Saturday, September 22, 2012

A Golden Glimmer Of Hope…

I’ve been monitoring the honeybees all week.  The good news was that they were eating, which made me really happy.  I got even happier still when I saw them coming in loaded down with pollen!  Normal hive activity made me almost giddy actually, I mean to me that’s a positive sign and as long as they are working I’ll keep working to help them all I can.. Or should I say ‘we’ it appears that a little bee love has worked it’s way into Randy’s heart as well.  His concern for them has surprised me and his determination to ‘stop whatever has been stealing from them’ has tugged at my heart, I love this man SO much!
So today, we went out first thing this morning and using metal screen he had cut to fit, he covered the two ventilation holes that were easiest to access.  The third however we decided to wait till later in the day when fewer bees would be in the hive as that one was in the middle of everything!  So after lunch we suited up, fired up the smoker and went in.  I moved all the empty frames from the end, then carefully took out 4 of the combs and placed them in that empty section so that Randy could put a piece of the metal (read that as chew proof!) screen over that last hole.  I carefully lifted and began to move the comb back when something sparkled and caught my eye, it was honey!  They made honey again and put it in their comb, I could’ve cried!  Then another frame I lifted there were girls all over it and Randy said “look it’s got pollen in it”!  Sure enough the cells had pollen in them, bright beautiful golden pollen.  I actually feel like I can take a breath or maybe release the one I’ve been holding since all this started. 
This doesn’t change plans though, we will be building hives this winter and I’ve found a source for high quality Northern breed and raised bees.  So come next Spring, there will either be two or three hives out in my bee yard.  My Our girls, well they are fighters and we totally respect and get that and we are both going to keep fighting right along with them!  Hopefully they can pull off a full recovery with a little help from their bee happy people!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Inside the Hive…

I’m not sure that I know any more today then I did yesterday as to what happened or what is going on.  With help from Randy who was manning the smoker (cause men love fire and smoke!) we went into the hive.
What did I see in there, well there was some capped brood, very, very little capped honey, no uncapped honey at all, no uncapped brood, no signs of queen cells but I spied what I believe was the queen I got this spring as she had a large silver dot on her and small hive beetles.  I didn’t see small hive beetle larva, slime, feces or black “goo” anywhere.  I didn’t see dead bees, moths or anything that said anything specific had taken place.  So what did I learn one of two things happened or maybe both but in what order I don’t know.
I think my hive was robbed, massively.  I think something chewed through the plastic mesh screen on the ventilation holes and started taking their stores.  Yellow jackets, hornets and even other honeybees will steal from weaker hives, they smell food and they want food and they take it.  Can I prove this happened nope.  Is it possible that my hive swarmed and left the hive weakened? Yes it’s possible except for the fact that I believe I saw my marked queen and if they swarmed she should have gone with them.  Is she clipped and didn’t go, well I’m not sure.  The apiary that I got my bees from sells most of their queens clipped and marked but they charge extra to do that on Italians, which is what I got and I don’t remember asking for it.  I’ve read that a clipped queen will try and leave and she may come back if she can’t go, I’ve read that the swarm won’t leave without a queen and will wait for a virgin queen to leave with them.  Could that have happened?  I suppose but honestly I really don’t know.
So, bet you are now wondering what do I know?  Am I going to give up and toss in the bee aspirations????
Nope, lol I’m just crazy enough to try again, but I’ll BEE going a different route.  My bees are going to come from a different apiary that doesn’t tell you that the bees you are getting are coming from the northern US and then sends bees from Georgia.  We are also going to be building some hybrid Tanzanian style Top Bar Hives.  See I love a lot of the aspects of Top Bar Hives, I love the height, I love that I don’t have to lift supers that are forty pounds a piece and I love that I don’t have to dig through to inspect.  What I don’t like though is that the top bars aren’t framed, I learned this summer that heat in the hive leads to comb collapse and I don’t want to do that again.  I also learned that many, many of the products that would make things like feeding and battling small hive beetles easier aren’t readily available for top bar hives.  A hybrid hive will allow me to combine the best of both styles and open up all those things that I’ve come to find out that it would be nice to have. A screened bottom board, frames and even the ability to reduce the entrance to the hive.  The biggest thing I’m going to do differently, is I’m going to be getting two packages  nucs, (which is a nucleus colony with brood, pollen and honey on frames) this time, I’m going to start two hives because right now I need another hive to help the one that is struggling and all I can do for them is feed and stay positive. 
If I lose them, they don’t make it to the winter or survive the winter I’ll be sad for sure.  I love them I really do and I’ve enjoyed every moment I’ve had with them and if I had it my way, I’d be putting them in an observation hive and bringing them into the sunroom for the winter.  They however have taught me a lot and for that I’ll BEE forever grateful!
Wish us luck!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Bee Sad…

Prior to leaving for vacation I checked in on the girls (aka the honeybees) and they were doing well.  All looked good, nice comb, busy bees no signs of stress, pest or disease.  All hell broke loose with personal stuff and I didn’t get back to check them again for about five weeks.  This Friday the weather was nice and I had some ‘free’ time so mid-day I headed over to take a peek and what I found was down right sad.  Most of the girls are gone and all the honey stores and brood that were in the combs are as well.  I suited up and opened up and well not a whole lot was in there sans one small section of girls.Two of the sections of screen that cover the ventilation holes were chewed through which I thought was odd.  Upon the realization that something bad had happened to their food my first reaction was to feed them as quickly as possible.  I put the feeder back in the hive and put a 2:1 syrup in and after a little cleaning up closed the hive back up.  The ‘buzz’ coming out of there was not one of friendly disposition as prior experiences have been and I really didn’t want to add additional stress to them.
Today I added another bottle of food, the first is already a quarter of the way down, so at least I know they are eating. There was always this nice ‘buzz’ from them and it didn’t change when I was checking the hive.  The buzz now though, it’s different and it’s not a happy sound at all. In all sadness I have to admit that I don’t know that they will make it through the winter with zero honey stores.  I have to come to terms with the fact that I most likely will not have bees next year and that really sucks.
Now, as to what happened? Great question and I don’t know that I’ll ever have the answer. Others suggestions have ranged from robbing to swarming.  In the end I don’t guess that it matters very much the outcome is the same, I’m down to very few bees, they are grumpy and it’s late in the season.  I’ll know for sure if this is the ‘end’ in a day or so.  I’m going to have to fully suit up and fire up the smoker to get into the section that does have active bees grumpy.  I need to see if there is a queen or brood.  If there isn’t any of those things, it’s really the end.  If there is a queen and she’s laying then there is a glimmer of hope between her and food, all be it a small one.
I told Randy that I had said all along that I wanted nature to be able to do it’s thing without me interfering too much.  I was willing to feed to get them started and to make sure that they had all that they needed to prepare for the winter.  I read and heard so many different ideas and tried to incorporate the ones that were what I thought as close to ‘nature’ as possible.  Honeybees aren’t native to the United States and perhaps in the very end that is something that I need to take into account with my experience. 
Maybe I’m best served sticking to lower maintenance mason bees…

Weather woes and spring cleaning

Greetings!  It is that time again when I begin to regale you with my tales of gardening, nature and outside happenings! Alas, we once agai...