Congratulations to Jenn for passing her exam (with 99%) and meeting the other qualifications. She is now a certified Apprentice Beekeeper!
Congratulations to Jenn for passing her exam (with 99%) and meeting the other qualifications. She is now a certified Apprentice Beekeeper!
We added a handy new tool to our beekeeping practices: canvas inspection cloths. These are multi-layered cloths that go over the top of hive boxes during inspection, to keep the bees in the dark, which keeps them more calm. They seem to help quite a bit:
Here’s a frame from the yellow hive with the marked queen; one of our new queens. See the green dot? That makes it much easier to spot her:
A GIF of the queen (as previously posted):
A frame of honey from the yellow hive:
A partial frame of honey from the purple hive:
A purple hive frame with brood and the (unmarked) queen; can you spot her?
Here’s a closer look; I’ve circled the queen:
We switched to an alcohol wash mite test instead of the sugar shake. This is a bit easier:
A mostly full frame of honey from the Flow hive:
We noticed a bee dragging off another one; they do that to clear out dead ones, but this one wasn’t quite dead yet. It was feeling much better:
The new hot pink hive has a top sugar syrup feeder (visible on the left), and the bees took advantage of the space in the middle of that to build extra comb; that isn’t approved, but we left it for now:
A problematic frame from the orange hive, where they had previously built cross-comb. They are slowly repairing it, but are still very cranky with us, so we just removed the mite treatment patty and otherwise left them alone:
You may recall that we have two nucs with the old queens that we replaced. When we checked them, one was evacuated; empty frames and no bees. So we moved some drawn-out frames to the other one, to replace non-drawn-out ones, and removed the empty nuc:
Sometime we’ll move the remaining nuc to the hoop house, so the waxed cardboard has more chance of surviving the winter. The hive probably won’t survive, being so small, but no big loss; it was only kept just in case the new queens didn’t “take”. If it does survive, we’ll move it into a new hive box next year.
An animated GIF of the marked queen bee from our yellow hive:
Over the weekend we used a borrowed honey extractor to get the honey out of a couple of hive frames, plus cut six frames into 24 boxes of comb honey, and one frame into 8 jars of chunk honey.
Here are the frames in the baskets of the honey extractor; it’s basically a centrifuge, where the frames are spun quickly to force the honey out of the wax cells:
A look at the outside of the extractor; it has a crank handle to spin the baskets, a top chamber with the baskets, and a bottom chamber where the honey is collected:
This is a comb honey cutter, which cuts a square of the comb, which is then placed in the plastic boxes:
A hive box, and stacks of comb honey:
The extracted honey was then poured into a bucket with a fine mesh at the top, to filter out the globs of wax (the Flow hive is much easier!):
Here’s a view from inside of it flowing out:
We put the extractor outside so the rain could clean it… and a few bees turned up to help:
Then they told their sisters, and a large swarm of bees turned up:
They did a good job of cleaning it, though!
Meanwhile, Jenn cut the comb from another frame into half-sized portions, put them in jars, and poured filtered honey in to make chunk honey:
Here are a couple of jars of chunk honey:
The packaged comb and chunk honey (we’ll add labels later):
On Saturday Jenn processed the honey harvested the previous weekend. She used a bucket with a filter screen and closable nozzle to filter out debris from the honey, and portion it into cute little hexagonal jars:
She then labeled the jars:
And stored them in plastic containers:
Yesterday we did a quick inspection of the hives. Firstly I added 2:1 sugar syrup to the top feeder on the new hot pink hive:
Here’s a close up of the feeder; if you look closely, you can see cute little tongues on some of the bees:
We then removed the queen cages from the requeened hives. Here you can see a cage after the frames were moved apart:
Jenn lifted the frame so I could grab the cage:
Here’s a queen cage after removing it, with a few bees still inside. The candy has been eaten, and the queen has exited:
We inspected a frame from each of the requeened hives, but didn’t immediately see the queens, and didn’t look further, not wanting to disturb the hives too much at this stage. We didn’t see anything untoward like queen cups, though, so we think they are doing fine. We’ll check again next time to try to find them:
The two nuc boxes with the old queens are still surviving:
We haven’t decided what to do with these yet; we could just leave them as-is, putting the cardboard boxes in the hoop house or other shelter, perhaps supplementing with some frames of honey, and see if they survive the winter. Or we could merge the two boxes into one, by buying wooden nuc boxes. Or we could merge them into the hot pink hive, to bolster that. We’ll continue to consider options.
