Today was a warm(ish), sunny day with temperatures in the 50s, and bees from all three hives were out foraging. We had to tread carefully when we got near because so many were on the ground near the hives.
I can only surmise they were searching for pollen and nectar, which is as yet unavailable so early in spring.
We were out there because we finally had both the weather and the time to treat them with oxalic acid. As you can see below, when we blocked the entrances so the vapor would stay in the hive, they began landing on any available surface including my hand as I held the vaporizer wand.
This wouldn’t normally concern me, but the cuff on my beekeeping jacket is no longer taut. As I tried to keep it closed, the plastic gloves I wear to protect my skin from oxalic acid gapped open, and I worried one of the girls would get caught inside, resulting in a sting for me and death for the bee.
In the end, it wasn’t my arm or hand that got stung. It was my bum.
Of course, it was my own fault for wearing tight cords instead of my usual loose khakis. One of the girls got caught and reacted in self-defense.
As stings go, it isn’t a bad one, a small welt that’s since gone down, but I definitely felt it!
Here in Ohio, the weather has been … well, let’s just call it varied. In the last two weeks, we’ve had a major snow preceded by an ice storm followed by another small snow and ice storm, then a few warm days (in the 50s) followed by some cold days (back into the 20s), and now we’re heading into a warmish trend.
At least, I think that’s the order it happened.
We’ve been waiting for it to be above freezing to treat our three hives with oxalic acid to kill any residual mites. (And there are always mites if you live in the U.S. Any beekeeper who says differently is either lying or ignorant.)
By treating them before brood rearing kicks off in a big way, we can at least try to give the hives a strong start to the season. Oxalic acid doesn’t kill mites in capped cells, which is where they flourish. This early in the season, the queen may be laying, but she’s generally just getting started, which makes OA perfect for the job.
Also, we wanted to assess the hives by peeking inside. Specifically, we wanted to know how many bees there were (both dead and alive), if they still have food, if they are eating the sugar patties we gave them in the fall, and if there is any evidence of diarrhea.
Here’s a photo of what they looked like in the big snow we had a few weeks ago, the remnants of which, we finally cleared from the deck today. I’ve renamed them (again!), mostly because I can no longer remember which was which. They are from left to right, Western Star, Middle Child, and Eastern Girls.
We began by cleaning out the dead bees from Eastern Girls. There were a lot! Here is a picture of just the ones from in the foam box without the ones The Engineer scraped out the hive entrance (which almost doubled the number).
Seeing so many, or indeed any, dead bees is always disheartening, but we are learning to accept bee loss as part of beekeeping. Bees die every day just as humans do. It’s part of the cycle of life.
With smoke at the ready and expecting some unhappy bees pinging our veils, we popped the inner cover. To our surprise, the bees (and they were still plentiful, despite the many corpses of their dead sisters) mostly ignored us as we went about our business.
Fresh food, a small piece of pollen patty, and some Super DFM was their reward for being so mellow.
The two remaining hives were equally calm and received the same treatment. In truth, even if they’d been cranky, they’d have received the same treatment. 🙂
The only differences were Middle Child had consumed more of their fall sugar patties and had almost no dead bees in sight. Western Star fell somewhere in the middle. They’d eaten more of the patties than Eastern Girls, but less than Middle Child, and had more dead bees than Middle Child, but fewer than Eastern Girls.
Tomorrow morning, we will treat all three hives so they’re ready to face spring brood rearing, and the pollen and nectar flow.
In conclusion, we are feeling cautiously optimistic about the health of our hives.
Still, March is the hardest month for bees in our area. Brood rearing will soon be in full flow, and if the nectar and pollen are behind schedule, the girls are left with more mouths than they can feed.
As usual, we’ll have to wait and see.
To end on a completely random note, I’ve been doing a lot of crocheting of scrap happy afghans because my friend Lynne gave me a bunch of yarn scraps. Here are two. I know the color combinations are a little odd, but I like them. I hope their eventual owners will too.
