Thursday, July 28, 2011

Week 9 Followup

While my talented apprentice, Emily, writes about the experience of doing her first solo hive check, here is a short film that was created by Adrian Bautista, Martha Glenn, and Brooke Tascona from footage taken during the Week 9 Hive check.

It looks fantastic, I don't sound like a complete goober, and it got picked up by Food, Inc. Even better, Kazumi, the other beekeeper featured in the video, is partnered with Phil, a student from my first ever Beekeeping 101 class at the Brooklyn Brainery! I'm totally proud of y'all!


Urban Beekeeping: NYC from Adrian Bautista on Vimeo.
This short documentary explores the growing urban beekeeping movement in New York City and focuses on the stories of Tim O'Neal, creator of the Borough Bees blog, and Kazumi Terada, a novice beekeeper.

Adrian Bautista, Martha Glenn, and Brooke Tascona made this documentary for the Design and Technology: Sound and Vision course at Parsons New School for Art and Design during the summer semester 2011.

Shot on a Panasonic AG-HMC 150 HD Camcorder and a Canon EOS 7D Camera.

Tim O'Neal's website:

Music: English by Paper Tiger

Thanks again for the pictures, video, and love!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Hive Check: Week 9

Bees are pretty.

Prepping the smoker.

Getting a couple of puffs into the entrance of Hive #2.

I'm storing Hive #2's second deep on top of the feeder, so it'll be ready when its time to put it on and so I don't have to carry it up and down the roof access ladder (again.)

Joined by a student film crew from the intensive summer program at Parsons, I headed up to my Fort Greene apiary to check whether the influx of pollen from my Week 8 inspection improved the survival rate of the brood in Hive #2.

Cruddy lookin' brood in Hive #2.  Big surprise.  Please excuse the hat.  I had a sunburn.
I am very white.

Oh wait, what's this!?

Solid, baby.

Whistling with appreciation.

This solid as heck brood pattern suggests that the pollen did the trick. These pupae were newly capped, and since worker brood spends 6 days as uncapped larvae a week ago when I added the pollen to the hive, these cells contained old eggs (2-3 days old) and very young larvae (4-6 days old)- just the right age to benefit from the resultant upswing in royal jelly production. After I was done inspecting the hive and making lots of noise to indicate how impressed I was with the level of improvement, I fed them more pollen and will continue to do so until they have a good stockpile stored away for the winter.

Checking for more good lookin' brood.

And I found it.  I imagine that the queen has been laying extra to make up for  all the brood that hasn't been making it.

The answer to all of life's little problems.  POLLEN.

The bees are taking the pollen and storing it under honey to preserve it.

I'm hoping that the increase in viable brood and the resulting boost in population will encourage this hive to ramp up their comb building activity and catch up with Hive #1. It is already July and they are still working on their first deep. As a rule of thumb, they'll need AT LEAST two full deeps of drawn comb and stores to make it through the winter. If they don't get caught up, I'll probably have to squash the queen and combine them with the much stronger Hive #1 in the fall.

The bees continue to build comb in the airspace of the feeder.

Quite a bit of it.

In an attempt to prevent them from reattaching it to the top bars of the frames, I  pressed the torn comb down.

Maybe they'll get the idea.
Probably not.

Hive #1 is well into the task of drawing the second deep, with workers actively drawing comb on about 5 of the frames. Some of the comb in the center is a little bit funky and oversized. It looks like they're trying to build drone cells, so in a week or two I might cut out some empty comb in the bottom, allowing them build a nice little discrete patch of drone brood.

More smoke = better.

Popping the top


Workin' up a storm in the top hive body.

There is a bit of funky comb, but it hasn't stopped the queen from laying.

One of the problems with using foundation is that it strongly discourages the bees from building any drone comb, which is decidedly unnatural. The overall population of a feral colony may be up to 10% drones. In a traditional colony built on foundation, the drone population may be as low as 1% or 2% of the total due to the enforced lack of drone comb. Some colonies will fill any available empty spaces (like under the feeder, or between poorly spaced frames) with drone comb to make up the difference, gumming up the hive in the process.

Looking for drone comb/brood.

This frame is being drawn out beautifully.

Getting our bokeh on.

Esmeralda continues to impress with large swathes of solid brood.

Checking out their stores of pollen.

Traditional literature will suggest that drones are a resource drain on the hive; they don't do any work other than mating, so they do nothing but use up energy that the hive might otherwise put towards making honey or raising more workers. However, more recent studies have shown that colonies allowed to raise as many drones as they want are just as productive as those colonies in which the drone population is artificially limited.

