Thursday, April 29, 2010

Master Beekeeper's visit

Wednesday night a Master Beekeeper, Randall, stopped by on his way home from work to look at our colonies. He is a member of the local beekeepers association and had been communicating by email about our supersedure questions.

Green hive was first. Randall donned his veil which surprised me but he said he does not want to get stung in the eyes and they seem to like his hair. He also sports a beard and we have heard from other beekeepers that sometimes the bees get in their beards. We smoked the hive and opened it. First we removed one of the outer frames that did not have any comb on it yet. Then he proceeded to take out each frame one at a time and examine them. The first frame with many bees on it - he dropped it. We stepped back not knowing how they would react. They did not get upset. This could send them into attack mode but it did not.

He found some brood, not a lot. A few supersedure cells that were capped. A fair amount of honey capped, lots of cells uncapped with nectar in them. No larvae were found and there should have been a fair amount.

The conclusion is that there was a queen who laid a few eggs. She is either gone (died) or not doing a good job. The workers decided to try and raise another queen.

Options include. Let everything alone and see if they can raise a queen successfully. In about 7 days she will emerge. Another 3 days and she will be sexually mature and fly off to mate. A few more days and she will start laying.

Another option is to remove all supersedure cells and purchase another queen.

We have chosen to follow the first option and see if nature will take care of it. We will look in the hive about once a week to see if we have any brood. Worst case they are not successful and we add a queen in a few weeks. We can then take a frame of healthy brood from the other hive and put in this one to give them some worker bees.
Once Zack had a bee in his buzz cut hair that was buzzing. He wanted to swat at it. I calmly removed the buzzy bee and he donned his veil. No one got stung during the whole process.

Yellow hive. This is the one we were first concerned about. Randall looked in this one as well. We were all pleased to see brood about to emerge, larvae in all stages, lots of workers. Best of all we found the queen. She is young but is doing a relatively good job. You can tell she is young because she still has hairs on her thorax which will wear off after a while. It took a long time to find her and she was busy laying eggs.
Yeah! You go queenie.

Randall's comments all through the inspection included, "these are such sweet bees". We were proud parents.

Saturday, April 24, 2010


It has been two weeks since we installed our two colonies into the hives. Today we did our first thorough inspection.
First: The green hive we thought was our strongest colony. Several of the ten frames had drawn comb. This is where the bees build the was cells out. There were a lot that were filled with nectar and/or sugar syrup (we are feeding them), some with pollen, some cells were capped honey. We were looking for eggs and larvae and were not able to see any. This could be due to the fact that the bees were so busy working on the cells. However, we found about six supersedure cells. These are cells where they bees are raising potential queens. It is a sign that the queen is not up to par. We did not spot the queen so she may not be there. We removed the supersedure cells and sent an email to the local Beekeepers association asking for advice. Stay tuned.

Second: The yellow hive was thought to be not as strong a colony. It had several frames of drawn comb, one with a honey arch (this is good), and we spotted larvae. Eggs are difficult to see when you are experienced (and we are not). This colony seems to be doing quite well.

It was fun doing the inspection. We did not use any protective gear and only smoked sparingly. These bees are so calm. Once a bee started buzzing around my head, round and round and round and round. Knowing that it is not good manners to swat, I quietly walked away from the hive. She followed. I went into the shade. She followed. Then I started to go into a lombardy popular hedge and she abandoned me. This was the only bee that did this. Mostly they just buzz you once.

So far - no stings. That will come in time.

No pictures today. We had our hands full with bees and frames.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

A little smoke helps mask any attack scent that bees may send if they feel we are invading their hive. Smoke a little, wait a few minutes for them to pass the scent around, then open and go in.

We removed the queen's cage and were quite pleased to see that she and her attendants had escaped. The workers ate their way to the queen through a block of hard sugar candy. During the time that they were working to free her they were also "bonding." She passed on her pheromones which are now the scent of the colony. They will identify one another with this scent. Hopefully she is now busy laying ~1500 eggs a day.

This is the Feeder that contains several gallons of sugar water. The bees will feed on this until they can build up their own stores of nectar and pollen. They crawl up into the area with the screen to access the sugar water, then carry it back into the hive body.

This is some wax comb that the honey bees built near the queen. We removed it so they will build in the frames. Very nice wax and it had some sugar water in it and the beginning of honey.

We have two new hives. The one in these pictures has fewer bees and is not as strong and the other hive. The bees are building comb and we see them bringing pollen into the hive. It is our hope that both hives will be strong.

Next look will be in about one week and we will look for eggs and larvae.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The bees were installed into their new hives on Saturday. They have been busy ever since. As soon as the sun shines on the hive boxes they start coming out, flying around, buzzing, collecting pollen. We are soooo tempted to open the box and take a look but we are waiting. Each time you open the hive the colony gets in a bit of a dither. It takes several hours or up to a day for them to get back to normal. Their job right now is to get to know their queen, free the queen from her cage, build cells in preparation for her to lay eggs. The queen has already mated and has eggs ready to lay. It takes 21 days from egg to adult for worker bees and 24 days from egg to adult for drones. Lots of work to be done. Some workers are scouting around looking for food sources even though we are feeding them sugar water. Every day we rescue a few from the pool. We place them in the sun and as soon as they dry off they take flight back to the hive. We assume they are bees from our hives.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

The Girls have arrived

We picked up our two packages of bees at the apiary at 8:00 am, it was <50 onblur="try {parent.deselectBloggerImageGracefully();} catch(e) {}" href="">The Queens are each in their royal chamber (cage) with their ladies-in-waiting to feed and care for them until the release

Father and son checking out the Queens.

It is cool outside (<50 onblur="try {parent.deselectBloggerImageGracefully();} catch(e) {}" href="">

Now they are warmed up and buzzing. Time to open the packages and put the bees in their new hives.
Ready for action.

The package has a can of sugar water inside to feed the colony during the transportation.

After removing the lid and the feeding can they all want out. We are ready to set the package down into the hive.

Opening the second package

OK, so I had some help.

They are coming and going and learning their way around the new hive.
The installation procedure went smoothly and all the bees are now exploring their new hive. We put sugar water in a feeder on the top of the hives. We will wait several days for them to settle in before we open the hive and check on them. It is tempting to sneak a peek but we will wait so as not to upset them.