Monday, May 29, 2017

Grafting - Attempt #1

Each day I become more and more convinced that success is 30% preparation through study, 30% perspiration through long hours of work, and 40% determination as in never giving up. The last being the hardest. I think this applies to everything in life.

Ross Perot once said, "Most people give up just when they are about to achieve success."

Grafting - Attempt #1:

I have watched countless YouTube videos on grafting and queen rearing. My favorite way to do this is by the Cloak-board Method - it seems to be the most bee friendly method. Indian Summer Apiaries made a great video on how to do this.

Step 1: Picket the queen (4) days before you plan to graft so that you know where the eggs and young larva are. I didn't do that but I probably will in the future.

Step 2: (24) hours before you graft, segregate the queen from the rest of the hive. You do this by swapping the bottom box (brood chamber) with the top box (usually a honey super) and placing a cloak-board between the two.

A cloak-board needs to have an exit in it so the bees can still come and go. I used a second bottom board for this. The exit on the cloak-board faces 180degrees from the original hive entrance. This way all the field bees will return to the bottom (Queenless) box and make it feel crowded. This is supposed to put the bees in mind to rear a new queen.

One thing I did wrong was to place all but one frame of brood with the queenless box. This may cause the bees to draw out queen cells that I didn't graft. If so, so be it. This will give me a few extra queen cells. Had I picketed the queen I would have done this correctly but since I couldn't see the eggs I just put all the brood in the queenless box.

Step 3: Graft the youngest larva (those next to the eggs). Then place the grafts into the queenless half of the hive.

This part had me really stressed out and that anxiety caused me to procrastinate. The hive at my house is in a very shaded spot - as is most of my yard. Because of this, it is very hard to see the eggs despite my very good near sight. So I took two frames out of the hive - each had very young larva in it and I wagered that there would be eggs and day old larva very near by.

Once in the shop my wager paid off and I found a quarter frame of eggs and so I grafted the adjacent larva. I feel very confident that my grafts were done correctly. I used a Chinese grafting tool. It didn't go as quickly as it did in the video - the girl in the video made it look easy. Instead, I fond that if I pushed back one of the cell walls, I could get the proper angle to retrieve the larva. I'm sure I'll get better and faster as I go.

My wife assisted me in finding the eggs but actually spent most of her time taking photos and fawning over the (4) or (5) bees that were hatching out of the second frame I took into the shop. While she was absolutely no help whatsoever, she was incredibly cute!

Step 4: (24) hours after you place the grafts, move the brood box with the queen back to the bottom of the hive, place a queen excluder between the two so that she can't destroy the new grafts and the hive is restored back to a queen-right position.

We now have queen cells... I hope. I will complete Step (4) tonight.

The bad news:

On Step (2) I was able to find my new queen (the hybrid from my VSH and survivor stock). She is a laying machine - (10) frames of brood. When I found here, I caged her in a hairclip looking cage I have to keep her safe.

However, when I had finished setting up the hive, I decided to take a few picture (she was so red and beautiful). Well I got my camera phone out and ready to take the picture as I let here out but just as I did, my camera switched views. distracted, I released the spring on the queen cage which pinned the queen around the abdomen. The spring doesn't have much pressure but it may have been enough to damage her. When I released here she ran quickly up my glove and then into the hive... I am guessing she ran into the hive since I couldn't find her on my person.

I am just sick about the thought of killing this amazing egg laying machine. I looked for her yesterday but didn't find her - that doesn't mean she is gone, as I often overlook the queens. I will know by Wednesday, as she has a lot of open frames to lay in and if there are any new eggs, then she is okay.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Hive Location - A tip for the beginner

I cut a 1" hole in the cheese cloth this morning
to let Hive-D.3's foraging bees slowly enter.
I swapped Hive-D with Hive-D.3 yesterday. This segues into today's topic - Hive Placement.

Most books will tell you that the best location to place a hive is in a sunny area, with a windbreak, and an easterly view... and they are right. However, what most of them seem to leave out is that the hive should be placed in a location that you can drive fairly close to.

Now of course, when you have to put hives on other people's land, you have to take what you can get. But keep in mind, a deep hive can weigh over 80lbs and a 5 gallon bucket of sugar water can weigh as much as 60lbs. That's a lot of weight to carry for 100-200yards. Even with my hand cart, the process of driving out 15 miles into the country, swapping (2) hives, and checking the other (4) in that yard took a few hours - when it should have only taken minutes.

