Monday, April 26, 2010

Dual queen package??

In my post "New Beehives!" on April 20th, I suspected I dropped the queen during hiving process. I now believe I got a package with a caged queen (normal) and a LOOSE QUEEN inside the bee cluster (two queens in one package). That loose queen ended up in the grass after shaking the bees during hiving. I guess I must now have a dead queen, and a live, and maybe hurt, queen. We'll see how that hive does.

Using a Langstroth as a Warre

Until now, I have used my two Langstroth with normal frames, but without foundation. I also used nadiring instead of supering. The quilt was made out of a shallow super.
I decided to go a step closer to Warre for all the new western supers I will need from now on: I will use top bars instead of full frames. The following pictures show how I made the top bars from 1x2 lumber. The lumber was sliced in half, into two 1x1 pieces, then cut the same length as a Langstroth frame, and notched at the end. Here is how they fit:

And here is how a top bar looks, from top and side:

This significantly reduces the cost of a Langstroth beehive. It also allows people with a lot of Langstroth hardware to use Warre management with minimal changes.

Initial Cluster with or without Foundations

Here are extracts from a Warre beekeeping forum about the subject:


Andre wrote: "In a Langstroth with foundations, the bees are not allowed to cluster, since the cluster is broken up by the foundations. How does that affect the initial development of the colony?"

Warré had quite a bit to say about foundation (quotes appended below). But he seems not to have addressed the importance of clustering at this early stage of nest development. The nearest he gets is the thermal gradient brought about by slicing the cluster into seams of bees.

It is not difficult to imagine that the dynamics, including thermodynamics, in the early cluster is different between foundation and foundationless boxes, but I don't think I could say precisely how. After all, a cluster eventually manages to draw foundation right to the bottom corners of a both sides of a frame. Only later do they remove the zone bounding the bottom and sides of the frame. Jürgen Tautz says this is to make the comb freer to vibrate, but there might be other reasons too.
____________ _________ _________ _________ ___

David Heaf North-West Wales, UK
Warré & 'National' hives at 30 metres OMSL
Warré beekeeping English web portal:
http://warre. index.html
____________ _________ _________ _________ ___

From 'Beekeeping For All' ( http://warre. bfa.htm )

Page 28
Wax foundation used in the Dadant hive is expensive. The accessories that it requires are expensive. Inserting this foundation is fiddly and takes time. Foundation is thus a considerable consumer of time and money and increases the capital cost of the hive, and as a result, the honey. But outside the nectar flow, foundation brings very minimal return, it economises only a very small amount on honey, and still less on time, for the bees do not always leave the cells in the state in which they have been given to them. During the nectar flow, the only time when the comb can be drawn, foundation is more harmful than useful. The wax is othing other than the sweat of the bee. And during the nectar flow, bees sweat a ot, because they always put the most effort into their work. Foundation is thus seless at this time, and even harmful as it prevents bees from constructing their comb vertically and evenly. The frame, fitted with foundation, immediately placed in the hive, brings about a heat differentiation from its bottom to its top. It follows that the various distortions of the foundation and the steel wire supporting it esult in warping in the comb. Without foundation, the bees construct their combs ccording to their needs, with the best wax (their own) and with the normal thickness of a comb. They thus strengthen it as they extend it. This is the reason why we do not use foundation. We are satisfied with placing a starter of 5 mm of nadulterated, raw wax. And we do not consider this starter as a saving in honey, but as a means of encouraging the bees to construct their combs in the same direction in order to make it easier for the beekeeper.

Page 40
But one evening, an order for 12 swarms was cancelled. I had empty hives to put them in, but I had only enough foundation for two hives. I settled for putting starters in the others as raw wax at the top of the frames, helped greatly by my knife in putting these starters in order. And I noticed that on these starters the bees constructed their combs as quickly as those on foundation and that these combs were more regular. I thus decided to continue to use only starters of raw wax and I have never come to regret it.

