Friday, December 31, 2010

New Years Eve Bees

The Oscar hive had bees out and about today.  The other two hives, not so much.  The temperature hit about 48F for a high.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Fall Feeding

I put the last of 10 gallons of 2:1 sugar syrup + essential oils on the hives today.  The temperature is still into the 60s so the girls are out foraging.  I closed up the entrances of the Langstroths with reducers on the large opening.  I will shut them down to the small opening once the temperature stays in the 40s or lower.

Felix looked good with comb visible in most of the bars in the upper deep.  Nairobi is still kind of small with comb on only 9 bars.  Oscar doesn't have much in the 3rd deep, but with 2 undivided deeps below it should be ok.

I need to get screen to make condensers out of shallows and wood shavings in order to keep the moisture down in the Langs over the winter.  I will probably do that this weekend if they have finished off all the syrup.  Nothing but fondant and pollen patties for everybody once this syrup is gone,

Monday, August 30, 2010


Bald faced hornets and lots and lots of yellow jackets.  Nairobi has no honey stored and the girls are evacuating a ton of dead bees from the bottom of the hive.  I corked the second of three holes on the KTBH and put entrance reducers on the two Langstroths.  I will start feeding 2:1 sugar to water this weekend through the rest of the fall.

Many yellow jackets have felt the wrath of my hive tool.  The little bastards were even killing bees at the waterer I have set up on the porch.  I killed one nest earlier in the summer that was trying to establish in the railrod tie retaining wall.  Stupid wasps.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Nairobi Is Progressing Nicely.

Nairobi has comb on nine bars, eight of which have brood.  They are starting to put up honey on the ninth bar and have some capped honey across the tops of the comb on the other eight.  The brood bars are 1/2 to 2/3 filled with comb with lots of capped brood and larvae completely fill the comb.  I hope that since bar 9 is only honey that it means the recently matured workers are now putting up stores for the winter.  These bees were very calm today and did not raise a fuss even though I pulled most of the bars looking for the queen.

Lots of brood

Capped honey on the last bar

Felix has started to fill the top deep and so has Oscar.  Neither hive has started on the supers and may not get to them this year.  If they fill the reserves on the remaining summer and fall blossoms, that would be great.  I did not go into these hive past pulling a bar from each reserve.  They are healthy, busy, and happy, although not quite as docile as Nairobi.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Nairobi Has Brood

I looked in on the new MN Hygienic queen that is in Nairobi to see how she is doing.  I found lots of capped brood and open cells with larvae.  Also some drone cells, capped and open, at the far end of the hive.  There are 6 bars with brood and one with new comb.  Once the brood starts hatching in a few weeks I hope they get to work putting up stores for this winter.  There is some honey across the tops of the bars, but not nearly enough to last.  I plan on feeding 2:1 syrup with essential oils and pollen patties starting after the golden rod and other fall bloomers come in.

The other two hives, Oscar and Felix are busy as usual.  No action in the supers and I did not pull frames on either.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Bearding (It's Hot and Humid)

The bees in Oscar and Felix are good during the day when everybody is out gathering, but there is not quite enough room for everyone in the hive when the sun goes down.  Nairobi is still waiting for new workers from the MN Hygienic queen I put in a couple of weeks ago, so it has no overcrowding/overheating problems.  The pictures below were taken at 10:30pm.  Oscar is stacked taller which might explain why there are more bees hanging out on Felix.  Both hives have screened bottom boards.



Sunday, June 27, 2010

Nairobi's New Queen

The new Minnesota Hygienic queen came in the mail on Friday.  I removed the old queen from the hive and popped her in the freezer.  On Saturday I put the new queen into the hive with the cork out of the candy end of the queen cage.  I will check back in a couple of days to make sure she has been released.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Father's Day Check In

The kids and I looked in on all three hives today.  The weather was sunny on a weekend for the first time in a while.  Both Langstroth hives have been very busy this month when the weather has permitted.  The KTBH has been much more quiet, though.

