Thursday, May 17, 2018

The Mating Sign?

Let me start this blog with a question: What does the "Mating Sign" look like?

All 22 hives at Dr. D's have bees in them. It has been two weeks since I made my last hive splits. There are lot of good reasons why I was too busy to get out to the apiary sooner but none of them make me feel less guilty or get me any closer to my goals.

I spent Monday and Tuesday night waxing 110 plastic frames. I used up almost all of my wax reserves in the process. So on Wednesday, Noah and I took 11 supers to Dr. D's.

Only one hive looked like it had a beard and it was the one I suspected would (see pic).

This is the beard 3min after smoke
Most of the hives looked strong, though several did not have any brood (but they did have empty queen cells). After all this time, I can speculate what had happened but I can't be sure. In one of these hives I found the queen who had two tiny white specs at the end of her tail. I think this might have been "The Mating Sign". I couldn't find any good pictures with Google so I'm not sure.

I don't believe my hives have swarmed, simply because there were still empty frames in each hive. It could simply be that the hives are growing slower than I expected.

Nonetheless, in every hive that lacked brood, we placed a new frame of eggs. If the hive needs a queen, then the bees can convert a young larva. If the queen is there, then the added brood will strengthen the hive.

Since there were 22 hives and I only had enough freshly waxed frames for 11 supers, we divided the frames among the hives where needed. We inspected the first 15 hives closely, however the sun was going down so we simply opened the last 7 and added a super to each (all seven looked healthy but we didn't search for brood.)

We accomplished all of this in just 1.5 hours. At this rate, it would only take us 8 hours to inspect 100 hives. I also tried out my new bee jacket for Bush Mountain Bees and it worked great - no stings. (You can see how big it is in the picture - I'm fat but that's not all me in that jacket). Of course Noah was wearing an old cotton jacket and didn't get stung either, so the bees might have just been in a good mood.

Final Hive Count: 23 Hives

"A bee is never as busy as it seems; it's just that it can't buzz any slower." Kin Hubbard

Thursday, May 3, 2018

With my shoes off, I can count to 20

"Oh heart, such disorganization!" Sylvia Plath

Well, I have split 6 hives into 22 in just a couple of months. This has been the best year by far. This will be my last splits until after I harvest honey. Though, if the bees continue to do as well as they are doing, I should have a crop of honey in late July to mid August... I hope.
17 Hives on 4/30/18

The splitting process went well but ultimately became chaos. In the new diagram below, I have changed my numbering system to help make it clearer.

 At the start of the day, there were 17 hives at Dr.D's. We had considered moving all the hives to their new locations and then make the splits but we thought we might get confused (it was a simpler time).

First we split Hive-D2 to location E5. The first frame we pulled had the queen on it, so we put her back on location D2 and closed up both hives. (We felt pretty smug!)

Then we split Hive-B2 to location D4. However, despite being packed with bees and honey, there was no queen. First hiccup. So now we needed two frames of eggs. We marked the two boxes by placing an empty super on each lid and then took a break. (It was 89F and I'm fat... don't judge me.)

Now when we returned, we opened Hive A-2 (and even though I found the queen last time) it was now queenless. So we didn't split it but we made a mental note to put a frame of eggs in it. (Mental note, humf.)

Next we made it easy. We decided to move Hives-A3,B3,C3 to location A5,B5,C5.

Hive-C3 was split onto location C5.

Hive-B3 was split onto location B5... and that's when we found it was full of swarm cells. So we started pulling those frames out and giving them to the other splits. A2 B2 B3 C3 D4 and E5 all got a frame with a queen cell on it... (I think!)

However, Hive-A3 didn't have a any brood, so we decided not to split it. We added eggs (I think) and left it as it was.

Then we decided to split Hive-A4 AND THAT WAS WHEN IT TOTALLY WENT TO SHIT!

We had already split Hive-A4 at some point in all of this. In retrospect, I "think" we split it to location D3 but I can't be sure. It had a new lid and bottom on it, so we had definitely split it but neither Noah or I could remember when.

In just two hours we had made all of the splits and, in doing so, had lost the largest game of Three-Card-Monty ever played. In the end, I have 22 hives at Dr.D's.

Final Hive Count: 23 Hives

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

And the splits just keep on coming

"By prevailing over all obstacles and distractions, one may unfailingly arrive at his chosen goal or destination," Christopher Columbus ... Big talk for a man who thought he was in India.

If the following blog goes off the rails, forgive me. I woke up at 3:00am with my "Night Dreads." If you're not familiar with my "Night Dreads", it is the phenomenon where I wake up in the middle of the night and begin worrying about the most ridiculous things. Last nights night dread topic: How I would change my life if I somehow traveled through time and was 17 again. At 5:20am I concluded that I would have to go back to age 16 to make any real change but that I would have started building bee hives the moment I arrived in 1990! "There is a fine line between genius and insanity. I have erased that line." - Oscar Levant.