If you recall, we spent much of the end of August and start of September treating our hives with Formic Pro. Sadly, halfway through this treatment, we were dismayed to learn from a company rep who spoke at the End of Summer Classic that doing the one-strip treatment doesn’t affect the mites in the capped brood.
Since killing the mites under the the caps is one of the reasons we use Formic Pro, this was quite a letdown, and we’ll be re-thinking our treatment in the future — possibly trying the two-strip method again. (We switched to one strip after having lost multiple queens when we did the two-strip in the past. Apparently, it’s a damned if you do, damned if you don’t scenario.)
But this week, we were finally able to have a look inside our hives.
It was a coolish morning, so we waited until early evening (the warmest part of that day) and started with the original OH, Honey hive. This is the colony that made it through last winter, the one from which the other two hives were split, and the only one we got honey off this year.
Because fall is setting in, we are trying to take all the hives down to fewer boxes and decided to begin by removing the second honey super.
We took it off, brushing the few bees that were on the frames back into the hive and set the box on the deck, planning to go back to it later. For some reason, neither of us completely thought through the consequences of this action, but if you’re a beekeeper, you’re probably cringing because you can predict what happened.
Everyone else will have to read the rest of the post to find out.
We finished reviewing all the frames of that hive, cleaned out all four of the beetle traps, and sprinkled DFM on the top of the frames.
It’s a strong hive with plenty of bees, and if it doesn’t have as much honey as we’d like to see … well, there’s time yet before it gets really cold. In addition, it still has a lot of brood. At this time of year, that causes the niggling concern of it possibly also having a large Varroa load, as well as the worry of going into the winter with more bees than the hive has food for.
Still, we plan to start feeding this weekend and treat one more time with Oxalic Acid in October or November (when the queen has stopped or greatly reduced her laying). Fingers crossed these actions will address those issues.
On to Split #1. This is also a strong hive, as you can see from the pictures below.
Here’s a view from the side.
We spotted our beautiful golden girl (the queen).
I’m not going to point her out. By now, you should be able to recognize her. 🙂
This hive was in a similar state — lots of bees, brood, and not as much honey as we’d like to see.
But they’re still bringing in nectar and a surprising amount of pollen, and as mentioned before, we’re going to start feeding them.
We were finishing up with the beetle traps and DFM when we began to realize there were a lot(!) of bees in the air around the hives, and they were starting to ping our veils.
There was also a some air combat between bees and other bees, and bees and Yellow Jackets.
Realizing what was happening, we immediately closed up the hive, and started to put away the gear.
It was then we noticed the box we’d put on the deck.
It seems the bees had noticed it too because it was surrounded by a cloud of buzzing insects.
We had broken a cardinal rule in beekeeping: Don’t leave honey or nectar sitting around because it will result in a robbing situation!
I didn’t take pictures because, well, even if you’re a beekeeper, tens of thousands of bees flying all around you can be a little distracting.
How could we have been so stupid?
And not only had we left the box out, there was also a bag of dirty, dark, old comb sitting in our deck box. With the deck box lid open.
We’d cleaned some frames the day before, and The Engineer was going to burn the mess that came off them after we finished our hive check. He’d put the bag in the box to protect it from the bees, but forgot to close the box.
Did I mention the foundation we’d cleaned and pressure-washed was draining on a bench on the front porch?
Well, yes, dear readers, it was. There were interested bees around it too.
Not only had we put out a super full of nectar to tempt neighborhood bees (including our own), we’d also offered several side dishes.
It was, as we say in the aviation world, a Charlie Foxtrot.
There were bees everywhere, fighting each other to take that delicious nectar back to their hives.
What did we do? What could we do, but start brushing the bees off the main attraction, and tucking those frames one by one in a closed box. Of course, a few bees ended up in the box, but we dealt with that later.
Then, we moved the bag of old comb to the front of the house and covered it with a bucket, covered the clean(ish) frames with a towel, put away all our tools, went inside, and let the crowds disperse.
Clearly, our plans for grilling out were off the table. Dining out was now on the agenda because, frankly, the idea of trying to cook was not enticing after such a tense experience.
