Saturday, August 4, 2007

Out of the strong come forth sweetness

Well after checking back to my Bees and following their progress for a few weeks now - the new queen definately did the trick - the second brood chamber is full of honey and brood right now and I have added my first honey super.

I also got a little taste of my honey after sticking the hivetool into a little of the comb for a sample. The taste wasn't strong, but it was light and very nice; I am definately looking forward to hopefully getting some more.

I do have some input on trying a queen excluder - I tried this for a week or so when I added the first super - I have just taken it off as the Bees didnt build any new comb up their and I felt it as more of a hinderance. Perhaps by leaving it off the queen might go up there and waft her scent around a little more, encouraging the workers to continue building their comb. I also feel its more natural without it and I am not worried that brood will be placed up there.

I will see how this first super begins to fill and I'll take it from there for now.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

The proof of the pudding...

Some say the proof of the pudding is in the eating, well in many cases it is.

A week or so ago, Kevin was kind enough to come over help share the trials and tribulations of setting the new queen free.

We opened up the hive, removed the queen cage - to thankfully find a live queen with a small cluster of Bee's clinging to the outside of her cage.

We took a frame with just a few bees on it and set the queen free onto this frame.

Immediately the Bee's approached her and they seemed to meet head to head with her and stroke her antennae. It was pretty amazing to see this social interaction and a second later a few more bee's approached her and did the same thing.

I think it was clear at that point that the queen was going to integrate well in her new home and so Kevin and I touched the frame against the top of the hive and like magic the new queen crawled off the frame in our hands and down into the darkness of her new home.

After a bit of comb tidy up and some frame rearrangement we put the hive back together and left the queen to settle into her new home.

We should mention that there did appear to be a lot of worker bee's in the hive, but no visible brood, only some sparse capped honey, this went along with the inspectors report of no queen, or a failing queen.

I have decided to leave the hive for two weeks to leave the new queen settle down. In this time I will keep feeding, right now its been over a week so I will be going into the hive for a quick inspection this coming weekend.

Friday, June 22, 2007

God Save the Queen

The theme of this entry is 'God Save the Queen', no I don't mean the Queen of England, or even Freddy Mercury, let me fill you in...

Well after my experiences with my Bee's building comb between the top of their frames to the bottom of the crown board, I consulted the Bee Keeper who sold me my hive.

I was informed that Bee's like to build their nests in an upward progression and this was probably a sign they had filled their bottom brood chamber and wanted to move up. I responded to this by installing a second Brood chamber.

I observed my hive for a week or so and I began to notice a lull in the number of Bee's entering or exiting the hive; this brought certain concerns to me.

I did a quick inspections and I noted the Bee's were not moving up into the new brood chamber at all, but the lower brood chamber still seems to have plenty of working bee's in it.

Just this week I had a suprise inspection notice from our State Bee Inspector on my front door. I am familiar with the gentleman who does the inspections from hearing him talk at Bee School and I was pleased to get an expert oppinion on the status of my Bee's.

The inspection report said, weak colony, Varoa, needs requeening and 'call me...', with a number.

I had suspicions of the need to requeen, especially my colony being slow to expand in the new hive, but the number of work bee's visible had curtailed my fears for a while.

Perhaps my colony has a failing queen instead of no queen at all - this would explain the continued presence of workers.

To cut a long story short, I called the inspector back and he confirmed the notes in his report, giving some advice on the plan of action for each. My Varoa issue was a general one, which will need treating at the end of the season.

I was advised to requeen my colony immediately as there was a good chance the colony might otherwise fail. I was also pleased to learn that there was a Bee Keeper just around the corner from my house who reered Queens and also had one available, naturally I took his number.

I called the man up and took a 2 minute ride over to his house. I was suprised to learn I knew him; I'd often stopped to talk to the man whilst out walking my dog on many past occasions. I knew he kept a couple of hives, but I had not imagined the extent of his involvment.

