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Tried a Split

April 28th, 2011

Against all advice and even against my own better judgement, I split Connie early.

Last week, when I went out to check to see if the new packages had freed the queens, I saw that Connie was showing swarming behavior. The front of the hive was bearded and the bees were extremely active. This is normally summer behavior when the bees go out to escape the heat. When it happens this early in the spring it means that the hive is thinking about swarming.

Since Connie is half Russian, she tends to swarm early and often. I decided to do a preemptive split. I had already set up an empty hive next to Connie so as long as I was suited up I decided it was time.

I put the top deep from Connie the new bottom board and placed an empty deep on top of that and then I put a the old top with a full honey super on the other deep. The only thing I didn’t do was put a feeder on the new hive. I don’t have any extra top feeders so the unnamed hive will have to do with a bottom feeder for a week or so.

What you are supposed to do is find the queen and find frames of brood and make sure that the new hives have either a queen or frames of brood or queen cells. I have never been able to find the queen, mainly because the cloud of angry bees bothers me. I am not a bold beekeeper. Some bees had already gotten into the suit where the legs ride up (I am 6 foot 3) and I was being repeatedly stung in the ankles. I am trusting to luck on this one.

Bees with pollen are going in and out of both hives. I don’t know how the queening is doing, but I expect that Connie was well on the way with a swarm queen and I hope it hatched in the right hive. By all appearances both hives are happy, but the new hive is somewhat less active.

Was this a mistake? Connie is the only survivor of the two hives I bought when I started out on this adventure. If any hive is going to survive it will be her. I hope her new sister survives, too.

Bee packages OK

April 23rd, 2011

Once you install the bees, dumping in the bee package and hanging the queen cage in the hive, you close up the box and worry about things. You can’t open up the hive and disturb things or the bees might reject the queen. You have to wait four or five days.

It was nasty weather with heavy rain. I waited until this afternoon when the rain let up and checked the hives. The queen cages were empty and the bees had cleaned up the frames and were making honey already. It was cold still, so I did not do much of an inspection, but I am guessing from the behavior of the hives, that the queens are all right.

A hive without a queen will be disturbed, aggressive and very active. A happy hive with a queen has no reason to be aggressive. These hives have bees leaving to go out on business with bees returning with pollen. They are eating up the sugar like crazy. These are happy hives.

I will feed them heavily for the next two weeks. By May 1, the nectar will be flowing and the bees will be self sustaining. By the middle of May, the bees bees will have double or trebled in population and I can stop worrying for a while.
In May, I will start adding supers. First I’ll add another deep and let them fill that up and then in a couple of weeks I can start adding the honey supers.

The Nucs arrive around May 15th, and this starts all over again.

Connie is strong, but still hasn’t recovered from the winter. I want to split her, but I can’t until her population goes up.

New Bee Packages, Next Day

April 19th, 2011

In a few days I need to check the queen cages to see if the queen has escaped. I forgot to take a nail and poke the candy a little to expedite the queen’s escape from the cage.

There is a place for the queen and a few of her friends and there is a plug of candy blocking the way out. She’ll eat her way out and other bees will be eating their way in.

I opened the top of the hive to check the feeders and there were lots of bees drinking the sugar syrup. I will buy 20 pounds of sugar on the way home today. The cheapest is ShopRite brand 5 pound bags. I would like to try one of the big box stores, but I don’t know anyone who has one of their passes to loan to me.

Thursday or Friday I will suite up when I get home and check the girls out. If they have escaped I’ll remove the cage and put the 10th frame back in. I am nervous that I did something wrong so I might check before that. They tell you not to open the hive while the queen is getting acquainted, but I am a little antsy about this.

I did notice lots of clumping in the packages around what might have been a queen. It makes sense that a queen would get sucked up with the bees when they make the package. This might mean that I have double the chance of a queen making it alive.

I’ll feed them as long as they take sugar. The Martha hive is looking more poorly than ever and I expect it to be gone by the time the Nucs arrive on the 15th.

2011 Bee Install

April 17th, 2011

Here is an album of pictures I took of the hives before I did the install and the beekeeper pickup at the mall.

I put a frame of capped honey into each hive to try to convince the bees that they should stay around.

I went back and gave them sugar in the feeders. The one hive seems to be settling in and the other one seems very upset. I hope it sticks around.

Here is the video of the install. The sound is so faint that you can’t hear me talking.

