Tuesday, June 30, 2015

my first bee sting

I got stung by one of my bees last Saturday. Ouch. It really hurt. It made me hurry to finish the hive inspection.

The bee stung me on my ankle through a thin sock. I tuck my pants into my socks because I once had bees trying to climb up my leg. (That was when I installed my packages on a cold rainy day this spring. The bees were all over me then, but not up to stinging - fortunately for me.)

My ankle hurt quite bad for a day, then itched really bad for two days. It didn't really swell much. I hope I don't develop an allergy. I've had a bunch of bee stings before, so I don't think I will.

From now on, I'll wear my plastic boots to protect my ankles. I don't think I'm ever going to be one of those cool bee keepers who goes bear handed and without protection.

I did know that my bees were annoyed with me before the sting. My smoke kept running out and it was taking me a very long time to inspect the whole hive. It seems there's a balance for inspections between moving slow and getting the job over with. Especially with a jam packed hive of bees.

Monday, June 29, 2015

watching the bees after a rainy day

It rained all day yesterday. My garden gauge registered just over an inch. I suppose the bees hung out in their crowded hives all day as well as the nights. And today, it was sort of cloudy and still seemed damp. I've read that a sunny day after rain is when bees will swarm, so I was watching as I worked in the garden. But they are still all at home. No swarms.

My sister is visiting and she asked me how can you stop bees from out growing a hive? I don't know. I told her that I don't think you can. If you're lucky and the bees are healthy, they grow.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

again, I think they're going to swarm soon

A couple weeks ago, I was very worried because I thought my bees were about to swarm and had foul brood. After lots of advice, it turns out I had seen a row of drone cells and a few uncapped queen cups. I had also noticed that the bees were beginning to store food in old brood frames, which surprised me and I thought there was something wrong like foul brood or other nasty disease. My beekeeper friends probably got tired of reassuring me that my hives were OK. And, as one pointed out, foul brood and swarming are two complete opposites: An overly healthy hive and a sick one.

But at my last inspection yesterday, I am again concerned one of my hives will swarm. But it's the other one this time. My green hive has:
- about 20-25 capped queen cells located at the centers of frames
- packed full with built out frames all the way to the edges, 50:50, food:brood
- no action on the honey super that I put on about 2 weeks ago

I didn't inspect the lower brood box because I worried I wouldn't have been able to pick the top one up off the ground and get it back into place (I'll get a bench).

For comparison, my other hive (the white hive) has:
- no queen cells (This hive had 2 or 3 uncapped queen cups 3 weeks ago. They disappeared.)
- some action in the honey super (though only a little), about half a frame is built out
- a little extra space at the outsides of frames

From reading a bit, it seems my bees need more space. If the green hive has decided to swarm, it will be too late for any thing I can do. (Maybe its a supercedure, since queen cells are located in centers of frames, but there are SO many of them.) For both hives, I will try
- making and adding a couple follower boards for each hive so bees will have space to hang out at the edges
- adding a slatted bottom rack

And I'll buy an extra brood box in case I want to split a hive or catch a swarm.

where do my bees go?

I've been watching which flowers my bees are on.

In May, I saw them on wild phlox, violas, crab apples and Carolina silverbell.

bee on wild phlox IMG_2645
honeybee on wild phlox, May 23

bee on viola IMG_2596
honeybee landing on a viola, May 23

 bee on wil geranium IMG_2579bee on honeysuckle IMG_2662
honeybees on ajuga and honeysuckle, May 23

In June, black locust, beauty bush, Nepeta, wild rose and clover.

new blog just for the bees

I'm finding I'm spending a lot of time on my bees and the topic doesn't really fit with my vegetable garden blog. So I'm trying something new. A separate blog for the bees.

I'll put a link in skippy's vegetable garden blog when I post here.

I'm calling it Kathy's bees because neither Skippy nor Suzie go near the hives - only me.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

record keeping

I'm trying to figure out the best way to keep a record of my bees. First, I had Siri transcribe my observations, then just transferred that to a word document. But Siri doesn't understand me very well and see certainly doesn't know words like "brood box".

So now I have an excel table with lots of information. I jot down notes as I inspect the hives, then transfer it to the table later. I suppose this is OK, but I'm still working out what information I really need to record.

Here's my table for one of my hives (the white hive). I keep adding data to record and its maybe to small to see here
Microsoft PowerPoint - bee record 1.pptx I've tried using some online record keeping resources, but they were too complicated for me to get started with (e.g. Hive Tracker). Maybe they're for advanced beekeepers. I'm going the try BeeTight when I have time.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

are they getting ready to swarm?

Yesterday I inspected my two new bee hives. It's the first time I've gone two weeks between inspections so I was really curious what I would find. One hive looks perfect and just as I expected. It's 70% full, ready for a mite treatment and then a honey super. Maybe both at once.

The other hive - well, not so good. The top box looked nice: I saw the queen and lots of eggs and larvae she had laid. Lots of stored food. But the bottom box was different. Pulling and checking frames from right to left I came across a single dark queen succession cell. A wax igloo in the middle of the frame. This frame and the next 3 or 4, were surprisingly inactive. These are built out frames that had been used for brood, but now no eggs, larvae, or nectar. Maybe a bit of yellow-brown stuff (pollen?) at the bottom? (I'll go back and photograph this today as I am wondering now if its foul brood or some other disease.)

queen succession cell frame with brown cells and queen igloobrown cells

But that single queen succession cell seemed to make sense. Maybe my original queen can't keep up laying eggs in all the cells. BUT then, on the next frame, about 20 light colored queen swarm cells hanging down the center sideways and off the edges! So are they are planning to swarm! And succeed? Both?

queen swarm cells

What I think I'll do next (tomorrow) is (1) photograph those funny yellow-brown cells closer and see if a problem. Maybe I need to take them out. (2) Try to create more space in case they are is considering swarming due to crowding. I will move unused outer frames inward and adding a honey super. I am deciding whether to remove the queen swarm cells. A friend said she can lend me equipment if I do need to catch a swarm. But it may make sense to remove whatever swarm cells I can, leaving the succession cells.

We'll see. I'd love advice.