Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Hive Inspection Sept 30, '09

After my bees had absconded, Kirk got me some more bees four weeks ago. At the time he mentioned they were "twitchy." That is one word for it. We are currently in a dearth in So. California. There is some nectar and pollen out there but not an abundance of it. I do not have any honey to feed them so the choice is syrup made from cane sugar and water 1:1 ratio. Brown sugar, organic sugar and beet sugar are not recommended, it must be cane sugar.

I had gone out and left them a quart bag of syrup a couple times. Once they got into the habit of eating the syrup, the bees emptied the qt baggie in a day or so. I was going out there and bothering them too often in my judgment. With the qt baggie I was in and out rather quickly but I wanted to move up to the gallon size so I would not bother them every two days. The bees had been okay with a little smoke and I got cocky. I took the gal baggie out with no protection, shorts and sandals. The bees on top of the frames did not seem bothered at all. I had not perfected my bag slicing technique and was there too long. As soon as the old bag removal made noise the guard bees came out of the front of the hive to do their job. I got a sting on the end of my pinkie finger, dropped the scissors and the bees were dive bombing me. I retreated, went into the bee (laundry) room suited up and went back out. This was to be a quick visit so no smoke. I tried to cut the baggie with some small scissors but could not get my leather bee glove fingers into the scissors so I took the gloves off. This was still to be a quick visit. Bare flesh on one hand, the bees know what to do. I got five more stings on the same hand and beat another retreat. I closed the hive and let the bees alone for a while. An hour later I found my rubber kitchen gloves and went back out. This time I got the baggie properly installed with slits but there were still bees flying around and talking to me. They were rather protective but no, not killer bees, just protective, or twitchy as Kirk calls it. The hand became quite swollen but no pain after the first hour. It was awkward bending my fingers but there was no arthritis pain in my knuckles.

I was out of town last weekend and the weather was very hot so I went in for an inspection today. These bees have been in place for four weeks and this would be the first full hive check.
I may be a novice but I learn. This time I got fully suited and then smoked the hive before opening it up. I left them alone for while and put my tools out on the table by the hive. It is much easier that way then digging into your pockets or looking around the ground and trying to not step on tools.

This hive had 5 frames of brood from the nuc and five empty frames when I added the bees. After a bit more smoke this is what I found inside.

The first frame was empty but they had made comb on #2 and there was some honey.

The next five frames , all from the original nuc, were swarming with bees hard at work.

Plenty of brood but I need better eyes to see the eggs.

I looked on all sides and did not see the queen. She has been hard at work and there were plenty of larvae so I am confident she is there.

This is one of the "empty" frames from the other side of the hive. They have been busy making comb and adding stores on this side of the hive too. . There were two more empty frames past this point, so five frames of brood and honey being added to the outside of in two of them. There were some drone cells but not many. As I understand it that is normal for this time of the year. Our local dearth should end in Nov-Dec but we have an El Nino year predicted. That can mean lots of rain. I will be adding more syrup for a while yet ( with gloves and a smoker,).

The hive looks healthy and is growing with no obvious problems. One of the times I next add the syrup I will scrap off the propolis they add under the baggie. I had an another super with waxed starter strips ready to add but with three empty frames it is too soon for that. It would make too much empty space for them to protect along with the lower hive box. A couple days ago I went out and found a lot of activity around the porch area. There were a lot of bees flying around and this was hours before their normal orientation flights. I have added an entrance reducer in case this was robbing going on..

If you visit the Backwards Beekeepers one of the last photos is Kirk showing a young lady how to make wax strips for new frames. He does it by painting wax on a clean board of the proper size. When he adds propolis to the melting wax, it become bendable instead of hard and fragile. That makes it much easier to install the strips of wax and paint stir sticks are no longer needed.
Collect the propolis, it can come in handy.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

The Cutout

At the Backwards Beekeeper meeting last week, Steve Rosales who lives in the same general area invited me to tag along to a cutout in Hermosa Beach with him and his brother-in-law, Carlo. Today was the day.

