Saturday, December 26, 2009

Hive Entrance activity

After many days of rain followed by a week of freezing temperature, we finally had a sunny weather today. I checked the hive at round 11:30pm and was surprised to see good activity on the landing board. The reduce entrance was looking too small at times. It is just wide enough to allow 2 bees to go through, side by side.

It looked like some of the bees were flying away from the hive, not just only around, as in cleansing flights.
There was a lot of wind, but the hive is partially sheltered.
Hopefully all is going well inside.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Today, 12 dead bees on the landing board, in front of, or behind the entrance reducer. Yesterday, the weather was clement enough that I saw flying bee outside the hive.
I started building beehives. So far only two hive bodies built, I still have to built the base, the quilt and the roof to finish my first hive.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Status on November 17th

I talked with Rachel from Beez Neez on Saturday. Beez Neez is a place I go regularly for advises (and good honey). According to Rachel, the few wax moth larvaes I found (3 total near the landing board) were likely removed by the bees themselves, so I probably have a few more eggs in the hive, but the bees seem to be doing their job getting rid of the larvaes. There is nothing I could do now about it.

I checked the opening yesterday night, and found two dead bees near the entrance. On Saturday, I removed the entrance reducer and found just 1 dead bee behind the reducer. So far so good.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Inside the hive

Those pictures were taken in the third hive body during October 20th inspection, after removing the empty frames position 1 and 10:

I did not see any varroa yet. The pictures are full definition, click on them to see the bees close in.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Cell Size

I measured a few cells in the natural combs extracted from my hive. I found the following cell sizes:
5.5mm (worker cells?)
5.7mm (worker cells?)
6.8mm (drone cells?)

No apparent regression yet. Note that since these are natural combs, the cell walls are extremely thin.

Natural Combs

Here are pictures of natural combs extracted from my hive:

Last Winter inspection

The detection of a wax moth larvae at the entrance of the hive required that one last inspection be made to assess the damage. October 20rst was a 60 degree day, so I decided to make my last inspection on that day.
The colony was occupying 3 of the 5 hive sections. The fourth section had two frames with combs that were removed from the 3rd hive section on August 4th, to try to get the bees to move to the fourth section. Not only that didn't work, but the empty frames that were inserted in the third body to replace the removed frames were not refilled with combs, so I actually reduced the size of the brood nest in an attempt to increase it.
The top section was filled with honey on 8 frames, with 2 hollow frames, one at each end.
The second section had 8 frames as well with 2 hollow frames. The 8 frames were partially empty.
The third section had 8 frames with combs (partially empty) with the 2 outer frames empty. These two frames were replaced with hollow frames.
Hollow frames are frames that are blocked out with a piece of thin plywood, to constrict brood area and improve insulation.
Section 4 and 5 were removed, the hive was closed up, and a piece of metal roofing was placed on top of it, to protect from the coming heavy rains.

This last inspection was a strong disturbance for the colony. The following day, everything looked back to normal. I am crossing my fingers for the next winter.

Monday, October 19, 2009


Yesterday, I checked the hive entrance and found this:

This looks like a wax mot larvae.
This means I will have to open the hive and check the damage inside the brood area. Since the brood is a mess of cross combs, this will be very disturbing to the colony, but wax moth can destroy a colony, so I have to do it.
Hopefully I will have a nice warm day before the winter.

I also saw a drone, surprising at this time of the year.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Entrance Reduction, Yellow Jackets

Entrance reduced to ~ 25%, due to repeated assaults from Yellow Jackets (YJ). With the previous reduction, a few YJ were able to enter the hive. With this reduction, I haven't seen any entering, even though I counted 5-6 YJ near the entrance, repeatedly trying to enter.

Entrance reduction:

Busy entrance in the middle of the afternoon:

A YJ trying to enter the hive:

Two YJ waiting for an opportunity:

I spotted a YJ nest in my yard (in an old tire) which I destroyed. YJ are good for the garden (preying on pests), but they have been too aggressive to the bees lately.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

New management method for comb honey

The Warre management method is not suited for comb honey, because the combs are darkened from been used for brood prior to honey stores. To get marketable comb honey, a honey super must be used.

