Bee Blog

Learning From An Observation Hive

  We had made a nucleus hive to install into the observation hive earlier this spring. I had picked a large light colored queen that was marked for easy identification. Two weeks after installing the marked queen, Jan noticed the workers were cleaning the blue dot off. So much for having a marked queen. A couple weeks ago I noticed 4 swarm cells. The evening before it swarmed I was teaching a beginners beekeeping class. A few students had stayed late to ask questions and watch the bees in the observation hive. We found the queen and watched her laying eggs. She would walked around looking for an empty cell. Then she would curl her body and back into cell to lay her eggs. This queen had a very good brood pattern and was running out of room to lay eggs. The hive was very crowded. That is why the hive was going to swarm. I left the store at 10:00pm and the queen was still laying eggs. I was busy bottling honey the following morning. Thats when my father called me to let me know the observation hive was swarming. It was about 10:00 am.  I am not sure what time she stopped laying eggs the night before. But I do know she was laying eggs less than 12 hours before she swarmed. For the next handful of days I kept an eye on the queen cells in the observation hive. It was about 2 days later I noticed 1 of the queen cells had emerged. Over the next couple days, the other queen cells were torn down. We all checked the hive for the new queen whenever we had a minute or two.  Finally on day 6 I spotted her. She was tough to spot because of her small size and dark color. For the next 2 days we couldn't find her again. We figured she might be out on her mating flight. I think it was Jan who found her again. The queen was still small and would just wander around. The worker bees seemed to ignore her. This went on for 5-6 days. Finally a week after she returned to the hive Jan and Vin watched her laying eggs. Now it has been over 20 days since the swarm. This morning I watch the queen laying eggs and noticed she seemed to double in size since I first saw her. She had been busy over the past week or so. There was almost 3 full frames of capped brood with a very good brood pattern. It could possibly swarm again.


Swarm Season

   Here it is June already. I caught my first two swarms Saturday and it has been raining ever since. Tomorrow is foretasted to be a nice sunny day. I bet there will be a few swarms going off. We will be visiting a few apiaries to check the honey supers and for swarm cells. We will also drive past a fellow beekeepers apiary and check the trees around it for swarms. He doesn't check his hives as often as you should and I have a captured a swarm near his apiary for the past several years. I caught 3 in one afternoon a couple years ago.  I hope to catch a few swarms tomorrow.


Bee Packages

  Another season of installing packages of bees is upon us. This year we did not get bees from Georgia. We got the bees from California. There is a major difference is in the queen cage. Most people from New England are used to the cages with the two corks and the sugar candy on one end. These queen cages only has one cork and no sugar candy blocking the hole. So when installing queen into hive. You would remove the cork and put a small marshmallow into the whole. It was very easy to do and the bees eat through it very quickly. For the last three weekends we have been passing out the packages of bees and marshmallows.
   I have installed several of these packages of bees each of the past two Mondays. So today was no exception. Vin and I went to a few apiaries in order to install some packages. Also to check queen release from the packages installed last Monday. Then there were the packages that were installed 2 weeks ago. We went into the hives to see how the queen was doing. The packages I installed two weeks ago had capped brood in all the hives except one. The best hive had almost two full capped frames of brood and a few others of uncapped brood of all ages. All my packages are given ten frames of comb not foundation. Big advantage. Some even get lucky enough to get full frames of honey. I did see the queen on a frame with eggs and small larvae. The queen was nice and big. She also had a great brood pattern. I wish all queens were like that girl. Now for the hive thats queen wasn't laying yet. I will give her another five days and check her again. If I find no signs of brood I will replace the queen. Some queens are held in a queen banks for a while before getting put into bee packages. So after the queen is released. You should give the queen a week or so without disturbing the hive before checking her. Just remember not to go into your hive to often.  
  Now for the packages I installed last Monday. I went into each of them carefully. I remove one of the frames on the end with the fewest bees. Then slide the frames over until I get to the frame with the queen cage. Carefully remove the cage. Then carefully put frames back in and check it for brood next week. Thats it. Try not to bother the bees more than you have to.

  Just a reminder that Bee Talk is from 7:00pm-9:00pm on the first Thursday night of the month. Yes This coming Thursday.


Spring Feeding

  Yesterday was only in the upper 40s and sunny with a slight breeze. I went to a few apiaries to check on my bees. All I am doing is giving the bees a pollen patties and some sugar syrup. The sugar syrup mixture is 1-1 sugar water with honey bee healthy and Fumagilin. I visited over 20 hives and only had 4 dead outs. One of the colonies had a cluster size a little bigger than a softball. The rest of the hives had clusters covering almost the entire upper box. I had to smoke the bees down in order to put pollen patty and sugar syrup bag on top of the frames. I only have hive open for a minute and closed them up as fast as possible. Unfortunately I could not go to every apiary. The mud and snow makes it impossible to drive to most of my locations. Next nice day I will walk to check on the rest of my hives. 

Spring Feeding

  Today was a sunny day with low winds and the temperature at 49 degrees. I  went to an apiary and noticed 8 out 10 hives had bees flying. Its good to see so many hives alive. I went there to feed the bees that survived the winter. I over winter all my hives with med/feeder rims on top of the upper box. So i can put a bag of medicated syrup right on top of the frames and fit it under the inner cover. I got the smoker going and went into each hive carefully. I smoked the bees down off top bars of frames and placed the syrup bag and pollen patty on frames. Then cut the bag so the bees can get at the feed. I am in and out of each hive in 2 minutes. That is it until it warms up. 
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