Tag Archives: comb

A Bee Being Born

1 Jul

More from THE PAST.  Today (read back to June 19th) when I took the nuc apart that I’d been trying to situate, the frame that I tossed out for robbing that was mostly nectar had some brood in it, and while I was watching…it HATCHED!

20130619-192110.jpgSee the chewed capping in the middle of that cluster?

20130619-192100.jpgMaybe hard to see, but the whitish thing in the middle is a new bee crawling out of her cell.

SO COOL!

More Bee Expansion….aka I am a Bee Hoarder. Big Update.

19 Jun

So, let’s see….

After the disaster of a crop & chop, which never really shaped up to be anything but a mess, I hived Betty up the hill into a foundationless Langrstroth next to Foster hive.  I had this whole plan about how I was going to put the styronuc into this rubbermaid container I keep all my bee junk in, but it didn’t fit.

So plan B…which I had to formulate on the fly…involved closing said rubbermaid container, rolling my window all the way down, and balancing the nuc on top of the container with the door out the window….and driving really really really slowly with a smoker lit and my veil on. Luckily, I was just driving it from one end of a farm to another, so really less than a quarter of a mile and no real roads.

20130619-190034.jpgOk, there’s sort of a picture….the corner of a white thing in the mirror is the nuc sticking out my window…and then you can obviously see the smoke.

20130619-190051.jpgAnd here’s Foster hive on the left, I really need to combine that down into one box…although I’m tempted to let them sort themselves out.  Then there’s Betty all tucked into her single brood box, and the lavender styronuc waiting to be cleared out totally.  It’s empty now and stored away.

Cleo, at the other end of Scratch Yard is doing great – she’s on 13 or 14 bars and building like a little champ.  I couldn’t seem to get a good shot in the window last week, but I’m headed out tomorrow to check on them and do some other work….

I checked on Miss JuJuBee last week it seems like they’re starting to move down into the second box.  I have fingers crossed hard on that one.  Last year my girls in that hive swarmed rather than move down.  I have seed comb in the second box *and* I put a swarm trap out in the woods a bit just in case.  Here are two pictures of her girls:

20130619-191155.jpgPollen pants!  I love it when their pollen baskets are full and they have puffy pollen pants!

20130619-191204.jpgHere’s looking at you, kid.

Then!!! I got a community garden space (I alluded to that previously).  I’ve been doing a lot of work unearthing it from weed city.  It’s coming along.  They told me I could have a hive there, which I was really excited about and then the other community garden that I was on a waiting list for said I could keep a hive there too!  Two hives!  So I brought the long hive (Daphne) to the garden I am gardening in:

20130619-191441.jpgThis is Daphne in my little plot…in the distance….failing at blending in.

I think we’re up to last Wednesday now.  So I needed two nucs, found them!  Went and got them! Brought them back!  Got a hive for one of them, another foundationless Lang – I’m calling her Eleanor.  Hived her up right quickly on…I think it was Monday.

Today I went into the garden with the intention of doing an actually assisted Chop and Crop…better prepared and on a nuc that was all wood instead of all plastic…look, I’m learning.  Here’s my helpful friend in my spare bee suit:

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I pulled the nuc away from where it was, got the HTBnuc that I made (featured in my last post in all its adorableness), and went to work.  I figured, I’d chop and crop into the HTBnuc a few yards from the site of where the other hive is and nuc was so that there would be fewer bees around and that I could just drop the bars into the long hive when I was done with the traumatic operation.

I was wrong, as usual.

First, I’d accidentally switched nucs so there was a plastic frame in there, lame.  I figured I could just put that into Eleanor (the already hived Lang) no problem.

I was wrong about that too.

First things first, I shook the bees off of the first frame and into my nuc, helpful friend cut the bottom, the comb came loose, and then I noticed a little queen cell on it that was opened….so I put the brakes on.