Felix - busy, happy hive.  They are still working on filling the bottom hive body and not much work upstairs in the second hive.  I pulled the feeder box off.  It was empty and they don't need it now with everything in bloom.

Oscar - same as Felix.  Looks like they have good comb on 8 out of 10 bars in the brood chamber.  Nothing happening in the honey reserve box yet.  This is probably the last time I will look into the brood chamber on this hive. 

I have supers prepped for both Oscar and Felix, but neither needed supering today.  The wild clover started blooming about a week ago, so the nectar flow should start any day.  The crimson clover I planted is starting to bloom and the yellow clover should be a week or two behind that.  I will check in on the Langs in a couple of weeks to see if they need supers.

That leaves the Nairobi hive.  The Buckfast queen that shipped with this hive's package of bees underwent some stress as noted in an earlier post.  She is not laying well.  There is no capped or open brood and a lot of drones.  This could mean the workers are laying or that she is just not up to the task.  In either case, I ordered another queen to replace her and it should arrive this week.  I hope the remaining bees are not too old to support the new queen and that the workers are not laying and will accept her.

Queen spotted

Honey on top, but no brood.  Same bar as above

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Memorial Day Weekend Inspections

My son Jack and I peeked into the Langstroths on Sunday to check on the comb building and to add a second deep to Felix.

Felix is building out comb nicely on the foundationless frames.  The nuc I installed was full foundation and even one plastic frame, but they are taking to foundationless just fine. To give them a clue that they should start building in the new deep, I moved a frame that had only comb with some stores on it into the new one.

Oscar is coming along nicely.  The brood chamber has comb that extends below where the bottom bars would normally be on standard frames.  There are empty cells where there were previously capped brood which means new bees have hatched out.  The queen was spotted and all signs point to continued laying as I saw capped and uncapped brood.  They are also starting to store honey across the tops of the combs.  The honey reserve box with empty frames showed no sign of being built on, so I swapped a frame from the brood chamber with comb on it up into the reserve box.  I removed the bottom bar from reserve #7 frame and stuck it on brood #7 frame.  Hopefully the bees will take the hint and start building on the reserve frames.

Next inspection is slated for June 12th, weather permitting.  I want to give the bees a couple of weeks to work undisturbed.

The Felix bees had no problem switching to foundationless

Another foundationless frame from Felix

Felix with the second deep installed

Oscar brood frame with a drone cell visible (yellow bump in the middle)

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

A Couple of Quick Inspections

Nairobi is continuing to build comb.  I added a couple of more bars and removed the cork from the third entrance hole.  I pulled bars from the entrance backward until I found the queen.  Combs have capped and uncapped brood, pollen, capped and capped honey.  Nairobi looks set so I am going to leave it alone for a couple of weeks to give the girls time to build out.

Oscar has comb on all the frames except #9 and #10.  I did not pull any more as I am waiting until this weekend to do a more thorough inspection.  Since the brood chamber had 80% of the frames being built upon, I went ahead and added the hive body that will be the honey reserve.  I also removed the queen excluder since there should be drones hatching soon and they need to get out.

Oscar with the honey reserve deep installed

Felix got the least attention today because those bees have only been there since Sunday.  I checked the level of syrup in the feeder and removed the entrance reducer to help with the traffic jams.  I will add the second deep this weekend and let them get started on their winter reserves.

Felix with a little more access for the bees

It is rather green this year

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Felix Has Bees

I picked up a nuc of Carniolan bees from Bee Havin' Apiary in Smithfield, RI on Sunday. These bees went into the third hive, a standard Langstroth. This hive is called Felix because the other hive is called Oscar. Not much choice in the name :)

Once home, I let the bees sit on top of the hive in the closed nuc box for an hour or so, per the advice of Everett at Behavin'. After cooling off, the bees were easy to move from the nuc into their new home.  I continue to use a sprayer with 1:1 syrup with a couple drops of wintergreen essential oil instead of the smoker.  One sting so far while installing and inspecting three hives, so I don't think I am going to start smoking them any time soon.

