Tag Archive | frames

Bee Keeping – What have I done? Part 2

So having a little trouble with one of the hives, see part 1 for the details.

The new queen finally arrived almost two weeks later! I was amazed at how little packaging there was for my precious cargo. Just an envelope with a couple of air holes and a small wooden cage.

Out to the hives I went with tools and smoker in hand. I opened the hive and there were still a lot of bees in there. So I started looking around. Still nothing in the bottom box in terms of capped cells. Then I pulled a few frames from the top box. Due to the panic attack I had the last time, I didn’t pay close attention to which was the frame I pulled from the strong hive that was full of capped brood. Just know it was one of two older frames in the top box middle section. One of these frames was empty cells. The other had some capped brood and appeared to be eggs and larva. Ugh! Do I now have a queen?? Or is it a laying worker?? A laying worker will happen in the absence of a queen, but because of genetics she can only raise drones (male) and will not be able to produce a new queen.

I looked around for a new queen, but since she would have been newly hatched and she wasn’t marked and easy to spot like my original queen I wasn’t able to find her. Looking further I found a supersede queen cell. A supersede queen cell is typically built out in the middle of frame and is done when the hive decides to replace a bad or failing queen. A swarm cell is typically built on the bottom or edge of the frame and is intended to replace the queen when the original queen takes half the hive and swarms off to a new location. So again I PANICKED! I closed back up the hive and went to the internet.

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I couldn’t find anything specific to my situation, so I went the Facebook page of my local bee club and explained the situation. I either had a laying queen, laying worker, or would soon have a supersede queen. What was I supposed to do with the newly arrived queen? I didn’t have more equipment to start a new hive with her, although my lovely wife seeing my distress offered to buy some. After a day there was only one response and it was a vote to install the newly arrived queen and let the hive work out the details. Good enough for me!

To install a new queen you remove a frame and suspend the queen cage in the open space. The cage comes with a candy/sugar plug and a wooden cork. You are supposed to remove the cork and make a small hole in the candy. If introduced directly, the bees would kill the queen because they don’t know her and assume she was an invader there to steal the honey. After placing the cage, the bees will slowly eat the candy plug and in the mean time become familiar with the new queen. Then when she is finally released they don’t kill her, but accept her. The mail order queens typically come already mated, so once freed she gets right to work laying eggs.

So I prepped the queen cage by screwing a flat shim to it allowing me easily to hang it between the frames. Placed it in the bottom box and closed it up. The instructions say to leave the hive alone for a week. Then check that she is free, remove the empty cage, and replace the removed frame. If she is not free, I am to open the screened part and allow her to walk out onto a frame. It also said she should be able to survive in the cage for up to three weeks. So I am trying to be patient and wait a week, but all I can imagine is that the supersede cell hatched, there was already a laying queen, and my new queen is released from the cage. So right now there is a three way death match going on inside the hive and I am missing it. Ugh!

Bee Keeping – What have I done?

It appears I am learning something about bee keeping, like it or not. After using all my will power and staying out of the hives for two weeks (before now I was in them at least once a week) I went into the hives this weekend only to determine I had lost the queen in one of the two hives. It appears it has been a while as I could not find ANY capped brood cells. I did find the start of a couple of queen cells and so I panicked and grabbed a frame of capped brood from the stronger hive thinking they would need something to put in those queen cells and closed it all back up.

After a little (actually very little) internet searching, I realized what I needed was eggs and not capped brood. 🙁 So instead of opening the hives again and causing more stress I went online and ordered a new queen. Hopefully it is not to late in the season to save this hive. Stay tuned for an update when the new queen arrives.

On a positive note, both hives started building nice straight comb on the foundationless frames I gave them two weeks ago. So I swapped out two more frames on the stronger hive. That might be all I do this year to give them time to make a strong run at the fall/winter.

Bee Keeping – a matter of opinion – Part 3

So now we have a hive (Part 1), bees (Part 2), what we need to talk about now is frames. Actually we should have talked about them after the hive and before the bees, but this is where we are!

This post is going to be a little short on details mostly because there are some many details that I could not expect to do a decent job of covering them all. My plan is to give you some things to think about and research and make up your own mind, because like I said each beekeeper has their own opinion.

There are two basic types of frames: full (four sided) frames and top-bar only frames. The full frames come in two basic types, with foundation and without. Top bars do not have foundation.

Regarding foundation here is what I know. Using foundation has a couple of advantages: one it gives the bees a clear indication of where and how (meaning cell size) you wan them to build comb. Two it strengthens the comb so that during inspections and honey extraction the comb has less damage for the bees to repair. The disadvantages that I have read about are if you use the wax coated plastic type, the plastic can off-gas and hurt the bees or even you. If you use the wax foundation, rumor has it most of it is made from old, dirty, toxic wax that is unusable for anything else. You decide! When looking at full frames there are different ways to secure the foundation to the frames: wedge, slotted, grooved, solid. Then there is also wired frames and/or foundation. The wires help strengthen the comb so that it can hold up to mechanically extraction.

Bees

Bees on Frames


Going with a foundation-less frame or the top bar frame allows the bees to build comb they way they want! Most would argue this is better for the bees, but not so for the bee keeper. First, to allow the bees to build the comb from “scratch” means they will build the cells in the sizes they need and would use naturally. Do a search on “small cell bees” or “natural cell size” for more information. The downsides are they don’t always build nice straight comb and when it is time to extract the honey you have to completely destroy the comb. The bees will have to start over with an empty frame next year. This means less honey because the bees have to first use resources to build honey comb.

UPDATE: Found this great series on converting to foundation-less hives. In the following link, it is is explained how to rotate the frames so that bees will naturally regress to the “natural cell size”. I was assuming I just swapped out the empty frames, but this makes more sense as each generation of bees will reduce or regress the cell size of the next generation until the get “right sized”!
Foundationless Beekeeping: How to convert to natural beekeeping!

So where am I? Glad you asked! I have full frames in Langstroth hives. Currently my hives are split down the middle. The deep boxes have plastic foundation and the bees have been building it out with no problems. I personally think the artificial materials and cell sizes is not good long term for the bees. I have this setup because this is what came with the nucs I started from and I hadn’t full researched it at the time. On the flip side I have gone foundation-less in my medium honey supers. I will have to report back on that since I just gave them those boxes last weekend. My long term plan is to swap out the plastic foundation in the deep boxes over time so not to disrupt the hives too much this first year. They have enough work to do already to build out the medium boxes and fill them with honey before fall/winter.

I would be curious to hear what others are using and why, comment below!

UPDATE
Found this great link over at Runamuk Acres Farm & Apiary site!
3 reasons to go foundationless in your Langstroth beehive