Monday, June 7, 2010

A Natural

There was one very happy beekeeper this week as she tried on her new suit and gloves. Still waiting for the kids sized veil, but no worries as we made do with one of ours. Looking forward to many years of sharing this hobby together.

And Then there were Three

The newest colony in the collection, Jane Seymour, was added as a nucleus (nuc) of Carniolans, known for their more gentle nature. The nuc is essentially a small hive box containing five fully developed frames of bees, larvae in varying stages of development and honey. In the image above you can see honeycomb filled with both pollen and drone comb, which protrudes above the normal comb height due to the larger size of the drone (male) bees. Also visible are lots of cells filled with larvae of all sizes which will eventually be capped.

The frames are placed in a normal brood box with five new frames waiting to be drawn out. Theoretically it should take off more rapidly than a newly installed package though ours has been a bit slow to build up the new frames. Oh, and we have not seen this queen yet either...I am sensing a pattern here.

In With the New...

The existing supercedure cell was removed once we confirmed the new queen was released and healthy. If the supercedure cell is carefully removed the developing queen inside can be used in another colony, however due to the way this cell was structured on the foundation I damaged it during removal with a pocket knife.


After two and half hours of driving for a $20 bug, our first colony once again has a laying queen. The new queen was installed just like that of a new package installation. Contained in her cage with several attendant bees, the queen is placed between two frames. After a few days the workers and attendants will chew through the fondant candy that serves as a time release mechanism and allows the colony to become acclimated to their new queen. There was an audible reaction from the colony as it quieted to a calm hum.

Monday, May 24, 2010

It's Good to be Queen

Finally spotted a queen of our own doing her thing. Anne stands out from the crowd with her long yellow abdomen and the circle of attendant bees facing her. Each of the open cells in the drawn comb has a tiny egg at the bottom which indicate a healthy queen. In about four weeks these eggs will have developed into newly emerging workers or drones.

When the Queen's Away...

The colony starts making alternate arrangements in order to replace her on their own. This supercedure cell protruding from the drawn comb contains the larvae of a replacement queen. Once our mail-order queen has been introduced this cell will be removed to prevent a battle royale and also, in theory, to ensure the most desirable queen is laying eggs. The normal hum of the hive has escalated into a higher pitch whine as the colony is in disarray. Hopefully the new queen stays on the job for more than a few weeks and gets this place in order.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Things I Didn't Know

Met with a very knowledgeable local beekeeper, Roy Hendrickson, this evening who was nice enough to take me to one of his bee yards to observe fully established and healthy hives. I have read articles of Mr. Hendrickson's from Bee Culture and was glad to have the opportunity to get some practical knowledge. Upon arrival there was a very small swarm from which Roy retrieved and caged the queen, something I had never seen done. An hour and a half with Roy was invaluable to me as a beginner beekeeper.

Also learned the difference in sensation between a bee sting to the back of my hand versus the septum of my nose. My first two stings since I have taken up this new hobby, and if given a choice I will take the hand every time.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Two Colonies and One Queen

The good news this evening is that Q. Anne and her colony seem to have normalized a bit. Apparently it can be somewhat stressful to be packaged in a small screen box along with a soup can of corn syrup and ten thousand of your siblings, having no ability to "relieve" yourself. A day of sun and cleansing flights has them in good spirits.

On the other hand Q. Catherine is nowhere to be found and her brood has been busy making supercedure cells in order to replace her. Not sure if she caught word of Anne's arrival or stepped out for a spot of tea but we are now scrambling for a new queen to continue populating the colony. Should have a new queen in a day at which time she will either be accepted by her new colony or summarily stung to death by them...

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Not Just Rain Falling from the Sky...

After a few hours in their home the new bees began an aerial assault by defecating all over the new hive boxes, and continued doing so the following day. We are hoping it is not nosema apis and just a result of the stress caused during transport, and also from being confined first to the packet and now the hive due to the rain. However we started treating with Fumagilin-B, along with the initial colony as a preventative measure.

Very disconcerting to see the mess these little buggers can make in a day. If they do not show signs of improvement in the next five days we are going to test some samples for nosema and, if present, eradicate the colony to prevent it from spreading.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Queen Anne

We travelled to Findlay over the weekend and picked up our second package of bees. Queen Anne is installed and we are waiting out the rain, anxious to see how the colony progresses.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Our First Colony

Our very first package of bees purchased through Tom Jeffries/Columbia Station, OH. Healthy bees are progressing very well and have been fun to watch.

Monday, April 19, 2010

10,000 New Additions to the Family

It's official, we have an apiary of our own. Of course this alone does not make us qualified to actually own and care for honey bees. Other than the occasional sting or crossing paths in the garden, most of our interaction with honey bees has been brief and typically concludes with a few unceremonious swipes of the windshield wipers. So we have been reading lots of books, asking lots of questions and have started down the path to becoming full fledged beekeepers.

While I have yet to identify "punky wood" or anything else in the yard that actually stays lit in the smoker, I have an entirely new appreciation for the honey bee and those who keep them. We look forward to the surpluses of honey and the benefits of pollination our new additions will provide, but also to learning more about these remarkable and complex creatures and sharing the experience with others.

Common sense would dictate that, just as you would not name your new boat Titanic, we probably should not name our queens after those whose reigns have been notoriously short lived. However, we have named the first of our queens Catherine in a nod to The Tudors. Let's hope she is a bit more fertile than her namesake and can provide for at least a few (hundred) males along the way. Long live the Queen.