The hive will spend the winter in 4 medium hive bodies, one honey store, one mix honey store and brood, one brood, and an empty body as the sump.
When the honey flow starts, a shallow super will be added at the top.
Inspections will consist of examining the bottom of the sup, from below, to detect the presence on combs. If combs are present, then the hive will be opened to inspect the top hive bodies. The supers filled with honey will be removed, and an empty hive body will be added at the bottom of the hive. If the colony is strong and the honey flow is good, a second shallow super may be added at the top for more comb honey production.

The season will be ended with 4 hive bodies, one for stores, one mix store/brood, one brood and one empty. This is the standard configuration for winter.

I haven't determined yet if the use of hollow frames at the edge (#1 and 10) is useful, since the addition of a shallow super will deal with swarming due to strong honey flow.

Friday, September 25, 2009

2009 inspection schedule

Here are the inspections and important actions done during 2009.

04-20-2009 Colony hived on 2 mediums
05-07-2009 First inspection, 2 mediums added, total 4
05-17-2009 Second inspection
05-22-2009 End of sugar feeding
05-29-2009 Third inspection
06-13-2009 Fourth inspection
06-28-2009 Fifth inspection, 1 medium added, total 5
07-30-2009 Sixth inspection
08-04-2009 Seventh inspection
08-13-2009 Entrance reduction to 40%
09-18-2004 Eight inspection, Harvest of 2 frames
09-25-2009 Entrance reduction to 25%

There is too much intrusion in the hive, due to my inexperience. I hope to have less than five inspections during next year, unless the hive has some serious problem. I will also try a modified management plan, with the addition of one shallow super, in order to collect honey in clean wax for market. The shallow super will have thin foundations, and the honey will be packaged as comb honey. More details on this later.

Falls inspection

Falls inspection happen a week ago, Friday 18th. 2 frames were removed from the top box, first and last frames, which were replaced by hollow frames. The top body is very heavy, the second body is lighter but does contain honey, the third body is light, likely filled with brood mostly. The picture below shows the top body, with the cloth partially removed.

The two frames removed were partially operculated, as we can see in the pic below.

The colony is still filling 3 boxes only, the two frames added in the fourth box were unchanged since last inspection.
After the inspection, we tasted the honey. I was surprised to see the different colors of honey within the same frame. The color was from clear translucent to opaque black.

The honey is delicious. I also collected some propolis from the top of the frames.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

During these past 3 weeks, I have been very busy on another project (a hen house, maybe a Wallace Chicks blog coming soon), so I only checked the entrance, no hive inspection. I noticed a few drones, always just one at a time. They have not all been killed, there are a few survivors, ... for a while.
I killed a bald face hornet near the hive entrance. Yellow jackets are marauding around the hive, some are eating dead drone bodies.
A lot of pollen coming in during these 3 weeks, thanks to the few rainfalls we got. The smell around the hive is delicious. No more foul odor, I guess the goldenrod bloom is over.
The hen house will be right next to the hive, and will block the early morning sun (bad) and shelter the hive from dominant winds (good).
I may do one final inspection depending on weather, and remove a few honey frames if the hive has more than 3 bodies.
I will soon plan on my next apiary, a 4 hive equipped with Warres, probably with Carniolan bees. They will be on a friend's property, on 5 acres, near a mountain creek. The apiary will need a bear fence.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Entrance Reduction

Inspecting the hive entrance this morning, I noticed a wasp managed to enter the hive. After work, I checked the hive entrance again. There were more activity that in the morning. Several yellow jackets tried to enter, but this time, the guard bees were well awake.
This problem has been reported by other beekeepers during Tuesday's meeting.
Because the activity is much lower now, I decided to reduce the entrance by half, to help the guard bees do their job against wasps & yellow jackets.

There is still pollen coming in, I saw some yellow, orange and grey.