Page 139
As a conclusion to some practical experiments in beekeeping, Georges de Layens wrote: 'There is a benefit, all things being otherwise equal, to let the bees do their own construction' . And in support of this statement, he cited the following paragraph from Abbé Deléphine:
'Given two hives of the same strength and two brood boxes of the same capacity, one fitted with embossed sheets and the other with empty comb from the extractor, which will be filled first? A priori, it seems that the second would be in advance of the first, the bees, in fact, having only to fill the cells with honey and seal them up. The experiments I have done with very great care have, however, given the opposite result'.

Page 139-140
On the other hand, comb built by the bees is only extended according to their needs, and it is totally covered with bees so all of it is at the same temperature. Moreover, the bees do not extend the comb without finishing it, without giving it its normal thickness. Comb is thus sturdier and better able to withstand variations in temperature if need be. Wax foundation, it is true, puts order in the hive
and obliges the bees to build in the direction of the frames. But we get the same result, and more economically, with a simple starter of half a centimetre made of raw wax.
There is more on foundation on pages 139 and 140.


Posted by: "John" moersch51
Sun Apr 25, 2010 2:08 pm

Hi David and Andre-

> It is not difficult to imagine that the dynamics, including
> in the early cluster is different between foundation and
> boxes, but I don't think I could say precisely how.

Hiving bees on foundation doesn't represent a barrier to good
clustering, in my opinion, any more than hiving them on previously-drawn
comb. A swarm or a hived package takes to fully constructed
comb like wildfire. And these combs would represent divisions in the
cluster as well.

I'm not defending the use of foundation. And I know that bees can build
comb very fast in a comb-less void. But in hiving lots of packages and
swarms on fully-drawn combs, on foundation, and in warres, I haven't
seen much difference in the vigor or the motivation of the cluster if
weather and nectar supply permit the work to proceed.

John M.

Sunday, April 25, 2010


Karen got a voice mail saying that hive#2 was tipped over by a lawn mower, just one week after been populated, so we rushed there to take care of it. Here is our first sight of the hive:

I rushed to where I could see the cluster of bees, and was relieved to find most of the bees there, and some combs that didn't look too damaged. After just one week, the bees had built a good amount of combs:

The two lower suppers were easy to reset, since they were empty of bees. The third supper on top was delicately put back, without comb braking:

The combs that the bees built in just one week were beautiful. 6 frames were started. You can tell on the pic below that the combs bent when the hive fell. It was fortunate none broke.

Some comb crushing is visible. I pushed the bent combs back to vertical as well as I could.

Some more cool combs:

Here is a comb in its frame, after I straightened it:

Closeup on that same comb:

Another well populated frame:

The colony did not look too distressed, although I was surprised how mild they were while I was manipulating the combs. I was happy that the colony was saved without too much damage.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Inspection #1 in Gold Bar (Hive#1)

I received an IM from Gold Bar saying that the bees were all over the hive. That hive hasn't been inspected since October, and since swarm season is now on, I got worried. I went to Gold Bar this afternoon after taking care of my Warres, for the first inspection of the year on hive#1. Weather was colder today that it was yesterday (mid 50s). Here is a pic of the hive when I arrived:

The entrance was still reduced, I forgot about that. In a warm day, the bees did not have enough room to go back in, and were crowding in front of the entrance. I removed the roof and quilt, and the first body. Combs were attaching the first and second body together, so here is what I saw when I removed the first body:

Those are not Wax Moth Larvae, as can be seen in the close up below:

Yep, those are bee larvae. Overall, the hive is doing really good. I found almost no dead bees on the bottom of the hive. There was two blocked out frames in the lower body (for tighter cluster and better insulation), so I removed them and replaced them with frames. Here are the bees that came off of those frames:

The smoker got all those bees to fly off and go back into the hive. They were helped by the fanners visible on the pic below. A few foragers are also visible, carrying their load of pollen.

