Alpha Hive bustling/No collapse at Beta Hive/Gamma Hive chopped and cropped.

I was worried about the swarms at Alpha hive but Pat, the owner of the property where it’s kept, said the swarm is gone but the hive is busting at the seems with activity. Maybe they returned. Maybe there was some kind of bearding going on. I dunno. This weekend I’m doing a full inspection and will give some room in the brood nest.

In the last post I said I was nervous about bending the comb in the Beta hive and was afraid it would collapse. If so, it hadn’t as of last night. I didn’t open it up but got down on my belly in front of the hive with a flashlight. I got a good view inside and then moved away before my blocking the bee highway got them too angry.

Finally, I did something I had been dreading. The chop and crop. Hard to explain but you can see a video here. Last year I made a mess of it and took about 30 stings as punishment. This year I did it alone but was 1. better clothed and 2. alone. In my own time I got it done. It wasn’t without dumb moves on my part but I got it done. And no stings. As long as I avoided killing the queen – and I only counted squashing 2 bees – the hive should be ok. I’ll check on it tonight. Cool but sunny day today.

I’m thinking the majority of spring bee work is done. Depending on how that full inspection goes tomorrow I may pull honey out of Alpha hive on Memorial Day. A bit of a reward.

Cross-comb/bent comb

Ugh, in that swarm I captured that now resides in Beta hive I noticed some cross combing going on a week ago. Cross combing is when the bees build their comb not in a straight line on one board that can easily be removed from across several boards. It’s hard to describe but just know: it makes the hive and ugly mess and difficult to manage.

The hive has three combs (if I’m remembering right) and one is cross combing. So I opened up the hive and straightened the cross combing. One benefit is Harper got a sweet taste of un-cured honey. I then pulled the second comb to have a look. It bent. Not good. The girls work so hard to build that comb you don’t want to damage it. Also, it sets back production of brood and honey if it does collapse onto the hive floor.  I quicky put it back. Then the same darned thing happened again.

I closed up the hive before I did any more damage. I’ll take a peek tonight through the entrance to see if there’s any collapse. As I said in the opening, Ugh.

Tithing a colony back to nature/Last night’s bee swarm

Last night a little after 8PM sitting in an interminable meeting, Erin called me letting me know another swarm had left Alpha hive. Happy to have an excuse to get out from under florescent lights I hopped in the car.

I ran up to her place and found these were not four feet off the ground like the first swarm but about thirty feet up a tree. I swore. There was no way I was going to put these directly in a new hive. So I grabbed two bait hives that I had in my car and lured it with bee’s favorite scent – lemon grass oil. The yard reeked of the stuff.

So we’ll see if that swarm takes to the bait hives in which case I move them to a larger hive I’m almost done building. That’d be cool.

My fear is that so many bees have left Alpha hive that they may delete themselves and/or not produce much excess honey. I remind myself why I started beekeeping – to help the bees. I’m trying to do it with as little interference in the lives of the bees as possible. In March, I saw the swarm cells but misunderstood them. Even if I had understood I’m not sure I would have done anything about it.

Tithing a colony back to nature doesn’t seem like a bad idea. I won’t ever get honey from the ones that leave but at least the world has that colony out there pollinating and breeding and hopefully it will throw off future swarms. We do need more feral bees.

Beekeeping 2012…so far

We had a mild winter. The bees in Alpha hive survived but I’m thinking just barely. On a bright, warm day in early March I did an inspection and didn’t see much in the way of honey stores. But they were flying and seemed to be doing well. They were bringing in pollen. I did notice some queen cells. I guess I should have read up on what to do with those but didn’t.

I went up to my father’s on March 17 and built two hives out of an old cedar fence he had. He then made a little nuc which he brought down the next weekend when he came to see Dagny’s play. Very nice.

I had also ordered two nucs from Kevin Saylor.

On April 12, as Alicia and I were headed out the door to a yelp event the Hoopers called to say Alpha hive had swarmed. Pat texted a pic of a little cluster hanging off a honey suckle bush. We ran up there and I put them in the nuc my father had built. I let them sit for a few days in my back yard and then on April 16 I installed them in a larger TBH. On April 17 Alicia checked on them during the day to check and said the bee highway is running well. This is now Beta Hive.

On that April 12 visit I did look into Alpha and it seemed lethargic. This was about 8PM with dark just falling so I don’t normally know their behavior at that time. There was no new comb built on the open end and not much more capped honey in the last top bar on the stores end. It made me worry but a few days later Pat said they were activtly doing in and out of the hive looking as they always do. I’m going to give it until Memorial Day or so for them to build up before I do a big inspection.

On the 21st I met my bee guy Kevin out in Florence. He didn’t have two hives. One that he was planning on giving me went queenless so I gave him the money and he gave me a few thousand bees. That day and the following day were rainy, cold and blustery so I just sat the nuc Kevin gave me in the cedar wood top bar hive I’d made with my dad and put it in a nice space at the top of a large wooded hill in a friend’s yard. The hive points directly at the city. This is Gamma Hive. I checked on the 23rd about 6:00. It was cool but sunny. Gamma hive was hopping. I’m going to give them until the end of the week before I move them out of the nuc and into what I plan on being their permanent home.

Also on the 21st I looked in on Beta hive. I think I’ve got a cross-comb situation there. I’m worried about the new comb guides I used. Maybe they aren’t working? I’ll have to straighten them out this weekend.