Fresh White Honey Comb

I took a brief peek at one of our monster hives with honey supers on it yesterday and found several frames well on their way to being filled with honey. I know some experienced beekeepers discourage new beekeepers from going foundationless in their honey supers because the chances of success are less, but we can’t help ourselves. We love it when the bees build natural comb like this:

Our honey supers have a combination of foundationless frames, frames of drawn comb from last year (with and without foundation), and frames with untouched foundation.

Apparently the bees are attracted to the smell of drawn comb. That gets them to work in the honey supers. We put foundationless frames between the frames of drawn comb because the bees are generally compelled to fill in empty space. Our methods may not maximize honey production, but the maximizing approach can take the fun out of beekeeping. That’s not our game. And it’s hard to argue with results like this:

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Queen in a Hived Swarm

One of our hives swarmed about two weeks ago on June 17th. We caught it and hived it with no trouble (it’s nice when things go smoothly). We gave the new hive some syrup and then some frames of honey from another hive. I dropped by with some friends today just to take a quick peek and we spotted all kinds of fresh brood — and the queen. Here’s the video (the queen shows up at the 0:45 mark):

All our videos can be played back in 720p HD. I don’t know why 360p is the default setting.

The hive that swarmed two weeks ago should have swarmed with the old marked queen, but this queen isn’t marked. I’m not sure what to think of that. All I know is the hive has a mated queen that’s laying well. It’s hard to see in the video, but the queen is light coloured with distinctive rings on her abdomen similar to an Italian queen, but who knows. Whatever is going on, I’m happy to see it. Watching a young hive get on its feet and do well is more rewarding than trying to deal with our monster hives that have been swarming or on the verge of swarming for the past couple months.

UPDATE (July 17/12): See What Does a Honey Bee Queen Look Like for another good look at a queen.

First Honey of The Year

Our beekeeping experience in the past month or so has been a trying experience and I don’t want to talk about it (we still have some challenging days ahead). To maintain our sanity and derive some satisfaction from the all this bee business, we decided to pull a frame of honey yesterday from a monster hive that’s out of control.

The honey has a hint of maple and a distinct wild flower aroma compared to the more delicately balanced honey we harvested in the city last year. I’ve tasted some wild flower honeys that were almost pungent, not particularly pleasant or elegant. I’m glad that’s not the case here.

We hope to find a safe place in the city for a few hives next year. The huge diversity of flowering trees and plants in the city has got to produce to best tasting honey around. I’m almost sure of it. The honey we harvested yesterday isn’t bad at all. It’s good honey. But the honey we harvested last year in the city seems to have more subtle, complex flavours. It’s still early in the season, though. The bees may produce something altogether different by the time September rolls around.
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Another Swarm Cell

Here’s a quick two-clip video that shows some of what we had to deal with today.

The first brief clip shows a monster hive after we did a full inspection of it and thoroughly riled up the bees. It’s a swarmed hive with a newly mated queen (which we spotted). It’s full of uncapped honey and very little brood. We pulled some honey frames to give the queen more room to lay, but I’m not sure what we’re going to do next. We found swarm cells in two other hives. The second clip shows one of the swarm cells. The other hive with swarm cells had about half a dozen capped cells. Lovely. We have a swarm trap out and we took other swarm prevention measures. But we’ll see how it goes next week. We have three mated queens coming in. I hope requeening calms the bees down. The past 40 days have been exhausting. We’ve done everything we can to keep the bees in check, but they’re on fire.

Six-ish Hives (An Update)

I used a digital recorder to record notes during our last inspection. A very helpful way to take notes because I would have forgotten or confused most of it otherwise, and the notes wouldn’t have been as detailed.

For those who are curious, we have potentially 6 hives on the go now, each of them with their own specific history and a unique set of challenges for us. Here’s a brief summary:
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Video of a Hived Swarm

One of our honey bee colonies swarmed into a tree last week. We caught it and put it in a new hive with a small frame feeder and three frames of empty drawn comb so the queen could start laying right away. We checked on it yesterday and here’s a video that shows what we found (it’s doing well):

It’s not the greatest video, but it shows how things are working out for us since we moved the hives from our backyard to a place in the country. I won’t say exactly where we moved the hives, but anyone familiar with farms around St. John’s probably won’t have a hard time guessing correctly.

A couple notes about the video: 1) I got lazy with making my improvised ventilated inner covers. I came up with an equally effective but much easier to make version of the same thing at the 3:19 mark in the video. We haven’t tested it much yet, but I’ll write up a more detailed post for it later if it works. 2) The hived swarm probably doesn’t need two deeps just yet (and probably doesn’t need the extra ventilation), but swarms are known for building up fast. We gave them the extra hive box in case we can’t make it out next week. We’ll keep feeding the hive now just like we would with a nuc.

Continued on with Queen in a Hived Swarm.

A Destroyed Swarm Cell

We added a frame of brood with a swarm cell on it to a split hive last week that we thought was queenless. Turns out it wasn’t queenless, because by the looks of it, the queen inside the swarm cell was destroyed — stung to death by a queen that was already in the hive, then pulled dead from the swarm cell by worker bees. If a queen had emerged from the swarm cell, the cell would be open on the bottom, not the side (or so I’ve been told). The hive had several frames of freshly capped brood when we checked it yesterday. I don’t think a week old queen could mate and begin laying that fast. Thus ends my interpretation of the above photo. I could be wrong.

Jell-O Royale

We inadvertently took a half decent photo of royal jelly during our hive inspections yesterday. Click the photo for a close up view that shows the larvae floating in the royal jelly.

Royal jelly is a white, gooey secretion that’s fed to all honey bee larvae for their first three days. Larvae intended to become queens are given a gigantic dose of royal jelly that more or less keeps them going for the duration of their development.
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Hiving a Swarm

Our hives in their new rural location, about 16km (or 10 miles) from our house in the city.

The first inspection of our hives in their new location was great. It was so much more relaxed knowing we could take our time and not worry about nosey neighbours. We’ll only be able to see the bees once every week or two, but the change of scene is worth the temporary inconvenience (until we get our own vehicle). It feels like a whole new world of beekeeping. All the hives seemed to be humming when we arrived around 1:00pm. I’ll write a summary of our inspections in the comments for this post. But in a nutshell, our hives aren’t in perfect shape, but we feel more comfortable dealing with whatever comes our way now that we don’t have suspicious neighbours close by making us feel hurried.

Here’s a slideshow that shows how we hived our swarm just before we left:
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Catching a Swarm

Day 700: We checked on our hives at their new home in the country today and we love it. We even captured a swarm and had a great time.

I normally avoid posting photos of myself, but my face is obscured in this one and I sort of look like a biker with a handlebar moustache, a fat head and no neck. That doesn’t look anything like me. Anyway, that’s about half the swarm I’m holding. It was big. It was thick. And the bees were so calm, we were able to cut the branch off the tree, not exactly in a delicate manner, and they didn’t budge from their cluster. It was a text book swarm cluster.
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