*wolf whistle*

I love my frame perch.  Never again will I accidentally kick a frame with my clumsy-ass foot.

Magritte in profile.

A new frame!  Where's that queen?

Heeeeeeere queeny, queeny, queeny!


Jim Fischer of the NYC Beekeeping Group has my favourite explaination:

Boys are good for morale!

Getting the band back together.


Back to work.

Photo Credit: Thanks to Adrian Bautista, Martha Glenn, and Brooke Tascona for taking/sharing pictures of this weeks inspection!

P.S. If any of my readers want to volunteer their skills as a photographer and come take pictures of my inspections, get in touch.

I like pretty pictures!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Hive Check: Week 8

Ah, the weekly hive check. Easy to do, but sometimes a pain to write about, especially when you've got exciting (non-computer) things to do, like having hardcore beekeeping adventures.

In addition to my apprentice Emily, I was also accompanied by a Who's Who of treatment free beekeepers from all over the nation. We were joined by Kirk Anderson, founding member of the Backwards Beekeepers Club in LA, Sam Comfort of Anarchy Apiaries, Meg Paska of Brooklyn Homesteader, Chase Emmons from the Brooklyn Grange, PLUS Alex Brown, a photographer working with Meg, and Theadora, a friend of Emily's who we pressed into photographic service. It's the largest group of people I've ever had on the roof and it was a blast.

The gang, left to right:
Sam Comfort, Kirk Anderson, Meg Paska, Me, Chase Emmons, Alex Brown

Bees, it would seem, like honey.

Hive #1 and their new queen (Esmeralda) continues to do very well. The workers are drawing out a fair amount of comb in the recently added deep and the queen has started to lay in the cells. There is already a fair amount of nectar/syrup being stored in the newly drawn frames, and there continues to be a large amount (>6 frames) of solid brood in the bottom hive body.

Smoking up with the triangle smoker.

Pop, pop.


Havin' a looko-seeo with KirkoBeeo.

Both hives are still being fed with sugar syrup, which isn't great, but they got off to a late start this year and will need to be fed until they have drawn out enough comb to store all the honey and pollen they'll need to make it through the coming winter. Once they have two full deeps of comb drawn out, they'll come off of the artificial stuff, hopefully forever.

The light, it burns.

I sure am white.

As I mentioned last week, I've gotten the idea that the poor brood pattern in Hive #2 may be the result of a shortage of the high quality protein needed to produce royal jelly. Worker brood is fed royal jelly for the first three days of its larval stage, so to maintain a large broodnest, a huge amount of pollen is required.

Emily removing the ratchet straps holding the hive in place.


Clean and jerk.

Looking at the hive with Sam and Kirk, we saw that there were many eggs laid in a good solid pattern, but that a lot of the brood was being lost before it reached maturity, resulting in the scattershot pattern of capped brood that I've been seeing. While Kirk suggested that I just replace the queen, Sam thought that brood may have been suffering from one of the low grade brood ailments, such as chalkbrood, sacbrood, or european foulbrood (EFB).

So friendly!

We didn't see any of the larval or pupal 'mummies' which are indicative of chalkbrood in or around the hive, but we did see a couple of the dying (yellowing) larvae which Sam refers to as "snotbrood". We didn't see a large amount of dead brood in the cells, which is both good and bad. We know that the brood is dying before it reaches maturity (which is bad), but the lack of dead brood within the hive tells us that the bees are exhibiting good hygienic behavior and attempting to remove potential sources of contagion quickly and efficiently (which is good.)

I feel like Kirk was somewhat surprised by the calmness of the bees.
LA bees like to riot or something.


There are two main courses of action for treating pretty much all the brood diseases, other than American Foul Brood (AFB.) The first is to requeen, the idea being that the current population of the hive is genetically weak and/or susceptible to disease. By requeening, you effectively change the genetic makeup of the population, hopefully for the better. Unfortunately, it can be a bit of a crap shoot. The new queen may be no better than the old one, or worse.

Theadora getting artsy.

The other main option is to fortify the hive with better food. Well fed bees and brood are less susceptible to disease. The hive is already getting plenty of carbs in the form of sugar syrup, so a bit of added protein seems like the way to go.

Luckily, I have a 5lb bag of fresh pollen from Brushy Mountain in my fridge. Let's see if it makes a difference!

Put the lime in coconut.

Time to bulk up, little dudettes.

The reaction of the bees:

P.S. Photos from this inspection were taken by Theadora Tolkin, our resident singer/songwriter/sea squirt biologist. Every beekeeper should have one!