It must be spring...
Just sharing a good photo of drone brood for new beekeepers. You can clearly see the dome capped cells of the drones. To the far right of the image there are capped worker cells.
Landing Workers in Slow-Motion
This is a slow-motion video of workers coming and going from a hive. Most beekeepers like to stand around and watch their bees work, and I'm no exception. There is something wonderful and fascinating seeing them work.
There was some cross comb in this hive and I knocked out some larvae while going through it. I worked down to the bottom board to clean that off from winter and saw these girls already moving out larvae that fell to the bottom. The industriousness of bees is awesome!
A Beautiful Brood Pattern
This is a lovely brood pattern by an overwintered nuc queen! Beekeepers will appreciate this - everyone else will probably shrug... :>)
Reaching a tall swarm
If you chase swarms, at some point you'll be faced with a swarm high up in a tree. One way to reach them is through a simple setup. You will need a painters extension pole, the roller on the end, duct tape, and a 5 gallon (or similar) bucket. I was trying to explain this on a group and was asked if I could sketch it out, thus the high quality drawing above. Basically, you put the roller on the extension, duct tape the bucket handle to the roller (allow it to roll freely, so the bucket remains plumb) and you have your swarm catcher. Stand 3 to 5 feet to the side of the swarm, extend the pole under it, then firmly bump the branch and swarm so it falls in the bucket. Lower the pole and dump the bees in a hive (or nuc, whatever). If you got the queen, the rest of the swarm will fly down in a bit. A simple way to know if you did is the workers will line up at the entrance with their tales in the air fanning. If you missed her you may need to repeat this a couple of times. If you don't know what a painters extension pole is, I have a link to one below (buy a cheaper one). Good luck!
Link to a pole at Home Depot
Queen Mating Nucs
I've built a number of queen mating nucs, a modified version of my five frame nucs. Basically I've added a dividing board to turn it into a couple of two frame mating nucs. Entrances are on opposite sides and I do have holes drilled in the top for feeding.
Early Full Inspection
On Monday I did a full inspection of nearly all my hives. I like this photo because it is like a highlight reel - queen, brood, nectar, pollen, pretty comb, propolis, and plenty of bees! So far (knock on wood), I've had phenomenal survival over the winter. By straight math, ~5% deadouts, and that is including some hives I probably should have merged in the fall. Overall I'm very happy. One last note, I already have drone brood in some hives.
Winter Frame Building
Building nuc boxes
I finished assembling 25 nuc boxes this afternoon as I've expanded my nuc production this year (and almost sold out even so). Now for the boring part - painting. These boxes last years; the old box in the top left is 3 years old (with a mismatched lid) and has no serious issues. I use exterior grade plywood (not pressure treated), with prime and paint. The red painted line is actually a sideways letter I. To keep track of the nucs and also to create a unique front to assist with orientation flights I cycle through the alphabet painted on using a template. If like to build some of these yourself, I have the cut template in the Build it yourself area.
Spring has arrived!
Well, not here in Virginia, but it has in parts of the United States. The National Phenology Network tracks the coming of spring based upon synthetic measures of early season events in plants, based on recent temperature conditions. These models allow them to track the progression of spring onset across the country. Check on the status of spring at their website.
I attended a presentation by Samuel Ramsey a while back on his research before it was published. It has finally become available and for beekeepers it makes an interesting and informative read for the winter. I’m certain companies are paying close attention as it has direct implications on how to control Varroa destructor. It will be years before a new product comes to market to control Varroa, but this research certainly advances our understanding and will put treatment in a new direction.
Summarized from the abstract and conclusion:
The parasitic mite Varroa destructor is the greatest single driver of the global honey bee health decline. It is not consuming hemolymph, as has been the accepted view, but damages host bees by consuming fat body, a tissue roughly analogous to the mammalian liver. The lack of success in developing effective systemic pesticides likely is because of the same issue of tissue misidentification. The development of tools, both chemical and nonchemical, to manage this pest is particularly likely to be affected by these findings. "Our study reflects a need to reexamine even the fundamentals of our knowledge of Varroa as we work to diminish its impact...Our work provides a path forward for the development of novel treatment strategies for Varroa.”
