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Posts Tagged ‘beekeeping’

Did a very quick check on the two hives today, as is recommended for new colonies. The bees are bringing in lots of honey and pollen and each of the two hives has drawn out about three frames of comb and is working on a fourth. Newly laid eggs were present in the one frame I checked closely in each hive. The north hive has a much darker-colored queen than the south hive, and I saw her. Tried to take a photo, but the problem with doing that with an iPhone when you have a bee bonnet on is that it’s hard to make sure of the focus. So you’ll have to do without a photo of her for this week. Here’s a photo of the fourth frame of comb, though:

Bees in our north hive are drawing out their fourth frame of comb in a week.

Bees in our north hive are drawing out their fourth frame of comb in a week.

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Using an uncapping knife to get the wax off a frame.

Using an uncapping knife to get the wax off a frame.

Getting set to uncap and extract honey

Getting set to uncap and extract honey

Helen and I getting bees off a frame of honey
Helen and I getting bees off a frame of honey
Pulling honey out for harvest

Pulling honey out for harvest

Just a quick note, as I have some book work to do tonight before I turn in.

I did a quick check yesterday and the bees apparently got scared after I put the second super above the bee escape on Tuesday. There were still a number of bees in the supers, and they were in an odd, although evolutionarily understandable mood. They had started making queen cells, thinking not just that they were cut off from the rest of the hive, but that they suddenly were a queenless hive, I think.  I didn’t see the queen, so I assume one of the workers may have started laying drone brood.  I’ll know better when I check them again in a few days and they’ve capped some of it.

In any case, yesterday I put the lower super back connected with the rest of the hive–there really wasn’t much capped honey in it, anyway–although above the queen excluder, and just put the full super above the bee escape. Late this afternoon, we pulled the full super and a couple frames of the other super out.  And extracted!

We had quite a collection of folks, including a neighborhood beekeeper, Dave, who lent us some of his extraction equipment. Also joining us were Ann, Milo, and my friend Brian, who introduced us to Helen and Mike in the first place and a number of the folks from the restaurant, as well as a few folks from Rogers Park who had heard we were going to be extracting. The best visitors were Helen’s parents, who along with Brian and Dave helped mightily with the extraction.  It’s been a long time since I’ve done it, so I’m happy to report it all turned out pretty well.  I’m kicking myself for not being able to take the time to put cross-wires on the super frames, because the comb worked its way out of some of the frames.  But live and learn. Most of them are usable again for next year, although I will have to jerry-rig cross-wires into the salveable frames for next year, so that won’t happen again.

It was thrilling to see the honey accumulate over the course of the hour-and-half or two hours we worked on it. Uncommon Ground got about 25 pounds of honey, and I got about 9-1/2, just from the 12 frames, not all of which were full. When I have time later this week I’ll describe the process a little more fully. But what a feeling to walk home with a big bucket of wax-filled honey, after all our work this summer. (We filtered the honey for the restaurant, but kept mine unfiltered.)

Also later in the week, I’ll add some photos.

–Slim

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It’s been too long since I posted, but I’m busy on my big writing project.

Suffice it to say that since Ann and I came back from vacation, we’ve had a couple nail-biting weeks with South, and continued burgeoning success with North.

I checked the hives quickly the week of July 27 and on Aug. 2. At first, it looked like our new queen was starting to lay, then it looked like she might not be. Last week, after an Aug. 8 check turned up little brood, we added a frame of brood and eggs to South from North, which has consistently had 12 to 16 frames of brood and eggs in recent weeks. I was worried in case QE II might not be getting accepted–or even worse, if I might have squashed her accidentally in one of my quick checks.

But last Friday, everything was good in South.  We saw some capped brood, some developing brood, and a couple frames of newly laid eggs. Altogether, about four frames of developing bees. South still looks like they most likely will not give us honey this year, but they’re doing well again, thank heavens.  And they have plenty of stored honey and pollen. And North looks like they may give up two full supers, not just one!

We’ve also had more visitors, and questions from other people about visiting, including a visit for a full check Aug. 8 by a woman named Claudia who used to help her family keep bees when she was a young girl. Quite heartwarming. 

More when I get a chance.

A photo of Helen and one of our visitors:

Helen and Claudia. Claudia's family raised bees when she was a child.

Helen and Claudia. Claudia

–Slim

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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!

