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Beekeeping (Apiculture)

This topic contains 15 replies, has 5 voices, and was last updated by  Robbie 4 days ago.

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Robbie robb

Beekeeping (Apiculture)

14/06/2018 at 18:15

Bees,

 

I’ve decided to take up beekeeping this summer. Signed up for a practical course in organic beekeeping and dived right into the study of small scale beekeeping.

 

At first I thought I knew a thing or two about bees, flowers, honey and.. that’s it right? Well it quickly became apparent to me that the life of bees and bee colonies isn’t that straight forward at all. So if I want to learn how to be a decent beekeeper I’d would have to study to know what these little insects do in their daily business and need in order to thrive. Something or someone has to pollinate the flowers of the fruits ‘n veggies and of course supply us with fresh organic honey while leaving plenty for the bee colony to survive throughout the cold winter months.

 

Next to the course given by two veteran organic beekeepers, I’ve started to consume as much information I could on the ever mighty internet about the behavior and biology of bees. Learning about their evolution, biology, behavior, habits, environments, communications, diseases, parasites etc.

Quickly it became apparent that bees are in a lot of trouble nowadays with viruses spreading uninhibited between colonies. Mainly through a parasite called “Varroa Destructor”. A small beebloodsucking mite originally from southeast Asia but spread worldwide since the 90’s. This mite is one of the main vector for many bee diseases and viruses finishing off colonies all over the world. The other main vector for the spread of bee death is of course the ignorant, unconscious beekeeper. So it is quite easy to do beekeeping wrong and take down not only my own colony of bees, but also those of the other beekeepers around me. By the spread of viruses and parasites through sick bees that visit other beehives. So a beekeeper in the 21st century should do the necessary homework to be as informed and conscious possible of his/her colony 😉

 

Thanks to heaps of lectures from remarkable beekeepers like Tom Seeley and Randy Oliver I’ve become quite confident that I know what to look for during a hive inspection and how to intervene when things go south in the bee colony. Also thanks to the course given by the two beekeepers I’m learning how to “not piss off the bees and get stung to death” during hive inspections 😉 ,how to handle a bee colony and even how to catch a swarm and propagate a second colony from that swarm. So I’ve decided to get my hands dirty this summer and start keeping my own bee colony.

 

Step one! Beehive

 

Not just any beehive. My beehive. As a woodworker I decided to design and build my own. Learning what rules and measurements to apply from other hives and mix up different ideas and designs into my own bee colony heaven. (bees don’t care though, for all they’re concerned they’re still living inside a hollow tree. The beekeeper is just an occasional invader). Bees have no concept of a beehive and they’ll start building comb in any cavity which is high and dry. So behold below the pictures of the end result of my beehive build.

 

It’s based on an “einraumbeute” or “golden hive” with some adjustments when it comes to ventilation and temperature differences between the inside and outside of the box itself. The average temperature of a bee colony is 35C /95F even during cluster hibernation in the winter (not bad for a cold blooded insect) So a common problem in other beehives is condensation buildup due to the thin walls and eventually soaking the bees in their own exhaled moisture.

Thats why I gave the outside of the beehive another layer of wood like we do on a lot of building facades which act as a wind/heat break and allows for moisture to flow out.

 

The next step will be obtaining a Swarm or Colony and introduce them to the beehive! In this thread I’ll post progress and pictures as I learn along and hopefully I’ll get my first colony through the next winter!

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warrior
14/06/2018 at 21:43
1

saving this topic for later, love it! 😀

new
16/06/2018 at 18:24
3

I strongly suggest reading about Oscar Perone and his PermaApiculture. He shares the idea to start over our relationship with bees, in a more respectfull and mutually convenient way. He sais ‘the hive is an conciouss entity, who’s cells fly off..’  He also gives away plans for building you own structures.

new
16/06/2018 at 19:57
1

LINK (in spanish)

helper
19/06/2018 at 10:18
3

***Update!***

 

Yes, I’ve presented my beehive design to the beekeepers who give the course and they we’re pretty pleased with the end result! They’ve given me a couple of great design adjustment tips that would make my job as a beekeeper easier. So I’ve made a couple of small changes!

* Small groove in the top for lifting the frames with an hive tool! 

* Adjusted the frame to frame space from 38mm to 35mm which appears to better suit the bees when building comb. 

