Archive for May, 2007

Blog Business

May 28, 2007

I just a couple of little blog business things.

The first bit of business – I have mostly finished adding a couple of static pages. You should be able to see them on the right. With the way a blog works (reverse chronological order for the posts) and my designing and building the hives over a short time period, it was a bit of a challenge for anyone who was interested in how the hives were made to find the right posts. (Man that was a long complicated sentence. I need to work on my writing) To try to make the information more accessible, I created a few pages that document the design of the hives, their construction, and the construction of the top-bars. If anyone has any comments, or suggestions on making things clearer, I would welcome them (kawayanan at gmail dot com). If anyone had downloaded the SketchUp model of my hive, you should know that I updated the model a little (minor changes including the placement of the slot in the back).

The second bit of business – If you made a comment that didn’t make it onto the blog, I’m sorry. I don’t have the comment set to me moderated, but there is a spam filter here on WordPress.com. Normally, I get an email when someone makes a comment and I usually try to respond. Today I want to respond to a comment, and my reply never showed up on the blog. It turned out that my own blog thought my comment was spam :p I think it was because I had a couple of links in it. Anyway, in finding out what had happened, I found four or five legitimate comments that had also been tagged as spam. I am not completely sure what flags a comment as spam, but I think one of the things is having links. Don’t get me wrong, the spam filter is a great thing. So far it has blocked at least 120 spam comments. (Its saved us from annoying links to sell pharmaceuticals, porn and other crap). I just realized that I do need to look through the blocked comments to make sure some real ones don’t get lost. I’m sorry if an anyones comments were lost.

Third (and last) – Not that it really effects anyone, but I think I will add a new section of links that don’t always directly relate to beekeeping but that might be interesting (other blogs, agriculture, environmental, computer related, etc – random stuff I find interesting).  I haven’t decided if I will have it as a group of links (like the others on the right), or put them on a different page.  Sometime I will get around to it though.

A Holiday Visit

May 28, 2007

Since today was a holiday, I decided to take my wife and kids out to see the bees. They hadn’t yet seen them and were interested in seeing them. In addition, I wanted to add a little sugar syrup since they were out when I checked on Sat.

My wife stayed back a little ways since she had my daughters with her, but she was able to take a few pictures. She pointed out that I have been missing from all my pictures. Now, you get to see a couple of me. Aren’t you lucky :p When I look through my family photos, they have the same “problem”. Lots of pictures of the rest of the family, and very few with me in them. Its the curse/joy of being the one with the camera.

I didn’t do much, just added syrup, checked a couple of combs (mostly for the camera), and opened the entrances a little. The bees were calm and weren’t washboarding much. There were a lot of foragers coming and going (right over my families heads). Hopefully the slightly larger entrances will alleviate any traffic jams. The veil I am wearing is the one I bought a visitor/backup veil, but its the one I have been using the most. It doesn’t always stay in the exact right place, but it is foldable and doesn’t require a hat. The veil on the jacket I got is nicer, but my bees have been so calm that I haven’t felt too much need to suit up in the jacket (and its getting hot out).

  

 

Quick Inspection

May 26, 2007

I went by my hives today to do a quick check. First of all, there were fewer of them out at both hives washboarding (the little back and forth cleaning thing).

It doesn’t mean that there was less traffic going in and out. They were busy, more than normal. Hive #2 had picked up noticeably. The last few times, there seemed to be less bees coming and going even though there were more bees washboarding. Today however, they were about equal to hive #1 in traffic.

When I opened up the hives, both had cleaned out their feeders. I didn’t bring any sugar syrup though. I have to come back to do that. I only checked the the first 3 combs in each hive. I didn’t want to bother the bees too much. They each still has combs on 7 top-bars, but they had filled the combs out some more. I also noticed that both hives seemed to have a lot more bees covering the combs. It just looked like more bees. Maybe I’m just hoping. 🙂 There wasa good bit more reaction to me opening up the hives though. They still were not aggressive, but there were a lot more bees that took flight. During the short inspection, there what a small cloud of bees buzzing around.

I did find some interesting stuff though. I saw eggs, larva, and emerging bees. 🙂

The difference in color of the photos was because I tried two different cameras.  My newer, higher resolution camera is in almost all ways better, but it lacks a macro setting.  The darker photo on the left is with my old camera.  I was trying its macro setting, but I had to turn off the flash or it just washed everything out when its so close.  Its an interesting contrast.

