Beemused: A Blog

An unexpected development with Victoria

2nd May 2010

An unexpected development with Victoria

Victoria was the hive that ran out of honey stores last winter (this despite having been given extra frames of stores filched from Susan).  We’d been planning on repopulating her with a local nuc, or a least a local queen.

Meanwhile, Susan has been roaring along, has completely refilled her stores and was ready to swarm.  We’ve made a half-hearted effort to control her swarming urge.  I say half-hearted  because we knew that Susan was going to swarm no matter what we did.  She seems much better at producing bees than she is a producing honey!

Yesterday, I was working on replacing some boards on our house that were water-damaged.  Late in the afternoon as I went to the garage to get a tool, I heard a loud humming - it didn’t take a few seconds to realize we had a cloud of bees behind the house just about at the roofline.  They were formed into a column, kind of a tornado of bees.  I went behind the house to see where they would go, and I saw that quite a few bees were on the front of the now-empty Victoria.  I suited up and opened the entrance to Victoria I had blocked it to keep mice out.  Activity around Victoria picked up even more.

I said to Amanda that it would be quite remarkable if Susan swarmed and the swarm occupied Victoria!  We didn’t think it was likely, but next morning it was clear that bees have taken up residence in Victoria again.

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20th February 2010

Beginning another year

We finally got a break in the weather (it has either been cold or snowy every weekend), and I was able to inspect the hives.  Susan and Emma came through the winter with flying colors - lots of bees, plentiful stores left, no signs of trouble.  Victoria, unfortunately, did not make it.  The frames were all completely depleted, and all the bees were dead on the bottom.  Pretty clearly a case of inadequate honey supply, which was frustrating because we had given her several frames of honey from the stronger hives and had feed them as much syrup as they would take.

This makes two years in a row that we’ve lost a hive, and both times it was the hive in the same location.  I think that location simply doesn’t get enough sunlight, so I am going to think about where else we could put the hive for better success.

The surviving hives are doing well and I gave each of them an artificial pollen cake to get them started.   They are looking great!

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19th July 2009

Victoria has fallen on hard times

The weather finally let me inspect our hives again, and here is what I found:

  • Susan continues strong, and needs another honey super right away.  She is loading the 2nd brood chamber with stores and not enough brood (although she has plenty of bees), the one super I had on her is pretty much full;
  • Emma is doing well, 2nd brood chamber a good mix of stores and brood. I put our remaining super on her, to keep her busy & productive;
  • Victoria has laying workers, no sign of the queen & looked like all drone brood.

I took 2 brood frames from Emma and put them in Victoria, to keep at least some workers coming.  The brood frames from Emma I replaced with the black plastic ones.  Between rebuilding those and the super I think Emma will be kept busy & not swarm.

I have to locate a source of a local queen for Victoria, hope to find one I can put in place next week.  I also need to clean up the old supers, we’re needing them.


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3rd July 2009

Hive update - Susan still in first place

It was no surprise that Susan, our one hive that survived the winter, is still the strongest hive.  Two full brood boxes, and making progress on the super.  The rainy weather has certainly slowed things down - this was the first time in weeks that I was able to inspect the hives.  I wasn’t able to use the smoker because the matches wouldn’t light!  I think I need a lighter for the smoker.

Emma is doing very well, and will need a super before long.  She still has a few frames in the upper brood chamber that need to be completed with comb, etc. but she has ample bees for the job.  The brood pattern looks good, a halo of honey stores around an oval pattern of brood.  On the black plastic foundation it is easy to spot the larvae (it’s still hard to see the eggs, I think it is my aging eyesight to blame).

Victoria, though, is still struggling.  The upper brood chamber is still hardly used, although 2 frames with some brood indicate the queen has been up there.  The lower chamber looks better, but the brood pattern is still much sketchier than in Emma or Susan.  If it weren’t threatening to thunderstorm (and I hear rumbling already), I’d have taken some brood from Susan to donate to Victoria.  I don’t like to interfere that extensively in a hurry, and especially not without smoke.  Perhaps next weekend will offer a better opportunity for meddling in the affairs of bees!