* Big elastic string to keep the copper roof on there when the wind picks up. 

* A wooden base to mount the beehive on to prevent it from falling over when the wind picks up 

If anyone is interested in the design and wants to build their own I can send you the 3D file. Just PM me.

 

So I’ve decided to put the beehive on top of an old office building where I live in the middle of the city. It’s about 5 stories high. According to the beekeepers the bees have wings so the height isn’t going to bother them but bees in nature actually prefer to be high of the ground away from soil moisture, mice and rats, other bugs and such. A natural swarm would choose a hollow high in a tree or a cavity in a cliff surface etc. So that kinda makes sense. The only thing that could be an issue would be high winds. But the beehive itself is surrounded by walls, an elevator shaft, an old emergency generator and an air conditioning shed. I’d reckon they’ll manage. Also this prevents nosy neighbors, animals and contract gardeners that manage the property from interfering. So the bee colony is pretty much out of harms way.

 

***second update***

 

After approval on my design the beekeeper mentor wanted me to take over the swarm he captured just days ago in his garden! One of his colonies swarmed on a warm Friday and he was running out of beehives ;). My and a buddy went over and he handed me a basket with in it a dangling cluster of bees! It was just a 30 minute drive to my house but it was kinda like having 10 pounds of TNT in my lap XD.

 

We introduced the bees to their new abode by simply shacking and pouring them in from the top. After shacking the tight cluster became a basket full of 2000 upset bees! :o. I had to take the mesh of and pour them in but the first thing that happened after taking off the mesh a couple of 100 bees took of and whirled around me and the basket XD.  The queen dropped in the hive in one go so the remaining bees in the basket could walk in through the entrance following the scent of the queen. (No stings so far, no bad feelings as far as they’re concerned I suppose) as long the bees didn’t become to cold they’d keep moving. It was still a bit windy so we had to improvise a quick wind break next to the hive XD

 

 

After an hour or two they were all in and it was getting dark so hopefully they would still be in there in the morning! Now they have to start building comb the right way and we’re all good to go! It is pretty nice to have quite docile bees as a beginner! This is determined by genetics. If you get a swarm from someone make sure his bees aren’t stinging the crap out of everyone who comes near their hive. It’s quite intimidating to have this whirlwind of bees around you when introducing (read: shacking and pouring) them into their new home ;). My beekeeping protection suit and smoker had not been delivered yet so I did not have all that much protection! (gloves, protective goggles, a scarf and a hoodie. All not in red or black colors because bees and other insects see those colors as intruding mammals). It was a pretty chilly evening (17 C/ 62 F) also a bit windy and cloudy which made the bees move slow. They also didn’t have any motivation to become assertive and protective because they did not have any brood or storage to protect.

 

All went well and now I’m pretty curious if they start building comb in the right place on the frames instead of across it or any other way. That would make hive inspections quite hard and I would have to intervene to make them build the right way. So I hope my smoker and suit arrive today 😉

 

 

 

 

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warrior
21/06/2018 at 18:17
2

Great topic 🙂
Sometime ago I saw a new beehive design that’s intended to make your life super easy and also reduces the stress that your bees go through when you collect honey:

helper
23/06/2018 at 18:04
3

***Update #3***

 

Last couple of days the bees ran into some chop. The weather took a turn for the worse, cold temperature (16C/ 60F), quite some heavy winds and rain.  But today the winds laid down and the sun was out again. (dispite the wind and living on a rooftop quite some bees were still flying out to collect) This enabled me to take off the roof and have another peek inside. I had to check if the bees were building their comb properly aligned to my frames. Otherwise I’d would have to intervene and somehow coerce them into adjusting their building plans.

 

When I arrived at the hive I saw the queen sitting outside next to the entrance! Which means she is first of all; alive! and second ;still in the colony. After sitting for a while she walked back in which also means she got inseminated by some local drones (drone = male bee) without getting eaten by anything else! In the first week when a colony settles in a new hive the queen has to fly off and do the old “in & out” with the local population of drones. This way she gets enough bee semen to lay eggs for the rest of her days. If the queen dies during this day out the bee colony starts rearing new queens but their population starts to thin quite rapidly when there’s no queen around to lay new brood.

