Monday, April 29

Activity

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Cold Front

I went out this morning at 10:00 am to water the new plum tree 'for the bees' and us. It was 53 degrees out, but felt like 45 with full overcast skies and cold winds. I put a bar partially over the entrance, to hopefully give the bees a chance to warm up. (I should have put it on last night) The high was 57 degrees, but otherwise bitter cold winds. I saw very little activity throughout the day.

Sunday, April 28

Clover Honey

While watching the bees today, we saw them leave the hive and head in the direction of the clover field (a five minute walk west). I am going to jump to the conclusion that the dark honey we saw yesterday at the top of the bars is clover honey.

On Second Thought

We were worried last night after reviewing our photos from the inspection. We tried so hard to figure out what is next in our line of events, but last night threw us a curve ball. We saw what we thought was too much scattered capped drone comb and most of the combs were much darker than the beautiful new combs we pulled out a week before. Then, this morning when we pooled our knowledge together to try and decode our bees' comb and a couple of ideas came to our minds...

Capped brood comb is bullet shaped. Flat capped comb is not always honey. Dark capped comb is likely brood and to check, we can just open one up.... Why didn't we think about this while we were in the hive??

Bar #5 is a good example that shows two separate combs were made on either end of the bar and later joined once they filled out (as we have seen from the webcam). We can see "C" shaped larva and it appears in a good pattern: just around the capped brood comb. Which would indicate that we still have a queen. Looking at the photos a little closer and comparing them with last week's, maybe all those empty cells are not necessarily scattered brood cells, but may actually be opened brood cells from new workers.

We didn't see any queen cells from the four bars we check yesterday (and the fifth bar we checked last week). So our workers must have some guidance to their design, right? We still haven't located the queen, but we still have plenty of bees. We are not in 'panic' mode so much as we were last night. Our common-sense has taken over and we can probably wait until Saturday for a fuller inspection.

Saturday, April 27

Inspecting Comb #4

Inspection of bar #4.
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I can't decipher the comb yet and so it doesn't seem to get me any advantage staring at it too long.
I pull it out, look it over quickly and return it to the hive.

Second Inspection

(Almost three weeks from installation)
We were gone all day long and did not return until 5:30 pm. Unfortunately, the storm clouds had moved in and it was just beginning to sprinkle. But I needed to get into the hive today - tomorrow is our day of rest - I did not want to wait until Monday. By the time the rain had paused it was 6:30 pm and 70 degrees.
I opened the hive and found the syrup only half empty. I pulled it out to scrape up the bottom of the hive. Most of the sugar syrup mess I found just three days ago had dried out once the entrance was opened all the way. I took a picture from the inside of the back of the hive before I began my inspection of the bars. It looks great to us beginners. 
Front of bar #2 (below) 
Back of bar #2 (below) 
Front of bar #3 (below)
Front of bar #5 (below)
Bar #5 is where I pulled the queen cage out from the front of the comb. It looks pretty straight in this photo. There are a few miss shaped cells in the area, but no cross combing.
Looking over the comb we concluded that we were seeing too much capped drone. I looked for the queen on the first bars, but then forgot on the others. Some of the comb (like #5) look like a good pattern, but I had this awful feeling that we have laying workers. My handsome husband was so brave this time around: he got up close to take pictures and videos, and smoked the bees as needed while I worked them; and surprisingly neither of us got stung. When comparing this last comb to the inside photo, it appears the bees have built comb through to bar #8.

Friday, April 26

Lemongrass Oil

We picked up some lemongrass oil this evening at Whole Foods. Lemongrass oil is used as a bait for feral bees looking for a new home.

A friend offered us space on their 8-acres to bait a hive or two. We have two 8-frame Langstroth hives we are currently not using. We are in the process of removing all the frames and freezing them as some of them look pretty scary and we hope that freezing them will kill any remnant pests. I would like give them a new coat of paint and then place them on the property.

Thursday, April 25

Webcam

8:00 pm hivecam shot.
This picture may be pointless with so many bees, but I think it is still interesting to see the activity and the comb growth inside the hive from time to time.


Activity


Natural Selection

I was out at the hive this morning rubbing petroleum jelly on the hive legs to discourage ants.
I watched a few bees come in so fast they hit into the hive and fell to the grass. They must think they don't need to be as careful now that they have a larger landing pad.
Here are some reckless bees on the landing pad this morning.
I am curious to see what the area will look like at the peak of their activity.

Wednesday, April 24

Flying Neighbors

Many winged friends or foes are flying about looking for new homes.
This one chose the hot tub just across from the beehive.
Hopefully they will be peaceful neighbors.

