Thursday, May 29, 2014

Feeder Wednesday, a day late again

Well, it was Wednesday yesterday, and I pulled the feeders out of the hive. They were empty, so I decided to fill them with a gallon each. Four pounds of sugar, and then hot tap water up to the top of the gallon bucket. Before the feed could cool off, however, it started to rain. And rain. And rain.

So today I put the feed in the hives. There was considerable burr comb where the bucket was in the Valentinium after just one day. There was very little there in the Benedictium.

I have discovered that the feeder buckets tend to leak when the water is warm. Perhaps the surface tension decreases with temperature? So I have decided henceforth to let the buckets cool off before flipping them upside down.

Monday, May 26, 2014


Our young Apiaria got a sting today, our first confirmed sting, witnessed by the younger Apiariella. She was just sitting in front of the hive, about five feet from the entrance, watching the bees come and go as is her wont, when a bee landed on her head. She panicked and swatted at it. It buzzed in a loop back onto her elbow and stung her! Ouch!

Our perfect record has been broken. She did not cry, but did complain as the area swelled up to be the size of a pin head, itched like crazy, and then went away in the course of four hours.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Shade for the bees

The locusts and rhododendron and irises are beginning to bloom, as are daisies, irises, and numerous wildflowers.

The apiariella and apiariulus helped me haul an 8' by 4' OSB back to the hives. The evening sun here is quite hot today, and I thought the bees could do with a bit of shade. They really have no defense in the evening, and I was worried that their wax might melt.

A photograph is below. The Saint Valentine's hive is on the left, the Saint Benedict's is on the right.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Quick feed

The golden alexanders are in bloom at work, with crowds of bees working them. There is also an old gnarly fruit tree of some type there, a riot of flowers and a hive's worth of honeybees. The clovers down in the valley by Saw Mill Run are starting to bloom, but up here in the ridges of the Chalfant Creek valley, we see no clover flowers yet.

We opened up both hives today to check the feed buckets. Since the inner covers are between the brood deep and the feeder deep, I didn't bother with the smoker, and things went fine. Both buckets were empty, just like they have been the last two times, so Brenda replenished them with 3 quarts of feed each, rather than the usual two quarts.

The bees still managed to put a bit of burr comb on the buckets, but not too much.

We really should have done this yesterday, but it was raining, so we put it off.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Back to normal?

The flox have started to bloom, but it looks like the apples and lilacs are done.

Took a walk out to the hives a couple of hours ago; the temperature had just warmed up to 60, and hives were alive with bees zooming everywhere. A few were foragers and took off; I saw no returning foragers. Most were buzzing about aimlessly near the entrances. Are these new foragers taking orientation flights? Or just bees who have been cooped up too long by cold and rain?

Anyway, it was good to see them. The area around the hives has been way too quiet for most of the last week.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Ants and burr comb

Our azaleas and bleeding hearts are in bloom.

Since the weather was nice I went out to the Benedictium hive to see what I could do about the ants. I tore out the tall grass under it, but saw no sign of an ant hill. Then I pulled out the mite board and found it swarming with ants attracted to the feed that had dripped onto it. I shook off the ants and held it up to the sun and saw an ant nest inside of it. I cleaned it out, and will not be putting it back into the hive. There was sugar, some pollen, and ant larvae on the board, but no mites. Good!

It was back to the Valentinium today to deal with the burr comb. The weather was rain free, but a bit cool, maybe 60 F. I opened up the hive and took out the feed bucket, still full of sugar water. I scraped off the burr comb and saw larvae in it, so the queen has been up in the upper deep. The bees were quite agitated. I killed at least five of them in all of the scraping and removal; I hope the queen is okay. I laid the burr comb, still covered with bees, on top of the skunk guard above the entrance to the hive. Then I took the lower deep, the brood chamber, off of the base and retrieve the mite board, which had fallen to the bottom of the base. It looked good, no sign of mites. Nor ants!

The burr comb is noticeably yellow, not like the white comb we've pulled out of here before. I wonder what that means?

There were some larvae in some of the burr comb, which I don't recall seeing before. I find that disturbing. The queen should stay in the brood chamber, where she'll be safe!

I put the hive back together, this time with the inner cover upside down between the brood chamber and the feed chamber to discourage burr comb in the feed chamber.

A picture of the new and old burr comb is below. It's easy to see which is which!

I'm leaving the mite boards out of both hives. I think it is a mistake to leave them in routinely.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Uncapped larvae in the Benedictium, and ants!

Opened up the hives this dark rainy day to replace the feed. There was a break in the rain and we decided to go for it.

First we opened up the Valentinium and saw burr comb around the bucket. We pulled the bucket out, it was completely empty, and closed it back up. We'll deal with the burr comb when there are no storm clouds threatening.

Then we opened the Benedictium, and pulled out the bucket, also empty, and then Brenda went inside to re-fill them. She says she saw mold, and washed out both buckets with soap and water. Since it wasn't raining, I kept the hive open and removed the burr comb. None of it was capped, and I saw larvae in it.

I also saw big black ants. I grabbed as many of them as I saw and crushed them in my fingers. One of them stung me through my nitrile gloves! I still haven't been stung by our sweetheart bees, but they were plenty agitated today, as expected when opening a hive in iffy weather.

I put the inner cover upside down over the lower deep, and then put the upper deep with the feed bucket on top of that, and finally the outer cover.

We opened up the upper deep on the Valentinium again and replaced the feed bucket, and then closed it back up. We did not attempt to tackle the burr comb in this weather.

I was surprised and dismayed by the ants. I'm not sure what to do about them, if anything. I think I'll take a hoe to the grass under the Benedictium; there may be an ant nest there.

Burr comb in the Valentinium:

Our dogwoods, and lilacs are in bloom.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Brood in the Valentinium

Our dandelions and ajuga are in bloom.

Today was feeding day again. Joachim came over and we got a good smoke going in the smoker, the best so far. I burned myself twice on the smoker today, which is about par for the course. This smoker seems a greater hazard to me than the bees it protects me from.

First we opened up the Valentinium and removed the feed bucket we had put in last week. It was empty. The bees had put a bit of burr comb on it, but not much. We pulled out frames and saw capped cells and larvae for the first time! After seeing that, we started closing up. Since most of the bee presence was on the western side of the hive, we took an empty frame from the eastern side and moved it the far western position, to center the colony. We placed the refilled bucket in and closed up, with the inner cover on top of the feeding deep. That seemed to work well last week; the burr comb was quite small and manageable.

Then we opened the Benedictium and replaced its feed bucket, and closed it up again. We did no inspection since we saw the capped comb last week.

I am so stoked to see larvae in the Valentinium! It's a relief to see signs that our problem hive is thriving as it should.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Find the queen, again

So today we went out to re-fill the buckets of feed and to look for the brood and the as-yet-unsighted queens.

First we opened up the apiarium Valentinium. The feed bucket was empty, so Brenda refilled it with a half bucket of sugar water: she put in a quarter bucket of sugar, and then filled it with hot tap water to the half-bucket level. I pulled out frames and saw plenty of honey, but no capped cells that might contain brood, apart from a queen-cup (!?). And, yes, we finally spotted the queen! (She's the one with the white dot.)

We put in a fresh half-bucket, closed up, waited a bit, and then opened the Benedictium. We saw plenty of burr comb, including on the bucket, plenty of capped cells, brood, I hope, and the queen. We re-filled the feed bucket, emptied within the last week, with another half bucket of sugar water.