Tag Archives: queen

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 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?

 

Bees Loose in my Car! (and a bunch of other little updates)

28 May

The weather has been pretty cold and rainy this week again, but since JuJuBee and the newly named Cleopatra have observation windows, I was able to peek in anyway.

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That’s the full panorama of JuJu Bee’s workings.  On closer inspection, there’s definitely honey being stored away!

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Also, out on the front porch, there’s the definite posture of Nasanov fanning going on.

IMG_5756

 

Over on Scratch Farm, Cleopatra has a lot of work going on as well.   Her girls had 7 bars built out on Friday and so I popped another one in for good measure.

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Even though there was intermittent drizzle happening, the entrances were hopping. Now that they’re pretty set up, I’ve opened two of the front three holes and have popped off the Winter bottom board (well, I took the picture first and then took the bottom board off).

IMG_5761

 

On a neighboring farm, the farmer has asked me to keep a few hives for her as well.  Finding bees after package season is a bit of a pain, but I found a nuc in New Haven, CT and dashed over there to grab them on Friday afternoon.

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There’s a whole lot going on in there!  Because Betty was a close 2nd in the naming poll, I’ve decided that this is Queen Betty.  And, unbeknownst to me, I got a pic of her little butt as I was grabbing the shot of the frame.

IMG_5772

 

On the far left side about a third of the way down the frame is Betty Bee’s Beeeeeehind.  Doing her job!

On the hour and a half drive between New Haven and Cranston, I had the nervewracking experience of having bees loose in my car.  One got out pretty quickly and soon several more followed.  It was a bit of a nail biter to be sure, but they hung out on the ceiling, for the most part, and didn’t come see what I was doing….which was definitely for the best.

 

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This is their temporary hive in their new home – woods, and farm fields, oh my!

IMG_5767Coming out to explore a little…

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And this is a few hours’ progress on their new home!  I’m working on it in the wood shop in the studio where I teach.  I’ve got the followers and about 5 bars made (although with no comb guides) and the body.  Before I head home tonight, I’ll make a bunch more bars and figure out some kind of comb guide and then I’ll probably put together another set of followers so I can make a second hive body tomorrow (I have the bits for it).  I also need to figure out roofing and legs.  I have some legs-material at home, but not enough I don’t think.  I’m hoping to have at least one complete hive for Friday…and if I have two, then I have two and that will be exciting!

Spring is bursting into summer and I’ve got a lot going on!  I’m hoping to find another nuc or  two if anyone knows of one in New England!

Name the Scratch Hive Queen (poll)

21 May

Well, I did it…I asked a bunch of 15 and 16 year-olds what to name the queen bee in Scratch Hive, these are the answers they came up with. Please choose from among them, or give me another idea….I’m going to check on them on Friday and it would be good to have a name for her by then. 🙂

Queen JuJu Bee, released!

16 May

I went over to visit Queen JuJu Bee and the Warre hive this afternoon.  I’d been meaning to check all week, but with the cold/damp we’ve been having, I didn’t want to open up the hive.  77 degrees and sunny today and with a free hour in the afternoon, I headed over to check in with the girls.

First, I peeked in the window.

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Lots of bees doing lots of bee things!  It’s hard to get a clear picture because the windows are reflective, but it looks like they’ve already got a *little* honey going in there.  Which, obviously, is what we like to see!  There’s clear evidence of both new comb and some work being done on the old comb they were given, so go girls!

I popped the feeder off, which was bone dry, and then looked down in between the bars – lots and lots of activity!

Then I pried up the corner of the top box and looked in to where I’d left the queen cage.  If it were empty, there wouldn’t be a lot of mind paid to it, and I’d be able to reach in and grab it.  When I looked in, I noticed that it was totally COVERED with bees.

I reached in, pulled her out – she was very much alive, thankfully!  And I popped the cork out of the non-candy end of the cage and then lay her back on the bars and got to watch her walk out through the hole and down into the hive!  It was really exciting to me.  I tried to take a quick pic, but of course when I looked at it WITHOUT the veil in front of my eyes, I realized that it was blurry.

 

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Picture fail.  But if you give a good squint at it, you can see that the queen cage (covered with bees) is laying on one of the bars.  She had just walked out and down.

I gave her a minute to be sure that she was clear before I started brushing the girls back in and closing the hive up for the day.

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And just so your eyes don’t explode from blurriness, here’s a clear picture of some action at the hive entrance.  In three weeks the first JuJu Baby Bees will be born and the hive population will start climbing to its summer peak!

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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