Saturday, April 26, 2014

More feed.

Thursday, when I opened up the hives, I noticed that the Saint Valentine hive's feed bucket still felt heavy (maybe half a gallon), but I noticed the Saint Benedict hive's feeder felt light, maybe half a quart.

So today, we opened up the S. Benedict hive and pulled out the feeder, and closed up the hive again. The feeder was empty, but worse, there was some kind of mold or mildew or algae growing in it. Brenda cleaned it out and replenished it with half a gallon of sugar water. I put it back in the hive, and then opened up the S. Valentine hive and pulled out its feeder. There was mold in it too. We cleaned it and replenished it.

Before putting it back into the S. Valentine’s hive, we placed the inner cover between the top and bottom deep. This was to stop burr comb from forming in the upper deep. Then we put the feed bucket on top of the inner cover with the hole on its lid (which is on the bottom) right over the hole-handle in the inner cover.

We put the upper deep around on top of the inner cover, and the telescoping cover on top of the upper deep.

The bees have been quite active lately, bringing in plenty of pollen.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Find the queen: Saint Valentine edition

Yesterday was a week into our new colony’s life. We’ve been observing the bees entering and exiting the hive. (There’s a lot more of this in the Saint Valentine hive than in the Saint Benedict hive.) But not till today have I noticed any saddle-bags on the workers of either hive.

But yesterday was too cold to open up the hives. Today the high was in the sixties, but unfortunately, as it turned out, I waited a bit too long in the afternoon to open up the hive.

I opened up the Saint Valentine hive, and saw that the burr comb on the inner cover had grown to enormous proportions, and was covered with bees.

I systematically removed the frames of the lower body, but saw no queen, nor any evidence of rice-like eggs in the comb, nor even much comb activity in the frames.

In the burr comb on the inner cover we saw pollen, lots and lots of bees and honey, but no queen. We removed this bur comb and set it outside of the hive.

After all this activity, there were bees everywhere, so once again we decide to put off the Saint Benedict hive until tomorrow. By this time, the temperature had dropped below 55, so we scooped up bees lying on the ground and dumped them into the upper deep body.

(At this point, both of our hives consist of two deeps, with a feeder bucket in the upper deep, and 10 frames in the lower deep.)

We wait an hour and open up the Saint Benedict hive. Everything there looks much neater. Little burr comb. Plenty of uncapped honey. Plenty of pollen. But we did not see the queen, and we saw no "rice grains" nor larvae.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Second queen cage inspection...

We saw Joachim at mass this morning, and we invited him over for our hive inspection later in the afternoon. He seemed pleased to come, and when he came, we opened up the Saint Benedict hive to inspect the queen cage. It looked good, which is to say, empty. A few bees were clinging to it, but not so many that we couldn’t see into it, so we took it out of the hive.

After waiting a bit we opened up the Saint Valentine hive, and once again saw many bees in the upper body, which is a deep. But no so many on the queen cage. Joachim, Brenda, and I all concurred that the cage was (probably) empty, so we removed it from the hive, but laid it near the entrance. After which we closed it up hastily.

We have a lot of questions about the Saint Valentine hive, but I felt like I had done enough damage to it yesterday. So we did not break off burr comb, or pull out frames, or do anything that might stress the bees.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Queen cage check on the Saint Valentine hive

Today, Holy Saturday, we went out to check the hives to see whether the queens had escaped their cages. We started with the Saint Valentine hive. We opened it up to find a surprising amount of comb on the inner cover and over the queen cage, as well as a really large number of bees in the upper deep body, which ideally should contain nothing but the feeder bucket. The bees were so thick around the queen cage that it was difficult to tell whether the queen was out. Burr comb covered the plug hole; when I removed it, it seemed as if the candy plug was all eaten, but I really could not be sure that the queen had escaped. So I put the cage back in, just laying it over the frames on the east side of the hive. (Wednesday we had hung it on the west side of the hive.) Then I closed the hive up.

There were so many bees flying about, that I decided against opening the Saint Benedict hive. We’ll put it off till tomorrow, Easter Sunday.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The bees arrive!

The bees arrived today, two packages of Italians. Brenda and the kids picked them up at Joe's farm. Joachim came over and suited up; I wore a veil and a fleece jacket. The fleece was a mistake I will not repeat again. It was quite cold, in the forties, and I suggested waiting for tomorrow, but Joe had told Brenda he would not wait, so we did not.

I opened the first package and took out the queen. She was alive and had a white dot. (I thought this was supposed to be a green year?) We put a bread tie around her package, pulled the cork, and laid her on the top of the frames. We put in the upside down bucket with the screened hole in the lid, which was on the bottom. And we dumped in some of the bees. This was a lively bunch that immediately took flight and swarmed around my head. I tried to ball up the remainder of the bees and dump them in, but wound up spilling most of them on the ground. Joachim scooped them up with his hands and dumped them in. He was very cool; I was freaking out. We put on the covers, and thus began the Saint Valentine hive, i.e., the western hive.

We did not have a bread tie for the second queen cage, so Brenda went inside to fetch one. While she was away, Joachim figured out a way to mount the cage by bending some of its excess screen. So in  went the queen, and in we dumped the second package. It all went smoothly without drama. We were closing up the hive by the time Brenda came back with the bread ties. She was miffed to have missed a successful installation, but I was just glad to be done with it. What an emotionally intense experience. The kids were thrilled, I was exhausted, and no-one got stung. And thus began our second hive, the Saint Benedict hive, to the east of Saint Valentine's.