 

 

In the bottom of the hive there were already quite some dead bees (around 30). The average lifespan of a bee is 6 weeks and it takes 21 days from larvae to bee. So having a queen that produces brood in the first week is a big plus. Now to regularly check in on the bees to see their comb being build and them stocking it up with brood, pollen and nectar.

 

I’ve also started to have a bit of a rooftop garden going on next to the hive. This way there will be some flowers and myceliated wood around for the bees to feed on in about a month. I’ll also start collecting tree saplings of flower rich trees like Tilia trees. This will also make a good spot to stash my mycelium inoculated logs so whenever it starts to get cold and wet I’ll be able to pick shi-take mushrooms here as well.

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helper
01/07/2018 at 11:29
2

*** Update #4 ***

Couple of weeks in, there is a lot of comb being build in the hive! The first 2 weeks I’ve done hive inspections (opening the hive, separating and lifting the frames a bit & overall inspection) every 2 or 3 days. Just to make sure they would align their comb to my frames and the overall health of the colony is okay in their new abode. From now on I’m going to do hive inspections only once in every two weeks. After an inspection the bees need some time to settle down again which usually takes around 3 days. Also when a bee is hit with smoke he is not productive for the rest of the day. So to prevent further bee traumatization on a regular basis it’s wise to just let them do their thing and check in on them every other week.

 

Meanwhile I started to log my activities and observations in an excel data sheet. Just to keep track of the whole thing and log data accordingly in a proper journal. (yes I’m a data freak, can’t get enough of it). Gives a proper overview and reveals patterns and mistakes in a different way than real time experience. Why should my brain remember the last time I’ve did an hive inspection with time, date, notes and observations while a simple excel spreadsheet can do that for me? 😉

 

Couple of things I’d would like to keep track of are: 

– Behavioral observations and activities
(amount of brood, pollen storage, honey storage, signs of disease, mite counts, etc.)
– My activities and actions
(hive inspections, supplemented feed, mite treatments)
– Amount of time invested
– Amount of money invested
– Amount of honey produced,
(not particularly for yields yet, but primarily for the bees themselves).

 

With one hive it is particularly easy to keep track of things but as soon when I will get multiple swarms and hives it will be a lot harder to keep a clear overview. This fall or winter I will start building my next beehive which I want to equip with some data logging as well.

 

Arduino data: 

– Hive temperature and humidity
– Hive CO2 content
– Total weight of the colony and each individual frame
– Outside temperature and humidity

Also I would like to include features like an inside IR-camera and microphone

This way I’ll be able to monitor a lot of data without disturbing the colony. That will give me a lot of insight what improvements I can make in my next hive design, and the way beekeeping could be done in the 21st century. For example: When one of my colonies swarms I can be notified instantly because of the rapid shift in weight.


Primary equipment

There are quite a lot of products on the market for beekeeping. You can spend 40 bucks or up to a thousand for your first colony. I like minimalism and efficiency when it comes to equipment so I have spent around 100,- euro’s to get my basic equipment together. If you want to start out doing beekeeping there is no need to save up and spend a ridiculous amount of money. You can actually start out with little costs and expand your equipment as time moves on.

 

List of necessities

– Beehive
(I’ve build my own “einraumbeute” from materials I had laying around, you can purchase a new “golden hive” for around 400,- euro’s. There are many different hives some are cheaper some are more expensive, I’ll do a post about that later on in this topic)
– Bees
(You can order your bees by mail or get a swarm from an other beekeeper, I would suggest getting a swarm. These bees are local and probably have better genetics than commercially mass bred bees, I’ll do a post on bee genetics later on in this topic)
– Smoker
(A puff of cool white smoke makes the bees think there is a fire coming and their initial reaction is to suck up as much food as they can, ready to abandon ship when it gets hot. This slows them down an makes them more docile. A smoker can be purchased for around 10 to 30 euro’s)
Hive Tool
(This is a tool to easily lift up the frames from the hive, also to cut away any propolis or comb that has been build in the wrong place)
Gloves
(Some leather white gloves to protect your hands when the bees get annoyed with you, I usually don’t ware these unless the bees start headbutting me, Ive purchased these for 12 euro’s)
Beekeepers suit
(This white suit protects your face and neck from angry bees, These girls know what to aim for when they want to give you some feedback and they’ll go for your eyes and mouth. Dark spots are bulls-eyes to bees and that’s where they’ll be most likely to sting you when you’re making mistakes.)
– Pincers
(For removing bee stings)
Lighter and fuel
(To light up the smoker, I use Amadou tinder fungus [fomes fomentarius] as a fuel which produces pretty cool smoke for quite a while)
– Antihistamine tablets and an epipipen
(The tablets help to suppress your immune reaction to the bee-sting, these tablets do not interfere with becoming immune to the bees tings so it’s quite nice to have around just in case! The epipen is an adrenaline shot, there is always a possibility that you or someone around you gets stung and have a severe reaction which can result into cardiac arrest! If you do not have an first aid post or a doctor nearby it would be very wise to have a couple of these laying around.)