Amazingly, neither of us got stung, and the three bees that followed us into the house were caught and released to go home.
Within an hour, life was pretty much back to normal … except all through the next day, foragers were checking out our deck, hoping for another smorgasbord.
It was our own fault. Bees are preparing for winter now, and although they are still out foraging, the pickings are much slimmer than earlier in the year. Beekeepers have to be extra careful not to offer any enticements to would-be robbers.
We are normally very careful about this — covering the comb and propolis we remove from the frames, placing it in a container and not just dumping it on the ground, cleaning up any honey, sugar water, or nectar spills.
But this time, we messed up.
Unsurprisingly, it was with some trepidation that we approached our third hive when we checked it today.
We went through the super, brushing the bees off each frame, and tucking those frames into a closed box.
Then, we removed the top box, covered it with a towel, and began to look at each frame of the bottom box. We were glad to see they’d begun to cap some honey — more than either of the other hives — and there was less capped brood. This probably indicates the queen’s laying is slowing, and the bees are turning their attention toward winter provisions.
By the time we got to the top box, our girls were beginning to dive bomb our veils. They were obviously done with our ministrations.
We took a quick peek at a single frame upstairs, cleaned the beetle traps, sprinkled the DFM and got the heck out.
You see, we learn from our mistakes. If you’re a beekeeper, hopefully you can too, instead of having to make them yourself.
After discovering our bees won’t use old dark comb and honey, we’ve been gradually sorting through our frames, replacing the dark ones with new(er) and setting aside the old ones for cleanup.
At first, we thought we could extract the honey and maybe even use some of the wax, but ended up with more mess than anything, though we did manage to eke out a little honey. We hope to be able to use it as food to help the hives prepare for winter.
Still, the remaining “ugly” frames need dealt with.
After seeing how eagerly bees (possibly our own) robbed the Kremlin of its meager supplies, The Engineer had the idea of putting the old frames outside for the bees to clean.
I’m still not convinced about his choice of placement for this, but I must admit the bees did a great job of removing most of the honey. According to him, there was quite the feeding frenzy!
Why they want it now when they wouldn’t eat it when it was in their hive … well, we’ll probably never know the answer to that question.
Below are four pictures of one frame showing before and after shots of each side taken less than eight hours apart.
All photos were taken by The Engineer.
It’s very clear they’ve removed most, if not all, the honey. And notice how some of the edges on the cells appear ragged? The Kremlin’s frames also looked like that. I’ve not noticed that roughness on emptied honey cells inside our hives and can only guess (so much of beekeeping seems to be a guess) it’s because the bees were trying to haul out as much honey as possible as quickly as possible to take back to their own hives.
Now, all we have to do is clean off the wax and pressure wash the frames. Believe me, that’s quite enough for us to be getting on with!
It’s been a busy few weeks. We were away two weekends in a row and have had a lot of social engagements when we’ve become accustomed to having few (and for a long time, none).
Plus, immediately after Oshkosh, my co-worker was on vacation, which meant I picked up an additional day at work. You wouldn’t think one day would make a big difference, but it did, coming just when peppers, tomatoes, and zucchini were coming in full force.
That meant one day spent making and canning hot pepper jelly, and another making and canning zucchini salsa.
Of course, both days were over 90F, making those endeavors that much more enjoyable.
Still, the work had to be completed, and we are once again fully stocked with salsa and jelly.
I also hoped to make zucchini relish, but found I didn’t have time (nor inclination). I got around the lack by the simple expedient of ordering some Slawsa. The grocery store where I work used to stock this condiment, but cut it just before I discovered how good it is. I found another store that carried it, but they seem to have dropped it too, so I was forced online.
Ah, well, needs must, and ordering online was better than another sweltering day in the kitchen.
We spent one weekend away in Columbus, fitting in a events we couldn’t have done a year ago (and may or may not be able to do in the near future).
First, The Engineer was able to finally redeem his certificate for an hour in a 737 simulator at Take Flight Ohio. Darling Daughter and I bought this form him for Christmas in 2019, but COVID interevened, postponing his “flight” until now.
