Monday, April 28, 2014

Hive inspection 2

I did another hive inspection on Sunday.  There are a couple of frames of capped brood and exposed larvae.  There was also an odd frame with eggs away from the center, and I don't know what the deal with that is.  The side toward the center is full of pollen, so maybe the bees filled the pollen for the upcoming brood, but then needed more space for eggs as the new frame was drawn out.  I also saw one varroa mite crawling around.  I'm going to have to hurry up and build a screened bottom board so that I can do mite counts and a sugar shake to see how bad they are.  I didn't see any other than that one, but I probably just didn't look hard enough.

I was hoping to see honey this time, as the bees have slowed down on their syrup intake, and the flowers are blooming, but no such luck.

The cinnamon doesn't seem to deter the ants at all.  It looks like they were staying out of the hive proper, but were climbing up the side and going through the gaps at the inner cover to get to the syrup on top.  I have put a ring of petroleum jelly all the way around just below the cover.  I had already done that around the hive supports, but it didn't work.  Those supports are concrete blocks, and I think the petroleum jelly actually soaked into the concrete so the ants could still cross.  I'm hoping the ants don't start going into the hive, and that the bees will keep get rid of them if they do.  I'm also worried that the ants will have too much access when I build the screened bottom board.  I may have to come up with a different hive stand so that the ants can be stopped before they get to the hive at all.  Right now, the hive is sitting directly on a pallet, and that pallet is up on blocks.

Update: The petroleum jelly works, but won't stand up to heat.  The sunward side of the hive appears to have melted and run.  I'll have to wipe off the front tonight because I can't risk any of it running down to the entrance, which means the ants will be able to get back up.  I did, however, find this forum post.  The builder is using high-temp bearing grease in inverted PVC caps around metal pipes.  I don't know how much I trust the inverted bit, though.  Even if it stands the heat, it may not stand gravity forever.  So I am thinking of using a double cap, a large inverted one above to keep rain out, and a smaller one below that isn't inverted to hold the grease.  Better safe than sorry.  I need to build that and the screened bottom board as soon as possible.  It is going to get hot this summer, and the bees will need the ventilation, but if I move the feeder out front, I will need to leave the entrance reducer on to prevent robbing, at least until I know I have enough bees in the hive to be able to notice robbing.

First full hive inspection

I did my first full inspection today.  I saw a lot of pollen, and a lot of syrup stores, but not any honey.  Of course, it's possible that I'm mistaking honey for pollen, but I don't think so.  For one thing, none of the capped cells looked like they had anything dark in them, which means it was all syrup.  I did find the queen though, and saw cells with eggs, and those cells were clustered properly.  I didn't see any lavae, and I'm pretty sure I'm supposed to see larvae by now, but maybe I'm wrong.

The frames with eggs weren't centered in the hive, though.  I think they were centering on the boardman feeder off to one side instead.  I've never heard of that before, but maybe it's normal.  I put the boardman inside on top of the inner cover and put an empty body on it to keep it from the ants and robbers, and I removed the entrance reducer.  It looked like the bees were getting congested trying to get through it, so I thought it may be doing more harm than good.

I checked on them again tonight to fill the feeder, and there are ants on it already.  I'm going to probably try cinnamon tomorrow, but I'm afraid of getting it on the bees; I'm not sure what it will do.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Might have some robbing going on.

I refilled the bees' feeder today and they acted weird.  There were quite a few bees milling around at the entrance, which they normally don't do.  Normally, they are clustered to the end of the entrance toward the feeder.  They come and go from there, which I still think is a little odd.  I would think any bees feeding there wouldn't be going out anywhere, but would just be going back into the nest.  But maybe they get used to going there when they feed, so they go there when they leave anyway, or something.

Anyway, they were milling around the center of the entrance, and when I put the feeder back on (my wife had taken it off before I got home, so it had been off for a couple of hours at least) a lot of bees came out and covered the bottom of the hive body above the entrance.  I've never seen them do that.  I thought I might have just upset them, but it seemed they had to have already been upset about something anyway, so I watched them.  I didn't see any of the wide-spread fighting that I've seen on youtube with robbing, just a couple of "disagreements" that I thought may have just been brought about by a bad landing.  But eventually, I'm 99% sure I saw a bee leave carrying pollen.  So I cut one of my entrance reducers down so that it would fit in place with the feeder on.  I cut the end with the large gap, so I could put the small gap toward the other end of the entrance.  I don't know if there actually were robbers or not, but it looked like that confused all of the bees, but they seem to bee fine now.  Of course, it's night now, and the few that are outside of that small hole are still more than are normally out at night, so maybe either it annoys them, or they are watching for robbers.