THE PLAN:
This past Wednesday I had planned to build 10 lids & 10 bottoms and Saturday I would make my 10 splits.

THE OBSTACLES:
When Wednesday came, I allowed myself to be lazy. If failure was a sickness, laziness would be the symptom. I instead told myself, I would build them Saturday and make my splits Sunday.

Well Thursday, on my way to work in Vicksburg, the water pump on my truck began leaking - like a sieve. There was a lot stress and drama involved in getting home but by 6:00pm Saturday, I made it back.

Sunday I bought the new seals for the water pump and while I waited for the truck to cool down, I made the lids and bottoms for the splits. I then spent the rest of the day taking the whole truck apart to put in the seals. Thanks to YouTube, the job went smoothly but it took all day.

So yesterday, Monday 4/30/18 at 5:00pm (after I got home from work) Noah and I went out to Dr. D's to make splits.

THE SPLITS:
We only had time to make 4 splits - A,B,C,D. We started with D and found 5 frames of swarm cells. So we removed them from the box and divided them amongst the other splits.

On split C we found that the box was full of honey but no brood, so we decided to put a frame of queen cells in both boxes. Figuring that it might be missing a queen or just need a better one. However, when we retrieved the the frame with a queen cell, the cell was open and empty. Noah checked the other frames we had set to the side and there she was - the virgin queen. So we grabbed her (gently) and popped her in the hive. So as you can see the splits were just in the nick of time.

I worry that there might be other hives on the verge of swarming but I just don't have time to do anything about it. If all goes well, then Saturday, I will build boxes and wax the old plastic frames. Then Sunday, I will continue with the rest of my splits.

For now, HIVE COUNT: 18 Hives.

Monday, April 23, 2018

2018 The Future Looks Bright

"Never pet a burning dog," - movie quote from, A Good Year.

I do my best to keep this blog purely focused on my beekeeping but something strange happened last week that I don't want to forget - so indulge me and then I'll tell about my extraordinary beekeeping year thus far. Or just skip down past the italic part.

On Wednesday, 4/18/18 I woke up singing the 90's song "If I had  a Million Dollars" by the Bare Naked Ladies. I like the group so that's not really odd. 

However, the first thing I heard when I got to work was a conversation that had this line in it, "You got me F***ed up talking about what I would do with a million dollars." Not an unusual conversation given I work in a casino.

Then I went to Walmart after work and the overhead speakers were playing... "If I had a Million Dollars" by the Bare Naked Ladies! So I drove to Arkansas and bought a lottery ticket - and, of course, I didn't win. 

The time between when I bought the ticket and when the numbers were drawn were filled with pure childlike daydreams. I imagined all the things I would buy, the way I would invest, the people I would help, and those I would shun. I also thought how empty all of my future achievements would be and how lonely my wife and I might end up. In the end, I wasn't even disappointed not to have won the lottery.

I've spent a lifetime looking for signs and have never found one. Nonetheless, if this year proves to be an epic success, then perhaps I'll look back on this day and say, "All the signs were there."

What a great bee year so far:

It has been three weeks since I made my splits and they are all doing well... no, they are all doing awesome!

I didn't realize it had been three weeks until just now. I don't have a great excuse, other than the weather has been fairly cold and rainy. Not to mention that last week, Dr. D's father died - I keep my bees at his family's country homestead.

However, that is all spilled milk. Saturday, I went to Dr. D's and my bees were busting at the seams and about to swarm.

I moved 5 frames of queen cells to a new hives with nurse bees (Hive number 14). I would have split 10 of my hives but I didn't have enough lids and bottoms to do it.

In the other hives, I did my best to cut the queen cells out. This is always risky, as you might miss one.

Queen Cells
I then went home and got more boxes and frames and added a box to the 10 overly full hives. The other two hives were doing well but still had two empty frames each - so I left them single stacked for now.

If all goes well, then Wednesday I will make lids and bottoms and Saturday, I will make 10 more splits.

Hive Count: 14 Hives.

BTW: I had a heart scare two months ago and so I have been meditating in the mornings before work to lower my blood pressure. Well, the bees were fairly cantankerous at first on Saturday but then I took a minute to control my breathing and meditate, the bees calmed right down. I suspect my agitation was putting off pheromones and once I relaxed so did the bees.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Queen Cells: If at first you don't succeed.

"In our response lies our growth and our freedom," Victor Frankl

Yesterday's hive inspections couldn't have been worse (well anything can get worse but it was bad).  The sky was sunny but the temperature was a cool 56F degrees with winds around 20mph. The weekend will been even colder and with lots of rain, so it was now or never.

As one can imagine, the bees were quite cantankerous, to say the least. In fact, they were down right pissed. Given that it was so cool, I put my Carheart jacket on, thinking it would be a fine bee coat given its elastic waist and cuffs. I was wrong!

The bees seemed to know right where to attack. They actively targeted my wrist and waist in droves. I could actually feel them rolling my sleeves back and I am fairly certain I heard battle cries and a little laughter.

