The spring weather has been a little wetter than normal. Over the course of 5 days we got 12 inches of rain. Needless to say we had river front property! The river was near record flood, but still not a danger to the house. It is just that we can see it from the deck when it gets that high! It also causes the bees trouble when they should be out looking for spring stores, they are locked in the hive by constant down pours.
This hive has been a study in patience and a test of my lack of bee knowledge. They came out of winter looking good and appeared to start building up as expected. But after all the rain stopped an inspection showed they had not built up at all and maybe even shrunk. I had reversed the boxes in early spring, but the top box (old bottom box) remained empty. So I removed the remaining sugar brick and the top box on the first of April. At that time there were about 3 frames of bees, only one of capped brood. I decided to leave them alone and hope for the best. Well that only lasted a couple of weeks, three to be exact before I had to get involved. I then checked and they were still about the same size. I had frames of capped honey (sugar water really) from the other hive that died over the winter, so I decided to add two frames of honey to see if that would help get them going. It has been another three weeks and they are looking much better. There are about six frames of bees with 2-3 in brood of various ages. So again I will leave them alone. Just hoping I can get them back to two deep boxes by summer’s end to make it through next winter.
I placed my swarm trap out on April 1st. I also set out the NUC box I built last year and baited it with LGO and some old black comb, just in case. While there was absolutely NO activity at either trap, I went ahead and set out my empty hive body around April 15th and baited it with LGO and old black comb. Last year there was scout activity at the trap for about three weeks before the swarm showed up. Not this year, I noticed nothing except a lot of wasp until about May 11th. Then all of the sudden there was a ton of activity at the main trap. Bees coming and going with purpose. So I waited until today, when I saw several bees bringing in pollen to declare we had captured a swarm.
Now it gets complicated. The rule of thumb as I understand it is that you move bees either less than 3ft or more than 3 miles. If you don’t, foragers will return the original location and eventually die without the protection of a hive. My swarm trap is about 50 yards from where the new hive will be located and we don’t have anywhere more than 3 miles away to move it first. The other option as I understand it is that you confine the bees to the hive for 24-72 hours, then place tree branches in front of the hive entrance to confuse the bees when you allow them to leave again. This forces the bees to reset their internal GPS and re-orient to the new hive location.
Our plan is this, since this is a new colony without any stores I have added a frame of honey (sugar water really) from the old hive to the swarm trap. This should keep them from starving during confinement. Tonight after the foragers have returned, I will close the trap entrance. It has holes to allow ventilation and we will leave the trap in the tree where it is shaded and should be cooler for the next day or two. Then I will move the trap to the hive stand, place branches in front for the entrance and reopen it. After a couple of days and before the forecasted rain for this weekend, I will move the bees and the frames to the hive body and place it on the stand in the same location the trap was sitting. This will hopefully allow the bees to first orient to the new location, before they also have to reorient to a new hive box.
Let me know in the comments if you think this will work and why not if you disagree. Then check for an update next week to see what happened!
The warm weather has continued, with most days above 60 degrees and a few above 70. That is all about to change and go back to normal, which is close to freezing at night and mid-40s during the day.
The good news continues for this hive – for now! There is plenty of activity on the warm sunny days. In fact in the last week they are even bringing in pollen from somewhere, my guess is the maples. The news reported several trees, including the maples, with high pollen counts right now on the hay fever report. Good Times! My concern now is as the weather returns to “normal” that the bees may have already started the spring build up. I have decided that I will not being doing any in depth hive inspections in order to not chance rolling the queen or chilling any brood, so I cant be sure what is happening. Today is the last predicted extra warm day for the next 10 days so I popped the top and found about half the sugar bricks remaining. I dropped in a pollen patty and closed it back up. The weather was so nice they barely noticed I was there! Plenty of bees inside and out doing what bees do, so keeping my fingers crossed this hive makes it to “real” spring!
This hive consist of two deep hive bodies, a spacer for feeding and a top entrance, and a quilt box currently full of wood shavings.
