Sunday, May 25, 2008

Fourth Week Inspection

The fourth inspection of the Beelandia apiary took place on a sunny, slightly windy day at around 2 in the afternoon. The temperature was hovering in the high 70s and low 80s. Dandelions are still blooming, along with crabapple, apple and other trees in the neighborhood.

I opened up Bee Glad..., the Langstroth hive, to see a good 70% drawn comb in the hive. The frames contained capped brood (mostly worker but some drone as well in the 3rd and eighth frames). The brood pattern was good. Other cells in the brood area contained eggs and larvae in different stages of development. I even saw one bee chewing her way out from a capped cell. There was a good band of stored pollen around in the brood nest area, some capped honey at the tops of some frames. No sign of disease either. In all the hive looks healthy.

I decided to place another deep box on top of Bee Glad.... I took the first frame, filled with pollen and uncapped honey from the bottom deep and placed it into the second box. Following the suggestion of Randy Oliver , I placed a green plastic drone frame into this box. As a part of my integrated pest management program, this frame will be pulled in a month or so when it contains capped drone brood cells. Hopefully, it will attract a good portion of any varroa mites that might be in the colony which can be disposed with before the mites increase their population to the point of damaging the bees. Before closing up the hive, I also did a powdered sugar shake.
Metpropolis, the Kenyon top bar hive, was also thriving. Like in Bee Glad..., combs contained brood in all stages, and mostly worker capped cells. The bars in front and to the right of the entrance were drawn straight with no cross-comb at all. To the left, however, there are three bars with cross-comb problems. I did some trimming of one, separated some of the others. I added an empty bar between the middle most straight comb and the first bar with cross-comb, in order to eventually rotate out the cross-combed bars to the edge of the hive. These will eventually be removed. I added two new bars with starter strip to each end of the hive.

The trimming of the cross-comb was done on a Bar Cradle which Monta built for me.

I did a powdered sugar shake on Metpropolis also, using an old smoker to "puff" sugar up through the hardware cloth at the bottom of the hive.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Comings and Goings

Here are some photos of the entrance to Bee Glad... that I took this morning.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Week Three: A Stingless Inspection

I just returned from a long weekend trip to visit Monta's mom and drive our station wagon back home after its "extended stay" in Indiana. I must admit I experienced a bit of anxiety leaving the new hives with no one at home to really observe them carefully but I bravely left the hives, reading Laidlaw's Contemporary Queen Rearing along the way.

This morning I did my third inspection and am happy to report both hives seem to be thriving.
I first inspected Metpropolis and can report that the bees have drawn comb on fifteen bars already. The comb on the bars to the right of the one open entrance hole are straight and strong with both capped worker brood, capped drone brood, some pollen and uncapped honey. To the left of the entrance, the bees have drawn comb on 4 or 5 combs but, unfortunately, not as straight. I had to do some careful removal bars for examination and a bit of cutting with all the cross comb. I will slowly move this comb out as I add more bars. (I added two bars this inspection) Overall, though, the hive is strong!

Bee Glad... is thriving as well. A good four frames have been totally drawn and another two frames are very close. Plenty of capped brood was observed. Although the bees aren't using the feeder all that much now, I am leaving it on for one more week. I added a "shim" I bought from better It has a plugged hole I will eventually open as a top entrance. If all goes well, I should be adding a second deep next week.

By the way, no stings this week!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Battlin' Metpropolis

Metropolis proved itself today in the great game of survival of the fittest. Outside the hive today was a corpse of dead European paper wasp! Good going girls!!!!!!!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Motorcycles and Bees

I'm a motorcyclist who prefers to ride bikes that make a gentle, rumbling, purring sound. I like my hearing and I don't try to display my masculinity with loud, screeching pipes. I found out the hard and painful way, yesterday, that my bees hold the same preference.

I was sitting in front of Metpropolis observing the comings and goings of its inhabitants when a young squid on a crotch-rocket decided to go up and down the street making as much noise as possible. The bees became agitated, voiced their protest, and, as a consequence, a guard went after me, as if I was to blame. There was no reasoning with this bee and I was stung on the wrist. Thankfully, I wasn't inspecting the hive when the noisy neighbor decided to assert his testosterone.

Another lesson learned!

Monday, May 12, 2008

The Less than Perfect Third Inspection

Just about the time I was getting cocky about this beekeeping activity, the bees, gravity, and an uninvited guest taught me better.

