Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Hive Check: Week 11

Well, we're gonna leap-frog week 10 for now and go straight to week 11 because even though I am on vacation, I drove into town and am stealing wi-fi from the local visitor information centre.

That is how much I like bees.

I'll mention again that I really like it when photographers come up to the roof to play. It gives me a good opportunity to show off, it frees up my hands to actually work the bees, and nets everyone some nice pictures. This week, I was joined by Macolm Hearn, a photo/videographer based in Brooklyn who is snagging some bee footage for a music video project he's working on. He kindly provided all the pictures featured in this week's update.

You can check out his other work here: http://malcolmhearn.org/

Late day inspection, the hives were in the shade.

SOMEONE (*cough, cough* Emily, *cough*) forgot to return my frame perch, so I was stuck leaning frames against the hive.  Great population!

As the summer comes to a close and we start to hit the first serious nectar dearths, the chances of the bees deciding to swarm is reduced to practically nil. Once you're past swarming season, you only have to check the hive every couple of weeks to assess stores and do basic population checks for diseases and parasites, especially if you're dealing with established (not first-year) colonies.

Esmeralda continues to impress with some solid brood.

For E.M.: The miracle of birth, minus the episiotomy.

Late Summer and Autumn hive checks should be kept succinct and to the point. With little or no new nectar coming in, the bees can be a little more sensitive to outside interference, and are more likely to respond defensively than earlier in the season, when food is cheap and plentiful. On top of that, the bees are more likely to start robbing from other colonies if you leave open comb out in the open too long, and you might even attract some unwanted guests.

Fucking Yellowjackets.  Hate them.  So do the bees.

Yellowjackets can be a huge problem for hives in the Fall. As their own brood laying winds down, they start to get desperate for something sweet to replace the sugary secretions that wasp larvae exude to reward the adults that feed them (really). Honey is an obvious replacement, and if you leave full comb out in the open for too long, wasps WILL find it and start to raid the hive.

Once a wasp gets past the guard bees, they will fill up with honey inside the hive, pick up the scent of the hive, and bring their friends back for more. If you see any wasp traffic in and out of the hive, you should reduce the entrance drastically to help the hive defend itself. Make sure you keep the varroa card out, for ventilation.  A weak hive can be completely destroyed by a strong wasp nest.

The population in Hive 2 finally 'popped' and they are now into their second deep, which they will need to draw out completely and fill with stores if they are to survive the winter. The deep and the frames have been living on top of the feeder for a couple weeks now, but we installed the foundation just before giving them to the hive. In this heat, the foundation will sag and fall if you leave it in the frames too long before you give it to the bees.

The frame assembly line:
Reed, my helper at Added Value, is breaking off the frame wedges.
I am putting foundation in the frames and nailing them in.
Malcolm, the photo/videographer, was putting in support pins, but is behind the camera here.

After meeting Dee Lusby at a beekeeping conference and listening to her talk, I decided to try a technique known as "Housel Positioning" in both of these hives. You can read her explanation of it here at BeeSource, but the basic idea is that bees prefer the foundation, and the comb built on it, to be in a specific orientation in regards to the center of the brood nest. Proponents of the practice believe that it helps increase spring build up, reduces brace comb, and just generally improves the health and mood of the hive. It certainly can't hurt (although I'm sure I'll get a cranky e-mail from *someone*), and I'll do my own write up and explanation of the theory after I get back from vacation.

Marking the frames with cell size and cell orientation.

Housel positioning within the hive.  Notice that I brought down a frame of 4.9mm foundation into the lower deep to encourage the bees to work it.  I put the two corresponding drawn frames of 5.1mm foundation containing brood and stores into the new, empty deep to force the bees up in to the second box.

I'm still feeding both hives with very light sugar syrup to promote comb drawing, and a little bit of supplemental fresh pollen because of the current dearth. Rather than feeding them the fresh individual pellets, I decided to provide the pollen in patty form this time.

Pour fresh pollen  on to a sheet of (paraffin) wax paper.

Spray it with sugar water to moisten it, fold the paper over, and mash it flat.

Rip off the excess paper.

Set it on top of the top bars of the frames and poke holes in the wax paper with the edge of your hive tool to improve access.

Come on little dudes, draw that comb!

Well, I came in town to pick up some new line for my fishing rod and I've been writing for the last couple of hours instead, so for now I will leave you with a picture of me getting stung.

The bees really are getting a little more wary, so if you aren't using your protective gear, you should at least keep it handy. By the end of the inspection, there were at least two bees who were ready and willing to follow me across the roof. One of them got me, the other flew away after I popped down the roof hatch.

If you're gonna get stung, you may as well look manly doing it.

Hello, Ladies.

Thanks again to Malcolm Hearn for providing all the photos for this article!

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