May 9th, 2012

THE FOLLOWING WAS LAST UPDATED ON APRIL 25/14.

I performed the first full hive inspection of the year yesterday. I also reversed the brood boxes while I was at it. Next year I plan to reverse the boxes shortly after the bees start hauling in pollen from the crocuses (instead of waiting until the dandelions bloom). Whether from dandelions or crocuses, if the bees bring in pollen at a steady pace for about a week, that’s my cue to reverse the brood boxes. Had I reversed them a few weeks ago, I might have been able to avoid the disgusting mess of scraping off drone comb between the frames of the top and bottom boxes. I could have avoided splitting up the brood nest too. Check out Honey Bee Suite for more info on reversing boxes.


Read on . . . »

Maybe they’ve been around for a while. Maybe not. But we saw our first dandelion of 2012 today:

Two seconds later:

So I mosey on over to the hives and lo and behold, bees bringing in yellow pollen:
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May 8th, 2012

THE FOLLOWING WAS UPDATED ON MAY 11, 2012.

I have no great love for hive top feeders of any kind. So today I placed an otherwise useless insert feeder a fair distance from the hives, filled it half way with syrup and wood chips and let the bees go to it.

I know there are many arguments against this kind of free for all feeding. Too bad.
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May 8th, 2012

One of the few photos of me (with a bee on my hand).

May 7th, 2012

This is one way to paint hive boxes (or supers). Hang them between two saw horses (like Rusty does at Honey Bee Suite) and paint them:

We don’t have any saw horses, but we managed to improvise something like this:

Here’s the video:
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May 5th, 2012

Click the Read On link if you want to see something semi-gross.

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Unless you’re reading this through the RSS feed. Then you have no choice.

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May 4th, 2012

Dry sugar feeding. Bees clustering extra high again. Possibly some dead drone pupae.

The bees were gathering pollen at a steady pace for a couple weeks in April. But then the weather turned into cold, wet snow and the forecast ain’t the greatest. Always the paranoid beekeeper, I decided to sprinkle some dry sugar around the inner cover holes today just in case the bees were running low on honey. (I’ll probably give them some pollen patties once the weather warms up a bit.) This is what I found under the hood of Hive #3:

They bees are clustering above the inner cover hole, attached to the top cover as if they’re trying to build comb upwards. It’s the same colony that built some big time burr comb under the insulated inner cover a few weeks ago. I don’t know it if it means they’re just trying to stay warm or if the queen wants to expand the brood nest upwards. Either way, I think the safest bet to reduce the chances of swarming is to reverse the brood boxes ASAP. That’s our plan the next time the sun comes out.
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May 1st, 2012

Check out the tongues darting out as the bees in our foundationless hive suck up water from the corrugated plastic floor of our combo bottom board.

From what I can tell, morning dew forms naturally inside the corrugated plastic (which might not make it a great floor for the hive). The water doesn’t pool inside the plastic. The hive is slightly tilted downwards to the front entrance where the water drains out slowly — and the bees drink it up.
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April 30th, 2012

8:35am. Here’s what I see when I look out the window.

April 22nd, 2012

THE FOLLOWING WAS UPDATED ON APRIL 02, 2014.

We reversed the brood chambers in Hive #2 today (our one foundationless hive). I was convinced the foundationless colony was only living in the top brood chamber and was running low on honey. But when we pulled the top box off, we saw just as many bees in the bottom box, at least on the top bars. I’m always concerned that reversing the boxes will split up the brood nest and kill off some baby bees, but in our urban environment, swarm prevention is always a top priority, even if it means chilling some baby bees to death. The photo on the right shows the hive after we reversed the boxes. (The third deep super on top is sheltering a jar feeder.) Reversing the boxes took maybe 10 minutes. It was a smooth operation, no smoke involved, and the bees were well behaved the whole time. Here’s how it went down:

I removed the top cover and inner cover. I could see bees covering at least 7 out of 10 frames. I couldn’t tell how much honey was left in the frames, but when I lifted the box off and put it aside, it was heavy. That’s when I noticed the bottom box full of bees too. I couldn’t tell if the brood nest was down in the bottom box, but when I lifted the box, it felt much lighter than the top box. The bottom board looked like this — some dead winter bees, pieces of old pollen patties and dried up sugar:

I put the bottom aside and replaced it with a clean bottom board. I could have just scraped off the mess, but I wanted to install our homemade combo bottom board. I really love the design of that thing. It’s so simple and cheap and I think it’ll work perfectly. I may paint the corrugated plastic floor with some wax so the bees can get a better grip on it, though at the moment, the bees in that hive hardly use the bottom entrance anyway.

We the put the boxes (or brood chambers or deep supers, whatever you want to call them) back on the bottom board but in the reverse order. The top box is on the bottom and bottom box is on the top. The lighter (and probably emptier) box on top helps prevent swarming as the brood nest expands upwards. It was too windy to do a full inspection. We didn’t pull a single frame. But maybe that’s a good thing.

ADDENDUM (April 02/14): Here’s a Gmail reminder that arrives in my Inbox on April 2nd every year: “Reverse the brood boxes as soon as the CROCUSES have bloomed or whenever the bees are bringing in pollen at a steady pace . This should happen by mid-April. DO NOT wait for the dandelions in May. By then the population in the hives could be through the roof and drone comb will fill the spaces between the boxes. Thus the frames in the bottom box — that are glued to the frames in the top box with drone comb — will come up when the top box is lifted. It’s a horrible disgusting mess when all that drone comb is split apart. Reverse the boxes before it gets like that. IF the between-the-boxes drone comb can’t be prevented, carefully and slowly twist the top box — to break apart the drone comb — before lifting it off. The other trick is to reverse the boxes (or deeps) by transferring the frames in the top box to a new bottom box right next to the hive and so on. That way you can reverse the boxes (which may or may not help prevent swarming), re-arrange frames if necessary, and get a full inspection in while you’re at it.”

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