Badger Canyon bees had a good winter

FullSizeRenderI opened up my two remaining hives for the first time this year and was pleased. Both had capped and uncapped brood. Both had viable queens roaming around laying eggs.

Bees in both looked like they were bringing in nectar.

In February, they were bringing in pale yellowish-green pollen. Now, it’s bright yellow.

My original, remaining hive from 2013, seems to also be my most productive and docile.

It’s also the hive that sent a bee, like a guided missile, to sting me in the eyebrow, sending me into anaphylactic shock. That adventure will be the subject of another post.

I couldn’t figure out how to combine frames last fall, since frames in all three brood chambers contained brood, honey or pollen. So that hive has three boxes.

When I looked the other day, the top box was about 30 percent full of honey and had bees that seemed to be drawing out the comb, but no brood.

The middle box contained the queen, brood, pollen and honey.

IMG_0613The bottom box contained bees drawing out comb, but the comb was empty.

My other hive is only two deep with the top box very full of brood, pollen and honey and the bottom box with empty comb being drawn out.

Both looked health. My only question is whether or not I need to consolidate the three-box hive into two, or just let nature take its course.

Taking Michael Bush’s advice that you’re better off doing nothing than something wrong, I’ll probably do that latter.

The bee-friendly lavender is in

Bee food for next year is in the ground. On Mother’s Day, we planted 90 lavender plants. We planted 30 each of Buena Vista, Dilly Dilly and Gros Bleu.

They came via Karen Grimaud, Blue Mountain Lavender Farm, who helped me select them.

My daughter makes a great lavender lemonade and lavender lemon bars. So, I specifically wanted  lavender for culinary use, as well as aromatic lavender.

English lavender is better for food, since the French lavender contains more camphor, which tends to be bitter. In my case, that would be the Buena Vista.

The lavender is planted on a southwest-facing slope on our property. They are starts, which means they are very small.

The family plants lavender on Mother's Day 2014.

The family plants lavender on Mother’s Day 2014.

To promote root growth, I’m supposed to clip any blossoms that form, which means no lavender honey this year.

I may plant a few larger lavender plants just to get have something to look at this year. I’ll probably also plant sunflowers so there is more late summer/early fall pollen available.

My 90 plants are on a 1/2-gallon per hour drip irrigation system. For the first month, they should be watered every day. After that, they get watered every couple of days. When it’s really hot, I may have to supplement with the existing overhead sprinkling.

The drip irrigation was intimidating because I’d never worked with it before. But once I got into it, I found out how easy it is to use. It’s so easy that it’s going to become an integral part of my landscaping from here on out.

Lavender is a full-sun, dry-climate plant. At seven inches of rain and 400 days a year of sunshine (according to the Tri-Cities Visitor & Convention Bureau), and many days over 100 degrees, it’s a good plant for eastern Washington.

It also needs well-drained soil, which we don’t have on our property. We have a soil that is hard and high in clay. When rototilled, it turns into a very fine powder. To compensate, my buddy Floyd Mohr, from Mobile Farm Services, rototilled sand into the soil and form raised rows to promote drainage. We’ll see if that works.

Karen also directed me toward Dunning Irrigation in Lowden, Washington, which stocks drip tube with built-in, half-gallon emitters every two feet.

Planting one of the three 30-plant rows of lavender.

Planting one of the three 30-plant rows of lavender.

With the periodic removal of my dead poplar trees, I have an abundance of chipped wood. That will go on landscape fabric to keep weeds down between rows of lavender.

I guess I’ll have to weed the rows themselves until the lavender grows enough to cover the ground space.

My next project will be to identify some bee-friendly trees to replace some of the poplars.

My spring beehive check was good!

I checked my hive thoroughly a couple days ago for the first since last fall. I thought it looked pretty good, but definitely have question being a new beekeeper and all.

There used to be two hives, but one swarmed and was abandoned last summer. The second one entered winter with a brood chamber in the bottom super, an empty honey super and then a regular super full of honey.

In my check on Sunday, the top super was almost full of honey, capped and uncapped. I’d guess it was about 75 percent full. The middle honey super did not have any honey, but it looked like the bees were beginning to draw comb out on the plastic foundation.

