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Friday, April 27, 2012

bee update

I checked on the split today. The tiny little starter colony did what I wanted them to do. They took several of the eggs from the borrowed frames and are in the process of raising new queens. Yes, I said queen(s).

The bee logic is that it is always good to not put all your eggs in one basket. Several queens may emerge (in this case I counted 7 capped queen cells) but they have to meet the worker bees quality control standards. If a queen is weak or deformed she is kicked out. The queens that make the cut have to take a mating flight, survive the predators and then find their way back to the hive. Often times, if multiple queens return to the hive, the best one will fight the weaker ones and they will also be kicked out or killed. It sounds brutal but its all for the health of the whole colony. It is rare, but sometimes colonies (I'm assuming confused, disorganized  ones) will allow multiple queens. But usually only the best queen will be able to reproduce and ensure that the whole colony is healthy and productive.  I am hopeful that one out of seven of these babies will rise to the prestigious title of her royal highness.

That is basically the reason why splitting hives is risky business. Even after everything I've done so far, finding the queen cells and 7 chances of having a successful queen rearing, things could go wrong. I don't want to get too cocky but I am happy with the progress so far.

check out the upper right hand corner. That pale faced, zombie-esque looking bee head is a baby bee emerging from a cell. Its a drone. Queen cells look like peanuts or chubby stubby thumbs, worker cells are flat and plain, and the drone cells look like bubble wrap.
Here you can see what a queen cell looks like. Kind of like a yellow peanut. They are usually found at the bottom of a frame. However, I found some smack dab in the middle of the same frame. I couldn't get the bees to cooperate and move enough to take a picture. I was not wearing gloves. You can only do so much coaxing ungloved and expect not to get stung. One of the cells is uncapped. Its so interesting to see worker bees cluster around queen cells much more so than other cells. I have no idea if that means there is one already hatched or if it just never got used. I did not find any queens in the hive today.

Bees doing their bee thing. There is an capped queen cell right in the middle of the frame. Could hatch in anywhere from one to two weeks if I did my math right. Can you believe I took these with my iphone?

Okay, so the monster hive still looks crowded but good. The queen has been laying in the honey super because they are running out of room. They have tons of pollen stored in the brood boxes. Also there is quite a bit of nectar being stored in the super already. I am trying to decide if I want to let them do their own thing, swarm when they want to, or keep trying to discourage them. In a way I like the idea of letting them do what comes naturally for them. Less swarming usually means more honey but it also means a bigger and more difficult to manage hive. Those boxes are HEAVY and the more that get stacked on the more lifting and straining I will have to be doing this summer. Last summer I had a major scare. Hot weather, fully suited, heavy boxes, and passing out within inches of going face first into a hive full of thousands of honeybees.  Not good.

I did not find a single varroa mite today. Not one. Also haven't seen those pesky hive beetles since I did my first hive inspection in early March. Things are looking good. Now if only I can them to be a little calmer and less aggressive. These bees are ornery. They love to dive bomb my face. I don't know why, but even on a sunny warm day when they should be ignoring me, they chase me around the lawn. These hives are on my grandparents property. One theory I have is that my grandpa, who has difficulty walking, takes an almost daily drive by on his lawnmower to see what the bees are doing. Loud noise supposedly really bothers them. I could never ask my grandpa to stop. He is 92 and the fact that he even gets outside every day is extremely admirable. I love that he has taken such a keen interest in them. My grandma told me today that she gets a kick out of watching me do inspections from the window. "Especially when you are dancing around". I am assuming she means my reactions to realizing that there is a bee crawling up my pant leg...

This afternoon I did an inventory of my current honey stores. A lot-44 lbs. I've decided to sell some on etsy to make way for my 2012 harvest, which could start as early as June. Its fall honey; Darker but still very mellow and lacking the sharper edge that the spring honey has. Its full of pollen, enzymes and other goodies. I have been drinking tea like crazy, always with honey. Have had very few allergy symptoms this spring. Usually get a really itchy throat and lots of sneezing. I really do think its the honey.

Oh, and the 11ish lbs of old brood comb that I took out of the empty hives (because mice, ants and various other yuckies were getting into t it and I have nowhere to store them) yielded me 16 oz of clean wax. Yep, one pound. There was a ton of old pollen stores, and bee sized dust bunnies that accumulated a lot of the weight.
bright orange wax at top from brood frames, light yellow wax from honey stores. I got a cute mold that makes these perfect little one ounce bars. Pretty amazing how so much pollen can stain the wax. No amount of filtering can get it out but I think it is pretty. Smells divine too.

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