Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Checked My Hive

It seems like it has been forever since I was able to go check on my bees. I wanted to ensure that they were doing ok but every week seemed to bring in bad weather. It would either snow, rain or be well below 50 degrees. I was able to quickly work my hive 3 weeks ago but that was just to throw on some fondant and add corn syrup to my hive top feeder. This past weekend was the first decent weekend that I had a full day of sunshine.

As I got to my hive, I saw that my girls were out and about, bringing in pollen. That was a great sign. What wasn't so great was seeing twenty or thirty bees dead on the ground in front of my hive. Assuming that it was disease or starvation (again, it has been 3 weeks since I last checked my hive) I began to get worried about what I would find.
Bringing in Pollen
Dead Bees in Front of Hive
The corn syrup in my hive top feeder was mostly crystalized but there were a lot of bees still feeding from it. Using my hive top, I started scrapping it out but found that it was still soft and moist so I sat it to the side for the time being. I continued checking my hive bodies and supers. There were a lot of bees between the frames and when checking my frames, I saw all stages of the brood process. I did not find my queen but I knew everything was good, having seen eggs and larva.

When I got down to my bottom brood chamber, it was completely empty. No bees, brood or honey stores. The bees must have moved up over winter. I took off the bottom brood chamber so that I could move it to the top and give my girls more room to move up if need be. As I took off the hive body, I noticed a few bees were dead on the bottom board. It all came together now with the dead bees laying at the front of my hive. Some of my girls had died over winter and the colony was cleaning them out.

All is good in the hive. My bees were looking good, I added more fondant, reversed my brood chambers and removed my hive top feeder.

I am ready for spring to come!

Monday, January 14, 2013

Checking Over the Winter

This past weekend was absolutely beautiful. I went out to my hive to see how it was doing and could see some activity out front. Temperatures got up into the high 60’s ( Don't check unless it is above 55 degrees) and even though it was cloudy, my bees were out foraging for whatever they could find and going on cleansing flights. I’ve learnt that seeing bees at the entrance doesn’t mean that your colony is still there (a friendly beekeeper thought differently and found out her hive was being robbed). I put my ear up to my hive and could hear a lot of buzzing inside. It was a great sound to hear.
My Hive

Currently, my hive has three supers on it. Bottom is based as the brood chamber where the cluster should be. The top two were mostly filled with honey frames at the beginning of winter (early November). With the weather being nice, I was able to work my hive and check my bees. I did not know what the food stores would be like for my bees so I brought fondant and corn syrup with me (always pays to be prepared).
Bees at Entrance
Bees on Inner Cover

My main concern with checking my hive was to ensure they had enough stored honey to last them a couple more months. When I took off my inner cover I found a lot of bees at the top of my hive. I was happy to see my girls doing well but I knew that there wasn’t much in the food stores. There was no corn syrup left in the hive top feeder...bummer… and only the center two frames of my top honey super had any honey left on them. My girls had broken cluster and were needing food bad.

Hive Top Feeder

I worked my way down to the bottom brood chamber. I flattened out my fondant and placed it on the frames right above the cluster. I closed up my hive and added two gallons of corn syrup to my hive top feeder.

I hope my girls are able to store some more food before another cold spell.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Following Up

About ten days ago I had placed an Api Life Var wafer onto my hive (broken into four separate pieces) along with a section of pollen patty. I have now gone back into my hive to replace the wafer with a new one and to check on my bees. When I took off my inner cover, I was not overly pleased. The pollen patty that I had put onto my hive was severally infested with small hive beetle larva and I had to go on a killing spree, killing about 20 beetles. I do have to admit that most of the beetles were hiding in corners but with the amount of larva and beetles that were in the hive top feeder, I took it off and set it to the side to deal with later.

Pollen Patty with Hive Beetle Larva

Hive Beetles Hiding in a Corner
I had only added half of a patty thinking that my bees would devour through it in no time but now that it is filled with larva, it is trash.I was told that I had added too much of the pollen patty and that if I were to continue feeding with them, I only needed to add small chunks at a time. 

Going deeper into my hive seemed to be a lot better. Still a lot of bees and a good brood pattern. When I got down to the bottom brood chamber, the wafer I had broken up and placed on my hive was completely gone. Broke up a new wafer and applied it to the four corners of the brood chamber and closed up my hive.

Broken Wafer on the Corner of a Brood Chamber
Another 7 to 10 days and I apply my last wafer for mite treatment. Everything is looking good except for the abundance of small hive beetles.

I hate dealing with Pests!

