Sunday, August 26, 2012
Thursday, August 23, 2012
We had a very mild winter, and spring started early this year. The alfalfa, which is our main nectar source, blossomed a full three weeks early, but the majority of the fields within a couple miles of our house did not get cut any earlier than they usually do. This gave the bees a huge extended nectar flow. In fact, I ended up putting four supers on both Ida and Georgia and ran out of supers by the end of June. I extracted two supers full and got 70 lbs (about 6 gallons) so I would have some supers to put back on the hives.
That is when things got really busy, and I rarely got back out to check the bees. But about three weeks ago I did get out and quickly checked Svetlana, that is the new hive from the package of Russian hybrids I installed in April. She had had one super on her for quite some time and had hardly touched it. All the frames were still empty. I decided that, when I had time, I would take the honey from her deep hive bodies and let her die out over the winter. I would then be able to split one of the other hives next spring and put them in Svetlana's hive. However, this last weekend I went out to pull her deep frames and found that she had almost completely filled in the entire super. I decided to leave her alone and let the bees continue with their work. I guess when they decided to get after it they really got after it.
Since we are getting close to the end of August I went out today to check the supers and get an idea of how much honey we might get and to decide how long to wait before we harvest. It was amazing how gentle the bees were- I went through all nine supers with no smoke, and they did not get upset at all. Here is a picture of one of the frames out of Ida. This is what I like to see- a nice fat frame of honey all capped and ready for extraction.
Wow- nine supers! That could mean up to twenty-seven gallons of honey this fall plus the two we extracted in June. This has definitely been a bumper year. Our biggest year until now has been just seventeen gallons. A new record for the Robertson bees!
If you have ever wondered what happens to a hive when the beekeeper doesn't stay on top of things and keep the burr comb cleaned out you can just look here.
After prying the supers apart and exposing all the honey that had been stored between the frames, some of the bees come out for a little snack.
Posted by Robertson Family at 6:38 PM
Monday, June 11, 2012
As I checked the hives today I found that both Ida and Georgia have some nectar on their second super. There is not a lot, just a little in a few frames. In their first supers they both have at least some nectar in every frame. Here is s picture of the nectar they are collecting.
Ida is ahead of Georgia in both nectar collection and population. Ida has three or four frames in her super that are almost completely full of nectar. I expect to see some capped honey next week.
Svetlana is slowly progressing. I have been feeding her sugar syrup to help her draw comb on the frames in her two deep hive bodies. I thought she would be all filled out and ready for her first honey super today, but she still has a couple of frames to draw before that can happen. I will make her more sugar syrup today. I think that by next week she should be ready to go, and we will have honey on its way from all three hives.
Posted by Robertson Family at 2:44 PM
Tuesday, June 5, 2012
Our little apiary consists of three hives: Georgia, Ida, and Svetlana. Svetlana is the new hive of Russian hybrids we set up from a package this spring. Georgia is one of our original hives we installed back in 2009- boy does time fly! Ida was created when we split Georgia earlier this spring and moved half of Georgia's bees (with the queen) into Virginia's old digs. Virginia died out after going queenless and developing laying workers late last summer. Are you with me so far?
The Italian mutt queen that was in Georgia got moved over to Ida during the split. She has continued to lay eggs and has kept that hive good and healthy. As Georgia was then queenless, we ordered a new queen from the Walter T Kelley beekeeping supply company. We ended up getting a Carniolan queen who had been bred with Minnesota Hygienic drones. Minnesota Hygienic bees are Italian's that have been selected for increased hygienic behavior- they keep the hive cleaner and are thus more "resistant" to mites and other diseases. Georgia's bee seemed to accept her very well and a week later I found some eggs in the hive- not a lot, but some. I figured we were on our way to a good year.
The next week I checked on her again but found no eggs at all. I was discouraged. I removed a frame of very young larva from Ida and put them in Georgia so they could make their own queen. I went back again a week after that to make sure they were making supercedure cells for a new queen but found none. Instead, I found... eggs! It has been a roller coaster.
It has now been a couple of weeks and I thought I better check the hives again. I wanted to check everyone for swarm cells and I also just wanted to make sure that everyone was queen right. Ida and Svetlana are doing great queen-wise, but I was still a little worried about Georgia. As I started going through her hive I only saw empty frames and some honey. On the fourth frame I pulled I found a bunch of brood- capped and uncapped, but I wanted to see eggs. On the fifth frame I also found brood but no eggs- but right there on to of the frame was the big plump queen. Can you spot her in these first two photos?
It does feel good to be queen right in all three hives!!
Posted by Robertson Family at 11:47 AM
Sunday, June 3, 2012
I wonder if they were just coming home for the evening all at the same time or if they sensed that the rain was about to fall and that caused them all to return at once. I would have liked to have somehow gotten a picture but I really don't think a camera would have been able to pick it all up.
Posted by Robertson Family at 1:24 PM
Friday, May 11, 2012
First, the pear tree blossomed.
These next two photos are pictures of bees on our pear blossoms.
The dandelion bloom has been in high gear for about a week now.