Entrance

After seeing what could have been chalkbrood yesterday, we decided it best to open the entrance. This gives the bees more airflow, a larger landing pad. The entrance is about one-inch tall. Hopefully they like it and it doesn't cause robbing from the wasp nest in the hot tub across the yard.
I've read that bees will need a larger entrance once nighttime temperatures reach the high 40s.

Beesy Bees

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Despite finding dead larva in the hive this morning, the bees seem to be in full swing this afternoon. I am still undecided whether to remove the entrance reducer or keep it until we past the last freeze date (May 1). I haven't found a straight answer for when it is appropriate in the springtime.


Dead Larva!

Clear skies, 48 degrees.
I went out at 8:30 am. There was little activity.
A few bees were at the entrance with this larva. The larva was not chalky, but was squishy.
I opened the cover and found several ants on the bars again. I would sweep them off and several more would quickly emerge. I swept about 10 strokes before the ants quit emerging. I took four bars out from the back of the hive for this photo.
The syrup feeder was almost empty.  I replaced it with syrup from earlier mixed batches (about 2s:1w). I had to scrape up a mess of crumby-syrup (see upper-right). There were about 6 bees drowning in the mess. I didn't have the best tools for the job, so I scraped it into a pile and put most on the plywood board with the camera attached. Also found larva (see lower-left). This larva was also not chalky, but wet and squishy.
The mess is located in the back of the hive on the south side. The hive leans to the southwest. The crumby-syrup mess smells like rotten candy. I did not add the new patty, because the last one looks untouched. Perhaps they don't need the patties any longer? The colony is barely two weeks old.

Tuesday, April 23

Daily Visit

I took the laptop out around 9:30 pm. Lots of new comb visible. The syrup jar was empty. We fixed the new lid with more holes, some larger. I will replace the syrup tomorrow morning.


Out of Syrup

I took the laptop out to the hive around 9:30 pm. Daytime temperatures got above 70. Saw lots of new comb, some getting closer to syrup feeder. The syrup jar was empty. We fixed our second lid with bigger holes and more of them. Then we tested it out - lots of dripping going on. I think it's time to get a boardman feeder on the entrance. I'll go ahead and use the jar until we get something better. I have a new quarter-patty ready to drop in if the last one is eaten.

The ants have been attracted to the syrup on top of the water feeder. A mess I need to clean up now. Maybe that's why I didn't notice ants on the top bars last time I was in.

Monday, April 22

Syrup Feeding

I decided to go out, even though it was only 46 degrees out with a clear and sunny sky. I replaced the syrup and decided against trying to remove the old unused quarter-patty. The combs were very deep and I would have to disturb the bees as a whole just to reach it.
I don't remember seeing an ant problem on the top of the bars when I opened the cover. Maybe the syrup near the hive has driven them away from the hive itself.


Routine Feeding

I decided to go out, even though it was only 46 degrees. Skies were clear and sunny.
I took out some bars, took a photo, replaced the syrup and decided against trying to remove the old unused patty (see pic, middle-bottom).  The combs are very deep and I would have to disturb them as a whole just to reach it. I don't remember seeing ants on the cover when I opened the hive.

Sunday, April 21

After Inspection

Our proof that the bees weren't too upset with our inspection. At least they didn't all fly away.
They are giving us another chance.
It's too dark for a good photo.



Bee Fever

My mother sent me this article today...from Utah County Beekeepers Association where Michael Bush flew in to speak with 120 people.

http://www.heraldextra.com/news/local/article_775c3b61-98cc-574b-bcc7-2aa53c03dc32.html

"I've had lots of hobbies over the last 40 years, but beekeeping is the one that has kept my interest," said Bush. "As soon as I felt like I had learned what I could about other hobbies, I would lose momentum. Bees will always give you a sense of learning and a desire to get better and better at what you are doing. Many writers have called this 'bee fever.'"

That about sums up exactly how I feel about my other hobbies.