I think it was probably the best gift we ever gave him.
We were also able to fit in dinner with Darling Daughter and her partner, before traipsing back to our hotel for the evening.
The next day, we went to Seltzerland — kind of like a beer festival, but with alcoholic seltzers. I’ll just say it was a beautiful day and a fun event, but I’m not sure I’d want to do it on a regular basis, though we did get a lot of cool swag.
If we hadn’t been fully stocked with coozies before (we were), we are now.
Saturday was completed with a passable Indian meal.
Then, on Sunday, we stopped to ride a few miles on a rail-trail we’ve been exploring. It’s in Holmes County, which is said to have the largest population of Amish and Mennonite in the world. Or maybe it was in the U.S.
I just looked it up, and the two websites I consulted say Holmes county actually has the second largest population in the country.
Doesn’t matter. What’s interesting is the rail-trail there was designed to accomodate both bikes and buggies.
For some reason, I feel like I mentioned this before in a post, so if this is a repeat, I’m sorry.
Here’s a picture from when we first rode the trail last year.
We’ve made plans to go back a few times to complete the trail because it’s a nice one.
The following week was full of work and canning and visiting Mom, and then it was Friday again, and we were off once more, this time for a camping trip with DD and her partner.
We went to Salt Fork, an Ohio state park that’s very popular, especially with boaters, because it’s around a huge (HUGE!) reservoir. Wikipedia says the lake is 2,952 acres.
Truly, there are many things you can do very well at this park — archery, swimming, boating, kayaking, horse camping, RVing — but tent camping isn’t one of them.
First of all, there’s very little shade. Secondly, there are possibly six sites suitable for tents unless you are the hardy type who prefers primitive camping.
Call me a wuss, but these days if I’m spending more than a few hours somewhere, I like to have running water.
I know there were only about six decent tent sites in the “developed” part of the campground because we looked.
Our site looked good on the reservation website, but turned out to contain one long tarmac pad almost parallel to the road, and two small grassy areas on either side of it, which left very little space to pitch tents.
The pegs from ours ended up about an inch from the road.
Still, we enjoyed ourselves, cooking over the fire and making tea using our Kelly Kettle.
Man, I love that thing. And I think we finally have the knack of starting the fire and keeping it going.
Did I mention the weather was hot? So hot, in fact, we had to leave our unshaded campsite to visit a microbrewery Saturday afternoon. 🙂
Specializing in German-style brews, staffed with friendly, courteous people, and with plenty of shaded, outdoor seating, the brewpub was a great find.
Plus … pigs. The wooly sort. Although — full disclosure — the only pig we saw was wallowing in the mud with its eyes closed beneath a tree.
Not that I blamed it — that mud did look cool and inviting.
Wooly Pig (the brewery, not the farm animal) also had a food truck, and food trucks are one of my favorite things about visiting small breweries. Something about the symbiotic partnership of two small businesses just makes me smile.
Also, they had loads of colorful zinnias that were full of pollinators!
It was our kind of place. Even The Engineer, who tends to prefer British-style beer, admitted to liking it.
We liked it so much, in fact, we stopped the next day for lunch on our way home.
By now, you may be wondering what’s up with the bees, so I’ll give you a quick report. That’s all I can give you because bees don’t like it when you bother them with a full hive check in hot weather.
I think I may have mentioned it’s been hot.
And yet, we know all three hives are full of bees because they look like this.
The pictures below are of the first OH, Girls split, taken from different angles so you can see just how many bees there were on the hive.
It’s cooled down slightly, so the beard is a bit thinner now. Think goatee or soul patch instead of the full ZZ Top/Lumberjack version above.
This morning we had a quick look at just the honey supers, stealing five more frames from the original OH, Girls hive, and taking them down to two supers by removing five other lightly filled frames.
Goldenrod is just starting to bloom, and we can smell the honey being made from about four feet away. It smells of butterscotch (some people say old socks, though I’m not sure where they get that from!).
