Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Inspector Gadget!

     I say inspector (Gadget) because I really had to inspect the hive today. I didn't want to actually. It's about a million degrees here (OK, slight exaggeration, but just SLIGHT!) fires are burning all over and the whole city smells like a campfire. Ironically I'm still waiting on my smoker... I had a conversation with a fellow bee keeper and he suggested I look for day old larvae so I had to do it. I put on jeans, with socks up over my jeans, my hiking boots, a sweatshirt and gloves with bands around the end of the sleeves. I was going in! Oh, also my veil. I thought about putting a bit of tinder in a can for smoke, but opted for a bottle of sugar water, my luck I'd burn down the hive. and given the fires in our state I'll just wait for the smoker!
The wasp was in trouble, these bees covered it.
Likely killing it with body heat
I also decided to pull the front feeder, which turned out to be of a good decision today because there were a ton of yellow jackets trying to rob the hive today! I think my girls put up a good defense though, as you can see from some of the pics I took. I also noticed that I have a good number of ants, so I will be doing something about that too. Likely I will go with some vaseline or grease on the base. More on that at a later date.
These dang things are in the water dish too! 
     So after suiting up like I was going skiing, I gathered my tools, hive tool, frame grabber thinggie, (hey it's technical), spray bottle of sugar water, empty med super, inner top, and feed. I have to tell you with the stings I've taken lately, and how really cranky the bees have been I really didn't want to inspect today! Also I have been doing morning or evening inspections, because of the heat, but since everyone has told me that daytime is best when the foragers are out I sucked it up and went to do the inspection. Feeling like I was on the surface of the sun because it was so hot, I figured I'd get this done!
Another wasp that fled ASAP 

I used my hive tool to pry off the inner lid, which of course has been stuck to the hive with propolis. I gave the girls a little spritz of sugar water. The top super is only about 1/4 drawn out. It looks like they started in the middle and are going on from there. I removed one of the outer frames and checked the rest of the frames quickly. They are looking good. At that point I had to pry the top box off the bottom brood box, due to again, the bee glue. I gently set the top box onto the blocks behind me and began the inspection and search for larvae. I had to spritz a few more times because they were riled up (duh, I'm in their house! MAKE MY DAY LAW with a stinger!). Once I had the first frame out I was able to move around in the box and check for brood. This box is full, completely drawn out, there are no blank spots at all on the frames, which I take to be good. The outer frames were mostly capped, it wasn't until I got to the inner frames I found day old larvae. Which I had trouble locating at first, because even though I've looked at a million images via books or google, I wasn't sure what I was looking for!
One of the top super frames
     Let's not forget I'm brand new at this! I located several rows of what looked like tiny maggots, but rolled up in a C at the bottom of cells. I think I also had trouble locating them because my eyeballs were not co-operating in the sunlight through the veil. It's a learning curve! Once I found those I breathed a sigh or relief! My queen is working and laying. :) that makes me happy! I didn't doubt that she was since it's evident to me that the hive is thriving actually, but still, I needed to be sure. I'm confident that even though I didn't see the queen, again, the sun & veil it's hard to see.... I'm sure she's there. I'm also always super careful not to smash the frames when I'm in the hive, don't want to damage the queen! So even though I found those larvae I went ahead and pulled out the rest of the frames one at a time and checked them. I found other fresh larvae as well on a couple other frames. I did see some strange looking cells, which I am not sure what they were, not queen cells since they were in the middle of the frame, and not as big as a peanut, just sort of bulgy. I'll try to research those.... I wish I could have taken a picture but my hands were occupied and I wasn't letting my son too close this go round. My GoPro is on loan, but next time I inspect I am wearing it on the headband I think.
The new look of the hive.
Note, no strap yet! 
the front feeder now on top bees still in there
Top is vented this is a view from the back