I lay that frame out to be robbed as it was mostly nectar and set about shaking the loose bees off of every frame and into the nuc, figuring I’d shake a swarm into the nuc, check out the rest of the frames, and see what was going on.

When I really got in there and looked there were 6<<<<<<< SIX<<<<<<< queen cells in varying sizes on a variety of the frames.  Three of them were open.  Three of them were still sealed.

So I closed the nuc back up (after shaking almost all the loose bees out of it) and put it back where a mini swarm of returning field bees was congregating on the side of my raised bed.

And then I watched, thunk, and had a little snack.

A lot of the bees from the shaking process ended up outside of the new nuc.

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But within an hour they were all into the little nuc and fanning and foraging and quiet.  From that, I’d say there’s a queen in there.

I ran over to my new favorite spot, Cluck!, to get a new hive figuring that I’d just move all the frames with the other half of the bees into a new foundationless langstroth and call it good…but then as I thought about it more, I realized that I didn’t want to waste all of the queen cells and sooooooo….

I hived up almost all of the frames into the new foundationless Lang…who needs a G name…Genevieve and faced it away from where the nuc was facing and I left a different frame with a queen cel in the nuc (alone) and faced it to the side of where the nuc had been facing and stacked it up on top of the two Lang hives that are there figuring that they’d split themselves all up amicably (I hope) and I can take that frame and the bees in it tomorrow morning and take them down to the farm where Alice is empty – chop and crop that one frame, add the bees that are in the box, go get a couple of bars from Cleo and bring them down and call THAT a split….which leaves:

Alice (HTBH at Zephyr, currently empty) with a queen cell, some bees, and a few borrowed bars from Cleo.  Work to do tomorrow.

Betty, last seen about 10 days ago tucked into her foundationless Lang up on Scratch.  Next check tomorrow.

Cleo, last seen about 10 days ago being blue ribbon and wonderful in her HTBH up on Scratch.  Next check tomorrow.

Daphne empty in Sycamore Yard…but once I get back in two weeks I’ll move her to the other community garden (Brattle), bring the baby nuc over and transfer the bars into it….so next update in two weeks.

Eleanor – foundationless Lang full of happy bees being normal in Sycamore Yard.  Next check in two weeks.

Foster hive – status unknown…but couldn’t be worse than when I found her…next check tomorrow…up on Scratch.

Genevieve – newly hived foundationless Lang in Sycamore Yard, next check in two weeks, although she’s short a frame and I should probably put that in tomorrow…although they were QUITE irritable when I left today.

JuJuBee – Being a darling in Lincoln Yard, I think…next check tomorrow.

Jean Grey – Awaiting a swarm in Lincoln Yard.

And that’s that….sort of a fail…and I got chased from the yard…ha…but also sort of exciting!

June 1st, 2013 – Part Three – Finally, the good stuff.

1 Jun

Ok, so the rest of it.  I stopped by to check on Juju Bee and her gallies are going like gangbusters.

20130601-225608.jpgLike so!  I was thinking of opening her up and checking for brood, but I could actually see some through the window, and I feel fine about not poking around in the warre too much.  The bars are fixed (not my choice, and I think I’m going to pry them out of other boxes and make guides…but this box is from last year) – so opening it up is sort of just tipping up the box and looking inside it.  But I decided to channel Emile and leave it….BUT ALSO, IT’S FILLING UP WITH HONEY!  GO JUJU GO!

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This is what I could see into the second box…it looks like they’re making chains…hopefully they’re soon to be making comb!   I’m really cheering them on to moving down.  There’s a chunk of seed comb in there, so hopefully they’ll take the hint!

Then I went to check on Cleopatra – I haven’t opened that hive up yet, just looked through the window…but the comb is much newer and there hasn’t been as much to see, so today I opened her up and looked around.  I really enjoy the process of inspecting a KTBH – it’s sort of like looking through a filing cabinet…and the ladies don’t seem to mind it at all.

