Wednesday, December 29, 2010

finally! produce! usefulness!...

...well okay the bees are useful year 'round to all the plants. But I like the kind of usefulness I can hold in my hand and/or eat.

We removed 3 frames (or how I still stubbornly refer to them as "panels" because thats what they look like) that were pretty full of honey and not much other stuff like pollen or "brood" (bee-grubs). I mean, who wants bee grub guts in their honey?, gross.

I was at the helm, gloveless and since that dayhad been pretty darn terrible already (long story, but quite horrendous) I was fully prepared to be stung, maybe even multiple times.

We got the frames out and tried to get the bees off them by bucket n' lid method, but after that proved ineffective, we just swept them off with a paintbrush and I scurried into the kitchen with them before the bees could give chase. Only a few had to be escorted out of the kitchen window back out into nature.
Then of course we had to get the honey out of the comb which involved a big knife and lots and lots of smooshing the comb. The smooshed wax and honey looks absolutely disgusting before it's filtered and separated. A dead ringer for barf, if not for the sweet/happy smell of honey.

Next that barfish-honey mixture sits in the mesh filter and bucket system that Kevin put together until it was all filtered and golden and supermarket worthy.

We scrounged up as many jars as we could, even one that I had saved with the intention of making a snow globe out of it (yeah, like that was gonna happen), and filled them up.

(that one jar had a label with NASA quality adhesive(!)

They were Christmas gifts, so we needed cute labels. And that's my speciality *flourish-and-curtsey*. So I modified my favorite bee logo and added some typography and well you can see in the pic what they look like.

Kevin is kinda obsessed with the crystallization of our honey. At what rate its crystalizing and to what degree. I am in turn obsessed with avoiding the universal stickiness that comes with honey. It's a supernatural force: the invisible hand of stickiness. Impossible to completely eradicate.

Well once the honey was all jarred we had the wax leftover, just as gross looking as you'd expect. It made me think of a certain mythbusters episode...*shudder*

Anyway, out I went to the Salvation Army store to buy a dedicated wax-pot (i.e., 'don't wanna boil spaghetti in any pot previously used for melting beeswax). And can I just tell you that the Salvation Army store on a wednesday night is like a scene from Cheers? I felt good about humanity after I left (and a nice grandma-lady told everyone I looked like Sandra Bullock, lol)

We melted it double-boiler style and then kinda-sorta filtered out all that extra heaven-knows-what-stuff (bee poop? bee parts? whatever it is, I don't even want it in my candle).

Then we poured it in a glass container with cotton strings weighted with steel washers.
It cooled, then we realized that there was water stuck at the bottom; squeezed that water out, and lit it.

Voila! Old timey candle. Biblical even! (although the ancient existence of washers is debatable).

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Inspection report 11/4/10

Given the wingless bees i discovered last week and the fact that i didn't do a full inspection, i decided to do a pretty full inspection today, and dust with powdered sugar too.

The powdered sugar does 2 things:
* makes the mites' sticky pads lose suction, so they fall off and out of the bottom of the hive (the hive as a screened bottom)
* makes the bees clean each other off which knocks mites off

Given the recent building out (and subsequent destruction) of the top bar in the upper super, i took stock of everything in the supers to see where we stand.

F = foundation frame
FL = foundationless frame
T = top bar frame

Top super (in order, frame 1 - frame 10):
F - drawn, about 1/2 full of honey
FL - empty (no wax)
F - 1/4 drawn out with a tiny bit of honey
FL - empty
FL - hand size comb, no honey.. was not vertical, so i broke the bottom and realigned it.
FL - 4 half-hand size combs. Off center due to fat comb next door. doh.
F - Way fat and full of honey, some capped
F - Short cells due to neighboring fat frame. one side not drawn, one side has some honey
FL - empty
F - fat and full of capped honey

Lower super:
F - capped
F - capped
FL - half drawn, 1/4 honey
FL - 3/4 drawn, all that is drawn is capped honey
FL - full and capped
F - brood and honey. saw some eggs also (good sign!)
F - brood and honey
T - capped honey
FL capped honey
F capped honey

Here's how it compares to last time (10/10/10, about 1 month ago)

1: same (Capped honey)
2: same (Capped Honey)
3: same
4: fully capped now (plus 1/2 frame of honey)
5: fully capped now (plus 1/2 frame of honey)
6: same (brood)
7: same (brood)
8: a little more honey (fully capped now)
9: is now honey (was brood+honey)
10: same (capped honey)

so we've put on about a frame or so of honey since last time, and the bees have started moving to the upper super. One thing to note is that the bees seem to want to build the honey right above the brood.. the top bar in the upper super was directly above some brood, and the replacement got built out some right away (hand size piece of comb in 4 days).. I may use that slot as a comb-building slot.

