Sunday 25 January 2015

Log for 2015

Log for 2015

View Realtime data on Hive #4 -
View Realtime data on Hive #2 -

Hive Inspection Reports, latest at top

Thursday 9th October
Queen excluder removed from both hives. Super left on both, Beebug units moved to top of hives. Each has 20Kg of stores, so all set for the winter.

Wednesday 23rd Sept
Hive #2 Inspection
Only one frame of honey in 1st super so this was moved above the crownboard, hopefully they will move these stores into the brood chamber which will make over-wintering easier. Estimated stores are currently 20Kg.

Hive #4 Inspection
About 10Kg of the stores are in 8 frames in the first super so I'll have to winter them with that super in place. Estimated total stores is 19Kg. A bit low so I gave them another 2Kg syrup feed.

Gave them both a Hive Clean Varroa Stick treatment, not that I think it's much good from last year's experience but I have two left and they are about to pass their expirey date, so nothing lost and it may just do some good.

Sunday 13th Sept
Hive #4 Inspection
About 90% stores on firt three frames, some brood on 4th, brood and larvae on 5th. All well so boxed it up again. Move two frames from 1st super to a super above the crown board, hopefully they'll take it down.

Wednesday 9th Sept
Hive #2 Inspection
About 80% stores on first 3 frames, brood and larvae on 4th. All well so boxed it up again. Lots of stores in first super.

Saturday 5th Sept
Hive #4 given a syrup feed. Super frames all empty, bees are taking  their stores into the brood chamber which saves me having to decide whether to leave a super on. Yesterday's one day Varroa drop about 60 (hive #2 drop about 100). One super with 10 frames removed, I'll leave a super with 4 frames as living space for a spell, an awful lot of bees in there still.

Friday 4th Sept
Hive #2 checked for clean frames and as the bees have done a thorough job, the frames were removed and a thick syrup/honey feed of 2 ltrs was given. This hive still has significant Varroa drop, about 100/day, so will consider another treatment.

Wednesday 2nd Sept
Frames removed last week extracted and then shared between the two hives for clean-up. Total yield was 22 bottles, 22 more than I expected back in May!

Sunday 23rd Aug
Hive #4 given second Apiguard, even though drop was low at 100 over 2 weeks. The top brood chamber was removed, 5 frames for honey extraction. A second super was added above the crown board with a brood frame and 3 super frames, hopefully the bees will take all the stored honey down below.
Hive #2 Varroa drop after a day and a half was 150, still a lot in there.

Friday 21st Aug
Back off holiday today. Hive #2 given a second Apiguard, a few days late but better that than never. The Varroa drop over the two weeks was an estimated 1000.  I simply counted 5% of the squares and multiplied up. I also removed the best 9 frames from the two supers for later extraction and put one super back. Would have left the frames a few more weeks but concerned about the risk of honey tainting with the Apiguard. Not a huge crop, the weight reduction after removing the frames and super was 10Kg so maybe a dozen jars. Bees not too annoyed by the theft, but I had left it until 8pm so they weren't at their most active, and there were no wasps around. Over the two weeks that I was away Hive #2 has lost 2.5Kg. Some of that will be lost bees and some down to evaporation in the honey production, but how much of each is anyone's guess.

Friday 7th Aug
Both hives inspected by DEFRA BeeBase inspector.  No problems found other than varroa and some bald-brood (possibly caused by varroa). One day's varroa drop count was about 40 for #2 and 10 for #4.
Added a tray of Apiguard to each hive above the QE on the brood chambers. Wasps a problem so did it late evening. Inserted drop boards as per Apiguard instructions but left some ventilation on the drop board.

Wednesday 29th July
Both hives given a litre of thick sypup.

Saturday 25th July
Weather cool and rainy, hive #2 given a litre of syrup on 23rd & 25th July. Hive #4 a litre on 25th July.
Not much forage coming in to either hive, even with the syrup feeds the weight is slowly going down. Following log from hive #2 but #4 is very similar. Cool, wet and windy weather is not good for bees!

Gradual weight loss even with 2ltr feed

Thursday 26th July
The observation hive experiment was short-lived. The wasps got in and there are very few bees in there. They were obviously far too small a colony to fend off wasps and the opening was not suitable for defending anyway. I'd not anticipated the wasp problem.

