Monday, June 29, 2009

Mystery Solved

Solved in the sense that the bee activity has an official name, washboarding.
Named but no one knows why the bees do it.

Here is the response from Dave of the Backwards Beekeepers :

Found this on Michael Bush's site:

Why are they dancing at the entrance in unison?
A few times a year some new beekeeper wants to know what the bees are doing line dancing (rhythmically swaying) on the landing board. This is called "washboarding" and actually no one knows why they do it, but they do. Personally I think it's a social dance. Perhaps even a thanksgiving dance.

Beesource has this interesting thread on washboarding:

Many theories but no definitive conclusions. Another mystery of the wonderous apis mellifera :).

So it was not moon walking. As an added note, i did not see the bees doing their usual daily orientation flights on the day of the dance and some were still dancing an hour later.
Thanks for the info Dave.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

What is this actrivity?

I had planned on going into the hive today and check things out before adding another super. I was not ready early on and then the US Soccer game came on and I could not leave that. It was a good match of two different halves. Unfortunately the US was good in the first half and Brazil was better in the second half. With a game this close there was no leaving until it was over.

I started to gather my gear and set it up near the hive. Being new at this I need everything. After had it all on the table I remembered the time of the day. I have seen the bees orienting themselves to the hive around 3P it was after 2P. I did not think it would be wise to get into the hive while they were orienting. Then I looked at the hive "porch" and noticed an odd cluster of bees. Check out the video. They are mainly on one side of the entrance with only a couple of them on the other end. They stay in one spot and rock back and forth, occasionally moving forward but mainly backward. What they remind me of it a kid on a bicycle for the first time. Maybe they are juvenile bees getting ready for their first flight or how to do the Bee Dance,
The adult foragers ignore them and occasionally land on them before entering the hive. From time to time what appears to be an adult goes and checks each of the kids. I think I saw a couple of them fly off but could not be sure and I did not observe the daily orientation flights. Maybe they left early or will go later.

Just checked with my photographer and she cannot make it today so the inspection will occur tomorrow with handy dandy little camera. No point in disturbing them unless I have to.

The video runs almost a minute but you will see all the good stuff in the first 30 sec or so. Part of the time I was trying to stop recording and shooting away from the main activity and at the ground

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Bumping The Blog

I had hoped to check out the hive before this but my "dog life" got into the way. I was planning on adding another super but I have been too busy the last two weeks to do that. I will being going into the hive today or tomorrow. I have a friend with a great camera eye who plans on being here to get some pictures that are much better than my one-handed shots.
I will be checking out something I spotted the other day. Call it poor planning or just a space limitation but the hive is along the side of my laundry room. I was doing some yard work and the laundry when I took a break for some bee watching. They seemed agitated and more active than normal. Had it been later in the day I would have said it was the hive orientation flights they do around 3PM every day but it was around noon. Then I noticed a bit of lint blowing on the dryer air duct. The DUH moment happened. Why would bees be happy with hot air blowing on the back of the hive? I placed a piece of plywood between the vent and the hive and that seems to be working.
I will do a full test of the system today. If they are still annoyed I will have to save clothes drying for the evenings which the power company recommends anyway. .
We re getting some warmer weather this weekend so look for a report on the latest hive visit and hopefully some great bee shots.

UPDATE: The simple approach worked, placing the board between the dryer vent and the hive seems to have calmed things down for the hive.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

The Queen is in the Building

I always believed the Queen was in the hive but I had not seen her and not seen nay new larvae. I had not been in the hive long enough for a through exam the last two times. The weather warmed up today and it was nice and sunny without much wind. Today was the day to look even though I had no assistants this time. I was to be the beekeeper, camera person and general everything but it was time.
I lifted the top hive box off, the one with the two long frames extending down into the lower hive box and this piece of comb in the bottom. The frame next to the hive wall was empty so I tied this piece of comb in and returned it to the hive.

I had plans of taking notes, marking things and taking pictures etc so I would know where the Queen was if I found here. Too confusing, too much to do so I blundered on checking all the frames on both sides including this one. I need a camera person, I had other interesting shot attempts but none of them were in frame or focus.
I did not spot any larvae but I was not looking in the right places, pollen yes, honey yes but no wigglers.. The bees in the bottom hive box seemed very annoyed so I scuttled through quickly but thoroughly without making notes. My bee suit works fine but I am not yet accustomed to the buzz.

I checked what I thought might be a Queen cell (See earlier post Inspection Day 5/3/09 for a picture of the suspect cell) but it had not gotten bigger and was capped off looking like just some odd comb. All the frames I have mentioned so far were all in the lower hive box.
And then I spotted a darker bee with a longer abdomen!

She was on one side of the frame and would migrate back and forth to the other side but I was able to score a couple pictures of her... assuming I am correct in my unlearned opinion.
She is the big one, just to the left of the small cluster on the frame and down an inch or so with her head pointed to the bottom of the page.
A couple seconds later and she has turned around, heading up with the shiny wings on the edge of the cluster in the upper right corner of the frame..
If you go to my Flickr Site the same pictures have her framed and marked so you can see her when you pass your cursor over the pictures. Look for pictures marked Queen 2 and Queen 3..

The first picture shows some extra comb I cut off the bottom of one of the long frames. The other long frame had the comb I tied into the empty frame (see first picture) You can see larvae in the dark wax area in the middle. I do not know how old they are at this stage but they do not show any "bee" parts yet.

All the frames in the bottom hive box are generally full. In the top box has the two long frames full, the one with the tied in piece and three more close to full. The last four frames have 25-50% comb in them. I will have to check with the experts about adding another super.
Unless advised otherwise I do not plan on visiting the hive 16 days are so. If I have not done so I will add the next super at that time.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Orientation Flights

According to Linda of Linda's Bees most days at her hives around 4PM the bees come out for some orientation flights. I have observed the same thing at my hive but the time is 3PM PDT. It must have to do with the location of the sun and bees do not bother to adjust for Daylight Saving Time.

There is no way to tell if these are all newly hatched or just something all the bees do most days so they can find the hive when returning from gathering honey. The red marks on the hive were put there deliberately to assist in finding home. I read somewhere that it might help so I added them.

Apologies for the picture quality but I had to do this with a small digital camera not regular video camera and due the time of the day the bees selected I will always be shooting into the late afternoon sun.

If I had not read Linda's blog I would have no clue what they were up to and assumed robbing but that is not the case. All the bees seem to face the hive as they flit around and there are no dead bees or fighting bees evident.

Half an hour or so later and things are back to normal with a few bees returning from foraging and no more massive activity.