Posted by Robertson Family at 9:54 AM
Thursday, May 10, 2012
This first photo is Svetlana in her package.
Here we are out at the hive. I am removing the feeder can. The other gentleman in the bee suit is my son. He is 14 years old and is taking more interest in working with the bees.
Here I am dumping the bees on top of the frames in the hive.
Here in this photo the bees are spreading out and finding their way down into the frames.
Here is a closer photo of the bees.
I couldn't get all the bees out of the package so I left it open by the base of the hive.
Here, my son is pouring the sugar syrup into the top feeder.
Here the bees are finding their way up into the feeder.
These next three photos show the progress they have been making drawing comb on the frames.
This is what our little apiary looks like now. From left to right we have Ida, Georgia, and Svetlana.
Posted by Robertson Family at 9:24 AM
Friday, March 23, 2012
Georgia is getting very full of bees- I think it would be a good idea to split her soon. The problem is that I have only seen two drones around the hive so far this spring. Without a sufficient supply of drones any new queen that is made after the split will not be able to mate well, and that will not make for a healthy hive. I do hope drone production starts up soon.
Here is a picture of the pussy willow. It was very full of bees- you could here the hum from quite a distance.
Here are more photos of bees in the willow.
Monday, March 12, 2012
last year's pussy willow bloom date and found it on April 11th. It looks like this year we are about 2 weeks ahead of last year. This means that the big alfalfa bloom which has occurred on about June 20th for the last two years will happen closer to the first part of June- I can hardly wait!
I also noticed this past weekend that the bees are bringing in what looks like pollen. I don't see anything green or blooming so who knows where this is coming from. As you can see in the following photos the pollen baskets are small, but they are definitely there.
I read a blog today, which is kept by an experienced beekeeper in Minnesota, stating that what beekeepers think is pollen coming in lately is actually dust from bird feeders and deer feeders. So, are my bees bringing in dust instead of pollen? Maybe. Or maybe there is a tree with catkins in the area that begins producing pollen earlier than other more obvious pollen sources. Hazelnut trees, for example, bloom and pollinate in the middle of winter.
What do my bees have on their legs? The world may never know- but they sure are fun to watch!
Posted by Robertson Family at 8:07 PM
Saturday, March 10, 2012
Tuesday, February 14, 2012
I have been wondering if the bees have started taking advantage of the bee candy or not so yesterday I went out, lifted the cover, and took the following pictures.
It looks like the bee candy tempted them enough to move up! Besides the bees seen here, there were bees busily moving up and down between the frames and a lot at the hive entrance moving dead bees out and taking off on cleansing flights. Georgia is looking good and healthy as we move toward spring. I think a split might be in her future.
Thursday, February 9, 2012
There hasn't been much going on with the beehive this winter. When I last checked in with the blog in the first part of December we were experiencing bitter cold temperatures. Since then, though, we have had a very mild winter with most days getting up above freezing.
It seems like a milder winter would be better for the bees, but that isn't necessarily so. As I have learned from another blog called "What Should I Be Doing With My Bees This Month?", warmer temperatures result in more active bees that require more honey to eat. And if it is warm enough for the queen to start laying, the bees will really consume a lot of honey in an effort to keep all that brood warm. It doesn't take much to draw the conclusion that milder winters could mean more bees starving in February and March if supplemental feed isn't added to the hives. The aforementioned blog is kept by an experienced beekeeper in Minnesota and offers a lot of good tips for beekeeping in northern and colder climates.
As our winter thus far has been fairly mild I have been getting concerned about how much honey might still be left in our beehive. Last week I made a batch of bee candy to put on top of the frames. I used the following recipe:
Add 5 parts sugar to 1 part water. Add 1/4 teaspoon of vinegar for every pound of sugar and bring the whole thing to a boil. Continue to boil until the mixture reaches 234 degrees and then boil for 3 minutes more without stirring. Turn off the heat and allow the mixture to cool while stirring with a whisk. I don't know how far to cool the mixture before pouring it out- I haven't figured that part out yet. (If you are pouring into molds it might not make much difference, but if you are pouring onto a sheet of waxed paper you don't want it to be too hot or it will spread out too thin. That is what happened to me this time.) You can either pour the hot mixture out onto a sheet of waxed paper with a towel underneath or you can pour into a mold such as a cereal bowl or small cake pan that has been lined with waxed paper. Spray the waxed paper with cooking spray to make it easier to remove the candy after it has cooled. A quick google search for "bee candy recipe" will give you a variety of recipes to choose from.
I made it out to the hive this afternoon to put the bee candy on the top of the frames.
There were no bees on the top, but I could look down and see the top of the cluster just about an inch below the tops of the frames. The cluster is covering six frames. In the picture above, the cluster is covering the second frame from the top down to the third frame from the bottom. This seems like big cluster to me, but I don't know how far down into the hive the cluster extends. I could see a little way into the hive and I saw that the outer two frames on either end still have capped honey, but I don't know if that honey continues all the way down to the bottom of the frames or not.
In the following picture you can see the top of the cluster down between the frames.