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Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Week Two - 2nd Hive Check

Today I got to visit the hives for the second time.

10 Frame Hive - Plenty of activity outside the hive (as expected with temps in the mid-50's). Bees returning to hive with full pollen sacks. Still no activity on frames 1,2,3,8,9,10. Comb being drawn out nicely on 4,5,6. Some capping of honey in corners and on top of frames. I could not find the queen, but did see eggs and that is evidence enough. It doesn't appear that the bees are touching the syrup feeder. Bees were very disinterested in me. Lots of bees packed in to three of four middle frames.

9 Frame Hive - Plenty of activity outside the hive (as expected with temps in the mid-50's). Bees returning to hive with full pollen sacks. Still no activity on frames 1,2,3,8,9,10. Comb being drawn out nicely on 4,5,6. Capping of honey on top and outside edges of hive. Bees more lively that nine frame hive. Several flying in my face to investigate me. Saw first pupae (I'm going to be a daddy!). It doesn't appear that the bees are touching the syrup feeder.

Lessons Learned

Smoker - Get it lit right the first time, then I won't have to worry about it going out. Don't rest smoker on hive, place it on the ground. Bees seemed better when smoke was not constantly blowing on them.

Camera - Take lots of pictures! The ones I did take, turned out nice (see below).

Warmer Weather - May not want to visit hives when temps are less than 60'.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Cracking Open the Hives

Today was the day I'd been waiting for.  I cracked open both hives.  I lit my smoker, dawned my suit, and grabbed my tools and went to work.  Here is what I found...

First, both hives had considerable less activity on the outside than two days ago.  I think this was due to the weather clouding up a bit and being a little gray outside.  I did notice that both hives did have bees coming and going, just not as many as before.  

The 10 frame hive had a good bit of syrup missing.  I'd estimate that about half of the original two gallons was gone.  The bees were quite pleasant.  I got really nervous when I confirmed that I had installed the queen cage incorrectly.  Despite that, i was pleased that she had been released.  I immediately noticed that the bees had been busy building up on the fifth, sixth, and seventh frame.  There were lots of bees in the hive, and I could not find the queen.  I think this was due to the weather and many bees just stayed inside today.  I did see that the bees had been bringing in pollen due to the dark brown, red, and yellow filled comb.  Also, I noticed clear, built up comb with what looked like clear syrup inside.  I think this is where the eggs will be/are deposited, but I cannot confirm that I saw eggs.  In the middle of inspecting this hive, my smoker went out.  Note to self:  pack the smoker full of fuel next time!  I moved the hive off of the lousy milk carton stand and put four cinder blocks underneath it instead.  I also switched the entrance reducer to the smallest opening and confirmed that the bees could enter and exit.  I added a gallon of sugar syrup to the feeder.  I'll recheck this hive in a few days.

Hive number two, the nine frame hive looked pretty much the same.  Again, about half of the two gallons of syrup was gone.  These bees seemed a little more active with me around.  I noticed the queen had been released and I found her almost immediately.  I'm glad I had them marked.  I also saw the same pollen and build up on framed five, six, and seven.  I this hive, I can confirm eggs(?).  I think I saw them anyway.  I have to get better at spotting them.  The bees had built up some burr comb around the queen cage which I removed.  One of the bees didn't care to much for that and I watched her attempt to sting me through my leather gloves.  It was fascinating as she pointed he body almost straight up, then pushed down and shook violently.  I watched the stinger come out and take her venom sack and part of her guts out with her.

One thing that I've noticed about this hive is a few bee poops (for lack of a better term) at the front entrance of the hive.  I noticed one on top of the one of the brood frames as well.  They are long, yellow, and look like long, narrow spatters.  I know that this can be a sign of Nosema, so I'll watch this.  I am treating for this already, but will continue to monitor for other signs.  I fixed the entrance reducer and added another gallon of syrup.

All in all, it was a great day.  I did learn a few lessons and realize that with time, I'll get better and more confident.

I did install my queen cage incorrectly. Why then do they make them that way?

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

I Just Had To Look

Yesterday, I did a drive-by.  I went by to collect the shipping cages.  Both hives were a flurry of activity.  Just outside of each hive was a pile of dead bees.  I even saw one being drug out by the 'undertakers', the bees responsible for removing dead bees from the inside of the hive.

I also observed, what I believe to be the bees taking orientation flights.  From what I have read, the younger bees will fly out of the hive and then hover in front of the hives to 'orient' themselves to the geography surrounding their hive.  I did see a few darting here and there, obviously going somewhere else, perhaps to the pond for water or to search for food.

I also noticed a few yellow droppings outside the hive which is bee feces (they go outside).  

