Lots of updates to share since last post. Too busy beekeeping to journal about beekeeping. And that’s a good thing.
All is seemingly well. We’ve had a 3-night cold snap with temps around 30 each night. But today warmed up nicely.
The Italians and East Hive were quiet. The guard bees peeked out at me when I arrived. Bees in the swarm hive, though, seemed to be out foraging and there were more than a few bees flying around the hive.
Activity in all three hives picked up when I opened the feeder boxes. The Italians had gone through about 90 ounces of syrup. Everything was empty. The East hive had a good bit of syrup left, but also had several empty containers. The swarm hive was taking syrup but much less than the others.
I was saddened to find about 20 dead bees in the East hive between the screened inner cover and the telescoping outer cover. I guess they were trying to get to the sugar syrup just below the screen.
I know I should probably stop feeding now, or soon, but I went ahead and left each hive with about 90 ounces of syrup. I’ll make my call about feeding when I check in next weekend.
Cooler temps are now in place. And the next few nights will be the coldest nights of Fall 2013, with temps predicted to be in the upper 30s.
I arrived at the farm shortly after 3 p.m., Saturday, October 19, 2013. Time to refill the feeders and check on the ladies before a long work week. It was cool, but not cold. Temp was around 64° F. Maybe slightly cooler when the sun went behind a cloud.
No bees outside the Italian hive or the East hive when I walked out to check on the status. As I walked in front of the hive to peer into the entrance, a couple of guard bees sauntered out to greet me. Both hives seemed to have settled in for the season, at least for the time being. Forecast has colder weather on tap for a few days, at least at night.
Much more activity around the swarm colony. More than a few bees buzzing around the front of the hive and it looked like bees were still out foraging.
When I checked the feeders, the Italians had emptied theirs. The East hive still had at least 8 ounces left. The swarm hive had several containers still quite full. I left each hive with nearly a gallon of sugar syrup. Will check on them again this weekend. I sure hope I’m doing this right. Don’t want them to deplete their stores at this time.
This is the scene at 7 a.m., October 14, 2013, on the front porch of the Italian hive. Two lone guard bees, standing as sentries.
No bees were outside the East hive or the swarm hive.
It was a misty morning, lots of humidity in the air. Temps maybe 60-62. I’d spent the night in a tent which I’d pitched nearby. Left the outer cover off so I could gaze up at the stars during the night. The condensation started to drip on me at some point and by dawn my sleeping bag was quite damp and I had
Had a couple of days off so I drove up to the farm Sunday afternoon to check on my bees, visit with my brother, and sleep under the stars.
After a big breakfast of my brother’s multigrain pancakes, maple syrup and milk I got busy gathering black beans, peppers, eggplant and salad greens.
Sometime in the afternoon I shot more photos. As you can see, my ladies are still foraging. Bringing in pollen from various sources around the farm.
Filled up the feeders in the beehives and headed home.
Stopped by the farm on the afternoon of Wednesday, October 9, 2013 to check on the honeybees. I was in the Shoals to lead a roundtable session on social media marketing for farmers and specialty food producers.
The ladies seemed to be happy and very active. Lots of activity outside the hives, included what I interpret as orientation flights by new bees in the early-to-mid afternoon. And lots of traffic from the foragers, coming in loaded with pollen. These photos were taken around 3 p.m.
I failed to take a photo of a large African blue basil plant that was literally covered in honeybees and bumble bees. No idea why I didn’t snap the photo! Next year, I’ll be planting a lot of this variety of blue basil, as well as Thai basil. The honeybees and bumble bees both love the blooms on these two herbs.
On a side note: I’m amazed to discover that I’m still getting a regular supply of tromboncino squash. I guess I shouldn’t be amazed. I’ll say thank you to the pollinators that are keeping my vegetables in production this late into the fall.
So far, the temps are still very warm. Mostly in the 80s during the day and 60s at night. We had a 2-night “colder” snap at the farm earlier this week. But the temps hovered around 50-51, apparently, and didn’t dip into the 40s as predicted. Of course, cold is relative. My friends in the north probably don’t think of 40s as particularly cold.
Drove up to Shine Springs Farm Thursday afternoon for a quick to check on the bees and refill their sugar feeders.
Last visit was Thursday, September 19, so this was day 8. I knew the feeders would be empty, or close to empty.
When I arrived, I found steady of stream of foragers coming in loaded with orange pollen. Other foragers were coming in as well, so presumably they had nectar from something. We have lots of fall weeds and flowers blooming.
I love these ladies (and drones). All three hives looked fine from the outside.
I did notice the East hive didn’t have the clustering on the outside, as it had last Thursday, even though the temps were about the same. That could be due to the likely 30-day setback caused by the swarm and bees dying before a new queen could get to work. I’ll know more on that when I do the first post-swarm inspection in a few days. It’s day 24 since the swarm.
The syrup containers in the East hive were all empty. The Italian hive had about 8 ounces left in one container. The swarm nuc still had a bit left, as well.
Lots of bees on the frames just below the opening on the inner cover. I didn’t take the inner cover off. Just gave them new containers of syrup, which I position upside down on top of the inner cover. I have a screened top separating the feeder box and the outer cover. On the nuc hive, the outer cover sits directly on top of the feeder nuc box.
My plan is to move the swarm hive into what I hope will be its permanent home this Sunday afternoon. One beekeeper has recommended that I let the swarm overwinter in the 2-story medium nuc. But it’s just not stable enough. It could easily topple over if a deer came bounding through, a neighbor’s cow came through the fence nearby or we had a winter windstorm. And it’s not at all uncommon to have heavy winds and even tornadoes from October – December.
