Spinning honey in June

June 26th, 2011

Find the bumblebee in Will McBride's wildflower photo.

Find the bumblebee in Will McBride's wildflower photo.

It is SO beautiful here right now. The bees all seem to be doing well, the Giants are winning, and the past week or so has been perfect Bay Area weather, warm but not too hot and cool at night. I spun a super yesterday from the upper hive and the honey tastes especially wonderful. Orange blossom, I think. Too bad it’s too late to enter a jar at the County Fair!

Bees terrific in June

June 21st, 2011


Bees already on a built frame just after insertion in a new hive

I haven’t been keeping up with this journal very well, but I’m going to try to be better!

Yesterday I added a super to the last of 4 hives. This one is in my neighbor’s lovely flower-filled yard, and is new this year. They have 2 deeps built out and this super is new foundation. In the above photo, I’m pulling out frames to check for the queen.Beth in Garden Hive #1She may have zoomed up there in the 10 minutes between the time I put on the super, and when I (whoops) put in the queen excluder, that I had forgotten. Bad beekeeper!

Right now I have 4 working hives, one boomer in front of my house, garden hive #1 at Patti’s, seen in the photo at right that is from last year, Garden hive #2 at Patti’s, seen above and new this year, and another new hive in my lower yard.

Frozen Fairfax

February 26th, 2011

Yes, that's hail on the deck!

Yes, that's hail on the deck!

It’s colder than cold here today — in the high 30s, low 40s all day — and actually froze the water in the dog dish overnight! Not raining (or snowing, or hailing like in the photo) for now, but too darned cold for almost March. Hope my girls are keeping each other warm!

Back to winter for the bees

February 18th, 2011


Helicopter bee approaches Hound's Tongue flower, one of the first wildflowers blooming during the previous warm spell.

Wow … we had a false Spring for the last two weeks and now, whammo! it’s cold and VERY wet again. While it was warm I was able to feed the bees winter-weight sugar water, which all 3 hives took, so I’m glad I was able to fortify them a bit before this miserable weather hit. I hope they’re all balled up around the queen keeping warm and dry!

While Pseudo-Spring was happening, the 3 living hives all looked good. Out foraging and hatching in small waves, too. Surprisingly, the upper hive at the house is looking the most populous, with the garden hive at Patti’s second, and the view hive there third. The hive in the lower yard is definitely dead. I think I finished them off by fiddling with the frames and flipping the boxes too early, but they probably wouldn’t have made it anyway. Again, surprising, because they were the best looking group at the end of the season and had the fewest mites on the bottom board when I treated. A mystery.

Fall assessment

November 4th, 2010

I haven’t been keeping up with this blog very well for the last month or so … bad bee girl! Here is how the season ended.

Two of the four hives look great so far … the lower hive at home and the view hive at Patti’s. Lots of activity still and many bees when I medicated them in Oct. (More on that later). I haven’t done a thorough inspection of every frame or located queens yet, but the boxes are heavy and the activity normal.

The other 2 hives have less activity, and lighter boxes. Here are the details:

1. Upper hive at home: Was VERY active all summer with lots of obvious hatches (I can see them from the upstairs window). But never made a lot of honey. I did get a few frames off of them from 2 different supers, but they never filled out the box. It was surprising, I thought they’d be the best producers.

When medicated, they hatched a LOT of crawlers an hundreds of mites on the sticky boards. This may have been the problem all along and I hope the medication helped a little. I’m not seeing crawlers now, but I’m concerned that the winter bee population was compromised. A good reason the medicate earlier … I started on the 2 treatments in Sept. They had a little hatch a couple days ago and I didn’t see any crawlers, so maybe they’ve cleaned out all of the affected cells. Hope so!

2. Lower hive at home: This hive was queenless. I got a nuc from Dave Peterson of the Bee club at a workshop and installed a second stand next to it. That new hive must have never hatched a queen from the cells Dave included or the queen moved next door. There was tons of drone comb and laying workers.

Ann and I eventually moved the hive away, destroyed the drone comb and dumped out the bees on the ground under the oak tree. Theoretically, some of the workers would return to the old spot and join the first hive. After much chaos, they apparently did. That hive was slow to get going, but is now thriving. I see more workers carrying pollen entering that hive than any of them.

3. Patti View hive: Speedy, active bees all summer. They produced about 6 medium frames altogether … again, not as much as I would expect. However, they’re really healthy looking now and the top box is very heavy. They had a reasonable mite load on the sticky boards, but I’m not too concerned about mites as a survival factor. This hive is bringing in nectar, but not much pollen and I don’t know why. Maybe their queen has stopped laying.

