Thursday 19 January 2017

Log for 2017

Sat 30th Dec
Fumigated both hives with oxalic acid

Sat 23rd Dec
Fumigated both hives with oxalic acid while the weather is warm (11C). Both colonies seem to have survived two weeks of extreme winter weather with heavy snow and temperatures down to -12C. 

Fri 1st Dec
Moved hives to bottom of garden during a cold spell.

Thurs 28th Sep
Each given 1Kg fondant, liquid feeder removed.

Thurs 21st Sept
Half litre syrup given to each.

Thurs 14th Sept
Half litre syrup given to each.

Mon 11th Sept
Last oxalic acid treatment. Gave each half a litre of syrup.

Sun 3rd Sept
Gave each colony a few wet frames to clean up. After removing them I'll leave the empty super for future feeds.

Sat 2nd Sept
Checked drop after 20 hrs, heavy on #2, light on #1.

Swapped over the super and brood on hive #1.

Fri 1st Sept
Gave both hives a dose of oxalic acid vapour.  Need to do two more 5 days apart. So 6th, 11th Sept.

Wed 23rd Aug
Nuc checked  - as suspected it has been robbed out and the brood abandoned. When they've finished the cappings I'll take it down.
Cleaned up (and repaired) super taken off #2. Checked the remaining super and it's 80% full with lots of capped honey. No need to feed this colony so crown board removed. Must move the super below the brood box at some point.

Tues 22nd Aug
Hive #2 treated with oxalic acid vapour, 3mins to vaporise then 6 mins stand time. Hive #1 left for now due to very light drop a few weeks ago. Cappings placed in top of nuc.

Mon 21st Aug
Honey extraction and bottling. Two and a half supers, 32 bottles. Not bad. A super of wet frames put on each hive. Hive #2 now has a new Raspberry Pi monitor, traces are much, much better. 

Sat 19th Aug
Top super taken off #2 using clearer board.

Thur 17th Aug
Inspected #1 today and discovered that there appear to be two colonies in the same hive! The make-up is broodbox, excluder, super, brood box. Each brood box has loads of capped brood, larvae and eggs. No evidence of queen activity in the super. So it looks like two queens. I moved the five frames from the top brood box  into a nuc. and added a new frame.I'd taken off the other 6 frames yesterday for #2 to clean up.  I've put the nuc as near as possible to the main hive as presumably both sets of workers had been using the same entrance.  I couldn't find the queens so it's all a bit of a wing and a prayer. A few hours later there were lots of bees zapping around like maniacs making the garden a no-go area. Hope that doesn't indicate there a missing queen.

Wed 16th Aug
Varroa drop boards inserted at 2pm on both hives. A lot of bees crawling around so suspect DWV, wasps are polishing them off.
Checked #1 after 6 hours, about 1 varroa! Amazingly light.
Checked #2 and a different picture - about 20.

Intended giving half the top brood chamber of #1 to #2 to clean up. However on opening it up it was obvious that the queen had been there, several frames with solid brood. She obviously got through the excluder - or did I forget to put one on?! Anyway I removed 6 frames that had only honey (some capped) and put it on top of #2. I'll have to strip it down tomorrow and try to get some order into things. A bit hazardous as I don't know where 'she' is.

HoneyPi Notes
Raspberry Pi #2 has been giving trouble again. It's been dropping the weight to below zero for weeks now and driving me mad. There seems however to be a pattern to getting it working:
-weight drops to -3Kg
-I plug in an old sensor and the weight goes to 10Kg
-replug the proper sensor and it works!
Also note that when the weight drops so does the temperature, so maybe a dicky energising voltage from the Pi board. Out of interest I unlugged the temp sensor from both systems so the temp shows as about 1degree C, and #1 weight not affected, #2 weight goes down by 10Kg. Looks like I'm on to something at last.  However a few hours later the weight returned to normal, so it looks like something has recovered. Decided to change the temperature circuit so that there can be no return current from the 5v going into the bridge excitation voltage return. We'll see how that affects things. And I've unplugged the temp sensor on #1 to see if there is any effect on the weight stability.

Thurs 10th Aug
Intended removing the top brood chamber off #1, I had assumed they would have cleaned it up, but they have decided to store honey in it instead. So removed the crown board from below and left them to get on with it.

Wed 9th Aug
Super removed off #2, not clear of bees because the underside was thick with them, just too many bees in there! Weight drop of 20Kg, say 2Kg for the clearer, so 18Kg.

Tues 8th Aug
Super removed off #1 next morning with no bees - works a treat. 12Kg super weight drop.

Mon Aug 7th
Removed top brood chamber off #1 and put it above a crown board for cleaning, it was being used as a honey store. Clearer with diamond exit device fitted to #1 at 4pm.

