Bee inspection & treatment

Yesterday we did another beehive inspection and mite treatment.

Here’s the yellow hive pulled apart to inspect and treat the bottom brood box:

Pulling apart beehive

A bunch of bees on top of some frames:

Bees on top of frames

Jenn inspecting a frame:

Jenn inspecting a frame

A closer look at at that frame, which has lots of capped honey on the sides, and uncapped honey in the middle:

Closer look at honey

Inspecting another frame, with a practice queen cup aka swarm cell visible hanging off the bottom. If the bees ran out of room, they’d use these to grow a new queen, and the old queen would take half of the bees and go find somewhere else to live, aka swarming. The bees make these as an insurance policy when things are going well, so isn’t usually anything to worry about:

Bees

We did see the queens for both hives, which was gratifying. Though I didn’t get good pictures of either.

A bunch of bees on the edge of a frame:

Bees

Inspecting a frame with a lot of drone brood (the lumpy cells):

Drone brood

And a frame with worker brood (the flatter cells):

Worker brood

A closer look at bees on a frame:

Bees

Smoke across the top to get the bees to go down, so we can add another box without squashing them:

Smoke

We added a queen excluder and the Flow super, to start collecting some honey.  It’ll probably take them a while to start up there, since they have space below, but it’s good to make sure they have plenty of room when there is good nectar flow:

Added Flow super

Bee closeup:

Bee closeup

Another closeup; you can clearly see the pollen sacs:

Bee closeup

Bee inspection & treatment; queen sighted

On Sunday we did an inspection and treatment of the beehives.

Here Jenn is pulling out a frame from the yellow beehive; notice the white rack that holds a frame, to make space to pull others out more easily:

Jenn inspecting beehive

We checked for mites via a sugar shake test, where powdered sugar is added to a jar of bees, shaken, water added, then mites counted:

Powdered suger on jar of bees

The bees are unharmed by this; they are returned to the hive, where others will clean them off (tasty sugar!):

Sugary bees

Adding an oxalic acid sugar water mix, that should kill mites without harming the bees:

Bee treatment

A frame with some honey on the left, and capped brood (baby bees) on the right:

Bee frame

Lots of honey (or sugar water from the feeder):

Bee frame

A couple of hive boxes; the bees had very little activity in the bottom box, so we swapped them; they tend to want to move upwards, so would continue to ignore the bottom box if left there:

Hive boxes

Some closeups of bees:

Closeup of bees

Closeup of bees

Closeup of bees

We spotted the queen in the Flow hive; I’ve circled her here:

Queen sighted

A classic beehive frame, with capped brood in the center:

Bee frame

A bunch of bees hanging out at the entrance:

Bees

The Flow beehive:

Beehive

The yellow beehive:

Beehive

Beehive temperature sensors

Yesterday we did our first inspection of the year of our two beehives. We weren’t sure about one of the hives, but both survived the winter. Now that the weather is getting warmer, and flowers are starting to bloom, the bees are active again, replenishing their stores, and the queens are busy laying brood to ramp up the populations.

While we were at it, we took the opportunity to install a couple of BroodMinder temperature sensors in each hive. These record the internal temperature, which can indicate the health and state of the hive. The sensors sync via Bluetooth to an app on Jenn’s iPhone.

Installing BroodMinder temperature sensor

Here’s the yellow hive with two sensor tags sticking out:

Beehive

Jenn doing a quick inspection of the Flow hive:

Jenn inspecting hive

A beehive frame, showing some stored honey on the right, some capped brood in the middle, and good activity:

Beehive frame

Some bees around the entrance, including some with full pollen baskets:

Bees

Yet more snow

We got a couple more inches of snow this morning.

Beehives and trees with snow:

Beehives with snow

Berry cage with snow:

Berry cage with snow

The shallow (foreground) end of the pond is frozen, but the deep (back) half is liquid:

Half frozen pond

The back lawn covered with snow, with the brown gazebo in the distance, and the old chicken coop on the right:

Gazebo & coop with snow

The flag is snagged on a branch, with a little snow on it:

Flag with snow

Sunny snow

We haven’t had any more snow for a couple of days, but it’s been below freezing most of the time, so what’s here isn’t significantly melting. The forecast calls for more snow this weekend, so the current stuff will solidify into a layer of ice, with fresh snow on top.

Here are a few more snowy pictures, from yesterday and today.