More Observations

May 22, 2007

This morning, I went out to add some more syrup to the feeders in my hives. As I expected, the feeders in both hives were empty (but just barely). I also took a little time to watch the hives a little more. The entrance of hive #1 is still mostly business, without too many bee just hanging out. There is a good traffic of foragers coming and going. Hive #2 in contrast has a lot of bees hanging out around the entrance. Some are still doing their cleaning thing, but not as franticly as before. Some just seem to be hanging out. There are still foragers coming and going, but I don’t see as many as hive #1 (the bees coming in with pollen are quite noticeable – I still see orange and pale yellow). You should be able to tell which picture is which.

Also, while refilling the feeder in hive #2, I saw a bee wrestling with what looked like a pupa. I tried to get a picture, but I seem to be crappy at taking pictures of small things. I need a macro setting. 😦 Anyway, the bee gave up and I picked up the white blob. It was definitely a pupa. So hive #2 is clearly uncapping and tearing out pupa. Exactly why and how many, I don’t know. Normally some removal of pupa that my have disease or parasites is a good thing. I am just worried that it means there is a problem. Sorry again for the crappy pictures.

While I was picking up this pupa, another bee with another pupa flew out.  It rose slowly due to the extra weight, but did not drop the pupa.  It flew off with the pupa in a straight line away from the hive.  I watched it go for as far as I could.  I find it strange that the pupa was not simply removed from the hive.  It was almost like it was taking the pupa somewhere.

I also squished 14 small hive beetles between the two hives.  I need to make those traps I posted about.

I also decided to open the screened bottoms.  It has been getting into the mid 80’s here and I thought that the hives might need some better ventilation.  I left a shorter bottom board in place, so only the part of the hive under the combs is open.  We will see how they do with this.

21 Days After Install: Bees Emerging?

May 20, 2007

Since I had not yet done a full inspection of hive #2 since it had built most of its comb, I went out to the hives yesterday to check it out. I also wanted to check on some things I had noticed while adding syrup.

They had built more comb since the last time I checked them. I had stopped checking their comb at comb 5 since comb 4 was slightly attached to the side. This time I went through them all. I even remembered a hacksaw blade to cut the attachments to the sides. Each comb was noticeably larger than the last time. Combs 7 and 6 still did not have any capped brood, and looked to be mostly used for nectar.

As was seen last time, comb 5 was the start of capped brood. There is more capped brood than last time, and I also noticed empty cells. Not just empty new cells, but cells that looked like they had been used for brood and were now empty. They are toward the middle of the capped brood, where the oldest of the brood would have been. Maybe they had emerged?

The strange part is that I wouldn’t have expected them to have hatched quite yet. It has been 21 days since I installed the package. Most places claim that it takes 21 day from laying of the egg to it emerging as a worker bee (queens and drones take less and more time). If the workers were to take 21 days, that would mean that the eggs had been laid the same day that the package was installed. The problem with that is that the bees had to build the comb and release the queen. I doubt that that happened in the first day. If you look at the empty cells in the picture, they are also a reasonable ways down the comb so there had to be a good bit of the comb built before eggs were laid there.

Michael Bush lists the time for a worker to emerge as 20 +/- 1 days. I am not sure if that is the “small cell” number (he and others argue that small cell bees cap a little earlier and emerge earlier). I know that by day 3, my queens were out and laying. I would guess that they were out and laying on maybe some time on the second day. This would mean that my bees emerged at 20 days (or less). Thats not to far off I guess. I want on and found capped brood and empty cells in combs 2-4. I also checked comb 1 and it had pollen and nectar, much like hive #1 (both seem to like using comb 1 for mostly pollen. I had a accident transferring pictures from my camera though and lost a few pictures, including the picture of comb 1.

As you can see, these are pretty full combs (cover most of the top-bar and are pretty deep). They are not yet at the bottom of the hive, but that use most of the height. Also notice the queen on comb 4. She was right in the middle of the largest patch of empty cells. She was moving around calmly, and I didn’t see her lay an egg. She seemed to be checking out the cells though.

The one worry in the back of my mind was that maybe the bees had not emerged, but were torn out. If the bees in the hive sense there is a problem with the developing pupa, they can open the cell and remove it. This is actually a trait that people want, and is called hygienic behavior. It is a useful trait and helps the bees combat diseases and parasites. If I had a bunch of pupa being torn out though, that would signal a problem, and mean that my hives dropping population would have even more trouble growing. The fact that I saw a few bees dragging white things around a few days ago added a little to my worry. It was possible that those were pupa parts that had been torn out. When I check today however, I saw no sign of it (accept for one bee dragging around what looked like a chunk of wax). All in all, I think it is most likely that the bees simply emerged and I am worrying about nothing. I am not overly worried about this, but am hoping to get some more knowledgeable beekeepers to weigh in.