Published article title:Varroa destructor feeds primarily on honey bee fat body tissue and not hemolymph
Available at: https://www.pnas.org/content/early/2019/01/08/1818371116
In this video, the timeline for the Virginia Beehive Grant Program from application to receiving the hives is discussed. We also open the shipment and take a look at what is included. This hive setup is an 8-frame, medium hive body. The state contracted manufacturer is Dadant, so this is their equipment that is shown.
Dry Sugar Feeding
I put dry sugar on the inner cover as reserve feed; it also absorbs excess moisture. These two hives have eaten through quite a bit of sugar, although they still have honey reserves. Both hives were checked today, given the warm weather.
Glyphosate and Honey Bees
There have been quite a few posts about the recent research linking Roundup (glyphosate) and honey bee health. I encourage folks to read the source paper, rather than summaries that are republished on the web. This will provide a better understanding of the underlying research methodologies and results.
An unexpected Swarm!
I put off collecting one last swarm trap until last week. It was hung in a tree and as I was taking it down I dropped the trap. It traveled home with me in the car and then I sat it outside my garage figuring I'd clean it up over winter. Well, it warmed up today and some honey bees came out for cleansing flights! I had checked it last in early August, so this is a late season swarm. I weighed it against an empty trap and realized they seem to have a reasonable amount of stores. So, off it went to the bee yard and I’ll check them out in the spring!
Giving honey bees as a present this year? After you complete your purchase from us, you can download and print our card to leave under the tree! Just click the link below.
Egypt and Honey Bees
I just returned from an extended vacation in Egypt and was excited to find hieroglyphs of honey bees in some of the tombs! I'm posting this image as it still has the original colors it was painted all those thousands of years ago.
Instructional Beekeeping Videos
If you are just getting started in beekeeping, I strongly suggest the video series at the University of Guelph. They are well done, just the right length, and very informative.
Autumn Seems Like Summer
Plenty of bearding going on when it is 92 degrees outside in October! After such a wet summer it is nice to enjoy the sun this Autumn. I planted wildflowers and a bunch of other specimen plants this year with the aim of improving end of year foraging. So far, so good!
I often come across spiders while tending the hives, but this one was disconcerting! It was pretty large and had strung a web between two hives, so I had to disturb it when doing an inspection. These spiders are fairly common and I always like to see the zig zag pattern they place in the center of the web.
About a week ago I performed a cutout at an apartment complex. I pretty much knew where the hive was from their entrance, but the thermal camera confirmed the location. I drilled a small hole to verify (a few girls peaked out), and then cut open the ceiling (second image). The third image shows the area just after I finished removing the bees and comb. Unfortunately, the queen didn't make it in this cutout and the bees are raising a new queen (last photo). I'm feeding them and will build them up to overwinter. This hive was booming, but I did note a small hive beetle as I was working.
Signs of a laying worker
A fellow beekeeper called me as her hive was getting weaker and weaker. The problem was, the hive had been queenless for a while. I zoomed in so you can see the multiple eggs in each cell and the eggs that are laid on the side of a cell (rather than centered). You can save a hive with laying workers, but it is a lot of work and I suggest combining it with another hive or just giving up on it (shake the bees all out in front of your other hives). If you have other hives most of the workers will eventually get in, but the laying workers will not.
If you don't know what a hive beetle looks like, here you go. Thankfully, I don't have many of these - healthy hives keep them in check. I know I'm not the only one who really enjoys squashing these when you find them.
A very nice looking queen
This is a very productive queen, with a great laying pattern. The interesting thing to note here is sometimes even great queens get confused. Can you find the cell with two eggs in it?