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7th June 2009

Making progress with Victoria and Emma

Susan, our surviving hive from last season, is doing well - excellent brood patterns, plenty of bees, full stores in the brood chambers.  I put a super on Susan, with our standard thin beeswax foundation.  It will be interesting to see how quickly she will fill the super!Emma is doing well, I think.  Sh hasn’t filled up the 2nd brood chamber yet, but she’s making solid progress on it.  It’s clear that the black plastic foundation with beeswax coating is not a popular with the bees as is the pure beeswax foundation.  I’m doubting the wood-versus-plastic is the issue, I think the plastic is not smelling quite right to the girls.  Certainly the beeswax coating helps a lot, though.Victoria is lagging, however.  She is in a somewhat better location than poor Elizabeth, but still not getting the early morning sun that makes such a difference.  It’s their alarm-clock, after all! We’re planning on taking a frame of brood from Susan and adding it to Victoria, and giving Susan another black plastic frame.  Those are much easier to see eggs/larvae on.–Justin 

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18th May 2009

Another possible culprit in Colony Collapse Disorder

Maybe this is a contributor?

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17th May 2009

Feeding the bees

Today I removed the remnants of the miticide treatment from Susan.  There was very little of it left, but the scent of oil of thyme was very strong.  Let’s hope that the treatment knocked back the varroa mites! Victoria is lagging a little, presumably because she is the hive that sees the sun the latest in the morning.  Overall she looks good, but she has more comb to draw, so I made up some syrup for her.  While I was at it, I fed the other hives as well.  They are clearly finding nectar, but the syrup will help with the wax production that they definitely need. I put a second brood chamber on Emma, who gets the sun first in the morning and is going great.  While selecting frames to use, I included 4 of the black foundation (all plastic frames, with beeswax coating).  These are much easier to spot eggs and larvae in, so we’re aiming to switch over to these for the brood chambers.  The bees are accepting the frames well (both Emma and Victoria had 2 black frames & are progressing well drawing out comb), and they proved their value in identifying brood.  The capped brood is easy to spot, but the eggs are devilish hard to see.It is very peaceful, working on the hives.  For the most part the bees were making happy little humming sounds - we’ll see how they react to a more thorough examination! -Justin 

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27th April 2009

New bees, new names

We just installed a package of Italian bees in each of the hives that didn’t make it. The hive set-up that had been Mary is now Emma (Goldman- an appropriate name for pretty golden Italian bees, no?), and Elizabeth’s old home is not inhabited by Victoria (Woodhull).

These were excellent packages! Hardly any dead bees in the bottom, the queens were lively (or so Justin reported- he got a closer look than I did) and marked with a green dot- that will be handy when we want to identify her!, and the package bees seemed to be fond of their queens already, based on the number of them hanging out on the outside of her cage.

We’d barely shook them out of their shipping package when some started with their “come hither!” signaling- including one that was, at the time, on Justin’s butt. That made me laugh. They like him!

They zipped right into the hives, with relatively few hovering around outside, though there was a fair amount of buzzing. Not angry, just excited. And by the time Victoria was closed up again, almost all of Emma’s bees were in their hive.

I’m glad we waited till evening to install them- last time it was more in the afternoon, and they were a lot buzzier.

It’s a good time to have installed them, too- the hot weather means that all the flowering trees are flowering, and that’ll give the new girls a lot to do. Although they are very good at drawing comb, based on the amounts in their packages, the hives have drawn comb in them this time so the new queens can get right to laying as soon as they’re released.

I do love the Italians- they are such pretty golden bees! I hope we can do better at keeping them going over the winters.


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18th April 2009

Spoke too soon

Unfortunately, like many beekeepers this year, a hive that seemed OK at the start of the season has now died.  Elizabeth, always our weakest hive, appears to have lost track of honey stores - there was a clump of dead bees in the upper chamber, with about a 2-3″ region of depleted comb around it.  I probably shouldn’t have reversed the brood chambers, given how weak she was.

Now we have to scramble to find a local source of nucs.  Nucs wouldn’t be ready in this area until late May at the earliest, and it will be frustrating to have to wait.  Another option is to split our remaining hive (once she’s built up enough) and introduce a new queen.


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7th March 2009

First proper hive work of the season

Today I was busy as a bee :-)

 I wanted to examine Mary, the hive that died, to see what I could determine as to the cause.  Once I opened her up & pulled out the frames, it was clear that she had succumbed to an overload of varroa mites.  We’d been reluctant to use miticides, but I think the results showed that we weren’t aggressive enough with IPM to be able to do that.

Elizabeth, our weakest hive (or so we thought), is doing OK, not great, but OK.  The lower brood chamber was comepletely emptied of stores, and there is only a small amount in the upper chamber.  I reversed the boxes, and we’ve bought 10 pounds of sugar for syrup which we’ll be feeding them soon.

Susan is doing very well, lots of bees and adequate stores for spring.  I reversed the chambers, to encourage the queen to expand the hive.

Both hives were treated with powdered sugar to bring down the mites, and given an artificial pollen patty to get them a head start on the spring nectar flows.


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