Wed Aug 2nd
Went down to see how things looked at 8am and there were dead bodies everywhere and a lot of fighting going on. I imagine colony #4 has been decimated. I've combined before without this carnage. Maybe there were two queen-right colonies. Who knows. I'll leave them a week to get sorted.

From now on I'll refer to the two colonies as #1 and #2, in line with HoneyPi #1 & #2 monitor systems. So #4 becomes #1.

Tue Aug 1st
Reinspected #4  in better light and with reading glasses, but could find do eggs or larvae. a few brood hatching out. Found 3 vacated queen cells in the centre of the frame and one still capped. So have they superceeded the queen and she is still not in lay yet? Couldn't see a queen but then she may still be a bit small. If she exists.
Inspected #3 but could not find any queen cells which makes me doubt they actually swarmed! Lots of brood and larvae but didn't see eggs. Several frames not drawn so plenty of space. All very odd. Placed 1st super on a separate base with an escape hatch at the bottom.
A horrible thought - is the queen in that 1st super? Didn't think to check. Bugger. Went in half an hour later to check but no sign of queen having been there. Only 60% full so it can go back on the hive when I combine.
Plan is to add #4 on top of #3, without a queen excluder and let them, hopefully, sort out a queen. Will do this in the evening when the flying bees are in their respective brood boxes.

Had the thought that maybe it was hive #2 that had swarmed so went in to inspect. This a brood and a half hive.
Top super very heavy, needs removing asap, next super about half the weight. Brood super has a lot of capped brood and saw eggs. Main brood chamber has loads of capped brood. And not a QC in sight. This is a very strong colony indeed.
So it wasn't this colony that swarmed either. So can carry on with plan to merge #4 onto #3, although I suspect that #3 has a queen. I'll still take a chance and let them sort it out between themselves.

#4 combined with #3. Stack is:

Mon July31st
Colony #3 seems to have swarmed at 4pm, not that I saw them. A 0.8Kg drop. Neighbour informed me and load cell monitor bears this out. They are nowhere to be seen. So plan now is to combine into #4. 
A 0.8Kg weight drop (blue trace) at 4pm - but was it a swarm?
With this in mind I checked #4  and found a weak than expected colony. Hardly any brood but a few vacated queen cells. So have they superceeded the queen. Will have a look for eggs tomorrow.  Three weeks ago I was searching for the queen and couldn't find her, maybe she wasn't there!

Thurs July 27th
Removed remainder of cleaned up frames, plus super, off #2. Weight drop = 5Kg
Removed bowl of wax scraps plus super off #3. Weight drop = 3Kg
Now just need them to fill and cap the two supers that they each have. May pull off mid Aug.

Sat July 22nd
Removed some cleaned up frames from #2, gave them some cappings. They seem to have removed the RSO, hope it doesn't pop up again in their new honey.
Removed wax remains from cappings in #3, gave them some more!
Weather cool and wet so they probably appreciate these treats - not that it shows!

Sun July 16th
Cleaned up super removed from #2, gave them another wet one - has a lot of RSO so not sure what to do with it afterwards.
Cleaned up super removed from #3, gave them a plate of capings to clean.
Now have two supers of clean, drawn frames.

Thur July 13th
Put a wet super on top of #3.  (Weight increased by 6Kg.)

Wed July 12th
Spent two hours going through the frames of #4 looking for the queen (with a view to taking her out and combining #4 with #3). But to no avail. Need a plan B!
Extracted about 20Kg of honey & bottled it - 5 hrs work.
Put a wet super on top of #2.  (Weight increased by 6Kg.)

July 10th
First super taken off hive #3. Registered hive weight droppd 12Kg. If we allow 3Kg for an empty supper that's 9Kg honey.

July 7th 
Decided to put a new super on #2, to reduce the swarm risk and also to give them enough space through the coming weeks when I'm away. Took the opportunity to remove the 1st super, and put the new one in its place just above the queen excluder. Had a peek into the brood super and it's pretty fully utilised. Resultant weight loss as a result of swapping out the super was 11Kg.

July 5th - check on space only
#4 now occupies 9 out of the 10 frames so added a super. Good brood/food patterns.
#2 top super not capped but getting there. Ok for a week or so.
#3 top super still has plenty of space.

Jun 27th
Just a quick check on space. I'm taking a gambol on them not preparing to swarm!

#4 (ex nuc) now has brood/eggs/larvae on 6 frames and stores on the rest. Plenty of space for a few weeks.
#2 Checked top (3rd) super and there's plenty of honey forming but no capping.  About  50% full.
#3 Top (3rd) super only about 10% utilised.

Jun 18th
Hive #3 inspected, at 8am to beat the heat, unfortunately also with a beehive full of bees, and what a lot of bees. This is a brood and a half and in the 10 days since I made it that way there is plenty of capped brood on the 'half' chamber already. Hopefully the queen goes down before I lift it off to inspect the full size chamber. Plenty of brood and no queen cells, which is what I was interested in. So boxed them up, added a 3rd super and hopefully they can get on with it now for some weeks. They were not at all agressive, more bemused than anything.

