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Archive for June, 2010

Mystery of the Vanishing Queen Cup

June 25, 2010 2 comments

I raced home at lunchtime today to do a hive inspection. It’s been very cold, windy, and foggy, so I wasn’t able to check on that troubling queen cup I saw on June 12. Since today was a bit warmer, I decided to take a quick peek. I was a bit rushed, so I didn’t get a chance to look closely for Latifah, but there was a lot of capped brood and larvae. And, intriguingly, the queen cup had vanished… So, that stuff about queen cups sometimes being part of the normal “furniture” of a hive seems to have applied here. Maybe the bees chewed it up to make tiny ottomans.

Amazingly, the super I’d added 12 days ago not only had all of its frames drawn out, but was also already full of honey! (Click for a larger, undistorted view)

6 of the 8 frames were fully stocked and partially capped. I added another honey super below the top one. We’re now up to five stories of bees.

The bees in the two upper supers were docile and charming; those in the brood boxes seemed unusually peevish today. Did my stomach growl when I saw the honey? I think they’re on to me.

Replaced the empty bottle of diluted sugar water with plain water

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Update on 6/13 Hive Inspection

June 14, 2010 1 comment

How did I forget these two important bits of information? (The San Francisco one-day-of-summer-weather must have distracted me.)

1. I found a queen cup at the bottom of a frame in the second brood box. In the worst case, these can become swarm cells (cells prepared by the workers to grow a new queen). Since there was no egg in it–and the colony has a good amount of extra room–I’m hoping it’s just some creative wax building on the part of the workers. Some folks call this type of queen cup “part of the normal hive furniture.” Sounds good to me. [Update from my beekeeper mentor: “Queen cups are normal, but I knock them down so I can tell whether they’re new. If they have royal jelly in them (hence larvae), it indicates time for action.”]

2. I remembered last night that I’d added the honey super to the top of the stack (after swapping out three frames of honey from the super below it). I’m pretty sure each new super is supposed to be placed under the one currently on top. Oops. [Mentor update #2: “New supers with foundation should be put just above the brood chamber, because it is the nurse bees (age 7-9 days) who produce the wax chips. If you use an excluder, you could move a few frames of brood above the excluder to get the bees interested in going up there. The more finished honey always goes at the top.”]

[I see a quick hive opening in my immediate future.]

Guardian of the Bees

June 12, 2010 Leave a comment

It’s been unusually warm the last few days–and the bees have been very busy. The third box is mostly drawn out, with lots of honey and a little bit of pollen already in place. I added the fourth box–which will be  either our second or, most likely, first honey super. No queen sighting this time, but everyone else looks great.

I don’t know if it’s the promise of honey or a sense of animal kinship, but one of our dogs has taken to spending hours staring out the window at our hive. Maybe he’s guarding the colony.

Or maybe not:

Gave bees a 1:4 sugar water bottle, since they’re still building comb.

Busy Bees

June 5, 2010 5 comments

And busy beekeeper. The gap between the boxes had become so wide that the bees were using their new side “entrance” more than the front opening. I was worried about marauding bands of robber bees taking advantage of this difficult-to-guard arrangement, so I moved all 24 frames (brood, pollen, honey, and many bees) to new boxes. I noticed that the foundation in the top box hadn’t been drawn out at all…

Two days later, as if to show me who was really boss, the bees started acting out. They gathered into a small, dense cloud outside the hive entrance. Hundreds of them started lounging around on their front porch, buzzing suspiciously. Even towards the end of the day, when they’re typically safely tucked in, there was an unusual amount of activity:

There was nothing to do but call my favorite beekeeper from the S.F. Beekeepers Association for a consult. He graciously agreed to come by today for a hive visit–and spent 2 1/2 hours with me and the colony. We rotated the first and second boxes (to give Latifah more room to lay eggs) and moved the top box’s undrawn outer frames to the inside (to encourage the bees to draw them out fully). These changes eliminated what turned out to be a crowding problem. Whew. The bees are behaving normally once more. I can sleep tonight. Thank you, beekeeping mentor!