Most of the frames in the upper super had capped honey left over from last winter. It also has a lot of what looks like new honey.

Most of the frames in the upper super had capped honey left over from last winter. It also has a lot of what looks like new honey.

The bottom super had mostly bees, some honey and some pollen. I would say that bees might have been covering three of the frames. Most of the frames, if not all, had drawn comb, but most of it was empty. There was some honey and some pollen in the outer frames.

Also in the outer frames were bees lodged in the cells with their tails sticking out. One of these areas seemed to be covered with something that looked like mold.

This frame had bees that looked like they starved and some mold on the comb.

This frame had bees that looked like they starved and some mold on the comb.

I found the queen in one part of the hive. She was not marked, so clearly she was a newer queen since the one I purchased last year was marked. She seemed to be laying well. There was a lot of capped and uncapped brood. Although there was probably not as many bees/brood in there as I was expecting.

So here’s what I did. I removed the middle, empty honey super, which was probably a mistake, since it didn’t give the bees a whole lot of room to expand.

But here’s what I’m going to do. Tonight, I’m going to add a third super and stagger full honey frames with empty farms in both of the supers.

I don’t know what that moldy looking stuff was near the other starved bees. And, I’m assuming the bees will remove the starved ones once they need the space for brood.

So here are my questions? Should I have more bees at this point? What’s that mold stuff? Do I need to remove that part? And is there something I need to do to keep them from swarming?

In the bottom super was the queen, capped brood and larvae.

In the bottom super was the queen, capped brood and larvae.

 

Don't know if this is old or new drone comb.

Don’t know if this is old or new drone comb.

Time to open them up

It’s 63 degrees outside. I’m inside. I’ve got my knee propped up after knee surgery.

But, it’s too nice out there, and I’m going to have to go out and make a hive inspection.

I only have the one hive left after having lost my other one to swarming last summer. As of about a week ago, there were a couple of bees flying around.

Probably the first thing to look for are eggs and larvae when opening the hive. That would definitely tell me if there’s a queen about. I’d say to actually look for the queen, too, but I haven’t had much luck spotting queens.

Beverlybees.com also had a good post on How to Autopsy a Honey Bee Colony. It would probably work as a good inspection resource for spring, too. Tomorrow I figure I’m ready to hobble up to the hive.

The bees are flying

It was 51 degrees today. I went out to clean out the bottom of the hive so the bees could get out and fly if they wanted, but there were some already out flying.

There was a pile of dead bees there from when I cleaned them out last. I moved them away so I can see how many they shove out the entrance next time I look.

I’ll post some photos for comparison.

Where’d my queen go?

Here’s an update on my hive that swarmed. I was very pleased to see larvae and the queen in my hive a while back. (See last post).

Well, I checked the hive again, a week later, on Friday, September 13. I saw no larvae and no queen. I saw no evidence that there was a queen there at all. There was pollen and honey and worker bees, but no queen or larvae.

So, I’m wondering what’s going on.

I wanted to check again last weekend, but the weather was so bad I couldn’t get into the hives. I hope to do an inspection early this Friday, September 27.

In the meantime, I removed some frames that had moth infestations and froze them. I also started supplemental water feeding and reduced the entrance to about an inch, so they could defend it better.

I’ll probably remove an entire box so they have less room to work with and less space to spread out.

On Saturday, September 14, I went to a very interesting class with Michael Bush sponsored at the Washington Arboretum in Seattle, sponsored by the Puget Sound Beekeepers Association.

It dealt with natural beekeeping. It was very interesting and thought-provoking. I’ll talk about that next time.

Queen me

Not only did I see bee larvae for the first time in the hive that swarmed, I saw the queen. This was the first time I’ve ever seen a queen in one of my hives.

She was clearly a replacement since she didn’t have a marking of any sort.

I didn’t do a very good job of quantifying the larvae, but there were older ones and freshly laid.

There also weren’t a ton of bees or much honey at all. So I put in a pollen patty and started them on 1:1 sugar water. I’ll check again on next Friday – Friday the 13th.

I also added an entrance reducer to keep out wasps, moths robbers.