The Beekeeper was kind enough to give me a young Italian Queen then and there, for a small donation to the local beekeeping society and I was naturally happy to oblige.

I took the Queen home in a small cylindrical plastic cage with instructions on how to deploy her in the colony.

I was to take out one of the central frames in the lower brood chamber of the hive and gently embed the queen cage into the wax on the frame - just enough to stick her to the frame. She was then to remain there for a period of 3-4 days; to ensure the Bees in the colony would get a chance to get used to her presence ( presumably the presence of her pheramones). I was told the surrounding workers bee's could not attack her through the cage and would even begin to feed her over the four day period.

Once the time was up; I was instructed to take a frame with just a few bee's on it and to let the new queen out onto this. If the Bee's were to attack her, I was told to recage her for a couple more days, otherwise if they was social with her, I could let her go into the Colony.

Well it was dark when I got home that night so I kept the queen cage in my house overnight in a warm spot. I was told she had been fed up until that morning so she would last overnight without any issues.

I put on my Bee suite first thing next morning before going to work and placed the new queen into the hive. Given the time constraints of working a large quantity of Bee's before going to work in the morning. I didnt push her cage into a frame, but pushed it into some wax comb on top the frame instead, which held her quite firm.

I immediately noticed bee's begin to surround and brush antennae with her, which was definately heart warming to watch. I put a couple of frames in contact with the cage to assist the bee's in reaching to feed her.

Well its been three days since I closed up the hive now. I hope to go in there tommorow and let you know how it goes!

Until then... Long live the queen!

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Bee Stings: Serum Sickness

Well Kevin and I are potentially facing a few more days of rain this week and as our colonies are building up, we may as well post a few anecdotal stories to tide us over.

Everyone knows about the associated problem with annoying bee's, and that's that they sting you, rightly so :)

In most conversations regarding stings, you find people fall into one of two discussions, they either relate how they are fairly immune, or how they are highly susceptible; suffering anaphylactic shock.

I wanted to tell a short story of my own experience which put me somewhere in between.

Whilst helping a beekeeper in the past I had chance to be stung a few times. The first time I was stung I removed the barb quickly and suffered minor effects. Initial pain lasting a few seconds, followed by stiffness and significant swelling over a few hours. My heart rate was also raised slightly in the first hour or so.

My finger (the site of the sting) became stiff and difficult to bend over the course of a week, but I had the general feeling my joints became more fluid once the stiffness subsided. The site also itched quite a bit after that.

Nothing out of the ordinary you might think until the next time I was stung.

I received another sting on my finger some weeks later and decided that I was a tough guy (I have learnt a lot since then) so I was very slow and casual in the process of removing the sting - big mistake if you ever have a sting - the bee's stinger has a ratchet mechanism which given the opportunity works its way further into your skin over time, you also receive a larger dose of venom!

To cut a long story short, the effects I felt from this second sting were the same but were marginally more pronounced, with one added bonus (and this is the point of my story) I had some ill effects a few days later.

Ever had chicken pox or some other form of illness that makes you feel terrible. Well a few days after my sting I was feeling absolutely awful, I had a pretty significant temperature, cold sweats, my joints really ached and I felt like I had a bad case of flu.

Putting two and two together I wondered if my immune system had manned a response and I did some research on the web to find that some people experience a phenomenon called 'Serum Sickness' in which your bodies immune system mans a response to foreign chemicals like venoms.

Ultimately the effects of the sickness passed fairly quickly, which was one of the reasons I attributed the effects to serum sickness, but still it was a very interesting experience.

If anyone has had a similar experience from a Bee sting I would love to hear from you, other wise you can read more about serum sickness here, you can also google 'serum sickness bee stings' for a bunch of information.

The moral of the story is, remove a bee sting as soon as you safely can. Leaving the sting in wont prove anything and won't win you any prizes.

