Friday, September 3, 2010

August 18 harvest

We harvested hive L1 from Gold Bar in August 18. Ashley took some really good pictures that I thought I would share. First pic is the hive entrance as we arrived. It was a hot day, so there are quite a few fanners, and some foragers. Some cool "flight positions" visible, see those legs tucked along the abdomen. Click on the picture for a closer view.

Last year I harvested the first and last frames, and replaced them with top bars. As a result, the bees attached these combs to the lower body, as can be seen in this pic:

The top body, filled with honey and some brood, was set in the shade. It was too hot to work in the sun under the bee suit. As we pealed off the top cloth, bees were coming out to check the intrusion.

Due to the lack of side and bottom bars, the bees built "free style". A lot of cross combs attached to the wall. We had to do a lot of cutting. You can see below, the handle of a pan we set under the super, to collect dripping honey.

The first comb is coming out whole, exciting moment!

Here is the comb, with about 50% capped honey. Now we need to remove those bees.

Here is how we did it. Better to use grass that hair (like a brush) that aggravates the bees. With grass, the bees stay calm.

Well done Andy!

The honeycomb is cut in sections to fit in the bucket:

Here is a pic of the super with one comb removed:

The second comb was a lot more difficult. Here is a pic of the honey dripping in the pan:

When we removed the top bar, about half of the comb stayed attached to the super:

Lots of honey dripping:

Here, I finally extracted the two pieces of combs from the super:

The two removed top bars were replaced with frames from the 5th body. Since the bees did not expand the colony (they were still occupying three mediums, as they were last year), I only extracted as much as last year. I did however left the 4rth body, so that they have room to expand next Spring, instead of swarming.

After harvesting, extraction was made by crushing the combs in a strainer, and filtering the honey. This was a small harvest for my second year.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Inspection on W1

W1 was inspected, equipped with a better sump (from W5) and moved a few yards because it was too close to the electric fence. Only the top hive body is filled, and there is some weight in it. This is a small colony tugging along, and if the end of the season is good, they may make it. They would need to fill a second hive body for that. I will probably feed them at some point. Here too, the quilt was filled with ants, like with W2, so it was removed. The colony was on 3 hive bodies, I removed one. I have some hope for this colony, but there obviously will be no harvest.
Tomorrow is harvest time for W2, and inspection on K1-W3. K1 will get its roof and quilt back, since it was borrowed for W5.
Sunday, I will inspect L1, L2 and W4, and I may harvest some honey too.

W5 is dead

W5 hive is dead. This was a big swarm cough around July 18 in a gas station in Bothell. We suspect someone in the neighborhood is making repetitive use of pesticides. I learned in horticulture class that homeowners are a big source of pollution in urban areas (particularly water pollution), due to yard care products. There are quite a few nasty products on sale at big box stores. These products should never be used on preventive routine applications, but only on curative applications, once a pest problem has been identified, otherwise the product may do more harm than good.
The bee colony dwindled until all bees were gone. Another sad loss, this was a strong swarm. I will pick up the hive tonight, as I need some material this week end for harvest and winter preparation.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Hive Design: Escape Board

Today, I checked W2 sump and saw that the combs are now reaching the screen bottom board. I am going to harvest on Saturday, so now is a good time to put an escape board, and add an empty hive body at the bottom. I immediately got to work on building an escape board, since it was already ~ 6pm. About an hour later, I had my first escape board built. I set it next to W2 hive, on top of an empty hive body. Here is the bottom view:

And here the top view:

W2 suffers from ant infestation, so the quilt was removed yesterday. Here is how the hive looked like just before I opened it:

Here, the escape board is set in place, just before I set the top body full of honey to be harvested, and the roof:

The harvest will be two days from now. We will see how well the escape board performs.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Sump design

Here are pictures of the sump, or base, of my hives. First picture is the base with the 1/2" hardware cloth acting as a mouse guard:

Here is a picture of the base upside down, showing how the 1/2" hardware cloth is stapled to the wood:

View of the inside, with the back door removed:

Backdoor in place:

The screen bottom board, essential part of IPM:

How the screen bottom board fits in the base. Hopefully I left enough gap for the particle wood to expand. Plywood would be a better choice. The hardware cloth should be 1/8th", but I could only find 1/4", so I used two 1/4TH inter-spaced.