Thursday, I'll head over and crack open each hive and check out the queens and make sure they are released and laying eggs.

I'll also fix the entrances, stands, and check the syrup levels.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

1st Lessons Learned

Not knowing what my bees are up to is driving me crazy.  I've been replaying the installation over and over in my mind, thinking about all the things that I did, and may not have done right.  
Tonight after dinner, I sat down and read through a few of me beekeeping books.  Here are a few things that I need to 'correct'.

1.  Entrance Reducer - I need to correct the position and change the larger hole for the smaller one.  I used the larger one.  I'll do this Thursday or Friday

2.  Hive Stand - I need to swap out the milk crate and current cinderblock configuration for a new, sturdier one.  I'll hold off on this until the first brood chamber is filled in a few weeks.

3.  Queen - This is the big unknown.  All of the books say not to disturb the hive for at a week, lest the bees kill the queen for 'disturbing the hive'.  That puts me into late this week.  I'll do a drive by on Tuesday and open check the queens on Thursday or Friday and make sure they have been released.  

One other thing that I've thought of is to put a motion sensor wildlife scouting cameras on one of the trees by my hives.  That way, I can watch for skunks or other critters that my be disturbing my hives.  I can pick one of these up at Wal-Mart for about $75.   Just a thought...

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Home Sweet Home

My bees are in their hives.  After a trip down south to pick up my bees, I installed them later this afternoon.  Installing them was so much easier than I thought it would be.  After only a few minutes, they were in their hives.  I fed them each two gallons of sugar syrup, one of which is treated with Fumagilin-B which treats for a honeybee disease known as Nosema.

A couple of thoughts:

First, I don't like the hive stand configuration that I have.  I need to use a total of 8 cinderblocks, where now I have four.  Also, the milk crate idea that I had seen on the net is useless.  Tuesday, I'll be fixing these issues.  

Second, although I like the full body suit for protection, I can't see using it during the middle of summer.  I think I'll either get just a jacket, or just use a veil and long sleeve shirt and jeans.  It's a little much, but I have to admit, it did offer a degree of confidence and allowed me to work with the bees without worrying one bit.

Third, I'm not sure how the queen installation went.  I think I turned the queen cage the correct way.  I'll know more on Tuesday.  

Fourth, I need to measure the syrup and record how much they are taking.  I found very little about this matter in my research.  

Take a good look at the picture with the pond in the background.  This is where the bees will get their 'cooling water' from.  The landowner/farmers thought this would be a good spot.  I agree.  He was nice enough to clear a little area amidst some trees for my hives.  This should be a nice spot with morning sun, afternoon shade, and some evening sun again.  Thanks to him, I've got a beautiful spot, quiet, and peaceful for my bees. 

Now ladies, the rest is up to you!

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Stormy Weather?

Saturday: A chance of showers, with thunderstorms also possible after noon. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 61. South wind between 3 and 11 mph. Chance of precipitation is 50%. New rainfall amounts between a tenth and quarter of an inch, except higher amounts possible in thunderstorms.

Three days to go and I've got a bit of work to do.

First, I've got to go and pick the final site for my two hives. There's been a little delay in getting that done, but tommorrow, hopefully, I'll be meeting up with the landowner to pick a choice spot. I would have liked to have had this done earlier. I'll be relieved when that's done.

Second, I've got to get me recording and camera equipment set up and ready to go.

Third, I've got to go pick up my bees. Saturday morning, I'll be getting them. The forecast for Saturday is rain, so I may have to hold off on installing them until Sunday.

I have to say that I am a little nervous about the whole process. I'm confident, but still there is a little fear of the unknown and what how my installation will go.

I promise to post pictures and the audio podcast ASAP.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Flight of the Honeybee?

My wife jokes with me that she “just knows” that the moment I open up my packages of bees that they are going to fly away and never come back. Well, it’s a funny thought, but it’s not going to happen. Let me explain…

On April 19, 2008, I’ll be picking up my two packages of 3lbs honeybees. In the package will be a syrup can for food, and a marked queen in a queen cage along with about 10,000 worker bees. While in the package, she will release her pheromone among the other worker bees where they will essentially become “hers”. When I install the queen, I’ll place her in the hive (in the queen cage) where in a few days the other bees, which I will have dumped inside the hive, will chew through a candy plug to free their queen. Then, if all goes well, she’ll begin laying eggs. Note: She has already mated which is for life. Any bees that may have flown away during installation will return to the hive where the queen is by following her pheromone.

"Flight of the Bumblebee" is a famous orchestral interlude written by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov for his opera The Tale of Tsar Saltan, composed in 1899–1900 (Wikipedia).