Saturday, April 25, 2009

Adding a Shallow Super

The senior hive is bursting at the seams, so we stopped feeding them, and I went ahead and added a shallow super (a short box full of frames) for them to start storing honey. The metal grate, above, is called a queen excluder. It went just below the super to keep the queen out of the honey box. Plenty of room for her to lay eggs down below. Most folks don't want baby bees floating about in their honey.

Eight of the frames are new ones with a sheet of foundation for them to build their own honey comb. The middle frame is a frame from last year with one side full of honey that we collected last year and kept in the freezer all winter. The honey on that middle frame will entice them up through the excluder and get them moving on the rest of the frames. Before you know it we'll be harvesting honey.

The feeder board and mason jar go into storage. The hive is now topped with an inner cover and the usual outer cover and rock.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Find the Queen Bee

Click on the picture above and see if you can find the queen. She's big and beautiful. And sort of beige.

See her now? This is the queen in the new hive, as photographed during transfer to the hive last Saturday.

Move to the New Hive...last Saturday

After bringing the cardboard nuc of bees home from the 4H camp, we popped the yellow cork and let them fly around for a couple hours. Confined bees are cranky bees, and we wanted them more mellow for transfer.

There were five frames in the nuc box...four fairly well developed frames and one they were just beginning to draw out into comb.

Aren't they lovely bees?

Easy peasy to just move the frames from the nuc box to the hive, where we had four more frames with just foundation waiting for them to build.

After taking out the last frame, there were a few bees in the box. Bees that went foraging when we first opened the yellow cork came home to the empty box. They had legs covered with pollen and bellies full of flower nectar for the hive. The bees in the hive started sending the "this is home" chemical signal, and within a few hours, all the bees had vacated the box and moved into the new hive.

We've been feeding the new hive sugar water, about a quart every two days. The old hive got their last quart of medicated sugar water on Sunday, sucked it down in two days...and we cut them off. They are getting way strong and are now on their own. We'll add honey supers this week for them to start collecting honey for us.

New hive in front...last year's combined hive in the background. Go bees, go!

Saturday, April 18, 2009


Back out to the 4-H camp today, a little over a year after picking up my first two hives. Same truck, same long line of excited bee keepers, but a year of experience under my belt. The bees came from Statesville in stacks of cardboard boxes secured with rubber bands. You just never know who you are following on the interstate, you know.

The girls have been safely transferred from box to hive. I'll share pictures of that later, including a photo of the queen of the hive!

Friday, April 17, 2009

Sugar Water, Sugar Water

A busy night of watering. I went and added rain water to the very popular little plastic tub next to the hive. It was full of little bathing beauties, there to gather for the family.
Then back to the house for an evening of sugar water preparation. Two quart mason jars of sugar water in a 1:1 ratio. (Boiled first, then sugar added. Stirred, not shaken.)
Medicine in one quart for the senior hive's last round of medication of the spring.
No medicine in the other quart. That food will go on the top of the NEW HIVE. We pick up five frames of bees in a cardboard box tomorrow, from the same nice fellow who trucked in our original two hives last year from Statesville. He told me last night that he only lost 5% of his hives over the winter. That may sound like a lot of losses, but many Asheville area folks had losses of around 50%. Makes me feel better about only making it through the year with one of the two hives with which I started.
Also stuck a cup of water in the microwave for two minutes, added a quarter cup of sugar and dug out the hummingbird feeder. I'm a few days late, but hopefully my cute little bird friends won't begrudge me.
Meanwhile, the two bushes on either side of the back door were abuzz with all sorts of bees, wasps and flies this afternoon. If you look at the earliest posts on this blog, you'll see that this bee buffet was blooming just prior to bee pickup last year as well.
Thus we come full cycle and end year one. And it was good.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Photo and Video of Bees Drinking from Chicken's Water

( On this still photo, above, you can see the tongue of the second bee from the bottom.)

The chickens enjoy drinking out of the bee's water source. It seems that turn about is fair play.

Monday, April 6, 2009

The New IPM Screened Bottom Board

On March 21st, I took the hive off the solid wood bottom board that had served as the hive bottom for the first year, and replaced it with a fancy "Country Rubes" screened IPM bottom board. IPM stands for Integrated Pest Management, and indicates that this is a natural way of helping control the mite population. The mites fall through the screen and have a hard time getting back into the hive.
Also, there is a plastic sheet that can be used to either close up the hive a bit or to count the mite population. To do a count, you make it a sticky board by putting some sticky substance on it, put it under the hive for a couple days and then count the number of mites per square inch that are adhered to the surface.

I haven't used it as a sticky board, but I did leave the plastic sheet in from March 21 to April 5. When I took it out, it was mostly covered with pollen.
There were also a few Varroa mites strolling around on the board amidst the pollen, my first face to face encounter with them. They are not much bigger than the period at the end of this sentence, little brown spots that can wreak havoc in a hive if their population gets too high.

I'm leaving the plastic sheet out for a while to improve air circulation, which should help with the general health of the hive.

One thing I enjoyed when I opened up the little slot to take the plastic sheet out of the bottom board...the wonderful smell of beeswax and honey that came out of the hive. MMmmm.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Swapping out the Sugar Water

We gave the bees their third quart of medicated sugar water today. They will get up to one more quart to treat their Nosema prior to the beginning of the honey collecting season. The assistant beekeeper is pictured actually making the swap.
**You may have noticed by now that in most of the blog, the so called "assistant" is doing most of the work. This is a little trick I learned from watching Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom as a child. I always remember the older man's voice saying things like, "And here is my assistant wrestling a boa constrictor on the edge of the swamp. A matter of life and death as he tries to avoid being squashed by the mighty constrictor or drowned in the process."


The bees have to have a water source. If you don't provide one close to the hive, they'll go right to your neighbor's kiddie pool, which the neighbors tend to find a bother.
My little bee pond is simply a plastic bucket with some rocks in it. The rocks provide a landing strip to prevent drowning. With the recent rains, the water in the bucket had gotten pretty deep, so I did have a few drowning victims this week.

I went out after taking these pictures and cleaned out the water bucket and put in fresh water. The bees are making good use of their little mini-pond today, with sometimes four or five bees at a time collecting water to take back to the hive.
According to the scientists who study these things, water collecting bees just collect water. Some members of the hive will focus on harvesting nectar and pollen, others will just bring back water to share. Today is a big water collecting day, with the temperature outside a little over 70 degrees F.