Monday, February 28, 2011

Capped Drone Cells???

Capped Drone Cells???
So this past Sunday I completed my inspections on my last three hives. They are loaded with bees and brood, I have come to be a believer of annual queen replacements especially for your so-so hives, obviously I would keep my proven breeders. Anyway, in these three hives I saw tons of brood, but what surprised me was the amount of capped drone brood! Technically I could start grafting although I am going to hold off for a few more weeks for more certainty on warmer weather. So keep your eyes open for upcoming swarm cells. I have a feeling with this warm weather, unusual long flying days, tons of pollen, etc coming in swarm season will be early this year especially if the weather continues like it has been!!!
I also wanted to mention that I combined two hives this weekend, one with tons of resources (bees) but queenless and the other with a laying queen but low on resources (bees) so she couldn’t lay anymore than what she was doing, a queen will only lay eggs up to what her workers can tend to. So I decided to combine the two hives using two sheets of newspaper. I will keep my fingers crossed. With the increased number of bees the queen should be able to ramp up and hopefully catch with the others because she is a long ways behind.
All other strong hives received entire deep boxes of drawn comb to help any swarming instinct they might have. I was going to Checkerboard but I was a week late it seems since they all had brood in the top and bottom boxes so checker boarding them would have broken the brood nest up risking chilling brood. So I figured having that dark empty brood comb above them might entice them to continue to expand the brood nest and not contract it and swarm… we shall see it worked last year.
So in the end I have 14 out of 18 living (3 dead-outs and combined 2 to make 1, so I count that as a single loss since I caught it, but would have led I am certain to both hives being lost, Chalk one up to actually inspecting the hives!!!!)

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Bees and Bluegrass???

I often wonder why my bees are so happy, i just figured it out. Its because usually when i am inspecting my hives my truck is on Bluegrass Junction on my XM Radio...

Incase you dont know what Good Bluegrass sounds like check out these links

and check out:
Larry Sparks (my favorite)
Blue Moon Rising
Dale Ann Bradley
and plenty more i can't think of right now...

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

VSH Behavior (Uncapping Pupa and Recapping to remove mites)

VSH bahvior will and can be a whole slew of traits but one most noticed is the removal of deseased larva/pupa. In the case of pupa the bees smell the reproductive pheromone of the adult varroa mite and uncap the pupa (youl see pupa eyed pupa). In some cases the heads will be chewed a bit of the bee pupa and in other cases perfectly fine in which case they will re-cap the cell.

See the attached picture from one of my hives this past year... can you find the partially capped cell i didnt highlight?

Monday, February 21, 2011

First Spring Inspections

Well we had 75 deg temps on Friday so I took the day off and did a few things which included inspection 15 out of my 18 hives in Buckingham. Out of the 15 I had 3 dead outs. Upon a postmortem, all 3 died from high level of Varroa mites.
At the recent Va State Beekeeping Fall Meeting Randy Oliver talked a bit about postmortem inspections and varroa mites. One tip he gave was to hold the frame by the bottom bar and with the sun at your back look at the top of the cells for little whitish specks of varroa mite poop. Now you have to be careful you’re not looking at wax bit from robbing but I could plainly see the poop across the brood frames!!
All 3 dead outs have been “flying” excellent and I had zero worries (it was the robbers flying in and out, so don’t tell me you can tell a healthy hive from a weak or dead one by looking at the front…), however I noticed two things upon popping the tops on the dead outs right off. When I smoked the top bars the hive “exploded out” (which were the robbers leaving) and that most of the honey was uncapped looking from the top down… At times you would the living hives with foragers with pollen coming in, so this is a clue from the front, but in some cases great hives did not have a forager with pollen for multiple minutes coming in, so without spending many minutes in front of each hive, do a quick inspection…
Anyway, I have 2 hives I am uncertain about. One I couldn’t find the queen or eggs but was bringing in pollen like crazy and had tons of bees… and the other I found the queen, a cantaloupe sized amount of bees, and a small batch of eggs, so I am a little concerned about this one, especially if we get a hard cold snap…
I had some hives that had just started to lay and others that had literally frames of capped brood (one I could take to almond pollination due to its strength…LOL)
All my nucs are thriving and will explode soon! So I have great proof that this is the way to go overwinter since they are stronger than my full size hives.
I have my dead out equipment (since I could confirm varroa mites killed them) sitting on a little trailer so the wax moths wont damage them but the bees can finish robbing the capped honey out as food, stimulation, and so I will be able to use some for honey supers for me.
The pictures below show some capped brood, healthy bees, dead out comb with cappings torn up, a close up of cappings torn up due to robbing, and my dead out boxes loaded up (4 deeps and 3 mediums)...

