Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Another visitor and a full report

I have the best brother-in-law ever! Some time ago Charlie made Paula and I this wonderful workbench for the bee yard. I am sure there was some kind of trade of services for his craftsmanship although I can remember what that might have been. Needless to say the bench totally rocks and saves a great deal of strain on our back. I've always known Charlie liked honey, especially comb honey but I didn't really appreciate how interested he was in the bees and the beekeeping.

Paula and went down to do a full inspection of the hives Sunday afternoon and Monday afternoon I took Charlie down for a show and tell visit. Both days were very hot and sunny and there is a great nectar flow on now so the bees remain very docile. They will stay this way until the middle end of August and then get defensive as they since a need to protect their food stores. Additionally in our healthy hives there is a great deal of brood so the bees are busy tending to the brood or out foraging. July is the perfect month for visitors.

It was a great deal of fun to show Charlie Royal Ruckus, our strongest hive to date. He got to see brood, nectar and capped honey and observe workers in all aspects of their work. When we went into Patrick's Pollinator we watched two drones trying to chew their way out of cells. It is always a treat  to see new emerging bees!

So here is the report. Andrea's girls are gone gone gone. I have no idea what happened to them but remain suspicious of some sort of brood disease. The Queen never laid much and what she did lay never hatched. The population dwindled to nothing, workers never started to lay and the bees seemed to disappear. Very perplexing.  Patrick's Pollinator continues to do well but I'd like to see more effort in packing nectar and capping honey. The bees have not moved up well into the supers. Royal Ruckus seems to be way ahead of the hives that went in nearly four weeks earlier than she did. She has three packed brood boxes and two supers, the first one has some capped honey. Katrina's Drone Den still worries me as there still isn't any brood and we can't find the marked queen. I still think these girls swarmed and might be in the process of re-queening but if we don't have any eggs by tomorrow morning we are going to combine them with  The Turquoise  Bee, another poorly populated but healthy hive.

In the mean time I am giving some thought to expanding The Flight of The Turquoise Bee Apiary with a "West" location. Charlie has purchased a farm about an hour outside of St. Paul and is interested in hosting some hives. He gets pollinating services and I get more hives. Seems like a win win if you ask me.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Hot Day in The Bee Yard

It must have been 100 degrees in our bee suits in the bee yard yesterday afternoon! Paul and I were sweating miserably! I probably would have ditched the suite but I can't get over my paranoia of tics. With beads of sweat dripping down our faces and steam coming off the hives we did a complete inspection of each hive. I was a little surprised that there were not more bees hanging on the outside of the hives but it was hot and late afternoon so many of the bees were probably out foraging. You can a flurry of activity just outside of Patrick's Pollinate. I think we were both relieved after almost an hour of the beating sun and dripping sweat to get out of our gear and into an air conditioned car!

It was only a week ago that I went to the bee yard myself to inspect the hives. A week ago all was well in four of the hives. While I was gone Paula noted that something seemed off in Andrea's Girls, the brood was crusty and dry and the bees were not emerging. I noticed the same thing last week, poor if any brood and what was there was very dry and crusty. I suspected chalk brood disease but upon pulling out a dead bee from a cell chalk brood seemed unlikely. When I posted photos of the brood someone one mentioned "Entombed" bee or pollen which I had never heard of before. So of course I turn immediately to The Journal of Invertebrate Pathology and do some reading about this condition and I am suspicious. I will spare you the details of the problem but basically condition leads to the storage of pollen completely lacking in any nutritional value for the bees and they die. Today when we looked at Andrea's Girls the population is down to nothing. I took a frame from the hive to take to my hobby beekeepers meeting tonight to see if anyone has some insight or thoughts.

A week ago I found the Queen inside Katrina's Drone Den and hive was packed with brood. All seemed well. I didn't notice anything out of the ordinary. Today when we looked inside Drone Den, no queen, not a speck of brood, literally not a speck and the population seemed significantly down. We found a few queen cells which makes me wonder if the girls swarmed. If so lets hope they are in the process of re-queening themselves. The hive was strong and worthy and I'd hate to loose them. I plan on going back later this week and looking for some evidence of a queen.

Colleen's Royal Ruckus is doing great. We couldn't find her Queen but she is there, even laying up in the super box so we ended up throwing on a queen excluder.  I don't like queen excluders but I don't like brood in my honey supers either. The queen excluders prevent the Queen from going up while letting the workers pass. In my experience the workers don't like to pass the excluder either. Sometimes when you have fully drawn out comb above the excluder the workers are more likely to pass. So we are going to give it a try. The bees are packing nectar and capping off honey in the first super so we added a second box and are crossing our fingers.

The Turquoise Bee is thriving, albeit slowly! We ended up moving the second brood box from Andrea's Girls over to The Turquoise Bee so there are three brood boxes there now. I doubt these girls will produce much honey in the long run but we will probably add a super on early next week.

Patrick's Pollinator is doing great as well. The Queen has not moved up into the third brood box yet but it is a good healthy population and I am hoping for some honey out of these girls.

So overall a little sadness around Andrea's Girls and a little worry about Katrina's Drone Den.  Bee Keeping is emotional business no way around it. Giddy joy fades to utter disappointment in a matter of days.