Wednesday 22nd July
Hive #2 
Decided to remove Super 3, moved a few frames from the centre into Super2. Added an empty super too take the feeder and as it was a rainy day I gave them a pint of syrup. Did a quick check on the brood chamber and there is still plenty of capped brood and larvae. Removed one for use in the observation hive. Hopefully they'll make a queen although time is not on their side now. No great loss if it fails.
Hive #4
Removed a couple of frames of food from the top brood box. One for use in the observation hive and one to go into the brood chamber of hive #2 to make up for the frame I just stole. Added an empty super for use with a feeder at some point.
Hive #5
This is my observation hive, just populated with frames from #2 and #4 as described above. Decided not to block them in for 3 days as I did last time. The flying bees can return home if they wish. Hopefully the nurse bees and newly emerging bees will stay to look after the larvae, and maybe even build a queen cell. Gave them a feed of syrup.

Friday 17th July
Hive #4 inspected with a view to removing top brood chamber. However the majority of the honey stores in the top brood box is still uncapped. Plenty of bees working this box. The super in the middle still has plenty of space for storing honey. Quick examination of a few frames in the lower brood chamber revealed plenty of brood although didn't see eggs. This colony is pulling in well and can be left alone for 3/4 weeks to carry on the good work. Bees quite tolerant.

Wednesday 15th July
Lots of high level bee flying around from Hive #2 yesterday so decided to inspect. I was surprised by the number of bees, brood chamber & 1st super full and lots more working on 2nd super. About 80% of brood frames have lots of capped brood so a bit concerned as to where these are going to be accommodated. For that reason decided to add a 3rd super just to give a bit more space. Not much in the way of stores in the brood chamber but 1st super pretty well full. No queen cells but a lot of cups. This is a newly fertilised queen so unlikely to swarm - hope the extra living space keeps them happy. Bees in remarkably good temper.

Hive #4 (left) and Hive #2

Sunday 5th July
Colony #4 inspected for brood (still OK) and set up to be united with colony #3 by adding a sheet of newspaper over the super. They are still storing food in the brood chamber, nothing in the super although the bees are working on the cells.
The Brood chamber from #3 was placed over the super of #4 late in the evening.

Saturday 27th June
Colony #2 putting on about a kilo a day during the current fine weather. Turning point was 23rd June.
Colony #2 weight gain

Friday 26th June
Colony #2
Had second thoughts about colony #2 and decided to do a full inspection - just in case they are making queen cells. The results were negative, and brood was present on about half the frames with plenty of stores. Plenty of work in progress on the super now. So I'll leave them in peace for a while.
Colony #4 moved onto the Beebug monitoring system from today.

Thursday 25th June
Back from holiday at 1:30am this morning, first priority is to inspect the bees!

Colony #2
This colony has been putting on about 0.5Kg the last few days so I'm hoping it's now got a laying queen. 
Sure enough on the first (end) frame I took out there was a load of brood and some larvae. As the only object of this inspection was to ascertain whether there is a queen I decided to leave them in peace and boxed them up again. I noticed that the super of foundation is now being worked on, the central two frames being drawn out. I'm hoping they are all swarmed out for this year and they will put their efforts in to building up stores. The Beebug brood temperature sensor failed a few weeks ago so I've swapped it with the outside temp sensor to see if it's the probe. 

Colony #3
No sign of eggs/larvae/brood here. The capped queen cell noted on 7th May hasn't hatched out. 14 days is too long to remain sealed so it must be a dead queen in there. Left it just in case.

Colony #4 
This is the newly housed swarm captured 31st May. Looks like I really did see eggs on 7th June, there is now plenty of brood - and larvae on about 80% of frames. Did a 100% check for queen cells but none seen, but then it is a bit early for that. Added a queen excluder and super. This has the old queen so can expect a superceedure cell at some point.

Everything found on this inspection was as predicted by the Beebug monitoring - very gratifying. I now intend to merge colony #3 into #2 so it has now started its 3 feet a day march towards #2. May take a week or so. I've taken the monitoring off #3 now, it can usefully be fitted to #4 in the near future.