Saturday, April 20

First Inspection

Almost two weeks after installation. 5:30 pm. Sunny with medium overcast and dark clouds moving in. Past peak of activity. I forgot to make a to-do list before I opened the hive.
My impatient side kick went ahead and opened the hive cover and removed a bar (without lighting the smoker or wearing any protective equipment). A bee chased him off, leaving the hive open while I suited up. Then he went and started the smoker. I smoked the bees at the entrance and at the back, where it was opened.
First, I removed the empty syrup that we put in on Wednesday. We were surprised there was not a pool of syrup on the hive bottom. I set the new jar back further because the comb building was getting close. The smoker went out; my handyman husband refueled it for me and then hooked up his laptop while I tried to focus the camera. Dark clouds had moved over us and I debated whether to check the comb. I decided to go ahead and look at a few bars. If the bees were going to get mad, they would have done it already. The smoker went out again, just before pulling the first bar.
I took a few pictures of the inside work with my camera while I waited for the smoker.
[north side] 
[south side] 
I carefully pulled bar #1 up (from the small saved comb). The front was completely covered in bees. The backside was darkest in the middle, but looked to us like uncapped honey. I slowly set the bar back in, loosing no lives.
Bar #2 (from largest saved comb) had what we originally thought was capped honey, but later with Wikipedia.com we learned was capped brood. I wish I had a better picture of this frame, but a particular bee was not happy with me. My hh was taking pictures of the comb when he was buzzed (lucky for him, the camera still works after being dropped). I continued smoking the bees, borrowing his chair to get the smoker near enough to the entrance and near the bars I was pulling out. 
Bar #3 was uncapped. We thought all three looked very nice. Not sure what the real story is though. Our smoker went out a third time and we decided it best to call it a day. The hive was open for about 15 minutes already. I lost a few lives when replacing the last two bars (hopefully the queen wasn't one of them). There were too many bees for me to worry over finding the queen. 
So, we put it all back together and crossed our fingers. 
[webcam photo] (webcam converted hivecam)


Thursday, April 18

Comb Growth

At 6:30 pm I went out and saw several bees doing the washboard effect.
They were licking the landing of the entrance. The video I took was too blurry worth posting.

Isn't he handsome?!
Making our nightly visit (without opening the hive for once) via the webcam. Here is a photo inside. The feeder jar can be seen (two-thirds full) on the right of the picture. Using photos from this morning and tonight we could see that the comb in front had grown about half an inch today.
When the webcam is in use it gives the inside of the hive a blue glow, seen here. I wonder what the bees think of the light. They don't seem too bothered. If only I had a better camera to get an inside view from this angle. Readers will have to put up with our Canon PowerShot SX130 IS for now and our limited photography skills.

Day 10 Pollen Collage

Lots of pollen activity today.
I went out at 1:30 pm to take photos. The bees were very active as I have noticed at mid-day. Lots of pollen being brought back. I did not see bees doing orientation or cleansing flights. I have never seen any bees at the new water feeder - something to do with not supplying water the first day and them finding it on their own?

Heavy Laden

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The bees coming in almost seem unbalanced with their loads of pollen.
Maybe they could benefit from a larger landing pad?

Specimens

This afternoon we brought the package box in the house, counted the dead bees, looked at the varieties and let the boys play with and dissect them.

Many races shown here prove our package was a mix. It won't be long before they are all the same. 


Installing the Webcam

Last night was too cold and gloomy to open the hive. We went for a look this morning at 9:00 am. I suited up while my husband got the hive cam and smoker ready. Several ants were on the top bars between the cover. I also found a big black spider which I happily killed.
I carefully opened the hive, starting at the back bars, removing the package box and feeder can which was almost empty. With the dead bees we found after installation and the dead ones in the box, we only lost about 60 bees from the package. We set the feeder can on top of the blue (pet) water jug (pictured full with rocks) to finish draining. Perhaps the bees will still drink it? The bottom of the hive was a little messy. A little wet from the syrups and crumby looking (from ants?). The half patty that was set on the box was soggy and little was eaten, though I did see a few bees on it. I could not find the quarter-patty that I had set at the back of the hive. I later found it in a photo and most was consumed. But the quarter-patty that was set below bar #1 was barely touched and soggy looking. I left the quarter-patties in the hive.
The jar I put in on the 9th was completely empty. I replaced it with new syrup. Lastly, I needed to remove the queen cage between bars #4 and #5. The bees were clustered in the southeast corner near the front and near the queen cage. I slid the bars open where the cage was at (expecting the cage to suddenly fall) and I found the bees were building comb around the cage. I cut it out with a putty knife. The queen was not in her cage, but other bees were. We tasted some runny "honey" from the cells on the cage. I did not pull any frames out and I did not look for the queen. I did get to see some festooning when I moved the bars open to get the queen cage out.
The bees were very docile during the 10 minute inspection.
It was light overcast, about 47 degrees with light sprinkles.
This photo was taken from the webcam at 10:00 am.
The syrup jar can be seen on the right side of the picture.

Wednesday, April 17

Little Activity

Must be a cold morning. At 10:00 am, still very little activity. Every 30 seconds a bee leaves the hive; while every minute or so one returns. We hope to get in this evening.

