Sunday, July 17, 2016

Waxing Poetic

It’s been a busy summer so far, with very weird weather, but we finally found a few minutes to do a bee update!
Removing the partition from a Queen Castle to turn it into
one standard hive.
We have some results on our queen castles – the hives where we put three small nucs into one box. Two weeks ago we cracked them open to see how everyone was doing. On three of the castles, only one nuc per hive survived. On one of these nucs, we could see the queen had not hatched. On others, there were bees working but no queen laying eggs. Fortunately though, one nuc in each hive was thriving, so we just removed the partitions and turned them into regular hives with 10 frames each. This weekend, we checked those hives again and all but one are doing marvelously. We have even added a honey super to a one of them! Another of the castles, when we opened it, had all three nucs thriving. The bees are laying brood and bringing in honey, so next week we will be splitting them up into their own boxes.

Examining the brood pattern from one of our Kona Queen
Hives. Lots of bees and lots of capped brood!
We also have been seeing amazing results from our Kona Queens from Hawaii. The hives are bursting with bees, and are they producing honey! The three hives have produced more already this year than we had from all our hives the first year with the apiary. All of the ones in our yard now have 3 honey supers on them! For one of them, we have added a special honey super. Instead of giving them frames to store the honey, this one has round openings, about the size of hockey pucks, for them to fill with wax and honey. When we harvest, we simply pop the pucks out and put them in containers, selling the honey in the wax. It’s even healthier that way and a popular treat for many people. We’re excited to see them doing such a good job filling in the ‘Ross Rounds’ and will be looking at doing much more of this next year.

Building lots of burr comb on the lid of their hive.
Although it’s late in the year, with all the rainy and cool weather it seems the bees have gotten a bit discombobulated. We received a call this weekend about a swarm in someone’s yard. This is our fourth swarm to pick up this year – this one was big and about 20 feet up a pine tree. We managed to gather them though, and two days later these bees are doing orientation flights at the door of their hive already. The bees in this colony are very distinctive – they are much more yellow than ours, and have a lot more attitude.

Two of the other swarm hives are doing well, and in fact one of them now also has a super on them for honey. The last one unfortunately didn’t work out. We’re still very happy with the three new hives; they were a welcome bonus addition.

Inside the Flow Hives. Social media loves this hive.
Sadly, our bees don't. :(
The Flow Hive. *sigh* For some reason, our bees do not like the Flow Hive. We had it on a strong hive for over a month and that hive swarmed twice rather than go up into the Flow Hive. We moved it to another strong hive that had some partially full honey supers on it, but the bees would rather fill anything else, and are avoiding it completely. Next week, we will put it onto one of the hives with the Hawaiian queens, removing the full honey supers and giving them just this and a partially full super, and hopefully they will start to put something into it. It was easier getting them to do the work in the empty Ross Rounds with no frames at all than it is to go into the Flow Hive.

Checking a frame of brood. The bees were very active
this day, but the sun was shining so everyone was happy.
Our inspections have been rather spotty over the last month, because the weather has not been cooperating. They do not like to be opened when it’s cloudy – most of the bees are in there instead of out gathering pollen, so it’s full and they get a bit crabby. We cannot inspect hives when it’s windy or, obviously, when it’s raining, so it has limited us quite a bit on when we can see what they’re up to. The hives in the second yard are definitely in need of some TLC. That will happen next week. Also next week, 12 hives will be re-queened with new, local queen cells. Hopefully we will have nice weather, because they clearly did not like being checked today.

Messy, messy, messy! This is what happens when we forget
to give them something to build on!

We also pulled a frame from one of the hives two weeks ago. It was a mess! We had miscounted the frames when we closed it up, giving them 9 instead of 10. The result was that the bees decided to be creative, filling in the extra space themselves. One of the Queen Castles, as well, was missing a frame. They built their own, attaching it to the roof of the hive and filling it with honey and brood. I suppose, in the bee world, it’s a work of art, but I would rather see them putting that sort of energy into filling more Ross Rounds.

Another example of the bees taking initiative! They didn't have
a frame so they just created the frame themselves, building
it out of wax and filling it with honey.

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