Bottom to top Felix consists of the following hive parts:
  • Cypress hive stand.
  • Screened bottom board.
  • Hive body with 5 frames from the nuc and five foundation-less frames, waxed with melted beeswax.  The nuc came with foundation frames.  I will rotate these out over time and end up purely foundation-less.
  • Shim constructed to act as an entrance. 
  • Dadant Top feeder fastened inside a medium super with 1:1 syrup and homemade Honey B Healthy. This feeder does not expose the syrup openly to the bees.  Hopefully there won't be as many drownings with this one
  • Inner cover - this doesn't do much except keep me from misplacing an inner cover.
  • Garden top cover

Cardbox nucleus box with the new bees.

Opened nuc with dusting of powdered sugar to knock down possible Varroa mites

First frame in the hive

Side shot of a nuc frame in the hive

All stacked up and ready to go

Felix Post-install from John Duncan on Vimeo.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Nairobi First Inspection

Bright sunny day in the 70s, so I checked on the progress in the KTBH. The bees had comb on six of the seven bars available. Looks very straight. I pulled all the bars and saw signs of pollen and syrup storage, but no eggs, larvae, or capped brood. I did spot the queen. They are putting up stores and building comb, so I removed the queen includer follower board.  I will give them another five days or so and then go back in and check.

I also removed the entrance reducer from Oscar's top entrance to reduce traffic jams. The bees are very busy and are still bringing in 10^3 kg of pollen. They are not taking much syrup these days.

 Nairobi opened up and a top bar out for inspection.

The queen is in there somewhere.

10^3kg = a metric ton :)

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Oscar First Inspection

Went into the Oscar hive for the first time to check for signs of egg laying, etc.  Found capped brood and open larvae, so I know the queen is laying.  Jack and I found the queen as well.  There is comb on frames one through six and the bees are continuing to bring in pollen.   I replaced the Brushy Mountain top feeder with a Boardman feeder over the hole in the inner cover.  Too many drowned bees.  I am going to leave them to their business for another week or so before I go back in.  Photo credits go to my son Jack.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

So far, so good

The temperature was in the lower 60s today, so both hives were busy.  Oscar's bees are bringing in pollen by the truckload.  Nairobi's bees are just getting started and I did see pollen on some of the returning workers.

 Oscar bees with pollen

I opened Nairobi up just long enough to pull the queen cage out and ensure that it was empty.  The cage was empty and the bees are clustered up in one mass in the corner.  I am assuming that the queen is in there somewhere.  As I mentioned above, they are bringing in pollen and working the 1:1 syrup from the feeding station.  I am leaving them alone for at least a week before I check for progress on combs.

Nairobi bees feeding on syrup

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

I'm not dead yet.

The story so far:  I checked for queen release on Monday and her majesty was curled up and immobile, still in the queen cage.  I removed the cage and called Draper to order a new queen.  On the advice of Draper, I put the queen cage back into the hive with the still curled up and immobile queen in it.

Today UPS brought me a new Italian queen and some attendant bees with her in the queen cage.  I removed the candy cork, put the cage in my bee suit pocket, and went out to the KTBH.  When I moved the follower board back to remove the old queen cage, the cage was covered with bees.  I shook off the bees and TADA!  there was the queen, blue dot on her back, buzzing around.  Apparently she was not dead and had been merely pining for the fjords.  Pulled the cork on the other end and put everything back together.  I will check again this afternoon to make sure she is out.

Now what to do with an extra queen.

New comb, dead center on the bar

Monday, May 10, 2010

The Queen is Dead

Not an album by the Smiths. The KTBH queen did not get released and was dead this morning when I went to check her. I ordered another queen from Draper's and she should be here Wednesday via UPS.  The temperature dropped into the 30s F last night and the cage was on the screened bottom. The bees were clustered on the bar above the queen cage, so I imagine that she probably got too cold.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Nairobi has Bees

I installed bees into the KTBH yesterday.  Photo credits belong to my daughter Virginia.