My first mistake today was probably not waiting an hour or two before opening my hives, I guess. It has been unseasonably chilly for May, even in Minnesota, but I still decided to open the hives at 10:45 this morning. It was sunny and in the 50s, some foragers were out, and I had other things that needed doing so I went ahead with my inspection. In doing this, I broke my number 1 rule of sustainable beekeeping: Do things to the hive according to the bees requirements, not the beekeepers! My second major mistake was opening up the hives when I wasn't fully there mentally. I'd been working on an assessment report earlier in the morning and was still "stewing over" that process.

I opened the top bar hive, Metpropolis first and began a battle with some cross comb. Overall, I handled that pretty well, and the bees were fairly cooperative. I am beginning to understand the benefits of the top bar hive. The bees seem calmer and less disturbed by my observations and small manipulations. However, I experienced one surprise. There on the corner of one comb, quietly resting, was a wasp!!!! It seems that the bees and I discovered the intruder at just about the same time. They began attacking the intruder about the same time I tried to flick the creature off with my pocket knife. The creature disappeared ( I think out of the hive!?!) with some bees hanging on to it.

Overall, except for the cross-comb problem and the uninvited guest, Metpropolis looks to be doing very well. I did not see the queen but I did see capped brood, and larvae. I added three new bars to the top bar and closed it up.

My time with Bee Glad..., the Langstroth went less well, though, like Metpropolis, the hive seems well. I even saw the queen busily at work, but I did have some difficulties getting the inspection done. I had some difficulty separating some frames and a piece of comb on one frame fell to the ground as I took it out and inspected it. ...yes, a real mess, though, I am happy to report that all adult bees escaped alive! The small section of comb contained some capped brood and larvae of different ages which were lost. I had to close the hive up after this. They were not in a very good mood because of my clumsiness (My sting index went up by 4!)

Overall, Bee Glad... is also healthy, drawing comb, and raising brood. I will need to put a box on top of that hive soon.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Bees At Work

I tried my hand at photography this week and was able two capture two interesting images of my bees at work. The first photo shows a group of them gathered around an old baggie feeder I just took out of "Metpropolis" and set aside for a minute. The girls were hungry!

Below is a photo of a foraging bee on a dandelion just outside of "Bee Glad..." I did check the ground for dead bees before laying on the ground to take this one.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Week 1: the First Inspection

Late this morning I did my first inspection of my two hives. As usual, my faithful photographer, Monta May took pictures. I am still feeling the adrenalin rush.

Silly enough, my chief anxiety this morning was whether I could get the smoker lit and not have it go out on me. I am pleased to report that my anxiety was unwarranted. I used a crumbled page of the New York Times, some pieces of a paper egg carton from Bluff Country Co-op, and, finally, woodchips as the fuel and had absolutely no problems my first time out.

I first inspected "Bee Glad...", the Langstroth hive. With a little smoke, the bees were extremely gentle and calm, more concerned with their labors building comb than in my interference. What surprised me was that, only after a week in the hive, the bees were building comb on each of the ten frames. I could not find the queen and had difficulty seeing if any eggs were laid. One interesting discovery was the bees habit of dispensing with the starter strip, once they had a "sense" of where a comb should be drawn.

After closing up "Bee Glad...", I moved on to "Metpropolis", the top bar hive. This proved to be slightly more difficult only because the bees drew cross-comb between 3 bars. I surprised myself as I carefully cut each comb apart with no disasters nor casualties. The exciting, surprising event in this inspection was that I actually found the queen (see photo below). I went into these inspections with the goal of simply looking for eggs and hadn't really expected to find the queens. So you can understand my excitement and surprise when I took out the largest comb, glanced at it, and there she was. I guess I have to thank Michael Bush for his "Can you find the queen?" photos on his website.

In all, I am very happy with the bees, and somewhat proud of myself. The inspections were done at a slow, deliberate pace with no harm to the hives. Unexpected occurences were handled smoothly and I saw the queen of "Metpropolis".

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Pollen Coming In!

I've spent the last few days since I installed the packages into my two hives just watching the behavior of the bees at the front entrances. Yesterday, I noticed that the bees were bringing in a bright orange-yellow pollen; today, the pollen has been various colors. Looking around the neighborhood, I speculate that bees have been foraging at dandelion blossoms, and the red maple trees which are in bloom. Our plum tree just started blooming as well but, as of yet, I have not seen any bees visiting its flowers.