Pictures of Varroa Poop Holding the bottom bar towards you and sun at your back looking at the top of the cell wall...

Monday, February 14, 2011


·         I hope everyone noticed this weekend that the Maples are BLOOMING!!!!! The bee year has begun. Brood rearing which started in small batches back in January will now start increasing in size with the natural foraged for pollen coming in the front door. Maple pollen is like a greyish green color

This is great, but remember this is now the time of year where your chance of starvation is greatest. The hives will increase in size and food demand will increase, so keep paying close attention and add fondant patties as needed BEFORE they need it. You have made it this far so don’t slack in the home stretch we still have another month to month and half to go before the nectar flow begins…

Yesterday’s observation made my day. I feel like a kid in a candy store especially with this warm week allowing the bees to take full advantage of the maple bloom!

·         Also don’t forget the Buckingham Bee Class on Supercedure, Swarm behavior, and Splitting will be on Wednesday night at 6:30 at the Buckingham County Ext office. This is the last intense portion of the class series.

o   The remaining two sessions will be on Alternative hives and Methods in March (Top Bar Hives, Ware’ Hives, Foundationless Langs, and Small Cell Beekeeping). The March class is to expose you to other ways of keeping bees you will bound to hear about while reading and talking to folks.

o   Then of course the Hand’s On Session at my house (10 miles directly east of the Buckingham Ext Office) in late March/First of April weather dependent. This last session will be primarily for the folks who spent the time and dedication attending the bee classes. However, with my approval others may attend IF we have room. I have to make sure we have a good teacher:student ratio so everyone can learn and see.

§  If an experienced beekeeper or beekeepers would be willing to donate their time one Saturday or Sunday at my house and guide a group in a live hive we will be able to handle more students… Let me know if you’re interested.

§  Bringing your OWN protective equipment is REQUIRED!!! You will NOT be able to even “stand back” and view us without your OWN protective equipment. Everyone will be required to wear protective equipment.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Ventilated Bee Suits

Well, i ordered my ventilated bee suit from Golden Bee out of LA.

A friend of mine bought one for Christmas and brought it to the Powhatan meeting last week. I must say all my concerns about the hood were gone. It is an odd shape much like a cylinder, but compared to the "other" brand which uses the "floppy" type of hood that my cheap back-up jacket has, i am happy. I hate a hood that flops around...

Golden Bee's hood uses a "sweat band" on the inside to hold the hood stable and in place. It's A Ok in my book.

I look forward to spending this August etc in a pair of shorts and short sleeve shirt NOT sweating to death in my new ventilated suit!

Its well worth the money.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Another warm day 2-6-2011

Well based on the 15 day forcast we should be looking at consistant upper 40's to mid 50's most of next week ect. This means the hives will start picking up rear more brood, the cluster will break longer, maples may start blooming with the warm weather. All indications lend to the NEW bee year has started!!!!

However, this also means more nutritional needs from the colony to raise and feed brood, so starving is a big issue in my book from this point forward as they increase the hive's population. So keep the feed on them and dont let them run dry.

One of these warm days soon i may spend the time and break my hives apart and see whats going on. So far i have only done top down looks and knocking on the sides.

Anyway, here is two pictures from my garden hive which seems to either be my most ineffcient hive or my most productive, we shall see this coming spring... This one hive is tearing through the pollen patties and just now starting in on the fondant. My thoughts are since they are still heavy on the honey side and not really messing with the fondant that much (still the orginal slab) is that they are efficient, active at cold temps, large cluster, and healthy. But who really knows.