All the drones are gone. The colony appears to be preparing for the winter. With 3 full medium bodies, the colony succeeded in building enough stores.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Tuesday August 4th 2009 inspection

I inspected the hive again today, coming back from weekend, just before leaving again for a full week. I wanted to verify if the colony swarmed. As expected, no swarm cell visible.
While removing the upper body (REALLY heavy), I removed a few brace combs filled with honey, and we got to taste the honey for the first time: delicious! The whole family liked it.
I removed frame 1 and 10 of the 3rd body, and placed them in position 4 and 6 of 4th body, to incitate the bees to start building into the 4th body. These two frames were partially build (~75%), with honey and pollen, no brood.
The bees were noticeably more aggressive that previous inspection, probably because some honey was spilled while cutting combs.
Not a single drone visible. They all have been evicted, the colony is preparing for the Winter. With 3 bodies, there won't be a big harvest this year, maybe a few frames only.

Thursday July 30th 2009 inspection

I inspected the hive just before leaving for a 4-day weekend. The hive has low activity, and I don't see any drones anymore. The top body is very heavy, I could barely lift it. The second body is somewhat heavy, while the third is lighter. All three bodies are almost filled with combs, the third has still some room in the first and last frames. All the bodies are heavily cross-combed. I expected to see some comb building in the fourth body, but they are not there yet.
I am worried about the very low activity in the front of the hive. A few dozen bees are flying, a few others are staying in the landing board. I used to see hundred of bees at the entrance.
I did not check the bottom of the frames before closing the hives, so I can't tell if they swarmed, but the weight of the hive bodies tell me they didn't.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Hive entrance inspection.

Today is the last day of the third month of my first bee hive. This afternoon, temperature reached 89 degrees Fahrenheit. The hive stayed active up to dusk. The following picture was taken as 9:00pm.

It seems the colony is regressing to a smaller size bees. There is also some fighting, between the "normal" bees and the smaller bees, and also between the normal bees and the drones.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Inspection #5

Hive is running since 2 1/2 months. Two mediums are full, and the bees are working on the third one, the fourth medium is still empty.
During today's inspection, I added a 5th body, so they have more than 2 medium hive bodies of free room. I expect not to open the hive in the next month.
I pulled out a frame from the third box, and my wife took a picture:

This was frame #3. All the other frames closer to center were cross-combed. Talking with other foundationless beekeepers, it appears the Lang is not suited to foundationless, because of its excessive frame spacing of 35mm. Some Warre beeks space their top bars by 32mm. At 35mm, the bees will likely crosscomb, even if the combs are started as nicely centered in the frame as the one in the photo.
I also noticed that I have some bees that are smaller. The bees may be regressing, which would make the 35mm standard spacing oversized.
Beside that, the hive is doing great. I found the smoker works better with dried grass, I actually smoked too much this time.
Next inspection should happen early August, unless some event required intervention.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Nadiring vs Supering

Nadiring consists of adding supers at the bottom of the hive, instead of at the top, as is usually done with supers.
Giles Denis, from France, does both, adding one supper at the top, and others at the bottom.
Here is a great post about this from John on an online Warre beekeeping forum:

>Have you thought about top supering a portion of your hives so as to split test your apiary?

That's what I did last year, sort of. I top-supered two of my 11 hives. These hives gave me 7 of the 11 boxes of honey I harvested. Mind you, they were two of my strongest hives. The lower yield of a nadired hive vs a topsupered hive is just simple mathematics. Since the bees will only store honey above and to the sides
of the broodnest, then brood must hatch and vacate cells in order for the bees to have room for honey. As the bees will only hatch out at the rate at which a queen can lay, the it follows that new storage room becomes available for only a kilogram or so of honey per day. With top-supering, bees will store 20 lbs + of honey daily in a hive during the peak of the clover/alfalfa flow, at least here in Alberta.

So the question that immediately comes up is "Why, then wouldn't you top super?" The answer to that question is crucial, in my opinion, to understanding how bees change focus as the season progresses in order to ensure their survival over the long dark cold winter.

Take care-

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Foreign bees !

