Getting Concerned…

…as if I wasn’t already.  Here’s our bee yard this morning:

After returning from our trip on Monday, we were finally able to open the hive yesterday.  So it was a full 15 days between finding all the swarm/supercedure cells and taking a peek to see how things were going.  As soon as we opened it up, I once again knew we were in trouble.  The girls were testy.  They quickly began pinging our veils and I could hear an angry buzzing.  The brood chamber still looked busy, but the frames are an absolute mess and I was unable to find any eggs or larvae.  The capped brood cells we did see were few and far between and I think were all drones.

As a warning: for some reason, my flash was going off even though there should have been sufficient light and I didn’t notice it until we were finished.  So, the shiny things you can see in the cells are the flash, not eggs or larvae.

I think most of the darker colored cells are pollen not capped brood as they were mostly sunk down into the cells.   I enlarged a few of these pictures to verify (you can see close ups by click on them), but I wasn’t using the good camera so its a bit hard to tell.

As  you can see, we still have plenty of bees.  It is possible that the old queen swarmed with a portion of the hive while we were gone, but I expected to see a larger depletion in the colony numbers if that happened.

So, I think my original hive is queenless.  There is still tons of bee activity, but I’m not sure how long that will continue if they have no queen.

Completely depressed, we opened the nuc box to see how things were going there.  It was actually not much different than before.  There is some larvae, but no eggs that I could see.  In fact, the queen cells that were there last time are either still there or new ones have been added.  They are still capped at this point.

If I had a second strong hive, I know I could just move eggs over and the bees would grow a queen if they felt like it was necessary.  Without that ability, I’m a bit lost.   I checked out bee math hoping for some ideas, and did find that it could take 25 days for a newly emerged queen to begin laying.  It’s been 15 so far.  So maybe I need to learn a bit of patience.

From what I’ve read, most beeks would probably suggest leaving them to figure it out, but I would feel horrible if I lost my first colony.  I feel like I should fight to keep them going.   I’ve emailed a few beekeepers to find out if there is a local source for queens in case it comes down to that.   If that is the most appropriate path, I’m not sure how much time I have to pursue that option before loosing the colony.

Any advice and words of wisdom would be greatly appreciated.

5/30/10 Update:  Just heard from another beekeeper that I should be patient.  The virgin queen probably isn’t laying yet.  If I don’t see any eggs on Saturday, I was advised to combine the frames from the nuc back into the original hive as there is likely a queen in one of the two hives.  Thanks Jeff!

Parisian Bees

While vacationing in Paris, my husband and I were wandering around the Jardin du Luxembourg (Luxembourg Gardens) and came across their bee yard.

I had forgotten that there a Rucher Ecole (bee school) there.

I was watching the bees and checking out the hives, etc when I noticed this sign:

“Attention Opening of the hives is in progress.  Risk of Stings. “

We decided to hang around a few minutes to see what happened.  While waiting, I wandered around taking some pictures of the hives, the bee yard, and their hive stands.  I love how they have the yard set up – gravel base, small fountain in the middle, and all the hives on the hive stands in a semi circle around the storage area.  It allows quick access to everyone you and the bees need without being in the flight pattern.

I was even able to shoot a quick video.

Here’s a shorter one from a different angle:

It was amazing to see the number of bees that were coming in and out of the hives.  I think I read online that there are about a million bees in that area.  I’m not sure if that’s possible, but the quantity we could see was quite amazing.  We often compare our yard to Grand Central, but it’s nothing compared to this.

It turns out our timing was pretty impeccable.  After waiting only a few minutes,  white beekeeper suits started to pour out of the small classroom across the path from the hives.  I waited a few minutes, then wandered over the barrier to see if I could take some pictures.  I got a couple from far away, then wandered a bit closer and was called out by a french man who literally wagged his finger at me.  He told me if he lets me over the barrier than everyone will want to be there and it will cause a problem.  So, I went back to Wayne chastised and disappointed.  I tried to watch them the best we could from a far for a bit before wandering off.

There are also hives on top of the Paris Opera, but we weren’t able to see them from the top of Galarie Lafayette (we tried!).  Apparently once or twice a year you can purchase small quantities of the honey from the Luxembourg Gardens and from the Opera.  The rest of the year Parisian honey is available at Les Abeilles.  We did not have time to visit the shop, but I have it on my list if we ever get to return.

