August 2009 Archives


28 August 2009

Last night, I noticed a fair number of bees hanging out on the front of Bertha's hive, so at daybreak this morning, I thought I'd go check them out and ... Yowza.  Some serious bearding.  

beard.jpgI got a little concerned, but my research suggests that this isn't all that uncommon -- especially in late summer.  The weather has been wonky lately and that could certainly affect behavior. 

Most of August has been warm and humid with dew points above 60 and often in the low 70s.  Yesterday and today we have much cooler temps with very heavy overcast, some rain, dew point in the low 60s (and RH near 100%). 

Apparently, the girls would rather hang out outside.  Can't say I blame 'em.

First Harvest Ever

24 August 2009

While one hive struggled, the other seemed to thrive.  At least enough that we have a mostly full super to harvest.  We certainly didn't expect to get any honey this year, but all the rain made for a pretty steady nectar flow.

cappedHoney.jpgThe frame above is representative of the the top super.  That's a beautiful site to a beek.

I've been advised by all the experts that, if I want honey, take it.  The goldenrod flow is getting underway and they should be able to stock away enough for the winter.  

Following are a few notes from our first ever honey extraction.

  • The photo at right shows me uncapping one of the more lovely frames.
  • A couple of frames weren't completely capped, so we decided to leave them for the bees. 
  • We borrowed our friend's tangential extractor which -- as opposed to a radial extractor -- only lets (or enables) you to extract one side of a frame at a time.  We had 6-1/2 frames that were either completely or mostly capped, so that's what we harvested.
  • After the harvest we took the super and set it on edge in our backyard about 25 yards from the hive. One of the frames was filled with uncapped honey. 
  • The bees completely cleaned that super with 24 hours.  Very cool.  Of course, they already packed that honey away once, but they are fairly tolerant of their humans. 
  • I asked one veteran beek how many ounces were in a pound of honey and he looked at me like I had two heads.  He said 16 ounces in a pound, just like anything else (he was thinking, "Did this idiot really just ask me that.  His poor bees.")  Of course, what I meant was how many fluid ounces in a pound.  I still think in quarts and pints as opposed to pounds.  The answer to that is approximately 11 fluid ounces of honey in a pound.  That number would vary depending on the moisture content of honey.
  • We extracted just over 20 pounds of honey from this one super.  All bonus. 


Too Far Gone

23 August 2009

After the bee program at Wiley Research Field, a master bee keeper graciously offered to stop by and assess the state of my problem hive.  It was most helpful.  Following is the result.

  • He agreed with my assessment that the hive was weak, may have some laying workers and was queenless. 
  • After looking at the top deep, he suggested that we should start feeding the hive any time now as the stores weren't very strong.  But, when he got to the bottom deep, he didn't hesitate to say that this hive wasn't worth trying to save.  We can save the bees, just not this colony.
  • In my post yesterday, I suggested that perhaps combining the hives was the best thing.  That is indeed the recommended course of action now.  That will be one task in the coming week.
  • The good news is that we had assessed the situation correctly -- as newbie beeks, that's challenging and we can take some comfort there.
  • The bad news is that, we didn't read the situation quickly enough.  In the future we want to better at recognizing problems like this.  This experience should help.
  • In hindsight, had we not seen the queen emerge, we may have acted more quickly.  We wanted to wait about two weeks after emergence to see if she got mated and started laying.  By that time, we were probably too far gone as our mentor suggested that we probably passed the critical point about two weeks ago -- even though that was only about 9 days after we saw the queen emerge.
  • The bottom line is that we have to get better at finding eggs and/or milkbrood so that we know we have a healthy and productive queen.
Honeybee Awareness Day

Yesterday's honeybee awareness celebration at PSU was excellent as we got a chance to look at more hives and hear about research that's happening at the university labs from some of the grad students and professors.  We also got to meet more members of the Centre County/PSU beekeeping community.

Bee Escape

We put our new bee escape on Bertha's hive yesterday to try to get the bees out of the honey super.  We didn't expect much because the weather was so warm, but we were very pleasantly surprised as the super is almost 100% free of bees.  Amazing.  We're borrowing an extractor and should soon be bottling our first honey harvest. Yay!
We talked to other beeks who used the little plastic bee escape that goes in the hole in the inner cover and it didn't work well at all.  The one we used is a wooden board that is the size of a super with about a 2" hole in the top and a triangular shaped exit area on the bottom with a screen.  The bees check out but they don't check back in :-).

Trying to Get Queenright

16 August 2009

If you're looking for a hobby that's rather formulaic, cut and dry and doesn't have a considerable learning curve, beekeeping isn't for you.  The number of variables and potential courses of action keeps a newbie guessing -- and second guessing -- the plan.  Of course, that's also part of what makes it fascinating.

