June Frame

June Frame

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Snow time in the apiary..

We were expecting anywhere from 3 to 6" of snow last night, which is not only rare for us - but also this early in the year.  We usually don't have more than a dusting of snow but typically do get some ice - usually towards the end of February, so this surprise was really nice.  We ended up with just over 2" of snow, on top of about 1/2" of ice.  I spend the day working from home, which was nice also and got a chance to wonder over and see what was going on.

Here's what I found ..

The top picture with the double hives and glass gallon feeders on top only has the hive on the left with bees in it as I'd lost the other hive due to, what I believe was "leakage" from the feeder on top.  This is the hive that I added a single Megabee patty strip (actually is the length of the hive, but covers 2 frames nicely) to last Sunday while the weather permitted access.

The middle picture has the double-nuc box and is doing fine so far.

The last picture has 2 hives, but only has bees in the hive on the right.  The hive on the left is another deep that I removed and 'concentrated' the bees into 1 deep/brood box for the winter.  This is also the angry box.

I cleared the entrances that were covered with snow, not that I think they need access to the access, that the CO2 levels would get to high .. but I really just wanted to, and knew that if started scraping/knocking on their front door - I'd know if they were alive.  Needless to say, they all answered back quickly.  :)

Anyway, it's going to be 13 tonight and about 19 tomorrow night and with the weather still in the lower 40's during the day till this weekend, I know they'll stay hunkered down.  I know I would if I lived in a box like this during this weather.  The 10 day forecast calls for 65 on Sunday then followed by mid 50's as highs after that.

Hope everyone else's hives are surviving and doing well ...

Monday, January 27, 2014

Jan 25, 2014

Other than the fact that this is my first winter-over, being a new bee keeper or just am tired of the cold weather, but I'm getting anxious about the weather and whether I'll be able to get all my hives back up and running in 'full' swing this year so I can experience a "typical" (lol) year of beekeeping.  We've had some pleasant weather over the weekend and it gave me a chance to check on one if my hives that I haven't seem much activity on and have been worried that there were issues in it.  I've been top-hive feeding as much as they wanted over the winter, only 2 gallons taken so far, but as I lost a hive I believe from cold water drip - I was anxious to get into the hive and see a little.

The top gallon feeder was empty and it was a good time to visit the hive yesterday.  I didn't plan on doing a full inspection as the weather was only about 52 and windy, but wanted to remove the top and check on the cluster.  Whenever I removed the top and looked in I had a "2 to 3 frame" cluster which both surprised and elated me.  The other hives have always had more 'flight' activity and this was still the case yesterday. 

I decided since I'd received my shipment of Megabee power the other day that I'd make up a 1/2 batch as I wanted to keep the strips I plan on putting in them, thin to try and allow the bees to fully cover the strips and hopefully prevent a massive build up of SHB.  Although I'd read how to make up the mixture, nobody ever mentioned it's "unique" smell while still in it's liquid form.  By making up a 1/2 receipt, I was able to pour 2 (approx) 11x14 containers while keeping the thickness to about 1/4 or a little thicker. 

I'd put some of the 'scraps and scrapings' on the front of the 3 hives and 2 of the hives had devoured it within a couple of hours.  Since I'd cut a couple of strips already (mostly so that I could wrap and store them effiently in the fridge) I decided to put one on the hive that I'd inspected earlier.  By the calendar date, I'd intended to start encouraging them to build up their numbers around the middle of next month - but like I said earlier, I'm anxious to get things going.  I guess they were angrier than I thought as I actually got stung once.  Oh well, such is the life of a beekeep.  I needed a winter vaccination anyway.   HA HA

I'll monitor this hive and update back as to how well they consume and build up from this initial feeding.  The weather today is supposed to be around 62 today - down to 27 tonight, followed by low 40's for a few days and not back into the (possible) lower 60's for a week.  I didn't give them any sugar water back, just the "patty" so by leaving them alone for a week, I should get a good idea of how well they like - and are taking it.

Anyway, more later ...

Monday, January 20, 2014

Mid January update

I've been providing sugar water to the bees all winter for 2 reasons:  One is that I knew there wasn't a lot of stored supplies for the winter, and two is that if they wanted it - they'd have it.  I haven't used too much sugar water ( not quite 50# for 4 hives so far) and I think it's worked out fine so far.  I've been noticing, during warmer days, activity from all the hives with 2 hives having more "flight" activity which I believe is probably normal as I had 2 hives that had a lot more bees in them then the other 2.

I've had 2 hives with 1-gallon feeders on top, and 2 with the common 'box top' feeders.  One of the box tops needs to be fixed as I've noticed that some of the bees have managed to get under the screening, and gotten trapped - and died.  I'll fix this feeder once the weather get's a little warmer, and I can remove it - but till then, I just don't put any sugar water on that side.  I've thought about something else too - maybe I can just open it up more - and put dry feed, like pollen substitute on that side if I use it again next year.

One of the 1-gallon feeders needed to be refilled a couple of days ago and since it was warm, I decided to have a little inspection especially since I didn't see any bee activity out front.  Whenever I removed the glass bottle and looked in, there wasn't any activity on the cluster so I pulled the top.  All the bees had died - what a sad day.  I inspected the cluster and hive and can only determine that even though the bottle was 'sealed' well with propulus, it must have leaked over the last couple of days with the extreme cold weather,  the cold water/sugar must have dropped onto the cluster/brood and killed the bees.  There was still some capped honey and stored sugar water so I know they had food.  I've taken the top off, and the frames out and made them available for the other hives to forage off of.

It's a sad day whenever you loose a hive, and it's my fault.  I didn't really like the idea of having to feed all winter, but thought all the hives were 'surviving' well considering all the splits I'd done last summer.  I've ordered some MegaBee to try and boost the hives with for the spring build up and plan to feed it, mainly externally.  Using it externally should, whenever the bees can fly, provide some extra pollen for all the hives - prevent SHB build up ( I hope ), and also help with the spring build up.  I was reading in the Farmers Almanac last night that this year is supposed to be another 'wet' spring, and 'dry' summer starting in June.  As I made several splits last year, this year will be about getting the hives stabilized, maintain their strengths, draw out the honey supers, and if possible create another split or 2.

I talked with Danny, who I've had 'banking' 3 of my queens last fall for me and he said that 2 of the 3 hives have been doing well so this brings my apiary count to 6 now.  I've ordered a package and should get it the first week of March.  I've also been in contact with a breeder from NC who will have some VSH queens and nuc's available - but not till mid-May.  I'm unsure if this will be 'too late' as our typical pollen season is about to wrap up by then, but we'll see how the year goes.  I'd like to get a Nuc from her, and/or possibly a couple of queens earlier depending on how my hives do this year.

The queens that Danny is keeping were born last year, and 2 of the hives I have at home are also new.  One of the hives is still the queen from the Nuc that did so well last year.  I'm hoping that every year, if or whenever I need - to replace the queens with VSH queens so that I can prevent any issues down the road, and start introducing some better genetics into my apiary.  That's the plan anyway, and we'll see how it goes.  If I can replace and keep up with any splits or queen needs that I might have - then trying to provide from 'known' good stock would be nice.