Archives for posts with tag: new hive

I inspected the hive last Sunday expecting to see frames filled with fresh comb. (Remember a couple weeks how I mentioned my affinity with the virtue of patience?) Boy was I disappointed! Not a bit of fresh comb to be found. What I did find, however, were busy bees covering two full frames with plenty of bees roaming all around the other parts of the hive. I also discovered how much heavier a frame can be when it has honey in it. At best my frames have a wee bit of honey, so I can’t wait to see how a full one feels.

Looking at one of the frames.

I also observed a bit of packed pollen in another corner.

The area circled in red is packed pollen, and, I think, the area circled in blue is capped honey. The other closed cells, capped with a lumpy looking dark orangish-brown covering is capped brood (baby bees). There might also be three cells of uncapped brood (baby bees that haven’t pupated yet) in the three open cells directly above the red circled area.
The shiny fluid inside these cells is honey that has yet to be dehydrated to the appropriate level. Once that occurs, the bees will cap it with a protective wax covering for storage until it’s needed later in the season.

Again I could not detect eggs. Along with the lack of fresh comb I was concerned as the bees seem to have little room for more egg-laying and brood production. So I posted a picture and posed the question on the San Diego Beekeepers Association Facebook page to see if there was anything more to be done. Two key points emerged: 1) since my colony is so small there just aren’t enough workers to tend to all the eggs and babies were the queen to lay more eggs. These are highly intelligent creatures! Maybe not in the same way humans consider intelligence, but there is an awareness here and the queen will only lay eggs to the extent that there are workers to care for them, and 2) it is possible that we are getting into what’s known as “the dearth” when there is less blooming so queens reduce their egg production since there is not as much to eat. There’s that intelligence in nature again!

It seems that my bees are doing fine. After conferring with my beekeeper friend, I added two sticks a little wider than a bee to each side of the feeder to lift it above the cover and give the bees access to more drinking areas on the lid.

Sticks inserted under feeder to lift it above the inner cover and give additional access to feeding holes in the lid

It made a huge difference! They had previously eaten only approximately 16 ounces in a week. When I checked it on Tuesday they had consumed another 16 ounces in just two days. My hope is that now that they have more food, and more bees emerging soon, there will be fresh comb on the next inspection in two weeks. We’ll see! Thanks for following along on this adventure.

So I decided last night to begin the slow process of moving my hive and today is the first day in the first of three temporary locations. The rule of thumb when moving bees is either move them within three feet or move them at least three miles. The other option is to not follow the rule of thumb, but then I’d need to close them in for three days and I don’t want to do that now when it’s so hot as I fear I wouldn’t have sufficient ventilation for them.

I thought I’d selected a good location for the hive where it receives morning sun, some shade from the afternoon sun, and protection from wind. Turns out that it is also a high traffic area for the birds that come to use the feeders and the top is getting covered in bird poop. I don’t think the bees mind, but I certainly do. There are other reasons to move, which I’ll discuss more in later posts.

The total distance I want to move is about 12 feet, so I’ll need to break that into four smaller moves spread out over a few weeks. I was a little concerned, wondering how they’d figure out that their home had been moved. Hives don’t normally just walk away, so it didn’t seem to be something a bee would simply adjust to naturally. Applying the idea to us, what would you do if you woke up one morning, stepped out your front door, only to find your surroundings had completely changed? How quickly would you notice?

Wanting to understand these fascinating creatures a little better, I did some quick research online regarding their orientation process and how they know where home is. One suggestion was to place branches in the area of the hive entrance to trigger the bees to reorient as they would naturally if a branch or something fell over a hive that was in a tree. I broke some sage flower stalks from a nearby plant and placed these over the entrance. I’m not sure this was necessary since I only moved them about two and a half feet, but I wanted to be cautious and considerate of my bees.

This morning I’ve kept a close eye on the hive. Major fail on my part: the sage stalks touched the ground allowing those pesky ants another access point. I tidied up my branches so that they no longer reach the ground, but still covers the various points of entry so the bees notice something is different. I’ve noticed them exiting and then turning towards the hive and doing their fast zig-zag flight around the exit, similar to what I saw them do the first day they were here and how they seem to investigate me when I’m working around the hive. I assume this is them reorienting.

Sage branches placed over the entrance to signal a change to the bees.

I’ve also noticed more activity and more bees returning with full pollen baskets than before. I’m not sure why this is. Perhaps you have some ideas! Could it be related to the move? Or the warm weather? Or just the time since the hive has been established? I hope we’ll learn more over the next few weeks.

I had hoped to find a local supplier that I could easily drive to and pick up a queen that weekend, but to no avail. What I did find is a company that ships queens next-day via UPS. Wildflower Meadows is located in southern California and does occasionally offer in-person pickup, it’s just that none were available at the time. So I reviewed all of their information and opted to order a queen from them that would arrive that Thursday as that was the earliest available. One of the things I like about Wildflower Meadows is that their queens are genetically selected for increased vigilance towards mites, which are a recurring concern in bee colonies. I opted for delivery at my home rather than at the pickup center because the weather forecast for the week was pretty mild.

I still had nearly another week without a queen in my colony. I didn’t know how I would contain my impatience. I watched the video on their site for how to install my queen once she arrived, and found through them a fabulous new resource in GirlNextDoorHoney who even offers online beginner beekeeping classes. I’ll be there soon!

I was ready! Thursday morning was perfectly overcast and I could see from the UPS tracking that my queen would arrive late morning. She arrived without incident and remained on my kitchen countertop until my beekeeper friend could come over in the late afternoon to help me with the installation.

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She’s here!
Queen Aliènor la Bleue and her attendants

The morning after placing my hive, I spoke with my friend the beekeeper. There was activity in and out of the hive and she recommended that I carefully remove one side of the entrance reducer we had fashioned out of cardboard the night before. I cautiously slid it out only to find that bees were hiding in the flaps. I tried to encourage them gently out of the way, but apparently I wasn’t as gentle as I’d thought. As I’m on the phone with my friend, I suddenly experienced an extreme burning sensation in my lower arm and called out, “It’s stinging me; it’s stinging me” like a lunatic only to look down to see a bee attempting to escape while some of its innards remain in my arm. I was only wearing a t-shirt and sweatpants, not appropriately garbed for working my bees, and was surprised to be stung because didn’t they know I was trying to help them. Well, of course they didn’t know that; the bee that stung only knew that I was disturbing them and they were likely already plenty upset over being moved the night before.

I could see the tiny venom sac lodged in my arm and removed it, although not correctly and made the mistake of squeezing it in the process. The proper way is to lightly scrape it from the base of the skin so as not to further squeeze the venom into the wound. I’ve been stung three other times, but I think this was the only time where I received the full sting experience. My first sting was when sometime before adolescence, when rolling down a grassy hill was one of the most fun things one could do. It was also a great way to get stung by a bee in clover. My second and third stings were in preparation for the Vineman half Ironman and they were just glancing stings, over very quickly and not terribly painful. But I did stop wearing that purple bike helmet shortly thereafter.

The burning sensation died down after a few minutes, but it itched over the following few days and ultimately even bruised a little. I tend to have an over-reactive immune system that swells and reacts significantly over any small bite. My husband found the entire event amusing when I recounted it to him. His sage wisdom, “Leave the bees alone and they won’t sting you.”

First morning after collection from the valve box
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