4. Patti Garden hive: The weakest of the 4 all along. I requeened this hive in early summer and that probably saved them, although there is only a brood box and a super on top. I had 2 deeps, but they weren’t doing anything in the top deep, so a super seemed to be a good solution. There have bee a lot of yellow jackets bothering them, and some ants, so I don’t have a lot of hope for them making it through the winter. The medication did seem to help … they were more active after the treatments. If they make it I’ll flip the boxes and take off the super.

Spinning away

August 3rd, 2010

Just finished extracting my first honey this year. Actually only 4 full frames from the view hive … I really should have left it on longer. The bees themselves seem to be doing great, but they’re not great producers … interesting. I’m wondering if bee breeders working on genetics for survival aren’t getting the honey production they once did. After all, their big money is in pollination these days, so maybe they want lots of bees and don’t care as much about honey.

One year I had both Italians and Carnolians, and they were genetically pretty pure, too, and the Carnolians were MUCH slower builders than the Italians. I had bought the packages from Honeybee Genetics in Vacaville, and the breeder agreed that it was a trait of theirs. SO, I know they’ve been breeding that strain in ever since for mite resistance, so maybe my bees are slow builders by nature?

I’m going to check my upstairs hive in the ayem to see how their super is doing. I may mix some of these partially built frames in with them, or just pull their super altogether and put this one on them. We’re almost to the dearth, so I know I’m not going to get much more honey anyway. This will mostly be with the hope that they’ll finish up this box for me!

Honey check

July 10th, 2010

The View hive is the winner for honey production … Charlie and I will put on the wet medium super that I just spun from last year’s lower yard hive last week. Great honey, but a teensy bit crystalized in the comb. The super on the hive is totally built! Yay! Other hives still are partials, and I’m going to leave them on until the dearth hits … may even combine them onto the strongest hive. You go girls!

Which hive will need a second super?

June 26th, 2010

A check of the super on the View hive at Patti’s showed that their super had about 5 frames going with honey. No emergency to get another super on … but I need to check thebeemove two at my house to see who’s winning the honey super race asap. I’m going to spin a medium super from last year this weekend and will give the built comb super (wet with honey!) to the winner.

End of June population assessment, pt.1

June 24th, 2010

I now have supers on all 4 hives. Here is part one of my report:

The garden hive that lost their queen got a built super on Tues, but that is the only box on it besides the single deep brood box. I didn’t put on a queen excluder, so I don’t intend to get any honey out of it. I just wanted to give them more room. When I checked on the new queen from Oliverez on day 11, the queen cage was empty (I removed it) and there was capped brood in the nest. I have to assume the new queen accomplished this, since I put her in on June 11th and the was no capped brood in there at that time. Also, when I liberated her on day 3 — removing cork from cage and the honey plug was already partially eaten through — the workers were storing pollen all around her cage, so I’m pretty sure they accepted her. See chart below for capping time — there should be some capped brood there (If found 2 partial frames) if she started laying right away.

(Table 1) Development Time Of Honey Bee Castes

Days After Laying Egg
Stage Worker Queen Drone
Hatching 3 3 3
Cell Capped 8 8 10
Becomes A Pupa 11 10 14
Becomes An Adult 20 15 22.5
Emerges From Cell 21 16 24

Missed a chapter … hives have supers now

June 15th, 2010

I put built-out supers on all but the garden hive 2 weeks ago and can’t wait to check them in a day or two when I have time. The activity level went WAY up when I added the boxes — they all had some honey in the comb and the bees really reacted. All look good except the garden hive, darn it.

The garden hive, unfortunately, had done next to nothing in their second deep, so I took it off and searched for a queen. No queen, no eggs, a few larvae, no capped brood and a lot of milling about. So the larvae could be laying worker cells. There were lots of bees in that one deep and no evidence of what happened to the queen. If she was in there, she had stop laying, I’m sure.

And a new queen

I ordered an Italian queen from Oliveras that arrived on Thursday, June 10. Ann and I put her in on Friday after carefully removing 3 of the 5 attendants she had in her cage in my bathroom (!) as per the instructions of the “bee guy,” Ray Oliveras senior. He actually said to take them all out, but I didn’t have the heart. He said to leave the cork in the candy plug for 2 days, then remove it, which I did. By then the candy plug was already partially eaten, so I’ll bet she was out the next day. Hope she made it! I’m not supposed to look for 10 days, but I may get in tomorrow and pull out the cage to avoid wonky comb.