I didn’t see a single small hive beetle in the upper boxes. Didn’t take time to check the traps underneath the screened bottom boards.
The beneficial nematodes I applied in the beeyard 2 weeks ago may be working. I need to research how long it can take for the nematodes to have an effect.
Returned to Shine Springs Farm after work, Friday September 6, to check on the bees and do some harvesting and planting.
My original plan had been to transfer the swarm hive from the nuc to the regular hive. But based on advice from other beekeepers on beesource.com convinced me to leave them in the nuc for a few more weeks, to help them settle in to the location. I was told that swarm hives would often abscond if moved too soon.
Since I arrived after dark September 6, my first task on the morning of Saturday, September 7, was to refill their sugar syrup feeders. I’m feeding all three hives at this point. More on why I’m feeding now in this post.
I didn’t add a lot, just 12-30 ounces each, to get them through the day so I could do hive inspections. I didn’t want to work around several full sugar syrup containers.
Here’s what I observed in my hive inspections from Saturday, September 7, 2013
The Italian hive seems to be rebuilding from whatever happened in late July. At this point, I’m thinking it was a double-whammy of throwing off a swarm plus exposure to roadside spraying of herbicide that killed a lot of Queen Anne’s lace. Bees were likely on the Queen Anne’s lace during the daytime spraying. More on that here.
I saw more bees in the Italian hive but very little additional build-out of comb in the second medium box.
I found no sign of new brood on frames 6 through 9. Frame 10 still was not built-out.
I removed Frame 9 from the Italian hive to move into the nuc swarm hive. I’d been told by beekeepers on beesource.com and a LinkedIn beekeeping group that it would help the swarm hive to have some built-out comb. That frame was all I had to move over to the swarm hive.
This is the hive that swarmed. This was one of the two nucleus colonies I purchased from Keith Fletcher in May to start my beekeeping experience. This one had a hybrid queen, the daughter of some hybrid genetic strain that I can’t ever remember.
Since this hive was in the process of making a new queen, I didn’t disturb it for an inspection. I was told to be very careful not to bump the hive or do anything that might damage a queen-in-the-making.
I tried to minimize the disturbance of my swarm hive, which was housed in a two-story nuc configuration.
All I wanted to do was place the frame of built-out comb in the nuc hive. I removed the third nuc and, which I’d placed on top of the nuc inner cover to serve as a feeder box, and then removed the inner cover.
I was amazed to discover the beens had already begun to build out comb on 4 of the 5 frames in the upper nuc box. That’s after 4 days! Loads of bees working hard on each of these four frames, so the only choice was to remove the empty frame five and insert the built-out frame of comb into the #5 slot of the upper nuc box.
As I’ve explained elsewhere, I’m mostly using foundationless frames so I’d alternated a foundationaless frame with a RiteCell plastic foundation frame in box of the nuc boxes as I got the swarm set up after capture. Based on the upper box, the bees definitely going to build-out the foundationless frame more quickly, but they were working on both types.
I didn’t spend time looking for a queen or eggs. Just trusting that the bees know what they’re doing and don’t need for me to confirm it.
So, all in all, my first post-swarm inspection was positive.
I still don’t know the status of my Italian hive. Is it queen right? I don’t know today. I saw more bees in and around the Italian hive but I’m still in wait-and-see mode. I know I need to find out, but I don’t want to disturb a laying queen by going into the lower brood box and risk hurting her.
It’s hard for me to do a proper full inspection of the brood box because it requires moving the upper medium. Despite using a smoker and a bee brush, I have trouble holding a box AND a smoker and keeping bees from crawling onto the rim of the brood box as I replace the upper. So my default mode is to stay out of the brood box altogether. I haven’t checked either hive brood box since June.
The East hive is busy with bees, although obviously smaller than before the swarm. Peering through the hold in the inner cover, I saw quite a few bees on the visible frames in the third medium box. And lots of bees coming and going. But I didn’t do more than give them more sugar syrup. Did NOT want to risk harming the queen-in-the-making.
Nuc hive seems farther along than I would have expected, but I have zero basis for expectations beyond what I’ve been told by others or read over the past week. The queen had seemingly been strong when she was laying in the original East hive, so I’m guessing the swarm was due to crowding. She can’t lay in the nuc hive until the comb is built-out, but the bees seem to be doing a great job of building out that comb for her. I’m hopeful she’s already starting to lay eggs on some comb in the lower nuc box.
That’s it for this update!
As previously mentioned, in late July I began to notice a significant drop-off in the number of bees in the Italian hive. On August 18, 2013 I tried an inspection in search of signs of a laying queen.
I’m not very skilled at moving boxes full of bees, so I was only able to look at frames in the second box, not the lower brood box. In June and early July, I’d found lots of capped brood in this second box so, as I’d hoped, the queen was laying in the second brood box and all seemed well at that time.
On August 18, 2013, I didn’t find any capped brood and no eggs in the second box. But with the hopes that I had a queen laying in the lower box, I decided to not attempt to move the second box to look into the first.
Although I didn’t find brood or eggs this time, it doesn’t appear the hive is continuing to decline in bees. It seems to be holding its own.
Hoping for the best.
Every action by the bees is a new experience for a novice beekeeper. One of my first questions centered around how to distinguish between robbing and ordinary buzzing and orientation flights.
Fortunately, my main two book sources indicated these buzzing bees were just taking orientation flights, getting acquainted with their new surroundings.
One of my mom’s first questions: “What will keep them from just flying away and leaving?”
My answer: “Nothing. They are free. But I hope they’ll like it here enough to stay.”