Wednesday, June 29, 2011
Someone in our city had a swarm in their back yard. Could we come?
Normally we would refer them to our Swarm Collector List but in this case it just so happened that the swarm was in our subdivision.
I called my sister.
"Dad and I are collecting a swarm on your street."
Dad was already there when I arrived, along with the home owner, and my sister. The owner stayed a ways back from the swarm. That's not unexpected. He was being cautious.
Dad and I opted to do the shake method since the limb was fairly substantial. This is where the light cardboard nuc comes in handy - it's easy to hold up to the limb.
After a couple good shakes there were lots of bees in the air so I took to using the brush instead and this actually worked better than shaking. I held the nuc lid under the limb and brushed the bees into it. They fell in large clumps. Then I tipped the lid and shook them into the nuc.
Mom had her plates of water with sticks again and I asked Dad who removed the rocks from the bird bath?
"I did," he said. "I thought some kid put them in there."
"Yes," I said, "Mom was the kid."
Once again Mom has a hive to observe. At least for a week or so until we move it to the bee yard.
We have seven hives now but we still haven't found a new location for our yard.
Sunday, June 26, 2011
It answered the strange yellow stripe on the bees question.
There's a wonderful two page chart which shows the exact development day by day for all three castes - worker, queen and drone. It shows the development of egg, larvae and pupae as well as the stages of capping - this is great when viewing queen cells to see how far along they are. The chart used in queen rearing courses.
I didn't realize how many glands the workers have. Most I knew about but not all of them. Hypopharyngeal (for royal jelly), salivary, mandibular (alarm/defense), wax, poison sac, Nasonov (homing scent), Arnhart and Dufour.
The Dufour and Arnhart are foot glands. The Arnhart gland is used for footprint marking and possibly forage marking as well.
There are many detailed diagrams and charts throughout, i.e., how the worker transfers and attaches the pollen to the hind legs, grooming, use of wings, etc.
The Chemical World chapter was really interesting - how the queen's pheromones get transferred through the hive by worker messenger bees, how brood pheromones encourage workers to forage for food, etc.
The author's writing style is easy to read. There are some technical details but they're certainly not overdone (no need to skip pages or be put to sleep) and the author breaks them down in such a way that you'll get the point, regardless if you're a beekeeper or someone who's interested in bees.
Some of the chapters are: The Origin and Evolutionary History of Bees, Honey Bee Anatomy, Development and Nutrition, Nest Architecture, The Age-Related Activities of Worker Bees, Other Worker Activities, The Chemical World of Honey Bees, Communication and Orientation, etc.
References to studies are listed throughout. There's a full reference section at the back.
This book is available on Amazon.ca. I highly recommend it and certainly plan to read it again so I can absorb more of its content.
Thursday, June 23, 2011
The problem is straightforward: The city owns the land. They're selling it. We have to leave. We have two months.
Lester, the apple farmer, has rented the land for years and years. He's the one who welcomed us there. Now he has to leave too.
They'll level the old farm house and the crumbling outbuildings. At some point they'll probably bulldoze the 700+ apple trees too. All I could think about is where will the Orioles, Warblers, Chickadees and Pheasants go? I've never seen more birds than on this property. It's a bird watcher's delight.
"Are you crying?" he asked.
"Yes," I said. "Sorry. I'm a girl so I can't help but cry."
"I cried too," he said, "and I'm not a girl." He tried to laugh.
It was a sad moment. Two people who cherish the ground under their feet. Now it felt like sifting sands.
He explained that he was trying to find an alternate location for me. I realized he's like me. Trying to give a solution along with the problem. He didn't want to have to tell me but he had no choice. The hives had to go. He knew I loved it there.
The property will be worth millions for some industrial company or investor so it's well beyond our wildest dreams to purchase it for ourselves. Les thought the demolition could begin in a couple months.
21 June is the Summer Solstice, the longest day of daylight. I agree. It was a long day.
Sunday, June 19, 2011
She was new to beekeeping and hadn't taken the beekeeper's course yet so I offered to help her with her first hive inspection.
Her hives looked great and she was proud to hear that her queen was an awesome layer. There were wall to wall worker combs on the frames.
It's so nice to have double confirmation. It'd be nicer if I had pictures too… next time I will.
Thursday, June 16, 2011
One day he and his wife packed their suitcases. They were going on an exciting trip to Melbourne, Australia. His youngest grandson was getting married and they were flying down under to attend the wedding.
The day before he was to leave his beekeeper daughter thought about how proud he was of his honey. She knew he wanted everyone to taste the delicious honey. So she asked him if he had packed honey to take to Australia.
"Yes," he said, "but it's in my suitcase and not my carry on bags so it's okay."
"No, it's not okay," she said. "You can't take honey to Australia. It's forbidden."
"It's just one jar. I want my family to taste our honey."
"Australian customs won't allow it. It's against the law," she said.
"No it's not."
"Yes it is. If that honey got eaten by Aussie bees it could spread disease."
"We're going to eat it. I'm also taking maple syrup and Tim Horton's coffee," he said.
"Those are different. But with honey the Agriculture dog is going to bark when he sniffs your bags and you'll get pulled off the plane," she warned.
"No he won't bark."
"Trust me he will bark and you'll get into big trouble. You could get a fine too," she said. "That's how pests get into countries. It's because of well meaning people. Now we have Varroa Mites and Small Hive Beetles. Even American Foulbrood was brought to North America by the Pilgrims."
But the marketing manager was so proud of his honey that he refused to take the honey out of his suitcase.
"You'll get arrested," she warned again.
"Then I'll go to jail," he said.
