Honey harvesting!

We finally got a big enough crowd in our hives to risk taking away some of their food. We harvested probably close to 15 pounds of honey. It’s very clean-tasting, with not much nuance, but it’s a great wildflower honey. Enjoy the pictures:

Bearding Bees

Bearding Bees

Poor frames

Poor frames

Honey Honey

Honey Honey

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God Save the Queen (and observe some Varroa mites)

Did one of our early checks, finding the queen, checking for early Varroa, etc. We found her, and we did find about 7 mites on our board. A little disturbing this early in the season. We’re thinking about what options we’re going to engage for control. We’re both not huge fans of strong chemicals, but they do seem to be more effective. More posts to come!

Enjoy the pictures.

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Honey and Dust

Hi all,

One of our hives did not make it through the chaotic weather this year. We did not see any sign of disease or excessive varroa, so we’re going to chalk it down to failure to thrive. We did get some honey from this hive, so we’re excited about that! This also allows us to retire our 10 Frame equipment, to some extent, and focus on the smaller size hives. Picking up those 10 frame deeps was excruciating at best, and impossible when full of brood, honey, and bees. Either way, enjoy our winter honey pictures:

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Water!

Just like every other living creature, honey bees need access to water. They use water for evaporative cooling in the hive, for making royal jelly, and for diluting honey in the winter time so they can process it properly. Bees seem to enjoy dirty, gross, or chlorinated water.  They love puddles of dirty water, water with green slime, and the neighbor’s pool.  I’ve read several reasons why bees want dirty water and I don’t know which are true, so I’ll list them here:

1. Nectar and pollen are good carbohydrate and protein sources but bees still need vitamins and minerals, some of which can be found in dirt, and hence, dirty water.
2. Bees process warm water easier than cold water and standing water is warmer than cold water, and just happens to also be dirtier.
3. The “dirty” water has more of a smell that bees can detect and they use this to find water.
4. Standing water has less predators, moving water such as streams have fish and carnivorous insects that could eat bees. The “dirty” part is just a side effect of still water.
5. Accessing standing, still water means there is less chance of being swept away and drowning.

Regardless of the reason, the bees have a definite preference.  This can be especially problematic if the bees are massing around someone’s pond or pool or hot tub and they are uncomfortable with the presence of bees. I’ve read they will even defend their watering areas, though I’ve seen honey bees, carpenter bees, hornets, and wasps all drinking from our bird feeder at the same time (good job sharing, ladies!).  For our bees we have set up a bird feeder close to the hives and whenever I fill it with water I add some dirt and mud. We put rocks in it so the bees have something to hold onto when they are drinking. Here is a picture of the bird feeder and a close up of a honey bee drinking. Check out her long red tongue!

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Thanks to Lark for looking after the ladies

She already got stung twice getting to know them.

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…And then there were Three

Friday, I was going to go over to Chelsie’s to do a regular inspection of the hive. Somewhere in the afternoon I got a text from her saying “QUEEN CELLS!!!”. What? Queen Cells? Are they preparing to swarm? Are they making supercedence cells? I let it go, because I still had some hours left to work before heading over.

When I arrive around six, I see two empty nuc boxes on the picnic table, and a super-excited Chelsie. We got two grafted queen cells that were supposed to go into someone else’s hive, but they had a family emergency, so we intercepted. All very awesome, of course, but now we had to find a way to create the habitat for two nucs to thrive in from one hive.

I would say this is where the problems started, except we do things before we realize we have problems, and then solve them with saws and wacky improvisation.

We open the top super of our hive: almost no bees. Fine, that was expected

Second super has a couple of bees, and some drawn comb

First deep has a ton of pollen, honey, but no brood.

The bottom deep finally has some brood, but we then realize these are deep frames, and we have medium nucs…

Scrambling to find some brood we had the brilliant idea to put them in the nuc as they are and just add an extra box on top. That works, right?

We try to put a box on, and it of course doesn’t fit, because the tabs at the end of the frame was in the way.

So we did something that probably nobody normal would do. Saw the ends of a frame full of bees who have just been transplanted to a new home without a queen.

How the hell did we escape without stings? Pure Courage, of course.

Anyway, we now have one hive with way too many frames, and two hopefully active nucs. We’ll inspect them next week to see if our princess has taken her maiden voyage.

And here are the pictures, which is really why you read through all of this. Courtesy of Dave Polk, photographer extraordinaire:

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Eye of the Tiger

Several things happened.

First of all, we ordered three nuc boxes (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuc for the n00bs) and put them together. No pictures, but they’re just generic 5 frame nuc boxes. I was an Idiot and put one of the side inside out, but we filled it up, so it’ll be fine. I’m excited to get started on splitting. We’re going to focus on selling nucs, not harvesting honey, this year, in an effort to increase resilience of our bees in the area with hygienic queens (which tend to fight off pests like Varroa more effectively). We might get a couple of frames of honey just for fun, but it’s not our goal. Sorry for those expecting jars of Vienna Gold.

Secondly, we found a hive beetle in our hive, and two mice families in our stored empty frames. Aside from wax moth, I think we’ve encountered most of the pests by now. I’m honestly more frightened of foulbrood and those insidious diseases, so I’m taking this in stride.

Here are the pictures we took last Thursday:

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