Saturday, May 30, 2009

Inspection Day 5/30/09

These are shots of the first full inspection of the hive, twenty days after the hive was populated. Since I have two standard frames in the top medium hive box I moved that entire box to rest into an empty spare hive box off to the side. This comb is from the lower box and adjacent to the area which the standard frame extends into. It looks like it was designed by the Frank Gehry of bees.
You can click on the pictures to get a full wider view and look for the Queen. Let me know if you find her.

This frame looks to have capped honey and some yellow pollen in the lower right.

Looks like the wax is done and they are starting to fill the cells.

Capped brood? Honey? I need more experienced eyes to tell me.
This is on the bottom of one frame. There are no queen cells anywhere. Beekeeping For Dummies says Queen cells on the bottom are swarm cells. With no other indications of swarming and the hive only 20 days old, Kirk says this may be a cap cell, not a queen cell. I am to watch it and check back in a week. Busy bees and this looks like brood cells to me. The bee to the right of my tool has its head all the way into the hole and is doing something. Shaping the cell? Cleaning it? Making a deposit? Feeding someone? I did not see anything in the cell but there was the same activity in other cells too.
I looked closely at this group to find the queen but I did not spot her. I checked all the mass groupings of bees with no luck. Positioning the frames to leave room to add the upper hive box with a couple longer frames. All the frames are put back to their original positions if possible.
Look closely at my leg and you will notice I forgot to zip the pants leg and there are bees all over that area. I got lucky and maybe i will remember to seal things better next time.
Upper hive box in place and starting to lift out the frames. The 2nd & 3rd frames from the right are the longer frames, all the others are mediums. I think this is a good prospective queen location but no sign of her.

Beautiful new comb being filled with honey.
This frame seems to be full and the bees are capping off the honey cells.
This is one of the longer frames and bees are building wax to fill the void beneath it. When I go back in I will take all of this extra comb off. At some point I will find out how to replace the long frames with mediums. Since the Queen came in on the long frames I am hesitant to change them out right now. I believe this is the frame on the far end from the long frames, another Gehry design. There are 2-3 empty frames between this one and the other frames with wax in them. I don't know but suspect the odd shape is due to having the empty frame next door. As soon as that frames starts to fill the wax will be perfect and straight again. (I will admit to making up answers if you demand answers for everything.) This is the other long frame and some festooning bees that may be making wax to fill between the two wax pieces.. Jim, the senior member of our clan and still unable to skip a chance for silly poses. He took all the pictures and tried to act as a gofer but rarely understood what I was yammering about. He was very good moral support as I acted imperious and stuck my nose in everywhere.
I did not see the queen and never really looked for larvae but the hive seems very active and working well. This hive is joint group of two groups initially but they seem harmonious now. The last tow visits were 10 days apart. I will go back next weekend and look at that possible Queen cell, mark the frame, and look harder for the queen or larvae. I will also collect the wax off the bottom of the two loner frames.

Work hard bee happy.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Who was that?

The visitors have been identified.

The bird is the Black Phoebe. I have not seen them the last few days and hope they have not left.
They make hit my bees some but there are plenty more where those came from and they can keep pests off my tomato plants too. That is a major plus around here.

The large bee is apparently a Mason Bee. Some google searches indicate this bee is smaller than a honey bee, not the one that visited here. I think there are various sizes within the species. It did its job and I have a lot of small tomatoes already, It is welcome back anytime. According to what I have read there are efforts to develop it as a honey producer since it is non-aggressive and not subject to colony collapse. (Maybe that is because they do not live in colonies in the wild??)

This weekend I hope to do a full hive inspection on both levels. Some of the frames are standard but most are medium size so the larger ones extend down into the lower hive box.
I have an empty hive box all set to move the top hive box onto so I can inspect the lower one.
My brother has offered to help which is appreciated but he knows less than I do. (I own the book.)
We will blunder through and hopefully have a good photographer around to get some bee close ups.
As I told both of them, not to worry I have a good smoker, consider me armed.
Visitors are welcome, just call ahead and let me know. The inspection should happen on Sunday but circumstances may make it happen on Saturday.

You can contact me

Monday, May 25, 2009


This morning while I was adding some worm juice to my tomato plants this guy showed up.
Click on the image to see him in the right corner.

Very carefully he went to every flower on most of the tomato plants and checked them out one at a time.
I have no idea what kind of bee it is. I am used to seeing black and yellow stripe bumble bees but this one is almost totally black.

I think it is the same one I spotted the other day in the general hive area but it did not go near the hive and the bees there did not see in attack mode.
It is much larger than the honey bees, about the size of the end segment of my thumb and just about as big around.

And there are other visitors in the hood.

Who are these little guys? They showed up while I was out of town, lots of evidence on the tomato leaves that they seem to like this particular perch. Dark brown or black with a tan or dusty breast and peaked head feathers ala Cardinals. The one on the left stayed there while the other looked for bugs or something.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The Aerodrome

Yesterday when I was working on the hive was the first time I spotted bees arriving with pollen sac full. This morning I went out and took some pictures in the landing zone.
I could have used smaller pictures but that would cost some detail. If you click on the pictures you will see the full shot.

