Archive for June, 2008

June 21 hive check

Helen and Mike are back from a trip, so on Saturday Helen and I checked the bees midday. I arrived a little early, so I got to hang out and watch them entering and leaving the hives. Many of the returning workers had pollen, so I felt encouraged they might still be striving for larger populations.

Unfortunately, South and North now appear to have completely reversed their roles and stronger and weaker hives. Actually, both seem pretty strong, and South still had more bees. But while we saw the queen and some brood, a lot of it was sporadic. I’m hoping this is just a function of them starting to move stores up to the upper hive body, which they finally are doing after my little trick last week of moving one frame of honey up there. They’ve drawn out a couple more frames, and have started storing in the upper level. We also saw a frame of newly laid eggs and some brood, so perhaps they will be in better shape at the end of this week. The frames still have copious amounts of stored pollen spread through several areas. And while there were no active queen cells, they had constructed a few on the corners of frames. So far I’ve seen no signs of disease, but next week I will probably scrape the bottom board to see if I can see anything there.

North, however, is going gangbusters. Their queen had filled more than five frames with brood, much of it looking like it was ready to hatch, and uncapped brood also was in good supply. They have filled out five or six frames in the upper hive body, although the queen shows no signs yet of moving up there, and I saw little pollen storage yet. At the edges of the hive in the lower box, North also had a couple sides of frames filled with entirely capped honey.

The workers in north persist in making burr comb between the two hive bodies, which has me a little mystified. They must think there’s too much space, which could be a problem in the future, but so far it’s been easy to scrape it off. That also gave Helen the opportunity to show some of the folks at the restaurant what the bees are doing; she brought some of the comb–actually, pardon the joke, the whole ball of wax–down to the host’s station to show off. We also tasted some of the honey from one of the capped frames.

Tonight (Tuesday evening), after finishing some work on my book, I went by and fed the girls. They’re still eating sugar water, despite what appears to be pretty constant honey flows. There’s some debate about this, as some beekeepers don’t like to feed in honey flows at all, but I’m waiting until they’ve drawn out the second hive bodies and made a start on the supers to stop. With North, we may be able to add a super next week! A good diagram of the parts of a hive is here.



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Bee musings

Keeping bees on a roof has many challenges. My friend Joe helped enormously when he designed and built our excellent, heavy hive stands. (Below) With some chair straps to keep the hives secure, so far they haven’t moved an inch, despite thunderstorms with 70-mile-an-hour gusts. I continue to worry a bit about how well these Slovenian ladies are tolerating the heat. But so far, they seem to do pretty well. The roof is not monstrously hot, as it’s silver rather than black. And although they sometimes hang out outside the hive, largely on South, that seems to be more an issue of perceived overcrowding (you have another whole story, ladies! Use it) rather than overheating. I don’t think the temperatures–it’s gotten close to 90 sometimes here in Chicago already this year–have thrown for a loop yet. And as you can see from the picture, I’ve also given them a water dish designed for dogs that feeds them fresh water as fast as they can drink it. (I put some concrete and rocks in the dish so they won’t drown.)The hive stands

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Ziggy and I check a frame

Ziggy and I check a frame

June 7, June 14

Well! Sorry to be away from the blog for a couple weeks. Will update now quickly and add to this when I have time later in the week.

They are doing well, it appears. Just to update quickly. One June 8, Helen and I added the second hive body on North, which was starting to have a few drone cells and a couple queen cells, though no active ones. South had almost completely filled out the lower hive body, and had a few queen cells, but perhaps one active one.

They are both gathering tons of pollen and nectar, and starting to cap honey at the tops of the frames.

On June 8, my friend Ziggy came along and watched us tend to the hives, making him our first visitor beyond Joe, my old roommate, Ann, and Mike as we checked them.

On June 14, I checked them later in the afternoon as Ann and Milo went to the grocery story. It took me a while to go through both hives. South actually had done almost nothing on the upper hive body, and while the queen is still laying well, everything’s packed in so tight that the bees are story honey where they shouldn’t, and have pollen packed in everywhere on the few frames dedicated largely to honey storage. (See photo below for nectar and pollen stored where there should be brood.) I’d tried putting some sugar water on the frames in the upper hive body on June 8, but that didn’t entice them up by the 14th. So I took one of the honey frames and placed it in the upper hive body. Perhaps that will do the trick. Disorganized bees?

North actually had three frames drawn out in the upper hive body, and lots and lots of burr comb between the two hive bodies, much of it filled with uncapped honey. So I scraped that. Possibly because of the better honey storage, North now seems to be moving along more swiftly than South. Although South still has more bees, North has a couple more frames of brood ready to hatch.

As I was finishing up on North, Ann and Milo came up and watched me from the deck, about 30 feet away. Milo fussed a little because he couldn’t come see me in my bee gear, so I brought over some of the burr comb with honey. His first! You’re not supposed to give raw honey to babies because of the (remote but still possible) chance of botulism. He grinned with delight. As we gave some to him, Hugh, one of the chefs at the restaurant, came up to the deck, so we gave him some honey also. It was very light–being uncapped, it was more watery than honey usually is when people have it. The bees were still reducing its water content.

More later, along with many new photos–and our first video!


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