The 3 bees visible near the hive entrance at the end of my last post are likely foreign bees begging for acceptance in my colony. I saw more of these every day, always a few of then at the entrance, with guard bees fighting them, biting their legs, wings, dragging them back. They don't fight back. Their hair appear normal, particularly on the thorax, so I don't think they are robbers.
When one of my bees is on top of one of these foreign bees, then the difference in size and color is more evident. I have seen a few managing to enter the hive, but they were dragged back. They usually end up dead near the entrance, killed by the cold of the night.
What makes bees leaving their colony? I noticed these bees since June 19th, but it may have started before that.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Update, previous inspections.

May 22: Feeder is empty. I did not replace the empty feeder, eventhough the bees were still taking some sugar water. I removed the entrance feeder support.

May 29: Full inspection, with the intent of removing at least one brood frame with my new frame tool. This was a warm day, and the hive was very active. Here are pictures of entrance activity just before the inspection:

After removing the roof, quilt and top cloth, the top bars were exposed. I smoked the bees just before this shot. What we don't see is how the combs are all inter-connected, and un-removable. What a mess!

The top Medium is heavy. After removal, here is the top bars of the second body:

The second medium also has its combs all braced together. I didn't even bother trying to remove combs. It is lighter than the top medium.
The third and fourth boxes do not contain combs at this time.

Next inspection in 2 weeks.

June 13 Inspection:
Top box REALLY heavy.
Box 2 somewhat heavy, but lighter than box 1.
Box 3 has some combs, finally. No brood yet. The frame tool allowed me to easily lift the frame. All the frames were set closer to each other (touching) to minimize brace combs.
Box 4 is empty. All frames set next to each other.
No picture of open hive, but here are pictures of hive entrance activity before the inspection:

June 19: At the Hive entrance.
Today is rainy, not a day for an in-hive inspection. A quick check at the hive entrance reveled 3 bees staying put, with wings looking abnormal, and a slightly darker color than the other bees:

Here is a close-up:

One of them was flapping her wings, but she apparently could not fly. I went later at night to check, and two of the 3 bees were still there.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

A Bit of Langstroth Hive History

Here is another great post from Scot:

The hive type is called a Langstroth named after the Reverend Lazurus Lesley
Langstroth who developed it in the mid 1800s.

The frame is actually called a Hoffman frame, also named after the man who developed it. Langstroth's original frames were quite a bit different and more like boxes, and Hoffman developed a way for the frames to provide the spacing, ensure parallel orientation but still allow the bees to walk around the edges of the comb from all sides (minus the two short shoulders at the top). Further Chaz Dadant (who immigrated from France to Hamilton, IL) developed the foundation that became popular after the fact. Langstroth and Hoffman both developed their frames before the advent of foundation and their frame designs were both foundationless originally. CC Miller (who gave up a career in medicine to become a beekeeper instead) is often credited with experimenting with these and various other developments and getting all these guys talking.
Call me picky if you like, and I am sorry about it, but I think it's important that we learn our history in beekeeping to honor those who made these developments. Does it really matter one wit to the practice of beekeeping? No not really, but now that we are in the days of beekeeping trial and invention again and I believe it is important to know our history and the proper terms for different sorts of similar equipment. Besides, there is a LOT of reading material from back then and it's quite
educational. In fact, I don't read any modern beekeeping material anymore. It's all geared towards chemical beekeeping management and missing all of the wisdom of following the bees.

Scot McPherson, CISSP, MCSA
McPherson Family Farms
Le Claire, IA, USA

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Natural Beekeeping

This is a great post from Bernhard, that I picked up in a discussion board:

An interesting discussion. See:\

My answer:

Yes, I think that is the problem nowadays, that such appoaches can't be practised because of the pressure applied by strong lobbyists and other beeks.

I know of many cases, where all the other beekeepers stalked people going natural. I know of cases where the hives were knocked over, where the entrances were sprayed with an insecticide spray (=all bee colonies dead), where hives were opened up and queens were killed regularily. Quite shocking, like a war between beekeepers. The researchers, the lobbyists of the chemical industries, some (=not all) authors in bee journals and other cause fear of natural beekeeping. Natural beekeeping spreads diseases and such. Natural beekeeping is evil. Same with ferals.

