More Lessons Learned

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – beekeeping is just an ongoing series of lessons for me.

Wayne had some time the other day and decided to check on the middle hive.  He reported back that it was completely devoid of bees.  I would be devastated if I hadn’t been expecting it.  The hive was week from the get go and I’d been slowly watching the activity diminish every week.  The last time we inspected, the queen’s brood pattern was very spotty and there were almost no stores.

So, I asked Wayne to dismantle the hive when he had time and to leave it sitting out.  I figured it would have some wax moth problems since it’s been empty for a while and how right I was.  Check out the pictures below.

You could even see evidence of them in the supers.

Lesson #1 of my most recent experience is that when you have a weak hive, combine it.  I was anxious to give this hive a fighting chance and it clearly was not strong enough to do anything on it’s own.

In other news, we were able to inspect our newest hive on Saturday.  Here’s an image of the feeder which we’ve filled with water to give the bees lots to drink and (hopefully) keep them out of our neighbor’s pool.  We’ve having a bit of trouble with the floats, but it doesn’t appear that we’re loosing too many bees.  Lesson #2 is to never staple anything to the bottom of a feeder.  I thought the screen would help prevent any bees from drowning if it went up the sides of the interior or the box.  Although the wood seems like it would be thick enough, staples in the bottom cause it to leak.  Wet bees = very, very unhappy bees.  I’ll have to order a new feeder to replace this one.

Lesson #3 was located when we removed the feeder.  It’s a bit hard to see in this picture…

….but might be a bit easier to see in this one:

Basically the beautiful, clean, unwired foundation is no good in hot weather.  With temperatures recently hitting over 100 many days in a row, it seems all my lovely new foundation just melted.  The bees tried to building a little bit around it, but I imagine I severely impacted their ability to take advantage of the honey flow.  That’ll be the last time I order the unwired for us.

Here’s the top of the brood box.  We definitely have some good activity.  We inspected in less than ideal weather (it was getting ready to storm), but the bees were still quite calm.  It’s such a nice change from our other hive.

Lesson #4: White plastic foundation sucks too.  I thought it would be easier to manage in the brood boxes if the foundation was plastic, but honestly the bees don’t seem to care for it.  When given the option, they just seem to leave the frames empty and choose wax foundation instead.

In one piece good news coming out of the past couple days, this queen is definitely strong.  Check out her brood pattern on a couple of these frames.

Doing okay on this one….

And beautifully on these:

So, I’m quite happy with the status of this hive, but Lesson #5 is clearly don’t wait so long in between inspections.  We’ve been crazy busy and I honestly was afraid of chasing these bees off, so I’ve avoiding an inspection.  If I’d done one earlier, we could have corrected the melted foundation problem and they hive would likely have been able to draw out comb and start collecting stores.  Because of my lack of attention, I’ll likely need to feed them over the next several weeks to help them along.

We removed the two supers that had melted foundation and put on a brand new super with wired wax foundation.  I hope they’re happy.  Here’s how we left the hives so that the few bees still in the other supers would have a chance to clear out:

In the next two weeks we plan to complete a full inspection of the big hive.  The last time Wayne tried to get in there, he was stung almost immediately so I’m not looking forward to the prospect.  If they continue to be aggressive, I may need to research options including requeening.  I’ve tried to approach as much of beekeeping as naturally as I can, but I do not want to be in a position where I am frightened of our bees.  The calm hive is such a pleasure to work with and I’d like that same experience throughout our bee yard.

Strange day?

I’m home today from work not feeling great.  This morning I walked around the garden and checked on the bees and all seemed to be well.   Bees from the big hive have been hanging out outside for several weeks, but I expected quite a bit more bearding than this considering the heat we’ve been having.

Here’s a close up shot of the landing board on the big hive.  I did see some fanning, but mostly they just appeared to be checking out the landing board.  Cleaning it maybe?  Do bees do that?

So, I was in the office this afternoon and happened to notice strange activity in the bee yard.  It was a startlingly contrast to the quiet peacefulness of the morning.   I stepped outside to check it out.

The picture shows some activity, but doesn’t really do it justice.   The bees just seemed oddly agitated.  I wasn’t getting any closer than this (especially in my pjs!), so I shot a quick video:

The only thing we changed this morning was to remove the hive reducer in the middle hive because I was concerned they would have trouble with ventilation.  I’m wondering if it is possible that we had a large amount of brood born at once and these are all orientation flights?

