Tuesday, December 28, 2010

A Bee-ful Christmas

 Santa Claus was very kind to the Beekeeper In The Dale, starting off with a beekeeper nutcracker and a good read, The Queen Must Die,

The Wee Beekeeper checking out both hives.  It was sunny earlier and the bees were hard at work.  I elected to not bother them with the Nutcracker as long as they were in a working mood so there is only a glimmer of.sun in these shots.  By 4PM on the Left Coast the bees are mostly inside.

The next present was a very nice Beekeepers Tool Box from Brushy Mountain.  It is very well designed to hold most of the tools plus it can serve as an emergency nuc.   It will hold five frames.  The side holder above is supposed to hole the bee brush but I have a zip tie loop on mine and it does not fit that space.  But it works very nicely to hold my comb knife.   On the picture to the right you will notice the white frame perch ( included from Santa).  There are two slots to the perch can be carried along in the present position and not get in the way.  You can also turn the perch around, use the same slots and put frames on the perch.  The toolbox is heavy enough and quite stable, it will not tip over.  It does not show up well but on the back of the tool box is slot made to hold a hive tool. Two of them fit in easily.
There is plenty of room inside for most of my tools, gloves etc.  When the lid is closed and the frame perch removed, the toolbox can serve as a stool also (if you have better knees than I do.)

When the smoker bellows is depressed, the smoker can be easily  mounted on the lip in the front of the tool box and carried that way.   There is another space created on the left side  that is made to hold a frame removal tool.   I do  not have one of those so I will find another use for it.  ( I will take another picture later to show that space.. not blocked by my hose reel.)

The Beekeeper Nutcracker inside on its perch, across from the vintage trailer birdhouse.  (Another hobby, vintage trailers, not birdhouses.)

Santa also included a Brushy Mountain baseball cap and some very nice glass jars with lids that will make great gifts and labels for them too.   With the Winter Solstice the days are slowly getting longer.  The bees are out at every opportunity.  Honey will be happening very soon and I will make good use of the jars.

Thanks Santa for the fine bee stuff and a bunch more too.


Monday, December 6, 2010

One Sunny Day

The weather in the LA area has been all over the place lately.  There have been days of rain and nights colder than usual.   It has been a hard season for the bees.  I generally go out and glance at the hives most days, just a quick shot never opening the hives.   From what I hear the bees are less than friendly when the weather is not to their liking.
I have noticed that for the last three - four weeks the number of bees going in and out is much lower and they may be active only for a few select hours a day.  During the cold snap they would be out if the sun was shining but as soon as the temperature dropped any at all they were quickly back inside.

Today I was out around 9AM and the sun was up nicely.  I had recently cut the fronds off the palm tree that shaded the Twitchy Hive.   The bees seem to have approved of that.

The bees were pouring out of every nook and cranny.  When I had put the opening restriction in place I was not garbed and there was a guard bee that kept buzzing me so I did not tarry .  It is obvious I failed to snug it up to the hive and bees can get in and out along the length of it.   I will slip out later tonight and make it a tighter fit.  (I just took care of that.)
Look closely and you will see some pollen coming in.  It is not in Spring or Summer quantities but there is enough to show we have flower most of the year in the Southern California temperate zone along the coast.  There is a dearth but nothing like they have in most of the country during the Winter.
By four PM the bees were all back inside and keeping the hive ball at 90 degrees or so.

Merry Christmas, keep your personal hive snug and warm.  Plus consider The Gift Of Bees in the previous post.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Gift of Bees

We are coming up on Thanksgiving Day here in the US and my annual suggestion.  It is a time to share a little with those who have less.   There are many ways to do this.  I choose to give in those areas I am involved, in this case that means bees.

There is a way you can give The Gift Of Bees.  The Heifer Foundation provides all sorts of livestock in countries all over the world.  One of the things they provide is a hive of bees.  You can give a cow or donkey if you have the means but a gift can be as small as a duck or chickens.   You select what fits your budget or the item you are interested in.

Use this link for a Gift Of Bees.  The page will have links for a number of other critters to donate, choose your favorite species and know it is going where it is needed.