Friday, August 31, 2012

Treating My Girls For Mites

Now that the Honey Harvest is finished for my hive, I am beginning to prepare for fall. I had previously reduced the main entrance and closed off the upper entrance to help prevent robbing bees from entering my hive. Using a wooden hive top feeder, I have begun to feed my bees sugar water (2:1 ratio of sugar to water) mixed with the feeding stimulant Honey-B-Healthy. They have taken to the feed and I am checking on it every week ( so far I have added 3 gallons).

Looking into a Hive

Last time I was in my hive, I went through all the brood chamber, checking for eggs and making sure there was a decent brood pattern. I was somewhat disappointed to find that only the bottom two brood chambers had larva and eggs. I have a third brood chamber, mostly filled with honey, and above that, lays a honey super below my hive top feeder. While feeding my bees, I was hoping that the added food would implement laying from my queen.

I rotated my upper two supers, thinking that she might not have room to lay with the frames in the third brood chamber being mostly honey. While I was in my hive, I was thoroughly inspecting my bees for any deformity in their wings or visible mites. During my inspection I noticed some of my bees had smaller spread wings where as the normal bee would have their wings flat against their back. My next task was to check my mite count and see if I needed to treat.

Photo By: Lazy B Farm
My bees were not to this extent but you could see a slight difference between them and the norm.

After using a corex sheet in my IPM bottom board, I was relieved to have a mite count below the average 40 to 50 mites but I thought it best to still treat. The recommended treatment from other beekeepers was Api life Var. This treatment comes in a pack of two wafers (strong odor and should be handled with gloves), with one wafer being used per hive. 

Api life Var Package

After opening the package, I took one wafer and broke it up into four separate pieces to go on the four corners of my brood chamber. For the treatment to work properly, I needed to place these four pieces on top of my bottom brood chamber and close up my hive so that the vapors would not escape. I ensured that my entrance was reduced and my corex sheet was in place beneath my IPM bottom board.

Wafer Pieces on the Corners

Closed up my hive and now I am waiting 7 to 10 days to repeat the treatment (2 more times). I was told that if I were to see a vast majority of my bees outside of my hive, the vapors are to overpowering and I need to reduce the amount of wafer pieces I am treating with. I need my girls to be mite free ( or close to it) going into to winter.

Cleaning out the pests!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Closing Up for the Fall

I was very proud of my girls and all the surplus honey they collected. I walked around my hive the other day to get a feel for what was happening with the nectar flow. Clovers were present upon the ground but no bees were foraging from them. I still had some flowering plants in the garden, yet again, no bees were found. I decided it was time to reduce my hive entrance and let the bees have the rest of the honey frames.

Now that the nectar flow has finished, it is time to begin feeding and checking for mites. I will not begin mite treatments until the end of August/ beginning of September but with the cease of the nectar flow, it is very important that I supply my bees with food as soon as possible. I will also want to prevent robbing as best I can by closing off any upper entrances and reducing the main entrance.

Entrance Reducer

I will be using a hive top feeder and a sugar water feed for the fall that will consist of a 2:1 ratio of sugar to water. Other suitable methods of feeding your bees would be: pollen patties, fondant or high fructose corn syrup. I want to include a feeding stimulant to insure my bees will be healthy going into the winter months, therefore, I need a liquid solution for feeding my bees.

Combined ingredients together and mixed in a 1 gallon jug. Added 4 tbsp of Honey B Healthy and ensured that all the sugar had dissolved.

Bees at Entrance

Out at my hive, the entrance appeared very crowded but nothing threatening was happening. No signs of robbing was a relief but I was intrigued at all the activity that was happening at the entrance. When discussing the issue with another beekeeper, she said that newer bees will need to go on a navigation flight in order to orient themselves with their hive. They will fly out making loops back toward the hive and after every pass, they will extend their distance a little further.

Opened my hive and started to do a quick pass through my supers. I pulled out one of the outside frames in order to work toward the middle frames, and as I was checking the frame, I notice a small hive beetle crawling along the edge. I know that a strong colony will send them into hiding but every hive is bound to have one or two slip out and roam around, right? That was the only downside while going through my hive. Everything seemed normal and none of my bees appeared to be deformed or had bad wings.

Small Hive Beetle

After working my hive, I added the wooden hive top feeder and filled each side with my healthy sugar water mixture. Placed one end of the float down into the mixture and slowly lowered the other end. Floats fit perfectly and were floating properly.

Pouring Sugar Water Mixture

Dropping Float

Dropping Float

I know its not sweet nectar but I hope my girls enjoy their new diet. Having this hive top feeder will allow me to easily check and make sure the feed is topped off and add more if needed. 