Hive apart, ready for bees

Her Majesty

Shake, shake, shake

Bees in
Queen Cage in


I put the queen cage on the screen bottom, but had a nagging suspicion that I had her screen down.  Checked this morning and I was right.  Flipped her over and closed everything back up.  This operation resulted in my first sting ever.  Probably should not have been wearing shorts.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Oscar Queen Release Check

Today was scheduled to check to see if the bees had released the queen.  They had indeed:

Nobody but workers in there.

Candy plug is gone

She is in there somewhere

The bees were calm about the whole procedure.  They looked like their were working on at least 3 bars getting ready to build comb or building it.  Time to leave them alone for a week and let them get to work.  I switched the entrance reducer to the larger opening to give more room to come and go.  Next week I will remove it completely.

Starting to bring home pollen


The second Langstroth hive is sited.  This will be a foundationless hive.  The bees get picked up in a week or so when the apiary sets the date.  I will be installing a 5 frame nuc instead of a package into this hive. 

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Bee Movies

Installing bees from John Duncan on Vimeo.

Settling In from John Duncan on Vimeo.

Settled In from John Duncan on Vimeo.

Kenyan Top Bar Hive

The Kenya Top Bar Hive (KTBH) is ready for bees.  This hive will be called Nairobi.

Homemade Honey B Healthy Spring Feed

Adapted from alpha6's recipe posted on Bee Source

In a five gallon bucket add 2 1/2 gallons of hot water (can be hot tap water)
3 teaspoons of Soy Lecithin Granules
Mix well
1.5ml thyme oil
3ml lemongrass oil
3ml spearmint oil
Add one five lb bag of sugar
Mix well
Continue to add another 15 lbs of sugar mixing as you go

First Package

The first package of bees arrived via USPS from R Weaver today.  3 pounds of Buckfast bees, very few dead on the package bottom.  Not bad for having started in Texas the other day.  I picked them up from the post office around 9am and had everybody cozy in the hive by around 10:30am. 

The bees

 Oscar ready to be loaded

Package open and feeder can removed

Her majesty in her cage with the candy cork removed

Fast forward to a filled hive with the stragglers still hanging out in the package

Bees figuring out where the entrance is

Bottom to top Oscar consists of the following hive parts:
  • Cyprus hive stand
  • Screened bottom board
  • Empty hive body
  • Hive body with frames containing starter strips but no bottom bars
  • Metal queen excluder (painted red) to act as an includer for the first couple of weeks
  • Shim constructed to act as an entrance.  I am using a standard entrance reducer on the smallest opening so the bees won't have to work so hard at guarding against robbing while they settle in
  • Brushy Mountain Top feeder with 1:1 syrup and homemade Honey B Healthy
  • Inner cover
  • Garden top cover
In addition to the 1:1 and HBH in the feeder there is a pollen patty on the frames.

This went amazingly well.  The bees were very cooperative.  I left them to moving in and went into the office for a couple of hours.  When I got back, all the stragglers had left the package box and the bees had decided that the entrance in the reducer was acceptable.  There a thunderstorm rolling in and there are less than 50 bees still flying around.  50 out of approximately 10,000 is not bad.

The next package shipped on Monday so they will be here tomorrow or Thursday.  Top bar hive is ready to go as soon as I get the bars waxed.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Top Bars and Followers

Assembled three follower boards and 23 top bars for the KTBH today.  14 of the top bars are solid, based on Lyonville Fletcher's blog.  The remaining 9 are square bars with the chamfers from cutting the solid bars as comb guide.  Need another  2x4 to finish up making the approximately 32 top bars one would need to completely fill a 48" KTBH.  Gotta love a table saw.  Should be able to knock together the hive body tomorrow and I may even get to the legs.

Lots of anecdotal posts on the bee forums about packages absconding .  I think I may make the extra follower board into a queen "includer" since I have a couple of plastic queen excluders.  I will just cut a hole in the follower board and fasten the excluder over it.

 Solid Top Bar

Chamfer Top Bar

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Oscar is stacked

20:1 linseed oil and beeswax on all the remaining woodenware. Oscar hive is stacked with space for brood, reserves and feeder. I will take him down to the medium + deep when the bees arrive.