Test post. So many issues with my blog right now. 😦
What could possibly bee more beautiful that a team of striped ladies gathering the goodness from delicate flowers? — Nectar and pollen, that is.
My springtime blossoms are finally in bloom and the honeybees were happily visiting them in the warm sun this weekend.
Here are some of the team of honeymakers and pollinators as they went about their day:
These past two weeks, I have started to grow concerned about my honeybees. The winter lasted a little while longer than it seemed it should have and I was worried they were running low on honey to make it through. Thankfully, we had sunshine and temps in the 40s today.
My girls were out!
Thousands of them were buzzing around enjoying the sun and spring flowers.
They were already busy collecting pollen from the handful of flowers in my front yard.
It is a happy day for sure.
I was so happy to see them again! I never realized how much I could worry about a bunch of bugs, but worry about them, I do.
This post is a bit past-due, but I didn’t want to let it go unwritten since I know there are many watching the saga.
At the end of my first season as a beekeeper, I conducted one last check on the beehives before tucking them in for the winter with nothing more than some hopes for at least one hive survival in the spring (statistically, there is only a 50% chance for a hive in this area to survive the winter).
So… going back to September…
I checked on the busy ladies.
I checked on the traditional hive. There was a lot of action in that hive. It was filled to the top with healthy, active bees.
I searched for the queen, but was unable to locate her. I did, however, see all of the signs of a queen – larvae, eggs, capped brood, etc.
When I separated two of the supers, I accidentally ripped open some cells they had constructed in the space between. These cells contained some larvae. The bees scurried about to try to save the exposed larvae.
I also happily discovered large quantities of gold! Liquid gold! (Honey). I left all of the honey for the ladies in hopes it would help them sustain through the winter. A large robust hive in the springtime would lead hopefully to a huge honey harvest next fall. (The honey is capped off under the light colored wax).
While I was watching, I also witnessed a newly created bee coming out of his cell! It was very amazing to watch.
After a short while, I put the hive back together. There were so many bees, I had a difficult time pushing them all back in.
I try so hard to not sacrifice any lives.
I also checked on the “Hippie Hive” (top bar hive).
The hippie bees had been dying off at an alarming rate for several weeks, but no one could determine why. There were no signs of illness, disease, mites, etc. And there was a lot of established comb. Plus, there was still an active queen.
I studied some more.
I looked and searched.
There were no answers for me. The only thing I noticed consistently over the weeks was an occasional yellow jacket attacking the girls. I put up traps and caught a good number of the invaders, but none were ever present inside the hive. The bodies were being thrown out of the hive, so whatever was doing them harm had to be coming from the hive interior.
After I closed them all up and tucked them in, I started being chased by some angry bees. Perhaps I stayed too long. I ran off and once was clear of them, threw off my beekeeping shirt, hat and gloves as I went! Then I checked any bees that were still holding on.
They are now tucked in as safely as I could get them. I would consider it a huge stroke of luck if even one of the hives survives the winter. I am planning to order two new boxes of bees for the spring with hopes of building a bigger hive for 2013 and harvesting some sweetness to share.
Earlier this week, I peered into the observation window of my top bar hive and noticed the bees appeared to have filled up their space. There were bees everywhere. So, it was clear I needed to check the hives and add some space. So, off I went. Starting with the traditional Langstroth hive, I popped the cover off from the third super I had added only 20 days earlier. There were bees at the top. A good sign.
I pulled out a frame and right away saw the queen. The frame had new wax and eggs. All was well. In that super, there were plenty of unfilled frames and one full of honey. So, I didn’t see a need to be more intrusive to them.
I pulled that super off the top and decided to take a quick look at the second super. There were eggs and capped brood and pollen and honey and all of the good things that indicate happy bees.
I closed it all up and moved onto the overcrowded top bar hive.
I pulled the roof off and started on the brood side.
The honeycomb was huge! It filled the entire space it was allowed. It was full of larvae and capped brood. I did not notice eggs there, but there were plenty of bees and my daylight was waning so it was possible I couldn’t see the tiny eggs very well.
The bees had attached their comb to the inside walls of the hive. So, I had to carefully use a knife to cut the comb away from the interior walls before lifting the bars. This upset the bees who filled the air with an angry hum.
As soon as I set the honey-covered knife down, bees landed on it and began sucking up their precious honey.
A chain of bees holding on to one another just begged to be touched…
That hive was bustling with activity. There were bees everywhere!
I tucked them all in for the night after adding five more empty bars for them to fill before winter sets in.
We performed our mid-summer beehive check and I am beyond happy to report that things appear to be going very well!
The check was performed on one of the very few cool (85 degree) summer days in the middle of a severe drought that has been plaguing us for most of the season. I have water out for the bees, but have noticed they prefer to get their water from droplets gathering on nearby blades of grass when we water the garden.
On a side note: I asked my husband to remind me to look happy when he photographed the bee session because when I look at the bee pictures, I am usually staring at the comb with a furrowed brow. That’s how I look when I’m thinking hard about something. Sooooo, in these pictures you will notice a goofy smile as I’m studying things and thinking hard.
First, the Langstroth hive was checked. Upon removing the cover, we could see many bees in the top super which meant they had finally moved up to occupy that space. Moving a frame of honey up and spraying the empty foundation with sugar water seems to have worked.
