Sunday, July 28, 2013

Teaching my relatives about beekeeping

We had several relatives and neighbors over at the cabin this weekend.  They were interested in seeing what beekeeping was all about.  Mom had a good idea to put the screen tent up near the hives so they could see the bees without getting stung.  

Dad and I lifting frames out of the supers.
In the picture below you can see everyone watching from the screen tent.  They asked quite a few questions.  It was fun showing them the bees, comb, and honey they are making.

Relatives and neighbors watching.
 They asked about why the hive boxes are different sized.  We explained that the bottom two boxes are the deeps and they are used by the bees for raising brood and storing honey and pollen for winter.  The top ones are supers and they are used to collect honey from the bees.

Us showing them a frame full of bees.
 The bees are doing well.  In the one hive we have a lot of capped honey.  In the other hive they are not doing as well.  I found a drone and showed it to the audience and as I put it back I noticed a varroa mite on it.

The varroa mite I scrapped off the drone.

Capped honey (the white stuff)

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Apiary Upgrade

We made a couple up upgrades to be bee yard this weekend.  Started with some cedar chips under the electric fence wires so we don't have to keep trimming the grass there.  The bees spent most of today and yesterday staying warm in the hive.  The high today was 55 degrees F and the low was 45.  

Amazon had a decent deal on a Wireless IP camera so we picked one up and decided to make it the new "Bee Cam".  The camera isn't outdoor rated so we got creative and made an enclosure out of the top to an old stereo that was in the shed.  The camera is powered by a 12 v deep cycle battery and an inverter.  We are going to try to add a link to the camera on the blog.  The camera can pan and tilt and so far it appears to take decent pictures.

Tomorrow we are going to inspect both hives to see how the bees are doing.  Zander is hopeful that the bees will have capped the honey in the supers.  We plan to setup a screen tent temporarily behind the hives to show our weekend guests what the bees are doing without worrying about anyone getting stung.  The bees have also found the pool. We have a steady stream of bees coming to and from the pool now.

The BeeCam setup

Night in the apiary

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Long Live the Queen

I did a quick hive inspection on Zander's behalf of the weaker hive and confirmed that the Queen lives.  She might be royalty but I think it is fair to say that she is a bit of a slacker when compared with the queen in Zander's second hive.  Here is a picture of her:
Her Royal Highness

While inspecting the frame I heard a strange high pitched buzzing like cross between a bee and a mosquito and then noticed that there were a couple of bees emerging from their cells.  The other bees seemed to be helping them out.   

Baby bee emerging

We also spotted a bumble bee on a nearby flower.  Good to see them around as well.

Catching up on other news, Zander and I attended the Minnesota Honey Producer's conference a couple of weeks ago in Walker, MN.  We had a good time and Zander especially liked the tour of the Mann Lake facility and the presentation from the U of M's Raptor Center.
Zander with his new clock from Mann Lake LTD.

Friday, July 19, 2013

We have been busy and haven't been able to post for awhile.  There is a lot of news to tell.  The bees in the hive farthest away from the cabin swarmed while me and my dad were at camp.  Once I got home we contained the swarm and got rid of the queen cells.  They swarmed into a tree about 30 feet away and 6 feet in the air.  The swarm measured about 1.5 feet long by 1 foot deep by 6 inches wide.  There was probably around 8000-9000 bees in the tree.  

My mom and another local beekeeper caught the swarm because me and my dad were at a camp in Wisconsin (Tomahawk).  They found an empty super and then mom cut the branch while the beekeeper shook the bees into the super.  They left them below the tree until we got back.

My bees swarmed in a tree

Then we carried the supers full of the swarmed bees over to the hive that they swarmed from.  We had to decide if we were going try to move the swarmed bees to a new hive or try to put them back in there old hive.  We decided to put them back in their old hive because the swarmed bees wouldn't have enough time to gather honey and pollen before winter and would likely not survive the winter.  Also we didn't have any extra hives and we would have had to buy more.  

Dad bring the swarmed bees back to the original hive
When we brought the swarmed bees back to their old home we put a piece of newspaper between the two hives to prevent them bees from fighting.  This turned out to be a bad idea because the bees would just tear through the newspaper.  Once they saw the queen cells in the old hive they would probably swarm again.  We called Jim from Nature's Nectar to ask how he would do it.  He was very helpful.  He suggested that we combine the bees back into the same hive.  To do that we needed to switch the newspaper with plywood to keep the bees separated.  He also thought we should turn the hive around to try to fool the swarmed bees into thinking that they were in a new hive.  

Our first attempt at bringing the swarm back to the old hive.
Then we were to leave the swarmed bees on the plywood and give them an entrance facing the opposite way.  Dad made up a couple of boards to lift the hive so that they have could come in in and out.  About a day later we replaced the plywood with paper to to slowly unite the hive.  The paper had a small slit in it to let the bees go into the old hive.

Swarmed bees are on top of the old hive
Slit to let the bees into the old hive

Before we could put the swarmed bees on the newspaper we had to go into the old hives and look for queen cells and destroy them.  If we didn't the bees would probably swarm again or the new queens would come out and fight and kill the good queen.  There can been only one queen in a hive.

This is a queen cell on one of the frames.  The workers feed a larvae royal jelly to turn it into a queen.

More queen cells.
Jim from Nature's Nectar thought the reason the bees swarmed is probably because they were hot in there hive so we made them a bigger entrance by taking out the entrance reducer.

Taking out the entrance reducer

Bees coming and going from the old hive that swarmed

Hopefully the bees won't swarm again.  When the bees swarm they gather in huge numbers outside of the hive.  They also pig out on honey before they leave the hive to hold them until they find a new home.  That means less honey for me.  It also could mean less honey for the bees for over wintering.