Sunday, May 22, 2016

After the inspection...

After the inspection I took to the internet to see if my concern about my feeders leaking and stuck together bees was right. Some people suggested my bees might be sticking together due to festooning and based on this picture I thought they might be right, it would make sense because they were making new wax so this behavior would be expected. I was still thrown off by the jelly clumps until I heard back from my bee teacher that she had similar clumps in her hive and that it was food from the transport feeder (remember the Genovese Hive package had a weird trough like feeder, so it would make sense the food had to be solid). I also checked my feeders and they didn't seem to be leaking so I think that mystery was explained.
Some bees with chained together legs 

Then I was looking at pictures from the inspection several days later when I noticed something that sent thrills and chills down my spine. On this picture of the comb we had cut and pasted from the lid to a frame I spotted eggs. I had zoomed in as far as I could to try and see what they had been storing in the cells when I noticed them. I'm not surprised I missed them on the inspection they where translucent white on translucent white but I noticed them all the same. As thrilled as I was to learn I had a laying queen 5 days after package install I was even more concerned I had manhandled the queen when I brushed off that comb and also worried I had somehow damaged the eggs that were there by keeping them out of the hive too ling while we tried to figure out how to attach the comb to a frame. Crossing my fingers I didn't muck it all up!
If you look hard into the cells you can see the three lines of the comb on the other side coming together. In the center of those 3 lines you can see a smaller incomplete white line appearing to go in the other direction...egg

Queen Check

Five days after install it was time to check and see if the queens had been released from their cages in each hive. I'm not sure exactly what I was going to find, but I didn't expect what I did find.

We decided to start with the Genovese Hive. I had practice lit the smoker several times so I was able to get it lit but keeping it lit was another story. When we took of the syrup the bucket still felt very heavy. I was told that a new hive could suck down a gallon of syrup in a week or barely touch it, mine were definitely on that end of the spectrum. They were obviously finding enough forage somewhere which they would rather have. So much for the "bee tea" syrup I had made the day before.

We lifted the inner lid and quickly found our first problem. When I lifted the lid the first thing that happened was that a clump of bees fell out of the hive and directly onto my foot. I was wearing Mary Janes with no socks so I definitely felt them crawling around. I quickly saw the reason, the bees were building comb attached to the lid where I had left out frames after install (I know this was a mistake on my part but I really didn't imagine they would have already built that much comb, lesson learned.)  I knew from the blogs I have read that I needed to scrape the comb off otherwise it would get worse and I wouldn't be able to open the lid with out ripping comb in half. I set the lid down and turned my attention back to my foot, I stooped because I was going to try ans scoop them into the hive but I noticed they were already moving in an orderly fashion back to the hive. I still had a few on my for but for the most part they were crawling along the ground and up the side of the hive. The smoker had gone out so we had to re-light that before tackling the comb problem. Jack stepped in with his fire building skills and got it roaring.

With the thick smoke (but cool) billowing out of the smoker my mom lifted the lid again. I directed the smoke at the bees on the top bars of the frame hoping to move them out of the way but they stubbornly didn't move. The volume on their buzzing increased and they sounded clearly annoyed but they never acted aggressively at all. I then tried to smoke the bees of the stray comb but again they buzzed annoyed, refusing to move. I took the brush and tried to brush them off but they again stubbornly refused to move. They seemed stuck together and I worried that the feeder had been leaking on them. I had seen some clear jelly clumps and crystals in the hive which reinforced this concern. I kept brushing and the bees seemed glued to each and glued to the comb and top. I was freaking out about being too rough with the bees and surprised that they were refusing to move when brushed. In the videos they seem to move out of the way easier. I grabbed the queen cage, she had been released thank goodness but I was stressing out that the bees would not move off the comb so I could remove it.

I knew I need time to collect myself and regroup so I decided to inspect the Gambino Hive and mull over what to do with the Genovese. When I opened the Gambino Hive I didn't see any comb built on the lid but there were some bees clustering on the lid over the empty spots. I breathed a sigh of relief. I tried brushing the one on the lid off off because I was worried about them getting squished when I put the frames in and put the lid back on but they also seemed stick together and difficult to move. When I brushed them I saw a string of tan goo between to bees and I became more convinced the feeders were leaking and the bees were sticking together with sugar syrup. I manages to clear the lid somewhat and also realized that they would just get out of the way if we set the lid down slowly enough. The queen cage was retrieved and she had also been released I quickly put in the 3 missing frames and closed it up. They were well on their way with wax building. 
Encouraged by how well the Gambinos were doing, I know it was time to collect myself and get serious about that wax so I opened up the Genovese hive and gently but forcefully cleaned off the comb. I used my hive tool to scrape it off. 
In this picture you can see one of the weird jelly clumps I was talking about.
Not wanting to waste the bees work we attempted to attach the big comb to a frame, there was also stored pollen and possibly uncapped nectar so we knew it was important to save. The small chunk was less than the size of my palm (small hands) so we couldn't reattach that. Jack tried to heat the top edge to get it to stick to the top bar on the frame but couldn't quite get it to stay. I then remembered reading something about using rubber bands so we secured it with a rubber band, replaced all the frames and closed it all up. I replaced the mostly full feed buckets on both hives. I was worried about the inspection being overly stressful for the Genovese and was worried about manhandling the queen when I was brushing off the bees. I managed to convince myself that she wasn't on that comb. 
Jack snapped a quick pic before trying to attach the comb to the top 

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Install Day: Part 2

As you can tell these posts are happening after the fact, significantly. Install day was May 7th. As of May 11th we have done our queen check but those posts will come in time.