View from the top. Notice the landing board is shorter, so as to not obstruct the mesh. I am now thinking the landing board should not extend inside, to avoid giving a chance to varroa mites to grab a passing bee.

Last view from the back, with the screen bottom board and the sticky board in place. The sticky board is just a piece of plywood to collect fallen varroa mites. It will be painted white, and a grid drawn on it to facillitate counting the varroas. Oil will be spread over it to make the mites stick and die. The sticky board is not staying in the sump, it is set a few days at a time, to monitor varroas. In normal operations, only the screen bottom board is in place.

This design still has a flaw: the combs in the lower box can extend inside the sump. To correct this flaw, my next sump will have a screen bottom board that mounts flush with the top of the base.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Inspection of W2, new sump

Today, W2 got a new sump with a mouse guard, a screen bottom board, and a sticky board for monitoring varroa. W2 needed to be inspected since a comb broke and fell to the bottom of the hive during the last inspection.
W2 is doing good, with the top body full of honey, and the second body full of brood and honey. The broken comb was replaced. The comb was laying at the bottom, partly laying on the landing board
W2 is the first hive to get the new sump. Pictures of the design will be posted tomorrow. The next hive to receive the new sump will be W5, because the bees decided to start building on the lower body, and one comb is now extending in the sump. That comb will have to be cut.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Inspecting W5 (Chris')

We inspected Chris' colony on Friday afternoon. This is a big swarm that was hived just one week ago. I used material available, since my spare hive was already used for another swarm. I was missing a piece of burlap to cover the top bars, so I used what I had on hand, a piece of landscape cloth. Big mistake.

The following pictures were taken by Tero. The quality is much better than my camera's, so better details are visible. Here is a closeup shot, with nice details on the bee body and wings:

Activity at the landing board:

The landscape cloth I used was coated with toxic herbicides, which badly affected the bees. There were a few hundred bees dead on the grass, with more crawling. As a result of the toxicity levels at the top of the hive, the bees started building below AND ABOVE the top bars of the second body. Here is a closeup of one of the combs above the bars, covered with mostly Italian bees, and a few black bees:

Another closeup:

Here is what happens when you deal with wild creatures: you can never predict! This will be a mess in a few weeks.

The hive was closed as is. I did not remove the messed up combs. I will let the bees occupy the space as best as they could, and let them spend the winter that way, with minimum disturbance. The cleanup will happen next Spring. Here is the hive just before closing it up:

List of colonies

Now that I am managing my 6 colonies plus Kristen's colony, as well as helping Andy's 2 colonies, I need to stay clear on the need and status of each colony. I will know the status after the August 15th inspection, here is the list:

L1 = Gold Bar (Mike F). 2009. Swarmed in 2010. Medium strength at last inspection.
L2 = Sultan (Alex S). 2010 package. Weak colony.
W1 = Snohomish garden. 2010 package. Weak.
W2 = Snohomish barn. 2010 package. Medium.
K1-W3 = Snohomish small pasture. 2010 wild swarm. Weak.
W4 = Gold Bar (Rob R). 2010 swarm from L1. Medium.
W5 = Mill Creek (Chris W). 2010 wild swarm. Weak to medium.

Material/care need for each colony:

L1 = inspection & Harvest, winterization. Fix quilt screen (falling apart).
L2 = inspection and winterization.
W1 = inspection, screened sump, move further from electric fence, set with 9 top bars, winterization.
W2 = inspection and harvest, screened sump, removal of broken comb, set with 9 top bars, winterization.
K1-W3 = inspection, cleanup of dead brood from W3, screened sump, winterization.
W4 = inspection and harvest, screened sump, increase roof size, set with 9 top bars, winterization.
W5 = inspection and winterization. Possibly cleanup of messed combs. Screened sump.

All this should be done during the August 15th inspection & harvest, so I'll be busy during the next 2 weeks.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Hiving Chris' Swarm

Two days after hiving Andy's swarm, I hived another swarm for Chris. That swarm was captured from a tree on a gas station. Pictures of the capture will come shortly.
Jonathan, my son, has expressed interest in beekeeping, so I proposed to him to ask his sister if he could borrow her suit and to come help me. Here is the setting, on Chris' property, Jon and I, and the box containing the swarm on top of the opened hive.