Carlo (left) & Steve (right) evaluate the situation, the bee's hive entrance is the little slot in the concrete base of the fence. All the properties in this area are on a hill and the neighbor's yard is 4 feet above this base. Some of the fence would have to be removed but we had no idea how far up or how wide it would go. The renter had not paid much attention to the fence until recently, the bees could have been there a very long time.

Carlo smoked them well before we started but this turned out to be a very calm hive. There were no aggressive signs the entire time of the cut out. We were there about 3 and half hours, working most of the time. (They were, I was documenting and learning).

The bottom portion of the fence had short pieces which worked out for us. Steve started to remove the boards to gain access to the hive. The main hive's upward growth was blocked by a 2x4 about a foot from the bottom. We knew how tall it was but the next question was how wide?
Carlo is about to remove the last section of board. I would estimate the hive to be about three feet across. The comb was layered with the thickest section to the right. That had four separate layers of comb. As the comb moved across it dropped from 4 to 3 to 2 to 1 at the far left.

This is the last section of comb. The bees would move to the open space when they were smoked but they quickly came back.

When they came back they would beard right down the comb with the top row all looking upwards.

Our hostess holding a piece of board with honey and drone cells. At first she was going to watch from an upstairs window but when I pulled out an extra veil she found some rubber gloves and go up close with us. At one point she was right in there using the vacuum.

Vacuum? Vacuum for bees?

The heavy equipment put together by Steve from plans he found on the Internet. The shop vac is attached to an upper section with a screened bottom and hole for the hose plus another hole to adjust the suction. In the middle is a medium hive body with 10 waxed frames. The bottom section has a solid bottom with a hole in one end of the base for the vac hose. By adjusting the little panel on the top left of the upper piece you can keep the bees flowing in but not slamming them into the hive box. An initial test using an older vac did not have enough suction and the hard piece on the end of the hose was too narrow. We would be using the Improved Bee Vac.

Steve making the first run with the vac. Everyone got a shot at it including the lady of the house and myself. The suction is set to get them in slowly, not in massive quantities.

Drone brood and honey ( it tasted very good too.)

Capped honey, the comb with the drone larvae had been attached to the light colored bit in the upper left.

Carlo gathering bees, this was very early in the process, it was not fast. We kept looking for the Queen. If we could spot her,Carlo would put her into a plastic box with holes in the lid, That would be placed into top section of the vacuum hive box to encourage the bees to stay there. I was able to put my bare finger right into the bees on the comb and they never reacted. This was a wonderfully calm hive.

The first layer of bees is in the vac box and Carlo begins the comb removal process. From this point on he was taking care of the comb and cutting it all down to fit into the frames on a second medium hive body.

The clear comb above was full on bees on the other side so Steve gathers them up.

Carlo fitting the comb into the frames and securing them with rubber bands.

This is much later with all of the comb removed. Steve kept patiently removing bees from cracks. He had not seen the queen was not sure she had been collected. Once Steve removed the two short pieces board just below his hands he spotted her. She had been going deeper and deeper into the hive as we got closer. Shortly after this I was able to make my main contribution to the cause. When Steve next saw the Queen she was moving away again and going behind the boards. Using a surge of energy I was able to reach over and flick on the vacuum just in time so Steve could extract the Queen unharmed using the Improved Bee Vac.

Carlo gathered seven frames full of comb with honey, pollen and larvae.

The medium hive with the comb is placed top of the hive with the bees. All are cinched together securely and later duct tape is wrapped around all the places where the boxes join.

A great day and Carlo ended up with a hive of very nice gentle bees. Steve practiced doing another fence cut out and I learned a lot. Any time you can go along for something like this, jump on it. It was a great way to spend the morning at the beach.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Natural Honey by Kirk

One of the reasons to have bees.

This is some of Kirks Lakeview Terrace Natural Honey. I get credit for the bread.
I will not be getting any honey from my hive until next year (if they decide to stay).
You can see how Kirk processes his honey at the Honey Harvest.
Anyone in the Los Angeles area can purchase his honey at his website Kirk's Urban Bees.
Or you can show up at a meeting of the Backwards Beekeepers. The next meeting should be on Sept 20 at the FarmLab in downtown LA, 1745 North Spring St. It is in the building immediately adjacent to the bridge. Look carefully and look for plants and such.
This will be the first meeting held at Farmlab so check the Backwards site to confirm the date and location before showing up.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

A Bee-utiful Morning

The mountains around LA have been burning for over a week and the temps have been very high. It has been over 80 and often over 90 all of that time, not very pleasant in The Dale but today things were to change and I was about to get more bees.

