Sunday, May 17, 2015

Catching Up

Yes, I know. It’s been about two weeks since my last post. Sorry about that, life’s been busy. To make up for it, I’ll do an extra long post this time and catch everybody up to what’s been happening at the bee yard. So, first let’s recap a bit. In the last post we had some issues, I couldn't find the queen in Blue Triangle hive, there were a couple queen cups on the frame with rejected foundation, I dropped a frame despite which the bees were eerily quiet. Meanwhile in Yellow Triangle hive, we saw the queen lay an egg (we think) and everything was good except they were building burr comb like crazy. On the feeding front we had previously switched over to baggie feeders to clean-out the hive-top feeders and had put in a 1 gallon sized baggie filled with about 3 quarts of syrup into each hive.

After the incident with suspected queenlessness in Blue Triangle hive, I thought maybe I was going
Taking the cover off. Yay! No burr comb!
into the hives too often and decided to back off a little. The bees had been downing the syrup at an increasing rate, which was completely expected due to the increased brood and newly hatching bees, so last week we decided to put the hive-top feeders back on since they could hold more syrup. We opened up the hives to remove the empty baggies and check to see if it was time to put the second brood boxes on. After opening Yellow Triangle hive I was surprised to see that this colony had not built any burr comb. Unusual for them considering they’d been putting comb everywhere they could up to this point. I suspected that with the gallon sized feeder bag on top of the currently filled frames, they were content with a more normal bee space? If I’m going to be honest with myself, I was hoping that they had gotten it out of their system and were content to expand the brood further into outer frames of their current box. As you’ll see later...NOT! Each hive only had about 4 full frames drawn out so we decided to wait on adding the second brood boxes. Most of the sources I've been reading say to wait until the first box has 7 or 8 fully drawn frames.
Counting the frames to see how many are drawn out.

A.'s new addition to the feeders.
Without having any burr comb to scrape off the covers, this visit was pretty quick and easy. I didn't even use any smoke since I wasn't pulling frames out. I took out the baggies (which were completely empty), put the newly cleaned hive-top feeders back on and put a half gallon of syrup in each reservoir so that each hive had a supply of 1 gallon of syrup. Oh! I almost forgot, A. also made an ingenious addition to our feeders to reduce the number of drowned bees! He put square dowels with a handful of holes drilled into them into the bee areas of the feeders. They float on top of the syrup and the bees can get to the syrup on the sides or through the holes in the dowel. They work great and we noticed a real reduction in the number of drowned bees this week. After filling the feeders we closed stuff up. (Except I forgot the screws for the feeder screens so we had to go back on Sunday and put them in.) The bees from Yellow Triangle hive have been really busy and are doing well so we decided to open up the entrance reducer to the next largest setting. This seemed to confuse the bees a little and the foragers coming back kept trying to go in where the hole used to be. I suppose it would be akin to someone moving the front door to your house over to the left about 6 feet while you were at work. You’d probably come home and be like “What the devil?!” too. By the end of our walk they were figuring it out though. The Blue Triangle hive bees were not quite as active so we left their reducer at the smallest opening. That was pretty much it for last week. A. did some weed whacking under the electric fence and the hives to keep the grass in check and I sprinkled ground cinnamon around the stand legs to cut back on some of the sugar ants stealing syrup. The main thing was putting the hive-top feeders back on. On our walk afterwards we saw that the honey bees had discovered the Lilac bush about 20 feet behind the hives as well as the blooming Hawthorn tree in the vicinity. Sadly, we didn't get any good pictures of it. More pictures at the bottom of the post.
Bees drinking syrup using A.'s floats.

Fast forward to yesterday. Not having been into the hives for two weeks now, I was excited to go in and see what was going on. The weather was a little iffy but turned out much better than the original forecast so I was thankful. I lit the smoker and got started.

Burr comb under the feeder.
The hive-top feeder on Yellow Triangle hive was completely empty. They went through a gallon of syrup in a week. Not too bad, maybe they were hard at work drawing out the rest of the foundation and feeding brood...ha! remember before when I said I was hoping that the Yellow Triangle bees had gotten burr comb building out of their system? Yeah...not so much. Their hive-top feeder was pretty full of burr comb. If we’re going to keep using them, I think we’re going to have to do something about this. A.’s idea is to use a 2 by 4 and plane it down to fit into the opening then drill holes to give the bees access. I think it’s a pretty good idea and we've got two more feeder inserts on order. Not wanting to deal with the burr comb just yet, I set the feeder aside and continued with my inspection.

