Thursday, April 30, 2015

New Beeginnings: 2015-04-30

B-Day has finally arrived!! 

Over the last week I had been cleaning out the hive that had died over the winter so that it would be ready for the new bees.  The lucky new arrivals would be taking advantage of the hard work of the bees from the previous year.  I'm sure the new bees would be happy to see the frames of honey, pollen and bee bread waiting for them instead of a bunch of empty frames.

My friend Keith was getting a package of bees this year so we made the quick run to pick up the new packages of bees.  The packages looked really nice and had very few dead bees on the bottom.  The package seller even slammed the packages on the ground to knock the bees down so we could make sure the queen was alive in her cage.  I went over to Keith's house and helped him install his package into his Top Bar hive.  It went very quickly and I was soon home and ready to install my two packages.

White Hive:

This hive has the Honey Supercell frames in it.  These are the fully formed, small-cell, plastic frames.  So after removing some frames to make room, I popped open the package, pulled the queen cage, put it between the frames, slammed the package on the ground and dumped the bees in.  I've stopped worrying about spraying them with sugar water or putting the lid back on the package after I've pulled the can of sugar syrup out or which end of the queen cage should be up or down.  A lot of wasted effort I think.

Green Hive:

This hive has mostly foundationless frames.  A majority of them have drawn comb with lots of honey.  The problem with these frames is that the honey was put into large bulges of comb that extended well past the width of the frame.  So after I removed the frames and dumped the bees in, I used my uncapping knife to saw the comb even with the frame.  Of course this made honey ooze out all over the place but I figured the bees would be eager to clean it up.

Beware of Attack Bee

Queen Release:

After three days I went out to make sure the queens had been released from their cages.  When I pulled the cages the sugar plugs were almost completely eaten away!  After I removed the queen cages I also had to remove all the comb that the bees had built in the extra space that the queen cage was occupying.

A few swipes with the hive tool and the excess comb was removed.  Before adding the frames back in, I took a look for the queen and spotted her quickly.

Can you see the queen in the middle of this picture?
Everything looked great and I closed up White Hive.

Green Hive went very smoothly as well.  Move the frames apart, pull the queen cage, check some frames for the queen (no luck spotting her this time) and push the frames back together.  Done.

Plastic tab attached to the queen cage

 Everything is now good to go for the 2015 bee season!

Next inspection in about a week so that I can make sure the queens are laying eggs.  Until then, thanks for reading!

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Hive Autopsy : 2015-04-12

When the weather finally started turning to above freezing temps back in mid-March, I started to get really excited thinking my bees had made it through the winter.  Sadly, about the same time I stopped noticing any audible response from the hive when I would knock on it.  The day the temp hit 60 degrees I couldn't wait any longer and I popped open the lid to take a look.  A few dead stray bees were in the top box but none of the honey had been touched.  This was not too surprising since the hive was four deep boxes tall.  The next box was also full of honey and no bees.  In the next box down I found the dead cluster on about 5 frames.  Dang.  This past weekend I finally had a chance to bring the hive into the pole barn and take it apart to do an autopsy.

This was a very depressing task but if I am making mistakes I want to learn from them!  Usually a hive dies because either they starved to death, they froze to death (these two are often connected), or they had some sort of disease or queenless problem.  Here is what I found:

First off, I noticed that the dead bees on the bottom board were mostly on the left hand side.

Dead bees on the bottom board

Usually they cluster in the middle of the box but for whatever reason they favored the left hand side.  The top of the picture shown here is facing the North, so bees started on the West (left) side of the box (frame 1).  I'm not really sure if that evidence is of any note.  The lack of dead bees on the bottom of this picture is because that is where the hive entrance was located and I had been cleaning the dead bees out of the entrance every week.

After looking over a few of the frames I could see they were mostly devoid of honey.

There was a tiny bit of honey on the top of the first frame, but the rest were empty.

The size of the cluster looked pretty large to me so I think they had plenty of bees to generate enough heat to stay alive.

On the fourth frame I noticed a small patch of brood.

You can see about eight capped brood cells amongst the dead and moldy bees with their heads down in the cells.

The other side of of this frame had even more capped brood cells.

Not a drop of honey on these frames until frame 8, 9 and 10.

These frames were solid honey.

With no honey left on the frames that the cluster was on and also that there were brood on those frames, I would say that the cluster was unable to move to the honey next to them.  Essentially they starved/froze to death.  In a sad twist, I'm wondering if there weren't TOO MANY bees in the hive! 


Well, on a more positive note, I had ordered two more packages of bees that are scheduled to arrive on April 26.  Also, the Siberian Squill that I planted in the Fall for the bees is up!

I have also been working on my solar powered Arduino hive monitor and I have it working.  I need to build a stand of some sort for the solar panel and set it up out in the bee yard. 

Another one of my goals this year is to introduce some Michigan survivor stock genetics into my apiary.  I've been in contact with Northern Bee Network and I plan to order some queens once my new bees are established.

Thank goodness for the renewal of Spring!!  As always, thanks for reading.