So fear usually turns into hate. Hate turns into violence.

On the other hand I see many many people interested in beekeeping. Especially newcomers and new beeks are interested in natural beekeeping. More open minded.

I wrote a little text which was turned into a book by someone elses. I got an E-Mail last days, where that person thanked me for my lines. She also told me, that she and a lot of friends started naturally beekeeping. They never would start beekeeping without that Warre/natural approach, because conventional beekeeping wasn't their liking. She told me, that this little book she created was very helpful when talking to conventional beekeepers.

Because without the book, she only got strange looks with questionsmarks in the eyes ("Ah, another newbie with silly ideas. I stick with my own experiences and there is nothing next to it"). But with the book the other beeks grasp what the concept is. Hey, there are pictures which help to imagine things. (Today very few people train the art of imagination).

So here we are with a start.

We have those five groups opposing our approach of natural beekeeping. It still is an approach, no more. Has to be emphasized, I suppose. Lower expectations, rise results is usually a good advice. (sorry roughly translated from German)

The five groups are:

1.) print media (journals and books)
2.) large and medium-size bee businesses
3.) farmers needing pollination services
4.) markets demanding regularity of supply
5.) pharmaceutical/chemical companies + researchers/scientists

So that is the path laying before us.

First we should write books and we should establish an own journal, international and national. The biggest bulk of beekeepers don't have internet/web access! We should write articles in conventional journals, too. There is some interests, even if it is the slightest. Do it.

To get more confidence there should be a network of natural beekeepers. Because the natural beeks are so scattered the network should have newsletters written monthly. A newsletter where every beek can write his thoughts. It shouldn't be electronic only, it should be printed.

Secondly large and medium sized bee businesses should get informed, that there are much more bee products than honey and pollination. Beside that there is much potential in apitherapy! Those people live from the bees, we shuĆ³uld show them that there is much more diversity in bee products. When honey and pollination plays a lower role in income, those beeks will be much more open to natural ways of beekeeping. In apitherapy the following bee products are used:

- propolis
- bees wax
- bee bread
- bee pollen
- bee larvae
- gelee royal
- honey
- hive air (to breath it; good for a lot of pulmonary illnesses)

So many products from one hive! Those products can be transformed to a huge range of end products! You can't imagine! From shower gels, tooth paste (with propolis), to many more. This is a huge potential for those making a living from and with bees.

Maybe there are more ways to make an income with bees. We should discover them and offer them to the professional beeks.

Third the farmer's need for pollination. Actually farming and beekeeping is interconnected since the very beginning of farming. Thus a farmer should be a beekeeper as well. Every farmer should be encouraged to have bees. This can be achieved when beekeeping is teached in agriculture schools and education institutes. Beekeeping should be a compulsory subject like in the old days.
Beekeepers should stop moving bees to big monoculture fields, because they shoot themselfes this way. A round table, where beeks and farmers talk about ways to a more natural agriculture are discussed are needed.

Fourth the markets. The markets should be re-localized. That way the demand for huge amounts are splitted into pieces. Local production will serve the needs by producing little but many amounts. The first thing to do is to cut the license for big companies to sell their honey with the national bee association stamp on it. (This is the case in Germany. The bee associations' biggest income comes from the honey "bottlers" companies, which use the license of the stamp "genuine German honey").

Fifth all the chemicals should be driven out of beekeeping practises. There should be voluntary agreements between beeks and farmers of not using chemicals and genetic engineered stuff. This can be achieved locally only. But if it spreads from region to region you'll take the nation.
Live and let live is usually a good advice. So we beeks should think about ways to get the companies into the boat. There is a lot of knowledge and powers in those companies. In permaculture such a force is turned from the bad to the good use of such energy. I'm very unsure if that works with the concept of such companies, producing 25% more every year. But one should try. Why don't let them produce organic fertilizers? Why not let them produce organic solutions for pests? They have much knowledge about pests which can be used for new organic solutions. Why not turn the chemical production into consulting products? Those companies already consult farmers. Now they could consults how to produce organicly and how to ensure soil health with natural methods? Just a crazy idea, but worth the try?