bees on a plant in the garden post sugar spray
      I was pleasantly surprised that not being as fearful of the stings due to the precautions, I quite enjoyed checking out the bees today! I got the hive back together utilizing a few more spritzes of the sugar water here and again. Once it was all together, I put the med super on top and put a jar with holes for food on top of the inner cover. I need to get a real top feeder but this will work totally fine until I give Greg a call about it this week. (I buy all my supplies that are hand made right here in Denver from Greg at Dakota bees I put the second inner cover on the feeder and then vented the hive as I added the telescopic cover. I'm a bit concerned that I my strap is at capacity and I need to add a second one. If you have read my blog before, you know I'm kinda a ditz about these and my husband and to help me on it before. I am hoping that the top feeder will be a better fit for my hive and that it will cut down on the wasps and robbers. And even though I've lost 10 lbs sweating to death in my sweatshirt in 100 degree weather, it was worth it! And, I might add that I will likely buy a bee suit, cause dang it all, it was much more enjoyable to work the bees without worrying about being stung and the days of itching and swelling that comes along with them. I'm not so naive as to think I'll never get stung again, but let's face it, no smoke, no suit wasn't working.  
    I was becoming afraid and that is no good! The smoker should be here today along with my new vented gloves and I'm going to ask my hubby for a suit for my birthday, Ha! A BIRTHDAY SUIT! perfect! I can work my bees in my birthday suit! Spectacular! I'll keep you posted on the top feeder and ant situation!

Monday, June 25, 2012

I'm no expert, so I asked for directions

So just what I said! I am at a loss. After my last post I was stung two more times, once right in the face! Luckily I the reaction wasn't as bad as my leg. I have one sting on my arm right now that is very itchy! It's been really really hot here, and my bees have been very aggressive. I am just too new at this to know what to do, I'm still feeding them, as they are still taking the food. I don't know the level of flow right now here, I have a huge garden and berry bushes, all blooming, but pollen is not nectar! I just don't know! I'm way too green! I belong to a couple of bee keeping boards, one of which is I put out a call for some info. I got a lot! Whew! I also put in a call to Tim, who I got my bees from, as I know if anyone knows, he will know about MY bees. He gave me some great advice! So, things are gonna change around here with the bees.
Here's what I learned today.
1) They could be more aggressive because the queen is dead. (I don't think this is the case, but need to do a full inspection to check for day old larvae)
2) They could be agitated because of predators, again, don't think so because I have 3 cats in the back yard, who keep out visitors, I have also seen no evidence of anything messing with the hive, even though I have vented it.
3) I NEED TO SMOKE MY BEES! I didn't want to, but let's face it, the a'natural way isn't really working out
4) Smoking the bees won't hurt them
5) I need a top feeder, the front feeder is too hard to deal with and they keep "glueing" it to the hive with propolis
6) I need to work my bees during the day, during the heat of the day when most of them are out foraging
7) being a little afraid is HEALTHY!
8) I will likely wear more protection, ie, pants when I work the hive
9) my hive has doubled (at least!) in size and it was easier to work when it was half the size, so I was more "confident" now, I need to learn more!
10) I probably should join a bee club, although I'm not that social....

So that's what I learned today. I need to do an inspection, but before I do I ordered a smoker and some new vented gloves. Likely I will also get a new white jacket for working the hive, as my white one now is just worn out and the zipper is shot, I've been wearing my light green one, but I am not sure the bees love the bright colors. It's a learning process!
After I inspect the hive I will give Tim a call back and discuss some findings with him, I shall report back.
I have to admit, I feel somewhat defeated that I couldn't do it all by myself, but I realize that I am learning and everyone needs help! I want to do right by my bees and make sure that my hive thrives, so I won't be afraid to ask for help! In the meantime, here is a picture of my hive last night, it's clear my bees are HOT this is an example of bearding. They were dripping out of the hive. Actually, pretty cool.

I'll keep ya posted!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

That stings!

     As a new bee keeper one of the things you worry about is getting stung of course. I've been stung a total of 6 times since I've had my hive, and one of them was simply because I sat on a bee while going out to watch my hive. I normally just sit on a little bench out there by the hive and watch. I call it getting lost in the bees. It's very soothing and meditative. Since that time however, I've been more careful to look before I plant my butt...even though it was my upper leg that got stung!

     A special consideration in our house is that my husband thought he was allergic to bees, or he used to be, he hasn't been stung in a long time. He used to carry an Epi-pen because he was so alergic. Of course prior to getting a hive, I read everything book under the sun, and every one says the same thing. NOT JUST THE BEEKEEPER WILL GET STUNG! We discussed and decided it was a risk we could take, with some precautions. He stays away from the hive for one, and for another we have an epi-pen. We've had the hive for about a month and a half almost two now, and until last night I was the only one who's been stung.