Here are some landing and taking off
I think this is a called a scramble.
Bringing home the goods. The one just below appears to have full pollen also.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

First Inspection 5/19/09

Back from the Vintage Trailer Rally and trapped at home while the city puts asphalt slurry on the street makes it a good time to do the first hive check. The Bees have been in place for 10 days and should be well adjusted to their new home. I do some work on the board of the local dog park and convinced one of my fellow board members, Judy, to give me a hand. Before I left town I gave her my copy of Beekeeping for Dummies to study. I gave her a bee hat & veil but her bare legs kept her at a little of a distance. My camera is one of those pocket size models which does not have a great zoom but she did her best with what I provided.

Studying the scene and gathering courage for the initial foray.

Adding a little smoke and learning that I needed more fuel than I had in it initially. It went out before I was done. Good thing my Judy was there to add more fuel and re-light it for me. I was already nervous enough for both of us.

The frame on the ground was the first one removed and it held the comb that Kirk at tied in the first day. It was well attached so I removed the string which was almost eaten through by the bees. In fact this comb was attached to both frames so I had to slice through it to remove the frames.

This is the second frame coming out. it had some comb on it but not all the way across yet.

This is all new comb. Not all the frames had comb on them, they were sort of out of order because of the way they were loaded initially. The "tied" frame was on one end and had more comb next to it then some empty frames. The standard size frames were near the other end and extended down to the lower hive box. They were very full and adjacent frames had new comb..

Looking for the queen. I did not find her this time, more experience will help.

One of the frames adjacent to the extended frames, this is all new comb too. I looked at some of the frames in the bottom hive but not all of them. I need to do more prep work before I can do a more thorough job. When I wanted to inspect the lower hive box, I tried to set the upper hive box with the extended frames on a couple cinder blocks so they would not touch the ground. That worked but it was not very stable. I did not want to endanger the hive by leaving it there and having it fall over.
The next time I will be sure to have an empty hive box set up close by so I can put the longer frames in there while I inspect the others. I did not see any capped brood which was there originally but I did not look very closely at the lower frames and that brood may have hatched in the last 10 days. Not 100% successful but good enough for a first effort in my book. I will see if I can find a more experienced beekeeper to show up next time and give me a hand. More than one set of eyes looking for the queen would be a good thing.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Bees Bees Bees In The Dale

Early this morning Kirk Anderson of Backwards Beekeepers delivered bees to The Dale.
He brought two nuc's, one had a queen and the other one did not. This day started with overcast skies and I did not expect him that early but I was up watching my favorite English Soccer Team, Fulham so early was not bad. (TiVo saved the game as we went to work and Fulham won!! A fine day indeed.).
I thought the bees would sleep in on overcast days but these are feral bees and were already active when Kirk picked them up at 5:30AM.
We, mainly Kirk, were quickly at work. I handed tools etc and took pictures when I could. You will note some of them are out of focus or poorly framed, it is hard to take shots with the big bee gloves on.

I got initiated very early. I have my fine Brushy Mtn bee suit along with the pants but I had my socks with slides for foot wear. One bee got annoyed and decided to nail me on the foot. The good news is I did not swell up or anything and it was not painful. I am one with my bees now.

First things first, light the smoker.

Then the bees got a calming puff.

Next Kirk checked the nuc without the queen.

Ooops, these have been busy bees and added an extra comb on the lid of the nuc, an excuse for another lesson on cutting down comb would come later on.

Transferring the Queen frames to the hive.

The dark frames are from the queen-less nuc. They are large frames and I have medium hive boxes. Kirk created a California Spit-level Hive. Some frames are in the lower box but the last three are left out. The large frames are put into the top box and extend down into that space.

Frames from the Queen nuc show some capped brood cells.

Another inspection of the nuc lid comb before relocating it.

The comb is cut loose from the lid.

It is cut to size and secured in the frame with cotton string. Cotton is better than rayon string, the bees get rid of it easier. Rubber bands would be even better but we had cotton string.

Some of the bees are still hanging in the nuc looking for the queen.

They get uncermoniously dumped on the top of the frames. The darker frame is where the longer frames are located.

Adding some more from the other nuc.

After a coffee break most of the bees have slipped down into the hive.

Voila, and now we have Bees In The Dale.

There is a small fence around the bottom to keep the dogs away from the bees. One came inside on my bee suit and Betty dispatched it quicklly. She has a thing about creatures in her air space that includes all blimps, helicopter, air planes and birds.

This was a very good morning and Kirk was very generous and shared his knowledge with me. I might have tried to install the bees by myself but no telling what would have happened when I saw that comb attached to the lid and a split level hive would never have occurred to me. Since there is good honey in the frames we installed the bees will not need to be fed..much easier than dogs.

I have a vintage trailer event next week so the bees will have plenty of time to adjust while I am gone.
What a great day it is in The Dale.