We’ll have a better idea about the hives’ statuses when it cools enough to do a complete check. With any luck, they’ll have a good fall harvest and make plenty of honey for themselves. Although I do love Goldenrod and Aster honey, I’d rather they have enough for the winter.
Meanwhile, come Monday, we will be treating them again, this time with Formic Pro strips. The weather is predicted to be below 85 for the next few weeks, making it possible to switch up our treatment method to this one.
Because we’ve had issues with bees dying, including several queens, when using formic acid strips, we do the longer 20 day treatment of one strip for ten days followed by a second strip for another ten days. It’s slightly less effective, but we’ve found it results in a much lower mortality rate.
Also next week, we plan to extract the frames we’ve pulled.
Sometime after that will come the second batch of mead.
And I still need to research wax rendering. I’m not completely satisfied with the methods I’ve tried, and I’d like to use the candle forms I won to make some candles.
So, as you see, there’s been no actual news. We’ve just been very busy, and it doesn’t look like we’ll be slowing down anytime soon.
But first, the bad news. On Sunday, The Engineer had to put a screen over the entrance of the Kremlin because it was being attacked by robber bees. Today, when we checked the hive, we discovered the assault must have begun while we were gone. It was devastated, with few bees remaining — certainly not enough to grow into a viable hive in time for winter.
So, we are down to three hives, all of them originating from last spring’s Saskatraz package.
The good news is all of them are queen right.
Eager for a lift of spirits after the disheartening discovery in the Kremlin, we turned to OH Girls Split #1.
This is the hive that had two queens when last we looked.
Today, we — and by “we,” I mean The Engineer — spotted only one. I suspect the original dented one who began this dynasty is probably dead.
Thankfully, her good genes continue their reign in each of our three hives because each is queened by one of her daughters.
Here’s one of her beautiful offspring in OH Girls Split #1.
The residents of this hive have been toiling hard while we were gone, building comb on the new frames we gave them before we left. There was even capped brood on one of them already!
I love the way new comb looks — so fresh and perfect.
Below, you can see one of the hive’s many frames of capped brood.
Next, we turned to OH Girls and OH Girls Split #2. The split was made at the end of June, and we weren’t sure which hive ended up with the queen. We checked the original OH Girls first.
It’s big, two deep brood boxes and three honey supers. There were a lot(!) of bees. With a hive this size and well-populated, it almost seems like they are just boiling up out of the hive.
It was also filled with many frames of capped brood, which means it is queen right. Yay!
I admit I’m pathetic when it comes to spotting queens, but I don’t know how anyone can find them in a hive this full.
But Engineer found this one too. She’s golden, so might be the queen from OH Girls. Or, maybe she’s just another golden queen.
Here’s three photos of her. Can you find her in all of them? (And don’t go all smug on me if you do. It’s easy when you’re only inches away and it’s a still photo.)
So … did we also find a queen behind door (hive) number three?
No, we did not. However, we found something almost as good. Capped brood, and lots of it!
This is what I mean by bees just kind of boiling up. It’s like they coagulate or something!
In other good news, all three hives have begun storing honey in the corners of some of their brood box frames.
We hope to see more of this as they prepare for winter, even if it means they pay less attention to the honey in their honey supers.
OH Girls still has three of these smaller boxes, and many of the frames are nearly fully capped. We didn’t pull any of them today, opting instead to wait and see how it goes.
Now that we have three queen right hives, I’m sure something else will pop up to torment us.
Oh. Yeah. Winter is coming. Guess it’s time to start worrying about that.
I’ll leave you with this photo of OH Girls Split #1 after we checked it. I’m not sure why they all decided to cluster around their two bottom entrances, but I’m sure they have a reason.
Remember the dying queen? I wouldn’t blame you if you don’t. With all my talk about queens, even I find it hard to keep them straight.
Anyway, it turns out the dying queen isn’t dead. This is quite a surprise because when we checked that hive (the first split from OH, Girls this year) on 4 July, we were very happy to find the beautiful new queen the workers bred to replace her. Here’s her picture from that inspection.
