggs they're so tiny.  The rest of the hive is packed really tightly which is promising for this hive.

I figured since the queen had started laying in the new foundation and they had drawn out a fair amount, its probably time to add another hive body.  Now this is where I discovered I don't like deeps.  I wanted to follow the process of adding below so they expand normally and while my deep isn't completely full it was heavier than I expected.  The other thing that's frustrating is because I had deep nuc's I had to use a deep on each hive and I had planned for one hive to be done with only mediums.  Since this was to be the medium hive I slid a medium under the deep, and included 2 frames with foundation for a ladder.  I just hope I haven't added it too soon but the bee's didn't seem to complain other than the mass confusion when I was adding the medium.

Also while adding this medium I added some concrete blocks to get the hives up off the ground as I noticed a mud print on one hive which makes me think that either a raccoon visited or a skunk.  I didn't see any other signs of the bee's being munched on but I wanted to get them up out of the grass anyway.  The plus side is with the screened bottom boards and the hives about a foot off the ground I can peek in on the boxes without having to disturb the bee's which is handy. 

The last thing I have to do is figure out when to remove the entrance reducer or to give them a bit more space to get in and out.  Anyway that wraps up this over view of my hives, since I only have two I'll have to find something to fill in with otherwise I'll be disturbing my bee's too much or start doing inspections on different days  which I may do so I can spend more time in the hives.

One other thing I hadn't thought about, water for the bee's, we live just up the hill from a creek so I assumed the bee's would make use of that.  They seem to be a bit lazy, my hose has a slow leak and was keeping the sidewalk a bit damp so they were making use of that.  As soon as I fixed it they've discovered I started opening the pool and I've had to fish a couple of the girls out of the pool.  I've given them a bucket of water with plenty of rocks in it for them to land on about 4 feet from the hive now I'll have to see if they make use of that or continue to drown themselves.  The bucket should get me by until we complete the new pond project we've decided to take on.  Once that's done maybe they'll stick to the pond and the creek and stay out of the pool.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Photo Link

While most of my photos get plugged into the Blog, not all of them do so I added a quick link on the side, and figured I'd post it here: Picasa Beekeeping Album

Check-In before my Trip

So I felt the need to peek in the hive just in case I don't have time this week.  I needed to make sure they hadn't gone over board drawing things out.  I knew they were busy and since they only have 8 of the 10 frames keeping an eye on how quickly they fill it in will be important.  The smaller hive I'm going to call Itsy because I just feel like it needs a name and lefty and righty just didn't sound right.  Anyway, Itsy is drawing foundation fairly slowly but still coming along.

It's nice white wax, and they're following the pattern for the most part the second shot is "small cell foundation" that they are drawing out.  So I feel like they're making good progress but probably won't need another deep super for a few weeks.  I could be wrong and they could really get it done sooner but I'm thinking it's going to be a while.  They are also sucking down the sugar syrup something I'll probably need to refill this weekend as they've already taken in about 1/2 a gallon which I expected for it being a new hive.

I did find something odd in Itsy, it looks like a larva they pulled early:

I was trying to see if it had a mite on it which would mean I have hygienic bee's, but my glove fingers couldn't get it picked up and one of the workers ran off with it.  So either it was a mite and the bee's wanted to prevent infection or this frame got a bit too chilly and the larva died so the bee's yanked it.  I couldn't say at the moment.

I will stay out of the hive till Saturday which will leave me wondering what caused that larva to get pulled but there isn't much I can do about it and I think the bee's know whats going on a lot better than I do.

Now for the other hive, I'm still working on a name for it but haven't come up with one.  Anywho hive two its completely foundation less and is going nice and strong.  Below are shots of all the frames they've started working on.

It's so cool to watch them make ladders to build the new combs.  They have comb on 7 of the 8 frames available to them so I have a feeling this weekend they will need to have another hive body added to them.  One thing that threw me on this hive is they've barely touched the sugar syrup they've drank about 2 inches of the syrup so  I debated on pulling it.  If they aren't using it, it means they've got enough foragers to keep the hive stocked with nectar and pollen.  After mulling it over a bit, I felt it would be best to leave it.  If any of the nectar drops off I want to make sure they've got food as they are drawing a lot of wax and will be most of the season.

That pretty well wraps up today's update, hopefully everything keeps speeding along while I'm tied up this week.  The good thing about the busy week is I won't have time to be tempted to peek in on the ladies.  Saturday will most likely be my next update, unless I have time to put together a general terms post as I had a few questions this morning that made me realize not everyone reading are familiar with bee keeping terms.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Keeping out of the Hive

I managed to stay out of the hive this weekend other than the 3 or 4 minutes it took me to fix the frame layout.  I would have liked to have gotten some pictures of the progress but I was on a mission to keep my invasion to a minimum.  I slid the frames around so its the frame feeder, 2 empty, 4 from the nuc, followed by 2 empty.  Since it didn't require pulling any of the nuc frames I didn't get to inspect too much.  I did see the bee's in the foundation hive have started drawing a bit of comb, and the foundation-less hive was festooning so tomorrow when my mentor arrives I'll hopefully have some shots of the newly drawn comb.

