Wednesday, June 26, 2013

June 26 - I went to make sure there was still activity and I didn't inadvertently crush the queen.
Lots of activity at the hive so I'm assuming she is fine.
I cleared some tall weeds from in front of the hive tonight.

There was  a resting lightning bug which I caught to observe its fluorescence! I brought it up to the house so mark could see it.

All is well at the hive - and when I got back up to the house, I picked strawberries - YUM!!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

So we're at 5 1/2 weeks of the hive. I decided to add the 4th box because I have been reading that when they fill the second to the last box, they know they're running out of room and are already planning to swarm. Apparently, by the time the apiarist figures it out, it is too late, so I figured more room is better than crowded conditions. That being said, there also seem to be absolutely tons of bees in the hive. I cannot believe how many have hatched so the queen is doing a good job. And therefore, I'm worried that they will swarm because there are just too many bees for my hive!

There aren't a lot of dead bees on the bottom screen but apparently, they remove the dead ones.

I went out alone with my smoker and my new box - Mark had just put it together for me this week. He made measurements so he can build new ones, too. I think it would be fun to start a second hive since this hive is so prolific. I was SO warm in the bee suit and veil but I didn't want to get stung since I was going to take the hive apart. I figured it's nice and warm out so they wouldn't lose too much heat if I disassembled it to put the new box on the bottom of the hive.

I've gotten really good at getting the smoker to work - I put a crumpled piece of newspaper in the bottom and light it, then take wood bark and drop it in to fuel the fire. I puff the bellows to get the fire going nice and strong and then I add small sticks and bigger sticks - but only as big around as my thumb, roughly. Then I close the lid after about 10 minutes or so and it smokes nicely. You aren't supposed to use hot smoke so I add some leaves or green grass when I get down to the hive to "cool it down."

The bees were very active when I got there - it was just after 8pm and there were loads of them going in and out of the hive. I smoked it and then the hive really started buzzing inside. I took off the roof and set it aside then the quilt box (where the creepy carpenter ants hide out - but fortunately, there weren't so many this time - yay). The top box with its bars is covered by a piece of burlap which the bees have adhered down with propolis so I lifted the whole box and the second box together and set them aside. I tried to work quickly so they wouldn't lose heat out of that top box (which is full of comb and working bees - and presumably the queen).

The third box had probably one hundred or so bees in it so I smoked them a little and then moved that box to the side as well. I then put the new box on the bottom (which is attached to the stand), positioned the top bars 1 cm apart (the "bee space") and set the third box on top of the new one. The bees landed on me but were never aggressive; however, there seemed like a lot of them around my head buzzing, and I started wondering if they had gotten under my veil somehow. Then I puffed a little more smoke in the 3rd box and brushed the bees off the top of it since I had to lift the 2 heavy boxes and put them on top of the 3rd box without crushing bees. Apparently, if you kill a bee, the smell emitted gets them riled up and defensive. I think I felt a couple of crunches (presumably crushed bees) but I tried really hard not to kill any. It's tough though because they crawl all over the place and just when you brush a bunch away some others decide to crawl up in your way.

Anyway, I then tried to slide the top two boxes back in place, gently pushing the bees (who kept walking on the top of the box that I was trying to stack these on to) to the side until they moved out of the way. I think it went ok but then there were all these bees who had left the hive. Now I know I'm supposed to be able to tell what the queen looks like but honestly, I'm so intent on minimizing the disruption that I don't sit there and study all the bees. I figure she's in that top box and not dumb enough to come down to the bottom and get crushed (famous last words). I put the quilt box back on (after having to brush about 3 dozen bees off the top of the fabric which is on top of the first/top box - they did NOT like that) then the roof. Then I looked in all the windows to see the combs again.

My books tell me to inspect the comb for brood, mites, etc, but I figure it's best to leave them alone, so I do not tip up the boxes to look at the combs close up - not sure I could see that much anyway, I think they're talking about removing frames and inspecting them (Langstroth hives - NOT mine!).

So here's the video after I was done adding the fourth box - I'll keep you posted on how fast they fill the second and third boxes with comb!

Monday, June 24, 2013

So I took my dad out to see the hive yesterday and they were building comb in the second box!!
Yay, so all is progressing quickly.

The pollen they are carrying in on their legs is yellower now, previously, it looked white. I can see larvae in the cells of the honeycomb and they are "capping" the cells.