Conclusion
On each of these items and topics there is a lot of information out there, I just wanted to give you a quick overview of the items necessary to start off with your own colony. If you do your hive inspections right, do not agitate the bees, get genetically friendly, docile bees,  are calm and gentle, and keep to a couple of simple rules. The chances of getting stung is very very low. I have used the gloves and suit once, only to realize that the bees weren’t even interested in me. It kinda felt like wearing a bulletproof vest for opening a bag of crisps. They weren’t annoyed with me at all because I acted according to a couple of simple rules. (I’ll list those in a later post) Once bees started to headbutt me (one of the first signs that they tell you to “jog along”)  I simply stopped inspecting and closed the hive. All in all I’ve invested around 100 euro’s in equipment and a week into building the hive.

 

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helper
01/07/2018 at 14:23
2

@robb this is awonderful set of posts.  I’ve been looking forward to each update;-)

Coincidentally, there is a similar rooftop behive project going on in my own town. See this story in the Huddersfield Examiner. (from last December)

The hive is now on the roof of a shopping cente, and the bees are busily making honey.  I know Diana & Andrew, as they are both also members of The Making Space in Huddersfield.

The hive here is based on a design from the old 1946 British Standard 1300 “Beehives, Frames and Wax Foundation”.

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helper
08/07/2018 at 15:46
1

***Update #5***

The art of not getting stung

Whenever one is doing their hive inspections there is always a chance that the bees want you gone and they’ll take steps to discourage you from continuing. They might recognize your smell after a while, but to the bees you are just an occasional intruder wreaking havoc in their home. Imagine something lifting up the roof of your house, tearing out one room at a time, shaking and damaging the lot and squashing a couple of your siblings while putting things sorta back in place. I know it sounds a bit grim but whenever a big clumsy human interacts with thousands of tiny fragile bees they’ll most likely be the first ones to get pissed off by this act of interaction 😉
Here’s a list of rules and tricks that will make life a bit easier for both party’s whenever opening up the hive.

 

#1 – Only open the hive in proper weather conditions

Don’t open the hive when its cold or rainy unless you absolutely have to. 18C / 64F is the lowest you want to go. Bees control their hive temperature to a T. They evaporate moisture, fan their wings, control their body temperature by movement to keep the colony as a whole at a constant 35C/ 95F. The micro climate created inside the beehive is the colonies “body temperature” as it were. So when the beekeeper takes the roof off the lot immediately the hot air rises out of the colony, air currents take out the remaining heat and it takes the bees a lot of effort to bring conditions back to perfect. Especially on colder days.

#2 – Move gently 

Bees are sensitive to vibrations, disturbances, noise, rapid movements etc. If you approach the hive, don’t knock on it. Don’t put your stuff on it with loud bang. When handling frames with comb, don’t knock it around, slide it gently in and out of the beehive. Be like a Zen Buddhist monk or something. Avoid damaging or squashing the bees. Once a bee is squashed or stings you her body expels a pheromone that puts the other bees on high alert. After a certain threshold of this scent in the air the bees will launch a full scale attack on you.

#3 – Don’t eat banana’s, Don’t eat anything
This pheromone is very similar to the smell of banana’s. Especially the bright yellow sugary candy banana’s from the store. Don’t eat those before or during the hive inspection. The bees will mistake it for the alarm pheromone and will act on it. Please avoid putting things in your mouth among bees at all time. It’s very tantalizing to get a taste of the honey straight from the comb but it only takes one bee landing on that honey at the last moment before entering your mouth. You definitely don’t want to get stung in the mouth or throat at all cost, the reaction and swelling could potentially be fatal. So please, keep it shut and certainly don’t put any stuff in it.