When I got home and looked carefully at some of my pictures, noticed a few brood that were not ready to emerge that but were uncapped. I am not sure if this is common or a sign of pupa being torn out. Here is a picture from comb 3, and a zoomed picture with some cells highlighted.

I circled white pupa that were at least partly uncapped in red. I also circled some capped brood in green. I wanted to point out the darker edges of the capped cell. I don’t know if that is normal, and I wanted to check with other beekeepers. I just haven’t seen enough capped brood to know if its normal or not.

Hopefully everything is well in my hives and I am just worrying due to lack of knowledge.

Oh, and I didn’t see any small hive beetles.

Cleaning the Hive?

May 20, 2007

When I went to check out the hives again yesterday, hive #2 still had bees hanging out at the entrance that appeared to be cleaning the front of the hive. Hive #1 also had some bees doing the same thing, but not as many as hive#2. They are still not fanning, just cleaning. I captured a few short videos using my camera. I decided to put them on youtube so that I could post them here. Here is hive #1. You can see a number of bees coming and going in addition to the bees that appear to be cleaning. At the end you can see a bee coming in with pale yellow pollen. As you can see, the bees hanging out at the entrance don’t seem to be getting in the way of those that are coming and going. They seem to be able to get by without waiting.

As I said, hive #2 has more bees cleaning. They seem to have been doing this for days. Watch the three bees to the left just above the entrance reducer. Its almost like I have bees with OCD. They are just going back and forth, back and forth. I am really curious what they are trying to accomplish.

(If you try to play the video and it doesn’t work, it may be because I just uploaded them.  They take a little while to process before they can be viewed.  They should also get an image for before you play them some time too.)

Added Syrup and noticed a few things…

May 17, 2007

I must admit, this post is about what I did on Thurs. (5-17-07).  I am going to pre-date it. I suppose it’s kind of like postdating a check, but in reverse. I will date stamp it with Thursday’s date even though I am writing it on Sat. (5-19-07).

When I checked on the bees on Tues (5-15-07, the feeders in both hives were dry.  I dropped by on Thurs. to add syrup and was planning on doing just that (no inspection).  I didn’t have a good container to carry too much syrup, so I only had about 72 oz.  I went ahead and gave both hives ~36 oz.

I forgot to bring my camera so I don’t have any pictures.  I wish I had remembered it though, because I noticed a few things.  First, I notices a difference in the behavior or the bees at the front of the two hives.  Hive #1 had a few bees around the entrance, but not too many.  It did however have a good deal of traffic going in and out.  I saw bees coming in with pollen (yellow and orange), and bees without (I assume they had nectar).  There was nothing that looked like fighting (no robbing).  Hive #2 also didn’t have anything that looked like fighting, but there were a lot more bees hanging around the entrance.  It wasn’t like a traffic jam because many of the bees were making no attempt to enter.  Instead, they looked to be cleaning the front of the hive with their tongues.  None of the bees were fanning or “bearding” as I understand it, so I am pretty sure they were not trying to cool the hive (it wasn’t too hot out either, 65-70 degrees).  I have read about this behavior before, but I’m not sure the full purpose.  There was also a reasonable traffic of bees bringing in pollen and nectar.  About the same level as hive #1 or maybe slightly less (but not much).  One other funny thing was that there were bees sitting in the entrance slot with their butts out.  It was almost like that scene in Braveheart.  A line of bees, shoulder to shoulder, mooning anyone who came by.  They weren’t fanning, and I couldn’t see anything that they were doing.  Just sitting there with their butts out.  The foraging bees would just push past them to get in the hive.  I have no idea what they were doing.

I also decided that even though I was not going to open the hives, I would pull out the removable bottom board and check it.  When I did in hive #2, I saw a single small hive beetle.  I promptly squished it.  Hive #1 had three.  I doubt that they are a problem yet in either hive, but I would rather that they don’t become a problem.  I think I will try a baited trap to try to keep them under control.  The trap I will try is described here.  A fellow blogging beekeeper, is also trying this type of trap out (see her post here).  When I make them, I will keep you posted on how they do.

The last thing I noticed was a bit strange.  When I pulled the removable bottom out of hive #2, I could hear the bees messing around on the screened bottom.  I tried to stick my head under the hive to see what they were up to.  I saw three bees or so that seemed to be either dragging about something white, or there was something white stuck to their underside.  From my viewpoint, it was hard to tell what it was.  I was wondering whether it was pieces of larva that had been chewed out of their cells for some reason.  It could well be many other things though.  Whatever it was, there were not many of them so I doubt it is a problem.  I will watch out for it when I do an inspection though.  Hive #1 didn’t have any sign of bees dragging white things around though.  I wish I could have gotten a better look and remembered my camera.