Check up on the Heifer Foundation on your own, I am confident you will find it a worthy charity that returns the donations to those in need and does not misuse them or your trust.

Happy Holidays for the Bees in The Dale.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

It Is Hot In The Dale

Another extreme bout of Indian Summer has hit The Dale with temps in the 90's and 100's. At 5pm it is still over 90 and the bees are bearding in search of some cooling.

 If you look closely you will see the entrance reducer on this hive.  Yesterday afternoon I happened to look at this hive and they were very agitated.  It was much more than orientation flights which usually happen earlier in the day around here.   I thought it might be honey robbing but I did not see any fighting going on.  Honey robbing can be endemic this time of the season with many pollen and nectar sources drying up.

I knew they were in an agitated state so I got fully garbed to put the entrance reducer in place so they would have less area to defend.   This is a very strong and active hive but there is no reason to expose them  any more than necessary.

I had proof very quickly how agitated, I had forgotten to put on my rubber boots and one of the bees nailed my foot through the cotton socks.   I should have known better.    One bee followed me into the laundry room but left.  I went inside to disrobe and found out a couple bees had been hanging on me somewhere.  One of the dogs spotted the bee and declared :"Fly, its a fly." and tried to bite it until she realized her mistake.  Then she was screaming  BEE!!  BEE!  Between us we dispatched her antagonists.   A little later the boy dog found the dead bee on the floor and commenced to bark loudly, letting us know he had protected us from evil. 

 The other hive was normal yesterday and I did not want to disturb them any so I did not do anything.   This afternoon they seemed to have the same excessive activity so I slipped an entrance reducer on that one too.   Within 10 minutes they seemed to have calmed down.  This is the nice hive, the Playa bees and I was able to put the piece on without donning my bee suit but I did not stay around long either.

Temps are supposed to drop 20-30 deg by the weekend so things should be back to normal and both hives are now set to defend themselves from robbing.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Max's Work At Work

Max Wong has been on local television and also written for her local newspaper.  Her hard work is already starting to pay off.  This morning the Bee Rescue Hotline had a message from Steve in Carson.  Finally something in my area and I was off on my mission.
Steve's family has a commercial garden next to Cal State Dominguez Hills.  He had a bee problem and had caught Max on KABC-TV.  Being a gardener he was not interested in terminating his bees but in saving them.    He said the bees were in a shed and I had visions of a small rubberized thing from Home Depot and a simple heroic bee rescue.  Hah!

The shed turned out to be an ancient wooden trailer like they used to haul to construction sites. It is not stable enough for any major deconstruction..  It was used by Steve's dad as tool shed and the bees inside had become a concern for Steve when Dad wanted to do a little work now and then.

The bees had full access from an opening on the West side of the building and were very active.  They were not aggressive to us but were active.  Click on the picture and you can see columns of comb on the right side.  Steve did not thing the opening was much deeper than the size of the hole and had no idea how far back it went.   Apparently in the past bees were at the other end of the shed and had been terminated.  That was not the plan for today.
 Over the years the bees had swarmed often, usually to the adjacent tree. Steve has seen them many times in the tree..  Steve wanted to protect his dad but did not want to destroy the trailer.  Given it's age and condition I did not believe a cut out would work.
 That left a trap-out.  Once we went inside there were a few bees around a couple of the windows and all of the windows were heavily stained with yellow bee poop.  The end of the shed under the hive was littered with thousands of dead bees.  There was a circle at least two feet across of dead bees. The morticians had found a place to dump the bodies.  They had obviously come for a single spot but I did not identify it.   There were a number of holes in the interior roof but I did not see any being used while we were there.  There were less than 10 bees inside at that time.

After some discussion I decided a trap-out was impossible with the holes to the interior of the shed.  Those holes had to be sealed shut first and that does not deal with the exterior roof.   It is covered with old wooden shingles and is probably full of holes too.   There were wasps flying under the roof on the other end.  Just what I needed a turf war. LOL.
 No cut-out due to the age of the trailer they did not want destroyed and no trap-out because of the many holes at yet not located.  The main thing was to protect Dad.   Steve will get some space filling foam and try to fill any holes inside and see if he can keep the bees out so Dad can work in safety.