The gap I'm using is only big enough for a couple of bees to go through at a time, so even though my hive isn't very strong, they should be able to protect themselves.  And this weekend I am doing a full hive inspection, so I'll move the feeder inside when I do and put an empty box over it.  I've been planning that anyway, since I've been getting sugar ants lately.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Bee update

Last night, I gave the bees the reserve syrup I had made.  Today was nice and warm all day and when I got home, the jar was completely empty.  I'm going to make up a couple of batches tonight, but my wife isn't going to be willing to refill the one feeder jar we have, so it will still have to wait until I get back unless I start putting it in a different container.  I'm not going to make a 5-gallon bucket worth, but I do have a spare pot the dogs have been drinking out of that I might could use.  I'll have to see.  The main problem will be making a floater for it to keep them from drowning.  I made one out of a scrap piece of plywood I had laying around for a water pail I set beside the hive.  Sticks and such weren't working, and we'd see 1 or 2 drowned bees a day.  None since I put in the floater.  I just used the bandsaw to cut it round almost the same size as the pail, and then drilled holes all over it.

Anyway, I reflilled the jar today with another 350 grams of sugar and water.  Interestingly, I measured what I poured into the jar after it cooled, and it was something like 682 grams.  It seems like a lot to me that nearly 20 grams of water would have evaporated, even considering that some of the syrup was still clinging to the inside of the pot after I poured it.  But, maybe not.  Regardless, it probably means I need to keep track of just sugar weight instead of syrup weight in the log.  The purpose is to determine 1) how much I need to make over a given amount of time, and 2) how much it costs me.  The difference in sugar is greater than that for water, so I'm better off ignoring the water that evaporates than using an incorrect total weight.  Of course, at least with the total weight, I would end up overshooting instead of undershooting, but I'll worry about that later if I have to.

I've also decided to keep a single blog post as a constantly updating bee log.  That post is here: Beehive Log.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Beehive Log

Hive 1:

Faces North in south clearing of back yard.Currently consists of two 10-frame dadant "hive bodies" (I don't know if this is officially a deep or medium).  Bottom is all plasticell foundation and has 6 of 10 drawn out.  Top is 4 plasticell and 6 foundationless, with the center two being plasticell and the 2 outers being foundationless.

