Thursday, July 3, 2014

Shipped in a New Queen

Try as they might, the hive could not make a viable queen for what ever reason. So last week we ordered a queen from Ruhl Bee supply in Portland. She was delivered Tuesday morning and I was there by 1 pm to pick her up.

Me in full bee gear.

This just happened to be the hottest day of the year so far with temperatures reaching in the triple digits, so I had to wait to open the hive when the sun went down a bit. 

Most of the frames have capped honey around the top of the comb.

The capped honey is becoming more plentiful!

You can see the little queen cage on the top of the bars and my instructions from Ruhl on how to install the queen in the cage.

The girls were really happy about meeting their new queen.

There was some spotty egg laying going on in the hive and I think it will all be drones. This is a sign that the workers are laying eggs.

Some more grubs toward the bottom of one of the comb.

Bees saying hi to their new queen.

This frame was loaded up with pollen and honey!
You can see the capped honey in white at the top and the pollen and nectar that has almost filled the rest of this frame.

I entered the hive at 8:10 pm after a 100+ degree day. It was sunny, and the temperature was about 85 degrees. I noticed a significantly less amount of bees than just a few weeks ago. As I pulled the frames of comb out I noticed they had capped more honey and filled some with pollen. There was only one queen cell that I destroyed but there was other capped drone brood laid in a spotty pattern on one frame along with some larvae. I assume the workers are now laying and I hope putting the new queen in the hive will turn this around.

I laid the queen cage on top the the hive bars and about 25 bees came and started examining the new comers. There was no aggressive behavior so decided to go ahead with the installation. While she was sitting up there, she began piping! That was the coolest think I have ever heard.

I first examined all of the frames for an existing queen or evidence of one. I only found one queen cell but no queen. I then had to get the hive ready to take the new queen and according to the instructions I was to wedge it in between two pieces of comb at a 45 degree angle. So I did the best I could. The comb was super soft because it had been so hot outside that day, and since these are top bars, it was a bit tricky.

I put her in and pressed the frames together to hold the queen cage in and loaded up the rest of the frames. The bees immediately started pouring down that one frame to meet and greet their new queen. I put the hive back together and must now wait one week before I can go see how things are going.

The following is an examination of the queen cell I pulled from the hive.

I had to pull out any queen cells in the hive. I only found this one and it had a pupae in it!

This was the end they capped off.

Here is a developed queen pupae.

The queen pupae still in the cell I gently pulled out of the hive.

Here is a queen pupae I pulled out of the cell.

I am crossing my fingers in hope that this works and we save the hive. Wish me luck!

Friday, June 13, 2014

The Queen Has Arrived!

We spotted the queen within 3 minutes of opening the hive. It was a quick game of Where's Waldo! The queen is the bee with the black shiny thorax and wings folded over her abdomen.
 I am excited to say we have a queen! We spotted our lady within a few minutes of opening the hive on the third frame we looked at. She looks healthy and she had lots of attentive workers. I am not sure if she has mated yet as we did not see any brood. We looked for new eggs and only found pollen and nectar. The hive was very clean and I think they are ready for her to start laying. Once we get some full frames of brood, we are still going to do a hive split.

We entered the hive on Wednesday, June 11, 2014 at 11:15 am. The weather was about 70 degrees and sunny.

We will inspect the hive for eggs on Saturday (weather permitting) and every 3 days or so until we find it. They we will mark and clip the queen so we can easily find her in future inspections.

This one cell full of bright orange pollen was such a beautiful sight.

There were still lots of bees in the hive despite having a look with all of the foragers out.

The comb is clean with no brood at all, but there are cells of pollen and nectar scattered throughout.

From Egg to Adult: The Honey Bee Life Cycle

Autumn Steam
I drew the life stages of the Honey Bee. This includes the worker, drone and queen.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Research and Links

This is a really great blog about bees! Some awesome photos of the lifecycles and larvae too.

I loved these videos on swarming, hive splitting and queen cells. They were very helpful.

