Friday, December 30, 2011

Happy New Year

Checked on the bees this morning and found lots of dead ones on the bottom board.  Not sure how many are left, tho I can see them moving around inside, not many.  Because there are so few, I've decided to move them to the basement.  This should help with staying warm enough.  Lots of honey left so food will not be a problem.  With the warmer temps, maybe the queen will lay some eggs and build up the hive.  This will happen anyway in late Feb, early Mar.  Only buying a 4 frame nuc so late probably sealed their fate as most of the nectar flo was over.  Started looking for new stock today on the Internet just in case.  Even if they do survive,  I can mix the new in to build up the hive. 

Started building another hive this week in case I luck out and catch a swarm, that would be nice.

Hope you had a great holiday season, we did.  Later

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

December Weather

Got back from my annual pheasant hunting trip to South Dakota just befor Thanksgiving.  A great success even if there weren't that many birds.  No Chicks in the spring due to fowl weather.  When I got back I checked on the bees and to my surprise, there weren't any in sight.  Dismayed and alarmed I removed the cover and blanket (insulation) and found them tucked away in the corner out of my view through the window, what a relief.  They have shrunken the colony down to an alarming size for the winter, hope they will be okay.  Each day, weather permitting, they come out to play and gather water and nectar from my Broccoli which I let go to seed.  We've had several frosts but it is still blooming.  Noticed some other bees working it also, looks like a Italian cross, maybe the feral hive that lives close to here.  Took out one comb from the second box and placed it into my trap as a lure next spring.  Today I finished the box to add on in the spring.

Had our second bee meetup this past Weds., everyone seems to have healthy bees but are still dealing with the small hive beetles.  Had a new member who is going to start hive in Nova Scotia on his family farm.

Nothing else going on, keep you posted, later.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Oct 24, Fall feeding

Gave the hive a quart of honey and water (50/50 mix) to help fill some of the empty comb in the bottom box.  Its amazing how fast they can consume it, it was all gone within 5 hours.  Will top it off again tomorrow and that should do it for the winter.  It was warm (60) today and they were out in force, tho not sure what they were gathering.  A few were in my Broccoli flowers but most were leaving for parts unknown.  I also placed some insulation along the empty side to lessen the available space for the winter.

On another note, I went to the city on Saturday to w. 23rd street and saw some huge bees working some mint along the harbor park.  They must have been twice the size of my bees.  So much for down sizing.

Leaving on a trip to South Dakota for my annual pheasant hunt on Thurs. , talk later.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Throwing out the trash

Well, fall is officially here as I saw the bees cleansing the hive of unwanted debris, Drones!!  What a sight, chasing them everywhere until they leave the hive,  Lots of noise too.  With the buildup of fall rations, they need less mouths to feed for the winter and what better than to get rid of the drones (males), as all they do is eat (often being fed) and go on the hunt for chicks.  What a life, but at a great cost, as if they do score they die, and if they don't, they die.  Sounds like being female is the way to go.  Wait a minute, all they do is work to death.  I guess it works for them.

In the hive I still have an occasional thief visit, but the bees seem to be holding their own.  They have slowed down on comb building, trying to save the honey for winter use as it takes 20lbs of honey to make one  pound of wax.  About a third of the second box is empty, but I think they will be fine. If they don't fill the box by  Oct. I'm going to fill the void with insulation to cut down the space they will need to keep warm.  Had I made the switch to my hive a couple weeks earlier when I first got them the hive would have been complete for the winter.  Not killing the Queen probably would have been better.  Still bringing in lots of pollen, from the goldenrod I suspect, lots of it around the perimeter of the nearby cemetery.  The top box is full of honey and pollen and they have begun to store in the new combs in the second box.  Looks like the hive is downsizing also, not as many new bees coming out.  Turned the hive 90 deg. for winter.

I have a multitude of sizes and coloring of bees in the hive and they are making two distinct sizes of cells, (along with the few drone cells).  Some of the bees are almost black while some are almost Italian looking.  Size doesn't vary with coloration either, as I have blacks in both large and small.  Most of the lighter colored ones are very small.  I thought they would be making smaller cells on new comb but except for one comb, the size has remained the same.  Maybe after a few generations they will small up.  No signs of any pests to date, although there was a few undeveloped pupae on the landing.  I opened up the upper vent and that ceased.  Not sure if I,m going to leave the screen bottom in for the winter or not.  I think that I,ll leave the upper vent open and let the bees deal with it themselves.  I think they will know what to do.

Got to pick up the boss. Later.

