Busy Weekend

I’m realizing that with the unusually warm spring, I’ll need to be ready for splits and swarm prevention earlier than I had planned.  So, I spent the last weekend finishing up loose ends.  I think I’m in good shape equipment wise, as I built more than I think I will need, at least initially.  I finished making the last inner covers for the expansion I’m planning.  I use this design from Honey Run Apiaries.  If you aren’t handy building them, you can buy them as well.

I will not be buying queens this year.  I’m going to graft off of my existing survivors.  So, I organized the equipment for two cell building nucs this weekend so they will be ready to go.  One thing that concerns me about grafting is the timing.  I travel frequently for my day job, and could run into a situation where I have a set of ready queen cells and nowhere to put them.  I built a hatching frame in which I can put cells in, allow them to hatch and keep the queens segregated (see picture).Hatching Frame

There are two hives at my house that I want to move to the outyard, which I will probably do next weekend.  I only want two hives and some nucs in my backyard in order to prevent any potential neighbor issues.  The hives are small now, so I want to move them before they get too big.

I’m seeing dandelion greens poking through the grass.  If the weather holds, I could see them blooming a few weeks early.  Once that happens everything will kick into high gear!

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First Full Inspection of the Year – Part 2

The outyard looks good!

All three hives are plugging away and still have adequate stores, although I’ll be keeping my eye on them. One is even starting to rear drone brood. Lots of pollen and some nectar coming in.

First Full Inspection of the Year – Part 1

Incoming Pollen

Enjoying the great weather, so I took the opportunity to open my home hives.  There is tons of pollen coming in, probably from the maples that have started blooming.  If you look closely at the picture (sorry it’s blurry) you will see most of the bees carrying pollen.  Out of my 5 overwintered hives, 1 is booming, 2 are doing well and one has pretty low population…I’ll be watching that one.  I did lose one to starvation sometime over the last month, which bums me out.

With the mild winter I had been checking on them from time to time and the all looked good and weren’t taking in too much of the emergency dry sugar I put on top.  The one I lost probably only had that dry sugar left last time I checked, while the others still had stores.

All in all, very pleased with survival rates.  Only lost 1 nuc and the 1 1/2 story so far.

Weather and work permitting, I’ll check the out yard tomorrow.

A Great February afternoon!

Good news from the outyard!

All 3 hives are doing well!

It’s 50 degrees and sunny today. All three had flight activity. I took a quick peek in the top and saw good clusters, with plenty of emergency sugar reserves left.

Still 2 months of winter to get through, but I’m very optimistic!

So Far So Good

It was warm enough to see some cleansing flights yesterday.  Out of my 5 backyard hives I saw flights fromof 3 of them.  The other two were opened quickly enough to see bees inside and still plenty of dry sugar reserves.  The single, 5 frame nuc was dead, which I anticipated.  It was mostly an experiment and I was afraid the cluster was too small to survive even though I surrounded it with foam insulation.

Nice day again today and it will be around 50 tomorrow.  I’m going to take a trip to the outyard and check on the 3 hives there.  Hopefully those are doing well too.  I probably wont be able to drive back to the hives so it would be a long walk carrying dead equipment out.

Beekeeping Resolutions 2012

I’ve been spending the past few months thinking about how I would do things differently in 2012. I thought some of my ideas would make good New Years Beekeeping resolutions. Beekeeping is a constant learning process.  We learn a lot from each other, and more importantly from the bees.  So most of these ideas arent my own, and I’ll try to give credit where it is due.
Here they are in no particular order
1) Make my own equipment
One of my other hobbies is woodworking.  So I’ve always had the equipment and know how to build my own beekeeping equipment.  I have been building my own screened bottom boards and ventilated inner covers mostly because I couldn’t find a design from an equipment provider that I particularly liked.  I had been buying my supers and assembling them myself, mostly because I didn’t want to spend my woodworking time building boxes, and would rather work on other things.  But, based on the expansion I want to do this year, it’s going to make economic sense that I build them myself.  I hope to get things set up well enough with jigs and a process to make things go as efficiently as possible.  The only thing I plan on buying is frames…too tedious to try to make.
My ventilated inner cover is a combination of an inner cover, upper entrance and a ventilator rim.  I am redesigning it to also support feeding emergency dry sugar in the winter.  I’ll post photos after I finalize the design.
2) Regress at least one hive to natural cell
Some beekeepers swear by it, some studies say it doesn’t work.  I want to try it for myself.  I have purchased some Mann Lake plastic frames in natural cell size and will use those to regress, and then go foundationless when they are building in natural size.  Of the studies I’ve read, there are some issues that I see that I’m going to correct with my own unscientific study
– Use locally mated/adapted queens not packages
– Isolate the small cell hives from the large to prevent drifting
– Plan on a longer term before drawing conclusions…longer than 1 season.
– Survivability is the measure, not mite count.  I may be simplifying things, or may just be ignorant, but as I see it the only thing a mite count measures is the number of mites on the bees, which may be no indication of how the bees are surviving with the mites.  I know there is a multiplication factor with a drop count on large bees (double the number to cover those sealed in brood), but I have yet to see a similar study done on small cell bees.  So if there is a larger number of phoretic mites on small cell bees, does that necessarily indicate a larger number of mites sealed behind small cell brood?
3) Plan to sacrifice hives for winter stores or nuc feeding
The credit for this idea comes from Glen Stanly, Iowa State apiarist (Emeritus).  He recognized the value of feeding real honey and pollen instead of syrup and substitutes.  He advocated eliminating hives with low stores, or even using one hive as a feeder hive for the others.  Better to have 3 hives going into winter with all honey stores than to try to prop up 5 hives with substitutes.  To that end, I am planning on taking one or two full size hives and reducing them to nucs for the winter, then using the surplus for feeding others.
4) 2 nucs for each hive.  One for overwintering, one for queen backup.
Mike Palmer gets the credit for influencing me to take this method.  I plan on trying to have twice as many nucs as I have production hives.  If you haven’t heard Mike speak on the subject, here is an excellent videos of his presentation. http://vimeo.com/23178333
5) Observe and record the blooms
I have to admit to embarrassing ignorance on knowing what blooms when in my area.  This year, I am going to better observe and keep records
6) Brood boxes will all have 10 frames
One habit I got into, which many of you probably also do, is put 9 frames into a 10 frame body.  The rationale is that it’s easier to manipulate and you have less of a chance of squashing a queen.  It’s too much of a pain to align the frames, and I think I’m confident enough in my hive manipulation that I’m going to go 10 frames in all brood boxes.  Honey supers will have 9 to have them draw deeper cells in order to make it easer to uncap.
This is just a list of the main points, there are lots of little details that I will try to document as the year progresses.
Questions and comments are always welcome!
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