I am also loving this book and his philosophy to beekeeping. I learned a few things and have refered back to it quite a bit this week.

 Natural Beekeeping: Organic Approaches to Modern Apiculture, 2nd Edition Available on Amazon

And these websites were helpful in figuring out what to do for swarming.

Some key words to search to help find information on a hive swarming:
artificial swarm
swarm cell
queen cell
beekeeping swarm
beehive swarm

Bee Drama

The past couple days have been really intense with the bees. I have read so much and tried to work through what is happening with my hive just to come to the same conclusion. I have really felt my lack of experience and am trying desperately to learn and figure out how to deal with this.
Bees tearing down an old queen cell.

My Theory: The hive became over crowded and the original queen swarmed with some bees 4-6 days ago. Now I am left with a hive making queen cells to make another queen. At least I am hoping the swarm has already happened, if not, I will need to keep a close eye on them.

Hive inspection during a requeening period.
 There are a lot of bees in this hive. I am not just saying that because it's a bee hive and there are supposed to be bees in the hive, but when we look in the hive there are bees on top of bees! This is problem number one and I should have recognized it earlier. I thought letting the bees build up their own comb as they could would be good enough, but I was wrong. They built as much comb as they could but could not keep up with the laying pace of the queen. She layed so much brood, they barely have any honey stored in the hive. She was probably laying 500-800 eggs or more per day. I know this now because over the past week to 10 days, the hive has tripled or more with bees (and there is still brood capped)! So even though the bees have a whole hive of space, they did not have that much space in terms of drawn out comb.
The comb in the middle of the frame is cleaned and polished, ready for the queen to start laying.

The bees have polished the cells and are ready for their new queen.

My partner is inspecting this frame of comb that has pollen, honey and a small amount of brood.
 Saturday, May 31st, 10:45 am -
 We entered the hive to inspect for a queen and to see how the queen cells we saw a couple days ago were doing. The queen cells we saw before were no longer there on that frame. That means they hatched and the bees destroyed the cells. Or the bees destroyed those cells themselves. We also did not find a queen.

The brood nest was mostly empty and very clean. There were small patches of packed pollen in a few of the cells and some nectar. This means the bees are cleaning up and getting ready for a queen to start laying again. We still noticed lots of capped brood along the outer edges of the comb and on the 5th frame we noticed a new queen cell. There was no drone brood at all and no new eggs or larvae.

8:30 pm
I was in a bit of a panic mode about the hive and wanted to make sure they had the best chance. The weather had been kind of windy and chilly and the lack of honey and stores made me concerned. I wanted to boost the comb production and give the bees a boost so I decided to feed them a cup of 1:1 sugar/water syrup. I stapled a ziploc bag filled with syrup and poked a pinhole in it and put it inside the hive.
Bees chaining on the bottom of the frame of comb.

The blue/grey stuff in the bottom of those cells are packed pollen. The other cells are polished and ready for more brood.

We fed the bees in a baggy stapled to the top bar and poked a pin hole in the bottom of the bag.

The bag feeder is here in the middle of some of the comb.

Sunday, June 1st, 5:00 pm -

I wanted to make sure the syrup was still at a reasonable level so we entered the hive to 1) look for the queen, 2) check the syrup, 3) check on the queen cell.

This was one of the bees participating in the mini swarm or cluster after the inspection.
The morning was windy and around 57 degrees. It finally warmed up and became sunny around 3pm. The hive became more active after the sun came out. When we entered the hive it was 72 and sunny.

We entered the hive and checked on the syrup. They had not eaten very much of it, so that means they probably didn't need it. But I left it in there for the night anyways. While we were in the hive I checked to find the queen and no luck. The queen cells were still in tact.

Some strange behavior by my bees. They were clustered in this small group on the fence.
 About 20 minutes after the hive inspection we noticed the bees did not go back into their hive. They were a bit angry with us for inspecting (again) and flying around their hive. At 6 pm I was in my garden harvesting dinner and noticed a lot of activity. There was a small cluster that had formed on the fence where we put the frames when we are working the hive. They were there for over an hour just acting crazy. I don't believe they were swarm scouts but it almost looked like a mini swarm.

