Friday, September 25, 2009

Fall Update

We had a break in the rain so I decided to walk down to the hives today. My first stop was #2. DOOMED! Covered with ants. No activity. And they were doing so good! I guess the wet conditions didn't help. I don't know. I walked up to #1. It looked good. The wind had shifted the roof, so I adjusted it and left them alone. I need to open them up and further investigate. Beekeeping: the Roller coaster experience!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

July Inspection

Date: July 11, 2009
Weather: Hot, breezy


Hive #2 (was hive #3 from last inspection, but bumped to #2 because original #2 is gone): Lots of honey, nectar and pollen. I did not see the queen, eggs, larvae or capped brood. I decided to feed a little sugar water just in case she was in there somewhere. I read somewhere that , in the spring, it may induce the queen to start laying. Probably not good, since there was a fair nectar flow and I don't like artificial feed, but I had to try something.
Well, sure enough, I checked them a week later to take off the empty feeder and found larvae and the queen. Remember, this is the hive that I introduced the Caucasian queen into. This queen looked like an Italian queen. My thinking is, they had already started queen cells and when I introduced the Caucasian, they killed her. The new queen just had to have time to mate and get started laying. I just hope they have time to get established.

Hive #1: Doing fine, as always. I've made two (actually three) splits from this hive this season and it's still thriving. I didn't see as many hive beetles as before. I got some Boric Acid from the feed store and I think I'll make up some traps for the next inspection. I got a small piece of capped honeycomb, but I may be able to take some full bars before long. If not, that's fine. Just gaining the experience and confidence working with the bees is reward enough. For that I am thankful.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Quick update - Another Split

Date: Sat, June 20, 2009
Time: morning
Weather: HOT & HUMID!

Here is a quick update on my latest inspection:

Hive #2 (split from original Hive #1)
A quick look into this hive told me that it's queenless, again. They have an emergency cell started, but the numbers have dwindled, so I may have to take action before long.

Hive #1 (original)
Still doing good. I did notice some dead bees on the floor. They were getting crowded again, so I made another split. There should be some full bars of honey within this month.

Hive #3 (new split from #1)
I made this split Saturday, from the original hive. It went much smoother than last time. This time, however, I introduced a Caucasian queen yesterday, that I purchased from a queen supplier nearby. I'll check in a few days and see if she's been released and how the colony is receiving her.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Memorial Day Inspection

The sun came out long enough to look into the hives. Here's a short video on what we found:
TBH Inspection May, 2009

We were excited to see that a queen had emerged and started laying in hive #2. The bees had comb on 3 or 4 bars and they should take off for the next month or so. I took out one of the comb ends that I cut from hive #1 to fit into #2 - it was empty. The other piece had pollen in it, so I left it. I removed the follower and inserted all the bars so the bees can have at it.

In hive #1, I only observed the last few combs in back. there was not much honey, but a lot of capped brood. They too should build up very well.

Also, this past Thursday, I attended my first West Alabama Beekeepers' meeting. Maybe half the members were there, and it was pretty much just an open discussion. Most of the members there had as little or less experience than myself. The good thing is, like myself, they are eager to learn. I hope all goes well.

Friday, April 24, 2009


Date: Fri Apr 24, 2009
Time: 2:30 - 4:30pm
Weather: Clear, breeze, lower 80s

I made the split. Actually 2 of them. I moved the parent hive (#1) to a new location. I put one new hive (#2) in the parent's old location. I placed two bars of brood, bees, pollen and honey in #2 and a few shakes of bees. I also placed two brood bars into #3, but they collapsed as I was trimming them to fit the new design. I left them in #3, with some shakes of bees.

I got one sting behind my right thumb as I was trimming side attachments, so I went ahead and got some gloves on. I still didn't see the queen, but there was still plenty of sealed brood, larvae, and a lot more drone brood. I think the queen is still in #1, but I guess we'll see. There's a good flow going right now, so I'm not feeding. Hope everything works out. I gotta get some pics of the new setup.

Lessons learned:
  • To trim comb to fit the new boxes, turn the bar upside down and hold to the comb as you cut. Also, you could shake bees off comb first.
  • Keep on top of cross comb. the bees don't like me cutting their side attachments, either.
I also built a 5 bar nuc from 1/2" plywood. I think it will come in handy as the swarm season kicks in. I gotta get my other two hives built and hopefully get some bees in them before much longer.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

New Hive Design and Updates

I have decided on new dimensions for my TBH design. I have a neighbor who owns a sawmill and I can get rough cut 1"x10" lumber from him. Last Saturday, I purchased a few boards and cut out the pieces for four hive boxes and a few top bars. Monday after work, I put together one of the boxes. The new design will have 20" top bars. I painted the new box Tuesday after work with a mixture of boiled linseed oil and beeswax.

