Tag Archives: worries

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:

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(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:

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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.

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.

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^^^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.

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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.

Just when you look away…

21 Aug

I got all freaked out over being queenless at the beginning of the season, and then just when I decided I was fine – my hive actually became queenless…I think.

There’s so much about having a warre hive that I totally love, and other parts that leave me a little wanting…

So the hive – I might have killed the queen on the day I tried to take the top half-box off or when I nadired the hive….or the hive might have swarmed on a day that I wasn’t around. I’m not totally sure. I just know that at the end of June there were a lot of bees but that only one (and the half) box were full and at the end of July there were not all that many bees that I could see. In fact, I declared my hive dead at the beginning of August. It seemed like there just weren’t that many bees around and then I watched three wasps walk right in unimpeded. 😦

So I blocked the entrance way down and then left them alone – all I could do really. I talked to the guy I got my bees from and he said that there’s nothing I can do but freeze the hive to kill any possible diseases and start over in the spring.

Then I went out today and there seem like there are a lot more bees around. I can’t tell if they’re mine or if they’re robbers. There wasn’t much pollen coming in, but there is capped brood that I can see through the window. I made a video of the entrance:

 

There are bees hovering a bit, which is a robbing sign, but I’m just not sure. There are also wasps around, but none going into the hive – which is an improvement.
I can’t go out again until Friday, but on Friday I’m planning to put some damp sugar in the feeder. If they’re rebounding, I want to give them the best chance that I can.

One of my ladies in a squash flower.

Squash ripening on the vine.

Pickles I made from garden cukes – my first canning project this year!

A Week Post Nadir and Still No Downward Motion – Some Other Random Updates

19 Jul

So it’s been a week since I nadired the hive (a little longer, actually) and the girls are still firmly ensconced in their top box and a half.  I’m getting worried that they’re not going to have enough to over-winter on.  I really want to take the half box off – what was the feeder is now a rank mess of dead ants, fermenting sugar – I can’t lift it off to dump it out because the comb in the half box is all built onto the bottom of it… so I keep trying to mop it out and add more water every time I go out there to thin down the fermenting sugar junk.  Unfortunately, it’s also splitting open on the side (which they’re taking as an opportunity to make an upper entrance) — but because of that, the feeder only holds a tiny bit of water and somehow also never seems to totally dry out.  I want to leave the top off and let it evaporate, but I think the ladies would dislike that course of action.

I did try to lift it off when I was just out there…but when I lift it up it’s just comb comb comb….I broke one lifitng it and felt badly about it and put it back down.

Upper left you can see the split/entrance they’re making.  Luckily it’s below the level of the feeder “floor” so they aren’t getting into where the water sort of is.  The other three shots are just a few angles on what you can see when I try to pry the feeder off.

The full version of my favorite part of that grouping – some gorgeous comb and a bunch of capped honey – yay!


This is the rain barrel from the tutorial sitting in place – the tube coming in from the left is overflow from the third floor barrel and the tube leaving just below it goes into the gutter for right now.  We got a big storm today (finally!) and the top barrel filled up and if I leaned way out the window I could see the overflow tube pumping it out into this barrel.  I don’t know what the status of this barrel is, won’t until next weekend – which is also the next time I can see the bees…but it seemed like it was working.

This is the water going into the top floor barrel.  When it was super pouring, the water was shooting out over the top of the barrel – but I think it was pretty full at that point anyway.  Previous barrels that I’ve made have had the pipe go straight down into the barrel – it’s a little more finnicky but you get ALL of the water.  Which, it seems, might not be necessary.

This is the last barrel currently planned – I need to get a good drill bit and put a bajillion holes in the top of it as well as some screen to filter out the junk.  I’m super excited about the hand-pump part – suddenly we can do dishes and fill watering cans outside.  I just need to figure out what to do with the waste water.  I’ll probably put a 5 gallon bucket under there and then just take the greywater and dump it in the flower garden.
Speaking of the garden, there are tiny bits of food happening:

Tomatillo flower, green Believe it Or Not tomato, and a baby pickling cuke!

Also, I’m a sucker for plants in need – I found these lemon-boy tomatoes all mashed up and bedragled (but fruiting already) on a clearance rack– took them home, planted them next to the huge mama tomatoes that I’ve had in for months, pruned ’em up and made sure they got plenty of water – it’s only been since Saturday and these girls are ripening right up!  A little TLC turned them right around!  I have hopes that once these early fruit come off, they’ll do a little growing and maybe give me another set.

Do I have a laying worker and no queen? Part 1 – the Question.

21 Jun

I went out to look at my hive as soon as we got back from honeymoon expecting to see some building in the lower box on the hive.  It’s been nearly 3 months and there had been some action that looked like the beginnings of a bulge down there just before we left for the wedding:

The upper left is view into the bottom box that I thought was being worked on, the rest is upper box, some honey, some capped brood (although on second look, I think that’s all drone brood)….things looking really hopeful.  This was memorial day.

Three weeks later, still no action in the bottom box and combs that look almost…empty…in the upper box….no capped brood visible, no real major honey stores, and lots and lots of drones….or to my eye lots.  I took a video of the hive entrance – toward the middle you can start to see drones being pushed out or coming out, one after another after another.

You can also see one of the girls fanning her Nasanov glands.  I wonder that they should still be doing that after 3 months, but I don’t know enough to know.

If I have a laying worker – which all this could be a symptom of – the queen didn’t take after all and a hormonal gal just started filling in for her – unfortunately she’s only built to lay drone eggs, so lots of lazy dudes, no new industrious girls and a hive that’s doomed to failure unless I can appropriately intervene…..it’s a lot of pressure.

I contacted my teacher about my fears and he wants me to suit up, smoke ’em up, and open ’em up to see what I can see from the inside of the hive.  This will be my first time opening the hive, my first time lighting the smoker, and some real inexperience on the part of me in doing all this….so obviously, I’m going to try to make a video or at least take a bunch of pictures.   I’m not going to be able to get out there to do it until Saturday, so Part 2 will have to wait until then.

As far as I can tell, though, the best inervention method for this situation …if it is a situation… might mean getting a little creative.  I don’t have another hive from which I can “borrow” capped brood and some open eggs – which I’d need…and in a frameless hive, it’s not like I can stick in a lang frame with which to repair this – they won’t fit in my box – not so plug and play over here in warre land!  I think I’ll have to find someone willing to give or sell me some chunks of comb with brood on them and then attach them to the top bars in my warre box with a little creativity and some floral wire and hope that the bees accept them and then rear themselves a new queen.  If this sounds crazy to you….well…it is.

The one positive thing I can say from what I’ve observed is that they had a big Flight School day the other day -aka orientation flights.  I was out in the yard with the dogs and all of the sudden the hive got LOUD and when I looked up there were a TON of bees just flitting about around the hive.  Eventually they settled down and all went back in.  I thought they were swarming or worse! absconding! but I watched as they stayed quite close to the hive and did the characteristic circling motions and then seemed to all return to the hive – no dark beeline in the sky – just a happy little flying lesson.

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