You can see the handful of bees clustered on the fence.

Small cluster of bees on my fence.
 Let's just say I kinda freaked out. The last thing I want is to loose my bees! So I spent most of the night researching swarms and artificial swarms and requeening and watched a few helpful beekeeping videos on youtube.

The mini swarm and the rest of the agitated bees finally went back into the hive after dark.

Ok, this looks like two bees kissing!

After all of my research I am a little more prepared for the different things that could happen. First of all I realize now that the queen was over crowded and needed more space for laying. I did not realize this at first. So my assumption is she has already swarmed and left me with this brood and baby bees. I guess this is more of a hope than an assumption. I say that she left 4-6 days ago because the last of the larvae has now been capped and are starting to pupate. I also realize now that the queen cells the bees have been building are actually swarm cells.

I am still confused as to what their little cluster on my fence was about. I would do an artificial swarm or hive split if I could find the original queen, but because I can't find her and there is no more uncapped brood, I can't do an artificial swarm unless I purchase a new queen or find a frame of eggs. Neither of those options are viable this week. So I am forced to do what I can for this hive right now.

Monday, June 2nd, 9:30 am -
That's a lot of bees!

This hive has tripled in size!
 We entered the hive at 9:30 am and it was 60 degrees and sunny.

This was a very crowed hive this morning and a lot more docile. They were not that agitated about our entrance as the night before. My goal with this entrance was to see if the queen cell hatched and to give the bees more room by pulling out two shallow  frames of empty drawn out comb from my freezer. I had this wrapped in saran wrap in my deep freezer for a year and I am hoping this works.

Part of the reason this hive is requeening is because of over crowding!

The hive looks very healthy and the comb is ready for the queen.

A recently hatched queen cell. It hatched within hours of this photo.
 The queen cell we noticed the day before had hatched. We could not find a queen but the bees were way calmer today and it may be because they have a queen. We also discovered another queen cell (still capped) on a far frame we had not been inspecting daily. So our plan is to leave the hive alone for the next 10-14 days and let the queen mature (takes 3 days), go on her maiden flight to mate, and then begin laying eggs. If we open the hive within the 14 days she may be on her mating flights and become confused and not return. The bees have the hive very clean and ready for a new queen to start laying as soon as she can.
Recently hatched queen cell.

The recently hatched queen cell.

We discovered a new queen cell on the next frame over.

This queen cell looks recently capped.

My partner separating some comb that got stuck together. It was on this frame that we discovered the new queen cell.

Swarm cell.
To make room in the hive for the two frames of comb I had to take out the bag of syrup. So instead of putting that bag inside the hive I put a "wick" in it and laid it on the inside cover of the hive. The bees were able to find the source of syrup and figure out how to eat it within a minute.

We added two frames of drawn out comb from my freezer to give the hive more room.

The hive now has comb on all but 2 bars. We added two frames of empty fully drawn out comb to give them more room.

We also added a bit of syrup to the inner cover and wicked it down to give the bees a bit of a boost.

For now I will just leave the hive alone and wait and see what happens. It looks like one of those queen cells will be successful and if it is, the queen needs time to get established. The additional syrup may help boost the bees to create more comb. Since this is my second year beekeeping with a hive failure the first year, I do not have any more drawn out comb I can give the bees. I really hope this does not cause a failure for me later.

If everything goes like I hope, the hive will rear a new queen, she will mate and return and start laying eggs. Once that happens I would like to do a hive split and create another hive so I can have two. It is still early enough in the season that I can do this and have the bees over winter just fine.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Hive Inspection Leads to Startling News

Inspecting the hive today!

Today we did a hive inspection to just make sure everything was ok. I have noticed a decreased amount of activity in the hive this week and wondered what was going on. The weather has been rainy and chilly and very gusty this week. I thought part of the reason they were not very active could have been weather related. But I was surprised by what I found, or rather, what I did not find in the hive when we opened it up.