"You'll get pulled off the plane in Sydney and you'll miss your connecting flight to Melbourne."
Later that night the beekeeping daughter Googled Australian customs. Then she called the marketing manager and told him, "No bee products are permitted into Australia. That means honey, wax, bees, pollen or propolis."
"Okay, you win. I won't take it," he said.
"It's not winning, it's to prevent the spread of pests, disease and viruses."
The marketing manager replied he didn't think that Vegemite should be permitted into Canada if he couldn't take his honey to Australia.
Monday, June 13, 2011
The next day she commented that some of the bees aren't very good fliers. She noticed that sometimes they bump into each other at the platform. She witnessed caretaker bees carrying out their dead. She watched them stick out their tongues and sip water from the damp paper towel (which she keeps re wetting for them).
Then I heard that she was feeding them honey. She remembered me telling her that I would take my pails and empty combs back to the bee yard for the bees to lick clean. After she emptied a honey pail she put it and the sticky spoons out for the bees to lick clean. And they did.
Friday, June 10, 2011
Then early Tuesday morning another huge storm rolled in bringing high winds and fierce thunder and lightening. They wind was clocked at the local airport at 102 kms an hour. The airport is less than a mile from my bee yard.
We all missed our sleep that night.
Hive #3 swarmed. Oh I knew it would be them. But God bless the little bees because they landed close by where I could easily see them. And they were only 5' from the ground, easily within reach.
Wednesday, June 8, 2011
This event, moving the new split nuc hive back to the bee yard, was a clandestine operation. So, there's no night time/flash photos. I didn't want to attract the neighbours' attention. I had put the hive in my back yard for two weeks because I needed an alternate location so the workers wouldn't all fly back to their original hive after the split.
Next I sealed the hive parts together, the bottom board, the deep and medium super. I'm a big fan of duct tape.
I had prepared the yard ahead, setting up a platform with cement blocks, a skid and a large piece of plywood on top.
Saturday, June 4, 2011
[Photo - my "homemade" grafting technique - using a double-pointed knitting needle to hold a queen cell between the frames].
When I finally got my bees I called a fellow beekeeper that I'd met to tell him I was now officially a beekeeper. He laughed and said, "You know, you're not a real beekeeper until your own bees chase you out of your bee yard."
I can tell you that I'm now a real beekeeper.
Then they built swarm cells. This happened two summers ago too when we had a horrible wet summer. I'd heard that many beekeepers were having problems with bees swarming.
[Photo - empty queen cell from my Hive #1 graft]
Another beekeeping friend said the bees need to have something to do, otherwise they think about swarming. When it rains too much and they can't forage they get frustrated. It reminds me of a border collie dog, bred to work all day long without tiring. They must be kept busy to be kept happy.
I had to gear up and the bees pelted off my helmet. I was not their favourite person.
When I opened the hives their personality was different. They weren't relaxed. They were agitated. They went for my hands constantly, bouncing off them or trying to sting. This just wasn't their normal behaviour.
They were zinging me so much that I left the yard.
But ten days after the queen graft I dared to return. And I found that the lions had turned into lambs. I opened all the hives. I didn't need to do inspections pulling frames. I had my answer when just lifting the inner cover.
That happy contented hum. They look up at me and ignored me. I didn't need smoke. I don't know if Hive #1 accepted the queen I gave them (queen cell) or if they had a hatched queen that was mating but either way I could tell they weren't queenless any more.
They were happy. Finally.
And the sun has come out for a few days. It's been hot. I feel happy too.
Wednesday, June 1, 2011
I have cute bee knitting patterns and even wool. I just don't have time to knit. I'm too busy beekeeping. But I digress.
When I did the split of Hive #4 one frame that went into the split had the old queen and I knew there were two capped queen cells there as well.
On Hive #1's previous inspection the boxes were very full of honey. There were some capped brood--sporadic-- and I didn't see any larvae. No queen cells were evident and neither was a queen.
On this second inspection - it was the same. No capped brood that I could see, nor larvae. And the bees were mad. My friend Henry says they'll sound different if they're queenless. They did: Agitated.
There were a couple queen cups this time but I didn't see anything in them. Maybe the bees didn't have an egg they could use?
I got stung too. This hive has never stung me in three years. I didn't have absolute proof yet but this hive was looking queenless. And I knew where there was a queen. At home in the hive I'd split the day before.
I closed up, raced home.
My solution was to take a queen cell, one of the ones I was going to crush when I did the split. I used a sharp knife to carefully cut the cell away from the bottom of the frame. I held it carefully.
I could actually feel the queen wiggling and moving inside the cell. She wanted out!
An excellent book, The Biology of the Honey Bee by Mark Winston has a great chart showing each day's development in the life of a worker, drone and queen. Based on that illustration this queen would be hatching any time in the next two days.
This is where knitting comes into the story. I was trying to figure out how to graft this queen cell into a frame and do it without harming the queen. I brought a range of potential aids to help me do this--even duct tape.
In the end I opted to use a small double pointed knitting needle. I carefully pierced it through the thick part at the top of the cell, leaving the cell dangling down from the needle. Then I hung it across the top bars so the cell pointed downward between two frames.
As soon as the cell entered the hive the bees gravitated to it. They could smell a queen. I only kept the hive open a moment to watch while they climbed onto it. Their behaviour didn't look aggressive but I didn't stay longer to watch--the hive had been opened twice that day already. I gave them an extra super and closed up.
It'll be up to the bees to decide what to do. If they have a queen, she can dispose of the cell or the workers can. If they truly were queenless then this cell could provide them just what they need. Time will tell.
All we need now is for the sun to come out.