4/3/2014: Installed 3lb italian package from
4/4 - 4/5/2014:Refilled boardman feeder 4/4 and 4/5/2014, unknown quantity of 1:1 syrup (dogs knocked it over, skewing measurements).
4/7/2014:Refilled boardman feeder with 704g 1:1 syrup.
4/8/2014:Refilled boardman feeder with remaining 550 grams of shipping syrup, thicker than 1:1.
Made 772g of 1:1 syrup in reserve.
4/9/2014:Refilled feeder with 772g syrup I made yesterday.
4/10/2014:Warm day, feeder was empty after work, made another syrup of 350g sugar and water and refilled feeder.
4/11/2014:I was out, but my wife made syrup and fed the bees. 625g sugar and water
4/12/2014:Bottle emptied out again, I refilled it with 469g sugar and water.
4/13/2014:Mixed 1053 grams of sugar and water and refilled the bottle (didn't measure exact amount filled, since my "post mix" measurements don't seem to match up anyway.
4/15/2014:Mixed 2435 grams of sugar and water.  The previous 1053 is gone.  I used a larger jar and found that half water and that much sugar doesn't come close to actually filling the jar.  I need to see if I can find a formula for the volume of a solution if I want to try to end up with the amount that would fill the jar.
4/18/2014:Saw possible robbing, so I put an entrance reducer on to shut the entrance down to the smallest gap (about 1 inch across)
4/19/2014:Did a full hive inspection.  No larvae, but a couple of frames with eggs.  Lots of pollen and syrup stores.  Nothing recognizable as honey to me, although I could me mistaking some honey for pollen.  But any capped stores I found appeared to be clear below, not honey-colored.
4/27/2014:Full hive inspection.  Larvae and capped brood in several frames.  One weird frame with eggs away from the center and pollen on the other side.  Perhaps pollen was stored for the upcoming brood before the other comb was drawn, and that comb was used to lay the next set of eggs.  6 of 10 frames drawn, so I didn't yet place an additional hive body for expansion.  Refilled the jar with the last of the 2435 reserve syrup.  The bees are not feeding as fast with the syrup inside, and I don't know whether it is a congestion issue or not.  If I make an ant proof hive stand, I will probably move the feeder back out and leave the entrance reducer in place.  I made 3105 sugar grams worth of syrup, which basically fills the current "bear" storage jar.  After heating and dissolving, came out to be 6174 total grams of syrup.  Probably about right after spillage.
4/4/2014: Replaced the bottom board with a screened bottom board, put the hive on a new hive stand made out of 1" galvanized pipe with high-temp grease ant block, moved the boardman back out front with an entrance reducer, and filled the extra top box with frames, alternating foundation and foundationless.  Bees were too agitated to do a full inspection
5/7/2014: Full inspection.  Didn't find the queen (update, found the queen in one of the photos), but found several frames nearly completely filled with brood.  Still only at 6 out of 10 frames drawn, though, so the extra box of frames is probably early.  No ants are present, so the new hive stand is working, but even with the boardman out front, the bees are not taking it as quickly as they were.  I don't know whether it is because comb drawing has slowed down, or they are taking more nectar and not needing the syrup as much.
5/15/2014: The bees finished the 3105g syrup, and I have made another 3105g batch.  After processing, it weighs 6163g, which divided by 2 would be 3081.  I can believe that may be evaporation during heating.  That would mean, technically, that I have 3105g sugar and 3058g of water, so instead of 1:1, it is actually 1.054:1 or so.  The bees are taking about 1 quart per day again.  I don't know if it is 1) the rain has been keeping them from foraging, 2) they like the feeder in front better than on top, or 3) they had almost filled the original body and were out of a comb building mode, and have now realized there is a complete empty box above to be filled.  I went to the Trinity Valley Beekeepers Association meeting, and one of the members said they suspected the full nectar flow may kick in after these rains, so we'll see if the bees keep taking syrup at this rate.
5/17/2014: I did a hive inspection again, and the bees have been building come up from the bottom box.  A couple of foundation frames had comb drawn, but there was also a large (4 inch across, probably) saucer shaped burr comb growing upward from the top of the bottom frames into the space of a foundationless frame.  I have taken out the burr comb, taken off the top box, and moved the still unfilled outer four frames in the bottom box closer to the center.  Hopefully, those will get filled out.  Next week, I will put the empty box on again, but I think I will rearrange all of the brood comb, and the queen, into the top box, put the honey combs in the bottom box, and let them work down instead of up.  If the queen/hive wants, they can eventually move back down into the bottom body.  I won't have any honey this year, and probably won't even put on a super, so I won't have to worry about her migrating further up and laying in the honey supers.
5/23/2014: The bees finished another 3105 sugar grams of 1:1 syrup.  I made reserve with 3105g of sugar, but the scale died for some reason before I could get quite to 3105g of water.  I poured in a bit more that should be close, but it's not exact.
5/23/2014: Another 3105 emptied, another 3105 reserve made.
5/27/2014: Added the empty box back to the bottom.
5/30/2014: Another 3105 emptied and made.  I think they are going through slightly more than 1 quart per day right now.
6/10/2014: Another 3105.
6/11/2014: Inspected the hive, found the queen.  Pictures in review for counts, but at least 2 foundationless frames were filled.  One was attached to a foundation frame with burr comb from the side and was ripped out.  Queen and majority of brood are still in the top box, and bottom box is still being filled out.  At least one foundationless frame was completely empty, with comb from an adjacent frame grown out thick enough to fill in the gap.
11/9/2014: Inspected the hive, quickly, to see if there was enough honey for winter.  I didn't take a full count, Maybe half the frames have brood, and it's not really consistent.  One frame had nothing but 3 dead bees.  The bottom had one frame of honey.  The top box had about half the frames in use, with 3 heavy, but still not fully capped.  Since so many frames on top were only barely drawn out, it means that I flipped the boxes at some point and forgot to log it.
11/12/2014:  676g sugar in 1:1 syrup.  It is currently too cold for the bees to leave the hive, so I have not put it on yet.  This made slightly more than 1 quart (maybe 1/8 quart more) and that has been saved in a separate jar.
11/19/2014:  I shook about 16 ounces of powdered sugar (all that was left of a bag we had) into the hive.  I've found a website that suggests doing that every week for 6 weeks to break the brood cycle on varroa, so I'll keep that up.  If nothing else, it will give the bees an extra source of food in the hive if it stays too cold for them to get the syrup.  They have used all 676g of syrup as well, and we made another 1260 grams.
11/26/2014:  Another sugar shake, this time with 456g of home-made powdered sugar and a quick inspection.  I did find the queen.
12/3/2014: Another sugar shake.  Only 226 and I only shook the bottom body to keep from opening it too long.  The bees have finished the 1260 grams and are working on 973g