Gobs of snow on a dogwood tree:

Snow on dogwood tree

Snow on the beehives, with icicles hanging off the roof. The snow is melting above the brown one in the foreground, which is a good sign of warm bees inside. It isn’t melting as much on the other hive, which may mean they aren’t doing so well, or the roof might just be a better insulator:

Snow on beehives

Looking up at the ceiling of the berry cage. It’s holding up nicely so far, though I worry about its capacity to cope with lots more snow. But I’m not going to try cleaning it off; I want to see what it can handle, and will repair later if needed:

Snow on berry cage

A close-up:

Snow on berry cage

Some interesting graupel patterns on the frozen pond:

Pond

The pond and snow-covered trees beyond:

Pond & trees

Me shoveling the snow from the driveway, so Jenn could go out (the car is parked inside the shop, for now, though she’ll start parking it in the breezeway next to the shop, so I can work on the duck house in there):

Clearing driveway

Snow shovel:

Clearing driveway

Icebergs sliding off the hoop house:

Snow sliding off hoop house

Morning sun through the trees:

Sun

Sparkly snow:

Sparkly snow

Frozen garden ornament, with the brown gazebo in the background:

Garden ornament

Interesting morning light, with sparkly snow, and snow-covered trees beyond the field:

Sparkly snow

Frozen small pond:

Frozen small pond

Bee inspection: passing of purple

We did a beehive inspection today.

Smoker:

The yellow hive is still looking great, with lots of honey stored for the winter:

The Flow hive is also doing well, with a decent amount of stored honey:

I mentioned in my previous bee blog post that we were concerned about the purple hive; that it seemed like it had collapsed.

Well, that’s been confirmed. There were no bees, and all the frames had been robbed, i.e. all the honey scavenged by other bees and wasps, leaving just empty wax cells:

We removed the two dead hives:

Disappointing, especially since the purple hive was doing so well earlier.

We’ll replace the frames and get a couple more nucs to replace the bees next year, and try again.

Bee inspection: third treatments and purple problem

We did the last varroa mite treatments today, following up from last week.

This hive (which we might call the yellow hive, after its base) is doing really well:

A bunch of bees on top of the frames in the Flow hive, which has recovered impressively from its earlier swarm:

The purple hive, however, is causing us much concern. It was doing really well, our strongest hive, but seems to have collapsed; there are now hardly any bees, no sign of a queen, lots of brood cells that look dead, and wasps stealing from it:

The top box was pretty much empty, so we decided to remove it, so the surviving bees can consolidate in one box:

It’s quite possible that the purple hive won’t survive the winter. They do have a bunch of honey stored, possibly enough for the reduced number of bees, so if they can make a new queen (if it has in fact lost its queen), they could rebuild. But we didn’t see any queen cells, so aren’t sure what’s going on. We’ll keep a close eye on it.

Bee inspection: second treatments and mowing

The varroa mite treatments that we started last week are a three-week process, so we inspected and treated the beehives again this weekend.

Here’s Jenn using the smoker:

We had used a “liquid smoke” spray the last couple of times, due to wildfire danger, but it really didn’t work as well as real smoke… and we’ve had lots of rain recently, so aren’t so worried about wildfires at present. (Of course, we’re always very careful not to put the hot smoker on dry grass, etc.)

In the following picture, you can see the mite treatments at the top: the small black rectangles on the corners. In the foreground you can see bees enjoying pollen patties, one of the two feeding options, as mentioned before:

A shot of us working on the hives, from the camera I recently set up by the hives:

It was fascinating to see bright orange pollen on the bees:

Here’s a closer look at a bee with full pollen sacs:

The grass in front of the hives was getting quite long, so we decided to mow it. I don’t have any problem mowing behind the hives without a bee suit, but mowing right in their flight path seems a bit more risky, so I decided to take advantage of wearing the bee suit for the inspection to do that mowing:

I didn’t notice too much interest in me, but Jenn said she saw some bees following me, so the suit was probably a wise precaution, especially having been stung last week (which was uncomfortable for a few days, but almost back to normal now).

Here’s a shot from further away:

Much tidier:

Bee inspection: removing supers & adding treatments

Today we did an inspection of the beehives. This was a big inspection of all four of the hives, plus we removed the honey supers on the two that had them (no more honey harvested), tested for mites, added mite treatments, added pollen patties, and added sugar syrup feeders.

Here’s Jenn inspecting the purple hive, with the test equipment and liquid smoke:

A nice frame of brood, with honey in the top corners:

The purple hive always gets really cranky when opened up. Here you can see lots of bees swarming around Jenn:

I recently put the mobile cam over by the beehives, as an experiment, so it captured us doing our inspection (you may be able to see the cloud of bees behind Jenn here too):

A selfie with several bees around me:

I got stung today, too; the first time I’ve been stung during an inspection. I stepped away from the hives to activate my phone camera, and one got me on the back of the hand as soon as I took off my glove. I can barely see the sting point at present, or feel it much, but it’ll probably swell up over the next day.

Here are bees on top of a box. You can see some white ones in the middle; they are coated in powdered sugar from the sugar shake mite test. The other bees will clean them off:

The bees have pollen patties to help feed them for the winter:

Here’s another cam shot of our inspection:

Scraping off the top of frames, to keep them tidy and easy to access:

A very nice comb of honey (for the bees winter supplies):

Lots of bees and honey:

The hives are now in winter mode; we’ll do more inspections and mite treatments over the next few weeks, to help them get ready for winter. We’ll also continue to feed them sugar syrup and pollen patties, to help them survive the coming cooler weather when they can’t go out and forage.