2017-06-13

Looking Ever So Good!

I headed out to the apiary to put syrup in the feeders of the two weakest hives. It is a rather hot day with the temp hovering around 90 degrees F. There is an occasional breeze which helps some, but only when the stray cloud wanders by. The tractor ride out to the apiary is about a half mile, and it became clear that this was going to be a sweaty trip.
I generally don't do the selfie thing, but figured one would not make me a complete narcissist. Was glad the bees were docile today as it was hot enough just wearing clothes to keep from sun burning. A bee suit would have been the ultimate in masochism. 

Winding between the fields of what is now primarily bird habitat, I saw that they are very healthy! Lots of clover and orchard grass, foxtail and timothy and assorted other grasses.  There is some milkweed and the ever present thistle of course.  I don't mind the milkweed, but the Canadian, Russian and bull thistle are a problem. I am going to have to spot spray and do some spot mowing as well. That said, there are birds everywhere. The redwing blackbirds are prolific. I have seen turkey, starling, killdeer and others.  And there are a lot of them! It always amazes me the way they will fly up and land on a tall plant that is swaying in the breeze and just stay there. It is fun to watch.

By the time I reached the apiary on the far NE corner of the farm I was pretty well heated up. I pulled the tractor and trailer next to the hives and shut off the engine, then just watched the hives for a bit.  There were bees flying all around, heading out to the fields and coming back. That made me feel good... lots of activity of that sort means the ladies have things going well enough in the hives to spare the effort to go out and gather food. I also noticed bees collecting at the entrance and some on the hive front; a good sign that they are too warm. Beyond that, the hives themselves looked like they made it through the last wind storm just fine.  A previous windstorm had blown the telescoping cover and the inner cover off of three of the hives, so I am a bit paranoid about wind.

I did not want to be in the hives for long today. Too hot, and I have been checking a bit more often than is optimal to be honest. The rough start this year with the cold and rain has had me worried, and then having to re-queen all three new hives, then a storm that left four of the hives exposed for a half a day...it has been a bit nerve wracking. On top of that, I am inexperienced and thus worried that I will do something stupid or miss something that I should have seen. Never the less, they seem to be doing a good job of recovering in spite of circumstances and my ignorance.

There is absolutely no sign of disease that I can see. No verroa, no AFB...nothing. And that is encouraging!

The Italians are of course going like a bat out of hell.  They have already filled one super 70%, and that super was put on less than ten days ago. Population is heavy. One would not even notice that I used this hive for a walk-away split. I added another super and left these ladies alone.

The Carni hive from last year really took a winter beating, but it is recovering nicely now. Brood pattern looks good and some honey is being stored. This hive will be left alone to recover this year unless they really take off and populate fast. I find that unlikely, but think they will recover nicely and be ready for winter when that time rolls around.

The walk-away split worked! There is a nice brood pattern with plenty of capped and uncapped brood. Population is clearly growing steadily. There are honey stores being worked on and comb being drawn. I really look forward to a second(and maybe more) hive of Italians. They are very strong through the winter and incredible producers too!

The three new hives took to their queens! I was unsure a week ago and actually started preparing to re-queen them myself. I rendered wax from last year and made some queen cells, attaching them to a frame.  They are ready to go. I would still need to build a nuc and a finisher, but that would not take long.  However, that is not needed right now. There is brood in all three new hives.
One of the new hives of Carnis. This one will be working into the second deep (not shown ) very soon. I had a bit of cleanup to do removing the burr comb. The ladies were very tolerant of me doing that task... no sting today. 

The weakest hive is still short on population, but it is coming around. I see young workers in the mix and there is a small but well formed brood pattern. Very encouraging!

Both of the other two new hives are in good shape, with the far West hive already breaking into the second deep.  If things continue, these will be good hives next year!

One thing I did today was shimmed the inner covers to allow more air exchange in the hives. I need to drill some entrances in the boxes to enhance that and also to allow the bees to get to the upper chambers without having to work their way all the way through the brood chambers.  I will do that this evening when it cools down a little bit.

Always something to be done....

2017-06-10

Days Remembered

Some days one looks at the common, even mundane perhaps, and finds wonder.  I think the photos speak for themselves. At least they do for me.

Where cattle graze and bees draw nectar 

Across the Vale

The Old Deer Stand

2017-06-06

June Bee Check..

Hive Check

Well, the first week in June is just about over and after a couple of weeks away I finally got back to the farm, rested for a day or two, and just today went out to check to see how things look. The first hive I checked was one of the new ones which had such rough start. It looked very good! I added a second deep, as the population and the full frames indicated it was needed.  Lots of capped brood and larva in this hive.  Clearly the new queen was accepted.
Example frame from strongest of the new hives.

The second and third new hives are not nearly as strong with the second being what I would call very weak.  Not much capped brood, and almost no eggs or larva.  Population in these hives is much lower too.  I need to do something but am not sure exactly what.  I am not sure whether the queens introduced were accepted. I think I may try and graft a queen for these hives. I have most of what I need to set up for a starter nuc. Will see ....

The original Carni hive is also struggling.  I don't see any sign of disease. It just seems these girls are a bit lethargic.  Will watch and see...

The walk-away-split of Italian is well populated.  I don't see a queen yet though, nor sign of one.  It may be a bit early as the split took place only a bit more than two weeks ago.  Otherwise, this hive is very active and looks good!

Frame Cleaning and Wax Processing

I spent the evening cleaning up frames. I am keeping all the wax for further use in restoring frames. My frames use a plastic foundation. My plan is to use a hair dryer to apply a thin coat of wax prior to putting them back into the hives. Nice clean wax comes off the super frames, but the wax from brood frames tends to have a lot of gunk in it. Thus, once the wax is removed from the frames, it is added to a pot with two inches of water in it. The water is brought up to about 175 degrees F, and the wax added. When the was is melted, the heat is turned off and one just lets it sit overnight.  Then the gunk  is scraped off the bottom of the chuck of wax that has solidified as it floated up to the top of the layer of water.

The whole process is repeated one or more times to ensure that all the gunk is separated.  What one ends up with is a nice chunk of wax to use for foundation coating, or candles or whatever crafty thing one might do with bees wax.  I will have to try making a candle or two at some point.

Propolis

Propolis is a sticky substance that the bees use to plug holes and cracks in the hive.  The term propolis comes from the greek, and means pro(before, or in front of) polis(city).  Propolis is often found at the entrance to a hive, more in nature than in domesticated settings.  So what is the big deal?

Turns out that propolis is also full of good stuff to boost the immune system. In fact it is theorized that the fact that bees DNA has very little assigned to their immune system is because the make and consume propolis.  That said, there are folks that buy this stuff and pay really well for it. It is not the most prolific substance. If one had 100 hives, one could probably collect enough of it over time to get a pound or so and sell it.  But that is not my interest....

I hope to make my own tinctures out of it. I have looked around and found recipes to make everything from essential oils to plain old simple tinctures. So I am going to collect what I have from my few hives and when I get enough, try a tincture. It is not hard to collect it, just time consuming.  What the hell, I might as well...