Friday, June 22, 2007

Swarm patrol

Yesterday, Tim called and said he'd received a swarm call...and I got to go along for the adventure!
We drove to burien, which is about 20 min south of seattle and found in someone's front yard a soccer ball sized swarm of bees. It looked like a big pine cone as it was in a conifer. Thank goodness it was at eye level, so we didn't have to climb any ladders or anything.
Tim came prepared with his bee vacuum and a plastic bucket that he'd put vents in the sides. I held the bucket under the swarm while Tim attempted to shake the branch so they would fall in. This apparently didn't go as planned, according to Tim, as we only got about 25% of the bees this way. The bee vacuum came out. The 5 gallon container was quickly filled...we knew we had the queen when other bees were glomming onto the out vent of the vacuum...her pheromones were being emitted from the 5 gallon jar. We had to take a couple of breaks to change batteries on the vacuum and to let the bees calm down again so we could catch as many as we could.

Once we'd ran out of batteries, we piled everything in tim's van and headed back to his house where he planned on putting the bees into an empty hive. Or, so he thought.
After maneuvering down the steep hillside in his backyard to the hives, he opened the hive that he intended on using, only to find that some other bees had taken up residence! Surprised and wondering where to put the swarm, he injected it into a "weak" hive and said the queens will duke it out. Tim is very rich in bees now.
Swarm season is coming to an end, so I am glad I got to tag along on this one.

Monday, June 18, 2007

saturday hive check

Checked the hives on saturday

Hive #1 had alot of traffic of bees coming and going. Saw eggs and pupae and the second box I'd added was filling out nicely. I added a third box to it just to be safe...the second box had 7 frames with comb on it already and from what I've read that is the sign to add a new box. I am thinking I need to order more hive equipment now...will check with my mentor.

Hive #2 still seemed to have low traffic comparatively, but I was successful in seeing the queen and eggs and pupae...all very very good things to find, considering the shape this hive was in before the swarm was injected. The bees seemed quite loud, and the second box had only one frame that had been drawn upon, thus I didn't see any need to provide additional space just yet.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

pictures- finally!

one of my co-workers, Sean, offered up his photography skills (and curiosity) to brave a visit to my beehives! thanks sean!
(i'll need to correct the positioning of the pictures later...)

The smoker preparation

The beesuit preparation (this is when the kids in the neighborhood start looking nervous)

Getting ready to open the hives...this is hive #1, the "good" hive, with a second box on top for expansion.

Give a few puffs of smoke to warn them...

Here's the feeders of sugar water- now empty. More smoke to warn them.

the top of the inner cover of the hive, with some wax.

Removing the feeders and inner cover

Inner cover removed, this is the top box. Smoke them some more...

Removing the first frame (near the wall of the hive). This frame doesn't have comb drawn upon it yet.

I noticed some eggs already in this upper chamber (second box). The queen is expanding the brood chamber.

Looking for more eggs...its hard when your head is so big (in the suit) it creates a big shadow!

Blurry closeup- something you might see in your nightmares?

See how the bees fill in any extra space (bottom of the frame) with wax? the "bee space" rule has been offended. If bees see a space bigger than ~ 1 cm they fill it with wax. If less than 1/8", they fill it with propolis.

Here you can see capped brood, the flat yellow cells. Soon more bees will emerge from here. These are worker bee (female) can tell since it is flat with the surface of the frame. IF it were drone brood the little cells would look like there was a bubble protruding from the frame.

Uh, Do I really have a handful of bees in my face??

This is hive #2, with a newly injected swarm. YOu can notice that these bees are darker than the first hive's (probably carnoleans vs the italians in the first hive)
Also, there are more drone bees in this hive, since the laying worker (that I hope quits laying in light of the queen that came w/ the swarm) can only lay drone eggs.
I did see some capped brood in this hive that was not drone brood, that is good, and shows that the new queen is laying.

Hey, I just noticed a cell on this frame that looks like a swarm cell, see it? Just a little left of center bottom, half a peanut shell looking thing with the end opening toward the bottom. Hmmm, I hope I caught that/cut it out when I was there...else I'll have a swarm on my hands.

Sunday, June 3, 2007

I got a swarm!

I received one that is...
The last couple of weeks have been somewhat busy and seattle is finally seeing some truly warm weather (85+). On memorial day weekend I spent most of saturday afternoon with my mentor as we visted another of his hives he has on another guys property. We also visited another one of his mentees- who had about 5 hives going and had already had a few swarms already this year- he seemed a bit overwhelmed and was looking to consolidate a couple of his hives- one of which we did not find the queen or eggs. We finished up the day at the elliot bay brewing company where we sampled the brew that was made from my mentor's honey!

On memorial day tim went with me to check my hives. Hive #1, the "good" hive, was doing so well (had 7+ frames with drawn comb) that I added a new box on top for the girls to expand into. The second hive was still pretty pitiful- drone brood only and barely had 4 frames with comb (2 of which were supplied when I started the hive). Tim indicated he would watch for a swarm and inject it into this hive at the next opportunity.
Well, that came yesterday- I was out paddling and upon my return, had a vmail from my mentor saying he'd left me a gift! A swarm, not huge, but hopefully enough to breathe life back into hive #2. I will go back and check on them later next week.

Both hives have used up the majority of the sugar syrup I'd original provided (4 1quart jars for each hive). Tim said to not replace them as we want the bees to make honey from nectar, not the sugar water...and blackberries are in season now.

I am still attempting to get some pictures of my hives while they are open and I am doing my hive checks. I tried this on my last visit but it was impossible with just one person and gloved hands (not that brave yet to take them off). I want to try to figure out how to do one of those helmet cam things...or perhaps I should just start with a tripod setup. more research.