The colony in Yellow Triangle hive, continues to do well. There was one queen cup though I didn't
Queen cup in Yellow Triangle hive.
see anything in it. We saw the queen, still strutting around and doing her thing. I saw my first drone bee, and we saw some brand new bees chewing their way out of their cells! It’s pretty interesting to watch them come out and start grooming themselves with their wings still kind of stuck to their bodies. The bees in this hive had also built some comb across a couple frames so that got scraped out. One of the outer frames only had pollen and syrup in it so far so I slide it closer to the wall of the box and put a blank foundation in between to get them to draw out some more. As of yesterday Yellow Triangle hive only had about 5.5 frames of drawn comb so we decided to wait on adding the second brood box again. Now it was time to deal with the burr comb in the feeder. A bit frustrating as it’s not the easiest space in the hive to scrape. Also a bit awkward. I got as much of it out as I could. I’m sure there will be more the next time I go in but I’ll just have to deal with that when the time comes. I put another gallon of syrup in the feeder and closed it up.
Drone. He's the large bee in the bottom center. He's facing to the left and is bigger than the other bees with a dark thorax. His eyes are also very large.

Happy beekeeper! I just found the queen, what a relief!
On to Blue Triangle hive with a small amount of trepidation. At least when I smoked them this time there was some buzzing going on. A bit of instant relief there. The Blue Triangle bees hadn't downed the full gallon of syrup this week but they were pretty close. I’d say there was still about 1 or 2 cups of syrup still in the feeder. I took it off and got started. Lots of stored pollen and syrup in the first few frames. Then great news! Eggs! And even better news! On the next frame we saw the queen! Surrounded by attendants and doing just fine. And then...the ugly frame. So, perhaps you remember me mentioning a couple posts back, that the bees in Blue Triangle hive were rejecting some of the foundation and I had then intended to go in a scrape it off but didn't because I didn't see the queen and I didn't want to injure her if she was under there? Yup, that’s this frame. The bees actually had connected the two
Broken drone brood cell. Big white larva.
frames on together on the edge and I ended up ripping apart a few drone cells to get it out. There are several queen cups but nothing in them as far as I can tell so that’s good. This has to be one of the ugliest frames in all of beedom. I will eventually need to remove this frame and scrape it off but I’d like this colony to build its numbers up a bit first. They are doing well at drawing out the frames with about 5.5 fully drawn out frames. So they are keeping up with the burr comb builders over in Yellow Triangle hive. Still not ready for the second brood box either but I imagine we’ll be adding them to both hives in the coming week. Satisfied with my inspection I put everything back together,
Ugliest frame in all of beedom!
filled the feeder and closed up the hive. This colony’s activity looked good so we moved the entrance reducer up to the next largest opening here too. The Blue triangle bees didn't seem the have the same trouble as the Yellow Triangle bees last week in finding the entrance. On our walk we found honey bees on the Honeysuckle which was exciting. They seem to be finding plenty to forage on. We have a few things to deal with but all in all, things seem to be going ok.
One of my honey bees on the least I think she's mine.
More pictures from the rest of both days.
Taking the outer cover off.

The bees had chewed through the paper under the baggie.

One of A.'s feeder floats.

Shaking some bees off of the baggie.

Counting frames in Blue Triangle hive.

Trying not to squish any bees.

Fill'er up!

A. changing the reducer opening... sans veil.

Yellow Triangle hive bees getting a bit confused by the door location switch.

Assistant beekeeper weed whacking under the hives.

Perhaps McCormick should rename this Ant-Away?

Sprinkling cinnamon around the stand legs.

Hey! Where'd the door go?!

Using one of A.'s feeder floats.

Back the next day to put the screws back in that I forgot.

Only one or two drowned bees. Not too bad!

Big pollen baskets coming in.

Getting started.

More burr comb.

Scrap it off.

Yellow Triangle colony's queen. Looking good madame!

Blue Triangle hive's turn.

Ugh! Look at all that ugly!

Another view of the ugliness.

Mostly drone brood, some practice queen cups over on the far right.

Stuffing their little faces on Honeysuckle.

Foraging bee on Honeysuckle

No comments:

Post a Comment