Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Queen Status in the Bee Yard: Two Queens Up!

Well, we have two queen right colonies out of our three hives and the third has at least four capped queen cells so they are busy rearing new queens. All should be well in that hive in another few weeks.

May 12 -- added another frame of brood with two queen cells from the big hive to the nuc. Checked the swarmed hive and it has a laying queen. Bravo! We will call her Queen Bianca Ella (2015).

Today, May 20 -- Beautiful day in upper 70s, sunny and cloudless with light breeze. Thoroughly checked all three hives. Used a little smoke, but the bees were mostly calm. We saw Queen Bianca for the first time. What a lovely lady! She is from 2014 so this is her second season. She is in the nuc so we must have inadvertently moved her last week when we took out the additional frame of brood from the large hive. That is providential because it will delay the large hive from swarming. Queen Bianca's kingdom is working hard bringing in nectar and pollen so we added an additional box (she now has two) and rotated the hive 45 degrees back toward the southeast and the orientation of the other hives in the bee yard.. We also gave the hive a larger opening. The bees were a little confused with the changes, but will no doubt orient themselves and go home to mama.

We didn't see Queen Anya, but saw lots of capped and uncapped brood so she is doing a good job. There are plenty of empty frames in that hive for the bees to work in so we left it as is.

The large hive (no name for now since it has no queen) is still going gangbusters bringing in nectar. There is still some capped brood from their queen right days and at least four queen cells. They may, however already have a virgin queen since they had capped queen cells last week. There are probably a dozen frames that are mostly honey but not all capped. We hope next week to have enough capped honey in that hive to replace honey frames with empty frames so the ladies have plenty of room and can continue working.

We are very pleased with the way things are going in the bee yard and hope to have a great honey harvest this year. Go, Ladies, go!

Looks like it's time to put together some new boxes so we can keep up with the bees. We only have one unused one left and we'll need that for a nuc we are getting from another beekeeping friend.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Feeding the Nuc and Watching the Hive Entrance

Since we decided to keep the nuc here in our bee yard and not take it away we will keep it closed up until tomorrow or Monday. So this morning I went out and gave the new home a half gallon of sugar water and dripped some lemon essence in the hive to give it a distinctive smell. Hopefully when we open the door and the girls go out to work, they will find their way home to the right hive instead of going back to their old home. We plan to also shift the hive a quarter turn so the entrance is not in the same plane as the mother hive. That may also help them orient to the right door.

I watched the bees in the parent hive for about fifteen minutes. Lots of activity but very few bees bringing in pollen which is necessary for brood feeding. Since brood is reduced before swarming that is probably not a good sign.

I think it's probable that swarming is going to happen and we can only hope we are around and see it so we can capture the bees. I hate to think of losing half the hive. Last year after that happened it took us the entire season to get the mother hive "queen right." And that is the weak hive we have now. It seems to be a little stronger. the past few days with more bee activity and lots of girls bringing in pollen. We plan to check that hive, perhaps on Tuesday, and see if there is any sign of a laying queen. Russians are so slow to get going that we may not see anything yet, but it's possible since they had a supersedure cell in there about a months ago.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Split the Hive Today -- Will the Bees Swarm Anyway?

We went into our strong hive today and the bees were busy making more queen cells so they are surely considering swarming. The queen has also reduced laying, another sign of her resting up before the swarm.

We couldn't find the queen (as usual) but there was capped brood and larva so she's there. I looked for eggs but couldn't see any, but that doesn't mean they weren't there. I have a hard time seeing them any time.

We took three frames of brood and bees with one capped queen cell and put it in the split. We also put in two frames packed with nectar, pollen, some capped honey, and forager bees.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Bee Management: Fun and Challenging

capped brrod and two large capped queen cells
We lost one of our three hives over the winter, not the weakest going into the fall oddly. We now have two hives, one is weak and one is strong. Since February we've been nursing along the weak hive by using the stronger hive to supplement. Two weeks ago we put two frames of brood (with a capped queen cell) from the stronger hive into the weaker. There was a capped queen cell in the small hive already. The hive was too small for any possibility of swarming, so we think the bees were superseding a queen who is a poor layer. Perhaps she wasn't mated well last year.

Today (sunny, warm, and small breeze) when we examined the weak hive most of the brood had hatched and there were lots of bees. They are bringing in pollen and nectar, but there was no sign of eggs or larvae. The hive was so calm, however, that we think they have a queen (not laying) and the capped queen cells were gone. We moved in two more frames of brood from the strong hive with two more capped queen cells into the middle frames of the middle box. We'll leave that hive alone now for two weeks and see what happens. Since queens only take 15 days to hatch and the cells are already capped they will hatch before then. Hopefully, the earlier queen (that we presume is there) will be mated and laying by then and we'll see eggs and larvae. Russian bees are notoriously slow to requeen so we figure we just need to be patient.

The strong hive is going gangbusters. That queen is a keeper. She is laying like crazy; there is plenty of brood and larvae and the workers are bringing in lots of nectar and pollen -- bright yellow and bright orange -- lovely to see. We have a honey super on top of that hive and the comb is all drawn and the bees are beginning to fill it. Hopefully we will get lots of honey this season to enjoy and share. I've promised some to the Poor Clares in Alexandria in appreciation for all the prayers for our family.

One new thing this spring is that I've been watching the bees every day with my spotting scope. It's a lot easier than trecking across the field, especially when it's wet and squishy out there. I can see them going in and out and get a good view of their pollen pockets as they enter. It's just plain fun. It will also enable the grandkids to watch the bees without getting too close although we plan to order several inexpensive bee veils so they can get out in the field close to the hives. Wish I could show you the view through the lens. Drop in and I will!