Went in to check hives again today and opened up the first hive... Here is the results; plenty of bees, very obvious signs of a queen and 20 frames that look just like the one in the picture. If they weren't fully capped like the one in the picture, they were certainly close. We are discussing entering a frame or two into the fair. If we win then we can say that we have award winning honey.
So about the monster swarm... Well i am happy to report that they are doing great! I checked on them today and what a wonderful site to see what the girls do when you mess up and forget to put 3 frames into their respective slots in the hive. Well these good little girls went an pulled down three beautiful combs from the inner cover. It was amazing, beautiful straight, stark white comb. Good girls! I never would have imagined them using the inner cover as a top bar. How funnny, and no, I dont expect to get that lucky ever again. they could have just as easily put in some nice cross comb for me. I was able to carefully cut it off the inner cover and then gently put it into some deep frames that I had on hand. Wired it in and I think that all is now good. they should re attach it to the true top bar and no one will ever know. As sheer luck would have it, as I was getting ready to cut the last piece of comb, I thought to myself... I might want to get the bees off just in case this one has the queen. It had the most bees on it and I thought it sure would be difficult to spot her with the light fading and I really didn't want to kill her. Plus I hadn't sen her on any of the other frames I examined or the two frames that I had already cut off. Well as I picked up the top cover to get ready to brush the bees off guess what... I just happened to glance right at her. Wow, total fluke, but there she was. So I snapped a couple of pictures of her. If you look you can see she is just left of center in the picture at right. So no question now she didn't get killed with the fire extinguisher.
First, the lunch... We are members of the Ozarks Area Beekeepers Association and I am also the club's newsletter editor. Today was the clubs annual spring outing and potluck. We started the day off with a quick trip to Lowes to pickup the kids "Build & Grow" projects. If you have not taken your child, grandchild, niece, nephew to Lowes' "Build & Grow Clinic", it is definitely worth checking out. The kids love it, they get to build something out of wood and it is a great bonding experience as well as confidence builder. They have it every other week and it is well worth the gas to build a free project and see the smile and satisfaction on your child face when they are done.
After Lowes we headed out to the Brooks' farm where the beekeeping lunch was going on. When we arrive everyone was getting ready to eat lunch. So we arrive at the perfect time (in my opinion). :) Yum, the food was delicious, and there was more than enough to go around. If anyone questions the minimal dues paid to join the association, this lunch alone makes it worth every penny, but we also have a Christmas dinner too!!
Now for the bees... Well after gorging ourselves on all the wonderful food, we headed out to Jack's bee yard. There were about 60 people in attendance this year and it was great to see everyone. Lots of good quesitons were asked and there was plenty of help for the new beekeepers. My wife got her first real bee experience. She was the phtographer for the occasion and some of the pictures she took are part of this post. Tracy has become a wonderful photographer and her pictures adorn the web site. About 95% of the pictures you see on the site are hers. It was amazing to see her work the camera around the bees. She was right in the middle of all the action, without a veil or bee suit I might add. Everyone kept commenting on, isn't she afraid of getting stung, or she is going to get stung... Something like that. Well I am proud to say that she didn't not even once, and she was within 2 feet of the hives some of the time.
Lastly, the swarms... Well as luck would have it, this week has been very busy for bee swarm removal. We have had at least three calls for bee swarm removal this week alone. Jeff seems to think that it is due to the pressure changes from incoming storms and I would tend to agree. Just last night we had a storm move in and our bees were bearding heavily on the front of most of the hives. It is amazing almost like they want to watch the storm roll in.
Well we had bee swarm removal calls in Greene county, and another bee swarm removal call in Christian county this week. It has been a great month for beekeeping in general, but we love saving the bees and getting the swarm removal calls is always fun.
Happy Easter! Swarm season is here! We besides the two calls for swarm removal that we have gotten. I checked into one of the double deep hives that came from Dave and found 8 Queen cells. One was ready to hatch and we soon should have a virgin queen in that hive within the next 24~48 hours. I checked the hive very closely for the existing queen and could not locate her. So, I am hoping that I got her with the split that I made of this hive last week and these are all new queens due to the hive being queenless.
It amazes me to look inside a hive and then check back a week later to see how much the landscape has changed. The phrase "busy as a bee" certainly is a true one. I found comb almost completely drawn on foundation that was put in only a week ago. Also, please don'e ever tell me that plastic foundation is better than wax! I put 2 wax foundation frames in and left 2 plastic. Here was the configuration: 1W, 2P, 3C, 4B, 5B, 6B, 7C, 8W, 9P. Where W=wax foundation, P=plastic foundation, C=comb, B=brood. Both the wax foundation frames had comb drawn on them this week (just 1 week later). The plastic were still bare. So, I as if I wasn't already... I am truly a firm believer in wax foundation. I have either culled or planned to cull all plastic foundation from the new hives (sorry Dave).
Another thing that i have become a big fan of is running 9 frames in all boxes. The bees just seem to like this configuration better. Of course you do have to watch it when they don't have drawn comb as they will pull the comb out a bit too far on one side if you have it next to a frame of foundation. I have found this only to be a minor nuisance. Flipping the frames 180, or dropping a frame of comb in next to them seems to do the trick when they do get a bit wild.
OK, so the main reason for the inspection... I was pulling a frame of bees for my daughter's school presentation. Tomorrow, is our family's turn to present at my youngest daughter's home school Co Op. It should be lots of fun and I am so looking forward to hearing her and my wife sing. Basically, every family gets one day out of the school year to tell about themselves and present what they like to do as hobbies, work, etc... So, we will talk about our love of music and then the girls will sing. Then I will show off the bees.
OK, remember those other hives that I mentioned checking... Well today was the day of all beekeeping days. I checked every hive, with the exception of the new swarm and the split. I took what seemed to be forever, but I did it, I went through every frame and documented each one.
Thankfully, the rest of the hives were not in as bad of shape. They were all fairly strong based on stores and brood. The only one that was a bit weaker than the rest was a late season swarm that Dave caught last year. But they were doing fine, I will hit them with some sugar water just to give them a boost.
I split two more hives, it was a matter of convenience, not a necessity. They were both very strong hives and had more than enough brood to pull into a split. However, they did not have queen cells even started. They did have a few queen cups, but definitely not in swarm mode. Since I came across the queen of each hive I went ahead and split them. The first one was one of Dave's old hives, without a doubt the strongest. When he sold it to me he indicated it was a hot hive and that he planned to requeen. Although, the seemed fairly agreeable to me. I guess time will tell... I may have just made a clone of the "hot" hive and will now have two. Oh well, we can always requeen them both later. I will put up with a slightly aggressive hive though if they are a good producer and with a super of honey already on top, they look to be just that. I will see how they recover after stealing their queen, but if all goes well this hive may be the mother load!
The other hive I split was my overwintered Italians. They weren't quite ready two weeks ago, but they were ready to go today. No queen cells, but lots of brood frames. So, I picked out 4 frames of brood and a frame of honey, left them with some fresh eggs and larvae, then stole their queen. Some beekeepers would consider taking the queen a risky move as the parent hive may abscond with the new virgin queen. This is true, however, removing the queen pretty much guarantees that the original colony won't swarm. No queen - no swarm. So, the benefit can outweigh the risk at times. Hopefully, the virgin will go out get mated and then come back to carry on the bloodline and continue to be a great producer.
I am also happy to report that the swarm we caught over the weekend is doing well and all settled in (see the picture above). I pulled out the plastic foundation frames and replaced them with some of those brand new frames that my wife and daughter helped me put together. They will get a feeder in the next few days. But seeing them all settled in and out flying was a great end to a very long tiring day.