Friday, July 17, 2015

A Smart Critter is an Annoying Critter

At the Pines there are some pretty smart Raccoons.

I had thought I outsmarted them.  But they have proved me wrong.  Again.

Originally I would occasionally leave an empty sticky honey pail on top of a hive for the bees to lick out.  This would be a hive that was stacked five supers high or more.

I'd come back to the yard days later to find the pails licked clean, but on the ground.  I had secured them with bricks.  Many other times I've found the bricks on my hives pushed to the ground.

Recently I left an empty deep on the platform weighted with many bricks on top.  I came back to find all its frames strewed on the ground.  The raccoon(s) had rolled the deep repeatedly until the frames spilled out of it and then they chewed up the combs.

That was frustrating.

So then I had the ingenious idea to use an old rabbit hutch.  It has a cage front and I'd put stuff inside and the bees would fly in and lick things dry.  Perfect!

A few weeks ago, dad cleaned out the cappings tank and because of a pail shortage the cappings were put in a garbage bag.  I then took the bag to the Pines for the bees to lick the wax clean.

I put the garbage bag inside the rabbit hutch--the one with the locked cage front.

Last week I discovered the entire bag had been torn to shreds with pieces strewn on the ground.  Not a single piece of wax remained.  The little beggars had somehow stuck their paws through the bars and pulled the bag to the edge where they were able to shred it.

They had eaten a whole season's worth of beeswax.

I could only hope it gave them indigestion.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Seven of Ten

When you first start off with your package or nuc of bees they'll be busy building combs in their frames.  You will most likely give them sugar water to help them build faster.

Without the sugar they'd have to do a lot of foraging to get the energy to produce the beeswax. 

The question will arise, when do I add the next box to the hive?  The general rule is 7 of 10.  This applies both to comb building and also to honey supering.

When seven frames are drawn with comb it's time for the next box of frames.  When seven frames are filled with honey/capping in progress, it's time to add the next box.

I read about this seven of ten rule in my favourite beekeeping book, Beekeeping for Dummies.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

My first queen graft

I took the queen rearing course offered by the OBA Tech Team a couple years ago.  They offer great courses and they're very patient teachers.

If you're in Ontario I highly recommend them.  Course info can be found on the Ontario Bee Association's web site at

It was a very worthwhile course and gave tons of hands on practise.  But that was two years ago.  I haven't done queen rearing since taking the course so I wasn't feeling very confident.

I have the manual which came with the course and I've started reading it.  But I'm a slow reader and time isn't on my side.

I've got queenless hives - my good, strong hives and I don't want to risk losing them.

The beeyard in question is Pines where I had 5 hives of 10 survive the winter.  I split one hive to make six.

Inspections to date and instinct proved me right that four of the six hives have queens.  Two need some extra help.

Three days ago I took a frame that had a small area with eggs and leaving the bees on the frame I popped it into the queenless hive.  Now they had eggs so they could make a queen cell.  Or move an egg into a cell (not sure if bees do that but I've heard that they do).

When I checked today there were no signs of queen cell development.  When examining the frame I noticed that larvae were newly hatched.  The top super had queen cups with nothing in them.

So I took my Chinese grafting tool (at the end of the course day they had draws and I won this).  There's a tiny pad of plastic at the bottom slides under the larvae and then the other end is the plunger to eject the larvae once placed in the bottom of a queen cup.

I put my magnifying headset on and set to work.  There was plenty of sunlight so I didn't need the headlamp to see.  I managed to pick up 4 and placed them into 4 cups.

I know that larvae can't be flipped over because they only have breathing holes on the up side of their body, so if inserting into a cup you flip them over they would drown in the royal jelly.

It took less than five minutes for the bees to notice the larvae in the cups.

It's very delicate work and I don't know if I did it well, being my first try.  But time will tell.  I'll check back in four or five days to see if the grafting took.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Questions to ask when the Swarm phone call comes

I got two swarm calls last year.

Last year was a slow year for swarms.  The year before that I was getting so many swarm calls that I was passing them on to other beekeeping friends.  I had collected about ten myself.  That was a fun spring.

This year has been super slow.  I guess I'm out of practise which explains how I goofed up on the call today.
The cell rang and a man said he had a small swarm of bees under a table on his deck.  He reported checking underneath and seeing their brown combs.

Well, that confirmed it for me.... see how out of practise I was with phone work regarding swarms.  People don't lie, they just don't know anything about bees or what combs should look like.  We need to question them to find out more.

The good news is that I asked him to send me a photo.  The photo above is what he sent.

So to help you when you get calls here are some questions that can help shorten the phone call.  Of course a photo is always best, either of the hive or the insect.

  1. Are they fuzzy, brown and black? (view photos on the web site - feel free to refer to mine at where there's photos of bumble bees, honey bees, yellow jackets and bald faced hornets)
  2. Have you seen them bringing pollen on their legs?
  3. Is the hive round and looks like brown paper with a hole at the bottom (paper wasp nest)?
  4. What size is the swarm on the tree?  Baseball, football, volleyball, baseketball sized?  How high off the ground is it?
  5. How large is the area they are coming and going from?  Honey bees need lots of space to build a nest.
If you have questions you like to ask, feel free to add them in the comments below.