     Normally, when I get stung it's like a mosquito bite on crack. I'm not gonna lie and say it feels like a massage, but it's not so painful I can't stand it either. I was stung the last time I did an inspection about a week ago. I don't know if I got an especially toxic (to me) bee or what! It took me a bit longer to remove the stinger since I had on a hoodie that covered my glove tops, so I had to whip off a glove and remove the stinger, which I did. It was less than a minute, not too shabby. I also washed it and put some baking soda on the site, it didn't hurt more than normal, so I went about my business. Shortly after I was done with the hive I felt like my leg was on fire and noticed I was swelled up around the sting site about the size of a half dollar. Not too unusual.
it's a little hard to see how bad it was swollen 
The next day I was swelled the size of my palm and MAN O MAN did I itch! It kept swelling for another day, finally ending up the size of my palm around and a good half inch above my skin! Oy! The picture here is my sting the second day. On the 3rd day it was pretty much the same, even though I'd taken some Benadryl. On the 4th day it went down, but still itched, although not as bad. It's still itching today, although not as much.

     Jump to last night. It's been super hot here in CO, record breaking days of heat for Denver. We live in a modest home, with no air, so it's a fan in the window! Our bedroom faces the back of the house, were the hive is. We were laying in bed watching television before we zonked out, and out of the blue my husband jumped out of bed like he's been stung... which as it turns out he had been! At first I was convinced it was a wasp, because the stinger didn't look like a bee at all! Forgive the graphic nature here, but there were no entrails, only a hard spiky singer. However, we couldn't find a bee, a wasp etc.. in the room, only then did I find half a bee on my side of the room, on the floor. It didn't look like a bee who'd just stung, it looked like a bee that had been cut in half, but was still alive. My husband, was stung on the foot, near the ankle. He didn't seem to have any issues, no breathing problems, no swelling, nothing. As a precaution we gave him a dose of benadryl but all it did was make him sleepy. I'm relieved that he didn't have a reaction! I'm not wholly convinced it was a bee sting.
Geddy Images, off the web I didn't take this! 

Since I've been keeping the bees I've been asked a dozen times, aren't you afraid of being stung? YES! it hurts! I doesn't feel terrific, and the last time sort of freaked me out with the swelling. I am a bit worried that perhaps I have developed an allergy myself. This is one reason I'm not working the hive again until someone is home with me.  I was more afraid of my husband being stung and thankfully he is fine, but if you are following along and maybe thinking of keeping bees, I thought perhaps I'd answer the question of what a sting feels like, what it looks like etc... I hope you find this helpful!

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Just a look at the hive today.

Do a little song, do a little dance get down tonight! A look at my hive today from the "bee's eye view"
(yes, Daddy got a new toy a GoPro, so we will have some fun vids!)
Enjoy! Happy Father's day!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

What's all the buzz?

     Whew, so it's been fairly hot here in Colorful Colorado! I've seem some bearding on my hive, not extensive but enough that I can recognize this behavior from my reading. I like to sit to the side of my hive on a little rolling bench I have installed there to watch the bees daily. I think it's one of the most relaxing activities I've ever found in my life. I have mentioned before that I like to watch them fly in with yellow or white pollen sometimes they just sit on the edge of the entrance and just flap their wings for all they are worth, it makes a really relaxing sound! The quiet buzz that emanates from the hive while I sit and watch is very soothing. It's made about 10X better because my cats seem to have no fear of the hive, they just cozy up to me while I'm watching and curl up and purr, so it's a double dip in the relaxation bucket!

     Tonight, it's a bit cooler, but still fairly warm. I have been putting off opening the hive since I replaced the second super, I had taken it back off after I felt I was a little premature in putting it on the first time. It's been on about 7 days now again. I had been putting off opening the hive a bit because really, bees do what bees do, so who am I to open up the hive and disrupt their work? However, the past few times I've fed them I've had to wiggle the feeder off the front of the hive because it's been "glued' to the hive with propolis. I was a little concerned about what I'd find when I opened the hive! I wasn't disappointed! Boy, those girls have been working their stingers off! Well, at least one of them did because I did get a sting tonight. I guess all things considered not too bad. The brood box on the bottom is FULL and I don't mean like halfway, it's doggone stuffed with bees! The comb is totally drawn out, a TON of capped cells, lots of larvae, and bees! Just check out these pics! The two boxes were glued together and a lot of comb between them. I cleaned it up, much to the chagrin of the bees. They seemed to get a little riled up, and I'd step back. As usual for me, I didn't use smoke and I didn't use sugar spray. I just had on my normal shorts, hoodie, gloves, veil and just my garden shoes. I got one sting on my upper leg, right were I stood up against the brood box. I have noticed my bees being a bit more aggressive the past few days, I think it is the heat.