 

#4 – Position 

Another great trick is to not stand in front of the entrance. This alerts the bees instantly that something is at the gates. The incoming bees spread the news like wildfire that something is going on in front of the hive and the defender bees are instantly mobilized to check out whats going on. It also helps to avoid standing between the sun and the hive. If you point your hive entrance towards the south, you can position yourself on the north side and avoid casting a dark shadow on the hive itself.

 

#5 – Right clothing
Angry bees are attracted to dark spots, Forager bees are attracted to reflected UV light. Over millions of years the bees have learned to attack mammals looking for a snack in the most efficient way. The dark spots of their eyes, ears, nose and mouth are the best places to sting. This is the most efficient way to deter an hungry animal or annoying beekeeper. Sunglasses, headphones, earbuds are even easier to recognize.
Dark clothing as well, T-shirts, wristbands, socks you name it. Make sure your clothing is a white or just slightly colored. Bees can’t see Red and Green and their visual cortex turns it into shades of black. All of a sudden you look like a skunk or a raccoon to them and the sooner they’ll recognize you as an intruder.

Try to avoid animal fabrics like wool as well, these have scent signatures similar to other mammals and the bees recognize these. I usually ware grey loose clothes whenever working with bees. All cotton. They can sting through fabric so you don’t want to wear skinny jeans.

<b>#6 – Hygiene
</b>Wear clean, freshly washed clothes, make sure you’ve showered and don’t smell like sweat. Your musky scent palette smells like:(you’ve guessed it) mammal sweat. And the bees recognize this and will act upon it. Perfumes, deodorant and other pungent odors will also annoy them and help them locate you as an intruder. Even sunscreen is a bad idea, not only is this stuff laden with hormones and perfumes it also has microscopic particles that reflect UV rays from the sunlight. In the UV spectrum sunscreen turns your skin into a deep red color only absorbing the Infrared rays. Flower petals do this as well to advertise their luscious store of nectar. Bees can see these UV reflections, and it attracts them. So imagine what you must look like to them whenever you’re coated in an UV reflective varnish of sunscreen oil.

#7 – Warning signs
The bees are usually reluctant to sting. Once they’ve stung their attacker they’ll die. It is a big altruistic sacrifice for them developed to spread an alarm pheromone as a way of instant communication among the hive. Before sacrificing their life they will try alternatives. First the defender bee will start to make noise and fly annoyingly in front of you. When she runs out of patience she will give you a headbutt! If you notice this you can interpret this as a sign to piss off for a moment and avoid the bees stinging you as their last measure of defense.

#8 – Preparation
You want to do your hive inspection as smoothly as possible. Know what you want to look for and what you want to inspect so you can make your move stealthy and swiftly. Like a fox, a beekeeping fox. Check on the queen. I will make my first “real” comb inspection next week so I’ll have to figure out before what I want to inspect. I’ll make a checklist for things to look for and have everything prepared before I’ll open up the hive. This way I’ll be in and out before they know what’s up and leave as little disturbance as possible.

#9 – Protection
A beekeepers suit, gloves, smoke, a body of water to hide in when the bees start chasing me ;), are all proper protection, but like its position in this list, it is a last resort. If you are a commercial beekeeper dealing with hundreds of colonies 8 hours a day, weather or no weather, you have to do your stuff. But as an hobbyist beekeeper you don’t necessarily have to use full body protection all the time when you deal with your bees. If you avoid using brute force, with the tips listed above you can really come a long way without getting stung or even piss off your bees. Whenever you do feel things get a bit dicey, you can always put on your protective gear or just stop your action and try it another day.
Sometimes it depends on the weather, sometimes your bees have a bad day, sometimes you have a bad day. There is no need to declare all out war on your colony because of that and it might be wise to return another moment when you or your bees settle down.

 

Conclusion
With these tips that I’ve found on the internet and from the two veteran beekeepers who teach me how to do organic beekeeping, makes it a lot easier standing in a whirlwind of bees when inspecting the hive. It is always quite mesmerizing and sometimes intimidating to stand next to an open hive and I find it immensely intriguing to experience what kind of “super-organism” a bee colony is as a whole. It’s nice to learn how  to “read” its mood and work with the bees instead of against them. Of course there are many other variables that come into play like genetics, diseases, seasonal change and such. But these are the things that I can adjust to to make my life easier as a beekeeper.