I also found this site which has some neat pictures from the beekeeping school.  Unexpected international beekeeping, how fun is that? 🙂

Trouble in Paradise

Because of bad weather and some other extenuating circumstances including an upcoming trip  to France for 10 days, we have decided not to pick up our new hive until later in the month.  I was disappointed but also grateful because it gave me one less thing to worry about while we were trying to get everything together to go away.

After putting it off several times, the morning we were leaving I decided that I absolutely had to do a hive inspection and see how things were going.  We opened up the hive to find them once again quite grumpy.  This was incredibly bothersome to me as these bees have always been docile.   We first checked the supers that we didn’t get into the day of the lovely stings and found that most of the comb has been drawn out and over half is full of honey.  The older super is almost fully capped.

Check out this gorgeousness:

Side note: We LOVE our new Brushy Mountain frame grips.  It takes away all the problems with the clumsiness associated with the gloves.

We lifted off the two honey supers (Wayne commented on the weight) to check on the brood box and the bees got progressively grumpier.  I immediately noticed three queen cells in the middle of a frame.  One was completely capped, two were still open on the ends.

And a close up:

A side view:

And another closeup:

I decided to run to the garage to get a nuc box to try to split to the hive.  While I came back out, Wayne was yelling to me that he could hear the queen.  I came over and sure enough, someone was piping!  I have seen the youTube videos, but never really thought I’d get to hear it myself.  We located the current queen scooting around the frames a bit crazily and the piping quieted.  I set up the nuc and we moved down to check out the rest of the brood.

Yet another surprise on the next frame – we found three cells hanging off the bottom of a brood frame!

Another close up:

A slightly angled view

At this point I was in a bit of a panic.  To put this in context: my biggest nightmare  is that they would swarm while we were out of town and that appears to be exactly what they intended to do.

So we moved some honey, the cells that were in the middle of the frames, and some undrawn foundation into a two super nuc box.  We also added a new super of undrawn foundation to the original hive.

I was terribly anxious when we went inside and just had this feeling that something wasn’t right.  I went inside and starting reading a bit.  I apparently had everything backward in my head.  The cells on the middle of the frame are supercedure cells and the cells on the bottom are swarm cells.  So, we moved them exactly backward!  To remedy, we suited up again and (contrary to the desire of the bees) we re-opened the hives and swapped the two brood frames.

So, I feel fairly confident about our choice now that we went back and corrected the mistake.  To be extra careful, I took our top bar hive and moved it across the yard and baited it with a little bit of honeybhealthy which contains lemongrass oil.  The hope is that if they do still swarm, maybe they can land in my other empty hive?  My luck hasn’t quite been that good lately, but things could turn around.  I now understand the grumpiness we’ve experienced the past two times we’ve visited with the bees.

The lonely yellow hive

I had read online sometime ago that you can’t/won’t have supercedure cells and swarm cells at the same time, but we clearly do.  I’m wondering if this is a sign of something I’ve done wrong, or just a really strong colony that needed a new queen?  It doesn’t seem like a strong colony could have a weak queen.  Maybe we are in the business of defying the odds?

I hope I still have at least one if not two healthy hives when we return and that my neighbors aren’t ready to kill us and/or our bees.

I’ll post pics of the quickly growing bee yard when we get back in town.

Yet another first…

…and not a pleasant one this time!

W and I were in a rush this AM as we were planning to head out of town and wanted to get some weeding done in the garden first.  While out there, I had the brilliant idea that we should check and see if the bees were drawing out comb on the super we added last Saturday.  As our suits were in the house and it was looking like rain, we quickly decided to just pop the top and see what was going on.  It was going to be quick and easy (of course!).

So, W pried the top off and I stuck my head in quickly to see what was going on.  No sooner did I lean over the super, than two bees came (I swear) directly out at me.  At some point in this short process we had completely pissed them off.  One bee promptly got stuck in my hair (I could clearly hear the angry buzzing) and the second landed directly on my eye brow, stinger first.  Lovely.  Wayne got stung on the arm around the same time.  We put the top back on as quickly as we could and went inside to remove the stingers.

Thankfully my face didn’t swell too badly and Wayne’s arm is fine.  I am now in complete and total awe of anyone who works bees without a veil.  I can honestly say that I can’t see myself doing that again anytime soon.

All that, and I didn’t even have a chance (or desire at that point) to find out the status of the super!  Live and learn.  🙂