Sunday, April 13, 2014

Why do we steal

To get sweet stuff, Honey!

I pulled these honey frames out of my hives yesterday. Then crushed and strained them.
I'll bottle the honey once it has had a chance to separate from the wax. There is about a gallon of honey here.
I'm also trying to split my hives so that I can move a couple of hives to another location. When split into a new hive without a queen, the worker bees will select a young larvae and feed it royal jelly. 21 days later out pops a queen. There are plenty of drones, male bees, in my hives so I'm sure its time. Here is a photo of my new hive.

I dumped a bunch of bees from the other two hives into this one, its really stuffed full of bees, I'd say 4-5 lbs of bees. Some of the bees were returning to their old hives, but I'm sure there will still be plenty inside. There is also honey, pollen and freshly laid worker bee eggs.
While looking in the other hives I found the queen laying eggs on one of the combs, so I moved her to another frame and took the frame with the new eggs. I've been getting really good at spotting the queen. Last year I had some difficulty locating the queens in each of my hives (1 per hive), but this year it seems pretty easy.
While looking through the strong hive I saw a swarm cell. Swarm cells are built by the worker bees during the spring, usually. They are larger cells, generally located at the edges or bottom of the comb(s). This is where they typically raise another queen. Once the existing queen lays an egg into the queen cell. She (old queen) will depart with half of the worker bees to start a new bee colony somewhere else. Obviously I don't want to loose half a hive. So I will keep an eye on this cell and make another split if it looks like they are getting ready to depart.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014


Its still too cold to start gardening, back and forth between snow, rain, and 60-70's. I've been following and identifying the local bloom watching what pollens the bees are bringing home to eat.
Its been warm enough to open the hives and check how things are progressing. I did this on March 16th. One hive is really strong, the other not so strong.This was apparent just watching the traffic at the front of the hives. My guess is that there was a 20:1 difference in traffic strong hive to weak hive. Upon opening the weaker hive it had a small population with the majority of the bees only 2 combs vs 8 combs in the more populous hive. I added a pollen patty to each hive at this time. Pollen is used by the nurse bees to make bee bread which they eat and feed to the larvae. Pollen patties are manufactured pollen substitutes. these help the bees build up their populations sooner especially when it is too cold to gather natural pollen.
I was shocked to see the difference in the two hives and with it getting dark I was worried that keeping the hives open for too long for fear of chilling the bees. The next warm day was Wednesday, March 19 so I took a long lunch from work and came home for a quick hive manipulation. I removed two combs from the populous top bar hive that had lots of emerging bees on each comb and transferred those into the weaker hive to boost their numbers. It when really well and things are picking up in the weaker hive. I did also see both queens. Here is a shot of one of them:

She's center right. Here is a close-up:
Most of the bees around her are really young. You can tell because their faces look fuzzier than the older bees. I think the older ones are the one that appears to be climbing over the queen and the one pointed up real close to the queen's tail.
Most of the others look like they have smaller eyes and more face fuzz.
The brownish comb that the queen is standing on is capped workers they are anywhere from 8 to 21 days after being laid as eggs. You can see in the above picture there aren't a lot of capped workers as evidence by all the open (uncapped) cells. The hive needs to keep plenty of bees to warm these capped bee (larvae), so with low numbers of emerged bees the queen will limit how many eggs she lays when the temperatures are still cold. This because when it gets cold the bees huddle together to stay warm. The colder it gets the tighter they huddle. If their cluster gets too small to cover some capped larvae, those larvae freeze. The other interesting fact is that this comb has no stored honey or pollen. There is plenty of honey in this hive towards the back, probably 50 lbs. When its cold the honey will freeze and the bees need to warm it up to move it from where it is frozen. This takes a lot of energy. The bees have been busy collecting water to help them liquefy their stored honey and make bee bread (pollen).
Here is a saucer that I fill with water for the bees to access. I'd rather they drink in my yard than on of my neighbors.

Both hives have plenty of honey. I expect the dandelions to be in full bloom within a month. The dandelions flowers are a great dependable source of nectar and pollen, that is followed by fruit trees weather permitting. Last year a late April deep freeze (17 degrees) killed all the fruit tree blossoms before they could open. So I made a judgement call that I could take some honey from the weaker hive (they still have plenty after my plunder). Here is what I helped myself to:

It was about a gallon after straining.
So here are some pictures of blooms from our neighborhood:

Not sure what these are but this house has a nice fence row of them. It was too cold for the bees this day so I didn't see any of them out this morning (April 5th).
Here is a bar from the more populous hive. These raised cells, often called bullet shaped,  indicate that there are drone larvae (males) capped inside.

The drone's cells, approx 30 on the left, are larger diameter as well as dome capped. The orange colored cells in the center of this comb are filled, partially, with pollen. Both of these items, pollen and drones indicate that this hive is confident that they can make it through the spring till the next bloom. The drones don't do any work in the hive and if the hive, with a good laying queen, was struggling they wouldn't be raising drones. The weak hive had no drones being raised. That means that this stronger hive has a high probability of passing its genetic code, via the drones, to unmated queens in the neighborhood. There are many more drone cells in this hive, I would guess 200. I used this picture because the other pictures I took with drone cell had lots of bees covering the cells.
Here is a picture of the queen from the strong hive, center right:

The bees with their heads in the cells are feeding larvae. The older/larger larvae can be seen in the upper left of the image, they are curled. They will soon be capped by the workers, at which time those capped larvae will spin cocoons and pupate.
Here is a close up of the larvae:

And here are the eggs, they are at the edge of my vision and look like tiny grains of rice:

 Thats all for now. I'll find out what those flowers are and be back with more very soon!