Next week I’ll do a first full on hive inspection of (hopefully) a couple of frames filled with comb and brood by now!

 

 

 

 

helper
15/07/2018 at 10:29
2

***Update #6***

I’ve made my first “big” hive inspection and I am delighted to tell that the bees are doing great! They have build quite some comb on 4 of the frames. The queen has started laying her eggs and the worker bees are gathering pollen and nectar as fast as they can. The comb is nicely aligned to the frames and overall everything looks healthy and happy. The weather was good, hot and sunny, almost no wind, the temperature around 25C/ 77F and the time was 15:30.

 

As a novice I did manage to make a couple of errors though. The bees were quite calm but halfway during the inspection their mood turned and they started to let me know they weren’t to happy with me nosing around in the brood nest. This was the first time these bees were starting to turn on me because now they actually have a nest to defend. While I was looking at the third frame one of the bees headbutted me in the face so I decided to call it quits since I wasn’t wearing any protection. I also checked off what I wanted to inspect. which was:

1. Comb build and aligned to the frames (no intervention needed)
2. Cells with eggs and larvae in them (Queen is laying and workers are nursing)
3. Amount of dead bees on the bottom (Almost none so they’re cleaning the hive
)
4. Amount of supplemented food consumed (Quite a lot so there is some scarcity in the amount of food available which isn’t that odd considering the drought of the last two weeks)

The mistakes I made we’re these:
1. I did not used enough smoke. 

The bees were way to active and got annoyed pretty fast. When a good puff of smoke is blown through the hive the bees fill up with nectar and honey ready which slows them down and make them more docile. Also the smoke will mask all other scents given off by me and block the bees “intruder” pheromones. I only blew smoke on the top of the hive. In hindsight I would have more time if I had blown smoke through the entrance as well.

2. I did not supplement with sugar water yet.
The last few weeks we had some drought over here. Which means that the bees aren’t getting all the nectar and water they want. This can be overcome by placing a liquid feeder in the hive filled with sugar water. The bees are a lot more docile when they have everything they need and after the hive inspection I immediately made them a sugar water feeder to make sure they had plenty of liquids available.

3. Change in the season.
Usually we have this dry, humid weather in August and September. So the fall season is starting a bit earlier for the bees. This is when they start laying and feeding winter bees and get more protective of their nest. Wearing protection isn’t necessary but could be a good precaution when opening the hive in the fall season.

 

4. I didn’t take a shower before the inspection.
They could smell me a lot better having a day’s worth of sweat on me ;). In the heat and humidity the news of me intruding in their nest spread quite fast and only allowed me to get half way through the inspection.

All in all I’m quite pleased with the first inspection! I’m really pleased my hive design works and the bees are taking advantage of the frames for their comb!

During the next hive inspection I will be wearing some protection so that I’ll have the time to take some closeup photo’s and video’s. Then I’ll be able to check in detail how much pollen, nectar and brood is in the hive.

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helper
31/07/2018 at 15:51
1

***Update #7***

 

Two weeks have passed and they we’re quite long! Along with a lack of rain we’ve had a drought persisting for about 6 weeks. The hot summer weather had everyone and everything shift in a lower gear over here and we’ve had days with temperatures above 35C/ 95F. So I also switched into tropical mode and had to “go easy” for the last two weeks. Eventually last weekend the first raindrops this month fell from the sky and one could almost hear the sigh of relief from the vegetation and animals. I had to water my rooftop plants for almost three times a day to prevent them from withering in the sun. I also stacked some plants on top of the beehive to keep the metal roof sorta out of the blistering sunlight.

 

Finally it was time to do another hive inspection and I was eager to check out how the bees have been doing. Obviously the drought and hot weather made nectar and pollen much scarcer so when I had a look inside the hive I noticed quite a difference.

First of all they have gone through all of their supplemented food. Every bit of it was gone. Last inspection I’ve put around 300 grams of powdered sugar, water and chamomile in a feeder (basically a Tupperware box with some holes drilled into the sides) and apparently they’ve developed quite a taste for it. As soon I had put a new batch in they we’re all over it in no time. So I’ll check on food supply every week from now on.

