May 2009 Archives

Two Week Inspection

31 May 2009

banner.jpg We opened the hives again today and found that the girls have been pretty busy.  At the right is an image of one of the better looking frames with lots of capped comb and positive bee vibrations :-).

Most indications are good.  Below is a section of a frame that's looking pretty healthy.  My newbie beekeeper sense believes that the top right shows dry-capped honey and some of cells to the left of that are filled with pollen.  The bottom left of the photo shows capped brood. 

The issue I was concerned about last week has gotten a bit worse.  If there is more than "bee space" in between the frames, the bees will build comb in there. True enough.  In Elizabeth's hive, the two center frames have a lot of comb built out between them and it pretty much pulled apart when I pulled the frame.  It's a bit of a mess (by my standards -- not sure if the bees would agree).  I tried to clean it up by trimming some of the excess comb, but I'm not sure if there's anything else I should do.  The image below shows the problem frame. messyFrame_lg.jpg Here is a summary of the inspection.

  • I followed Liam's advice and removed a fair amount of comb from between the 2 middle frames of Elizabeth's hive.
  • I tried to push those frames together as close as possible, but because I didn't find the queen, I was quite careful that I didn't squeeze things together and crush her.
  • At least six of the frames had a lot of comb built and given the shape of the two middle frames, I decided to add the second hive body.  In hind sight, I'm concerned that may have been premature.  I've got a lot to learn :-). 
  • When I was finished with inspection, I had a chance to look closely at the comb I removed.  There was some pollen and nectar there and in one chunk of comb I could clearly see uncapped brood (little apostrophe-shaped larvae).  While I'm not real happy about killing these "wannabees," I can clearly see that the queen is laying.
  • Bertha's hive was much neater, because my frame spacing was much better after the queen release. 
  • Lots of capped comb in both the hives and plenty of nectar.
  • There was comb built in both hives between the tops of the frames and the insider cover hole.  I scraped it off both of the frames and the inside cover.
  • Bertha's hive seemed to have a bit more room in it yet, so I didn't add the 2nd hive body to it.  We'll take a look next week and re-assess.
More photos from this inspection are here.

First Hive Inspection

25 May 2009

There has been plenty of activity so the bees certainly seem to be foraging in earnest.  Despite the fact that I have water available right outside the hive, they seem to prefer getting their water from the birdbath.  That's pretty cool as I get a good opportunity to observe them as the collect water.

This is the first time I opened the hives since the queen was released.  Following are my observations.

  • We found the queen in both hives (yay!) and they seem happy and healthy.
  • I was unable to tell if there were any eggs.  I'm guessing this is a combination of them being hard to see and me being a newbie beekeeper.
  • About 4 of 8 frames were pretty well built out.
  • We saw plenty of nectar, some capped comb and a fair number of cells that were filled with brown and reddish brown pollen.
  • I left too much space between the middle two frames and the bees were building comb at a 90 degree angle and connecting the two frames with comb.  This is a bigger issue with Elizabeth than with Bertha. 
  • They were also building comb where the feeder can was sitting over the inside cover hole.  The inside cover was sort of stuck to the frames in Elizabeth's hive.
  • Given the activity level, the weather and the date, I opted to remove the feeder cans and let them do their thing.  We leave for vacation at the end of June, so the plan now is to provide fresh food via entrance feeders at that time.
I'm a bit concerned about the comb that is built between the two frames.  I'll have to discuss with my mentor :-).

Releasing The Queens

18 May 2009

Despite the temptation to open the hive sooner and see that all was well and going as expected, I waited the recommended 3 days before checking on the queens.

One of the queen cages had fallen down in between the two frames, but I could see that it didn't drop to the bottom board. I had to pull one of the frames, which was loaded with seemingly content bees.  When I checked the queen cage, it was empty; she (Bertha) had been released by her workers.  I didn't want to disrupt the new hive any more so I put the frame back and closed up the hive.

The queen of the other hive (Elizabeth) was still in her cage and the bees around the cage  didn't seem as if they were aggressive towards her.  While holding the cage over the open hive, I shook off the workers, pulled out the staple and opened the cage to release her.  She calmly walked right out of the cage and down into the hive -- just as planned.  It was awesome.

Naming the Queens
While it may seem a bit odd to name bees, it just makes it easier with 2 hives when we discuss the bees.  Sure, we could say the green hive and the brown hive, but that's not as fun.  So, it's Bertha and Elizabeth. 

Bee Package Install

15 May 2009

Our bee packages arrived at 4:30 and we installed them immediately.  Our little starter apiaryhas 2 hives.  The energy, the sound and the heat created by a package of 3,000 bees is quite amazing.  

install.jpgThe first package we installed was a little grumpy -- long day, new home, whatever -- and we took some stings.  By contrast, the second package was much more friendly an d that install went off without issue.  I set the feeder cans on top of the hives so the bees could get some food if they needed it.  On Saturday, I put an empty hive box over the inside cover and put the feeder can over the hole on the inside cover so the bees could get some food without leaving the hive.  The telescoping cover went on the top hive box. 

We don't know how long the package was assembled before I got them, but Liam's assessment was that it looked like the queens were well on their way to acceptance.  We bent the metal back on the queen cages to expose the candy and put them in the hive.

The plan was to leave them alone for 3 days, so we closed up the hives and called it a day.

Photos of the install can be found here.

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