Well, I knew they would be that way, given the weather and the fact they were queenless, so I should have worn a full suit. Oh well.



Only one of the three Queen Cells I placed Saturday seemed to have made it - and even that one is questionable. I had cut the three cells from a plastic frame and in doing so, I had opened the back of the cells and not left enough surrounding wax to attach the cell to the new frame.

Two of the cells were just gone. The third cell was laying in the bottom of Hive-E and the bees had secured it to the bottom board.

The solution was to leave Hive-E as it was and see if the queen emerges. Hive-E had a lot of bees and honey, so if this doesn't work, then I will just place more eggs in it in a week or so.

In Hive-D, we placed a new frame of eggs from Hive-L (Hive-L is the smallest hive and therefore, the easiest to find eggs).

Hive-A got a Queen Cell from Hive-G. This was a very good cell since it came from a wood frame and I could cut a big chunk of extra wax to help secure the cell in the new frame. Though I mashed a lot of worker larva - ick!

Now the bees will be given a week to do what they do. We'll see what happens. Nonetheless, all the hives are packed with bees and doing well.



Monday, April 2, 2018

Checking the Walk-Away Splits

"Success in not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts." Winston Churchill

Let's skip the suspense: 13 Healthy Hives but 3 did not make queen cells.

All the splits are full of bees. Three made Queen Cells and Three did not.

Now last year, I labeled the hives A,B,C, etc and then labeled splits with A.1, A.2, B.1, C.1 etc. However, that could get confusing for the reader so I have relabeled them below.
The colored arrows indicate the original location of the hives
and then where the hive-queen was moved to during the
walk-away splits.

Black arrows indicate queen cell moves.

I cut queen cells out of Hive-B and put them in A, D, & E. This would have been a perfect correction except that when I removed some of the queen cells, the wax opened on the backside. I immediately placed the cells into their new location but I don't know if the introduction of air into the cells will have harmed the larva.

I'll check them Wednesday. If the Cells look okay then I will leave them be. If not, then I will remove eggs from one of the parent hives and try again.

My beetle traps didn't catch any beetles but there were beetles in the traps. The drier sheets just didn't snag the beetles. I will make some new ones with Swiffer sheets inside and set them Wednesday when I inspect the queen cells.

All and all, my splits look really healthy and the bees seem to have made a fairly even split.
All the hives were full of bees
Hive-D made 3 frames
of new wax
Queen Cells



Sunday, March 25, 2018

First Split of 2018 & Big Bryan's Beetle Box

"Necessity if the mother of invention." - Plato

I am an inventor at heart and given my beetle problems last year, I have been trying to build a better mousetrap (beetle trap). Beetle Busters are great but they can get expensive. Fat Bee Man's political sign traps seem reasonable but I still have beetles when I use them. Of course dryer sheets work really well but they seem to kill one bee for every two beetles.

So here is my latest invention. Big Bryan's Beetle Box.


It is a simple and cheap beetle solution. It's a 3/8" thick #8 hardware cloth box with a dryer sheet inside. This way the beetles can get to the dyer sheet but the bees can't.

I put my first prototypes in the hives yesterday. There were not a lot beetles since all of my hives are so strong but there were still a few. I placed 7 traps in seven hives - 3 of them I poured Apple Cider Vinegar on. I'll let you know how they work next week.


"He also divided the two fish among them all." - Mark 6:41 

I split (divided) the six hives at Dr. D's place into twelve. Of course this isn't the first time I made splits but this is the first time I did it with complete confidence.

If you've been following my blog, then you know that last year I made a lot of splits that ultimately failed. But in the words of Thomas Edison, "I haven't failed. I just found 10,000 ways that won't work."

So here is what we did yesterday.

First, we cleaned the apiary up and leveled our concrete blocks.

The next step was to decide on the location of each split. We did our best to put the split as far from the original location as possible - though this is really not that important since the nurse bees will stay with the move and all the workers will go back to the original location.

With the locations decided we began the process. We started with "F" and worked backwards to "A" since "A" had been our most cantankerous hive last year. "F" was also the only hive with only one super.

I moved the whole hive to location "F1" and then placed an empty supper on the site of "F". I placed 2 frames of eggs, larva, and nurse bees on the "F" site. Then I added a frame of honey and pollen. The rest of the frames were empty waxed frames. I added some empty frames to the "F1" site and closed them up.

Now I never found a single queen in any of the hives yesterday but I made sure to leave eggs in both hives just in case the queen ended up on the original location.

We repeated the steps for each hive. Since it was very cloudy, it took a long time to confirm eggs were in each frame. The whole process took us 3.5 hours.

Despite the clouds, the bees were fairly docile. Noah got stung 5 or 6 times and I got stung about 7 or more but that isn't really too bad considering the weather.

I will check the splits next Saturday and make sure there are queen cells in all of them.

Now I know you shouldn't count your bees before they hatch but I'm going to.
New Hive Count: 13 Hives