In an attempt to begin actually keeping records regarding my bee keeping, I give you this first post of the year. Anytime I have observations about the bee hives and or work with the bees I am plan to document them on the blog under the title “Bee Keeping Journal”. Then I can look back year to year and see what has happened and anticipate problems or needs. I will try to group thoughts under headings specific to a given hive. So here goes!
It has been cold, below normal cold, the past couple of weeks. Getting as low as 1 degree on one given night. While I know others further north are laughing, I was fretting and worrying about my one remaining hive. I lost both hives last year, most likely due to mites, so I don’t consider myself a beekeeper until I have kept bees through the winter. Then yesterday and today in an odd, but normal for the midwest, we had a mid-winter heat wave. 65+ both days, so I ran up the hill to the remaining hive as fast as I could to see if we still had bees.
This hive was started using a package of bees and two deep boxes of built comb and honey stores. I took both dead outs from 2015 and froze the frames in the deep freezer over the winter and was able to start this hive with an abundance of resources. I could be wrong about this, but it seemed to make the bees lazy or it could have been the late start of May 16th when the package arrived. They built up well in numbers, but never really built out additional comb. So mid summer I removed a frame from each box (9 frames in each 10 frame deep) to allow better air flow due to excessive bearding. Plus they weren’t using or building on the outer frames. This seemed to please them as they began working all 9 frames and reduced bearding. They got a full MAQS treatment at or around Sept 1st. After that I feed them several gallons of 1:1 syrup because they had very little in the way of winter stores. In November I added the quilt box. Mid-December there was brief warm up so I dropped in some chunks of Becky’s sugar bricks. Checked on them yesterday and saw plenty of activity, so opened them up and even though still had plenty of sugar I gave them the remaining pieces of brick from hive 201602. Today this is what I saw – happy bees, happy beekeeper!
January 2017 Bee Activity
This hive was from a swarm captured the same week as the package arrived. In fact I thought it might have been from the package, check the details here Swarm Trap Success – sort of. It followed the same path as the package, two deeps of resources, lazy bees, MAQS, 1:1 syrup, and sugar bricks. But two weeks after the sugar bricks when the package hive had minimum activity due to a slight warm up, this hive had none. So I popped the lid to find a small dead cluster in the bottom box. Not sure exactly what happened, but seems like they got caught in bottom box and either starved or froze. This is only my second year so not good a reading a hive to determine the exact cause. I looked through the pile of bees and those that dropped out from the between the frames, but couldn’t find the queen. I tore the hive down and stashed the frames to be used again next year.
Winter Hive Setup 2016
This time last year I was cleaning out the beehives. We lost both hives from that first year. My initial summation was they we overwhelmed by hive beetles due to a bad location. While I still think the location was bad (too much shade and moisture) I have come to the conclusion the beetles probably took over after a mite investation damaged the hive beyond repair. We didn’t check or treat for mites last year.
This year the first of September in a hasty rush we treated with MAQS. Why hasty, well really I didn’t feel qualified to test and count mites and everything I ready online said “you have mites” even if you don’t think you do. So before we ran out of warm days, we treated. Feel free to flame me in the comments for not testing first or because you believe in being treatment free. The treatment went well and in part due to the new location the beetle count was down, not great but much better than last year.
Both hives were low on stores, the fall flow seemed bad based on what little I know in my second year. The 2:1 sugar syrup feeding begin and continued through October at which point both hives appeared to have two mostly full deeps and were active and still bringing in pollen from who knows where. The feeder was removed and two more frames of empty comb were added in its place.
Last item before winter was to build and install a quilt box. This became a priority as we are forcasted to have our first frost this next week. The box was made from 1×4 and lined with metal screen. It was filled half full of the same wood shavings we use for the chickens and placed on top above the shim. The shim will allow us to add a sugar brick on each hive later in the season. The shavings are supposed to wick moisture from the hive and allow it to evaporate out ventilation holes instead of dripping back into the hive and freezing the bees.
Winter HIve Quilt Box 2016
For now the bees are busy during the heat of the day and they are ready for winter as best we know how.