Monday, September 5, 2011

More new comb

After hurricane Irene, which left this area unscathed, the bees have been in a frenzy building new comb.  Six so far in the second box.  They need to complete the box by autumn to survive the winter.  Here's hoping.

On another note, I wrote to 2 experts on autism and asked if anyone was studying the correlation of neurotoxic pesticides and the sudden increase in autism since the introduction of this pesticide.  One has replied as a no, and I haven't heard from the second at UND.  Maybe now that's school has begun, I might get a response, who knows, can't hurt and I can wait.

Fall is upon us soon and the dogs are getting anxious to hit the fields for birds,  bee keeping will go on hold at that time I guess.  Have a Meetup with local bee keepers at the end of the month at my house, good to meet new people, but at my age, everyone is a new person .  Later.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Bees upsizing

Been awhile,  Saw the queen a couple times moving from comb to comb.  Still a little thievery going on but the hive is defending itself more as I saw them carrying out a dissected bee, kicking and screaming.  The afternoon playtime has had a drastic increase in bee population buzzing around the entrance,  getting ready for the fall harvest I guess.  Four full combs built in the second box, they seem to be working harder with the colony increase, more nectar also to make wax.  The pollen is coming in, in heavy loads, maybe from the Rose-of-Sharon. 

Took the dogs to the beach and saw some bees working the flowering vines, not sure what they are tho.  My little bee garden I planted doesn't seem to be working, for my bees anyway.  See all kinds of bumble bees and wasps.  Saw a hummingbird there also, rare for Staten Island.  The garden seems to be to close to the hive as they fly right on by.  Left some broccoli go to seed, and they were working that tho.  They love my squash bloosums, tho they said they prefer them fried.

Nothing to heavy from this site, just mindless chatter.


Thursday, July 28, 2011

Summer dearth is here

Things have slowed considerably since last weeks hot spell.  Not much in the way of nectar producing flowers out there, and the bees have slowed in their gathering skills.  Last week they were coming back to the hive ten at a time, never ending, this week they are just dribbling back.  Still excited tho as when they hit the landing platform they race inside and up the walls to store what they have.  I expect that they will go into reverse within the next week and start to consume what they have stored to date.  The upper box is full, so I think they will be fine.  The work on the comb has slowed also, three half done.  No nectar, no wax.  The hive will go into slow down brood wise until the fall goldenrod and Astor bloom.  Hope they get the second box done by fall.  Hate to have to feed them.  Rain is on the way they say so maybe that will perc things up some.  Later

Monday, July 18, 2011

Moved to second box

Yea!!! Their building down.  I just saw comb in the second box, looks like their here to stay.  Lots of brood cells closed over in the top box so that looks good too.  Will be fun to see how fast they progress.  Need to start building a third box soon as I want to keep one empty above the screened bottom.  The upper exit seems to be working as no bee's were fanning in this heat today, and all was quiet within the hive (noise wise).  No sign of chalkboard since I switched over and they cleaned up the mess, nor have the hive beetles come back.  I have a trap made if they do.  I am using diatomaceous earth which I also use for vine boring beetles in my garden.  If the bee's fill the second box and move to a third, I will try and gather some honey, otherwise I"ll wait till spring when I switch around the boxes to split the hive.  This is an exciting day.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

First hive box full


Since I installed the new queen, the bee's have been furiously building comb, the box is almost full.  A lot of chatter at the top, with the heat I think they are fanning to keep the temp down.  So I built a top escape for them to let out some of the escess heat and humidity.  Putting it in place meant removing the blanket, sliding in the 3/4 in spacer and putting the blanket back down.  Thought I would try without smoking since it was a quick change.  The bees should have been young and not prone to attack but the minute I lifted the top, one came out and nailed me between the eyes.  That hurt! But I finished the job and left with a few more in pursuit.  5 minutes later there was a conciderable lessening in the bussing, and after a half hour, all was quiet.
I hope they begin building down to the next box this week, I'll feel better knowing they are expanding.  The new hatch from the new queen should start in a week, can't wait.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Adding super

Wed, July 6

Today I completed the section super for the top of the hive and put it in place.  Tried working the hive without a bee suit.  No aggressive behavior and no stings.  The bees are working hard and bringing in a lot of nector, so I thought they could use someplace to store it, making more brood comb available to expand the hive.  They are still working hard, filling the voids with comb from the switch last week.  Should see improvements in a couple of weeks when the new brood arrives.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

New queen installed

Sat., July 2

Well,  my wife and I drove the 110 mi out to Pa. to pick up my new queen.  Had to pass Cabela's twice and got the cold shakes both times, but managed to keep going by.  Picked up the queen and headed back after a little NJ shopping on the way.