Tuesday 16th June
Currently caravanning in Holland. The lovely site we are now at, near Medemblik, has WiFi so I'm able to check on the two colonies fitted out with BeeBug monitoring..

Colony #2 Report
Fairly steady weight, not much gain sadly. There was a sudden 120g weight loss at 1pm on 15th June which could possibly have been a mating flight - ever the optimist. I notice the brood temperature sensor has stopped working - at 1am on 13th June, just the time of a mega 1.2" downpour according to my weatherstation, can't be just a coincidence.
Colony #3 Report 
The weight curve presents a depressing picture. Looks like a cast at mid-day on 14th followed by another cast the next day. About a Kilo loss each time. This is very surprising. As previous logs show there was a swarm on 30th May, and the next day I destroyed all but one queen cell. Obviously I didn't do a thorough enough job. Either I missed a few or I didn't kill them well enough (!) and the bees repaired the cells - I was reading that they can do this  in one of my beekeeping books only a few days ago as it happens. The question is, just how many did I not kill. And will there be a virgin in there ready to do her stuff?

I'm now resigned to putting this year down to experience - no chance of a honey crop, I just hope one or two colonies have time to settle down and build up for the winter.

Sunday 7th June
Last inspection before going away for a few weeks.

Inspection Hive #4
This is the swarm captured last Sunday. Purpose is to see if there is evidence of a queen, and yes, unless my eyes fail me there seem to be loads of eggs. No larvae so maybe she's just come into lay. Not at all agressive. Will give them another feed later. All looks good.

Inspection Hive #3
Last Sunday I removed several queen cells and left one uncapped. Today there were about 5 capped queen cells, (non uncapped - which fits with the timescales of queen production), so I left the best (a long one near the top of the frame that I marked last time with a thumbpin, probably the uncapped one from last time but difficult to be totally sure). If the one left doesn't produce a queen I'll have a problem as there won't be any eggs or young larvae to make another. I destroyed 3 and kept one in case I needed it for hive #4. An enormous amount of brood in there and a few larvae - looks like the queen was very busy just before going off with the swarm.

Inspection Hive #2
Object here was to see if either of the two queen cells I left had emergence holes but I couldn't find the cells, they should have been visible from on top. I think the bees may have destroyed them. So I put in the rescued queen cell from Hive #3. They were in a particularly aggressive mood and my smoker had gone out so boxed them up and beat a retreat - but not before getting a sting on my palm when my glove suddenly split.

Sunday 31st May
Work on Hives #3
I was in our caravan in S Wales yesterday and logged on to my BeeBug site only to be dismayed by the fact that #3 had swarmed at mid-day. A rapid 2Kg drop in weight can only be a swarm. So decided to return home a day early to try to locate and capture the swarm.

Hive #3 swarm captured on BeeBug
Searching the garden at 8am today revealed a hefty swarm on precisely the same bush that the swarm of 7th May had settled on. I collected it and housed it in a Beebox hive, with a queen excluder on the entrance. A few hours later I inspected the parent hive, #3, and discovered about 8 queen cells. I'd not given them a thorough inspection as I'd not anticipated them wanting to swarm. They were a swarm themselves only 5 weeks ago. I left an uncapped queen cell and removed the rest. Why they decided to swarm is a mystery, there are still 4 unworked foundation frames in the brood chamber and no stores being put in the super.  They had taken the litre of syrup I'd given them 3 days ago and thoroughly cleaned up the extracted super I put on top 4 days ago. All their energies seem to go into swarming.

The remainder of the swarm climb in to their new home
Work on Hive #2
I selected two capped queen cells from hive #3 with a view to placing them in hive #2. When I checked #2 there was no evidence of any work in producing queeen cells from the frame of eggs/larvae I gave them 3 days ago - maybe a bit early to expect much but I decided to insert the two queen cells anyway.

I moved the new swarm, which I'll call Hive #4, next to Hive #2 in case I want to merge colonies at some point. In 2/3 weeks I'll may have 3 good colonies or none at all! If I get two out of three I can merge the duff one. Not much I can do now except wait. But whatever results, there's not going to be a crop this year I fear.