Personally I keep an epinephrine pen handy now for my own use in case of a more adverse reaction the next time I am stung.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Where are the bees?

It's another beautiful day here so I wandered over to the hive to watch the activity and there was a surprise waiting for me - no bees. The entrance was empty - no bees coming no bees going... uh oh.

Then I noticed some activity around back - I look around back and there they are.

There is a small space above the Varroa Screen that the bees are now using. Now I have to figure out if they are using that entrance to avoid going through the screen or if it's because it is in back where it's shady... If shade then I'll just turn them around. And of course, I need to figure out how I'm going to close up that space.

Bee Dummy Kevin

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Why bees?

I've heard this question a lot from folks - what got you interested in Beekeeping? I had never thought too much about bees (except when I was a kid and enjoyed flicking Bumblebees off of flowers with my thumb and forefinger - great fun when you are a 6 year old), until I was living in an apartment that was the second floor of an old farmhouse. My roommate and me would hear things in the wall and assumed we had a chipmonk or maybe a family of field mice. Then one day I came home to find my bedroom door closed (something I never did) - I opened the door and it was quite dark in the room - again bizarre since it was daytime - a nice bright sunny day - and I wasn't in the habit of closing the curtain. I started to walk over to the window to open the shade and realized that it wasn't the shade blocking the light - it was thousands of bees. I figured they wanted to get out (and I have to add that I wouldn't mind them being on the other side of the window as well) so I walked over and opened the window. They didn't seem to mind that at all!

So, I called the landlord, he called an exterminator (who was quite sad to kill them but the landlord wanted the cheapest way out). Apparently the bees had taken up residence in the wall of the house and had eventually opened a small hole in the ceiling of my bedroom - they came pouring in - my roommate saw this happening and closed the door to at least keep the bees isolated in that room and then couldn't get out since the window was closed. The exterminator mentioned he didn't want to be there come summertime (it was spring) because without the bees to keep the honey cool he was envisioning a big mess. I moved out shortly after so don't know what ever happened, but that's when I first started thinking about honey bees.

So I kept saying, when I get a house I'm going to get a hive. Well, my first house would have been good, but I spent 3 years renovating it (after evicting the family of Raccoons - another story) and I soon sold after the renovations were over. My second house was in a city on a 6,000 sq ft lot - I know - you can have bees anywhere, but I tend to be an introvert and hate conflict so I didn't want to deal wth neighbors complaining. So, last fall I moved into my third house - on 2 1/2 acres abutting a state park - perfect! So, about 12 years after my first "unofficial" hive I now have my first "official" one.

Bee Dummy Kevin

Finally moved

Well, unlike Richard, I was out of town on business last week when the sun finally peaked out of the clouds so I missed the chance then to move the bees from the nuc to the hive. So on Saturday, which was an absolutely beautiful day, I had my chance. Got all suited up, pant legs tucked into my boots, all set to go... oh yeah - the smoker. Got that filled and some good smoke coming out. And then... it went according to plan. Now that's something new. Didn't really run into any problems at all. Moved a frame, took a couple steps back and waited a bit to keep both myself and the bees calm, moved another, etc. Before I knew it I had moved them all and was closing up the hive. There were a couple of bees trying to get me, but not too bad. There were 5 frames in the nuc and they were all pretty full, so I'm certainly glad I finally got them moved. I'll admit that I was nervous and afterwards wish I took the time to really inspect the frames. I didn't take time to even try and find the queen (which I should have done), but considering it was my first time (and it's a little daunting when you are holding a frame with thousands of bees) I'm pretty happy.

These are going to be some happy bees in their new digs!

So not a single sting... until... about 2 hours after the move I was working on the pool which is a good 40-50 feet away and one bee was just determined to get me. Stung me under the tip of the nose. Oh well, the day wouldn't have been complete without one sting at least. and honeybee stings don't really hurt that much (except when they find a nice real sensitive area - like just under the tip of the nose).

Bee Dummy Kevin