Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Hey dude? wanna smoke?

     Sorry it's been a few days, it's been a madhouse!  I last left you all hanging off a cliff dying to know if I was going to be beekeeping in my Birthday suit or not. As it turns out YES! I did get a "bee suit" for my Bday. I got the $ for one, but my husband and a bunch of research led me to a Tyvex painter suit first. I already have a couple of veils, but I got a smoker and new vented gloves. I'll say right up front, this suit is NOT chill.... It has been unmercifully hot across the mid-west area including Denver, which is where I am.
hey hey Macarena! 
     So here's what's new.... I was getting robbed something fierce from the wasps & ants. The wasps were a real problem, they are still everywhere in the yard, especially close to the hive and the water, but not ON the hive now that I moved the feeder. So it's been like 2.5 weeks since my last blog, so there's a lot to tell. First and foremost I did make a top feeder, which I simply did by using two craft sticks and taking the jar off my front feeder putting the sticks above the hole on the inner cover, then inverting the jar on the top, since it was a big enough hole I did two jars & then put a med super on top of the cover and put a second inner cover and the outer lid on. Worked like a charm. The bees seemed a bit confused as to where the feeder was at first but I suspect when the drips of feed found their way down, they were off to the races.

     Shortly after I moved their feeder I noticed the wasps really weren't as aggressive on the hive, but were simply buzzing around it here and there, and drinking the bee water, can't really fault them for wanting a drink, it's been HOT!
hey dude, wanna smoke?
     Finally on the 3rd I got my smoker, we were to have a big party on the 4th, so that morning, before it got terribly hot I got my suit, smoker and tools all ready for my inspection. I had to check on my brood. I was getting a lot stressed about it. The last time I inspected my hive I was about 1/2-3/4 drawn out on the second deep super. I've had several exchanges with some other beekeepers (beeks, as they call themselves) both online, on the phone and in person. I knew I was getting close to A) adding a honey super and B) pulling the feeder.
     I decided that the morning of the 4th sounded like a glorious time to do my inspection. Especially since I will be having foot surgery in less than a week and I really want to do one more inspection before the hive sits to it's own devices for at least 2 weeks, I know it will be OK, I just need to not freak out about it! Bees will do what bees will do.... they've been around a lot longer than I have.

you can see the larvae, they look like maggots at the bottom of the cells

     Back to the inspection.... I got all dolled up in my new outfit, man, times have changed from the days of high heels and mini-skirts. Now, I think my bee suit is all dolled up! haha. I'm indeed a "BEEK". I also had never used the smoker before, which incidentally didn't come with instructions nor anything to put in it. I used some cardboard all torn up and a few pieces of wood slivers out of a bag we use for BBQ (Mesquite bees). I was able to get the feeder off, it was empty. I set the med super off to the side, along with the tops and the (feeder) jars.  I worked quickly, trying not to invite more robber wasps. I did a full inspection on the top box, it turns out it's 100% drawn out. I got the first frame out and then slid the others out one at a time. I was shocked to see that there was a TON of brood in there! I'm talking 2 of the frames had nice big patches of day old larvae. I was not expecting to see that much! But lo and behold, my queen is a layin' machine! I cleaned up the burr comb and some of the glue that was all over holding frames in. Lots of capped cells. Even a couple that looked oddly shaped, again, not the actual "peanut" shaped queen cells that you would find at the bottom of the frame, these were more like just the size of a pencil eraser in the middle of the frame, I have no clue what it is. I did note they were a bit darker than the rest of the wax and it just now occurred to me that it might be propolis, perhaps it's the body of a wasp or beetle they glued in? I don't really know. I was still working with purpose, trying to finish up my inspection. I mention that because when I work the bees I work at a steady clip but try not to make crazy fast movements, they don't like that. Just then, as I'm thinking this, the grip I had on the frame I was holding, full of bees.... gave! I dropped the frame! HOLY COW BATMAN! about a million bees (pissed off ones too!) came flying at me! Wow, they DID NOT like being dropped. Lucky for me I had the smoker, oh... FOOEY! It went out! OK, second line of defense.. I had on my bee suit, veil and gloves. Thank God. I surely would have taken a boatload of stings that day! The experiment of the tyvex suit certainly was a success, a few girls tried to sting but they didn't make it through the tough suit. These are available from the paint department of Lowes or Home Depot for about $10 or online in more bulk for around $8. I honestly think that the one will last me a good long while. When I am done I hang it up in the garage, so I can foresee this being a way to go on the cheap. I finished up checking the bottom brood box, and again found that my queen has been earning her keep! LOTS of day old brood. I was very happy to see that. My only question is should I get a queen excluder for the top boxes? I've read the pros and cons of these.... I am up in the air. I do know I will be buying one for a little side project I plan but that's only because I don't want brood in my honey jars (more on that later...cliff hanger!)

about 2 seconds before I dropped it! 
     So I shut up the hive after I got it all cleaned up, removed spare comb hangin' around, dealt with the excessive propolis and did my general hive maintenance. Over-all I'm pretty thrilled that I have 2 full boxes! So, I went ahead and added a 3rd medium super. I also finished up the feed I had left that was already made up which only was 1 jar, and have decided that they are good to go on their own for foraging. Given the info I've gotten from other beekeepers when 2 supers are drawn out that's good, they can sustain until winter, and they should be starting to fill "MY" supers with honey soon!

As an aside, we got some chickens and I will likely start a blog about those little chicks, cause they are funny! Most of my friends who know me as this very professional entrepreneurial and kind of girlie girl for the past 20 yrs are vastly amused that I've become Green Acres in the middle of the city! All I lack are a pig, an alpaca and a goat... I would get one but my husband might have a cow.... hey... I think I'm onto something there....

I did notice some VERY irregular behavior in my bees yesterday, so I've taken a precaution of adding a hive with some "queen pheromone" close to my hive. My son and I were outside weeding, and I have left the weeds by the hive intact. OK, so come on here, they are practically trees (ok, maybe not really) but certainly too big! So I carefully weeded the front of the hive area. About 5 minutes later the bees went totally berserk, it really did look like a huge swarm (see video). The bees were so agitated flying in all directions in vast numbers! I've never seen a thing like it, and mind you I dropped a frame of bees on the ground the other day! Certainly that was a ruckus! At any rate, I will be getting back into the hive today to take off the feeder and do a cursory check. After yesterday's crazy activity I just feel like I need to take a peek. I'll let you know how it goes. In the meantime, here are some pics of the hive and also the larvae. I also will edit the video and add it to the blog in the next day or so.