Oh, also, they’re still on as many combs as they were last week…which made me worry that they might be honey bound…they were brood, brood, mixed brood and stuff, mixed brood and stuff, honey, honey, little comb with honey.

So I slid the whole operation back two bars and inserted two bars into the brood nest between some of the mixed bars.

20130601-225816.jpgThat’s one of the mixed bars.  Cleo was walking around and I was trying to get a picture of her, but I am not sure she’s visible in there.  I also reached down and pulled the queen cage out.  Easy peasy.

20130601-225824.jpgThis is through the observation window right now…some bars, a blank, a bar, a blank, some bars.  They look happy and healthy though!

So after all the bad stuff…that’s the good stuff.   I like to end on a good note…even if my day didn’t.

 

June 1st, 2013 – Part Two – OMG, someone else messed up. Or, the Red Queen is Dead.

1 Jun

Ok, moving along from the utter embarrassment and shame of ME messing up….

I keep bees at two farms, and on one the farmer decided (prior to the arrangement with me) to get a pair of packages and try keeping bees on her own.  She ignored them and they died out…that was last year.  This year, I’m keeping bees (Queen Cleo’s hive) up on her farm and she decided again that she wanted to get a pair of packages and she’s ignoring them…again.  In conversation she mentioned that she thought the queen had maybe died in one, it wasn’t doing well…could I look in.  I don’t keep a langstroth hive, but I know well enough what goes on, that I felt ok doing it.

I observed the entrances for a bit and determined that indeed, one hive was looking a lot sluggish.  They’ve been there for about 2 months and the empty package boxes were still at the entrance….which should have prepared me for what I found inside.

In the sluggish hive, I found a dead queen in a cage, spotty brood on one frame (laying worker) and bees starving to death head first in honeycomb.  Terrible.  Also the empty feed can in a deep super….still.

20130601-223328.jpgThe red queen is dead.

I closed them back up and then opened the second hive.

Same empty feed can in a deep super…an aluminum mixing bowl of dead bees…???!!??

20130601-223341.jpgWhat the what?

And then this:

20130601-223359.jpgShe’d clearly left too much room between a pair of frames and they went au natural…attached to nothing.  And they’re on three frames.  After two months…which makes me think that they’re probably honey bound.  Oy gevalt.

So I did the only thing I could think to do, which was stack the boxes with paper between them (a dsw bag, actually…because I’d been shoe shopping this morning…).  Slide the complete hive into the middle of where the two had been and hope for the best…?  Also, all of her inner covers have entrances in them….so there’s now a lower entrance (fully open), a middle entrance that will only go into the bottom box, and an upper entrance that will only go into the top box.

What a freaking nightmare.  I wonder if I should move the front frame to somewhere else in the hive?  Or if this is going to fix the problem…I can’t have made it worse.  I really, really, really want her to stop trying to keep bees, though…I’m hoping I can convince her of this.

I know she doesn’t want to actually “keep” bees, she just wants them on her property.  Anything I can do for this hive better or differently to hopefully get them to survive?  Other than steal them away in the night?

 

June 1st, 2013 – Part One – OMG, I messed up.

1 Jun

I messed up.  Badly.  I am still reeling at how badly I messed up.

I have to tell today in three parts – part one is utter failure, mine.  Part two is utter failure, someone else’s.  Part three is, good stuff and possibly a tasty cocktail recipe….I’ve been holding onto the tasty cocktail recipe, I think I may need it today.

I’m also telling today all out of order.  This is the most recent part of the story.

I am headstrong and impatient.  I know these things about myself.  But today, I attempted to do something that is DEFINITELY a two person job…on my own…and I messed it up…and I got stung…for the first time since I was about 6.  I’m not allergic to bees, thank Jiminey Cricket….having not been stung in 26 years, I wasn’t completely sure.  She got me good, right in the middle finger knuckle of my left hand through my glove and I completely deserved it.  Completely, completely deserved it.