I got stung about 2/3 through the middle box, and that took the fun out of the rest of the inspection: i didn't get to the bottom super at all. Stung on the pinky finger at 3:15pm, and by 5pm my whole hand and half my forearm is swollen. grr.

Update: midnight: arm from hand to elbow is swollen. darn bee.

I did dust for mites. I'll post the results of that separately.


Sunday, October 31, 2010

Oops, we have honey

Before today, the top super had basically been in the same state for the previous 3 inspections (about a month) - no real activity, few bees, no new comb, etc. This is not surprising, given the season is winding down, it's been rainy, etc. I didn't expect them to really do much in there till next year.

That top super is all foundationless except one or two frames. I don't think they've drawn out any of the foundationless ones (well, maybe one). There's one untouched top bar in there too. The middle super on the other hand has been getting more and more full of honey, and much heavier.

Today i went in with the intent of taking an inch or so off the sides of the top-bar i have in my lower super that the bees built out for me earlier this year - at last inspection it was almost all capped honey. I was thinking they wouldn't be building much new wax this year and it'd prevent them from sticking it to the sides. Plus we'd get some honey for all our trouble. More-or-less guarenteed to be local, since the top bar wax is new since it's been at our place, and while bees do move honey around sometimes, it's likely all the honey in there is local too.

I geared up, popped the lid, and pried the corners the second super to loosen it. As i lifted the box, it was a little harder to get off/more stuck than usual. I did some more prying with the hive tool (sometimes they stick it together more), then just pulled it off.

Much to my surprise, after i set it down and looked back, there was a frame's worth of comb filled with honey sticking up into the air! Apparently the bees not only drew it out (built comb) in the last 3 weeks, but also started filling it with honey and cemented it to the frame below. Must have been some sort of flow on. Funny, since i had been thinking with all the rain they would probably have been holed up and eating through their stores.

I didn't think they'd connect the top-bar comb to the frame below; I was under the impression that bees liked to leave a walkway at the bottom of the frames. Needless to say, i'll be removing the top bars from my lang (already swapped the one that tore out).

The upside is now we have some honey and some really nice fresh wax (there were a number of empty cells).. 1 lb, 4 oz is what we measured it at. That's about a little squeezy-bear's worth i think. We haven't tasted all of it, but some of it had a bit of an "earthy" aftertaste, similar to the way privet or photinia flowers smell.

Another issue which is getting more prominent is mites. When i smoked the bees off the comb that stuck/tore, some didn't fly away. When i looked more closely they had the deformed wing thing going on (maybe 3 or 4 bees). That's caused by a virus spread by mites. I'm pretty sure the crawling bees out front are caused by mites too.

Treatment plan: do another mite count and I'll probably dust them with powdered sugar next time I go in.

Can you taste it? (click for an even bigger version)

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Inspection report 10/10/10

Browsed through the hive a bit today.. not a much to report.. There's not a ton of nectar coming in, so i think the hive is in a bit of a lull.

Top super is still mainly empty, no real new activity there

Middle super is filling up with honey! Most of the foundationless frames that I put in are at least half built out and have some honey in them. Here's the frame-by-frame rundown:

1: Capped honey
2: Capped Honey
3: ~half built out, about 1/4 cells have honey, not capped
4: about 3/4 built out, half of the cells have honey, just a few capped
5: about 3/4 honey, some capped
6: brood with some honey mixed in
7: brood which looks like it just hatched out (didn't see eggs in there)
8: top bar was super heavy! mostly capped honey
9: brood and capped honey
10: capped honey

The new frame i put in the hive body is still pretty much untouched since the last time i checked. About a fist-sized bit of nice comb, but it looks totally virgin. I may pull it and put a comb guide in, the comb may be partially offset and that might be bugging them.