Then we will see if he can use the hive as a swarm source.  Using what I brought along, I sprayed a nuc with Lemon Pledge and placed it next to the hive.  This hive is so active they must swarm several times a year.  That will do for now, until the interior hole patching is done.  If  the hole patch does not work more drastic measures may be the only option but that will wait.

On the good side, Steve is a gardener with a huge property loaded with plants and some weeds. He would love to have hives permanently located on the property.  Before going on this mission I checked the Carson Municipal Code and found no mention of bees or apiaries.  It may be quite legal for him to keep them on site.  And Backwards may have found a friendly site for those of us who end up with evicted bees looking for a home.
After the patch work is done I may be going to LA Honey with Steve for his own hives and he is interested in our meeting at the end of the month..  All good things that started with Max doing her bit on the tellie.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

So Calif Bees In The Fall

The weather in Southern Calif has been very erratic. From the coolest summer in many years we moved to the hottest day of the year in late Sept,. It was 105 at the Apiary in The Dale on that day.. Since then it has been cool enough for long pants and then back in the 80's.
The bees just roll with it. In the picture above you can see a bee with a load of pollen flying in over the moat.  Click on it to make it larger.  Earlier the pollen was mainly yellow, this time of the year it is white or a very pale yellow.

I have not checked on the bees closely since late August.  I have another super ready to add to each of the hives and needed to find out if they were ready for it by now.

The Playa Vista bees are a smaller hive that seem to be thriving since they swarmed back in June.  They have always been gentle so they get the first inspection which allows more time for the smoker to work on the other hive.

When I added the third super in June I moved a couple frames of wax up, it is still there and the bees are adding some honey but there has been no further comb making.   As I checked the middle level, the two empty frames still had nothing on them either.  They were side by side so I split them apart with honey/brood frames in between then.  There was more capped honey than brood.
There was plenty of brood on the lower level.  This is the only frame I pulled out.  The queen was laying and they did not need to be bothered more.

 As I inspected the frames I accidentally spilled out some of the honey.  The workers were all over it but one or two look like drones getting a late feed before they are booted out.
This hive is not expanding quickly but seems to be okay with a fair amount of capped honey for the winter.  The La Nina weather implies less rain so there should be plenty nectar and pollen through the winter without having to feed them sugar water.

The Twitchy Bees are always active.  I have been out at 9PM in the summer and found this kind of crowd hanging out on the deck.  The top super  (#4) had comb only on a single frame but they are finally moving up..

The next super was a different story.  Empty frame #1 but 6-8 of the others looked like this.  Solid capped honey all the way across.  These bees will not be starving this winter.  Given the large amount of capped honey and very active state of the bees, I have to assume the Queen is working well and full time.  I went no further.  The Twitchy Bees are doing just fine.

Neither hive needed the extra super and should not need them until the Spring, both seem healthy.  I did see one bit of wax moth web on the lid of the Playa Bees but I did not see any other evidence.  The hive should be strong enough to deal with the intruder.  As I understand it wax moths lay their eggs under the hive and the larvae crawl up out of the dirt into the hive.  That should not happen here, both hives are on concrete and water. 

Unless some happens I doubt I will be bothering these guys for another two months.  They could be left alone longer than that but I get curious and need to poke around a bit.

REMINDER: BEE MEETING OCT 31 AT FARMLAB,   11AM.  Finally there is a hole in my dog-life schedule and I can make this meeting.  See you there!

Monday, September 6, 2010

Tammy's Bees

Originally uploaded by dmb90260
I was just starting to organize my Labor Day possibilities when Tammy called.  She and Steve live in Huntington Beach and she knew about my bee life.  As fortune would have it, a nice sized swarm of feral bees had landed in a tree across from their house. My Labor Day now had a plan and the Bee Man was on the way to Huntington Beach.
Unlike most bee calls, her description was spot on.  It was in a tree but no over my head (instead of the usual call where bees 6 ft up are really 12 ft up.   This was a very nice sized swarm of small feral bees easily reachable.
 This is the way all swarm captures should go.   It was early and sun was not high so the bees were not overly active.   The only thing I needed was a small grooming table to hold the the nuc  and other equipment I used.
I removed two frames and eased the nuc over the largest mass of bees and then gave the tree a good shake.   The majority of bees were now in the nuc but there was another mass still attached to the tree.