So I built a new hive…which if you’ve been following along, you have seen.  It’s a KTBH  and it’s reasonable considering that it’s my first attempt at carpentry.  Today I finished it and I built a little baby nuc for fun and just in case I needed it.  Betty and her girls have been crammed into their nuc for a while and I wanted to have an HTBnuc on hand in case I spotted a swarm cell and wanted to split them up.

So loaded the car, did a bunch of other bee things that I will detail in other posts, and then went to chop and crop my langstroth nuc into my KTBH hive.  By myself.  I really, really, really shouldn’t have done this….but I don’t know any other beeks in the area and think I can do things by myself and I just can’t.

So first, I watched a video of Phil Chandler doing it about 8 times…of course he makes it look as easy as pie.

Then I laid out all of my stuff:

20130601-211015.jpg

(New bars, hive tool, loppers, small cutters, bread knife, spray bottle, brush, gloves)

Then I set to work…I moved the nuc away from where it was, put my HTBnuc into its place, just in case, and then took out the first frame.  Checked both sides for Betty, didn’t see her.  Shook the bees into the new hive and began chopping and cropping.  The frame was their most recently built out and mostly was uncapped honey/nectar.  It went ok – it was not as easy as Phil makes it look, mais oui, but reasonable.  The comb ended up coming loose from the bar, I got stung in the hand (had a momentary freak out and then just started an “It’s ok, I’m ok, you’re ok” mantra) but I got through it.  I chucked the extra corner pieces into the HTBnuc as a sort of expedient storage place for them, and then figured I’d leave it in there so they can rob it out but have it not be just laying on the ground.

Then I went on to the next frame…and it was plastic…through and through…I was unprepared for that.  No Betty, shake shake, and then commence cutting….and the cutting was really hard…  And it was mixed brood, so I was making a total mess of brood soup, ugh….I just couldn’t cut it in a way that made sense…it wouldn’t fit…the bees were all freaking out…I think I got stung again, although I barely (and still don’t) feel it.  The sun was setting, it was getting cooler…I just couldn’t handle it anymore and was worried about the giant disaster I was making…and so I just stopped.  Which I’m not sure was the right decision either.

It was too late in the day for me to be starting that, I shouldn’t have done it on my own, and I’ve made a total disaster of one of my bee yards.  So right now out there it looks like this:

20130601-211033.jpg

My baby HTBnuc where the styro one was with a bunch of weird corners of comb in both nectar and brood varieties.  The big KTBH with a frame of nectar and a frame of mixed brood awkwardly chopped and cropped into there…  And finally Betty in her original styro nuc, facing the opposite way it had been facing…with three proper frames, and two of my top bars propped in there awkwardly.

Worst case scenario, the styro nuc and Betty are fine and the rest of what I did is a disaster….but I still have to get the rest of the damn thing taken apart.

Middle Scenario, the big hive raises a queen.

Pie in the sky, somehow the the HTBnuc raises a queen out of the wreckage…and I will name her Jean Grey.

I started working on a new KTBH in my workshop the other day, but I think I need to take it apart and make a conversion one so that I can just move the stupid lang frames into it and not do anymore of the cutting.  I hate the cutting.  I think conversion hives are ugly things…but I’d rather an ugly thing to what just happened.

So, learned some lessons…feel like shit…think I shouldn’t touch them for two weeks and see what happens.  I’d love some constructive feedback…if possible light on the negativity, I know I messed up.

Processing Beeswax!

14 May

Last night I was chilly – we got temperatures in the 30s – brrr!  I decided to warm up by processing the wax I’ve had kicking around since last August.

IMG_5694It started out looking about like this – only there was a bunch more.  This is stuff I saved in case I want to use it for something.  Old comb turns out to be somewhat useful to have around the house.