     Once I had the bottom brood box checked and cleaned up, I went for the top box. I checked the frames inside, there are just a few frames with comb starting, it's clearly just in it's start phase, which maybe why my bees are eating an entire jar of food per day of 1:1 ratio sugar syrup. I feel like I'm just going through it like wildfire! I have to take a trip to Sam's tomorrow to buy a second 25 bag of sugar. I may just pick up two so I won't have to make another trip anytime soon. As I mentioned I have noticed my bees being a bit aggressive. I put this down to hot days, which is why I choose to work my hive in the evening, when it's getting cool for the night. They were not too aggressive tonight. I am happy with the fact that I cleaned up the hive

Christopher, my son, the honey hound. Robbing the bees way too soon! 
 *don't be concerned, it's just a burr comb!


Sunday, June 10, 2012

Inspection time!

It's been a week or so, and it's time to open the hive & see what the girls are up to. It's been pretty hot here and we've had some wicked hail along the way as well. My hive has some hail damage on the telescopic cover, as it's got a tin cover. Bees did fine, but the hive did get some dents and dings on the top. (see pic)
The wood wasn't damaged on the hive itself and the bees are fine!

It was was time to check out the inside of the hive, on my weekly inspection. My Husband and youngest son were on-hand as I did the inspection.

I have opted to wear shorts for my dealings with the open hive since it's less likely I'm going to get stung, it seems the couple times I have on my legs it's been because I've had a crawling bee up my jeans. I could probably tuck my jeans into my boots but it's been quite hot, and it's just easier to wear shorts.

I have been wearing a hoodie, my veil and gloves for inspections, for routine maintenance stuff, like feeding I don't do that.

So, after pulling one of the frames to make room, I set the removed frame off to the side on top of a box so that it wouldn't touch the ground. The frame I pulled first was almost all drawn out with comb, I could see the larvae, the capped cells and LOTS of bees! I scooted it over after I used my bee brush to sweep some of the bees out of the way. For the record, this should be done gently and slowly, I think I got a bit overzealous in my first sweep, as that buzzzzzzz was not a happy one! So, I took a step back to let them settle down. I've mentioned this before, but I don't use smoke. I have a spray bottle of sugar water but I've yet to actually use it. I just take a break whenever they seem to be agitated or in a frenzy.

Each of the frames I pulled were not only heavy, but also had full capped cells. I saw larvae, and even some cells that had bees coming out of them. I'm not sure if they were coming in and out of the cells because they were feeding larvae or what. Not really sure, heck, they could have been being "born" so, interesting. I did see my queen an inner frame, she has a yellow dot on her, and she looked different from the other bees with her elongated belly.

The day I did the inspection it was overcast and looking ready to storm, so, I did a little bit of clean up with my hive tool, I scrapped the hive the bees had built that was on the inner cover, I moved the frames a bit to make sure they weren't glued down with proplolis, did a visual inspection of all frames. At this time, I also noticed that even though I'd added the second super, I had been a bit premature, no comb had been drawn and the brood box was only about 3/4 full on it's frames. I opted to remove the second super. It had some comb on it, but not much, and only at the bottom of the frames where it looked like the bees had drawn up from the frames below.

I put the inner top and the outter top on the hive. I put the extra super away again.
My bees seem to be eating at a break neck rate, I'm replacing the 1:1 ratio pint of syrup once a day.

I have also been watching the bees do this cool little dance, where they sit on the end of the entrace to the hive, and wiggle their behinds and flap their wings like mad, but never leave. I'm not sure what they are doing, but it's neat to watch.

I also have seen that on the days when we are have been close to 100 degrees that they are bearding, not the whole hive, but a good part. Haven't had  chance to catch that on pics yet.

I will be doing an inspection again this week or maybe a the start of next week.