My partner and I all suited up ready to handle some bees.

When we too the top off the hive the first thing we noticed was an undertaker bee doing it's best to haul out a dead carcass. I have seen this plenty of times before, but I have never captured it on camera!
Undertaker bee carrying a dead bee out of the hive.
Undertaker bee climbing out of the hive with a dead bee.
Undertaker bee disposing of the body of a dead bee.
After we observed the undertaker bees for a while, we pulled out the first bar full of comb. It was pristine white and there was nothing in it. No brood and no honey. I would have liked to see this partly full of honey, but it looks like the hive is not concentrating on food production and storage as much as building up the colony and creating was comb.
Pristine but empty bar of comb.
 We continued pulling comb out and noticed the population had about doubled in size. The frames were mostly full of empty brood cells surrounded by capped and uncapped brood. We did not find any capped honey but there were cells filled with uncapped honey. We did have the fortune to see a new bee being born! She was pushing her way through the cap and sticking her little face out! It was so cool!

Pulling out bars of comb full of capped brood.
Capped brood next to empty brood cells. The bees were busy cleaning out the unused cells and tending to the bees pushing their way out of the was caps.
Here you can see the face of a bee popping through the wax cap. The new bees that just hatch will go on to bee nurse bees, taking care of the larvae for the first few days of it's life. 
 We noticed quite a few cells surrounding the old brood cells that were full of larvae. This was a good sign but we did not notice any new eggs nor did we spot the queen.
We found quite a few cells filled with larvae.
The central brood cells were very empty. We could see the population of the hive had doubled and there were still capped and uncapped brood surrounding these open cells.
Some capped brood next to some empty cells.

Here are a couple bees chaining or measuring as we pulled the comb out of the hive.
 As we pulled the fourth piece of comb out we noticed a few of the bees full of pollen were doing the infamous bee dance while the others watched. This is how they communicate to the other foragers where the food source is and how long it takes to get there. It is kind of like bee GPS!

The blurry bee near the top center of the photo was the one doing the bee dance. She was in the middle of a serious waggle when I took the photo.
 I need to take a break here and show you my bees foraging on my borage and clover. My yard is filled with flowers for them and my neighborhood is a wonderful place for them to get lots of nectar.

Honey bee from my hive gathering some nectar from the clover flower in my yard.

One of the honey bees from my hive enjoying the borage I planted for them!

 Here is where it gets interesting. The second to last frame we pull out of the hive has a queen cell that has hatched! It looks like something happened to our queen within the past 10 days or so and they made a new one. We did not spot a queen bee at all, so we are not sure if it was successful or not. The new queen could be out on her mating flight, but we are just not sure. We are going to go back into the hive in 2 days and see if we can spot the queen or at least evidence that she is there. I had a feeling something wasn't quite right with the hive this past week and my suspicions were correct. The hive looks otherwise healthy and growing. I would like to see more comb built, more eggs and brood in the empty cells and of course to spot the queen! If we do not see the queen when we next inspect, I will have to requeen the hive.

This bar of comb has empty cells, capped cells with brood and the long wax cone coming down on the right side of the photo is a hatched queen cell.

Queen cell on a frame.
We entered the hive around 1pm this afternoon. It was 68 degrees, sunny with clouds in the sky and slightly gusty.

I was concerned for the health of the hive since I noticed a decline in activity this past week. Every frame but the first contained empty brood cells in the center, surrounded by capped brood (no drone cells) and out from that uncapped larvae and honey. The newest white comb did not contain anything in it.

It looked like the hive doubled in size from the last inspection.

We did not find the queen anywhere. But we did find a queen cell that had recently hatched. It looks like the old queen died and they made a new one.

We will check on the hive and specifically look for the queen in 2 days. If no queen is found, we will requeen the hive as soon as possible. 

The bees are continually expanding their comb.