 

When I started inspecting the comb I also noticed a major difference. About one- third of the colony has disappeared. All of the drones (male bees) were gone. Which is standard protocol for any bee colony during hard-times. But I noticed a huge fall in worker bees as well. Which is not particularly good when it comes to preparing for winter. The months July and August usually have a lack of “honey flow” (English term for the amount of nectar and pollen available in the environment). But this colony swarmed a bit late in the season and could use all the good weather it can get to prepare for winter. There were no dead bees on the bottom of the hive so I assume that most perished during foraging. Either way I was unpleasantly surprised on how much of a toll the last two weeks have taken on this little colony and sure hope they bounce back now that the weather has become more stable.

 

The photo’s below are the photo’s taken during the last inspection and reading comb is a great way to measure the health and status of a colony.

 

The first photo is the first frame, They must be using some sort of parametric design algorithm in combination with a 3D wax printing driver software to produce these kinds of structures I suppose. In my opinion freshly build comb made from wax which is still white looks quite aesthetically pleasing and makes me wish that I could’ve come up with a design like that 😉

 

The second photo is the third frame! on this one you can see some nurse bees walking around. The white wax in the upper right corner is capped honey. So that is how their honey stores look, Immediately next the capped honey you can clearly see the uncapped honey. Two weeks ago these frames were almost completely covered in bees so the loss is quite considerable.

 

And the last photo is the 4th frame. On this one you can see more capped honey. and directly underneath the capped honey you can see the eggs that the queen has laid just a day or two ago! If you look closely you can see tiny white dots in the middle of a couple of the cells. I’m hoping there are more larvae underneath the worker bees. On this picture you can also see the queen. On the left – bottom corner as it were you can see her big dark abdomen between a couple of worker bees. Hopefully working her ass of to repopulate the colony as soon as possible 😉

 

I’m hoping the weather stays stable for the next weeks and we’ll have a good fall. That will surely increase the chances of these bees building up a strong winter population. In the meantime I’ll make sure they have plenty of feed available and keep reporting progress as they go along. 😉

 

 

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helper
27/08/2018 at 10:13
1

***Update #8***

It has been 4 weeks already, I’ve continued to keep an eye on the colony and have done 2 hive inspections in the past month! I’m glad to say that the bees are still going! Apparently they’ve stopped loosing bees since the end of the heat-wave and since the weather has turned a lot more stable the bees have been able to build up a bit as well.
Currently the weather has become a bit cold and wet, so I’m hoping that we will have a nice and warm fall from September on. July and August aren’t the best months for the bees mainly because there isn’t much pollen and nectar available. Most plants tend to flower in the spring and fall seasons. On the other hand if the colony wants to survive the winter they will have to build up their numbers quite significantly or else I’m afraid that they wont be able to have sufficient mass to keep warm. I keep feeding them the sugar-dough supplements (organic powdered sugar and water) so that they can keep operating even on the rainy days, but warm, moist stable weather would be the best thing to increase their numbers and chances.
I’m able to tell a lot about what is going on inside the hive just by looking at the bees flying in and out! Whenever I see bees arriving with yellow clumps of pollen on their legs I know that they’re feeding larvae, since larvae are the only ones able to actually consume the pollen for nutrition. That also means that the queen is laying eggs and the colony is refreshing its numbers. The more pollen that is brought in the more larvae the bees have to feed.

Another good sign is bees venturing outside the hive for the first time. These new forager bees will not stray far from the hive on their first couple of flights. They just circle the surrounding area and the space directly around the hive before returning back in. These bees do this a day or 2 so that they get a good “feel” of the location relative to the sun. This way they learn how to navigate and find their way back to the hive when they start their long distance foraging flights.

I’ve added some photo’s of a couple of the frames! I wanted to make a nice video of an hive inspection but every time I try this it’s to windy or rainy to take my time. Also I want to disturb them as little as possible so that I don’t interfere their business to much. Eventually I’m assuming that they know what they’re doing and I should only assume a supporting role in stead of micromanaging the colony. 😉

 

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helper
17/09/2018 at 20:07
0

***Update #9***

 

Hello! It was time to do another inspection and I decided to catch it on film.

 

It was a pretty sunny september evening, around 22C/72F, No winds, and we had pretty nice weather this weekend so I was pretty curious to check out how the bees were doing.

The couple of things I noticed were that

– there was no new comb built in a long time,

– No significant increase or decrease in worker bees

– there was not much brood if any at all that I could see

– they did stock up on honey and have increased their winter stores.
– they we’re pretty easily annoyed, so I was glad I wore the gloves and hat.

