Sunday, July 24, 2011

Garden Bees

I got the camera back yesterday after missing it for a few weeks. I had to go out this morning and find some bees in the garden that would pose for some pictures.

This first photo is one of the bees pollinating our yellow squash.

This next photo shows a bee collecting nectar from one of the many clover blossoms in our lawn.

This next set contains photos of the hollyhocks. They are a good source of pollen- they produce a ton of it. But I think the bees use them as a nectar source as well.

These last two are photos of a bee as it was pollinating our cantaloupe vines.

The cucumbers do have blossoms but I could not find any bees on them this morning. We also have some sunflowers at one end of the garden. I am sure we will have some pictures of them later on this summer.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Progress Is Slow

I peeked in on the bees today. They are making little progress in the honey supers. I guess there probably is not a real strong nectar flow going on right now. The alfalfa flow was pretty intense at first but as the summer goes on it becomes less and less intense even though it continues to bloom. As the hay alfalfa grows after it is cut and blooms again we should get another strong flow for about a week or so. I understand that spotted knapweed is blooming right now in other parts of the country. Do we even have spotted knapweed here in Wyoming? And if so, do we have enough around Lovell to even make a difference?

Anyway, I checked them out last week and found that Virginia still had no eggs. I could have moved a frame of eggs from Georgia over to Virginia and let them raise a new queen, but that would have taken extra time to raise her, wait for her to mate, and then wait for her to get into a good laying routine. I decided to order a Russian hybrid queen from The Walter T Kelley Company. They could not ship her this week due to the high heat in the Midwest- nobody wants a cooked queen to arrive in the mail. She will be shipped early next week. The queen plus shipping and handling cost about $30- now that's an expensive bug! It does seem like a lot if you think of her as just a bug, but it seems pretty reasonable to me considering all you get out of her.

I decided to go with a Russian hybrid for a few of reasons. I have heard that they are hard workers and don't mind chilly rainy weather. I have read comments from other beekeepers in the Beesource forums that Russians will get out and start working before the sun is all the way up and even when it is chilly and rainy. They have said that when their other bees are tucked away inside the hives the Russian are out working. Another reason is that Russians apparently build up more slowly in the spring. That might not be good for southern beekeepers who need big numbers for strong nectar flows in March, but I am hoping that it will translate into fewer bees and thus less swarming before the big nectar flow starts in June. I have also read that they are a very hardy breed and over-winter better than other breeds and that they are more naturally resistant to mites, nosema, and other pests. These last reasons are not as critical to me as I have not seen a single varroa mite or any other pest in the three years I have had my bees, they have not had any problem over-wintering, and so far nosema has not been bad enough to cause any lasting effect on either hive.

I mentioned in my last post that Georgia had filled the queen excluder in with wax and had effectively sealed the workers out of the supers. I had cleaned out the excluder and placed it back on the hive. Last week they were in the process of sealing it off again, so I removed it completely. Today I was a little worried that the queen might have moved up and laid eggs in the honey supers. Both of the supers were full of bees but there were no eggs or brood up there. That is good. Last year I removed the excluder and ended up with brood in the supers and then had a heck of a time getting the queen back down in the deep hive bodies.

So there we are- Virginia is still queenless with four supers. The bees are making slow progress filling them up with honey. Her Russian hybrid queen should arrive sometime next week. Georgia is queen-right and is also making slow progress in the two supers on top of her hive.

Some good news- Chris and the kids are coming home today! I have not seen them for 2 weeks. It will be so nice to have everybody home again. They are also bringing the camera back with them so next post there should be some pictures to accompany all this text.

Friday, July 15, 2011


Wow, I haven't said anything about the bees in quite a while. I had to go back and reread my previous post to remember what has been going on.

First I had better apologize for not including any pictures. Chris and the kids have left me home alone for a couple of weeks and took the camera with them. You will have to try to see it all in you mind's eye.

Let's see... When I last posted about a month ago I was checking on the bees a while after Georgia swarmed. We were waiting for Georgia's new queen to start laying eggs. While she did not have any eggs there were still a lot of bees. I had put a honey super on each hive and found that Virginia was storing some nectar up there but Georgia had not stored any.

The alfalfa and Russian olive bloom started on about June 20th. White dutch clover that shows up in so many yards started blooming shortly before. I had put a second super on each hive in anticipation of this big nectar flow and hoped that the bees would fill them up. At the end of June we left town for a while. (I came back after ten days but Chris and the kids are still gone.) Before we left I decided to throw on a third super just to make sure they would have room- I was feeling pretty optimistic. I also checked the brood boxes and found that Virginia now had no eggs (she may have swarmed) and Georgia now had a laying queen.

I arrived back home and found that Virginia had filled all 3 supers 75-90% with nectar! I was very excited and quickly threw on a fourth super. Virginia still had no eggs, however. If she did swarm earlier it might have been too early for her new queen to start laying. I will have time in a few days to check on her again. If I still don't find any eggs I will be ordering a new queen from a supplier. I think I would like to try a Russian queen this time if I can.

After seeing how much nectar Virginia had collected I was excited to look into Georgia. Much to my disappointment Georgia's supers were completely empty. As I removed the last super I discovered that the queen excluder was almost completely clogged with wax and propolis. The bees had effectively sealed off the honey supers- they couldn't have stored nectar there if they had wanted to. I also found that they were back filling the broodnest with honey. There were still eggs and uncapped brood, but there wasn't much room for the queen to lay. I removed the excluder, cleaned it out (placing the excluder on several layers of newspaper and then going after it with a hairdryer is a pretty quick way to clean it out), and put it back in the hive. Maybe I should have kept it out- I guess we will find out in a few days. I am hoping the bees will move all that nectar/honey in the broodnest up into the super and give the queen a little more room to lay.

I removed two of the empty supers from Georgia and will put them back on as they are needed. The two hives are not looking very symmetrical right now as one hive is standing tall with four supers and the other is stunted with just one.

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