Sunday, April 24, 2016

Springtime buildup

Spring preparations underway. Splits, divides, nucs, swarms - all happening in the busy bee yard. If all went well, we should be multiplying this season.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Spring 2016 Update

A cooler, wet spring upon us here in West Central, AL. But the bees are working good, and it looks like I may be expanding the apiary soon. The three full colonies survived the winter and are going strong. The one nuc that I had an extra queen in survived, but I placed them in a larger box that a friend of mine made - so that I could give them to him - and they didn't make it.

In reality, this is my eighth year being a treatment-free top bar hive beekeeper and I am hopeful that this will grow into something beneficial not only for me but for others. This blog was started as sort of a log/diary of my experience, and I hope that it will encourage and influence others to pursue the wonderful world of beekeeping. I don't make frequent updates to this blog, as you can tell, but maybe in the future. Who knows?

Until next time,

May the Lord bless and keep you.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

May 2015 Update - Excitement!

Lots of action in the bee yard. The lone survivor hive that I had was quickly filling up, so on 4-18, I made a decision to pull the queen with two bars of brood and one bar of nectar and put them in a nuc.
I checked the one hive on 4-26 and found that they had filled it up!
Almost to the last bar.
Every comb covered!
In the last pic above, notice the push pins, marking how many bars had capped queen cells. This was kinda planned and certainly expected, so I made three one comb nucs (with a couple shakes of bees in each) to recieve these cells on the next day. The next day (27th), I placed a queen cell in each nuc, hoping they would hatch and I would have extra queens and possibly grow the nucs enough to overwinter.

The Poplar flow was going good, so on 5/2 I checked the hives. The main hive was still crowded, so I gave them space, since I removed a few combs for the nucs. I didn't go all the way through the combs. The nuc with the queen I pulled was laying and they seemed to be doing well. Two of the mating nucs had the queen cell on the floor (guess I didn't press them in the comb good enough), but bees were still tending them, so I left them alone. Third mating nuc had it's cell chewed open, for there were cells on the comb that I put in and I didn't see them.

Monday morning (5/4), I looked at the outside of the big box before I left for work and they were bearding alot, so I figured they would soon swarm no matter what I did. When I got home that afternoon, sure enough, no bearding, but foragers working good. I went looking around for the swarm, but didn't find them.

Tuesday afternoon (5/5), I looked on the outside of the hive that swarmed and noticed a bee on the end of the box with a worker on top of it. It was a queen, probably just hatched from that box. I quickly got a cage and put her in it, then layed her inside in the shade and commenced checking the hives. The big hive had definitely swarmed, but they had a queen, and also more capped cells. One of the mating nucs' cell was opened, but no sign of a queen. I took the caged queen and put her in there. Come to think of it, that could be where she came from and just got confused on her way back from mating (although she still looked kinda small).

Then I walked around looking at the bees working the Privet in my yard and noticed a good amount of bees in one place. Upon further investigation, it was a swarm, close to the ground in a tangled mess of honeysuckle. I quickly got a box ready and got my son to help. I finally found the queen in the mess, caged her and put her in and the rest followed.

2015-05-05 swarm catch

So it's been busy this year so far. And all this action from one box of bees!

Also, check out my new found beekeeping friend here: Follow him as he begins his new journey.

Until next time,

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Early Spring 2015 Update

Lots of drone brood. A good sign.
Hard winter! It has claimed 75% of my small bee yard this year. Truthfully, It started with the crazy Spring last year. The three out of four hives that didn't make it all had at least one thing in common: high winds upended them all at different times during the Spring / Summer / Fall, and along with other factors, they didn't have much of a chance of survival in the harsh Winter that they faced.

The lone hive that survived it's second winter with flying colors is doing great, as shown. I took a look at her today and here's what I found:

Date: March 24, 2015
Weather: high 60s, mostly sunny, breezy

Lots of bees, lots of worker and drone brood, and plenty of stores. This hive is healthy. We're expecting a cold snap this weekend, and, after that, I expect she won't be too far from swarming mode.

God's amazing creatures.
Some observations from last year's experience:
  • Any splits that are made, I plan to feed until they stop taking, and then any time they experience dearth during the first season, just to give them a chance to make it through the winter.
  • I have experimented with different ways to anchor the boxes so they won't be ravaged by the high winds. I also need to get some trees on the west side of the yard for a little added protection.
  • Late summer checks will be more thorough, in order to make sure the hives are prepared for the winter.
I have yet to make any real "honey harvest", period, from any of my colonies. It's not a problem for me. The main concern is the bees' hardiness. The survivor colony has made it through two winters, now, and they look to be going strong. Now, if only I can not mess it up!
Spring is here!!!

Friday, June 6, 2014

Spring 2014 Update

Here's a brief on my 2014 beekeeping:

The two colonies from last year's cutout survived. #1 (My son's) looking good, just recently noticed a couple queen cells. We'll just wait and see what happens, the swarm season in Alabama is winding up, but the bees do what they want, when they want.

#2 is a doozy! Busting at the seams coming out of winter. Multiple queen cells in May so I got ready to split them. When I made the first divide I found opened queen cells, no queen, no eggs, lots of drone and  still a lot of bees, so I just made a four comb divide (Nuc #1). I figured the old queen had already swarmed and I just missed it. A few days later I took one of the queen cells from #2 and placed it in Nuc #1. They chewed it away, for they had already started one of their own.

Meanwhile, one afternoon #2 swarms into a nearby tree, so my son and I start making preparations to catch them. While we are getting another box ready, they go back into the hive! The next day about the same time, they do it again. I don't know what's going on. The next day (Sunday), after church I get home just in time to see a swarm hanging on a limb as it lifts off and away they go, out of sight. My guess is that every time one of those queen cells hatch, they are casting secondary swarms.

I went into #2 the next day and found still several unhatched queen cells and an emerged queen. I didn't want to take a chance losing her, so I made another divide (Nuc #2) and put her in it, hoping that now when the next queen emerges it will be the end of swarming. Well, they didn't swarm any more and as of today all colonies have laying queens. Looking good so far.

Monday, August 12, 2013

August Inspection

 Date 08-10-2013
Weather: PC, hot, humid, thunder

Both hives seem to be doing good. Didn't see the queen in either, but did see eggs, larvae, capped brood - all the good signs. I just hope they will get built up enough to make it through the winter.

Special thanks to McCartney Taylor at for the tip on using the hair clips. I used quite a few in hive #1 while doing the cutout.

Hive #1
 In hive #2,  I just laid the brood comb in the back of the hive, similar to what Les Crowder showed in his book which I highly recommend, along with his DVD.
Hive #2
Both methods work, and both have pros and cons. I will probably use them both again if I do any more cutouts.

Monday, June 3, 2013

After the Cutout

I have inspected the two top bar hives from the cutout I did and #2 had eggs, so it looks like I got the queen. #1 had a lot of nectar, but no eggs (of course), so I purchased a queen from a local beek and installed her Friday (05-31). I will hopefully have time to check her Wednesday before church and make sure she is released. The #2 hive started cross-combing, so I borrowed an empty comb from #1 to try to steer them in the right direction and give the queen something to lay in. We'll see how they do maybe this weekend.
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