January Snow

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January snow on the hives

We had over a foot of snow. Life in all the hives as of a few weeks ago…

A new race

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They don't look like Italians

The #1 hive The Black Rock (the 2011 spring split from the original The Others hive) seems to have changed race. They are darker and smaller than my original Italians. They seem to be a little more ornery too. The hive has some that look like the original Italians too. In the photo you can see the top one has more orange and is larger than the others.

They didn’t go far

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Feral honey bee swarm in a fir treeMy daughter was housesitting for me when I went on vacation at the beginning of August. She saw that the bees were swarming but she could not tell which hive it was or see where they ended up heading. She looked for them in the trees later but did not spot the swarm. When I returned from vacation I was sure they were long gone. 3 weeks later Gavin and I were in the hammock under the big fir tree in my backyard, and I spotted insects flying around high in the tree. Sure enough there was the lost swarm. Already building comb right there on the branch of the tree.

Knotweed Honey

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Honey super with frames of knotweed honeyThe honey this year was very dark. And very scarce. Only one hive had enough honey for harvest. We harvested about 13 pounds of honey from the 2011 new package hive #3. I did some research and the dark colored honey around here harvested in late august comes from Knotweed, not blackberry fruit like I had thought. It is delicious. Stronger flavored than last years very light (blackberry flower?) honey.Frame with honey ready to extract

Crush and strain method of honey extraction

Knotweed honeyDelicious knotweed honey

Swarming again!

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Garrett called me at work this afternoon around 3:30pm. The bees were swarming again, this time around the little pine tree. When I got home at 7pm I looked for them in the tree and did not see them, thought they were already gone. Then when I was looking at the yard from inside the house a few minutes later I noticed there were bees mildly circling around the far side of the pine tree. I climbed up inside the tree and there they were, very mellow, all in a cluster. I got the extension ladder and the big cardboard box and the pruners and the masking tape and Garrett to hold the box, put on my gear and climbed up the ladder. I had to cut in 4 or 5 spots to get the entire cluster loose but it lifted right out without knocking too many bees loose. Garrett snapped a picture with his cell phone. I felt like I was holding a large fish I had caught!

A swarm in the hand is better than 2 in the pine tree
I know it looks like a giant pinecone!

It must be a secondary swarm from the new package hive (Oceanic815). I placed a sheet of newspaper on top of the weak, queenless hive’s (Black Rock‘s – the winter split from The Others) brood chamber, and placed the swarm on top with an empty brood box with new frames in it. The bees that were left flying also found their way in. I noticed the front of Oceanic815‘s hive had a gathering of bees fanning (what they do to call other bees back to the hive) so this made me sure it was that hive that had swarmed. In my inspection yesterday I saw a few empty queen cells, so they probably have an extra queen or 2. Maybe they will swarm again? I can’t imagine there would be enough bees left for much of a swarm. I was surprised how big this one was!

Starving

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The weather has been wet and cold this spring. I inspected all the hives today, and they are all entirely out of honey except for Black Rock. The only one with new eggs is the new swarm hive. (I have been feeding them sugar water) Flight815 has no eggs, but signs of recently emerged queens. (empty queen cells) Black Rock still has no eggs, but the queen cell I added to their hive is empty now, the queen has emerged. Hope they did not kill her too. The Others has no eggs, a very few larvae, and we saw one group of workers feeding on something white that could only have been what was left of a larvae. Is this what they do when they are starving? I put feeders on the hives immediately!

Queenless, continued

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Looks like Black Rock killed their second new queen. So when I inspected Oceanic815 (the new package hive that swarmed) after their swarm, to remove extra swarm/queen cells (Leaving one), I moved one frame that had brood, eggs, and a nice queen cell into the queenless Black Rock hive.

Swarm Capture

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Swarm of bees in the holly tree
The third and final cluster was close to the ground
Raised garden beds
New raised beds

We were outside building new raised beds for a vegetable garden in the front yard. The hives are close to the new raised beds so we were aware of the hives being lively on a warm sunny day. One of the hives (Oceanic815), the new 4 pound package installed this spring, became busier and busier around 1:30pm. We realized they were swarming. What an amazing thing to watch. The air filled with bees, flying around and around, and you could see the gathering moving as a whole, edging closer to the holly tree which is about 30 feet from their hive.
They settled high in the holly tree. It turns out holly is not the easiest tree to remove a swarm from.
Gavin climbed up a ladder with hand pruners (no safety gear) while I stood on the ground with a cardboard box at the ready, in full beekeeping geek attire. He clipped the branches and placed the swarm into the box. By then many bees had dropped or flew off. So they began to congregate again below where the first cluster was. We let them gather a bit and repeated the process. Gavin only got 2 stings.
We let the remaining bees settle again and this time the cluster was within arm’s reach of the ground, in the same holly tree.
The final group of bees was much easier to capture.

Capturing the swarm
The swarm settled in the holly tree

Then a trip down to Beez Neez Apiary Supply to purchase a new hive. I had originally intended to get a nuc box to have ready for this kind of occasion but Jim at Beez Neez said my swarm was too big, nuc boxes are really for splits. So I ended up buying parts for a new hive (#4!). While they were being painted we set up a temporary hive, which was an extra deep brood box I have ready for my new split hive, a make-shift bottom Gavin constructed for me, and a piece of plywood for a top. And a feeder I’m not using on the other hives. Works great.

Gavin shoveling purchased topsoil for raised garden beds
Mmmm… topsoil

So back to gardening! These raised beds we built out of discarded Trex (plastic decking material). We purchased topsoil for the 3 in the lower yard since the soil there is very shallow, and amended the soil with commercial steer manure. We are going to plant our sun-lovingest plants down here. Tomatoes, squashes, cucumbers, basil. I have rarely had much luck with tomatoes, and I have high hopes for this new location with the raised beds.

Queenless

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Still no sign of a queen in the new split hive (The Black Rock). No eggs, no new larvae. They must have killed her. So I installed a new queen. The smoker wasn’t working very well, damp fuel. So we decided to try it without smoke. Big mistake. They were not happy, charging us. I got stung and couldn’t brush her off since I was holding a frame full of bees (she had pinched between a fold in my bee suit right against my wrist) so she gave me a full dose before Gavin could get to her to brush her off. The sting swelled up by the next day more than half way down to my elbow and itched like crazy. Hope I’m not developing an allergy.

Dead-Out

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FlashMob hive is dead-out. I bought and assembed a new hive, and purchased 1 new 4# package (Oceanic815) and installed them in the old FlashMob hive. The Others hive is looking fine. I did a split (put them in the new hive – The Black Rock) and purchased a new queen, so I have 3 complete hives now.