Since I wasn't supposed to be pestering my bee's this weekend I decided to try and landscape to help them.  I planted the coneflower's I started this winter and the black eyed susan's.  I've got lupine's, red hot pokers, more coneflower's, poppies and some bee balm all started in the green house.  24 of each type of plant which seems a bit excessive but my house has been flowerless for 2 years and I mean to remedy it this year.  I know the bee's will be traveling and will probably only briefly visit my flowers which I mainly started to bring in the hummingbirds I think it'll be good for both.

I have come to the conclusion this hobby will be another addiction like my saltwater tank addiction, I'm going to be torn as to which gets more money.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Spot Check

While I know I'm supposed to give my bee's some time to settle in I just couldn't resist peeking in on them.  I was also slightly worried about them I didn't close off the screened bottom board and it was quite a storm last night.  I figured I could keep myself occupied by just observing them and guessing what was going on.  As you can see there's plenty of action with the little girls zooming in and out of the hive.

I'm not sure why I didn't get a shot of the second hive other than they're running a bit behind and only had 4 girls sitting on the porch, and a goofy guy appearing to have navigation issues.  I watched him try and take off and then crash back into their little party.  Then wander around wondering where he went wrong.  After about 10 minutes he finally figured out what he was doing and flew off to the bachelor's pad to spend the day drinking and and waiting for the girls to show up.

I figured to keep myself out of the hive's I'd try stalking them for a while.  Which was quite a bit of fun.  Now I keep spotting them everywhere, on the weeds:

Also on my new flowers that I forgot I planted if I'd only remembered to turn the time stamp off this would have been a great picture.

After a while of stalking the girls I gave in and decided to take just a quick peek in the hives and I noticed everyone seems to be doing just fine.  On the small hive I decided not to pull any of the frames because they've still got a lot of work to do to catch up.  On the larger hive I pulled 2 frames because they were a lot noisier and I thought maybe I had rolled the queen yesterday in my haste to install them.  Here's a quick shot of the brood nest they're really going to town plenty of capped brood and still a few eggs around the edge and if I saw correctly just a few uncapped larva.

I found the queen on the second frame but she wouldn't co-operate for a photo shoot, there has to be a trick to holding the frame and getting photos but I don't have those skills yet.  After confirming no one suffered from last nights storm I closed them back up and will let them be except for a quick change tomorrow.

My mentor wasn't able to make it out today and pointed out I had made a slight mistake in my installation.  I must have missed this in all the videos I watched but apparently you're supposed to put the nuc frames in the center of the hive, with empty frames on either side of them.  The reason for this is they will only work on the frames closest to the brood, if you have everything on one side it will take them longer to draw out the other frames.  So tomorrow I plan to do a very quick entry and just shift the frames down so I can have undrawn foundation on either side of the brood.

Hopefully by tomorrow I can also figure out my second conundrum.  I had planned on running a foundation less hive and a hive with foundation.  The problem is I thought I was getting medium nuc's however they were deep nuc's so I've had to run both hives with foundation as both my deeps were setup to be the foundation hives.  I'll have to figure out if I'll just leave it as is and maybe pop the foundation out of the frames and just go foundation less on the deep of one or leave the foundation and see what comes of it.  Then once they have one of the hive bodies filled in and started on a second hive body I can maybe do some trickery with the queen excluder to get them swapped over to mediums and then the medium will be foundation less.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Installation of the Nucs

So today I made the trip to pickup the bee's, I must say I didn't expect to be as excited as I was.  It reminded me of being a kid on Christmas.  I may have been a tad over excited but I've been looking forward to this for such a long time.  It was so worth the wait and I'm glad they are finally got them, even if the day took longer than I really wanted.  I left at 7am and got home around 6pm a bit longer drive than I would have liked but I was also fully distracted when we arrived at Mark's and he has 40+ hives and was more than happy to share some experience that wasn't just read from a book or observed from YouTube.

He has a very nice setup at his house, a pond surrounded by his mass of hives in the middle of some decent timber and farm land.  It sucked that I managed to drive 4 hours and realized that I didn't have my camera and my phone battery was running low enough I couldn't get any shots of it.  Meeting Mark was very helpful and I wish he was closer as he would be an excellent bee mentor. 