Tuesday, April 16

Pet Water Feeder

Replaced watering tin pan with a self-watering pet basin and set it near the hive.
Hopefully the bees will find it.

Monday, April 15

Hail Storm

I checked the bees at 1:30 pm. They looked like they were at their peak of business. At 2:00 pm it started to hail. The hive looked like robbing was going on as the bees raced to get inside from the rain. By the end of the day there was a handful of dead bees on the cover and most likely more that I never found.



Late Morning Activity

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Saturday, April 13

One of These Is Not Like the Others

As I observed the bees, I realized that my bee package was not all the same bee. I later learned from the supplier that I was given a New World Carniolan Queen, but the bees could be any number of races. I'll get to enjoy these bees for a few more weeks and then they should all be Carniolans.

Thursday, April 11

Little Tidbits

My husband went out to check on the hive at 8:00 am. No trace of bees at the entrance or back of hive. It was 44 degrees. With a little reading online, I understand that the hive is inactive when temperatures drop below 50 degrees or rise above 100 degrees.
At 10:00 am and cloudy skies the temperature had risen 2 degrees and there was very little activity. The forecast is for 60 degrees and mostly sunny.
Here is another orientation of the apiary, looking over the covered deck. The bees fly from the front of the hive up over the back fence and then on to their destinations.
I find myself going out to the hive every couple of hours, just to get another tidbit of information. I went out at 11:30 am and witnessed a few bees with pollen! I wish I had painted a ruler on the hive.

Wednesday, April 10

Pollen Patty Substitute

Shipment arrived. I plan to stick a few quarter-patties in with the bees, move the syrup to the front and sprinkle ground cinnamon on the bars to discourage ants. I tried the ground cinnamon in the house to combat our existing sugar ant problem, but it only attracted more ants and so I decided against putting it on the hive. By 1:00 pm quite a few bees were flying around the hive. By 5:00 pm one bee would leave before another would appear. They are either empty or it is curfew time. Here is a picture of the apiary orientation:
I stood north of the hive and the evening sun shone through the back fence. The south wall of the hive is parallel with the south side of our house, but lies a few feet further south, allowing the bees to get the morning sunshine and not be in the shadow of the house.
By 6:00 - 7:00 pm most of the foragers were in for the night. I was hoping my husband would be home to give me moral support while I would have the hive open, but I got restless and went out alone at 7:30 pm. We are still experiencing 40 degree temperatures at night in our area. I started up the smoker with the help from the gas stove in the kitchen. We haven't had much luck keeping it burning very long.
While I was out, two bees harassed me. I would step back and they would back off. I dropped a quarter-patty between the front of the hive and bar #1 and put a second quarter in the back. Moving the syrup to the front was not going to be an option - too many bees on the front bars. Again, I did not want to be a nuisance. The bees hadn't even been in the hive a week together yet. I was in the hive about five minutes.
At 8:00 pm, my husband went out to have a look for himself. He added another patty on top of the package box, added more holes to the feeders, and moved the feeders closer to the cluster near the queen cage. Then he met our first martyr, but handled it very well, despite getting stung on the upper lip. After the visit, we chose to leave the bees alone for at least 24 hours. I'd rather not disturb them until day seven or nine. I wish we had been prepared to feed them before they arrived. We still need to check to make sure the syrups are dripping enough and to replace patties as they run out.

Sugar Syrup Feeding

If you investigate the beekeeper hobby, some folks will tell you, "get out while you still can" because you don't keep bees, "they keep you." We are learning this first hand. As mentioned, we didn't sleep so well the night after we installed the bees and last night was the same. In the early morning my handsome husband fixed three screws in the quart jar we were going to use as a feeder for sugar syrup. And tapped two tiny holes. We tested it and decided a third whole would be enough to keep the drip going.
We went out at 6:00 am. There was no activity. At 7:00 am we opened the hive. When I took the cover off I found many ants on the outside of the bars. I brushed them off and went about my business. The can feeder was still half full. The back of the hive was not occupied, so I stuck the jar feeder there. I think the feeders are supposed to go in the front, but there were too many bees on the first bar and the queen just a few behind with a cluster on her (see pic). And I know I am not supposed to disturb the bees much during the first week, so that is why I chose the back of the hive to place the syrup.
While I was arranging the feeders, my husband tried to photograph the back cluster. He wasn't suited up and moved a frame for a closer look and a few bees quickly buzzed out; startling him, he dropped the bar and ran. Not stings yet. 
I went out again at 8:00 am and saw more bees exiting than returning. By 9:00 am it was starting to sprinkle. I saw little activity and watched one bee do her orientation flight.