So the plan is to leave at least the outer two frames (1,2,9,10) with honey in them, and not to take any until that happens. I may slice the outer edges of the top bar off though and take that honey.. Get some payback and keep it from getting stuck to the sides so much.


Saturday, September 11, 2010

Inspection report 9/11/2010

5 weeks since the hive landed, and it's doing great. Next week the first foraging bees who came from eggs laid here should emerge. Exciting.

Today we opened up all 3 boxes and went through all but 2 frames before charlie was called away.

We saw the queen, but didn't take pictures. Watched her lay a couple of eggs. Very cool.

The foundationless frames in the top box are still untouched, and the bees are starting to draw out the 2 frames that DO have foundation. Fine by me.

In the middle box, all of the foundationless frames are being drawn out, between 15 and 80% done. Average is probably around 60% drawn out. That's good news.

In the hive body, i was able to scrape wax and jostle all the frames apart enough to add a 10th frame. It's totally foundationless, and I didn't add any guides or anything. We'll see how it goes next week. Might have to retry that one. It's between 2 brood combs, so hopefully it'll get drawn out nice and straight.

No stings and not even any angry bees that I saw. Love this hive.


Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Inspection report Sep. 6, 2010

A local beekeeper named 'Fuzzy' came by and did most of the work. I learned a bunch of stuff just watching him do his thing.

We went through the top 2 supers, and found:

* the empty foundationless frames in the top super are basically untouched.
* the bees have drawn out a little over 2 frames in the first super
* my frame spacing was still terrible. not sure how that happened, i thought sure we had set it up right last time. Oh well.
* the top bar is pretty much full of honey, with a little drone brood sprinkled in.
* We have 'bee space' issues, probably caused by mixing/matching of frame types (some plastic, some wood), this means that they will be building burr comb to plug gaps into which they don't fit well
* the queen cell from last week looks partially torn down, and empty - no queen in there.
* put a sticky board under the hive for about a day, and caught 37 mites. Not usually considered a problem worth treating until it's over 50 in 24 hrs.
* dead bee quantity is normal
* hive is pretty strong. All is well.
* No stings!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

fun bee fact

Kevin, in his hours [upon hours!] of bee newsgroup reading, ascertained that the bees that languish on the ground in front of the hive is not, er, normal.

It means we have a mite problem.

Like bee fleas. Too many bee fleas.

But the mite treatment, way more fun that squirting on Frontline--

Break out the jingle bells, because it's gonna be a white September Christmas in the bee hive.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Inspection report 8/28/2010 - Queen cell, Stings all around

Today we inspected and found a bunch of stuff

1) charlie got stung in her hair. Same situation as me, bee got stuck in there. Yes, I did warn her to wear a hat beforehand. Thanks for asking :)

2) turns out all our 10-frame equipment only has 9-frames in it. oops, that explains why there's so much space between the frames.

3) We found a queen cell! (click for bigger)

I have heard that they sometimes make these without any intent to use them. I hope that's the case. It's late in the season for a swarm or a split.

4) the top bar is pretty much full-size and they are filling it with honey.

5) charlie thinks i have a 'local' allergy to beestings. Lasts a few days, with a little swelling.

6) drones are loud and sound like angry bees, but in reality they can't sting and are just freeloaders

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Inspection report 8/22/2010

Charlie did all the manual labor this time - i just sat there and took pictures.

First up: the top bar that we added is nicely built out:

That's a 19" top bar (same as a langstroth frame) after 1 week of baking time. Not bad!

Since the hive is full, we decided to add a super. Charlie painted it up nice and yellow, and made some bee stamps to liven it up.


Although she claimed no bees were harmed in the inspection, the clump of dead/injured ones at the front door seems to indicate otherwise :) I'm pretty sure she did better than me though. I definitely squished a few.