I clipped the branches with the rest of the bees and let them fall into the nuc.

 I carefully trimmed those branches and shook the rest of the bees into the nuc.
When the branches were gone I added the other two frames and we left the bees to come in with the queen on their own time.  I was able to point out some bees fanning the air to get the queen smell out to the other bees.    After 30 minutes or so and a nice visit across the street,  we returned, put the screened lid on the nuc and I left with the bees.

The bees at home in The Dale, the palm frond is to keep light out since the nuc has a screened lid.   Now we will see if the bees stay or go looking for a better place.    I have had both things happen here.  If they stay, this will be a temporary stop, they will be moving in with some other Backwards Beekeeper. 
This was a great way to start the holiday, a visit with Tammy and Steve and the easiest kind of swarm capture there is, a non-laboring Labor Day.   I hope yours went as well.   Happy Labor Day.
The bees have a new home in Long Beach.  Rick picked them up after dark last night. 

It is a good idea to bring along any extra hats/veils and gloves when you go on a swarm capture.  Some people keep their distance but then you have those like Tammy who got into the middle of things and helped out.
Share the bees!!!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Sweet Insulation

IMG_2676  Originally uploaded by dmb90260

I have not been into the hives since the July 3 check and honey collection with John and Arjuna. Last week I had lifted the top cover on the Playa Hive and found a wax worm on top edge of the super. I flicked it off and then noticed some moths on the outside of the hive. These were very dark but I do not know what wax moths look like.  I was curious to see if there was moth damage inside that hive.

Later I was filling the water in the turkey tray moats on the bottom of the hives. Apparently I had set the nozzle at an odd angle and it was making too much noise and annoying the Twitchy Bees. There were a lot of bees flitting around the hive entrance and these were not orientation flights.  They did not seem happy,  I shut the water off and left.
An hour or two later I went to move some clothes in the laundry room, next to the hives. I looked around the corner and the bees still seemed to be agitated after all that time.  I turned to leave and a guard bee took issue and kept buzzing me as I walked to the house. It made the mistake of getting tangled in my hair. Top of the head stings do not bother me but he never got that close to my scalp before he was smushed. I wanted to check that hive to see if there were other problems.

Summer has finally arrived locally and it has been a little too hot most days to bother the bees.  It was in the low 70's when I went out this AM at 11.   Well it said that on all my electronics but It seemed very hot while I was out there.  When I was finished all the fancy gauges said it was 85!!!

I had added a super on each of the hives in July and I have two more ready to add when I set out for the inspection.  With the milder summer I had no idea how fast the bees were filling the last super.

The top super had no new wax yet.   When we added it I had pulled two of the of the lower frames up.   The bees were working on these and both looked like this with dark wax but fill ig with honey..   The good news was an absence of wax moths or worm evidence.

   There was more activity on the second super.
On the outside frames the bees were adding pollen to the empty frames I had swapped in July.

The other frames looked like this with capped honey n the top and some brood in the middle.  I did not see the queen but that is impossible for a solo person to do and also take pictures.  I had evidence she was active and the hive seems to be thriving after it swarmed in June.  Still no evidence of wax worm or moths anywhere.   I closed the hive.

With the Twitchy Bees living up to their name when I filled the water moats, they were well smoked before I checked things today.  The top lid was sealed very tight. it took a bit of work to get it loose without it making some noise.
The added top frames were empty but for this pyramid of wax moving upward
The empty frames I had added in place of the honey we had extracted were still empty but there was still a lot of good looking honey there.   The bees get to keep it for now.
I guess I did not handle the full honey frame in July.   When I lifted this one I was very impressed with how much it weighed.  I checked a few more frame smiled at the largess and left it for the bees.  There was no evidence of wax moth in any of these frames
The Twitchy Bees went back to work.
And so did the Playa bees.  If wax moth had shown up, the bees had dealt with them.  The Playa hive seems to be recovering from the swarming.   The Twitchy Bees proved they could be nice if I asked them with a little smoke.. I did not add either of the new supers but there is honey coming.   It was a good day in The Dale.