After everything was put away I took the queen out to the hive.  What a buzz they were making, louder than I've  hear before.  Although some of the new bees were out doing their test flights, most were inside the hive.  Stoked up the smoker and lifted the lid a little and puffed a few into the top and waited, then lifted the matt, smoked some more and pried over the bars and inserted the queen cage between the bars (had already poked a small hole in through the candy to give the bees a start chewing thru.).  Placed the top back on and waited.  It took all a five minutes and the hive became almost quiet and has stayed that way since.  Today they are out gathering, even in the rain.  Much new comb being made.  They are also chewing through the plastic comb which was stuck up against the glass window so they can crawl back and forth.  Wondering if plastic comb is detrimental to the wintering hives???  Will check on the progress on Tues. and see if she is out, if not I'll release her myself (carefully this time).  Let you know how its going.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Lost queen

The other day I began seeing what looked like pellets on the bottom board, the web said it could be wax moth droppings or desiccated bee larva from chalk brood.  I also saw two small hive Beatles, one of which I killed, the other has gone missing.  I decided that I needed to investigate the hive, so I planned on opening it.  I haven't been pleased with the production of the queen and amount of comb that should have been built, so the agenda was to open the hive, transfer all the frames to my octagonal hive and do a thorough inspection in the process.

I gathered all the tools and tables and began disassemblage of the nuc box.  It had been sitting upon my hive and except for use as an overnight space, the bees never started to build in it.  As I pulled each frame I would inspect it for moths, beetles and chalk brood, first thing on each was finding the queen so I could capture her and put her back when all was finished.  The comb was to be removed from each frame, cut to length and width to match my box and the tied to my top bar, finally to be placed back in my hive.  Simple.  Upon opening the top, I was amazed at how little brood there was, and it was scattered all over.  One frame was completely empty of anything.  Most comb was honey bound, showing signs of a failing queen.  There should have been a couple of supercedure cells but there were no eggs to be found for the bees to use for making the new queen.  Without help the hive was doomed.  I slid the knife in to cut the comb and found plastic foundation, what a mess.  Off to the the garage to get a saw.  I cut out the comb with the saw but without squishing the comb, could not cut it to length or width, so off to the garage to get the tin snips,  (all this time the bees are buzzing up a storm), I got stung six times, the little shits deserve to die.  The snips worked out great.  I hunted methodically for the queen but could not find her, although I know she was somewhere in there.  I completed the whole mess in about an hour.  I restacked all the boxes and cleaned up the mess, leaving the extra comb for the bees to clean out.  Later in the evening I went back out to check. They were building new comb already, what a change.  The next morning, (they were in mourning) not a bee would leave the nest.  Bees were everywhere, under, over and all through the hive.  In my enthusiasm to change the hives, I had done the inevitable, I KILLED THE QUEEN.  An Internet search found one person 2 hrs away who had one, hurrah.  Tomorrow its trip time again. 

The inside of the hive is visibly changing each day as the bees make improvements over the clumsily hanging comb, but most are just hanging around, literally.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Foraging ventures

Greetings,  Well, the bees decided to start building new comb up into the bottom board so I decided to switch out the hives and place mine on the bottom, leaving the bees to build down like they want.  In the process I got stung twice, in the same spot no less.  Both happened when I bent over to pick something up.  Guess I should have worn long pants,  OUCH!!!!     To say I got stung is wrong I guess.  When I bent over, my short tightened in the back, causing the bee ( IN MY PANTS) to get squeezed, so she gave me a slight nip with her stinger.  When I stood up, quickly I might add, she stopped and flew out.  The second did the same only with a nip I could readily feel, but still not life threatening on her part.  Still, very gentle bees.

 After two days the bees are building down.  They seem to like the new set-up as they are much livelier.

Went for a walk around the neighborhood to see where they are going to feed.  Found some working the Blue Belt for pollen where they planted Sumac, which are just now starting to flower out.  Further down the lane I saw some working the white clover, which is good as it produces a lot of nectar.  How can I tell if there my bees you ask? well, I just call out there names and if they look up, there mine.  Actually, my bees have a distinctive look and are small compared to most.  Feral bees are almost black and Italians are yellow, mine are midway between.

 Going out with the dogs before the heat hits again tomorrow, so long for now.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Settling in

Greetings to friends and the one other person reading this.