The hive appears strong. No traces of wax moth, no visible queen cells, I think I arrived on time. I added two supers at the bottom, the hive now has 5 mediums. Seeing how strong it is compared to my newly hived packages, I hope to have a good harvest this year.

Bee Clusters

While installing the top feeders today, I took some pictures of the bee clusters:

Hive #5

Hive #4

Here is a close up cluster inside hive #2 (a Langstroth in Sultan)

Cluster seen from outside

The 4 packages have taken residence in their respective hives. No loss, unlike last year (one package absconded).
Those pictures got me thinking. Maybe there is another big advantage of the Warre hive (or any foundationless hive): During the first few weeks after hiving, the bees are allowed to cluster. With foundations, the cluster is broken up. I wonder how that affects the initial development of the colony.

Homemade Warre Hives

Here are pictures of my Warre hives using 2x10 construction lumber:

Hive #3

Hive #5

On both hives, the roof was made from recycled material I had laying in the barn. They are not build following Warre blueprints.
The sections are very heavy duty with 2" thick construction lumber. It will be interesting to lift them once they are full of honey.

Warre Top Feeders

I built and installed the 3 top feeders on my 3 Warres today. The following pictures show how the top feeders are built. The first pic (sorry, blurry) shows how the feeder bottom is about 10mm above the bottom of the feeder, leaving a space for the bees to crawl over the top bars to access the feed. The secong pic shows the inside of the feeder. A can (the one than came in the package) will be set over the hole.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Langstroth/Warre sections

Since Hive #1 is using standard Langstroth equipment, I needed to build more sections to increase the size of the hive for swarm management. I will nadir two sections this weekend.
I bought two western supers without frames yesterday night. Instead of frames, I will just put top bars. Total cost of a western box is $20. Without the cost of the frames, a Lang hive becomes a lot cheaper.
I will post pictures as soon and I find time to buy batteries...

When the first strong nectar flow will start, I will put a comb-honey super on top of the hive. Warre management makes it very easy to do comb honey. This is also good swarm control, as a Warre hive is less prone, but not totally immune, to swarming.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

New Beehives !

On Saturday 17th Ashley, Andy and I hived 3 new beehives on our property. The 3 hives were Warre home made. Because these were my first hives, there are a few flaws I need to fix, the first one been the sump that is too small.
Andy and I also hived a colony in Sultan, at a friend's house, in a Langstroth.

Hive #1, in Gold Bar, is doing good, but need urgent care, since it hasn't been opened in the last 6 months. Swarming season is on, I better do something this weekend!

Hive #2 is the hive in Sultan, newly hived this Saturday (4/17).

Hive #3 is on my property, next to the house. I hived it on Saturday the 17th.

Hive#4 is on my property, North-East corner. Ashley hived it on Saturday the 17th.

Hive#5 is on my property, North-West corner. Andy hived it on Saturday the 17th.

Hive #3 had something really strange going on: many bees were congregating on the ground in front of the hive, and doing so since been hived. On Monday night, 2 days after been hived, I went to investigate after night fall. I used a stick, poking inside the cluster in the grass, to get 5-6 bees at a time, and deposed them on the landing board. They would act a little lost for a few seconds, then fan like crazy, with their rear up. After poking for half an hour, I realize that most of the bees were in that cluster. I continued until there were just a few bees left, and here I found the reason of all of this: One of the last bees I grabbed with the stick was ... the QUEEN !!! I guess the candy came of the cage when I removed the cork, and the queen fell of. She may have her wings clipped, which prevented her to fly off.
When I gently deposed her on the landing board, she walked over all the bees covering the board, and walk directly to the hive entrance, no hesitation at all, unlike all the other bees. I hope she will now make the hive her home.

Andy is building his own hive and will soon have a colony at his parents house.

All this is pretty exciting, despite the fact that we are all overwhelmed with all the things we need to take care off at the moment.Hopefully, things will settle down in the next few weeks.

My camera batteries are dead, I will post pictures later.