17 Days – Lots of Capped Brood

May 15, 2007

So far, I had done a check at 3 and 10 days after install. I have been watching for the various stages of developing bees as a check on how my queens are doing and whether that had started off nicely. Here are the stages of a worker bee development, and how long they are (+\- a day or so):

  • 3 days as an egg
  • 6 days as a larva
  • Cell capped at day 9
  • 12 days as a pupa (in capped cell)
  • Worker emerges at ~day 21

At 3 days post install, I removed some burr comb and later found eggs in it (I haven’t seen them while doing a inspection at the hive – they are very small). This means that my queens were laying by at least day 3, probably a little sooner (I’m guessing day 2). At 10 days post install, I saw larva but no capped cells yet. Since I had eggs at day 3, they should start to be capped at day 12 at the latest (day 11 if laying started on day 2). When I came to check on the hives today (day 17), I should definitely have capped brood. If not, something went wrong.

With good intentions, I decided to start with hive #2 since I hadn’t done a full inspection of it yet. The feeder was dry, but I hadn’t brought any sugar syrup. I’ll have to refill it later. I first noticed that there was now comb out to the 7th top-bar. In addition, bars 1-6 looked much fuller (getting close to covering the full bar width (19″). I pulled bars 7-5, and found capped brood on bar 5. At this point, I could see that top-bar 4 had a lot more brood, but I also noticed a bit of attachment of comb 4 to the side of the hive. I had been meaning to bring a hack-saw blade (or something else long and thin) to cut any attachments to the sides, but kept forgetting. It was a small attachment, maybe 1/2-1″. I was hesitant to try to cut it with my hive tool though. The hive tool is relatively blunt and thicker than I would want for cutting attachments. I was afraid of making a mess, and decided not to open the hive further. After checking hive #1, I realized that I could have easily cut the attachment, but oh well. I’ll explain that later. Here are top-bars 7-5. You can see a almost heart shaped patch of brood on comb 5. I also tried to take a picture of the attachment of comb 4, but it didn’t really turn out.

I went ahead and close up hive #2 and moved over to hive #1. Hive #1 had also emptied its feeder, and had built out to top-bar #7. I am still amazed how even these to hives are in their build up. As you’ll see, their combs and brood almost seem to match. Here are combs 7-5 from hive #1.

Interestingly, just like hive #2, the first top-bar to have brood in it is #5. They even have roughly the same amount of brood and in a similar heart shaped patch. There was one difference though. Hive #1 had started building a little bit of a curve in their comb. The left edge of their comb was starting to cross onto the neighboring top-bar. It wasn’t much, but when I removed top-bar #5 it pulled a little on the edge of comb #4 (bending it a little more). It wasn’t bad, but I wanted to try and get it straightened out. Here is Comb #4.

I used my hive tool to cut the attachment to the top-bar a little and then tried to push the corner of the comb back in line. It mangled the comb a little, but I was able to straighten the comb reasonably. Luckily, the comb in that area just had nectar in it, and the bees went right to work licking up the small mess I made. As you can see, there is a nice amount of capped brood in comb #4 (in all cases, the capped brood is on both sides of the comb). I also noticed that comb #3 had a small attachment to the side of the hive (1/2-1″ like the attachment in hive #2). Since I wanted to try to straighten the comb and not let it get worse, I went ahead and cut the attachment with my hive tool. It actually worked surprisingly well, and didn’t make much of a mess. I also cut and pushed the corner of comb #3 and #2 back straight.

Both combs #2 and #3 have a nice amount of capped brood.  I’m not experienced, but I thought they looked nice.  If my guess about the egg laying starting on day 2, I think they should start hatching at day 24 (day 25 at the latest since there were eggs on day 3).  That means I should be getting new bees about a week from today. 🙂

I noticed a couple of interesting things.  First, I clearly saw one capped drone cell in amount the brood on comb #2.  It stood out and was quite clear.  Second, I saw a number of bees on different combs doing their waggle dance to communicate the location of either nectar or pollen to other foraging bees.  It was interesting to see.  It really makes me want to get an observation hive.  Third, the first comb (#1) seemed to be chosen by the bees as the pollen storage comb.  It didn’t have any brood, and I wonder if this was due to its proximity to the entrance.  It was nice to see that they had pollen though.