Bee's are making new comb, mostly burr comb in the empty space left by the missing frame.  Bee's busy gathering nectar and pollen and expanding the brood.  It will take a month or so for them to move into the hive above, I expect when they over grow their space.  Took out the entrance closer so more bee's could come and go easier.  The bee's coming back from gathering fly directly into the hive, race to the back and head straight for the depth of the hive to deposit their load.  Not sure where they are going to do the collection but the variance in pollen color is significant, from pale yellow to almost brown.  Will have to take a walk around the neighborhood to see what flowers are in bloom that they are using.  I expect that I can breath easier now that they seem to have adapted to the new arrangement.  They have emptied the feeder so I fixed the leak and will refill and put back tomorrow.  Next blog when they move up into the new hive.

The tension must be intolerable,  Later,  Pete

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

New bees

Yesterday (Sat) I drove up to Saratoga to pick up my nuc (four frames of bees and honey), about 240mi each way.  I brought my own five frame nuc which I made to aide in the later transfer of the bees.  While there, Mike of Johnston bee farm, showed me his operation and his queen production, very fascinating.  He was extremely busy so I left after a short time with bees in tow.  Actually, they were in the back of my pickup.
At one point I stopped to let my dogs run and I could hear the bees were not happy to be on a bumpy road.
We got home around six and I immediately set up to transfer the bees from the nuc to my octagon hive.  I was using an old method of turning the nuc upside down and setting my hives on top, then wait until they begin building comb and the queen moves up.  I will then place the queen excluder between the hives and wait for all to hatch out, then will put in an escape board so they cannot return into the old  nuc.  At that point I will remove the nuc and add another, super under the two others.  Hopefully they will build comb and harvest enough honey for the winter.

All went well with the transfer until I began pulling out the screened slider, oops, I forgot that the bees would be clinging to the screen.  About 100 got out but not one had any aggression so I kept up my work..  I slid open the hive top to let them back in, and removed the screen and shook out the bees and placed it back in place.  By evening they were all back in.

Today.Sun.  The bees are doing fine, in and out of my bee house.  My feeder leaks a little but they are keeping everything clean and tidy.  No aggression so far,  Mike said he has very gentle bees and I believe him.  They did bump me a couple times so I just moved out of their way.  By afternoon they were all out, many flying out on their sorties over the neighbor's yard.  There is a six foot fence so they are quite high by the time they get there.  Can't wait for them to start building comb, then I won't have to worry about swarming.

Bought more bee friendly plants today for the garden.  Let you know how things are progressing.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

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Sunday, February 13, 2011

New octagonal observation hive

At last I was able to complete my new hive. It is 13 1/2" across, a little larger than the standard +-12 X 12 Warre hive. As you can see, it has a roof which is vented, the vents screened to prevent intruders.  Under the roof is the insulated quilt.  Each super has a door, behind which, is a Plexiglas window for viewing the bees without disturbance.  Because I like comb honey, I'm going to modify a standard section frame super to fit on top.  This of course will require an additional standard cover to fit the super, possibly a vented quilt for it also.  You ask, why bother with such a fancy roof??  It is a conversation piece for the first year while the colony is building and to use in the winter time.  Besides,  this is a fun project and I have nothing but time on my hands.  Anyone interested, leave a comment.
I can build a hive to your design.

So long til the bee's get here, happy spring.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

blue Koolade

Probably my last blog for awhile.  Yesterday I dissected the hive.  Found a lot more bees than I thought and a lot of honey which I salvaged and am also melting down the wax.  Could not find a queen in all the mess, but that doesn't mean she wasn't there.  Looks like they all died at once, shades of Jonestown as they all had little cups in their hands.  If it was disease, I don't think they would all have died simultaneously,  probably stress and the cold snap, with dysentery thrown in.  Still kind of sad,  maybe if I had brought them into the garage they may have made it.  Have to clean up the mess in the hive today and make it ready for the next swarm.  As I am thinking about it, I'm not sure the top bar hive works well in the northern climes, will have to work on insulating it before next winter.

Almost done with the roof for the new hive, kind of making it up as I go (will post a picture when done).  Ordered bees from a guy upstate, will pick them up in May, tried to find an apiary who doesn't use chemicals.  Sounds like catching another feral swarm is iffy at best but will still try when spring arrives.

So long for now.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Hive dead

Sad day!!  After 4 days of seeing nor hearing anything, I took the hive to the garage and opened it.  The bees were all at the top next to the food but were all dead.  Not as many as I had expected so I'm concluding they didn't have the mass to stay warm enough to survive.  Today I'll look for the queen and clean up the mess of bees and melt down the wax, although I'll save some of the comb for the bait boxs.