Just taking care of my Girls!

Monday, July 16, 2012

Extracting My Honey

During the middle of last week I found time to visit my hive. I had taken 4 frames of foundation out to my hive with the intent to exchange them out for honey frames. My hive was looking marvelous! I was able to pull out 4 frames of capped honey and was reminded that I am dealing with insects that can sting (the girls pack a pretty good punch). 

Over the weekend I was able to uncap and extract my honey! Only having 4 frames, I did not find it necessary to run them through a Sideliner Uncapper. My weapon of choice was the Cappings Scratcher (would have been faster with a Cold Knife).

Uncapping Frame

Placed all of my frames in a Multi-Use Straining System while I uncapped one frame at a time. Included is a cross bar with a nail to rest your frame upon. Using the Uncapping Scratcher, I slid the forks slightly underneath the caps and lifted perpendicular to the frame. Working small sections at a time, I was able uncapped all 4 frames in little time.

Cappings Scratcher

 At the beginning of the nectar flow I was unsure if I would even be able to extract any honey this year. Now that I am able to work in 4 frames to extract, I was not prepared to invest in an extracting kit. Another benefit of joining a bee association or having a mentor is the ability to borrow some equipment until you are ready to invest in your own. 

With this being my first year as a beekeeper I did not want to put a lot of money into an extractor that I might grow out of in a couple of years. I was fortunate enough to use someone's extractor. The extractor I was allowed to use was an 18-frame motorized extractor. I only had 4 frames and one of the important things to make certain during the extracting is that your frames are evenly spread out in the extractor for balance. 

Frame in Extractor

Once all the frames were loaded, I started the extractor off at a slow speed. As i gradually increased the speed, I was able to see the honey being 'flung' from the frame.

Honey Coming Out of Honey Gate

Before I began extracting, I opened the honey gate and placed a bucket with a strainer to catch the honey as it flowed out. The strainer made certain that I had nice, clean honey (free of debris). 

Bee in Extractor

The bees that had followed me into the extracting room were drawn to the extractor as the honey was being drawn out of the frames. All in all I was able to extract 8-10lbs of honey. As it was coming out of the honey gate I had to sneak in the finger taste test. 

Best Honey I Have Ever Had!

Friday, July 13, 2012

Harvesting My Honey

It has been a while since my last post but not much has been happening with my hive. Last time I had made a visit to my hive, before now, was two weeks ago and that was to check to ensure that my queen was still laying. One benefit on that visit was being able to see the birth of a bee.

Bee Birth

 When I went into my hive yesterday though, I had the intent on harvesting some honey. I have been keeping an eye on the nectar flow and it seems to be settling. I figured this would be the perfect opportunity to see if I could collect honey from my bees. With this being my first hive, I was told that whatever my bees were able to harvest during the nectar flow would be used during any dearths and the winter months. I know that they will need 60-80 pounds of honey in order to survive this winter. 

It has been a tremendous nectar flow and knowing that my bees were working extra hard, I had the mind set the I may harvest some honey this year. My hive was bursting with bees when I took off the top.

Bees on Inner Cover

I was not expecting such a strong colony. Last time that I had went in, there were a lot of bees in the honey super but not to this current capacity. Once I took off the inner cover I was able to see that all the frame were drawn out and most of the center frames were capped (Yay!) 

Capped Honey

I started pulling out frames and found that all my frames had honey. Most frames were either fully capped or had patches of capped honey except for the outed two frames. I brought 4 empty frames with me to exchange out for honey frames (did not expect 4 frames of honey to be so heavy). I didn't intend to collect much therefore I did not see the reason in using a honey harvesting tool other than my bee brush. I now regret not using Natural Honey Harvester or an Escape Screen. A bee brush removed a few bees but more were flocking to the frame (I knew that I would be taking some to the extracting room).

While I was in my hive I thought it would be best to check my lower chambers to see how everything looked. I knew that I would not be collecting any more honey this year, so I went ahead and removed my queen excluder. 

Brood Chamber

As I began to remove frames from my brood boxes, I guess my bees became agitated because two of them were able to sneak some stings past the jacket I was wearing.  I assume that when a bee stings you, they release some type of pheromone indicating an attack, because after the two stings, my hive became chaotic. It was only time before a couple bees found there way into my veil and I knew it was time to close up and get out. I was able to escape with four stings (3 on the arm and one on the head) but I found this rational with the four frames of honey I am able to extract.

Tomorrow I Extract!