Monday, May 31, 2010

First Hive Lost

I checked all my hives this morning, and found W3 dying. With the bad weather we had lately, they ran out of food and starved. A few bees are still alive, but ants are invading the combs. I fed the remaining bees with a spray of sugar water, but it is very unlikely that the queen is still alive, and there is no more eggs to raise a new one. Here again, I was a few days too late, I fed that hive 6 to 7 days ago. This was my best working 2010 package.
The weather has been terrible during the past week, staying on top of feeding is crucial. More bad weather is coming...

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Hive status

L1: Swarm management.
L2: Feeder. Slow, was disturbed two times.
L3: Feeder. L1 swarm, will be transitioned to Warre (W4).
W1: Feeder. Very good activity today.
W2: Feeder. Good activity today. Will be moved to a new area (Mill Creek).
W3: Feeder. May be moved to a new area (Startup or Duvall).
K1: Feeder. Low activity.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Inspections, and failed experiment

Today, I inspected L1, L2 and L3. L2 was moved again, with the hive bodies not fitting well together, lot of gaps producing draft in the recent cold weather we had. The bees were tame, too tame, and comb building hasn't progressed much. I am worried for this hive, it is been disturbed too much. Last inspection, I put two jars on the feeders, they were both empty (removed from the hive and thrown in the grass!). I refilled one, and took the second feeder to put it on L3.
Next we checked L3. The hive was moved to a different spot by the homeowners, no problem there. The hive will get less sun, but also less wind. The grass around the hive was yellow, and had been killed with Glyphosate (Roundup). That is potentially bad for the bees, but I didn't find much dead bees. However, it may affect the brood, and would affect the honey as well. I had to educate the owner about Roundup, but I forgot to mention that this stuff will eventually endup in the honey. This hive is also the one I am experimenting with top bars instead of frames. I can report it is not working. The bees attach the top bars to the combs above. It is a mess. The height of 210mm of a Warre was obviously carefully chosen. This hive will have to be transitioned to a Warre as soon as possible.
L1 was doing good. I found more queen cells, and the colony is still numerous, with swarming potential, no doubt. There was a lot of drones. This hive is not disturbed at all by the owners, and will probably do very good in the future. The top supper is filling up with honey, been very heavy already. Supper 2 and 3 have combs, supper 4 and 5 are empty. All the frames are cross-combed. If my Warre hives do well, I will then transition all hives into Warres.

So the next priorities are:
1. Prepare L3 for transition to Warre.
2. Understand why L2 is been disturbed, help the owner fence if.
3. Keep up with culling swarm cells on L1. We may have a small honey harvest.

Small feral swarm

Here is a picture of the swarm we captured Wednesday:

A very small swarm that found shelter under a shrub about an inch above ground.

We hived the swarm yesterday. Some of the bees are completely dark. I also saw a drone, completely dark as well. The swarm stayed 3 days in a cardboard box, been feed with sugar syrup. They drew a small comb inside the box. I measured comb size and found 5.4mm per cell.

And here is Kristen's hive:

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

First Sting

Today, I got a swarm call from Marysville. The day was sunny and warm until mid afternoon, when rain started and lasted for the rest of the day. Consequently, the swarm found shelter under a shrub and stayed there until we arrived to the property, at around 6:30pm. We found a very small swarm, maybe 2 pounds max, almost at ground level. It was very easy to take it from the shrub and put it in a box, where it is resting now. During the operation, a bee stung me through my sock. This was my first sting. I felt a burning sensation at the sting, then the burn spread to the ankle, and within 10mn, it was gone. No swelling. I know now I am not allergic.
I will have to build 2 warres for this weekend.
This new swarm is for Kristen. Hopefully it will survive. The bees are darker than Italians. Some of them are completely dark, others are yellowish with dark stripes. Their queen (from the original colony, not the swarm queen) must have mated with different drones. This means it is at least a third generation queen (first generation, from a package, would have pure genetics, and second generation queen would swarm with first generation workers, all identical). A third generation queen sound really good. We will see how well this colony does.
We now have 7 colonies.

Monday, May 17, 2010

First Inspections on W1, W2 and W3

I decide to rename my hives as Lx for Langs, and Wx for Warres. W1, W2 and W3 are the three hives on the property. L1 is in Gold Bar, L2 in Sultan. The new swarm is L3 for now, but will be re-hived into a Warre as W4 as soon as I have it built.
Yesterday's inspection was the first inspection on the Warres, 1 month after hiving. This was also Kristen first taste of beekeeping, and she did well, as we will see in the next pictures.

W1 was the most troublesome during hiving, and a lot of bees were lost in the process. Consequently, it is the smallest at this time. I was pleased to see the straight combs, with not a single cross comb. Here is a view after removing the queen cage that was encased in wax:

Here is a view of the whole colony, using 5 out of the 8 top bars:

Now on W2. Kristen saw how I was manipulating combs on W1, now its her turn on W2, and she is excited about it:

W2 is obviously doing a lot better than W1:

There was a lot of buildup of black mold on the inside walls. A lot of honey already stored. This colony is doing good, having already 8 combs well advanced. Here Kristen carefully removes her first comb:

And here is the comb fully removed:

Holding her first honey-comb, but not loosing sight of her son playing nearby!
View of the second comb from the South side:

And the first on the North side (or 8th comb):

Her Majesty (on the lower right corner):

This is the first time I was able to spot the queen, it was an exciting moment!

