Looking for Brood

It’s only been a week since I checked in on the bees, but I am back again invading their space. This spring has had awful weather, rainy and cold. I do appreciate the rain for the sake of the plants and the soil. It’s good to be out of the drought status, but it has been so much for so many days in a row. I would love to have some sunshine for a few days in a row every now and then. The other issue with the weather is that the bees are just not as friendly when it’s cold and cloudy.

Since the Orchard Hive seems to be doing better, I thought I would start with them. They were not thrilled with me being in their home, but they didn’t seem angry. The wasps had to be removed again. Last year, the kind of wasp that had started a nest in the Host Hive was more territorial. If there was remnants of a nest other wasps would not nest in the same space. These wasps are not like that and they don’t even mind nesting with another wasps nesting nest to them.

This is going to make for a challenging beekeeping season if I have to deal with wasps every time. I hope that they get sick of being squashed or shooed out of the hive and not come back. I really hope that I don’t have to find out how my suit will hold up to wasps. After finding out how I react to bee stings, I can’t even begin to imagine how I will react to wasps stings.

The Orchard Hive looks really good. They are growing well and at a steady pace. Out of the eight bars that they have comb on, they have brood on five of them. I found brood at all stages. Most of the brood that I found was worker brood, but they had some drones too. I am sure that once the weather gets better they will have more drone brood.

They also had a good amount of pollen and capped honey. They had bars with honey in the hive to start, but they are also busy make their own. With the weather being what it is, I was worried that they wouldn’t be able to collect as much as they need. I am very happy that I don’t have to feed them sugar water.

Since they are going well and filling their hive with brood and food I gave them three empty bars today. I put the bars on the outer sides of the nest so that I did not break up the brood nest. If we get more cold nights I don’t want the brood to get chilled. I put everything back together and tightened the bars as much as I could then closed the hive. Now to find out what the Willow Hive has in store for me.

The Willow Hive sits in such a beautiful location on the farm right near the pond under a willow tree. The Orchard Hive is near another pond across the way in the apple orchard, it’s also lovely just not as much as the Willow Hive location. On the walk to the Willow Hive, I get to enjoy seeing all the vegetable beds and this year they have added a strawberry patch. I have the geese with their goslings, heron, and turtles on my way to the hive.

Once at the Willow Hive, I opened the lids and their were wasps there too. After they were dealt with I finally got to open the hive. These are some very grumpy bees. They are acting like there is something wrong, but I am not sure what. While inspecting the hive I found brood at all stages, pollen, nectar, capped honey, and the queen. In fact, I found a lot of nectar. This worries me since last year the Willow Hive was nectar bound and the queen had no where to lay eggs which prompted them to swarm late in the season. I will have to continue to monitor this closely.

At this point, there is still some space available for the queen to lay eggs. They don’t seem to be building comb very quickly though. I do have several bars with empty comb, so I will bring one next time to give to them. Hopefully they will be building new comb by then. They have built some new comb, but not as much as I would have thought.

Today I also found queen cups, but only two this time. One was capped, but it looked like they were opening it. There may not be a viable queen in there and they are removing her. They seem to really want to replace this queen for some reason. Maybe she is too old or not healthy. Something seems really off with this colony I am just not sure what it is yet. Time will tell.

Orchard Hive
Willow Window


Capped Queen Cup

Queen Cup in center

Unwanted Pests!

Today I started at the Orchard Hive and I got an unpleasant surprise when I got there. There were several large paper wasps starting to nest in the lid area of the hive. There is empty space between the lid and the top of the bars and they decided they wanted it to be theirs. Of course, I do not want them there or anywhere near me.

After running scared from the wasps, I headed over to the Willow Hive. They were very grumpy today. The weather was not ideal, but I was hoping that a quick inspection would be okay. Grumpy bees are not that fun to deal with, they spend a lot of time slamming into my veil.

Going through the hive, I found five queen cups. Two of the queen cups were on one bar and they were capped. It’s obvious that they are working to replace the current queen. I was able to find the queen, but the hive does not seem right. I am not sure what is going on, but there seems to be something.

I went back to the Orchard Hive to see how they were and I brought reinforcement to take care of the wasps. Once the wasps were removed from the hive it was time to open it up and see how they are doing. It looked as if it would start raining at any moment, so I moved somewhat quickly. I did remain careful, I did not want to damage any of the comb in the hive.

The colony is looking good, but I only added one bar since the weather was not cooperating. Right as I closed the lid on the hive, it began to rain. The bees were very calm through the inspection, but at the end they were getting a little annoyed with my presence and as soon as I closed the lid I knew why.

Things are looking good with the Orchard Hive. I will need to come back in about a week to check in on the queen and if she is laying. The Willow Hive is also going to need a check up, I need to see if I can figure out what is going on in there. Hopefully things are fine.