Friday, June 21, 2013

this is an interesting article:

I have to go out tonight and see if the hive is still standing after the straightline winds last night!!

Monday, June 17, 2013

This video shows the parts of the hive, the quilt box and how the panels come off to expose the windows.
It was taken last Thursday and I checked them yesterday (barefoot and in a swimming suit - hahahaha) and shocked myself on the electric fence. I was grounding it since I was barefoot and when I opened the gate, the wire barely grazed me. Amazing how hard the shock can be from just 4 size D batteries.

So they are still building in the top box. Presumably the brood are getting ready - in fact, I think some should have hatched by now, I think it's about 3 weeks from egg to larva to bee. Also, if you can look closely, the bees that have the huge eyes - those are the drones!

Well, enjoy the video. The sawdust did feel a bit moist but not overly so. All's well with the Bigelow bees.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Day 22 photos: These were taken yesterday, June 8th.
If you look at the hive, it is enclosed but on the back side (you can't see that side), the panels come out and there is a plexiglass observation window behind the wooden panel). 
So looking at the hive photo, there is a copper roof, which sits over a quilt box. The quilt box is a shell with fabric at the bottom and sawdust on top of the fabric. It serves to insulate and to allow moisture to escape the hive. The bees bring in nectar and water as well as pollen and have to dehydrate it to produce honey. 

At the front, at the bottom, the silver piece of metal is a mouseguard, I removed it yesterday - I used it to help restrict the entrance size (didn't want them to abscond again). I also had to stuff the opening with grass initially to contain the bees in the hive (so they would make it their home). hahahaha

Below the quilt box are three hive boxes, they have handles on the sides to lift them separately. They have 8 top bars in each box and they build their beautiful and straight comb from each bar. The close up is showing the bees working on their combs.

So they are still finishing the 7th and 8th combs. It is so cool to watch them work up close. As they fly into the hive, you can see pollen heaped up on their rear legs. They form a chain (like a "Barrel of Monkeys") where they hook their legs together and pass wax up the chain to the worker who makes comb with it. They secrete wax off of their abdomens.

This video shows the bees working - sorry about the reflection! They are very busy! I am getting irritated with those carpenter ants - every time I take off the panel, there are a bunch of them under it - I don't know what they are doing but they better not eat the wood of my hive!

Well, it's not clear to me that these videos will work once I "save" this post - we'll see, I guess. The bottom video is of the front of the hive as the bees fly in. If you look closely, you will see the yellowish-cream colored clumps on their rear legs - the pollen. Not all of them have the pollen though.

Thursday, June 6, 2013


So I am amazed by the opinionated people who are part of the beekeeping community. It seems that each person is adamant that their particular method is the best. Almost fanatically so. I have spoken to one person who got angry when I mentioned that I had purchased a warre hive.
I would think that beekeepers would just be kind and encouraging rather than judgmental.  Oh well.

So it's been really cool and rainy and my bees are working away. I get a tick on me every time I go check the hive. Yuk!

I'm glad I have windows that I can look through. I just discovered that Beethinking had another slight error in manufacturing of this last windowed box.  The latch is mounted too high so I cannot remove the cover over the window. I will have to try to fix it without being stung.  Will keep you posted.

I wanted to share how cute the little queen cage is - the queen gets shipped in her own little cage, she is unable to feed herself so attendant bees care for her through the screen of the little cage. In the first package, she had workers in the cage with her.  We had to remove the cork plug, then pierce a hole in the candy plug which they then ate away to release her.  The second package was different. That queen was alone so I removed the cork with a nail, carefully as she walked away from the cork end to avoid piercing her! Then I quickly stuffed a mini marshmallow in the hole which the other bees ate to release her.  I took a dozen marshmallows with me and ate them after the job was done. They are one of my favorite foods! (Thus my love of Peeps!)

I find it fascinating how the queen has to be kept in a cage until the bees get to know her; of course in a real hive, the offspring would be her offspring and they would know her right away but in these packages, they are unrelated, so they have to develop a "relationship" so that the workers and drones will accept her. Well more bee lessons later!

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Day number 16 of my beehive

Well I decided to add a box to the bottom before the top 2 get too heavy. Mark helped me lift them off then I placed the third box. Now I will leave them alone. They haven't filled the top box yet so I hope I wasn't premature in doing this! Lots of activity today. Sunny 65 degrees.