I may be able to split my hive this weekend. I would like to get another box built so that I can totally have all of them the same. Now, to make this work, I will have to screw on extensions to the 15" bars that are in the plywood hive. My plan for the split is:
  1. Maybe today or tomorrow, Screw these extensions onto the 15" bars without opening the tbh.
  2. Saturday - inspect the hive and find the queen.
  3. Transfer the queen, a bar of brood, hopefully a bar of pollen and honey, and some shakes of bees to one of the new boxes. I will add about 4 or 5 empty bars to this hive and a divider - sorta like a nuc. I will loosely close the entrance off with some grass.
  4. With the remaining bees, I will simply place the other box in the location of the old hive, shake them all out of the old hive into the new box and add the remaining frames, since this hive will now be queenless and will need to raise a queen as soon as possible.

Also, I was interviewed by a beekeeper in Northern Kentucky for an upcoming episode of the Beekeeping Podcast, hosted by Darcy Pach. Darcy and I had a fun and interesting discussion on my adventures in top bar hive beekeeping. We also compared the top bar hive to the Langstroth hives that he uses. Thanks, Darcy for putting up with my ramblings.

Darcy's podcast and blog can be found here: NKYBeekeeper

Monday, April 13, 2009

Thorough Inspection - Finally

I finally made it thoroughly through my hive on Saturday. I also got my first sting (what a beauty)! Here are my observations:
Date: Saturday, April 11, 2009
Weather: Overcast, breezy, Low 60s

All of the sugar candy was gone. I didn't see the queen, but I did see capped brood & larvae. There were several frames of brood in the middle, 1 frame of drone comb toward the front, but all honeycomb was empty. They were still bringing in some pollen, not as much as the week before. I had several bars cross-combed toward the front. I think I fixed some of them, but not all. I still had to detach the sides again. Maybe I need to scrape those sides clean. Also, I am thinking about a different design that I have seen lately. The top bars are longer than mine, but the box is not as deep. I think it might be easier to manage.

I did get the one sting on the side of my hand. I think the bee just flew into it. They had been crawling all over my hands with no problems. I noticed that sudden movements would cause them to fly off the comb. I did get quite a few pings on the new veil I got. I also got the new smoker and used it. I have mixed feelings about the smoker. I have read that it masks the alarm pheromone. I have also read that it causes the bees to consume their honey, thinking that they may be forced to leave because of fire, which makes them lethargic, fat and not as able to position their abdomens to sting. With this hive, there was no honey to consume, so what were they to do? I think it probably caused more stress. I probably should have gotten more stings.

In such a case as this (if not all the time) I think a sprayer mixed with water and either sugar or some organic apple cider vinegar would have had a totally different effect on the bees. They may have even welcomed it! Last season I used the water/vinegar mix I read about at the forum, and it seemed to work better, for me anyway.

I added a wide top bar in the back of the hive with a hole to accept an inverted jar of sugar water later Saturday. I checked it Sunday afternoon and some was gone. I don't want these bees to get dependent on feeding, but I think it was necessary. This hive had a late start last year, and it was a HUGE swarm (I don't know how many pounds) that the beekeeper captured from one of his hives! My goal is to have bees that ultimately will need little if any of my intervention (intrusion), and maybe just let me have a bar or two of honey now and then. I think Sam Comfort with Anarchy Apiaries said, "Bees know what's best for bees". I agree.

Monday, March 30, 2009

First 2009 Inspection - Almost

Date: March 28, 2009
Time: Afternoon
Weather: clearing, windy, 70s, behind cool front w/ lots of rain

The bees survived the winter and are looking good, only no honey in the combs I inspected. There was eggs, larvae, and capped brood. There was pollen, but no honey. I observed a few hive beetles on the combs. There was a good population of bees. They were for the most part calm considering they had nothing to eat. My son took a couple stings and a worker or two got after my wife, so, since it was a rather windy day, I decided to close her up about 1/2 way through. I did not see the queen, but the hive looked healthy.

I took some sugar candy and put it in the hive behind the last combs. I may check it today and replace with just 2:1 sugar water. I also need to take care of those hive beetles. As always, I've got to keep a close check for ants. Lots of pollen coming in, but apparently not much nectar, yet.

Here's my 2009 to-buy list:
  • Smoker - borrowed one for Saturday's inspection
  • Veil - my homemade one is a little hard to see through
  • Hive tool - not absolutely necessary, but handy to have
Plans for this season (not necessarily in order of preference):
  • Possibly make a split
  • Catch a swarm or two
  • Harvest my first honey
  • Look into joining our local beekeeper's club
  • Learn, learn, learn
I may post a link to a little bit of video of this inspection also. It will somewhat demonstrate how to detach comb that is attached to the sloped sides of the tbh. I used a long carving knife and, so far, it has worked well. You may also have noted a little torn piece of comb in one of the corners. Any cross-comb usually gets trimmed or straightened if possible and the bees just keep on building.

Monday, March 23, 2009

TBH Update

The bees in the one remaining TBH survived the winter! It's time to do my first inspection before the spring buildup starts. Bees are already bringing in pollen, so I am hopeful for this hive. On my last inspection last year on this hive, I found good honey stores and good signs of queen activity. I hope this will be a healthy hive.
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