IMG_5690

 

I stuffed it all into a stocking and a muslin shoe bag I had in my Goodwill pile…I think there’s probably a more efficient way of doing this, but it worked fine for the right-then solution…and filled the pot up with water.  I put it on a low simmer, covered it to get the heat up a bit.

IMG_5689It’s important to not leave this bad boy covered for long…or unattended really.  Wax is super flamable and from what I’ve read, boiling does weird stuff to it – so I erred on the side of not letting it get that hot.

IMG_5691

 

After I’d let it all seep out and then left it to cool in the fridge for a time – I was left with this disk of wax.  I did two batches, so got two of these disks.

IMG_5692

 

Then I stacked up my burners to get the pan as far from the heat as I could and put the pieces back into the pot sans water to let those melt again.  This part is the super tricky, really really don’t leave the kitchen at all part.  Once it had all re-melted, I poured it through another piece of old stocking and a funnel into molds and got the most gorgeous, pure gold beeswax bars.  It was quite the transformation from start to finish.

IMG_5693

 

I’m excited to have it, but don’t really have a need for it right now.  If I do, though…..it’s ready to go!

 

Scratch Hive Bee Check & Queen Release!

10 May

Today I checked on Scratch Hive (queen still nameless)….it’s such a pleasant drive to get out there. Farm fields, chickens, butterflies, and bees!

I rolled up as close as I’d prefer to put my car to the hive and peeked in the window to find a bar and a half of pure white virgin comb and the girls bustling in and out with full pollen baskets of about 10 different colors!

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Stuart had suggested that I not even remove the cork to candy release the queen for 3 days so that they could really get used to her. He’s such a quick turn around for package delivery, that they haven’t even been together for 24 hours when he drops them off. I was skeptical, but I’d rather not lose a queen in such a difficult bee year. I also have heard a lot about KTBH hives absconding more often than other types, so I figured…caged queen = less likely to wander off.

When I installed them, I put the seed comb in one end and the queen cage in the other (on the bottom), hoping they’d build on the opposite side from where she was…easing my release of her today.

Of course….I was wrong.

That beautiful comb? Yeah, it’s right over her regal little head.

So I decided….today is the day to light my smoker (for the first time…). I’ve been meaning (for over a year) to light it up at least for practice, but I never felt like I needed it with my warre. Reaching down into a hive full of bees, picking up the queen, uncorking her, and putting her back….seemed like a smokin’ sort of activity.

I loaded up the smoker with light cardboard and leaves, pulled out the matchbook that’s been in my bee box for over a year, and opened it….to find that it was completely empty. Like defective and never had any matches to begin with empty.

Heart rate rising.

I’ve never had a problem using my bee-calm spray before, but I’ve also never opened a hive to this degree.

Heart rate rising.

So I suited up, got my bee calm spray and set to work, slowly and carefully. I opened the hive, pulled a few empty bars out, slid the comb bars over…which they didn’t like, but it was necessary…and then I took a deep breath and reached my arm down into the hive. It took a little maneuvering to find the queen cage in the mass of bees, but I found her, picked her up, uncorked her…really hoping that she’d prance out…to no avail…set the cage back into the bottom of the hive….closed it back on up (which involves a lot of brushwork and coaxing) and backed off!

I was really nervous the whole time (still a newbeeeee) but I got it done and they seem really happy there.

I’ll be back next Friday to make sure there’s a good lay pattern and to see if they need more bars. At this rate, it seems like they will in pretty short order. I started them with 10 or 12 bars and they’ve already mostly filled one bar and started on another.

I also need to decide if I’m going to open the hive floor or not. I worry it’ll be too bright in there if I do.

So 1) What should I name this queen. And 2) Should I open the hive floor?

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Bee-Day is the Best Day – Warre and KTBH Installs Complete! Also, Name the Queen!

9 May

On Tuesday, I zipped over to Stonewall Apiary in CT to pick up my newest lady-friends.  His set-up is super enviable…chickens, bees, little dogs, clothes on the clothes line, land all around, cute little stone walls…Dreamtown, USA.