After we enjoyed some of his homemade blackberry wine, and a specific type of honey I wish I would have caught the name it was incredibly good with a fruity blossom taste.  I ended up buying 4 lbs of it along with 4 lbs of his general honey (clover/alfalfa most likely).  Some will get turned into mead but for the most part I think it'll go on my toast and in my bread.  After that bit of fun we finally got to check out the nuc's and hives.  I think we looked at 5 different nuc's and he picked out one of the average nuc's with a decent brood pattern and a nice laying carnoilian.  The nuc was incredibly calm and easy to work with we could have handled that one without a suit or gloves and he did.  I fully suited up as I'd like my start with beekeeping to be less painful I know it'll happen eventually but minimizing the stings for my beginnings are for the best.  The second nuc he decided on was incredible so loaded with brood and nurse bee's they looked like they were could easily swarm (I could be way wrong on that) but they were packed in there so tight and the nuc was completely full of brood, with 1 frame full of capped brood and the rest of the frames full of brood in various stages one frame with eggs.  That one took a suit and gloves to handle they were a bit testy hopefully they settle down once they're in their permanent home.

We got the car started and cooled and loaded up the nuc's and started the drive home.  It was mostly pleasant we had 4 escapee's but no one decided they needed to sting which was good.  Two road in the back window and unfortunately didn't survive the four hour trip home and 2 decided to help me navigate on the dash.  I thought they had died to but I think the AC just slowed them down because when I got home and opened the windows they decided to fly off.

I went to install the bee's and noticed that my hives were a bit lopsided so I got the level out and noticed they were out of whack.  I repositioned the stepping stones I was using to lift the hives off the ground and got them leveled up with a slight incline to keep rain out of the hive.  Then I filled the feeders so my new bee's would have something to draw out the foundation.

I grabbed a nuc to put in and they still looked mostly happy.

I wanted to get more pictures of the frames and try finding the queen but, we have a sudden storm rolling in so I figured it was best to just get everyone moved over to their new home.  I gently moved the frames over to their hives but I'm not sure I got my spacing right.  The feeder takes up just a bit more space than a frame and a half.  Hopefully my coworker will be able to check them tomorrow afternoon and let me know if i got it right.  I was also a bit surprised at how quickly they had glued the frames into the nuc's as we'd only been driving 4 hours but 2 were stuck down tight.

Here's my girls in their new home, it definitely didn't take them long to find the food:

Once they were all in and I managed to get the inner cover and telescoping cover on without squishing anybody I moved on to the second nuc.

I wish I would have remembered to snag a picture when I opened it but I was a bit startled by the explosion of bee's when I opened the second nuc.  There were quite a few in my face and so much noise that I just forgot to pick up the camera and moved slowly and deliberately getting them moved over.  I did get this shot after I had the frames moved out of the nuc.

Now getting them out created quite a stir I had to smack the box and you can imagine the crazy amount of bee's in the air, but everyone made it into their new home.

Here's my two final shots this first one is of the smaller nuc but it didn't take them long to head in as the inclement weather was rolling in.

This was the larger nuc and everyone wasn't as cooperative about going inside.

That wraps up my first day as a real bee keeper, tomorrow I'll be in the hives briefly just to have my mentor double check I didn't mess anything up and the spacing is good.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Bill's Beekeeping

Before I begin I should point out I'm not the greatest writer, but I wanted to log my experience in beekeeping.

While I know everyone is doing it, and I've come across some really great blogs on beekeeping I felt like I wanted a place to record my journey into my bee's.

So after many years of procrastination I took the plunge and have started my apiary.  I'm beginning with two hives while I'd like to start with more beekeeping was a bit more expensive than I thought it would be.  Instead of starting with the standard layout of 2 deeps and mediums for honey supers I've decided to run a bit of an experiment to figure out what works the best for me in my area.

In my first hive I'm running the standard 2 deeps, and will use mediums for honey supers.  On this hive I'm also using small cell foundation in the frames, and my honey supers will also have foundation.  On the second hive I'm going to use only mediums and for foundation I've got some small cell foundation for the mediums but I'd really like to see how the bee's do without foundation.

On the note of foundation versus no foundation there is so much debate and it doesn't matter who you ask you always wind up with a different answer.  Everything I've read said that when you start it's easiest to switch between the different layouts.  So I figured do a bit of both and see what works out the best.

I'm also trying to keep in mind the health of my bee's so I figured going a more natural route with small cell foundation and foundation-less should help keep my mites down.  I'm also using a screened bottom board for pest management.

I have two outstanding decisions/alterations to figure out in my beekeeping.  One is top entrances vs bottom entrances or utilizing both.  I've read good things about both and since our weather has been so insane lately I think it will be a good idea to get added to my hives.  The other thing I've debated over is frame spacing and using a narrow frame space as recommended by Michael Bush's frame width.  This one is a bit more of a pain to implement and may be something that is done next year when I finally get to split a hive.

Tomorrow I finally get to go get my Nuc's two 5 frame nucs.  I've been waiting very impatiently for tomorrow to get here so I'll have lots of pictures for tomorrow's post.

To wrap up the majority of my equipment came from a few of the common suppliers:
My bee's are coming from a local apiary about 120 miles from me so my will be suited for my location.