Jun 17th
Hive #4 - Progessing well. Now has brood over 5 frames, stores in two frames, 3 frames yet to be drawn.

Hive #3 - Removed the 6 frames I had left for cleaning, but I left them on too long and they are strting to store honey in them. This now has two supers, may add another before long as they are pulling in loads all of a sudden.

Hive #2 - Again they have started to store honey in the cleaned up frames, so added some of those taken off hive #3 to make a full super. This now has three supers. Will keep them going for the rest of the summer hopefully.

Jun 7th
Hive #2 - after thinking about it, I decided to convert this to brood and a half, so added a super of empty drawn frames below the excluder.  Should reduce the urge to swarm.

Hive #3 - Inspection of brood chamber showed good brood/larvae. Only 5 frames in use so lots of room for expansion. Added a 2nd super.  Removed the super of cleaned frames and replaced it with a super of 6 frames for cleaning. 1st super heavy but not quite ready for removing. This colony is a lot less agressive than it has been, possibly because it is a viable colony again.

Post-inspection photo off my webcam facility

June 6th - Inspection Day
Hive #4 (was nuc swarm) - brood on 3 frames, about 5 frames unused. They had cleaned up the cappings so gave them some more. Not overly agressive. Still a small colony but poised to grow. Need to keep giving them food I think.

Hive #2 - 1st super almost full but needs capping, they are just starting work on the 2nd super. 3rd super had frames for cleaning, which they have done, so gave them another half dozen plus some cappings. The brood chamber seems very congested, brood on all but one frame and didn't notice any stores. In retrospect should have given super 1 a better check to ensure queen wasn't up there. Next time! Good news is that there is no sign of any queen cells.  No weight gain on this colony over the last week, possibly the June Gap is biting but the weather has been mixed also.

Two new supers arrived today - and I have enough frames to fill them.
Don't really want 3 colonies but will keep them for now as insurance. Will decide what to combine with what later in the year.

May 30th - Inspection Day
Hive #4 (was nuc swarm): Good brood on first frame so things look good. Boxed them up again without disturbing them further. They had not taken the syrup I'd left them so removed it and gave them a dish of cappings to clean up. Not too aggressive.

Hive #2: This colony has been pulling in loads of honey the last week so I went in looking for queen cells. Didn't find any! Loads of bees and the super is about half full now. Put a crown board on and a super of spun frames for them to clean up. Still a fairly placid colony.

Hive #3:  This is the 'queenless' colony that I added a frame of eggs to. 9 days ago. Sadly I didn't mark the frame so I'm baffled by what I found - which was a frame of brood and a frame of eggs! One explanation is that there was a virgin queen in there two weeks ago when it swarmed. Another is that I inadvertently moved the queen in with the frame of eggs - but I was really careful so I think that's unlikely. I didn't think to check #2 for eggs as I was looking for queen cells. There's a lesson there. I added a crown board and a super of spun frames to clean up. The one super is getting near full so has to come off when I have a cleaned up super for them. This colony is still agressive but not half as bad as they were. I can live with how they are.

Resumé : I seem to have three laying colonies and no queen cells. No quite sure how but I'm very happy with it all..

May 25th
Nuc: Moved swarm in nuc into a standard brood box, mainly so I can give them some supers to clean when the weather deteriorates. Plenty of eggs on two frames but still no larvae which is surprising. Hmm. Not a strong colony, but quite docile. I had thought of merging with #3 but they are far too weak for that. Gave them a feed of syrup and some honeywater left over from yesterday's extraction. They ae now in box #4.

Extracted 3 supers os frames from various sources, some from the colony that died in December and two supers off the queenless colony #3. They are just staying indoors eating it! They had uncapped most one super that was almost fully capped a week a go. Left them one super. Ended up with 25 1lb jars of very nicely flavoured honey. And a litre of  honey & water from 3 frames that burst when extracting with our new 4 frame spinner. Won't use that machine again.

May 21 - Inspection Day
Nuc: This is the collected swarm of a week ago. Some cross-comb makes it a bit difficult, but on one frame there were eggs. I can't understand that - too good to be true. Boxed it up again and gave them a feed. Very aggressive and difficult to get rid of the followers. A few stayed near the house to ambush me when I came out again. Although it is possible the aggression is from colony #3 bees.

Hive #2: this is the split of 3 weeks ago and the half with the queen and brood. Plenty of brood/larvae/eggs and the good news is - no queen cells. They are storing honey in the super and there's 95% spece remaining. Not overly agressive. Fitted a new temperature probe in the brood chamber and boxed them up.