Quick report:
* top bar looks great, bees are busy building comb on it
* no queen cells sighted
* super had some capped brood
* charlie said she saw brood about, so queen is probably OK.
* at least 2 deep frames of pollen (cells half full, not topped off yet)

We're about 3 weeks since the bees moved in, so whatever they do now is responding to the environment here. (or i've lost the head start i had, depends how you want to look at it) It takes ~21 days for bees to go from egg to worker, so all new bees from here on out were laid at hazelwood manner, not brought here as babies. :)

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

First beesting!

Shortly after I had locked Kid C and myself in the bathroom so that we could brush her hair for school in peace (without fear of her brother attacking her with an egg timer) Kevin pounded on the door "Charlie! Open!" or something like that.
I opened it and he explained a bee got tangled in his hair and stung him (thinking it was under attack?!)
The takeaway: wear a hat around the bees, less your coiffure be mistaken for a death snare.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Inspection report 8/15/2010

We got back into town and the bee tools had arrived! We opened it up Sunday. Everything is looking good. Real hard not to squish them though. I feel bad about that.

About 4 pretty full frames of honey in the super, and most of the middle frames of the super were full of brood.

I noticed the honey was on the outer frames, and the inner frames seemed like they were either empty or brood. I think our bee dealer may have set it up like that in advance of dropping it off. I thought they typically work the middle first then move out.

I also noticed a fair amount of burr/brace/misc comb. I think the frames may have gotten jostled during transport and left too much space in between. I didn't really do much to fix that - but i'll try and arrange things nicely next time. I did scrape some of it to use to prep my top bars. It's nice to have some wax around for stuff like that.

One of the middle frames in the super was basically empty - they were putting wax in, and it had a big burr comb with some brood. I pulled that one and put a top bar in, hopefully they'll build it out with brood. I want to get some brood and honey top bar frames set up in the medium super so I can more easily make splits in the future.

I'm hoping the brood expansion up into the super means they want more bees because the forage is good. I'll be adding another super next week - late in the season but it's warm enough i don't think it'll cause problems. They have about 2 frames worth of space in the super and probably about a frame and a half in the body. Most of the space in the hive body is on the outside - i hear that is frequently left empty anyhow.

The outer side of the leftmost frame in the hive body was basically empty. Not a lot of action there. Only checked 6 or 7 frames in the hive body - they seemed to be getting angrier so I decided to call it a day. Didn't see the queen.

In the hive body, there was a frame that was real heavy and had lots of uncapped honey in it. Also lots of frames covered in bees and brood. I'm not sure i saw any pollen stored, but we'll see.

I had a veil and smoker, no gloves but long sleeve shirt. After I accidentally squished one, another bee stung the cuff of my shirt. Missed me by like 1/8 inch.

I noticed a lot of the brood comb in the hive body was black. I think that means it's old, right?

There were some parts of the black comb whose tops were wavy kind of like acoustic foam or that mattress foam stuff. Didn't see any bees on it where it was like that. Anybody know if that has a special purpose? The rest of that same comb was covered in bees, so I figure they weren't using the wavy parts. I may cut it out if it stays unused, but i'd hate to ruin the old black comb.

Next week: hopefully the top bar is built out, and on goes the super either way. I'll check a few frames in the hive body too.

don't mind the smoke, we're just pulling off your roof

Kevin only ordered *one* beekeeper's veil and *one* smoker. But he wanted *both* of us to check on the bees. I think you can see why he was really the one checking on our "gentle" Carniolian bee family. I sat on a bucket a bit away from the action and found a little friend who had landed on my flip flop. I don't think it was long for this world so I let it crawl around on me while I stared at all the intricate little hairs and tiny little moving parts. Kevin had fun on the macro end of it, I liked the micro.

high socks and pantaloons are back this season.
so are smoking cans of eucalyptus leaves(?)

This was supposed to be a 3 minute video. But my iphone lied and this is all it captured.
at least you see the little hive.

Aforementioned bee friend on aforementioned flip flop.

It dusted off it's pollen-y legs on my hand. Sign of love? Or sign of ignorance? I dunno.

Kevin didn't get the reference

Kevin asked me to create a blog about our beekeeping.

How else can you fit two bee puns in one other than referencing the *Bee Gees* and their song *Hive Talkin'* ?

(Or "Jive", you hear what you want to hear!)

I assured him that old people would get it.

Not too old mind you, but just kinda old.