Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Swarmin' Norman

Ok, there is no Norman. But we will report about some swarms we have been seeing lately and also pass on some interesting links that you may be interested in.

Greg has spent the last month managing swarms and queens all over the region. According to Greg, every swarm is as exciting as the first one; so as long as his bees are staying put, swarms are good fun. After much experience as a bee keeper, one may find his or herself able to tell whether a hive is doing well or doing poorly just by passing by. This skill has helped Greg keep abreast of all situations in the fields.

Greg and Dwight have spent a lot of time together. As this is Dwight's rookie year in the field, Greg has spent much time teaching him the ropes and helping him manage a rowdy bunch of ladies. It seems as though his girls need constant reassurance. Speaking of drama queens, we have been working diligently to keep up our supply of queens so that we can replace who needs replacing without additional expense. David Laferney, a partner in grafting, didn't need his share of the queens from the most recent graft, but would rather have the combs. So Greg was happy to put those lovely ladies to work.

Here is some excellent info about Queenless Bees. This document helps you diagnose if your hive is queenless and perhaps at what stage of queenlessness you are experiencing. This FAQ from Bushfarms also helps answer other interesting common questions.

Also this is a beekeepers almanac that is very helpful in keeping up with what you should be doing. This is great for experienced and new beekeepers alike.

We also wanted to link to BeeKeeper Linda's visit to the Jennifer Berry Queenery. If you will remember, we have a few of her queens and have been nothing but pleased with them. Here is one post where we talk a little about them (and here is another).

More updates on Fall Maintenance and Winter Preparation soon!

Friday, September 3, 2010

The Story of Three Hives

Friday, August 20th was a perfect day to relax at the home apiary and enjoy the bees. We will report on three of the hives in which we have recently been making some changes.

Hive #1: This was a hive that held a newly grafted queen introduced with a double screen queen excluder. Four days before, nothing much was going on in this hive so Greg decided there were not enough bees in the top. So he decided to move some from the bottom to the top. However, these relocated bees did not show their corporate ID's at relocation and it turns out Greg moved the Freight Division rather than the H.R. department (in apiarist's terms, he moved the Field bees, not the nurse bees). The way we discovered this problem was that the bees went right back home to the bottom, but not before they had cleaned out the top of the hive completely!

Hive #2: Greg had earlier observed that this one just wasn't right. As usual, his diagnosis was correct. This hive has a laying worker, which is a big problem since she can only lay Drone bees (for our younger generation, they are the "Scrubs" of the hive: no job, little ambition, no ummm...stinger). This situation calls for swift action.

Hive #3: This was a nuc with a beautiful queen who had been made into a full-fledged hive with lots of promise. However, looks are sometimes deceiving. Despite her beauty, she was useless in the laying department. This situation may call for a manual coup d'etat.

With news like this, there could be no more relaxing with the hives. Greg turned to the bee lair for a planning session.

Saturday morning after honey and biscuits, Greg and James took off on a "fix or destroy" mission (in this writer's opinion, that phrase could describe each mission these two embark upon). Here are the updates on these by hive.

Hive #1: Here they found the old queen and took her out of the hive to place her in temporary confinement. Plans are to wait 23 hours before replacing her with a small breeding nuc and a new proven queen by the newspaper method. This method is simply placing a newspaper between the main hive and the nuc, placing small cuts in the paper, hoping the merger will be peaceful.

Hive #2: If you recall, this is the hive with the laying worker. They began by taking a nuc and a queen from an out yard (Jimmy's yard) and placing it in the place of the old hive. They took the old hive about 300 feet away and dumped all the bees out on a sheet, with hopes that only the worker bees would make their way back to the hive. Greeting the returning bees would be the new nuc and new queen placed in the old hive. Greg put a queen excluded on the bottom box in hopes that she would deter the drones and laying worker from returning. We have not had very much luck in instances of laying workers. In the past, we have been successful by simply placing a frame of open brood in the old hive. This had to be done twice, but they finally made a new queen.

Hive #3: This hive also got a little treatment with the newspaper method. We will continue to post updates on how the sisters are getting along this fall!