Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Anti Robin Hood: 08-06-2013

You've all heard of Robin Hood, who robs from the rich and gives to the poor, right?  Well, in the bee world, their hero is the Anti Robin Hood!  They rob from the poor and give to the rich and powerful!  This is the sight I beheld as I approached the split hive to begin my inspection.

Split Hive:

As I came upon the split hive I immediately noticed a cloud of bees swirling around the outside of the hive.  Instantly odd since the population was so low that even basic in and out traffic was not very prolific.  The other thing that was odd was the majority of the cloud of bees were attempting to enter the hive under the telescoping cover instead of the actual entrance.  These were all signs that the hive was in the process of being robbed.  When a strong hive finds a weak hive that cannot defend the supply of honey they have, then they overpower the guard bees and steal the honey.  Not a good situation since bees are killed during the fighting and the weak hive can either be greatly damaged or destroyed.

Here is a photo of what a honey frame looks like when it has been robbed.  The cells have been torn open during the frantic raiding and have a very jagged appearance.
Robbed Frame
I had placed the entrance reducer on the smallest setting when I first set up the split hive and I thought that would be enough.  Not only did I made a mistake by putting the split into a full sized deep box (instead of a 5 frame nucleus hive), but adding a second box of honey wasn't good either.  I set them up to fail by giving them way too much space to defend with way too few bees.  Learning from mistakes are the best lessons, right?

Upon opening the hive it was obvious to me that the only bees present were the ones robbing out the honey.  There was very little honey left in any of the frames and I quickly went through both boxes looking for any sign of the virgin queen that was spotted two inspections ago or any sign of eggs or larvae.  She was no where to be found and the small cluster of about 50 dead bees on the bottom board told me that if I did find her, she would probably be amongst the dead.  I combed through the dead bees and did not find her.  I did find a dead yellow jacket and a bee with its stinger and venom sac exposed.  No doubt, she died in battle.

With nothing else left to do with the split hive (or ex-split hive), I decided to add the now mostly empty brood box onto White Hive.

White Hive:

My goal this time with White Hive is to verify that what I thought might have been eggs really were freshly laid eggs.  As you may recall, I spotted the queen during my last inspection.  If she was from the queen cell I installed, I wouldn't have known for sure that she had flown out and successfully mated.  If I find eggs that tells me that she did.

The first few frames were honey with some pollen as I expected, but as I pulled frame 4 I hit the jackpot.

Since I know the "bee math", I know that when an egg is laid it takes 3 days to hatch, spends 6 more days as an open larvae before it is capped (total of 9 days) and then 12 more days before a new bee emerges (total of 21 days).  This photo shows big fat open (uncapped) larvae that will be capped any day now.  So they are probably somewhere between 6 to 8 days old and that places them as eggs during my last inspection on 7-30!  I love it when I can actually figure things out!

On the other side of frame 4 I was able to spot a baby bee emerging from her cell (dead center), some very tiny larvae (two cells down to the left) and what looks like a tiny grain of egg (one cell down to the left and another one two cells down to the right)!

Eggs and Larvae
Now that I know the Queen is laying for sure, I can stop worrying so much about White Hive.  She should really be cranking out those eggs, possibly 2-3 THOUSAND every day!  More than her own body weight!

Continuing on, I found what I think was one of the old Queen Cups that the bees decided they do not need anymore.  They look like they are in the process of tearing it down.

The remaining frames had more honey, pollen, open larvae, capped larvae and a small patch of drone brood that is just about to hatch on frame 7.  White Hive looks really good and with a new Queen going full bore, they should be very strong going into Winter. 

Speaking of changing seasons, I saw some Goldenrod in bloom.  That sure heralds the end of summer doesn't it?  Lame!

Until next time, thanks for reading!

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Post Action Assessment: 07-30-2013

Task number one during this inspection was to check the split hive and hopefully find evidence of a laying queen or at least find the (hopefully) non-virgin queen.  Task number two was to check White Hive to see if the queen cells spotted last time were completed or destroyed and if I actually have a laying or virgin queen in that hive as well.

Split Hive:

The population in this hive is still very low.  I had put the extra box of honey on the hive to make sure they had enough but I think I have given them too much space for too few bees.  There are lots of ants roaming around unchallenged eating honey.  They don't bother the bees but in a strong hive they wouldn't be in there at all.  The low population does make it much easier to inspect the hive and spot a queen though!  I quickly went through the box of honey and found a few bees but no queen (nor did I expect to find her there).  Going through the brood box I found some honey and nectar and a tiny bit of pollen but I found no evidence of a queen (virgin or otherwise) and no evidence of eggs, or larvae.  Based on the "bee math" I provided a link to in the last blog post, it could still be a bit early for the hatched queen to have flown out, mated and returned to lay eggs.  I'm really hoping that we did not scare her off during our last inspection and she did not come back!  At this point, I will give it one more week before I take some other action.  It is pretty late in the season, so the only practical option may be to just recombine this hive back into White Hive.

White Hive:

One of my goals this year was to keep better records.  But I am finding that I just don't have enough hands to record things on paper, plus take pictures, all while trying to manipulate frames and smoke, etc.  So this time I tried to just take a photo of each side of every frame.  It was still very clumsy but I made it happen.  Photos are great because you can often spot things that you did not see while inspecting the frames.

Inspecting the top box, it was mostly filled with honey along with a few frames of foundation that the bees have barely touched.  Having a filled frame next to an empty one just makes the bees want to draw out the filled frame even more, so I have some giant frames of honey in there!  I'll pull those for sure this fall.

The bottom box also had a lot of honey and the pollen stores seemed much larger this time.  Possibly this is because there are no larvae to feed the pollen to! 
Honey and Pollen on frame 2

I kept moving through the frames hoping to find the hatched queen or the queen cups I had spotted last time.  I hit frame number four and there was the queen!
Queen Spotting can be challenging!
Can you see her?  It always gives me a jolt when I finally spot her. 

She is in the middle of the frame a few inches down from the top.  Here she is a bit closer:

I spotted the queen, but is she the old queen or the new queen?  And what about those queen cups I saw last time?  To answer these questions I need to see if this queen is laying eggs and if the bees destroyed the queen cups.  Onward!

I continued to find patches of brood that have not hatched yet as well and large open areas with nothing in them.  Some pollen and honey on almost every frame though.  On frame 7 I hit a small patch of drone brood and this is the frame I spotted the queen cups on.

This picture wasn't as good as the one from last time, but you can see they are still open and have not been capped and turned into full queen cells.  It looks to me like the bees removed the two larvae that were in these cups.  I assume they realized they had a queen and no longer needed to raise a new one.  This is a good sign!  My main goals accomplished, I finished inspecting the remaining frames and closed up the hive.  I looked very closely at each frame and I could not find any eggs or larvae for sure.  On the photos for frame 6, if I zoom in very closely, I can see what MIGHT be a few eggs but I'm not sure.  I guess I will know which frame to look on during the next inspection to see if those phantoms have turned into larvae!
Possible eggs in the empty area to the right of the capped brood?
All in all I was pretty happy to "bee" back on track with at least one hive!  We shall see what the next inspection reveals!

On a side note, I planted some Borage this year in my garden because I had read that bees really like it.  I'd never even heard of the plant before, but as you can see in the photo, they like it!

Until next time, thanks for reading!