The box was closed tight to prevent bees to escape while they were resting in my garage, so the first thing to do was to cut the box open.

Bees are pushing at the door. This was a big swarm and the box openings were too small, a lot of heat was produced inside the box. I even had to set a fan to make sure the bees wouldn't suffer from the heat they were generating.

Several top bars were removed so that I could dump the swarm inside the hive. The process seems brutal, but that is the way we hive bees (swarms or packages). Here the box is cut opened, but I am still holding it closed with my hand while removing the top bars (I should have done it before):

Opening the box was quite un-nerving, that swarm was big, and the bees were not happy been trapped in that box:

Dumping the bees. I cut a few small branches from the tree where the swarm landed. Those branches will have to be removed from the hive, but for now, I am just trying to get as many bees (and particularly the queen) inside:

Removing the branches. Each branch was shaken off its bees above the hive, in case the queen was on it. The spray bottle was filled with sugar syrup, and each small cluster of bees on those branches was sprayed before been shaken. That way, the bees were falling in rather than flying out.

Putting the top bars back without crushing too many bees:

Everything looked good at this point. All the top bars were set, and the quilt and roof were ready to be set on top of the hive. Notice the bees on the front of the hive, marching toward the entrance? That means the queen is very likely inside the hive. On the landing board, fanners are calling in the lost bees by ventilating pheromones outside.

Jonathan collecting the tools after his first beekeeping experience. He said he was a little nervous at some point, when many bees were flying around him. I was very nervous! Bees are wild creatures that deserve respect, and for the inexperienced like us, that respect first materializes as fear.

Here is a closeup view of the fanners on the landing board. The bees that are firmly standing on the board, with their wings moving (not visible) are fanning. Bees may do this for 2 reasons: cooling the hive, or, in this case, calling in the lost bees by fanning pheromones from the queen, or from their own pheromone gland at the end of their abdomen (near the sting gland). You can also see on this shot the varied genetics of the swarm: many Italians (yellow), but also some darker bees (Russians or Carniolans) are visible.

Chris has a great place for bees. The hive was set under evergreen trees, so they should have plenty of sap for the propolis. The property is surrounded by (but still resisting to) blackberry bushes, and it is in a urban area, so the bees should be happy. Best success to this new colony. The first inspection will happen one week after the hiving (which will be tomorrow).

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

July 10 swarm (Andy's)

Jack called me on Sunday, because an unusual amount of bees were flying around the hive. I told him not to worry, since this is a recent package that has barely filled one hive body and still has two more bodies empty, the reason they are flying out is probably the heat, but if the bees were congregating on a tree branch or other similar place, he should call me back, although it was very unlikely ... several minutes later, Jack called back: "we have a swarm". I took my spare hive and my equipment and drove to his house. Here is my first sight of the swarm:

As the bees were congregating on a tree branch, that branch eventually broke and fell to the ground. Luckily, the swarm did not look for another place to regroup, as they usually do in case of a disruption of the cluster.
Jack and I lost no time and started to get ready. Before putting the suits on, we set my spare hive in the desired location, ready to receive the bees.
I believe Jack was using his suit for the first time.

I was not too sure how to catch all the bees laying on the ground, so we intended to try the white sheet method:

A white sheet is layed on the ground, to make the dark entrance of the box more attractive to the bees. If we are lucky, they are going to march en mass toward the box. I never tried this method, nor do I think it is very efficient, but I thought why not try it?

After setting the sheet and the box, I realized that most of the bees were still on the branch, so I lifted the branch, and Jack started to cut the extra length:

After lifting up the branch, it was pretty clear that the queen and most of the bees were on it, so we decided to dump the swarm directly into its hive.

Jack started to cut each branch holding bees, and I shook the bees in the hive:

Piece by piece, the whole swarm ended inside the hive. Jack used the sugar water spray to reduce the amount of bees flying:

Here are the bees left on the rock:

There were still a lot of bees flying around, but about half an hour after the following picture was taken, the rock was clean and most of the bees were inside the hive.

Jack finished up the hiving process, by placing the cloth, the quilt and the roof: