Wednesday, April 1, 2015

It's spring! Cherry blossom honey!

Here's what I started the afternoon with. I only had medium super frames leftover from last year, so we tore out the side pieces and added longer sides to make large super frames. It's pretty time-consuming making all the hive components.

 Here's a good representation of the comb condition. Still has honey, but I didn't see any larva.

Both hives have quite low numbers. The winter wasn't especially cold, but their numbers were vastly decimated by hornet attacks in the fall. I was able to spot the queen bee for the first time, she the elongated one just right of center without black stripes.

Here's the current situation. The supers on the left has been checkered. That is alternating frames of comb with empty frames. The result should be orderly production of comb, hopefully without the burr comb I had last year. The super on top of the right hive isn't in use yet (there's a lid on the bottom super), but that will be checkered as well, as soon as the bees have cleared out the remaining wax worms and the bees have grown in number. In the August post, I tried to merge two hives (one was queenless), but it failed and the top supers were totally ignored by the bees in the bottom super. I believe that was the situation that allowed the wax worms to proliferate in the first place.

Here are a couple of wax moth cocoons and a wax worm emerging in the top image. I believe these were laid some time in the fall and just hatched this week. The super had a few small gaps in the corners and I imagine that was the original route in. There's something to be said for proper workmanship. I cleaned out all the cocoons and worms I could find. The bees will have to dispose of the rest, in fact the following day I saw a worker bee carrying out one of the ones I missed.    

Friday, August 1, 2014

Addind a weak hive to a strong one

 Here's the strong hive that refused to stop swarming. If my count is accurate, it has swarmed four times so far this year. That's gotta be some kind of record for such a small number of bees. I put a medium super (box) on before I banished this hive to the country and expected it to be full of honey when I checked on it last week. No luck. It was empty, even though the hive had incredible activity. The neighbor said that they had swarmed recently. It could be that they may swarm again. In August no less!

Anyway, I had a queenless hive in the city and thought if I added it to the hive in the country, it would benefit the queenless bees and at the same time encourage the existing bees to go up. Here, you see three supers (boxes). The middle is completely empty and the top is about half comb with some honey. I should mention that there is now a bottom and top entrance as group that was added are used to a top entrance and I hoped it also might encourage upward movement from the existing group.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

All-you-can-collect-corn Pollen

Since I got the bees, I've been reading Michael Bush's The Practical Bee Keeper. By it's nature, it's a little random sometimes, nonetheless it's an excellent overview and even more importantly, his has a informed, consistent philosophy that makes beekeeping more logical and simplistic, without being wishy-washy. Some parts of the book consist of Q&A from his website and one submission asks what they should grow in order to supply the bees with pollen and his reply is unless your property is several square kilometers large, you need not worry about it. That being said, I've been growing corn again this season and unexpectedly the bees have taken to it. I can't help but wonder how the corn pollen might contribute to the flavor of honey. Something for my undiscriminating palate to look forward to.
Planning a visit to the bees-in-exile sometime in the next week. I'll take pictures and we'll see how they're getting on.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Banned bees, unmelted wax and first honey

Having had quite enough of chasing swarms around my neighborhood and risking any misunderstandings that could occur with the neighbors, the original hive I got in April has been exiled to the "cottage" in Asuke, Toyota. They swarmed 3 or 4 times and eventually the novelty of that particular hive wore off. The 2 swarms I captured are still being kept in the garden in the city and are busy at brood and honey production. Also, I have the extra frames and boxes should the new queens prove to be a prolific layers and cause the population to spike like the original hive.
 The burr comb that formed in April broke off last week when I transferred the frames into a new box. I didn't like the bee seller's box design (the frames were fine though), so it became necessary to move frames around. I also gave the new swarms some brood/honey frames from the original hive. For sure they appreciated it. 
I watched a video on Youtube about melting wax with a solar cooker. The author said to use paper towel. I used a window and a concrete mixing tub for the cooker (it was a reasonable fit, so I don't imagine much heat escaped) and a BBQ grill covered in paper towel to prevent gunk, brood, dead bees from getting into the wax which was collected in a metal pan in the bottom. The paper towel became something similar to wax paper, but very little wax collected in the pan. I'm going to try regular old window screen as a filter next time and see how that works out.

Here's one of the jars of honey I got from the broken burr comb. I gave the other to the next door neighbor for being good sports. I suppose I got about 600ml from the frame size piece of comb. It's worth mentioning that the comb was mostly brood, so not much honey and a bit of a hit to the bees' numbers.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Uh oh... Whew... uh oh

As the kids were getting ready for school Friday, we were listening CBC radio and by chance there was a story about urban beekeeping and swarms. Coincidentally, I went to the garden after lunch and there was a swarm gathered around on one of the stems of the broad bean plants. I promptly removed it and emptied it into a box feeling somewhat self-satisfied having caught my first swarm and without frightening any of the neighbors.
The kids came home around four and excitedly told me about the swarm that took up residence in the inner garden at their school that afternoon. I couldn't believe. I checked the three boxes in the garden and confirmed that the original box and the nuc were chock-full and of course the new hive that contained the swarm was still occupied.
Could it be mine? It's too big a coincidence. This morning (the following day) we went to the school and spoke with the principal and made an appointment to deal with the problem Monday morning. He was reluctant to let me take care of it by myself, because I would have had to disassemble part of the deck (it's held together by screws). I'll have to do it with the superintendent.
Hopefully, all will go smoothly.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Queen cups, a nuc and a new super

Here we have a few queen cups. You'll notice their unusual shape compared to regular comb. The ones that I was able to see inside seemed to contain very small larva. In a few weeks, there promises to be a new queen.

I made a new super(box) and placed on top of the old one. The likely reason the queen cups were made was a lack of space in the bottom super. I think I caught the situation just in time by removing the frames that contained the queen cups and placing them in a nuc and creating more space in the hive by adding another super. A week later and they might have swarmed. The frames that were put in the nuc are the two on top of the hive.

This is the nuc. It doesn't look especially active from the outside, but it's full of bees. I imagine their main concern is raising the queens. The two frames are full of honey and brood, so not foraging much shouldn't affect the nuc for the time being.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

New frames and burr comb

This is the frame shown at the bottom of last week's post. After about two weeks, it looks about 80% full of comb which includes some honey and to my surprise a little brood as well.

I trimmed the top off the burr comb using a wire clay cutter and laid a top bar above, so the bees will join the comb to the bar. If it seems well-attached, I think I'll try to separate the burr comb into two frames. Though, I'm concerned that there will be brood, in which case, I'll just let it be for the time being.