Sunday, April 26, 2015

Long Live the Queens!

Another week has passed, the weather has yo-yoed back to warm & sunny, and the bees are out buzzing around. We went into the hives today to remove the pollen patties I placed due to the cold weather. Turns out the bees must not have needed them because they were barely touched. I decided to go glove-less today because I wasn't happy with the lack of dexterity last time. I felt clumsy and couldn't get a good grip on the frames. It went really well and I think I'll only use gloves for honey harvests.

We checked on the rest of the progress too. The bees in both hives are drawing out comb nicely on a few more frames. The blue triangle hive seems to be rejecting some of the base foundation on a frame. We’ll have to see how this goes, I've read a little about it and have a prospective fix. We may try that this week or the next weekend after seeing what they do with it. This hive is the  one who was way over to one side of the box last time as well. I placed another empty frame against the box wall today to push the cluster closer to the center where they should be. It seems to be working well.

Both hives had capped brood, larvae of various stages and more eggs. And guess what! We also found both of the queens! Long live the queens! We got a good picture of the yellow triangle queen but the blue triangle queen was moving a little too fast for A. to get a good picture of her.
See her? The queen is the bee with the long black abdomen just to the lower left of the center of the photo.
It was really exciting to see them moving around. I was surprised at how easy they were to see today but I think that’s partly because so many bees were out of the hive foraging and they are starting to spread out more in the box as they draw the comb out on more frames. Interesting tidbit: All the bees in the hives right now are still the original bees that came in the package. Not enough time has passed for any new bees to have hatched.

Ok, here’s a couple great pictures to see all the various stages.
Eggs and one bigger larva.
Larvae in various stages.

See the little white sprinkle looking things at the bottoms of the cells? Those are the eggs. The queen lays one egg in each cell. After three days, the eggs hatch into larvae; those are the white grub looking things in the cells. The bottom picture has varying stages of larvae. The newest ones look like little, white, “U” shaped  worms. The oldest larvae fill the entire cell. About six days after hatching the cells are capped. This photo also has capped cells. They are capped with white or yellowish wax. In another 12-14 days (12 for workers, 14 for drones) they will hatch and we’ll have our first new set of adult bees. Depending on when these cells were capped, we may be able to see some new bees on our next hive inspection. Can’t wait!
Guard bees checking out a forager coming back with pink pollen.

More fun things today, we noticed some of the bees were coming back with pretty bright pink pollen. A. quickly realized that these bees had been foraging on the abundant Spring Beauties in the woods. See the bright pink anthers? Very cool!

We also have a few chores to take care of this week where the feeders are concerned. The bees don’t seem to be taking the sugar syrup as fast as I anticipated so the syrup has gotten a bit cloudy and some spots of mold are growing in it. There still doesn't seem to be a lot of nectar producing flowers out yet so I’m hesitant to take the feeders away completely. We’re considering getting a third feeder so that we can replace one at a time and clean them out but we’ll need a faster fix than that for this week I think. Perhaps take the feeder off and replace with the inner cover then put a small pie plate with sugar syrup in it on top with an empty box around it. Things to think about. We may need to discuss this for a couple days. 

Here’s the rest of the pictures from today. I’m pretty pleased that the weather is supposed to be so nice this week, I think we may have finally turned the corner and things will start happening more quickly.

Taking the brick off the top. Time to get started!

Add a little smoke.

Removing the hive-top feeder.

One little chew hole in this patty.

Sugar syrup in the cells.

Long live the queen!

Some eggs in the bottom of these cells.

Photo bombed by the queen, She's making her exit on the left.

Large larvae and capped brood.

Frame of bees.

Working on drawing out comb.

Happy beekeeper!

Smoking to get the bees down in the frames.

In the lower right corner of the photo, see how the cells look wet? That's stored sugar syrup.

More brood, capped and uncapped as well as some pollen and sugar syrup.

Rejecting the foundation. See the lobes on the left?

Close-up of the foundation rejection. This can also be considered bur comb.

Big pollen baskets coming in.

Get out of the way! I'm coming in for landing!

Good shot of two different color variations of the bees.

This grid is the mite board under the hive. The "crystal" flakes are wax flakes that fell off the bees.
The colored balls are pollen baskets that fell off and through the screen. Here you can see both yellow and pink pollen.

Close-up of yellow and pink pollen and the wax flakes.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

One Week Later

We've patiently waited all week, occasionally filling the feeder with sugar syrup and putting up an electric fence. Yesterday, it was time to open up the hive for our first inspection! Normally, this is the time when a new beekeeper checks on the queen to make sure that she’s been released from the queen cage and that she’s been laying and hasn't absconded or been killed. After the events of the install and the “no candy snafu” we could be relatively certain that our queens were not still in their cages. As far as the other issues, they were still possibilities but we hoped not.
Getting the smoker going.

I decided during the week that the disposable painter’s coveralls weren't really going to work out for me so I took to Amazon and found some real painters coveralls made of cotton then bought one for each of us. They’re a little heavy but they’re reusable and washable, not mention snazzy.

In the morning we made a quick trip to Menards for smoker fuel. By the way, I do not recommend that anyone undertake a trip to Menards on a sunny Saturday! It was a zoo! I know, I know...duh! I should have known better but I needed fuel for the smoker and I had decided that wood pellets, like those used for wood burning furnaces, were going to be it. They are easily transported and if you start to run out of smoke while working the hives they can be dumped  into the spout of the smoker to provide more fuel. Not to mention one, 40 pound bag of pellets is likely to last me a decade! So after suiting up, we lit the smoker and got started.

