Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Movin' on Up...

Today I added a second large brood box on top of each of my two hives of honeybees. A few days ago I inspected most of the frames and found my two colonies had almost filled their living quarters in the first deep brood boxes. You don't want your queen to run out of places to lay, and you don't want the bees to become overcrowded, or they will begin to make swarm preparations. That will lead to losing half your bees! So when they become crowded, you either add more brood space or you split your colony into two or more hives.
Most hives in northern cold winter areas need the equivalent of two large brood boxes for overwintering, so today I added the second brood boxes. I shifted a couple of frames between the bottom and top boxes to encourage them to move back and forth between the two boxes.

The hives look so tall now! You can also see the nifty new ventilated inner covers I bought, with screened ventilation holes all around and a dead air space inside. I can use this in the winter with foam insulation as well, which will help ventilation and reduce winter condensation. Those are the chairs I have for sitting and meditating on my bees, also for the braver guests. ;) Click on the pictures for larger versions.
With all the manipulating of frames around today in both hives, I was lucky not to have been stung!

Friday, May 14, 2010

Hives a' hoppin'

Here are my two new hives, 15 days after installing 5-frame nucs into them.
Things are really busy now! Last weekend I took one frame of brood and nurse bees from the stronger hive ("Aurora", the one on the right) and put it into the slightly weaker hive ("Esperanza", the one one the left), and now the two hives seem to be pretty equal in strength. It worked well!

When it's a warm sunny day the air is thick with buzzing bees. Gives you a healthy respect for 'the power of bee'. They are bringing in pollen like mad, and next week I will go in to see how much comb they have made and check the brood pattern.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Guests and gardens...

We had guests last weekend- my brother and his girlfriend, Joy.
Joy loves taking pictures and she took these photos of my vegetable garden and the salad we made for dinner.
You can see the garden is really just getting started for the year, but already we've been harvesting enough to make a nice salad from the carefully cut young leaves every other day or so.

This salad was really a wonderful dinner for the four of us one night. It had spinach, leaf lettuce, kale, bok choy, and French breakfast radishes picked fresh from the garden. To that I added some chevre cheese and a cucumber that I bought, and some black pepper. Note the pink hard boiled eggs!- last winter I pickled a whole lot of beets, and when the beets were eaten I saved the pickling brine (which of course had turned intense pink from the beets) and filled jars of the brine with hard boiled eggs and let them pickle slowly in the fridge. The pickled eggs take on the pretty pink color and look a bit like a sunset with the golden yolk.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

First big inspection of the new hives

So today my bees have been in the two hives for 12 days.
I had a few hive chores to do, so I did a full inspection today. Full inspections are not done often or it would disturb the bees too much.

First I removed the sugar syrup baggie feeders and switched the shim and the inner cover in order to remove the extra space over the frame tops while keeping good ventilation going. There seems to be plenty of pollen and bloom so I am quitting the syrup (which is commonly given to brand new hives to give them a little jump start). I have last year's honey still in frames to give them anyway.
The bees love the big upper entrance and I've widened/chiseled the entrance of the inner covers to 2" wide.

Then I checked to see whether they had eaten any of the honey in the frame of old honey I had placed inside on the edges, honey from my hive last year that died over the winter. They hadn't touched it yet, but I left the honey frames in since there were several frames still undrawn for them to expand into, so no harm in it.

Did a thorough inspection of every frame very slowly and carefully. I was determined to move slowly and gently so the bees and I would all stay calm. Both hives are very packed with bees on their original 5 deep frames each of nuc they came on. Both are beginning to build comb on the two neighboring wax foundation frames on either side, but not on the farther out frames yet. I'm fine with that since it's only been 12 days.

I couldn't see any eggs, there were so many solid-packed bees covering the capped brood frames that it was really hard to get a look at what was there under the nurse bees- I did however see white larvae in worker sized cells in both hives! And they looked to be no more than 7 days old, still not that big, so they must have been laid as eggs after the queens were out of their cages. From the timing, couldn't have been laid before the nucs arrived 12 days ago, or they would have been pupae by now.

Best news- I found the queens in both hives! And they looked and large with very long abdomens. One abdomen was reddish brown and the other was a little more golden. So cool!!! It was important to find the queen in the strong hive since I wanted to transfer one frame of brood and nurse bees from there over to the weaker hive. Sure wouldn't want to accidentally transfer the queen!
So I found the queens and was careful to immediately take a brood frame packed with nurse bees that was located far away from the strong hive queen, and while smoking everyone lightly I transferred the brood+nurse frame into a side brood slot in the weaker hive. I put an empty wax foundation frame from the weaker hive in its place in the strong hive (to the side of the brood area). Nobody seemed to make a fuss at all. I really think this one frame switch will help even the hives out and give the weaker hive a needed boost. Now they'll be on their own.

Overall everything looked terrific- active queens, worker larvae, no burr comb, lots of bees covering five deep frames in each hive, and no signs of disease or anything suspicious.

It was a real confidence builder for me. Now I feel good about leaving them alone for a while...they seem to be in good shape. Mission accomplished!

Did I get stung? Had good layers of regular comfy cotton clothes with the pants tucked in, my long beekeeper WalterKelly gloves, and a good veil and that was fine. No one could get to me at all, though the girls stayed pretty calm through the whole long ordeal...I was very gentle and slow.
HOWEVER....before I even got started in my preparations at all, I casually went to see what activity was going on there at the hives (like I've done a million times, just watching them peacefully from a nearby chair) and some nervy girl just nailed me on the back of the neck for no good reason at all! What a nerve!! She got me good...scraped off the stinger. It was very unlike them, they are always so laid back when I go sit by the hives. Maybe they knew I was planning to 'rock their world' later on in the day. lol! Good news is it doesn't seem to be hurting or swelling too much. Thus, sting #2 from my girls. Considering all the fussing- more than one typically would once things are established, I think that's pretty good. ;D

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Mason bees laying and nesting...

Just a little video showing the wonderful progress that has been made in my solitary mason bee nesting houses. 24 tubes filled with brood chambers and sealed up with little mud doors so far! A lovely warm sunny May morning...