Over the weekend we had an epic three-hour beehive session, plus a quick half-hour one the following day. A lot went on: we inspected all five of the hives, harvested 9 quarts of honey from the Flow hive, removed one box full of honey frames, put a bee escape on another hive to take a box from them (15 medium frames total), did mite counts and treatments, added a new feeder box, found and removed queens from two hives, and replaced the queens (the next day). Read on for details.
Firstly, we started the Flow harvest:
While that was underway, we checked the new “hot pink” hive; it seems to be doing well, though we have concerns on whether or not it has enough honey stored to survive the winter; we might provide extra frames of honey to help them along:
We did the sugar shake mite test on each of the hives. Here’s a jar of sugary bees:
Jenn doing the mite test:
A frame of honey from the yellow hive; this is from a box that we will harvest, cutting the foundationless frames into comb honey, and extracting from the foundation ones:
We wanted to replace the aging queens on the yellow and Flow hives, so the trick was to find them. Here’s the queen on the yellow hive — look for the one with minimal stripes towards the bottom, right of center:
We put that frame and one other in a nuc box, along with some empty frames, as a backup in case the new queens don’t “take”:
A close-up of bees on top of frames:
We also added a bee escape board between the brood boxes (the bottom two) and the honey supers (the top two). This is a special board that includes a triangular route that bees can go out but apparently can’t find their way back in (see a picture of it later). This is an easy way to get the bees out of the honey boxes, so we can remove them:
An essential tool, the smoker:
Checking in on the Flow harvest:
We covered the jars to prevent lazy bees from trying to collect the honey, and ending up drowning in the jars:
A very nice full frame of honey from the purple hive, from another box that we’ll harvest:
Jenn brushed off the bees, since there weren’t all that many (and we don’t have a second bee escape), so we could take the box away immediately:
The orange hive is rather engineering challenged; they have a lot of cross-combing, which gets torn apart when removing the frames:
They were rather cranky at our critique of their engineering talents; we had to take long walks to get them to stop trying to kill us:
We also found and removed the old queen from the Flow hive; here’s her nuc box, again with two frames from the hive, plus empty ones:
After finishing harvesting, we removed the Flow box, and left it on the ground for them to clear out of it:
We received the two new queens, enclosed in queen cages along with some attendants, and a block of candy for the bees in the hive to slowly eat through, while getting used to their new queen:
The next day, preparing a queen cage for installation in the hive:
I didn’t get any pictures of the queen cage in place, since I had to help position it; it’s basically jammed between two frames.
A Mite Away Quick Strips treatment on a couple of hives that needed it, without new queens:
We went back at night to collect the Flow box, but there was an unusual amount of activity, and bees still active inside the Flow box:
So I added the escape board to the Flow box, so they can clear out. You can also see the five hives reduced to their winter configurations of just brood boxes. All the honey the bees collect for the rest of the year is for them to store to eat during winter. Oh, and the white box on the hot pink hive is a feeder tray, with big troughs for sugar syrup, that the bees can access from inside the hive. A higher capacity than the old feeder jars, and less prone to robbing by bees from other hives:
Here’s a closer look at the bee escape board, with some bees heading out:
Finally, bearding bees on a hive with the mite treatment; an expected behavior:
We did a beehive inspection yesterday, which included adding a new hive, and harvesting honey from the Flow hive.