Update:  I now feel quite confident that these are only orientation flights.  If they calm down in the next few hours, I’ll know for sure.  While reading through Beesource for answers, I found the following video that shows someone else’s experience with orientation flights:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RW16JOPBhSA&playnext_from=TL&videos=8QRiE2C0gKU

Beeing a Nuisance

Well, we are officially a neighborhood nuisance.  With four dogs, this should be a familiar feeling, but it still feels slightly strange.  Here’s the story:

I came home from work one day this past week around 7:45p or so and was surprised to find that I could not pull into my driveway because there was a large truck parked right in the middle.  Wayne was not due home from work for several hours (and he drives a Civic last time I checked) so I was understandably confused.  After sitting there for a minute trying to decide what to do, I saw a man walking toward the truck.  He pulled out of the driveway and allowed me to pull in.  I immediately got out of the car and walked over to ask if I could help him with something.  As it turns out, he is a beekeeper as well and was called to the neighborhood because of a suspected swarm.  Apparently the record high temperatures we’ve been having (over 100 several days in a row) have been sending large numbers of my bees after water in someone’s pool.  She thought it was a swarm and called a friend who called a friend, who sent this beekeeper to respond.  He tracked the bees from her pool into my yard.

Honestly, I’ve been a bit concerned this would happen.  I had read online that bees have a particular fondness for all the loveliness that exists in the chlorinated water of a pool.  There is only one pool that I know of around our house and she is our hives apparent primary target.   I knew the need for water would be pretty substantial in the heat and I set out a small dog waterer from Petsmart, but the bees showed no interest.  After wandering over to my beeyard and inspecting my hives, my visiting beekeeper suggested that I install my top feeders and fill them with water instead of syrup.  Brilliant plan (if it works).  While there, he also moved around a frame of the big hive to the middle hive which I knew was the weakest of the bunch and suggested that we install an entrance reducer.  I had been hesitant to do that mainly because of the heat.   As I was telling him about the big hive and the trouble we’ve had with them lately (slightly grumpy…like all the time), he suggested that we may need to requeen.  Eek!  Not an option that I’m interested in right now, but if we continue to have trouble with aggressive bees, I may not have any other options left.

So, dear, sweet, kind Wayne spent an hour or two the next day installing the top feeders and filling them and then setting up a birdbath in the garden with rocks and a small amount of water.

We since purchased an additional birdbath and set that up as well a bit further away from the hives.  I wandered out to check on the progress and managed to catch a few bees stopping for a drink.   I’m hoping this a good sign and that between the two much closer water sources, they’ll eventually leave my neighbor to float in peace.

Here’s how we ended the day.  I’ll have to get out there soon and inspect the purple hive, refill the water, and fix the mixed colors.   It’s amazing (or sad maybe?) that something as simple as the mixed colors of the hives could drive me a bit batty, but it does.   🙂

Rearranging

After seeking advice from both Beesource and Beemaster forums, consensus was reached that we should be rearranging the big hive to move the brood chamber (which was oddly situated in the third box) back down to it’s proper placement.  Last weekend I was quite tired and not up to the task, so Wayne kindly put on his bee suit and followed my direction from afar.

Here’s how we started. We had left the nuc on the hive last week when we moved the bees into the new blue hive to let any stragglers find their way over.

As a side note, while I was out there I was excited to see all the activity in our new purple hive:

So, Wayne’s task was to switch super three to the bottom, put an empty super (super one or two) on top of that, follow with the top super which is currently full of honey, and finish with another empty super at the top.  Sounds easy, but its a bit hard to remember which box goes where when you’ve got all the bees buzzing around.

The first step was to remove the top cover, inner cover and screen and start prying apart the supers.

As before, the further he got into the box, the more bothered the bees became.

They weren’t fond of him putting the box back together either.

Wayne worked quickly and was done in no time.  One empty super wasn’t put back onto the hive, but had to be left nearby overnight to allow the remaining bees to time to travel home.  Here’s the end result:

A few particularly unhappy bees started following me (suitless) back to the house.  I mentioned to Wayne that I wasn’t in need of the attention and he told me not to ignore it.  Not two seconds later, one of them few up his nose. Try ignoring that! 🙂