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2017 Summer Update

It’s been a busy summer. We’re teetering on the edge of a drought,  but did receive a long-awaited rain in mid-July that set the prairie abloom. We have one hive, Ole that is putting up honey like crazy, the others have struggled staying queen right.  Enough words – let’s get to the pictures!

GREAT bee forage!

 

Was pleased to discover the Iowa Department of Agriculture & Land Stewardship inspector has been on site this week. It’s a great service!

IDALS inspector noted mite numbers on the tops of the hives. We treat each fall, and will be ready to tackle the mites again later this year.

Nice brood frame, light-colored Carniolan queen.

Nice brood frame, Italian queen.

Use of the green frames continue. Here, drones develop, and drones produce more mites. Before the drones emerge we destroy the drone brood, thus, knock out the mites.

Today we got smart, brought a ladder. Here, six-foot tall husband opens up Ole, the big producer.

And finally, short wife had to pose by Ole too. We’ve been pulling off capped honey as fast as we can. A couple dozen frames are already in the basement awaiting harvest. On Ole now, we have six super boxes that are are close to being full and capped. If all our bees were producing like this, we’d be out of hardware.

 

 

 

 

Ready for Winter. (we think)

Any day now, winter will arrive. On November 25th we winterized our bees. We’ve been feeding syrup since roughy Labor day, and in the months of November put on two rounds of winter patties.

We had cardboard boxes that are waxed so they are relatively wet-weather resistant. They are big enough so that we can slip on-inch thick insulation boards on all four sides. We also put another pine of thick insulation board on top of the inner cover.

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Supplies laid out, ready to winterize.

 

The bees can still got out of their normal entrance at the bottom of the lower hive body, but we also put a PVC tube in a hole in the upper hive body, in case snow blocks the bottom entrance. We decided to use the PVC tube to ensure that the box or insulation doesn’t shift and block the hole during the long winter months.

11-25-16-b

Hopefully we can get out there during the coming months to drop in more patties. And hopefully we come out of the winter with five good looking colonies. Fingers crossed!

 

 

 

 

 

 

August Update, thorns and all

Well, we continue to have queen issues. No new news there. We had not been out to check on the girls for two weeks. This weekend we discovered that Thor, who is putting up the most honey, is now queenless. The bees were very calm, so we hope that means requeening is in the process. Another two hives that that had been trouble all summer long have finally righted themselves. Now, just survive the oncoming winter and bear some honey in 2017!

We plan to pull honey supers in two weeks. There’s some honey there, but as usual, not as much as we’d like to have found…

8-2016 thistle

Notice the stupid thistle in bloom. Arrrrrg

But here’s something complete different. Robin managed to find trouble while checking the bees, away from the bees. Somewhere out on the prairie there is a bypass pruner stuck in a thick thistle stem, right above a wasp nest. She hates thistles, as each plant can produce what seems like a billion-million seeds. So, while whacking down a monster on the prairie, in big bluestem that is as tall as her head, she noticed wasps pouring out of the nest, just six or so inches from the ground. RETREAT! RETREAT! RUN LIKE A NINNY! For once, she was not stung.

The Green Frames

green frame 2 7-2016

Green frames? What the heck are those? The cells stamped onto the frame are larger – perfect size for making drone (male) brood. And, the green color makes them stand out for easy ID. We’re trying green frames in our colonies this year, as additional method for reducing varroa mite population.

A couple weeks ago we  pulled the green frames out of two of the five hives. Only two colonies had put up drone brood on the green frames, and the drone were about to emerge. The green frames had been in about 3 weeks.

The varroa mite can produce significantly more mites in a drone cell, compared to a worker cell. Why is this? – Drones are a larger bee (thus, their cell is larger), and they take longer to develop. On average, a worker bee emerges in 19-22 days, where a drone takes 24-25 days. These few extra delayed allow more varroa mites to mature, ultimately increasing the overall number of varroa in the colony.

By careful management of the green frames, a beekeeper can pull out the frame before the mites, and drones, emerge. We then put the frames in the freezer to skill the mites, and well, the drones. If the colonies fill the replacement green frames with drone brood, we’ll pull them again, and give them the freezer treatment.

And finally, we only got a trace of rain in June. We’ve gotten about 3″ since July 7 — and that’s a good thing! Nectar should be plentiful, so if we can manage to keep queens, the colonies should be honey-producing maniacs!

green frame 1 7-2016

 

Cinco de Mayo in the Beeyard

Mark picked up four three-packages of bees today from Spring Valley Honey Farms, and the weather was so beautiful, we installed them this afternoon. Here is the install, in pictures –

5-5-16 packages

Here’s the four three-pound packages on their way to the beeyard. 

5-5-16 queen

We pull the queen cage out of the package to make sure everything looks good. The queen is in the cage, fairly dark in color. Attendant bees are always on the cage trying to take care of the queen.

5-5-16 bee candy

The bees are not showing any aggression to the queen, acceptance seems a given. There is a hard candy plug in the queen cage — we speed up the process by chipping a bunch of it out with a specialized tool (bent paperclip) to make the bees’ job or releasing the queen a bit easier.

5-5-16 queen is set

The queen cage is put in the middle of the hive body.

5-5-16 pakg dump

And the bees in the package are dumped right on top of the queen! We spray them with sugar water to keep everyone calm and easy to handle. 

5-5-16 wide y ard

So, crabby Mongo has been joined by four new hives — Thor, Ole, Lili vonShtupp, and Lars. 

5-5-16 done

We’ll toodle back to the bee yard tomorrow to pick up the boxes and return for our deposit. 

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Yesterday, we ran out to do a quick ether roll mite count and put a sticky board in the bottom of the hive, which is another way to detect mite levels in the hive. We’ve never used sticky boards, so we’re leaving it there until late Friday or Saturday. Then, we’ll put in a mite treatment and a new sticky board so we can see the difference in mite numbers. Several days after the treatment we’ll do another ether roll mite count to see how well the treatment worked.

Robin counted eight or nine mites in the roll — then she was stung in the jiggly bits. So, we went for a quick walk (Robin = waddle) away from the bees so that the stinger could be removed. in the process of stinger removal, Mark took off his veil, which promptly resulted in a sting in his ear. So, running in circles and general yelling occurred. Eventually both stingers were removed. And, we gave up counting mites in the quart jar because let’s face it — eight or nine is too damn many mites. Because tomorrow is predicted to be very warm we’re not putting the treatment in until after the heat of the day because the treatment has an  upper temperature for best results.

Another One Bites the Dust

Short post.

We lost the fourth hive of five. Honey still there – queen probably kicked the bucket and the rest of the colony followed suit.   😐

4-3-2016

And then there was one. Only one.

Mass Mortality in the Spring :[

Well, to date we had escaped big winter losses. But after four years of beekeeping under our belts, we finally saw a 60% overwintering death loss.

On February 27th the weather was nice and we headed to the bee yard. Two hives were abuzz. Three hives were suspiciously quiet. Sure enough, three of the five were deceased. We suspect starvation. We knew that at least one was going into winter on the light side, but didn’t expect three to to die off after all the fall feeding. (hoover, or click, curser on photos for captions)

As per the norm, mice were having a heyday in the empty hive bodies so we pulled all the hardware back to town for storage.

And, that’s a wrap on these three. We’ve order three bee packages and will restart them this spring, hopefully with splits from the two remaining hives.

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Truck is loaded with empty hardware, headed to storage.

And then there were two.

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Kind of lonely-looking, eh?