You may recall from my previous bee post that we added a nuc box with some frames split from the Flow hive, that had some queen cells. That worked out well, as they established a colony there. We saw bees going in and out of the box, but until we inspected we weren’t sure if they were living there, or just robbing it of resources. But when we opened it up, we found lots of bees doing their thing. Excellent: our first split!
In anticipation of that possibility, we had purchased new hive components (base, cover, etc), and painted them. Yesterday, we transferred the frames from the nuc box to the new hive:
We were pleased to spot the new queen, too:
Here you can see the queen near the center of the picture — the longer, more mono-colored bee. Lots of good brood activity, too:
Here’s the new hive, which we’re calling the “hot pink” hive:
Inspecting the orange hive, they made a bit of a mess of the comb, with extensive cross-combing (where they build the comb between the frames, instead of contained within each, which makes it impossible to remove the frames without dislodging the comb). One of the dangers of foundationless frames:
We also started harvesting honey from the Flow hive. These use unique plastic frames that can be split apart to extract the honey without having to remove the frames or disturb the bees, with the honey flowing down inside the frames and out through tubes inserted in the base.
Here’s a flow underway on the left, and just starting on the right:
A view from a little further back, showing the whole hive. The access door becomes a shelf via handy new brackets:
Meanwhile, we continued inspecting the hives. The bees still hadn’t done anything with the Ross rounds frames, so we removed them. We’ve heard that they are difficult to get the bees to accept them, and that certainly matches our experience. A pity, since they make nice packaged comb honey, but we’ll just have to cut that from regular frames:
Speaking of, a nice frame of honey underway:
Jenn waiting for the honey:
The Flow hive again:
Here are all five of our hives: yellow, purple, orange, hot pink, and Flow. Which are conveniently in alphabetical order when viewed from the front (which is why we called the new one “hot pink” instead of just “pink”):
Harvesting different frames:
Closer; such pretty honey:
Did you see the video of the honey flowing?
We left a couple of frames for next weekend, when we’ll have some beekeeper visitors, but the harvest from the four middle frames was 7 quarts (6.6 liters) of honey:
Honey being harvested from the Flow hive, pouring out like a tap.
We did a couple of beehive inspections over the weekend, and found some interesting things.
But first, a normal-looking hive frame, with brood:
This hive (the orange one) was the one that appeared to be missing their queen on the previous inspection. On reviewing the photos while writing this post, I spotted a queen; circled in red in the following picture. It seems likely that this is a new queen, hatched from the emergency cells we saw then:
Next we looked at the Flow hive. Here’s a Flow frame with honey underway; starting to fill up and get capped:
Another normal frame:
But then we saw an emergency cell:
And more concerning, a couple more emergency cells, and swarm cells:
Here’s a closer look at the swarm cells, upside-down. They are capped, which means the hive is preparing to swarm (take half of the population to find a new home):
A closer look at one of the emergency cells, uncapped; that could just be practice. There are also a lot of drone bees visible, mooching off the hive resources (they’re the larger ones):
The end frame of the Flow hive was full of drone cells, which are pretty useless. That could be a symptom of a worker laying eggs, hence the emergency cells, or caused by weather changes:
Lots of bees:
We decided to remove the drone frame, replacing it with an empty frame, both to ease the hive resources, and as a way of reducing the mite load of the hive, since the mites tend to go for drone cells. Here Jenn is brushing the bees off the frame:
Bees outside the hive:
After a visit to her mentor, Jenn decided to re-inspect the hive the next day, to split some frames into a nuc box. The bees weren’t in the mood for an inspection, though:
Here’s the nuc, with some old frames:
We couldn’t find the swarm cells anymore, though it didn’t look like they had swarmed, so maybe they changed their mind? We left the nuc box next to the hive, in case they did decide to swarm, so hopefully they’d move into the nuc:
We’ll keep an eye on this hive. Hopefully it won’t swarm (again; it did so last year), since that’ll set back the honey production. Though it’s early enough that they might have time to build up enough before fall.
A slow motion video of bees flying around and drinking from the small pool we provide for them.