Sugar (in syrup)>24104g in 1:1, plus shipping syrup. (currently feeding 973g reserve)
Sugar (powdered for shake)682g home-made, plus ~16oz store bought

Honey Frames (capped/uncapped)
Brood Frames (capped/uncapped)
Drone Frames (capped/uncapped)
Harvested Honey (lb)
Harvested Wax (lb)
Slumgum (lb)

Checked on the Queen today

I checked on the bees today, and the queen is out and I found her, and they are making nice comb (to me anyway).  I didn't look around a lot, as it is still chilly and windy, and I didn't want to leave them open longer than I had to.  I took out the can and took off the extra deep (or medium, I don't know which)  and put it back together.

I made another 3 cups or so of syrup today.  386 grams each of sugar and water, to be exact (might as well be).  Oh, and yesterday was 352 grams each, I believe.  The bees needed feeding, but I ended up not using any of it.  The can still had 550 grams total of syrup in it.  I poured it in the jar instead, and I'll save the syrup I made today.  I'm going to have to start making this in bigger batches, and get a bigger feeding method.  If we had installed this package at our other property like my wife wanted, they may not have lived, because I'll only be able to check on them once a week (or maybe, they would have lived, but not done as well).  I've read some places that say you should feed all of the first season after installing them.  I was going to ask about that at a bee club meeting we were going to go to tonight, but we had other things to do.

I'm wondering if the concentration of the syrup is why there was so much left in the can.  Of course, the can also only has 3 holes, so maybe it was just too hard to get out (especially since all 3 holes may have been covered the way I put the can in, which is why I put the boardman on in the first place).  So we'll see how fast the level drops tomorrow.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Beehive update

I've decided to use this as a bee log for now.  We've just gotten our first hive set up, and if we're going to do any of it for profit, I need to make sure I keep track of as much of it as I can, so I'll do that here.  It will allow me to keep track of which hives do the best and what factors may affect that.  It will also allow me to keep track of when a queens productivity may be dropping so that I can swap her out.

We ordered packaged bees from  3 pounds of italian bees and a clipped and marked queen were delivered on April 3rd.  The installation went as planned, with no stings (with no safety equipment on, to boot).  I have a 10-frame deep on bottom and an empty deep on top to cover the original can of syrup.  I had the original shipping box in there as well, but decided it may be too tempting for the bees to build comb on, so I took it back out later that day.  I still didn't get stung, but later I want to check again to make sure they were leaving the box, and got stung half-way back to the house.  I noticed there were a few bees outside the hive entrance that appeared to have their abdomens raised and were fanning their wings.  When capturing swarms, I've read this is a sign that you have got the queen, so maybe they had already accepted the queen at that point and had started protecting the hive.

I put 3 cups of 1:1 sugar syrup in the boardman feeder today.  I've put syrup in 2 other times, but the dogs knocked it over, so I don't know how much the bees ate and how much the dogs did or may have spilled.  But they are drinking it fast; the last batch was half gone in just a few hours on Saturday.  Sunday and today were too cold for them to get very active, though.  It finally warmed up this evening, but I haven't checked how much syrup is gone yet.  (I think the dogs have gotten used to it and will leave it alone, but if they don't, they'll learn once the weather starts staying warm.  Ginger, the small one, was doing something weird with her mouth all Saturday and kept eating grass and throwing it back up.  I think she got a bee in the throat or mouth, but we couldn't find a bump.  She didn't have a problem breathing, I think it just irritated her enough to make her throw up to get rid of it.)

Tomorrow, I get to open it up and make sure the queen is out of her cage, and that the bees have started building comb, and I'm looking forward to it.  I'll also pull off the top deep and get the can out, which should be empty, and get the hive down to a more manageable size for the bees.  It will make it easier for them to maintain the environment, and will keep them from building comb on the lid.  I won't add another body section until they have most of the frames filled and enough bees to cover them.

  • So, April 3rd, installed 3 lb italian bee package.  Hive is facing north and is in a small clearing in our yard.  I hadn't actually realized that it was facing north until just now, so I will probably turn it before winter gets here.  The clearing is small enough that it probably won't get any good wind going in, but it shouldn't hurt.  The reason it is facing that way right now is simply because east-west was the most level, and facing it north-south let me tilt it slightly forward to drain moisture.
  • April 4th and 5th, filled syrup bottle on boardman feeder with 1:1 (but lost track of amounts, as dogs spilled it)
  • April 7th, refilled syrup jar with 3 cups of 1:1 syrup.