– I could not spot the queen, Which had been the case in almost every inspection since I’ve had this colony.

So by now my biggest questions are:

– Where is the queen and is she laying eggs? I can still see the worker bees bring in pollen into the hive on a regular basis so I am assuming that they are still feeding some larvae.

– Are the bees keeping their numbers low on purpose? Or is there some other issue that I am not realizing ?

 

Some beekeepers would advise joining these bees with another colony before fall really sets in. Others tell me to import some eggs and larvae from the mother colony and see if they start raising queens from those larvae. That would mean that the old queen is absent or not laying any valid eggs. I’ve asked my beekeeping mentor for his opinion and some advise.

For the rest all of the bees look pretty healthy, No signs of virusses and not many varroa mites to see either. I did need to remove heaps of wasps everytime I peeked in the feed chamber of the hive. They were at it full on the last month.

I also tried to find the queen on the photos and on the bottom of the hive. No dice though ;). Either she’s pretty well camouflaged or shes not in there at all. I’m beginning to suspect the latter.

 

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helper
17/09/2018 at 20:16
0

***Update #9***

 

Hello! It was time to do another inspection and I decided to catch it on film.

 

It was a pretty sunny september evening, around 22C/72F, No winds, and we had pretty nice weather this weekend so I was pretty curious to check out how the bees were doing.

The couple of things I noticed were that

– there was no new comb built in a long time,

– No significant increase or decrease in worker bees

– there was not much brood if any at all that I could see

– they did stock up on honey and have increased their winter stores.- they we’re pretty easily annoyed, so I was glad I wore the gloves and hat.

– I could not spot the queen, Which had been the case in almost every inspection since I’ve had this colony.

So by now my biggest questions are:

– Where is the queen and is she laying eggs? I can still see the worker bees bring in pollen into the hive on a regular basis so I am assuming that they are still feeding some larvae.

– Are the bees keeping their numbers low on purpose? Or is there some other issue that I am not realizing ?

 

Some beekeepers would advise joining these bees with another colony before fall really sets in. Others tell me to import some eggs and larvae from the mother colony and see if they start raising queens from those larvae. That would mean that the old queen is absent or not laying any valid eggs. I’ve asked my beekeeping mentor for his opinion and some advise.

For the rest all of the bees look pretty healthy, No signs of virusses and not many varroa mites to see either. I did need to remove heaps of wasps everytime I peeked in the feed chamber of the hive. They were at it full on the last month.

I also tried to find the queen on the photos and on the bottom of the hive. No dice though ;). Either she’s pretty well camouflaged or shes not in there at all. I’m beginning to suspect the latter.

 

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helper
15/10/2018 at 06:13
0

*** Update #10 ***

Quite a lot has been going on since the last inspection. First of all I’ve decided to move the bees to a new location. A good friend of mine suggested placing the beehive on his property so that the bees can pollinate his fruit trees next spring. There are plenty of wild flowers, water and compost around as well. So compared to the urban rooftop landscape I suppose it’s a good deal!

I gently placed the beehive in the back of the car and moved them on a sunny day.

The beehive now is standing underneath an hazel tree with the hive entrance facing the south-east. Now the hive will get sun throughout the entire day when the sun is low in the fall, winter and spring. When the sun is high in the sky during summer the hive will be shaded by the hazel tree.

 

Past weekend I decided to have a look how the bees are doing in their new environment. We’ve had warm sunny weather all throughout the last 3 weeks and there are plenty of flowers around making the most of these conditions. The bees have been busy and I noticed they stored up some more reserves in their comb. There were a lot of wasps in the hive taking the sugar supplements so I did had to get rid of those. I removed about 6 of them in 30 minutes.

Another thing I noticed is that the bees had build a queen cell! Apparently they’ve decided to replace their queen. This kinda makes sense given the size of the colony the old queen was probably laying few or invalid eggs. There was almost no brood in the combs every time I looked. Or I might have killed the queen while moving the hive but given I was extra careful moving the hive I don’t suspect that was the case. Most likely they’ve decided to replace the queen because of the hot weather and sudden food availability. I’m hoping this weather will persist until they get their numbers up with the new queen but she does have to get fertilized by a drone before that happens. I’m curious what will happen in the colony the next month now that winter will start knocking on the door anytime soon.

 

 

 

 

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