Next on to W3, which was doing even better than W2. Kristen manipulated most of the combs, except the one with the queen cage and the one next to it. These two combs were loosely attached and fell by about 1 to 2 inches while we were trying to separate them. Although the bees got excited, they remained amazingly calm. Here is Kristen manipulating a good sized comb:

Overall the hives are doing excellent, with combs well aligned to the top bars. The bees were VERY calm, and I felt I could almost work bare hands, although I am not ready yet to feel the bees crawling directly on my skin. Spotting W2 queen was great. Kristen did very well and wants to take the beekeeping class this Falls. We will probably have more Warres next year.
My next priority is to build a Warre for the swarm. The design modifications I made appear to work, particularly the thin top bars. Stay tuned!

Thursday, May 13, 2010


Swarm season is in full swing by now, and getting a call to go get a wild swarm is always a good news for the beekeeper. The bad news is when his own hive swarms, and that's what I got a call for this afternoon. Hive #1 that was doing so good, swarmed. I inspected that hive 3 weeks ago, and added 2 sections to give them room (it is the lack of room that triggers swarming), and thought everything was fine, but the colony had already caught the swarm fever. In the 3 weeks that followed my first inspection, they built queen cells and prepared for the division of the colony, which happened today.
The swarm landed on a tree in the property. Here is the first sight we got of it:

This is a HUGE swarm, obviously a primary swarm. Bee colonies may swarm several times in a row, the first swarm (primary) is the biggest, the following swarms (secondary...) are not as good.
The swarm was around the tree trunk, which means we couldn't simply cut the branch and shake the whole swarm inside a new hive. I had to shake the whole tree trunk above a cardboard box and hope the queen would fall in. Here is a pic just before the shake up:

Here is the box full of bees after the shake up. The box has 2 windows cut through for ventilation. The windows are covered with window screen. All the bees congregating outside on the window screen is a good sign indicating the queen is likely in the box.

We walked to the new beehive, and prepared for shaking the bees inside the hive. Since this was an emergency, I used 2 hive sections I was preparing for another hive. These boxes are not painted, and Jim from the bee store let me use a used top and bottom for free (thanks Jim!). That will be their temporary home until I get a final place to set them.

Here is a pic inside the box, before shaking them in the hive.

There were about half as many bees on the outside of the box, and more still on the tree.
Shaking the bees. See the pile of bees already in the hive.

After the bees were set inside, the top bars of the beehive must be put in place. During that time, the queen may fly off.

After the swarm was taken care of, it was time to check the hive that generated this swarm, and inspect for queen cells. Here is the hive where the swarm originated:

And here is an unhatched queen cell:

I also found a hatched queen cell, likely the one from the swarm:

I found a total of 8 queen cells: 3 of them hatched, 4 unhatched, and one other that was just filled with royal jelly, not capped yet. There is high fever in the colony! All the queen cells were removed.
After we were done, we went back to the tree and could see quite a few bees congregating there. I had to shake the tree again, and this time, the trunk broke. That tree lost a few limbs during the whole event. Eventually, we got most of the bees. Here is the new hive:

All the pictures are from Kristen, who got stung while handling one of those mysterious queen cells in her hand. There was a worker bee still inside! Thanks Kristen for your help!
We now have 6 hives, but we won't have the honey harvest we were hoping for, a swarm drains a colony of its stores. I will have to closely monitor hive #1 (the originator of the swarm), and cull any queen cell I can find until swarm fever recedes, at the end of the swarm season. Hopefully there will be enough time for this colony to refocus on establishing winter stores. Too bad, this colony was booming. I increased the size of this hive just a few days too late...

Feeding schedule

Hive # 3 and 4 received an additional can of sugar water Tuesday May 10th. Hive #5 was not empty, so I did not feed it.
We received a call on Wednesday May 11th about Hive #2 been out of food. Karen went there to refill the two full size cans of sugar water.
I will check Hive #5 on Friday.

Thursday, May 6, 2010


On Tuesday, I checked the 3 hives in Snohomish (#3, 4 and 5). #3 and 4 were still on their first can. #3 was 1/2 empty, #4 3/4 empty. #5, on its second can, was empty again. All were refilled on May 4th.
May 5th, I checked the hive in Sultan (#2), it was empty (smaller 1/2 size can), so it was refilled, and a second entrance feeder was added, so 2 full jars for #2.The 2 jars were bigger (normal size, similar to other hives). A few dead bees were visible in the entrance board.
The weather is cold and wet. The sun finally came out today, Thursday, and a few bees were flying. I am worried about #3, which has wax debris on the bottom.

As far as feeding, here is the count:
#1 has its own honey stores, no feeding.
#2: 1/2 can
#3: 1/2 can
#4: 3/4 can
#5: 2 cans.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010


Hive #5 got its second full can of sugar water last Saturday. #3 and #4 still add some sugar, although with the recent cold weather, I will likely have to fill up tonight. #2 probably needs it too.