Thursday, November 11, 2010

Knock on wood

So I was at the Apalachee Beekeepers meeting Tuesday night and someone casually asked me how my hives were doing. I hesitated before answering. A long time. It seems as though the status of my hives the past couple of months has been all over the place - from high highs to low lows, the only sure thing being that nothing stays the same for long.

I'd just checked all 3 hives on Sunday and everything seemed to be going
okay. Bees seemed calm, enough brood, no signs of mites, few hive beetles, a good store of honey in the supers. I responded to the question by saying that they seemed fine for the moment, and added a quick "knock on wood" just to be safe. I guess maybe I should have knocked a little harder.

Yesterday morning I was out early watering the vegetable garden and pulling a few weeds when I noticed that the pleasant hum of bees in the background had gotten a few decibels louder. I hated to even look. Last time the hum broke through my sub-conscious I looked up and witnessed a swarm. No swarm this time, but the yellow hive was definitely getting robbed. I ran inside, suited up, fired up the smoker, and took the Boardman feeder off the front of the hive. My fault - I should have had that thing off ages ago but h
aven't been able to locate a drill bit to cut a hole in my lid so . . . I left it on thinking maybe I'd be lucky and not have any problems. I guess my luck ran out.

I thought things were under control but, by the time I left to take Eliza to ballet at 4, blue hive was getting robbed too. I dropped her off, hurried home, suited up again, fired up the smoker again, and closed the entrance to the blue hive. No Boardman feeder on this one, but I guess maybe the bees that robbed the yellow hive decided they'd try for this one too since I'd made yellow hard to get into. By dark, things had slowed down. Just to be on the safe side I closed up the green hive too.

This morning, I went back out to check on them and every
thing seemed calm. I decided to take the Boardman feeder for now and put it on top of the yellow hive inside an empty deep, with the lid on top - as a temporary arrangement just until I can find a hole cutter to modify my lid. All three hives have plenty of honey stored, but since there's nothing blooming right now I thought it would be good to feed them with a heavy syrup that they could store for the winter. I started working on weeding the blueberry patch when I noticed the hum again. Turned around and saw bees pouring out of the tiny opening on the blue hive. I smoked them a little and took off the entrance reducer to see if I could tell what was going on. I'm still not sure whether they were trying to swarm, or if I'd locked the robbers IN the hive last night and they were trying to leave, or whether the bees that live there were trying to get out.

So . . . just for now I've put the entrance reducer BACK on and thrown a white sheet over the whole mess for the day. If blue is being robbed again it may be that too much damage has been done. I lifted the back of the hive and it
does seem lighter than it was a few days ago, but not terribly light. I'm hoping the sheet will at least calm things down and break the robbing cycle. Then, if I have to, I'll combine yellow and blue for the winter.

Never a dull day in the bee yard - that's for sure.

Normal happy bee-havior

Robbing bee-havior