A Fresh Start

Early in the morning on April 24th the Post Office called to let me know that the bees had arrived. It was a chilly day, so I waited a while for the temperature to go up. While I was waiting, I got all of my supplies ready. I had my “bee bag” already packed with the tools that I needed. I carry my hive tool, alcohol wipes, baby wipes, bentonite clay, and zip ties to each inspection. This season I added tweezers to my bag. They are helpful at uncorking the queen cage and sometimes helping me get things that fall to the bottom of the hive.

Since I had lost all of my hives last winter, I had comb with honey left over and decided that it would be better to feed it to the new bees. Honey makes so much more sense to me than sugar water. The bees seem to like it more too. I took eight bars to split between the two hives. When I set it up I would put four bars in each hive with four empty bars in between each comb.

This is the first year that I would be installing the bees by myself. I was feeling pretty confident since I had done several installations now. I was also excited to get back to Old Frog Pond Farm, I love my time there. It’s such a peaceful place to visit and there is always fun things to see.

My plan was to start at the Willow Hive. I got everything ready and opened the package to remove the queen cage. The queen was alive and active. I used a push pin to hang the queen cage on an empty bar after removing the cork from the sugar end of the cage. Once she was in there securely it was time to dump the rest of the colony in. I noticed that there was something in the way of the bees, they had a large piece of comb that they had built that was blocking the hole. After pulling the comb out it was much easier to pour the bees into the hive.

The installation went very smoothly. I put the package with the remaining bees under the hive entrance so that they could make their way in when they were ready. The bees seemed very happy to be out of the package. The can for sugar water was empty and they were happy to be put into a hive with honey. I put the bars closely together and closed the lid. It was a relief that things went as well as they did.

Then it was time to install the bees into the Orchard Hive. I headed across the way to get to the hive and prepare. I put all of the bars into the sides of the hive that I wouldn’t be putting the bees into. Then it was time to open the package and take out the queen cage. This package was easier to deal with since they didn’t have any large pieces of comb that they had built. When the queen cage was out I hung it onto an empty bar with a push pin and put it in the hive. Then I went through the process of dumping the bees into the “bee bowl” of the hive. They poured out very nicely, but there are always bee left in the package.

Once most of the bees were in the hive, I put all the bars in and tightened them up. The package with the remaining bees was placed in front of the hive to allow them to join their colony when they were ready. Then I closed up the hive, picked up my bag, and removed my protective gear. Both installations were done and went very smoothly. I was feeling really good about everything.

Once I was home a beekeeper that I met last year sent me a message about installing her bees in the hive. She was telling me that everything went well and she removed the cork from the queen cage then added the bees easily. Removed the cork from the queen cage? That comment struck me like a ton of bricks. I had forgotten to remove the cork from the queen cage in the Orchard Hive!

I headed back out to the farm, suited up, and opened the Orchard Hive again. I only removed the bar that the queen was on and carefully took out the cork from the sugar end of the cage. I put the bar back into the hive and then I stood there for a moment to think if there was anything else that I could have forgotten. I am so glad that I got that message and that it hit me right away. When I told the other beekeeper about what had happened, she said that she was god to help me since I had offered her help last season. Needless to say, I thanked her for the message!

Now that I realized that everything was done and taken care I could relax. I removed my protective gear again and went home. It always seems so strange to me to go home after dumping thousands of honey bees into a box, but that is how things go. They are wild animals and they don’t need me hanging around too much bothering them. Both of these colonies seem to be happy bees, let’s hope that they stay that way.

On the 28th, I went back to check to see if the queens had been released. The weather has been wet and cold here, so timing for things is off this year. I typically check in on the queens between two and three days after installation. Mother Nature has different plans this year.

This time I started at the Orchard Hive. I did a full inspection even though there wasn’t much to inspect. The queen had been released, I removed the queen cage, and they had started building comb on three of the four empty bars that were in the hive. I was able to find the queen and she looked good. She was busy checking out the comb and the cells. The bees were so calm as I inspected. It didn’t take very long to get through all the bars and see what I needed to. The colony looks great.

After inspecting the Orchard Hive, I went over to the Willow Hive. I was a bit surprised that they were not building as much comb as the other colony since they had the large piece of comb in their package, but they were building some so I was not concerned. The queen had been released and I removed the queen cage from the hive. I was able to locate this queen too and she was also busing checking out the comb. Everything looked good in this hive too. These bees were calm through most of the inspection, but at the end they were a little upset. The clouds were rolling in and there was a threat of rain.

I am relieved to have the installations completed and that the queens have been released. After losing all of my hives last year I was worried about getting into it again this year. I am glad that I decided to try again, I really enjoy being with the bees and learning more about them every time I inspect their hives. Now if we could just get Mother Nature to provide time to be out checking the hives, that would be great!

Queen Cage
Bee Bowl
Closing up
Remaining Bees
Package Comb
Orchard Hive