First order of business was to blow a bit of smoke into the hive entrance, then under the outer cover. After that I blew some smoke down the holes in the feeder. It was a little breezy which didn't really help but I did the best I could. I removed the hive-top feeder and put a towel over it to keep a feeding frenzy from happening. I checked the pollen patty and they had eaten some but it was pretty hard so I removed it. It’s going to be cold in the coming week so I think I’m going to have to mix up some more and put them in the hives because the bees won’t be able to go out to forage.
Taking off the hive-top feeder.
Bees right in the middle where they should be.

The cluster of bees was in the middle and they had built a bit of bur comb where the queen cage used to be. That would have to be removed. I pulled out a few frames to inspect and found some fantastic news! We have eggs! We didn't get any good pictures of the eggs. They’re kind of hard to see but we’ll try again next time. The bees were storing pollen and the sugar syrup in cells nearby. I didn't see any larvae so that means the queen has been laying for 1 to 3 days. After 3 days the eggs hatch into larvae. The first hive was drawing out comb nicely on both sides of 3 frames and it looked like I nice compact laying pattern. One egg in each cell and most of the cells had eggs. I didn't see the queen but with so many bees on each frame, you can imagine why. Not to mention, I don’t really know what I’m doing yet and was a little nervous to have the frames out of the hive. Satisfied that everything was going as planned, I fixed the spacing of the frames with a homemade cardboard spacer. This will, hopefully, keep the bees from building more bur comb between the frames. We’ll find out next time. After fixing the spacing I put the hive back together, filled the feeder  and started on the second hive.

The second hive was the one where the queen cage fell to the bottom during the install. The interesting thing about this hive is that all the bees were way over to the side of the box. Normally bees start in the middle of a hive and work out like the first hive. A’s guess is that because the queen cage had fallen during the install and the queen doesn't fly incredibly well that she walked up the sides of the box and was hanging out at the side of the hive. It sounds like a good theory to me. This is also something that we’d have to fix. We pulled out a handful of empty frames from the side away from the bees so that we’d have some room to work. Then I started pulling out and inspecting some frames. As we moved things around the bees would form “bee chains” between the frames. More good news! More eggs! Again, one egg per cell and a very dense laying pattern. This colony had only build comb on about 2.5 frames but since they were all clumped up on the side, I guess I’m not too surprised. The wall of the hive body was covered with bees too. Thankfully, they weren't building comb on the side of the box. I saw more stored pollen, and sugar syrup. No larvae here either so the next inspection should have eggs and larvae to look at, maybe some capped brood. I didn't see the queen here either, oh well. Again satisfied that things were going well, we started putting things back together. Since the bees really should be in the middle of the box we decided that we’d move the frames of bees towards the middle and insert some of the empty frames on the outside. This will hopefully encourage them to move to the center. We’ll find out next time. I set the spacing of the frames again and then put the hive back together, filling the feeder on the way.
Bees on the side of the box.

Now it was time to work on the fence. We had purchased a taller post for the solar fencer and we had to get everything set up for that which included re-wiring a new jump wire. For those who don’t know, the jump wire is the wire that connects the four levels together and then connects to the charging unit/fencer. We tested out the solar fencer but for some reason, it doesn't seem to be charging the fence. When the battery fencer is hooked up and I hold a blade of grass up to the fence through a bee glove I get a little bit of a zap. No worse than a static shock that you get touching metal things in the winter time. But when I did the same thing with the solar fencer hooked up, I didn't get anything. Not even a little nip. So we still have some things to figure out with the fence. I’m glad A. suggested that we get the battery charger as a back-up while the solar fencer was charging. It’s nice to have something that you know is working while you’re figuring out other things.

Our first inspection down in the books, now we wait for another week as it will be too cold to open the hives for the next several days. It’s nice having a real spring season again rather than the quick switch from winter to summer but I have to admit that I’m anxious for the flowers to come out for the bees. Looking forward to next week when I can open the hives again and look for larvae! Here’s some more pictures of the day, see if you can spot a queen. I don’t know if A. got either one in a picture but if you think you found one drop me a line.

Your friendly beekeeper in her snazzy bee suit working the smoker.

Smoking the hive.

The bees and the partially eaten pollen patty.

Here you can see the bur comb the bees  built where the queen cage was. And sadly,
a bee that I squished last time. :-(

Taking out a frame.

Frame with the bur comb. I removed this before putting it back in the hive.

Close-up of the bur comb.

Arrrr! Spacing the frames.

Shaking some bees off in front of the hive so I can put the cover back on.

Second hive. Bees are all over on the left side of this box..

The foundation is black and the comb the bees make is white.

The bees in the second hive were also making some yellow wax. Here you can see the bright yellow pollen in the yellow wax.

Placing some empty frames on the outside to move the cluster towards the middle of the box.

This is the face A. gets when I'm in the middle of something and he tells me to look up and smile.
Spacing the frames in the second hive.

Working on the fence.

The hives got really active for a little bit about 20 minutes after we were done in the hive. I freaked and called Mr. Smith. He assured me that it was fine as long as the bees weren't wrestling and that they were heading back into the hive.

Our hives and fence. Hopefully we can figure out what's going on with the solar fencer.