Same with the research. We can't fund those researches against the chemical companies. So we have to turn the thinking of those companies. So research is done for natural ways, which still can be profitable. Why not?

This are the things which have to be done. The tasks are our tasks. We have to do it, every single one of us have to take action. Because we are like a bee colony. We are all bees. The mission is our queen.

Let's swarm!


Monday, May 18, 2009

May 18th: Hive entrance

The weather is a little cooler today, with some drizzle. I went to check the hive entrance. There were a few bees faning despite the cool weather. They had their abdomen curved in a strange way. No idea if this is normal.

Click on the picture for full size.

May 17th: at the hive entrance

After yesterday's inspection, I was a little puzzled about finding bees inside the quilt, burrowing in the wood chips, and then getting stuck under the roof. I wonder if they were trying to get more ventilation.
At the hive entrance, intense activity. The entrance board is crowded. Looking at where the bees were flying, I noticed many were just flying around making a loop and coming back. I wonder if they were cooling off. There were a row of faners on the landing board.

I put a piece of cardboard on the west side to shade the hive, as this side was getting really hot in the afternoon sun. I lifted the upper hive body by about 2mm to create some ventilation. The bees had already propolised it from yesterday inspection.

I am worried that my hive doesn't have enough ventilation, been in direct sun.

Outdoor temperature was in the 90s.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

May 16th inspection

I did my second inspection today. I notices the following things:
  • There are a few bees inside the quilt. They made a furrow. I wonder if it is to get more ventilation?
  • The top box has some cross combs between several frames, but the lateral frames are free.
  • The top box is heavy.
  • The second box has some weight, but less that the top box. It is about 60-70% built. This is an estimation, as I did not remove any frames.
  • The third and fourth boxes are empty.
  • I need a frame lifter, I am not confident enough and don't have the dexterity to remove frames without making the bees get defensive.
  • I found two drones. Good thing I can recognize them. One of them was on top of the top bar ("what is the queen doing here ??? wait a minute..."), the other one outside on a brick. Both looked amazingly lazy compared to the busy workers.
  • I am not yet a beekeeper (I am a "bee haver"). Lots of progress still to be made. I am crushing a lot of bees.

I put a piece of burlap on top of the hive, below the quilt, and another one on top of the wood chips inside the quilt.

I then closed the hive. I later realized tens of bees were trapped between the bottom of the quilt, and the piece of burlap. When I realized it, most were dead. A few escaped.
I was confident enough to remove the roof and lift the quilt to let bees escape, without wearing a bee suit.

I did not get stung yet.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Day 24: Hive Entrance

This morning I checked around the hive and notice that the different hive bodies are not joining perfectly. There is a gap of about 1mm in several areas, which could produce too much draft. I decided to tape around the hive, at each hive body junction. Hopefully the bees will propolis all this.

Today was the first sunny day of the week, after 5 days of rain, and the bees were very busy. In the following picture, several bees are fanning, while another is coming in with pollen.

A wasp can be seen eating the sugar syrup form a leak.
The hive was very active during the whole day. I made some progress on the fence, and got thyme seeds planted in the green house for the bee yard. I plan to use creeping thyme as a ground cover for the beeyard, hopping that this will help the bees fight varroa.

Next weekend will be the second inspection (if weather allows) with inspection of brood.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Day 15: First Inspection

May 1rst, 2009.
Today, on Day 15, I did my first inspection since hiving the colony. The goal was to verify comb building, and to add two more empty boxes at the bottom of the hive.
Opening the hive was a little daunting, but the bees were amazingly gentle, and I quickly calm down. I first removed the top follower boards and replaced them with empty frames. Removing the follower boards exposed fresh new combs. The work of the bees is beautiful:

I am very pleased with the progress of this hive. The bees are taking a lot of sugar syrup, and I hope the many blooming trees will provide them with a more adequate food source very soon.
I am also amazed of the quietness of the bees. This is often reported by Warre beekeepers.