Thursday 28th May
Inspection of Hive #2
Still no sign of eggs/larvae/brood. so took a frame of eggs/larvae/brood from hive #3 and inserted it in the centre of Hive #2 brood chamber. Depending on whether they produce a queen from an egg or larvae it should take from 12 to 15 days to emerge then another 4 days to mate. So if all goes well there should be eggs in about 3 weeks which is 18th June, in the middle of our holidays. Let nature take it's course as they say.

Friday 22nd May
Inspection of Hive #3
Plenty of brood cells so everything going well. They had taken the pint of syrup I gave them 3 days ago so gave them another pint, they still have a lot of wax to generate as there are 4 frames as yet untouched. I added a super, mainly to give them more space and prevent overheating now we are getting hotter weather. Should be able to leave them to it for some time now.
Inspection of Hive #1
Still no joy with this colony so shook it off down the garden, nature is hard and so it seems am I! But it is sad thing to have to do, they were such a vibrant colony last year. They had a chance with the frame of eggs/larvae I gave some months ago them but although they made a queen nothing came of it. They are all very old bees now, should be long gone.

Later in the day I noticed that they had all returned back to where their hive was! I should have thought of that. So I took pity on this mound of homeless bees and gave them their hive back - they reoccupied it in a couple of seconds! As it happens I've just been reading about the 3:3:3 rule (3 feet, 3 miles, 3 days) and have decided to put this colony in my new observation hive which is about 10m away from their current location. Apparantly if I keep them in for 3 days they should adapt to their new location. I'm going to start a new post on my BeeBug blog to cover the Observation Hive.

Thurs 21st May
Inspection of Hive #2
Last mating flight was 12th May, 9 days ago, so decided to inspect for eggs/larvae. Sadly neither was seen and there was no brood, so it looks like I don't have a mated queen in there. Or she's slow to lay.  Or there was a swarm on 13th May which left a capped cell with a new queen ready to emerge. If so then I'll expect a mating flight in the next week. I counted about half  a dozen empty queen cells while doing the inspection. Time will tell.
This confirms what the monitoring system was telling me - weight going down each day by about 0.2Kg and brood temperature not getting as high as I'd expect. So at least that's proving it's worth.
I checked the super and there are about 6 frames worth pulling off so may do that just in case there's rapeseed in there.

Wed 13th May
Still on holiday in Wales but able to monitor the hives via BeeBug and the internet, and yesterday I observed what appears to be yet another mating flight from hive #2 followed today by what appears to be a a swarm. The difference is dictated by whether the weight loss is permanent or not. Now this just should not happen - the queen should kill off her siblings before going out to mate. Maybe she missed one!

13th May - Hive #2 send out it's 4th swarm (?), a 0.5Kg loss

12th May - Hive # 2 mating flight (?) - bees return to hive

10th May 2015
Sitting in a caravan on the Gower Peninsular and thought I'd see what my bees are up to. Thanks to the miracle of the internet and a BTwiFi connection I can see that hive #2 has produced yet another swarm, about 0.6Kg, which is bees tanked up with lots of honey. Very odd as yesterday there was a mating flight. Nothing I can do about it from here of course.

Yet another swarm leaves hive #2

Saturday 9th May
Went down the garden at 12am to see what was happening and to my surprise hive #2 was covered in bees. None in the air, just glued to the front. An hour later there were loads of bees on the platform fanning out their peromone - see photo. The Beebug weight tracker shows a mass exodus at 11.30am and a gradual re-entry through the afternoon. All the signs of a mating flight. But why there was one two days ago also, I have no idea. (The spike at 18.00 was caused when I removed power to change over Beebug from Hive #1 to #3 - see below. )

Putting out a homing pheromone

Caught on BeeBug - mass exodus at 11.30am to wave off the queen! (ignore spike)
Carried out an inspection on Hive #1 later in the day. Still no sign of any eggs, larvae or brood. It's just possible that there's a queen in there waiting to do a mating flight but I'm not optimistic. Decided to move the Beebug monitor over to hive #3, getting a bit fed up watching hive #1 not doing anything.

Thursday 7th May
I was intending doing an inspection on Hive #2 today but they beat me to it again. At 9:30am they were in the air, lots of noise and loads of bees on the hive. After half an hour they had stopped flying around and were sitting on the front of the hive. This seemed to be a mating flight scenario. Just 16 days after the last swarm would be about right for the queen to go out to mate. And the time of day seemed right too. After an hour they were moving back inside the hive.

