Beemused: A Blog

Hobby beekeeping in central Massachusetts

18th June 2011

Supers on the hives

The girls are busy, and it was time to give them a super to fill with honey.  We had already put a super on our oldest hive, although on inspection she hasn’t done much in it yet.  She’s been busy refilling the upper brood chamber with honey.  Judging from the color of the bees I’d say she has some Russian in her - much darker than the pure Italian bees in the new hives.

(edit:  Just noticed earlier post that she was honey-bound.  This time she definitely was not.  Now I am concerned - will have to inspect lower chamber)

The new hives were reaching capacity, so we got the supers on just in time.   Since the weather didn’t cooperate and the packages arrived so late, we were worried that the new hives would be lagging far behind.  But clearly they’ve been working hard!

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30th May 2011


Wow- it’s been a long time since we posted. My apologies!

Currently, we have 3 working hives: Susan- a survivor from our first set of packages, and 2 new ones that I have not yet named.

All are doing well at the moment, and the 2 new ones need supers.

Susan is being balky about supers, yet again. Justin says that she’s decided to wall the super off from the hive proper, by building all over the queen excluder. Sigh. Susan has never given us anything in the way of harvest; however, she’s so damn hardy that we keep her going..!

I’m thinking we should remove the queen excluder, and see if she’ll use the super then.

We also need to build frames and super the 2 new hives ASAP.

It’s lovely to have 3 busy hives going again! And the girls are so pretty as they zoom in and out on their trips.

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15th December 2010

Leaked Memo Shows EPA Doubts About Bee-Killing Pesticide

Leaked Memo Shows EPA Doubts About Bee-Killing Pesticide
By Brandon Keim   December 13, 2010

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4th May 2010

Fears for crops as shock figures from America show scale of bee catastrophe

The world may be on the brink of biological disaster after news that a third
of US bee colonies did not survive the winter.

Alison Benjamin The Observer, Sunday 2 May 2010
Fears for crops as shock figures from America show scale of bee catastrophe

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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

Student uses artificial intelligence to model bee behavior

Interesting research on bee foraging behavior.

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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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