Making of the octangonal hive is progressing slowly.  Should have the roof done today.  Will post a photo when finished.  Not sure if I should order bees or just hope I catch some.  I'm tending to do the later.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

2nd hive

So far the bees are holding their own.  I have stopped lifting the lid to check on food supply as it looks like I fed them enough till warmer weather arrives.  Plan on placing some black roofing material under the hive to see if the ones who fall can be warmed and return to the hive.  Once they hit the snow and linger, they are doomed.

We have had wild bees in my back yard for many years and when they swarm again, I hope to catch them.  I also plan to place a trap back where I caught the first batch. 

After further reading on bees and bee keeping, I have decided to build another hive.  This one is going to be based on the octagonal hive but I thought I would have some fun with it.  I don't believe that all bee keepers have to be so frugal.  If I'm going to put a hive in my suburban back yard, its going to be fun.  How about a pagota???

The hive will be a Warre but with some modifications.  1)  I plan to add vents in the cover board to let out moisture.  2)  I plan on adding a feeding tray below the quilt, size to be determined later, I will put it on in the fall and add food as needed without losing to much heat.  3)   I plan on adding a sight glass door in each box.  4) I think a screened bottom will be called for especially after last summers heat spell.

Yesterday I took the dogs to CT to buy some Atlantic Cedar.  I chose this for its insect resistance and hope it will deter mites from infesting.  The lumber yard guys said the bees love it, especially wasps, as they get hasassed all summer. 

Its out to the garage to begin on the hive's.  Anyone interested in one, let me know.  I'll post a picture when it done.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Gathering the bees

While hunting in upstate New York last fall, my dogs and I came across a feral bee hive.  First one I ever saw, so we all watched as the bees did their thing.  The hive was built in a bush approximately four feet off the ground and because of the weight it had tipped over exposing the bottom to the weather.  We left, but on the way home as I thought about it, I knew the hive was doomed.  I got home and knowing nothing about bees, started to read about them and decided I would try to save the hive.  And so It began.  I built a top bar hive and as the fall continued, I monitored the hive to see how it was doing.  I brought my clippers and would occasionally remove a branch here and there as the bees let me.

The first time I tried to gather them ( I had brought an ice chest for the purpose) it was too warm and the bees became very agitated, so I left them alone.  A cold day would be better.  That day came on Nov. 10, it was 26 degrees, so a little after dawn I trekked back in with clippers and ice chest.  I removed the lower branches and slid the chest under it.  No bees so far.  I clipped the remaining branches and lowered the nest into the chest.  The bees remained friendly, so I brushed the ones crawling around into the chest and closed the lid.  Home we went.

I had ordered a bee suit so when it arrived it was time to transfer the bees to their new home.  I had occasionally opened the chest to let out moisture and feed the bees some honey and the few that flew out disappeared into the back yard never to return, so I knew that doing the transfer outside would not work.  I built a fire in  the woodstove in the garage and brought the chest in and opened it.  No problem so far.  My intent was to free the hive from the branches, attach the combs to the top bars, and wah-lah, a new home for my new bee friends.  Not.  While trying to move the hive from the chest, the bees came out in droves, filling the garage with flying insects ( I should say friendly insects because the did not attack).  Plan A was out of the question, so I just installed everything into the hive as was, branches and all, and would take care of it in the spring if they survive.  Probably a good decision as I read more and more.  I had to modify the comb to get it to fit, but it was so empty I just cut away the empty cells.  The whole thing only weighed 7-8 lbs.  I placed the hive in the new home and waited.  Most of the bees went back to the hive, some landed here and there, and quite a bunch landed on the windows, being cold, they bunched together for warmth.  So I got my spatula out and carefully picked them up and put them back in the hive.  Believe it or not, after about an hour, they were all back in, including two that didn’t seem to want to go. 

Probably not a good idea, but as the weeks went on, I would occasionally look in to see if they were eating the food and pollen that I purchased for them, they were.   We had a terrible blizzard with 50 mph winds and 2 feet of snow on the 26th of Dec, so yesterday, New Years Day, I trudged back to them and see how they were doing.  What a surprise, I guess they wanted to celebrate the New Year because they were out and having a great time. 
Checking later in the day I found about 30-40 dead outside the hive.  Not sure if they wanted to die outside or just succumbed to the cold.  Anyone have any ideas?   Will keep you posted to how things progress.  So long for now.