–Slim

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May 2 to May 4

On Thursday night, a few of our errant bees got into an exhaust fan leading out of the restaurant’s prep kitchen–all the way into the basement. Helen called, and Joe and I went over to the roof Friday night, and moved the bees a little farther away from the vents. They’re exhaust vents, and so the bees shouldn’t be able to get it, but one of them apparently had a weak damper or something. So to be sure no one in the restaurant would suddenly get a bee invasion when they were slicing strawberries, we moved them farther away from the exhaust fans.

Saturday was forecast for bad weather, cold and rainy, and the exhaust repair people were coming, so I closed up the hives until later Saturday and made sure they had enough sugar water.

It’s essential to give the bees enough to eat as they’re establishing the hives, both pollen or pollen substitute and sugar water, so they can start building up their populations for when a real honey flow comes in. Both hives had eaten their fill Friday.

Saturday night, I checked them again and fed them, although the northern hive didn’t seem as hungry as it should have been. That worried me a bit, but I let it go until I could do a quick check on Sunday.

On Sunday, my sister Dolores and I went over and checked the bees. Both hives were buzzing with activity, and had started to draw out comb. South built burr comb on the queen cage, which when you put it in is suspended between two frames, in the place where you’d usually put a 10th frame. If you keep only 9 frames in while the bees are first filling the hive with comb, you’ll get all sorts of burr comb. And that makes it hard to work with the hive, defeating the purpose of a Langstroth hive.

Anyway, both the queens were out, and the girls were doing well, so we didn’t linger.

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Milo, Ann and bees.So, the bees arrived Wednesday, and they facinated our son, Milo. He’s been enthusiastic about hats since he first noticed them, and gets gleeful every time he sees a bee veil and panama hat. He calls them “hat bees.” Perhaps he associated the bees with the hats, because he found them intriguing too. Here he is with my wife, Ann, saying hello to them.

The bees hung out in our basement, as I fretted over the weather.

But everything turned out well. Ann had put a final coat of paint on the two beehives Tuesday night, and about 12:30 Thursday, I drove over to my old roommate and friend Joe Ronne’s house to pick him–and his tools–up so we could build a platform for the bees, which we were planning to install about 3 p.m. with Helen. Using some recycled plastic and wood plants left over from Uncommon Ground’s building a deck on their roof, Joe assembled a more than serviceable frame for the two hives to sit on. Helen was at the restaurant for a meeting, and she and the two folks she was meeting came up to the roof to discuss the rooftop garden while we were finishing up.

After Joe and I ran to the store to get something to keep the queens in their cages for a little bit after we hived the bees, (I ended up using caramels) I went home and we got the bees. We brought them into the restaurant and showed the staff, asking to have Helen come up to the roof.

The installation went pretty well, with a few minor exceptions. I remembered to spray them well with sugar water before taking them out. Joe got some good pictures of me undoing the packages and taking out the queen in one. It took a minute to get the queen cage out, because the feeder can was full of bees. But I got her out, showed Helen the queen, then put the queen cage in between two frames. I jarred the package so the bees would be more pourable, and shook a lot of the bees around the frames where the queen was. I then shook out the rest of the bees into an open space without frames. I got set to replace the missing frames.

If you’re a beekeeper, you might notice that I skipped a step there. After I’d put most of the bees in the first hive, Helen asked how the queen was going to get out through the cork in her cage.

Doh!

She can’t. In older queen cages, the queen will be sequestered with a couple attending bees, and there will be a hole at each end of the cage. Both have corks, but one is filled with candy, and you take the cork out at that end and the bees eat through the candy to release the queen. In this one, there was one hole, and just a cork. I’d meant to replace it with a caramel, and forgotten!

So I took the cage out again, removed the cork and put a small piece of caramel in to block the entrance. Then, with the queen in her rightful place, I brushed some accumulating bees off the inside of the hive body, and started replacing the frames.

Or almost did. In one of the other minor mishaps, I’m using a type of veil I haven’t used before, and so I hadn’t fastened it quite as well as I should have. A few of the errant bees got under the veil, and one got stuck in my hair. (This was a frequent problem when, as a teenager, I would occasionally give my hives a quick check without a veil.) That resulted in a sting, and I got three more, one on my chin and two on my neck, before the veil problem was solved.

All in all, though, the hiving was successful. I’d selected Carniolan hybrid bees because of their reputation for docility, and they’re living up to it. We gave them some sugar water, I took some pictures of Helen and Joe next to the hives, and we were beekeeping!

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