That at mid-day they all came out again and a swarm left the hive. They settled in a nearby bush and after letting them settle for a while I managed to brush them into a nuc box. But this isn't supposed to happen, if the queen had left at 9:30am for her nuptials then she should have killed off any other queens. So did the swarm include the mated queen? Was the 9:30am exodus really a mating flight or was it a swarm that I missed? Time will tell but I've lost almost 2Kg of bees today!

10am mating flight exodus followed by 12am swarm exodus

Friday 1st May
Inspection of Hive #3
Had a quick look to see how the swarm was settling in. There are new larvae on the old frame I put in plus uncapped stores of nectar, so having seen that I boxed it up again, the queen is obviously performing. I did however take the opportunity to add a new foundation frame with my new accelerometer monitoring device. More on this on the BugTheBees blog. The colony seems to be fine, taking lots of syrup and pulling in plenty of pollen.

Tuesday 28th April
Inspection of Hive #1
The queen cell shown on the photo of 20th April has been vacated, and there's a nice hole in the top where the queen emerged, so presumably she's in there somewhere. No eggs, grubs or brood visible. I couldn't find her but then if she's not yet mated she will be much the same size as the workers and not so obvious. It can take some weeks before she gets out to mate so I'll have to be a bit more patient. The brood temperature has been holding up at a steady 32 degrees for the last few weeks so something must be going on, although I can't see what. And the colony weight is more or less static, they are probably consuming what they are collecting. Anyway I took the opportunity to remove four old brood frames from the hive and pushed the remaining six frames together and inserted an end board. They don't need the space and the removed frames can be cleaned up or destroyed. Inspecting them afterwards I found two wax moth grubs. They are now squashed wax moth grubs.

Wednesday 22nd April
Having read that multiple casts can follow a swarm I did an inspection on hive #2 today. I found at least a dozen well formed queen cells and destroyed all but one. Only following instructions (!)  So much easier doing an inspection without having to worry about where the queen might be. Actually I know where the queen is, she's in the new swarm hive. Hopefully that single queen cell will be their/my future queen and I won't get casts. Nothing to stop them making more queen cells of course.

When I removed the first super I was surprised by the weight, loads of stores in there but a lot of it not yet capped. Need to keep an eye on that super given the fact that there's rape seed a mile away.

Put a feed on hive #1 as their weight is continuing to drop day by day. Be a shame if they starved just when they are showing signs of recovery.

Tuesday 21st April
Morning swarm

Decided to do an inspection on hive #2 to see if they are making queen cells. I'd left it too late - at 11:30am they swarmed. The cluster was in a neighbour's garden in a forsythia bush, easy to knock them down into a box. So I put them in the hive I'd just set up to do a split. My first swarm and I collected it without any trouble so feeling pretty good about it - a bit nerve racking first time round.

Just happened to be at the bottom of the garden at 5pm and heard another swarm, it was heading off some distance away so went down the road to see if I could find it. Located it about a dozen houses away on a wall. Let them settle and collected it about 7pm.

Same swarm later on

Thought I'd check my new hive and to my amazement there were no bees in it, they'd absconded and the swarm I'd just collected was the one I'd collected earlier in the day. Put them in the new hive for the second time but now with an old frame.

Also made sure I had a secure queen excluder on the entrance. Also fitted a temperature probe to the centre of the brood chamber so I can tell if there is any brood being laid. And I've put two feeders on the crown board. Hopefully they'll like their new home a second time around.

Queen excluder on entrance

Monday 20th April
Inspected the weak colony in hive #1 and was surprised to find two queen cells in progress, one on the lower edge and one near the top, both on the imported frame. So I boxed it all up again. I took the opportunity to move the BeeBug brood chamber temperature sensor onto the imported frame, it now shows a health 34C. It was previously on the next frame in and showing around 20C.  So the colony is in with a chance, and just when I'd written them off. I think the message is - never underestimate bees.

