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.

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