The girls were ready to go and seat-belted into the car in short order and we were off!  Back over state-lines to settle them in.

IMG_5622

^^^Bees in car! ^^^ Stewart said, “The seatbelt is probably not necessary….” but I believe in safety first.  Also, I’m not the most attentive driver.  It just seemed like it was in everyone’s best interest.

First stop was to Scratch Farm where my KTBH is.  It’s SO gorgeous out there, and I’m so excited for a weekly trip to visit the girls.  I haven’t really found any definitively good way to feed in a KTBH and I want to do some research before I commit to more woodenware…so I decided to try something out…I’m not sure if it was a good idea, I guess I’ll find out tomorrow.

I laid paper in the bottom of the hive, put a pollen patty on it…and then put down a layer of dry sugar…which I then sprayed with water…not a lot, but enough to make sort of a paste.  I’m feeling worried about that as an idea now, but the damage…if it was a bad idea is done.

I also tied a piece of comb from another hive onto a bar, just so it would be homey smelling…and put some LGO on another bar.

IMG_5624

Now that I’m writing about this, I’m feeling nervous.

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There she is all set up.  This queen is nameless-  for now I’m calling it Scratch Hive – which is where it is.  I’m willing to accept name suggestions for this lady.  Feel free to post comments…if no one steps up, I’ll let my students name her.  No one really wants that to happen.

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My other install went easy as pie, the warre I’m a little more used to.  And my beekeeping-apprentice (aka, the willing homeowner) got her first taste of what being a beekeeper is like.  Mostly, she just watched- which for day 1 at the hive, is a good thing to do!  She named the queen in her hive JuJu Bee- pun wildly intended – but in her defense, JuJu Bee is her favorite drag queen and was at her bachelorette party.  I think it’s a pretty fun name.

Hive #1 Delivered!

29 Mar

Just dropped the warre off at its new home. I’m sad that I won’t get to see it every day, but I’m happy to be teaching my new friends, Bonnie & Eric, about beekeeping!

They’re going to be living on a two acre lot on the edge of conservation land (that’s what’s over the stone wall there) with an ENORMOUS patch of wild raspberries to frolic in.  The brown edge there is the beginning of the patch, and it extends about 100 feet along the wall at about 8-10 feet wide the whole width.  I’m hoping Bonnie will let me help them also make some raspberry jam from the copious amount of fruit they’re sure to have.

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I’m also excited to have a fully built-out box (that I’ve appropriately treated to ensure it’s a healthy place to put the girls) to start them off with.

There are queen cups in the wax from the industrious little swarmers I had last year and I’m not super sure of what to do about them. It seems that I could either leave them thinking that the bees will take them down and reuse the wax for something else – or I could pull out all the combs with cups, cut them out, and try reattaching them to the comb guides…which seems like a clumsy job if it’s not needed.

I have the question posted at my favorite bee forum, but if any of my readers have advice, I’ll gladly take it.

Just two weeks until bee day and one more hive to move. 🙂

Post Mortem

9 Sep

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I took the top half box (aka the mistake box) off the hive today and scraped all the comb out of it. It’s sad and empty, but so beautiful. I love the way the natural comb just goes where it will, but there’s no wasted space. I’m going to save a few big chunks for future need and melt down the rest.

It looks like, and someone correct me if I’m wrong, there is at least one queen cup in there.

20120909-151249.jpg

So maybe they swarmed and then the new queen failed?

There are still a few bees wandering around the hive…like 30 or so workers and about 5 drones…I don’t know if they’re mine or not. I figured I’d leave the other full box on for just a few more days so it’s totally robbed out and then wrap it up and stick it in the freezer until next year.

It’s a sad state of affairs, but I feel like I’ve made peace with it and am ready to start with two hives next year, so that I can more readily diagnose issues and take care of them sooner and not have this happen again.

Sigh.

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