Recently Kirk transported a nuc when then temps were high and lost all of the bees in the heat. He told me to make a screened air slot on the nuc lid and to bring the Wee Hive to one of his hive sites at Solano Gardens. The bees made the trip very well.

But once Kirk got a good look at my Wee Hive he determined it was too small to survive. After opening the nuc for a full inspection, It was obvious this was a rather pathetic looking hive compared to a normal hive. There was not enough bees for a single frame much less a hive, even in a nuc. There were just not enough bees to make comb and fill it. There was no brood in the comb, it is likely this was just a fragment of a hive that had swarmed. There was no queen and not enough bees to do everything else and make a new queen. They were released into the garden.

This is Kirk laying out the plan of action. He is the one in the dirty working beekeeper jacket, not like us neophytes in our lily whites. We listened. There was Kirk explaining things, Maurice learning things, Mark and I looking for bees and Sebastian taking pictures and helping out. Solano Gardens is his home hive site along with Kirk who has them all over LA.

Time for a commercial plug, not that I get anything for it but this fine bee suit is from Brushy Mountain and sports the attached veil & hat. I was asked at the Bee meeting last week what it cost. I paid about $130 for it but that includes three pieces, jacket, pants and hat w/veil and then the XXL size pop also. You can get any of the three pieces separately and with a different veil and save a few dollars. I have the separate pieces because I live in the beach area and I am in shorts all the time. If I was in jeans I would not bother with the pants unless I had a lot of hives to tend and that is not likely to happen.

After deciding that I needed more than two frames of bees Kirk inspected a hive and made sure he knew where the queen was. She needed to come along. He found her much quicker than I thought possible. That stuff hanging down is a weed the sneaked in to the picture, not some growth on the frame. This particular hive had been under attack by ants. Kirk would pull five full frames for me and move the rest to supplement a weaker hive.

More bees for the Dale

Kirk putting the bees into my nuc (once he told me how to set it up properly). It only looks like I am weeping but I was very very happy.

Mark is securing this hive after placing a screen on the top. Once all the holes are sealed off and the bottom and top strapped on the whole hive will be moving to his house. Did you notice the smile? That happens every time someone gets bees.
Mark and his wife had hosted the Bee Meeting last Sunday. He had found Kirk when he discovered bees in the roof of his home. Kirk plugged all the holes and did a trap-out. He put those bees into a hive in Mark's back yard. By the time of the meeting the bees in the hive were gone but the bees in the roof were still there. It was obvious that the bees had a second entrance into the roof and preferred that to the hive. To fix this Kirk is continuing the trap-out but he is giving Mark some Bees from Solano. They will not know about the roof and this is hive box is already their home. They are not likely to leave the hive for the roof. Those bees already there will put up a fight if they try. When the trap-out is done those roof bees will be moved miles away and not be coming back to Mark's roof.

When I got home I removed the empty hive and checked things. A few of the ants had found a way past the bottom layer of Tanglefoot. I put on my plastic gloves and applied another defensive ring on the top of the blocks and also on the interior ring. I believe they got in by going under the tape around the bottom of the blocks which has Tanglefoot on it. This should work, if not I will get a stand with legs and put the leg ends into tins of oil. (That works well until a weed or something falls across the tin can.)

The hive in place with room for five frames.

On the way home the bees rode inside with me and the air conditioning... after I made sure the nuc was well sealed. I still drove with the hat & veil on the back of my head just in case. (I have heard stories about loose bees in cars.)

Five full frames ready for relocation.

This is the last frame slipping into place. I forgot to bring out the frame holder to get a good picture of the frame buy that will happen later on.

The bees have settled in and they are cleaning off some old dried sugar water on the porch.
This is a dearth time around here so they will be fed sugar water for a while but nothing else.

Big thanks to Kirk and crew and a mention must be made of the Wee Hive that helped me transition between full hives. Bless the bees of So Redondo.