Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Movin' on up

Seems like there's always something to figure out or fiddle with in the beeyard. The problem of the week: why aren't the bees moving up into the honey super on the green and yellow hives? The past few times I've opened these hives I found a handful of bees walking around in the supers, but it seemed more like they were just out for a stroll rather than busily drawing out the comb and storing nectar.

I posted a question on the ABA site and was quickly advised to remove the queen excluders I had placed between the lower, deep hive and the upper honey super. The excluders were put there to allow the smaller worker bees to move up into the super to store honey, but to keep the larger queen from being able to move up and lay eggs there.

So on Saturday I opened up both green and yellow hives and removed the queen excluders. Last night I lifted up both lids and just took the tiniest peak inside. Both supers were LOADED with bees, which means they have clearly taken the hint that it's time to get down to work in those supers! Next task: checking to see if they're drawing out the comb and storing nectar there. If so, the excluders will go back on to keep her majesty down in the deep hive laying eggs, and hopefully - if all goes well - the supers will soon contain lots of beautiful honey that the bees and I can share!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Ballet, bees, and busy-ness

It's been a busy, busy 2 weeks filled with rehearsals for Eliza's ballet company's spring performance, and at times I've felt like a worker bee taking on all roles at the same time - nurse bee, forager, guard, queen attendant. You name it and I've done in the past 14 days!

So . . . time to get caught back up to date on what's happening in the beeyard. When I posted last time, both blue and green hives had been re-queened with queens I bought from Bob L. down the road. I checked them a week later and both had been released from their cages, so I took Bob J.'s advice to "leave those bees alone" and closed up the boxes to let them get down to business.

Yesterday I checked again, frame by frame. Blue is still going slowly and has fewer bees than the other 2, but I did see a few young larvae and some capped brood on one frame. The curious thing was that I did NOT see the new marked queen, and I heard a sound I've read about in my bees books - "piping." At first I thought I was hearing a bird off in the distance, but when I put my ear a little closer I realized it was coming from a bee! Just a small, but strong little "toot" about every 2 seconds. From what I've read this is sometimes a sound made by a virgin or young queen. I'm just guessing here (as I always seem to be doing!) but I'm thinking that Bob and I must have missed a queen cell when we requeened, and that my purchased queen was bumped off by one that this hive produced. Interesting, since one of the new ballet pieces for the performance tonight is called "The Queen's Game" and involves an evil queen who likes to do away with her subjects. Hmmmm . . . . Anyway - whoever the new queen is, I'm glad to see that she's laying eggs and doing her job!

Green hive is doing well too, with lots of new eggs and larvae and capped brood on several frames. I actually spotted the marked queen, which was exciting since I've never managed to find her before! There's still not much happening in the honey super, so today I removed the queen excluder. We'll see whether this encourages them to move "upstairs" and get down to the business of storing honey while there are plenty of things blooming in the area.

Yellow hive, which was my captured swarm, continues to lead the pack. It's literally bursting with bees, hundreds of which are hanging out on the outside of the hive during the days and up until dark. I removed the excluder from this one too to give them a bit more room. This one too have plenty of everything - eggs, larvae, capped brood, honey, and pollen. If they do decide to make honey in the super, they'll probably need it all to keep this large group going during the winter. But that's OK with me. I can always go to the store and buy honey, but they can't.

All in all, things are buzzing right along! Stay tuned for more updates, and "merde" to all the beautiful ballet dancers for tonight's performance!!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Hail to the queen!

Much has happened in the beeyard since last I blogged. And given how quickly things have changed since I started this venture, I figure I'd better hurry up and catch the blog up to date before something else happens.

Last time I posted, it was 2 weeks post-swarms and both the original hives (blue and green) were queenless. Not only that, but the number of bees in the blue hive had dropped noticeably. I posted a message on the ABA website asking if anyone had queens, but wasn't too optimistic that I'd find any at the end of April. Luckily Bob Livingston, a beekeeper who lives just a mile or two down the road from me, had some that were mated and ready to go!

Bob showed up Tuesday morning with 2 Italian/Carniolan mix queens and showed me how to install them. But first, he very patiently helped search through each frame of both hives to make sure that both actually were without queens. This was one time I was really hoping that I was dead wrong, and that he'd tell me I just hadn't learned how to spot a queen yet. Unfortunately, not only were both boxes queenless, but there were also no signs of eggs or even larvae in either one. There were still plenty of bees in the green box (although nothing was happening in the honey super yet). But the number of bees in the blue box had dropped noticeably and there were large areas of empty cells in all the frames. Both boxes had a pretty good store of both honey and pollen in the lower hives. Given the low number of bees, we decided to remove the super from the blue box for now.

There were a few queen cells in the green box. Since they hadn't yet hatched I could have put a cell or two into the blue box and waited for both colonies to raise their own. I decided instead to go with Bob's already-mated queens - just to give the bees a chance to get back up to speed a little faster. With more experience under my belt I probably would have let nature take its course - or even taken the queen cells and tried raising my own. Another project for another day!

As of now, the new queens have been in the blue and green hives for 5 days and, hopefully, have been released and accepted by their workers. I'm planning to open up both hives on Tuesday just to be sure and, if all goes well, will be able to return the honey super to the blue hive in just a few weeks.

I'll update again next week, and hope to be able to report that both queens have been accepted and have started laying eggs. Stay tuned . . . .