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.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Saving Seeds

I am in my garden this morning looking at the progress of things and decided to look into growing chives from seed. A little tour through my herb garden revealed I had seed ready to be harvested from my own chive plants. I wasn't sure what I needed to do to save them so I found this website about saving vegetable seeds. this is a great resource if you want to give seed saving a try. 

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

The Cause For CCD?

This was a very interesting article on a study done to determine the cause of CCD. check it out here. I agree with this study and also think CCD is caused by neonicotinoids. 

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

We Saw The Queen!

Her Majesty, Queen of Autumn's Apiary, was spotted today during our hive inspection. We were thrilled to see her and all of the work she has been doing, laying full frames of brood!

We spotted our queen today!
Just in case you couldn't see the giant bee...that is the queen!

 We installed a little bracket on our fence beside the hive to help us hold the top bars full of comb and bees. My partner helped with keeping track of the order of the bars and inspecting for brood.

One of the sections of  comb was fully capped brood! There was more larvae on the other sections as well, but these will all be bees soon!!

One bar of comb with capped brood!

Closeup of the capped brood with cells of honey.

The comb is getting larger and with the new additions coming soon, this hive will easily double in size within the next month. 
The hive is growing!

Awwwe.... aren't they just the cutest!

I saw quite a few drones this time. Can you see the difference in size? This drone hung out with me during the hive inspection. Bees continually amaze and inspire me.

The big bee with the large eyes is a drone! I was hoping to photograph one so those following my BEE FACTS can see the difference.

 Bee Observations:
 We wanted to make sure there was brood and if possible to see the queen. We also wanted to assess if we should put the next super on top of the hive.

It was 62 degrees and sunny when we entered the hive at 9:45 am. The bees were active and very busy tending to the hive and bringing in pollen. They did not seem to mind our inspection today. We took off the outer most empty bars to get to the comb. We carefully pulled out each bar, making sure to keep it level and transferred it to the holding area. We noticed one full frame of capped brood, and 4 other frames with larvae! They were all surrounded by uncapped honey, ready to feed the babies. The comb had grown another 2-3 inches on all sides and the bees expanded to the next bar. There were about 100 or so dead bees in the bottom of the hive. We are keeping the entrance small (reduced) until the hive gets a little bigger and can defend a bigger entrance. I did not see any evidence of disease or pests. These bees are healthy and were not aggravated by our entrance. As we were reassembling the hive, my partner spotted the queen. She was near some uncapped brood being followed by her entourage. She looked good and is doing a great job!

Little bee larvae!

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Hive Peek

Today I had to go into the hive and retrieve the bee box all of the bees came in. So while I was in there I took a peek at how things were progressing. It has been 6 days since they have been in the hive and they are building up quite the comb!

Under that cluster of bees is where they have built their comb. Amazing how it is in a hexagonal shape.

Close up of the bees before I started pulling out the bars of comb.

Here you can just see the pure white comb under all of those bees. The top half of the photo has cells with honey in them :)

This was third from the center and not the largest piece of comb. They are doing very well.

Here is a look inside the hive without three of the top bars (which were on the bar holder). Amazing how bees will build naturally when they are not in a structured frame.

I got the bee box out and let the stragglers that were still inside find their way to the hive.
Today was sunny and 60 degrees at 10:30am when I entered the hive. I did not use any smoke and did not move them any more than I had to to get the bee box out of the hive.
They had built their comb on the top bars we set in the hive. Since we don't have frames they are not restricted on the size or shape of comb they can build. The largest piece of comb was over 6 inches deep and 8 inches wide. The comb was pure white in color. The parts of the comb closest to the bar was full of honey. I did not notice any brood, yet. There were about 100 dead bees in the bottom of the hive. I assume they were from the transport and establishment. Otherwise the bees look healthy and are very active and not aggressive.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Neighborhood Bee Awareness

I have decided to start a little project to get my neighbors and community aware of the environment and especially bees! My hive is in my front yard garden behind two doors I painted and decorated to direct their flying path away from the sidewalk. So on or near those doors I want to post a fact about bees in English and Spanish for all my neighbors to read. My hope is that there will become an interest in helping to save the bees and clean up our environment.

My Hex Hive is right behind these doors!

Here is my first bee fact!

Bee Fact for May...

The Bees of 2014

Bees working on a sunny morning. May 6th
I just got a package of bees from Ruhl Bee Supply in Portland last Thursday. We are using our top bar hex hive we designed and made and everything seems to be going great. Yesterday I took out the queen cage and noticed they had already started building comb on the top bars. There was about a 3 inch piece of comb built on the bar I pulled out. The bees were clustered together and chaining when I saw them.

Today I took some video of the hive entrance. They were busy today!

All the purple flowering in my garden. 5/5/14

Installing the package of bees! 5/1/14

Picking up my package of bees after doing a queen inspection at Ruhl Bee Supply in Portland.