I will make several changes to my hive:
Remove the bee space on each side of the frames. This is wasted space. Since I use foundationless frames, if the bees want a bee space on each side of the combs, they will build their combs that way. Otherwise, they will brace their combs to the side bar of the frame. I will remove the bee space by nailing a sheet of plywood to the inside wall. This will also improve insulation.
Addition of a top cover. A piece a cloth covering the top bars of the top box will allow the bees to better control air circulation.

I was not courageous enough to remove the filled frames and check if the queen is laying. I will inspect the hive again in 2 weeks, to add the top cloth cover. I may check egg laying then. If everything looks well, I will then leave the bees alone for the whole summer, monitoring a swarm condition from the sound of the hive only.

I did not get stung. So far so good, this is awesome.

Day 4 Status

April 20th, 2009.
The hive entrance, end of day 4, still daylight but getting chilly (April 20th, day of the average last frost). You can see the guard bees deployed.

I wonder which one of these will be the first to sting me??

Actually, it will be more likely a forager coming back that will give me my first sting.

Hiving a Colony

April 20th, 2009.
Here is the 3 pound package. You can see on the side, some hitch-hickers outside the box. Those free-bees started to fly while I was driving ...

A picture during the hiving process:

That hive absconded, I have no idea where the colony is now.

Packages Arrived!

April 19th, 2009.
I got my bee packages Friday morning (April 17th). By noon, both were hived. Because they were packaged since Monday, I was advised to do a direct release. Unfortunately, I made a mistake: after the queen release, I left the queen cage outside the hive. On the first hive, no problem, but on the second colonie, bees started to cluster on the queen cage, eventhough it was empty. I left to work for the afternoon, and by the time I was back home, everything was quiet around the hives. The sugar syrup given on the first colony was 75% gone, while less than 20% was gone on the second one.

The second day, Saturday, saw a lot of activity on the entrance of hive 1, and very little on hive 2. Sugar syrup absobtion was lower than yesterady for both hives.
Saturday night, an inspection of the hives entrance at dusk showed guard bees still at the entrance on hive 1, no one on hive 2.

Sunday, I noticed that most of the activity visible on hive 2 was bees coming from or going to hive 1. At the end of the day, I decided to open hive 2, and saw it was empty. A few dead bees on the bottom board, but no dead queen. I don't know what happened to the queen. I supose the worker bees joined hive 1, but I am not sure.

Now the question is that are two western suppers enough for 20,000 bees? I am going to leave them alone for 1 week. I am not sure when to stop feeding.
I will post pictures of the hiving process soon.


Beehive Management - 2009

April 10th, 2009.
Since I will be using US equipments and manage it the French ("Warre") way, I need some sort of plan.

Warre hive has 8 frames, I got 10 frame equipments. I read that a smaller but taller nest is better than a wider shorter one, so I am going to use follower boards, modified frames with a piece of wood to block the bees out, one on each side of the brood boxes, leaving only 8 frames for brood & honey to get the bees started, like in the pic at right. Black is follower board, yellow is honey/pollen, red is brood. Of course initially, everything will be empty.

After a week or so (before the 8 frames get filled!), depending on hive activity, I will add the suppers. Warre says to add the suppers at the bottom, and all at once, since the heat of the nest will be retained at the top.

One potential problem with this configuration is if a strong honey flow happens, the brood won't emerge fast enough to leave room for honey storage, and even though there may be plenty of room below, the lack of room above will result in a swarm. So at my first Spring visit, I will remove the follower boards from the brood boxes, and add suppers at the bottom. A total of 4 boxes should be enough for a new colony.
The two top boxes containing brood at the beginning of the season, with follower boards, will have their follower boards removed, to leave room for honey storage. The two lower boxes, initially empty, will have follower boards, as they will become the new brood boxes by the end of the season. Here is how the hive will look like after the Spring visit:

As the colony develops, the hive will go through the following stages:

This is of course the best case scenario. During the Fall visit, one box will be harvested only if the 3 lower boxes are sufficiently filled, and the colony will spend the winter on 3 Medium boxes, 2 of them with 8 frames.

