April 2010 Archives

The Queen Is In the House

29 April 2010

Our new queen arrived this morning and I got over to the post office at noon to pick her up and hurry her home.  When I opened the priority mail envelope, I could see that she was alive and well in her cage.  I put a drop of honey on the screen and put her in the drawer until I was ready to install her. 


Now, I had to decide what to do.

The options were:

1.  Install her into the existing hive that swarmed a few days ago making sure that I removed all the queen cells from the hive (seems like a daunting task given that there are 24 frames in the hive).

2.  Create a split.  Pull a frame or two of brood, some frames of honey and, of course, some bees and install the new queen.

I had to inspect thoroughly to make that decision.

A nice, sunny day in the low 60s, I went straight to the bottom box, setting the other two boxes aside.  Here are the details.

  • I quickly found a couple of queen cells, but I didn't remove any yet until I'm sure that's what I want to do.
  • I soon found an uncapped queen cell and that convinced me that introducing the queen into this hive would be a bad idea.
  • So I proceeded with plans to make the split, going through each frame to select the likely candidates for the new hive. 
  • During the process, I located a queen in the middle box; I assume that it's a virgin that has emerged since the swarm. 
  • I quickly put that frame away and select the remaining frames for the split from the other box.
  • Even though we had a swarm less than a week ago, there are still A LOT of bees in this box. 
  • I close up that box and because there are so many bees, decide to put a honey super on top of the two deeps. 
  • Our hope is that this queen gets mated and she reigns in this hive.  We will look in about a week to see if there are any signs that she is laying.
  • Then I put the new queen cage in the split.   I probably should have waited a little while (several hours), but I didn't.  I included a couple of frames that were partially covered with capped brood, a couple of frames of honey and filled out the box with frames of partially filled comb. 
  • I left the cork in the queen cage and will leave it there for a few days.
  • I added some 1:1 sugar syrup in an entrance feeder and reduced the entrance to one small opening.
I've been told that it's better to move this hive 2+ miles away, but it is possible to make this work by putting the split right in the same bee yard.  That's really my only option.

Now we'll give them a few days to get acclimated to the new queen.  I'll inspect the other hive in about a week to see if the new queen has been mated and is laying.


The Perfect Swarm

24 April 2010

When I went out to the garden this morning, I noticed a number of bees flying around one of the yews in our back yard.  I walked over to find a swarm hanging off one of the branches.  It really was the perfect swarm because:

  1. swarm.jpgThey swarmed on a Saturday morning when I was home.
  2. They landed on a branch in my yard about 2 feet off the ground.
  3. I had equipment ready to go.

You really couldn't ask for better conditions if your hive is going to swarm.  The only drawback was that I never caught a swarm before.  No biggie, we'd done our homework and we were ready.

So we captured the swarm.

  • I had a cardboard nuc and shook the bees into that box.
  • I then dumped that box of bees into an empty deep and gently put in frames of mostly drawn comb.  A couple of those frames had only foundation.
  • I set the box right under the branch that still had some bees on it (there were also some bees still on the ground.
  • It appeared that most of the bees made their way into the new home I provided them.  So far so good.
  • Things settled down for about 10 minutes and then they all poured out of the box and were gone :-(. 
  • The perfect swarm ... denied.

Now we're really uncertain about the queen status of our existing box of bees.  Most likely, we have sealed queen cells that will emerge soon.  We'll have to re-think our split plan.

We still want to have two boxes of bees, so our first thought is to put all the queen cells in one box and let them raise their own queen.  The new queen will go into a box with a few frames of brood and some honey.

The weather has turned (rain and cold), so we'll have to re-assess as soon as things improve.  Bummer.

Split Preparation

23 April 2010

We ordered a new queen from Wilbanks and she will ship on 26 April and she should arrive by Wednesday the 28th.

To prepare for her and to help with locating the existing queen, we put a queen excluder between boxes 1 and 2.  We did this 5 days prior to doing the split because we will try to determine which box she is in by locating eggs (if we can't find the queen herself).  Of course, eggs only last for 3 days before turning into larvae, so if there are eggs, she has to be in that box.

Here's a picture from one of the frames pulled during a recent inspection.



10 April 2010

Throughout the winter the bees have worked up into the top super and that box has the most brood and honey stashed away.  All our reading suggests that now is a good time to rotate the boxes.

When we pulled the top 2 boxes off the hive it seemed like there were plenty of bees in the bottom box, but after pulling a few frames and we could quickly see that there wasn't much there and the box was quite light.  So we moved the heavy top box to the bottom; the idea is that this will take advantage of the bees natural tendency to work up.

We still have 3 deeps and an empty super above.  The bees aren't really doing anything up there yet.  We are planning to split the hive before the end of the month.


| 1 Comment
5 April 2010

Another unseasonably warm day today with temps well into the 70s and we're expecting a high of about 80 tomorrow.  The bees are really working our on weeping cherry which is shown in the photo below.  It burst into flower on April 4th.

Other noteworthy phenological happenings:

  • Forsythia is in full bloom.
  • Daffodils have been up for about a week.
  • Lilac buds just starting opening today.
  • Both bleeding hearts and peonies have poked their heads out of the ground.


April Fool's Inspection

1 April 2010

The temperature climbed into the 70s for two straight days, so we decided to open up the hive a take a look.  Following are the notes from that inspection.

  • We were ready for a bit of aggressiveness based on our last two visits, but apparently the combination of smoke and good weather led to the type of behavior we have come to expect.  We smoked 'em down in and they pretty much let us work.
  • There was just a little fondant left and it was gooey, so we cleaned that out. I would estimate that they consumed at least 80% of the fondant that we gave them.
  • The top box was really heavy and we found nectar and capped honey on just about every frame in that box.  

  • The photo above shows that the girls are raising brood.  Numerous capped cells and many cells with larvae yet to be capped.  All good indications that things are in order.
  • The middle box also had brood and nectar stashed.  We didn't really dig down into the bottom box.
  • The hive seems really strong and we are thinking that we should split sooner rather than later.  There are no northern queens available at this time of year, so we will probably have to get a southern queen -- if we can find one.  The other option is to let them raise their own.
  • We are concerned that they may run out of space as they seem very active, so we gave them an empty medium super to work on.  We chose to put one full of frames with only foundation in the hope that they will put their energy to good use and draw these frames out.

Next Steps

  • My reading reminded me that we should probably rotate the boxes.  That big heavy deep on the top should be put on the bottom to facilitate their tendency to work up.
  • Plan for the split.  Have to decide if we want to pick up a nuc box, where we will attempt to raise the split (in our yard or try to find another place 2+ miles away) and resolve the queen issue.




About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from April 2010 listed from newest to oldest.

March 2010 is the previous archive.

May 2010 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 April 2010 listed from newest to oldest.

March 2010 is the previous archive.

May 2010 is the next archive.

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