Sunday Morning Bees

April 17th, 2011

I got the word early this morning that the bees are at exit 30 of the NJ Turnpike and should get here around 9AM. I think that it will not be until 9:30 or 9:45, unless they are flying low. It is 8:30 now and I just finished staging things so I can install the packages.

I have two hives ready. Each has frames with drawn comb left over from honey harvesting. Some of them are still sticky with honey. In the middle of each hive is a frame with a half a frame of capped honey. These are frames that I decided not to harvest because they were not full frames or had some uncapped honey on them.

Next to each hive is a top feeder ready to go with screening on the top so I can fill the hives without getting bees in my hair.

I have to order some more deep hive hoxes and frames for when the bees fill the first one up.

I may have as many as 7 hives this years, if Martha lives, but there were streaks of Nosema on the front of Martha’s hive. I don’t expect her to make it.

I am calling the new hives Justine and Ethel. Last summer they were very strong, but the winter was rough and only the Russian hives lived. The Italian hives could not take the prolonged cold weather in the single digits that we had in January.

I am bringing the camera, but in the excitement I may not take many pictures. If the pictures come out, I’ll post them tonight.

Painting Bee Hives – Color to be determined

April 7th, 2011

It doesn’t matter that much what color you paint a hive. Bees hive limited color vision. They do remember patterns, though, so they find the hive by its shape and the pattern of the trees or bushes and other things near it. I might be a good idea to paint high contrast lines on the front of the box that the bees can remember it and see it from a distance.

As to what kind of paint to use, well cheap is a good choice. I think latex is better than oil because it has fewer “smells” and does not out-gas as much. Bees are sensitive to smells. Oil paints are fine if you can wait a few weeks for them to completely dry.

Color is not an issue. High contrast is probably good to help the bees find the hive. Remember, bees naturally live in hollow trees so they are predisposed to gray/green/brown earth tones. White hives are traditional, but there is nothing about a bee that prefers white paint.

I have been stopping at home depot and Lowe’s looking for paint mistakes. They sell the gallons for $5 when they make a mistake. So far nobody has been screwing up exterior paint, but when they do, no matter what color it is, that’s the color of my new hive boxes.

Bee date delayed again

April 7th, 2011

It looks like the bees are coming in the wee hours of April 17th. This is a good thing because that is early Saturday. I won’t miss any work. I will install the bees Sunday morning at dawn.

If you are near West Nyack, want to help, and you own a bee veil and gloves, let me know you are coming.

I fully expect one more delay. Don’t make plans just yet. I have to look up when they came last year, but it may have been later.

There has been much rain. This is good for the flowers, but the bees don’t go out in the rain that much. The temps have been above 50 so the girls are roaming when it is sunny. They are bringing back tons of pollen. I see forsythia and trees starting to bloom. If we have any sun it will be a good spring.

Nucs Arrive May 13, 14, Maybe.

April 5th, 2011

In addition to the packages that are supposed to arrive on April 15th, I ordered a couple of nucs from apiary near, Gooserock Farm, where they breed “Jersey Girl” queens. They will be making up the nucs as soon as the queens are available.

I got this today:

As you all know, Old Man Winter seems very reluctant to loosen his icy grip
this year. The cold wet weather has made it impossible to get good
well-mated queens early in the season and we are not going to be able to get
our nucs ready for pick-up until May 13 and May 14 at the earliest.

I like to try to get them ready a bit earlier than this but it’s just not
going to happen this year. My first priority is the quality of the nucleus
colonies I sell, and to that end, I need to hold onto them long enough to be
sure the queens are well established and laying with a decent pattern.

Thanks, and bee well!

Connie, the hive that made it through the winter, is doing so well that I am going to try a split. I fed her a half gallon of sugar Sunday. Yesterday the girls were coming back with lots of pollen, but weren’t taking the sugar. I’ll check again when I get home.

Martha, the hive I thought was dead, seems to have some bees in her. I can’t tell if they are robbers or not. There was little activity in front of the hive which would indicate they are not robbers. When I opened the hive, though, a bunch of defenders came out. The sugar in her feeder is a little lower, but I saw no bees drinking.

I don’t know what is going on with Martha. If she is alive, she is very weak. I want her to catch up and start growing. I don’t have the heart to kill her, so as long as it looks like there is a queen, I will leave her alone.