We checked out Elizabeth's hive today and really didn't see any encouraging signs.  I couldn't find any eggs and larvae.  I'm not so good at finding eggs, but the larvae is much easier to find.  I'm afraid the new queen that emerged may not have gotten mated and returned to the hive.

We talked to several folks at the Centre County Beek meeting and there are 2 options as I see them.  First, is to re-queen and second is to combine the hives.

I have to get back in the hive tomorrow and look very carefully to make sure there is no queen.

17 August 2009

Nancy and I spent a good half hour poring over the frames in the troubled hive in search of the queen and signs that she is in there laying.  I've got nothin'.  We can't see any eggs, larvae nor capped brood.  I intend to try to get a new queen as soon as possible -- I hope by tomorrow.

While we were in there we cut out all the bridge comb that has been there since shortly after I installed the package.  We have pretty well restored the bee space in the bottom hive body.  I should have done that awhile ago.

Bertha's honey super is heavy and the experts have suggested that I harvest that honey within the next week or so.  That's what we intend to do.  We but an empty honey super between the 2nd hive body and the full super.

18 August 2009

I reached the queen man today, but his schedule is such that the earliest I can get one of his ladies is this weekend.  He has again suggested that I make certain the hive is queenless.  I agree; it's just not as easy as it sounds for newbie :-).

21 August 2009

We may get a new queen tomorrow, so we wanted to get into this hive and do a thorough inspection.  I gathered some new information, but not necessarily what I was hoping to see.

  • We found some larvae, but they are few and far between and it seems like they're trying to cap them with a spherical cap -- rather than flush with the top of the comb.  I'm thinkin' drones?
  • We found some queen cells that were not there on Monday.
  • No luck finding the queen (which isn't real surprising).

The larvae and the general state of those frames is very different from our other hive and from what I saw earlier in the year when I know that the hive was queenright.  I may be stretching my newbie beek power of analysis, but I'm afraid we might be developing some laying workers.   

The questions in my mind:
Could they be trying to raise a queen from drone larvae?

If the hive has a very young and newly mated queen, why would they already be building queen cells?

I realize that if we have laying workers, they will not accept a new queen, so perhaps the best option is to disassemble this hive.  If it is laying workers, there are ways to create a nuc and try to get these bees into a queenright situation, but probably a more viable option is to dump this hive (i.e. shake the bees out and let them find a new home -- probably with the other hive).  This would effectively combine the 2 hives.  Once the nectar starts flowing in the spring I could do a split and either re-queen or let them raise their own queen.  This may have the added benefit of averting a swarm next spring.

All we have to go on is our best judgment.  At some point, we just have to make a decision and go with it.  I think that time is getting near.

Oh yeah ... what about the other hive.  We got bee escapes today, so we put one underneath the honey super on this hive.  It's probably not going to do any good because the nights have been so warm and humid that the bees are not likely to go down below.  The dew point has been hovering in the high 60s to low 70s for the past week.  Quite uncomfortable.

22 August 2009

Today is National Honeybee Awareness day.  There are bee-related festivities happening at the Penn State's Wiley Research yard.  We'll go learn some more and maybe get some more opinions on what to do with our problem hive.

A Tale of Two Hives

5 August 2009

Elizabeth II
It's been eight days since the new queen (Elizabeth II) emerged, so there's nothing to report on this hive.  We're leaving that one alone for about another week before we check to see if she is mated and laying. 

By contrast, this hive is really going strong.  Given the progress we noted during the last inspection, I wanted to get in here to see if those busy buggers have kept up the pace. 

  • There is now comb on all 8 frames and the middle frames have a fair amount of capped honey.  The two photos below show the progress that they've made in eight days.
  • We added a second super to this hive; it now has 2 deeps and 2 mediums.  I'm hoping they cap all the honey in the first super and then get some of the comb built out in the top super.  It would be nice to have frames completely built out for next spring.
This is one of the center frames on 28 July.  Lots of comb and plenty of nectar stored here, but nothing capped yet.

honeySuper.jpgHere is the center frame on 5 August.  Not completely capped, but getting there.

centerFrame.jpgHere is the inside of the outermost frame.  Not full, but considering that this is the frame with the least honey, it's time to add another super.
outermostFrame.jpgHere is one of the frames that is up against the wall of the hive.  Obviously, work to be done, but they are really building these quickly.

againstTheWall.jpgI've posted more photos of recent inspections.




About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from August 2009 listed from newest to oldest.

July 2009 is the previous archive.

September 2009 is the next archive.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.

About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from August 2009 listed from newest to oldest.

July 2009 is the previous archive.

September 2009 is the next archive.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.