So whenever possible, place your hives in a convenient location for hauling equipment.

So back to my hive swap. The biggest hurdle I had to overcome was old equipment. Some of this equipment has holes in the corners where the bees freely move in and out. Not bad for ventilation but not so good for transportation.

The solution... Cheese Cloth. I bought a pack of cheese cloth and wrapped the hives up tight. This let air in and out while keep the bees inside. I kind of expected them to get caught in the cloth like they do in dryer sheets but they seem to move on it quite freely. I also considered plastic wrap but I worried it might make the bees too hot. In the end the cheese cloth worked perfectly.

New Apiary Map
So Hive-D (the same hive that gave me 60 stings a few weeks back) is now tranquilly sitting in my
back yard. The new queen (a highbred of Broke-T's VSH queen and the survival stock of my apiary) has calmed the hive down splendidly.

Hive-D.3 on the other hand is much more aggressive but not so much it is hard to deal with. I placed a frame of young brood from Hive-D.2 into Hive-D.3 and hopefully it has a few viable larva in it to requeen with. I'll check it Saturday if weather permits.

Sadly, D.1 did not survive the hive beetles. The hive was abandoned and with all of its stores robbed, the beetles had left too.

So of the (3) VSH Queens I bought, only one survived. This is not Broke-T's fault. Hive-D.1 was overcome by beetles and I am sure that Hive-D.3 lost the queen due to my careless manipulations the day I checker-boarded the hive.

Not to worry though as Hive-D now has the queen I wanted. This highbred should be stronger and calmer than any queen I've had before and will become the mother of most of my future stock.

New Hive Count: (8) hives - (2) mini nucs.

Monday, May 15, 2017

No Queens - What to do?

I finished up teaching classes on Saturday and so Sunday I finally had time to check my backyard bees -- The two Mini Nucs and Hive-D.3 -- sadly not one of the three had a queen.

That being said, I suspected the queen was gone from Hive-D.3 as soon as I opened it because when I gave my first puff of smoke the hive began to roar with the sound of flapping wings. I also got stung (6) times - those queenless hives are cantankerous.

The last time I checked D.3, I couldn't find any young larva or eggs but there were (3) frames of brood. I told myself that it was just late in the afternoon and it was too dark to see - but it wasn't. The queen was gone and now there is no brood left in the hive.

The two mini nucs are building comb but there is no eggs, larva, or brood - so no queens either.

I think I have reached a turning point because none of this bothered me. Not because I don't care but because I am sure I can fix the problem.

Wednesday is my beekeeping day and so I think I will bring home a hive from Dr. D's and take Hive-D.3 out there. If Hive-D has a new queen (Which I pray it does), then I will bring it home (assuming it has now calmed down).

If that goes according to plan, then I can start grafting queens right away from Hive-D.

As for Hive-D.3, I will place a frame of eggs from Hive-D.2 into it and let it re-queen itself.

While I have a queenless hive and two queenless nucs, I am still leaving my count at (9) hives and (2) mini nucs.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Mating Nucs and Self-Loathing

I try to leave my personal business out of this blog but so much of my life is intertwined with my bees. Such was the case this weekend.

I accomplished fuck-all. I was just exhausted. I've been working my day job and teaching at night... that combined with the 29lbs I have put on since Lent started (I gave up diet drinks)... well I am just exhausted.

The whole point of this story is that I didn't do anything this weekend but sleep... except I did check the mini nucs at the house for eggs. Of course I only did this at the very last minute (6:00pm last night) and by then there was not enough light to see if there were eggs or not.

I didn't see the queen either which makes me think I might need to redesign my min nucs. At present they are designed like deep supers (9 5/8 deep). With the boxes being deeper than they are wide it made it hard to see if the queen was on the bottom or sides. I may redesign them as Mediums.

So in conclusion, I am weeks behind on my schedule and not gaining any ground. I think this is really where success is made or lost - this is where life tries to take over the time set aside for dreams. Some obstacles can't be overcome... exhaustion and time management are not those sorts of obstacles. I can do better - and I will.

FYI, I started a diet today - that should help with my energy levels.