Beehive Check Logs – Digest

30 May

Dear Kickstarter supporters and everyone,

Kitchen window view of the Queens 'Apiary'

I have been extremely busy since the new bees arrived on April 7th.

If you are one of the Kickstarter contributors, please feel free to reach out if you want to visit the hives. I am doing some sort of hive maintenance work every weekend, either on a Saturday or Sunday, weather permitting.

I have been inspecting the two hives on weekends, weather permitting. The two hives sit right outside our kitchen/dining window, which is also the entrance to our roof…

I made the entrances visible from the window, so that I can observe their comings and goings all the time from the kitchen.

…and I have been reading, reading, and reading…and learning from YouTube.

I began reading up on forums, Michael Bush’s website (both goldmines of information), and beekeeping supply companies’ websites and catalogs like a fanatic. There is so much beekeeping information out there. The beekeeping methods and techniques are numerous, probably as many as there are beekeepers…

Here’s a “brief” timeline of Hive A and Hive B so far:

4/7: Hive Installation. Went to pickup the packaged bees at Hayseeds Big City Farm Supply. Hive A got 2 pre-drawn comb foundations from last year. Hive B from scratch with wax foundation. Got stung on top of the head, which got rid of headache. Bee acupuncture.

4/14: Went to Home Depot and began gardening on the roof. Finally planted saved seeds from last year’s “Save the Bees” seed mix as well as some of the Seeds of Change freebie seeds – basil. Also planted organic garlic from a grocery store that began sprouting so much that they really were asking to be planted. Planted sunflowers, squash, and amaranth in SIPs (sub-irrigated planters) they sell at Home Depot (no time to make them).

4/21: First check. Hive A had 9 frames drawn, 2 full with brood. Hive B had 8 frames, 1 frame with brood. Dealing with possible robbers. Got stung on thumb – swelled up for a week.

4/30: Put robber screen from Brushy Mountain on the hives, and added fresh pollen as feed. They did not like soy pollen substitutes at all. We assembled and placed cypress bases from Better Bee for the hives – for more ventilation and elevation. Finally got a spirit level at a 99 cent store – leveled the hives. Along the way, I’ve decided that Hive A will be moderately managed, and Hive B would be for more wild experimentation & micro-management. At this point, I had no deeps. Everything was mediums, which many people recommend in order to avoid back problems, but I wanted to try a deep anyhow and ordered one from Evan’s for Hive B. Began trying DIY ziploc bag feeding method, which I liked above all other types of feeders I tried.

5/6: Both hives are teeming with bees & brood, open and capped. Nice variety of pollen and uncapped honey. Some middle frames are stuck together tightly and further apart than ‘proper bee space’. I initially put the frames tightly together, but the bees seem to have pushed them apart and built burr comb below some of the foundations. Hive A got another medium on top. Hive B got a deep on top as an experiment – I wanted to put it at the bottom, but the original medium hive had so much burr comb between the bottom screen and the bottom of the frames, and I did not have the time to de-burr everything, I just put the deep on top.

5/13: Hardly any bees or comb on top hive bodies, as expected. I did not make it easy for bees to go up there. So I sprayed syrup on the empty frames. In the full hives, I saw a bunch of bees connected together in a long chain. Turns out, that’s how they build comb. For Hive B, I decided to do burr-comb removal surgery, and as an experiment, reverse the hives and put the empty deep at the bottom, with the full medium on top. It was painful although they did not sting me. No matter how gentle and slow I went, some brood got mushed. Even though they did look like mostly drone brood, I still felt sorry and worse, they looked creamy and extremely nutritious. So I felt like a hungry bear and a queasy vegan at the same time. It was also nearing mid-day…bad idea. Note-to-self: Never inspect mid-day. Start early or wait until cloudy.

I read the recommendations on what to do with burr comb – throw them away, harvest/melt them, compost them, rubber-band them back in. Well, after I put the empty deep hive at the bottom, I decided to take an extra foundation out and put as much of the live-looking brood comb back in that space. My head was spinning from the heat and the operation and I didn’t think to rubber band them back into the frame. Probably bad idea, as that space may get totally burred up and bees have to do a lot of housekeeping, but it’s a ‘wild experiment’. I am willing to have that one slot go totally to the way of the bees, and just have the other parts of the hive somewhat inspect-able.

As soon as the operation was over, bees began doing triage – taking out dead ones, re-locating live ones. They can carry larvae like mothers. It pains me to see so much carnage — I will continue to look for gentler ways of beekeeping.

5/19: Spraying the foundations worked, and both Hive A and B have built up nicely in the upper hive. I popped out the entrance reducer for Hive A, so they get just the robber screen as entrance reducer, and more ventilation. I did not want to bother Hive B after what I’ve done last time – I just replaced their feed bag and added pollen. I see many more bees bringing in pollen from outside for Hive B, compared to Hive A. The cloud of bees are only showing up around 4 -6PM, which, as now I’ve found out, are not robbers, but newly emerged bees on orientation flights. So it’s time to open up the robber screen entrance a little more.

They’re building up fast. I think feeding them with real pollen and baggie feeder with “Optima” supplement is really helping.

Hive B is bursting with bees – the deep hive is probably helping with the increase. I took the robber screen off and just opened up the entrance because it was 90 degrees outside and they were bearding. Added medium super with plastic foundations. (ran out of mediums with wax foundations. Will be ordering more soon.)

Hive A with just the mediums, are doing so-so. Still, the second medium is filling up fast, so decided to add medium super with plastic foundations. Still keeping the robber screen on this one, just in case.

I am still feeding both of them with syrup – the gallon baggie empties in a week or less.
Also baited the plastic foundation with sugar spray.

Some people say not to put the queen excluder until the comb is drawn and the nectar flow is on. I have no idea when the nectar flow is “ON” in a middle of Queens. I do see people’s front yard roses blossoming, and some random trees blossoming (I do not know the name of these trees…)

I suppose, by sometime mid-June, I can stop feeding Hive B temporarily as an experiment, and place a queen excluder with a shallow super for June, to harvest for summer (may be. can’t tell if it’s going to work…) When summer dearth hits, then I’ll start feeding them again. I might continue to feed Hive A for them to build up more.

I see my next door neighbor more often now, early in the morning. He has a chicken coop and a big garden. He is raising  rabbits too. He told me when it gets hot outside, the bees come out to his garden to drink water. That sounds like typical bee behavior…He offered some bunnies but we’re not ready for big animals yet…the bees keep me busy enough.

Since it’s getting really hot outside, I placed ‘lean-to’ planks – hopefully, this will create some shade during the day until the outdoor umbrellas that I ordered arrive.

Don’t worry – The “air conditioner” you see in the photo has been broken/dormant for years.

This photo was taken around 8PM, and even with the entire roof in the shade, it was still near 90 degrees.

If the brood needs to be kept at 93 degrees at all times, then may be this is a good thing.

Things I’m learning — The bees create ‘micro climate’ inside the hives…Honey absorbs moisture…ventilation is key…etc. etc.

Because the roof tends to get hotter, I wanted to make sure it wasn’t getting ridiculously hot.

So I went to the 99 cent store nearby to pick up thermometers. Turns out, they sell “beehive thermometers”!

To be continued..



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