I am a beginner beekeeper, and this is quite an unusual management plan, so if you guys see any flaw, drop a note on the comments. Thanks!

Getting Started

April 8th, 2009.
In a week, I will receive two packages of bees containing 10,000 workers and 1 queen each. My two hives are almost ready. Then I will have to fence around the hives to protect them ... and us!
This is my beginning at beekkeping.
There are different reasons I decided to raise bees despite the fact that I have always been scared of them, the first is the disappearance of pollinators worldwide, and more particularly honeybees. We, in the US, loose 30% to 50% of our commercial honeybees every year. The reasons for those losses are multiple, from insecticide to mono-cropping, transportation of hives cross country, wax contamination, intrusive hive management and even some disease treatments. The weakening of bee colonies lets opportunistic parasites such as varroa thrive and spread.
I got my apprenticeship training last October, and have been researching during the whole winter. Several things in the way bees are currently manages should be changed in my opinion:
1. Wax foundation. By reusing wax over and over again, chemical concentration increases and eventually hurts the bees even before they are born (as larvae in the wax cells). Therefore, I will use foundationless frames, where the bees build their own combs. The drawback is a lower honey yield. The advantage is chemical free wax cells, at the size the bees want them (foundations force the bees to build cells at a particular size), and cost saving (no wax foundations to buy).
2. No top suppering. The current hive system consists of adding "suppers" at the top of the hive, for the bees to store the honey in. That's not how bees naturally store honey. They start their nest with brood (bee larvae), and as the larvae emerge, the workers build more combs BELOW the brood nest, for the queen to lay eggs, while the top cells, empty after the larvae have emerged, are filled with honey. To replicate this, we should add suppers at the BOTTOM of the hive (this is called nadiring). This means brood boxes and suppers need to be the same size, interchangeable. Once the bees have filled their brood box, an empty box is added at the bottom, without foundation, so they can build new clean wax, and raise brood in it, while the top used cells are filled with honey.
3. Non-intrusive inspections. This is a delicate one. It is necessary to inspect for diseases, but the inspections severely disturb the bee nest, exposing fragile eggs and larvae to open air, therefore increasing the probability of diseases. Inspections are recommended every week, I will go every 2 weeks. They recommend to remove every frame, I will remove none, but inspect the bottom of each frame by lifting the hive boxes, one at a time. I will also try to monitor the hive by watching entrance activity during the day. Another technique is to record the background noise inside the hive, then tap the hive and record the "hiss" the bees make when they are disturbed. The background noise and the hiss tell about bee population (percentage of young workers ...) and can be used to predict swarming without even opening the hive.
4. Controlled ventilation. Like termites and ants, bees have developed an efficient way of controlling the climate of their colony. Unfortunately, modern hives don't always let them do that easily. I will add features in my hive to allow them to control the climate of their colony:
Addition of a quilt. This is a box full of absorbent (shredded paper, wood chips ...) set at the top of the hive, just under the roof. It also improves insulation of the roof.
Addition of a cloth. A piece of burlap below the quilt, that the bees can close shut with propolis ("bee glue"), and then open on demand, according to their ventilation needs.
Addition of a sump. Normally, a hive stands about a foot above the ground, with open air between the hive and the ground. The bottom of the hive been open, this produces too much ventilation. Instead of an open hive stand, I will use a closed hive stand, made of cinder blocks enclosing the space below the hive. My only worry is wax moth larvae, that can reach the ground and hibernate.
5. Help them fight varroa with thyme plants around the apiary. I am not sure how much this will help. Bees love Thyme, but varroa hate it. So I hope that by collecting pollen from Thyme plants, they will have a certain amount of thymol in their body, helping them grooming varroa off. I have no idea if this is effective or not.
That's about it for now. I will eventually post a few pics of my setup.
Beside the disappearance of pollinators, I am raising bees to improve my garden yield, collect extra pure honey from all my neighbors yard (bees can fly 3 miles away from their colony), collect wax and propolis, and spend time at home constructively.
If I succeed with my two colonies, then I will look for places to setup more apiaries.