So here goes:

After the less than perfect start I was seriously doubting if I could do this. It was definitely not as easy as all the videos made it seem. Were the bees traumatized by all the shaking? Were they going to leave due to my rough handling? Would the bees left in the package ever leave (I'm not sure they ould have with our the rain) and why were there so many left in he package? My first instinct was to go inside, collect myself, perhaps medicate with a little G and T or wine but I knew I just had to push through and keep going, lets I just give up or the smell of my "medication" offend the bees. So we went to the next hive, the Genovese (or De Medici for my mom, who doesn't think the mob thing is funny, and the first hive is called the Borgia). There is no video of this install as I really needed an extra pair of hands so Jack wasn't able. Plus I'm sure no parts of a video of this install would have been internet appropriate due to the fact that I was already in swear mode.

 I tried to remove the feeder and quickly realized that this package did not have an easy to remove syrup can. While the syrup can slid easily out, this contraption (a multi-level system of circular troughs) had several bees feeding out of it and no way to get them out. I could feel/hear their bodies slicing in half as I tried to slide it out to access the queen cage. With each sickening crunch my soul flinched. I didn't go in to beekeeping to kill bees and I felt each death, also practically each bee life is important until a queen bee is laying so I was highly upset by this development. Possibly there was a way to remove the feeder without such carnage but I hadn't seen such a video.

The next awesome thing that happened was that I realized that the queen cage had broken off and was inside the cage.... That's right I had to reach down into the writhing mass of bees and fish it out. Thank god I was wearing gloves. (I regret that there are no pictures of this) The vibration was weird and my hand/cage were covered in bees who really wanted to be there. It must of taken a full minute to get them off so I could de-cork the cage and put in the candy plug. I then smacked the cage with more force and Jack jumped in to help me shake it really hard. As a result almost 100% were out in two shakes. I quickly closed up the hive, slapped on the feeder and done. After we brushed off all the bees clinging to our clothes and went inside where my dad had a nice cold G&T waiting.... (for medication purposes of course)
The Genovese (notice the really empty package?)

PS: I fussed over the bees or several hours including freaking out that they didnt have enough oxygen, that the feeders might not be working (starvation) or that they'd never leave the package and go into the hive, until the rain came. The next day it rained a lot which comforted me because I knew they were trapped and couldn't go anywhere.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Install Day part 1

So here goes, install day:

We picked the bees up around 10 am. I was pretty excited because this was THE DAY but also extremely nervous because I didn't want to screw up and damage the bees or have them run off. I had watched at least 10 different install videos and even the first time beekeepers made it look pretty easy. I had read different advice about spraying them with sugar water so I decided not to do that. As we drove them home I was impressed with how quiet and mellow they seemed. A bee or two were lose in the car but they never even flew near us.

We got them to my parents place around 11 am. My mom had to go to work so she took off before the action took place. My dad watched from the safety of a bedroom window, heckling us like the muppet movie critics.  Jack was my assistant in the absence of my mother, which is good because his grounded calm offset my heightened emotions. The first snafu was misplacing the sugar plugs. I didn't realize I had misplaced them until after I removed the queen from the first package. It took us a few minutes to find them. After that I was able to remove the cork and put in the plug. I became fixated on the idea that I had to place the cage candy side up which the cage was not designed for so I ended up just placing it on one of the frame bottoms. (I realize this was for queens with attendants and mine didn't have any so this was unnecessary) Then it was time to firmly tap down the bees and pour them out. Watching the video after I realize I didn't tap the package anywhere close to hard enough and that most of the bees were still clinging to the sides when I started the pour. I struggled to get them out of this package and ended up spilling some on the ground and having to scoop them up. After a few minutes (the video is greatly shortened, we cut it when the F-bombs started to drop) I realized the ones left were not coming out so I placed the package in front of the cage and tried to close up the hive. I put on the feeder bucket over the inner cover and them put a box around it and put on the outer cover. I may have squished a bee or two. Some decided to fly into the top feeder box so I had to leave it open a little so they weren't trapped in there. A good amount of bees stayed in the package for hours after and only went into the hive when it started to rain.
The difficult install kicked up quite a few bees in the air but nobody got stung. One even crawled up my pant leg but I was able to lift the pant leg and brush it away. I was also aware that this install had not gone very smoothly and I was internally freaking out.
The Gambino: You can't see in this picture but there were quite a few stubborn bees left


It's official, I'm a beekeeper now. This has been almost 10 years in the making but I have finally been able to make it happen. This blog is going to serve as my hive inspection note book because I can include pictures and video.

I ordered my bees from K.night Honey because my teacher recommended them and they offered 3 pound packages (vs J.ones Bees which only offered 2.5 pounds). I ordered Italians because they are supposed to be gentle and we are keeping them in the burbs. We put the hives along the west fence (east facing) because they receive morning sun and afternoon dappled shade. The unfortunate part is there are neighbor kids on that side who sometimes kick balls over so we had to add lattice work for extra protection.

I chose cedar hives from T.hinking because of the looks (and some vauge unscientific notion that its better for the bees), eight frame mediums and foundation-less frames. I also decided to name the hives after New York mob families... you know because they're Italians.
The Genovese Hive
The Gambino Hive