Hive #3: This the half of the split that swarmed. One queen cell - just as last week, I suspect it's empty but left it. Not much of anything in the brood chamber. Put a clearer board under the top super, just to see if it works really. Fitted new temperature probe and boxed them up. Very aggressive and difficult to get rid of the followers. Spotted a wasp's nest in the outhouse so dislodged it with a garden hoe while I had my gear on. Now I have wasps after my blood as well. Retreated into the house for  a lie down in a dark room.

A plan emerges. From what I've discovered today, I think I'll gradually move the nuc in front of hive #3 and in a 4/5 days move the nuc colony into a standard brood box. I'll then put #3 on top to combine them. So all the naughty bees and the naughty queen will be together and I can then bump her off and get a new, hopefully better tempered, queen.

Plan B emerges On reflection the original plan isn't so good, because hive #3 has been without a queen for 23 days. So it's only a few days off  being irrecoverable. So I went back in tonight and gave them a frame of eggs and brood from #2.  If there are no queen cells in a week that's the end of the road for #3.

May 15
On reflection decided that leaving two queen cells may have been a mistake so went back in and took out one of them. Opened it up later but nothing inside. So is there anything inside the one I left?!
The bees have been very aggressive today, maybe because the swarmed hive knows it is destined to remain queenless - time will tell. But I'm now thinking buying in some Buckfast queens in order to resolve the aggression. 

May 14
 While on holiday in Cornwall I was able to see a 1kg drop at 4pm on 13th on hive #3. Decided to come back a day eary and on getting back immediately went down the garden, and there they were. Droped them into a nuc and closed them up in a cool place. Gave them a feed in th evening and moved them to their position in the 'apiary'. Opened up the front with the excluder option. However by closing them up I may have caused my neighbour to get stung. Apparantly at around 4 and 6pm she was stung while on the patio at the top end of the garden, a good 100ft from the colony. I think it may have been returning scouts not being able to get in the nuc and getting angry. Just a theory but it fits.

A swarm!

Having captured the swarm I checked colony #2 and was surprised to find eggs, larvae and loads of brood. As it was split only 15 days ago it seems I must have put the queen in there by mistake. All the frames looked good and no queen cells. So added an excluder and a super. I'm expecting a significant weight increase when we get fine weather.

Checked colony #3 and they had not progressed at all with the empty frames I had added. Loads of queen cells. The three supers were about 70% full and I removed a few of the capped frames. Took out all but two queen cells. The mystery is why the colony swarmed as they didn't have a mated queen. But the swarm should have a queen, albeit a virgin.

May 3
Away for a few weeks so decided to adda super to hive #3. They are pulling in a kg a day typically, wouldn't want them to run out of space. If I can remove the impetus to swarm they are well placed to provide a bumper crop at peak flow.
Hive #2 looking very busy and they've taken down a litre of syrop. Brood chamber temperature drop a lot during the day, which I can't understand, but they are taking in pollen so may be things are ok. I'll know in a few weeks.

Apr 28
Intended splitting the hive today but when I checked them at 12:30 the from was covered with bees, there waere loads in the air and when I checked the weight it had just dropped by 0.6Kg. It's very possible they had just swarmed.
However I couldn't find the swarm - it's usually local. Opened them up and while there were half a dozen queen cells in the acorn stage there were no capped ones. Very odd, they usually cap a few before swarming. Went through but couldn't find the queen - not that that means a lot. So decided to follow the Ron Brown method on splitting, move about 60% of the brood out into a new hive. Going through selecting frames I still didn't spot the queen and was careful to check she wasn't on any frame I added into the new hive. So I may have two queenless colonies or I may have a very much weakened prime colony plus a second colony that I hope can make a queen. I'll know in a few weeks time! At least they are most unlikely to swarm while I'm away for two weeks. Hive #3 has the two supers still so that can be their food if they need any. I gave the new colony in hive #2 a sugar feed.
Looking at the hive entrances a few hours later hive #4 is just as busy as before while there's no outside activity at all from hive #2.

Good weight gain on the hot weekend of 22/23 then steady loss during the following cold spell


Apr 11
Inspection on hive #4:
About 6 frames with brood, some almost entirely. about 4 frames of space. Didn't spot the queen or eggs but I forgot my glasses. Plenty of space in super but I added another anyway, may as well be on the hive as in my shed. The extra super added 1.5Kg. All fondant has been eaten. Inspection was at 3pm but there were still a lot of bees in there. From the curve below, the hive seems to have taken off on the 6th.

 A second Raspberry Pi monitor was added to hive #2 and calibrated. All I need is some bees.

Hive #4 - first inspection. About 5 frames with brood, some food, food in super, fondant available above super. Good number of bees. All looking good. Three frames replaced by undrawn foundation, one (no. 3 from RHS) with a third missing to encourage drone cells for a varroa trap.

Jan 18
Hive #4 given some fondant.

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