As for the other hive, I cleaned out a few moths, larvae and cocoon. Think that’s getting closer to under control. But I need to find out of I can freeze the frame for a couple of days and stick it back in the hive.

I’ll ask about that at the bee meeting tomorrow.

I didn’t get very far into the bottom box because the bees seemed like they were getting pretty agitated and started spilling out over the top. So, I put everything back together.

However, I did put the small honey super between the two larger boxes so they’d be more likely to set up shop in it. That’s the theory anyway.

No queen excluders. That’s all for them.

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Hive inspections

I inspected the hives yesterday.

Right hive – The right hive was pretty devoid of honey, bees and anything else.

There as a wax moth larvae in frames 6, 7, 8 and 10. I pulled them off the combs with a pair of needle nose pliers. There were plenty on the 10th frame, enough that I just ended up pulling the entire frame and popped it in the freezer.

There were also wax moth larvae in the bottom of the hive, so I swapped out the bottom.

It looks like this hive is simply being raided by the hive next door of its pollen and honey. There didn’t appear to be a queen present because there were not bee larvae present. They had built a small amount of comb, because it some of the frames were combed together and I pulled them apart last week and scrapped off the comb off the top of the frames.

Left hive – The left hive was doing pretty well. LOTS of honey in the top box. Honey and/or pollen in all frames except 10. Brood or larvae in frames 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 & 8.

The bottom box had brood mostly, as opposed to larvae in 2, 4, 5, 6 & 7. Honey and pollen in 8, 9 & 10.

Queen cup in the bottom of frame 4.

I added a honey super onto this hive, without the queen excluder just to give the bees somewhere to go.

The wax foundations on one of my honey supers had a white powdery substance on it. I didn’t know if that was the beginnings of wax moths so I stuck the whole lot in the freezer.

Powdery looking stuff that could be wax moth residue

Powdery looking stuff that could be wax moth residue

Queen cup found at the bottom of the productive hive.

Queen cup found at the bottom of the productive hive.

Another look at the stuff that was on the wax foundation that could be was moth residue.

Another look at the stuff that was on the wax foundation that could be was moth residue.

Eastern Washington bee schedule for fall

Last weekend I was in a bee class in Portland, Oregon. They remove their honey supers around August 1st and start supplemental feeding. So, I thought I should do that, too. When I got back on Sunday, I started supplemental feeding.

Well, turns out that we don’t start that early in eastern Washington. The temperature in eastern Washington can be in the 80s and 90s well into September. We have a much longer growing season.

On Wednesday, I looked at the bees and there are a lot more of them. The hive boxes are heavier. It looks like they’ve been going gangbusters and I don’t have any honey supers on there.

I’ll look Sunday morning and see what they look like. There were certainly a lot of brood in the chambers. I may have to put a honey super on there just to give the bees some room.

In the meantime, I’m looking for a schedule for bees in eastern Washington.

Are they swarming again?

Are they getting ready to swarm or are they just warm?

Are they getting ready to swarm or are they just warm?

I know this is kind of late in the year for a swarm, but I’ve already had one. It happened right around July 4th. When I checked it on August 18, I noticed there were almost no bees in there and almost no honey.

So, I’m nervous about another swarm.

When I checked them again on August 25, the one hive was doing great. Lots of honey, lots of action. But there was some weird stuff in there that it turns out was wax moth larvae.

So this weekend, I’m going to get myself a pair of needle nose pliers and start picking those things out. I hope its not too late.

As for the moths themselves, I found a homemade recipe for attracting and killing moths. Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 1 two-liter plastic bottle
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup vinegar
  • 1 banana peel

Directions

  1. Cut a one-inch hole right below the taper in the top of the bottle.
  2. Boil water and add sugar to dissolve. Let cool.
  3. Add mixture to bottle, along with vinegar and banana peel.
  4. Let ferment for a day or two.
  5. Hang near hives.

I’m told this will attract moths into the bottle, where, like the roach motel, they can check in, but they can’t check out. Same goes for wasps.

I’m checking it out now. Saw a bunch of wasps in there and some fruit flies. But no wasps, although I wasn’t looking very hard  because it was almost dark.

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