Tuesday 14th April
I've more or less decided that I need to split my good hive so as to get a second colony on the go. So did an inspection to see if they are making queen cells yet. I only checked about 60% in from one end and there was no evidence of any. The 30% near the far end have lots of exposed larvae at the top where the wax had broken off when I removed the excluder and I wanted to put it all back together as quickly as possible. The super was full of bees drawing out foundation and storing honey so decoded to put another super on to give them more space and possibly delay swarming a bit. For the record, the extra super full of frames with undrawn foundation gave a 3.0Kg increase in measured weight. Hive #2 continues to pull in about 0.6Kg a day when the weather is fine. We had two very windy days when they stayed in the hive all day and the weight dropped  a little as they consumed stores to keep the brood warm. Below is the weight plot five days later, showing the super going on and a nice steady weight increase of 2Kg over 4 days.

2nd Super added to hive #2 on 14th April

Wednesday 8th April
Having thought about various alternatives to remedy the lack of a queen in hive #1 I decided to try to get them to make a new queen from eggs out of hive #2. After opening hive #2 I examined each frame from one end until I found one with eggs, this was the third frame in and the photo below shows plenty of brood and eggs. I moved the end frames up to fill the gap and inserted an undrawn frame at the end and boxed them up again. The frame was placed in hive #2 in the middle of the brood chamber and then that was boxed up again. There was a sealed queen cell near the top of the frame so I may get lucky and have a queen even earlier than the two weeks it will take to make one from the eggs. The main issue I see is that the colony is not getting up to 34C, only 24C, so the eggs and brood may not be viable for very long. Having my BeeBug to monitor progress is proving its worth yet again.

Eggs visible lower right

Hive #2 weight increase for one day

Monday 6th April
Hive #2 has started pulling in nectar as of yesterday. The BeeBug weight system shows this nicely. Here's a 24hr trace on Thingspeak showing bees leaving the hive at 8am, returning with forage at midday then building up, to close at end of the working day at 0.6Kg heavier than they started. The weather has been particularly fine these last few days.

Hive #2 start of honey flow from April 6th

Wednesday 25th March
No real change, hive #2 is a 'hive of activity' while #1 remains in the doldrums. On warm afternoons the whole garden is buzzing, very nice. I had a peek inside #1 last week and there is no brood, as suspected. Not much can do at the moment so I'll leave them to it and hope. Here's a link to a very short video showing activity at #2.

Thursday 5th March
Hive #1 continues to go up and down in brood chamber temperature, up to 33C for a few days then down to about 20C again. Plenty of bees outside on sunny days but they are not bringing in any pollen, and they don't seem very purposeful. So everything points to there being no eggs laid. Hive #2 is a very different picture with brood chamber temperature up solid at 33C for a some weeks now and loads of pollen going in. All strong indicators for a growing colony. Encouraging news on both is that there has been no Varroa drop on either for a few months now.

Friday 6th Feb
The rise in temperature that started on 24th Jan was it seems short-lived. They kept it up for three days, lots of activity, lots of noise from the hive, then when the weather changed to more winter like conditions it plummeted again. They obviously thought better of it. Britain has had very cold weather for 10 days now with no end in sight and the bees in my monitored hive are back to survival mode. The ambient temp in the green plot below only goes down to 0.9C (something I'll fix on the next unit) whereas overnights were actually down to -6C. 

BeeBug screen Grab 1Feb to 6Feb

Saturday 24th Jan
Since the last entry at the end of December I've left the hives to the ravages of winter and kept my fingers crossed. But the first hive has been closely monitored with the BeeBug remote monitoring system so I've been able to see how they've coped with the very cold weather of the last week, with temperatures down to -6C. Happily, both hives are surviving and the honey stores are not being depleted anywhere near as fast as expected. I can now check the weight of hive #1 via over the internet while for hive #2 it's still a matter of going down once a week with the bathroom scales. At some point I'll put up a graph of weigh readings.

Yesterday, 24th Jan, I was demonstrating my Beebug at a local Green Homes show. Remarkably, at 12:30pm the temperature of the bees in hive #1 rocketed up from about 9C to 32C. They decided to put on a show at just the right time. The only explanation for such a temperature is that the queen is laying eggs. Really great news, especially as this is the colony I had doubts about being able to survive. I expect they'll eat into the honey a lot faster now so will have to keep an eye on that.

BeeBug Screen Grab for 24th Jan

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