We checked the frames in the top super and had honey, and about for frames of brood (baby bees!!). There were eggs and larvae and all sorts of good things.
We also found the queen–a great thing to find! But, she was not the same queen we had a couple of weeks earlier. She was a new queen. The bees had created a new queen and that smallish swarm of bees that had been seen a couple of weeks ago was likely the old queen leaving the hive. Luckily for me, she left plenty of workers to stay behind. Had it not been for the fact that the original queen was marked with a yellow spot, I would never have even noticed a new queen had taken up residence.
We checked out the bottom super of the hive and noticed lots of drones (boys) in the hive. There were plenty of workers (girls) too. The bees seemed happy and all signs indicated a good working beehive.
On the bottom, we noticed three empty queen cells. they had fallen off to the bottom board so I scooped them up. Obviously one of those queen cells was probably the birthplace of the new queen. We also added another super, moved a frame of honey up and sprayed with sugar water to provide the bees with plenty of room so they can begin stocking up honey and pollen and supplies for winter.
We closed everything back up in that hive and tucked the bees back in for the evening.
Onto the top bar hive we went. The bees had expanded. Only one of the bars we had added to the hive two weeks prior was empty. The bees were constructing new cells on the others in pretty white wax.
We added two new frames and moved all of the others to the brood side of the hive (the side that is full of eggs/larvae). We did not find the queen. However, we did find lots of the good things… eggs, larvae, honey, and pollen which indicate all things are well.
The bees in the top bar hive were also happy and docile.
We closed them up so they could continue working through the drought and hopefully keep building up strong as summer egg rearing will soon turn to winter preparations.
Prior to officially becoming a “beekeeper”, I read books. Lots of books. Big books. Small books. Even “Beekeeping for Dummies”. Since becoming a “beekeeper”, I have had at least seven seasoned beekeepers tell me, “Bees do not read books,” meaning they are very unpredictable. That’s a shame since there are lots of things they should probably be doing if they would just read the books and follow the guidelines. It would make my life a lot easier and I would be able to help their lives be easier as well.
Going back a few weeks…
I did a pre-vacation check-up on my top bar hive. It was beautiful. There were bees. They were happy. They were building beautiful comb. They were building fast and furious. Life was good.
I added a couple of empty bars for them to fill up, totaling 10 bars in the hive. Then I left them alone for a few weeks to build and feed their larvae and bee happy.
Likewise, the Langstroth hive was doing better. After I added some of their honey and brood to a second, empty super (box) to encourage them to move up, I thought things would be ok. There were lots of bees.
There were frames full of honey.
I think it’s cool when they chain together by holding onto each other’s legs to keep their hive together.
In watching them, I noticed lots of things. Like, this bee fight. I’m not sure what was going on, but one bee was definitely roughing up another bee.
I had queens accounted for in both hives.
I made several bags of sugar water as a precautionary measure and headed south. Meanwhile, back at the apiary… a band of bandito raccoons settled in and ate up all of the sugar water, tore up the flowering plants I had just planted and made a mess out of the place. It reminded me of the next morning after the party in the movie “16 Candles” (Don’t laugh, it’s a great movie).
Fast forward to now….
We checked my Langstroth hive.
My seven-year-old suited up and came along too.
He soon grew worried and took refuge under the bench.
One of the frames in the newly added super (box) was getting filled up with honey and the replaced frame in the brood area was filling up with capped brood just as they were supposed to be.
The bottom super was again filled to the point of crowding.
There were lots of strange things. Lots of drones. Several drone cells. Some burr comb and some empty queen cells.
There were also some very interesting things, like bees hatching from their cells.
The bees had put the writing on the wall for me. They were toying with leaving. So, following all that I had read, I added frames into the brood area (baby raising box) and put some of the babies in the second, empty super (box) to show them that there was plenty of room for them to add on to their happy family and no need to run away.
I am hopeful they accept my offer of a new addition to their hive. I am wishing it to be so.
The great news is that we did see the queen and her eggs. So, no one has left yet.
Over to the top bar hive, otherwise known as the “hippy hive.” We removed the top and the newest added bar to find a row of bees peeking out at us, in their line of defense.
The bees were mellow and harmonious. The frames I had added weeks earlier all had comb on them. Even the furthest one had a small bit of comb being built.
They were building like crazy.
I did not locate the queen, but did see plenty of eggs and larvae.
Happy times! Until………
People working on rehabilitating my barn noticed a cloud of bees circling near the hives. It was about four feet in diameter. Of course, no one noticed which direction it went. I am very worried that they decided to leave. Maybe the barn construction was too loud and drove them away. Looking into the hives, there still seem to be a lot of bees. So, it could have been that they were just hot and needed some fresh air? Hopefully.
As a precautionary measure, I popped open the top bar hive and made notches in three cells with eggs hoping to encourage the nurse bees to construct some queen cells just in case the queen did leave in a swarm. With any luck, they will create a new queen. With the best of luck, the queen didn’t leave and all is well.
A little bit of honey leaked out and I tasted it… Amazing. Better than anything I have purchased at the store. So, fingers are crossed that all is well. Now I must wait. and wait. and wait to see what happens.