Today, when we checked that hive, The Engineer once again spotted New Queen (near the bottom, surrounded by her attendants). And isn’t she gorgeous?
Only later, he also spotted Dented Queen.
Here’s another pic.
But if you look at the picture below, and you have sharp eyes, you’ll find both Dented Queen (near the hive tool) and New Queen (near the capped brood at the top of the picture.
We heard this sometimes happens, but when we took our classes, I got the impression that having two queens co-exist in a hive was unusual. True, there are ways beekeepers occasionally manipulate hives to run two queens, usually by using queen excluders to keep the royalty in separate areas of the hive.
The situation can also arise when one queen isn’t yet mated, the bees are getting ready to swarm or they just haven’t killed the old queen yet. According to this article, the workers keep the two queens in separate parts of the hive, but as these pictures show, New Queen is definitely mated, and she’s not only on the same frame as Dented Queen, she’s mere inches away.
And these two have been sharing the same hive for at least ten days, likely longer.
I expect eventually the workers will kill Dented Queen. She’s still moving and laying, but very slowly, while New Queen sprints around laying as fast as she can.
Meanwhile, the workers have been making comb on the new frames we gave them like their lives depend on it.
Oh, yeah … their lives do sort of depend on it. They’ll need that comb to store honey for winter.
And our two queens are already using the new comb. There’s larvae in both the pictures below, although it’s harder to spot in the second one.
After our unusual find in the split, we looked in on the Kremlin. I was ready to dispatch Olga to the big beehive in the sky and steal a frame of brood from OH, Girls split #1 so Kremlin workers could make a new queen. The Engineer convinced me we should give her one more chance. Her laying seems to be improving slightly, with more larvae closer together, but if it’s not dramatically better at the end of the month, they’re going to have to make a new queen. This is cutting it fine because August is when beekeepers need to start thinking (read “worrying”) about winter.
There’s an expression about beekeeping, something like “Take care of the bees that will take care of the bees that will need to live through the winter,” and August is when that begins.
Olga needs to step up her game.
Lastly, we had a look at the honey supers on OH, Girls and stole two filled frames, replacing them with super frames with drawn combs. Truthfully, we could have probably pulled more for extraction, but we’re being conservative this year and waiting until the frames are at least 90% full … at least as long as nectar is still coming in.
A lot of the frames look like this, nearly solid on one side and not completely capped on the other (although some had a lot more capped on side #2).
We considered putting a honey super on OH, Girls Split #1 because the hive has a lot of bees, along with a queen cup that might have had larva in it. Ultimately, we chose not to. We gave them several empty frames when we put them in the big boxes so they still have space.
Also, we tempted fate by leaving the queen cup. We’re not 100% sure it was filled, and if we scraped it off, and they want to swarm, they’d just build another.
Speaking of swarms, we still have three swarm boxes up, and at least two are getting a lot of attention from scout bees.
I’m not sure where we’d put another hive, but we could probably find space on one of the stands if we have to. 🙂
Recently, we realized many of our frames have reached this state and have begun to clean and/or replace them.
Initially, we tried to extract the honey from the old frames, but it proved a lost cause. Instead we scraped them, and The Engineer powerwashed both the frames and foundation.
What to do with all that dirty, ugly wax though … hmmm, such a quandary.
Well, it turned out there was some honey, so I strained that to feed to the bees. It’s a little dark, and probably partly sugar rather than nectar, but I tasted a bit, and it’s not horrible. The Kremlin and the newest OH, Girls Split seem to like it.
I probably don’t need to remind you that honey is very, very sticky, but I’m going to anyway so you can understand the full beauty of what I was dealing with.
Straining left a dripping dark, sticky substance that stupid me decided to try to melt down.
Do NOT do this. It’s a waste of time. You get very little decent wax from a mountain of disgusting grunge.
Here’s an example of part of the mess I was working with.
At first it didn’t go too badly. I ended up getting what looked like a brand new electric roaster for $20. Using this at 200F, my first pile of wax left me with a dirty pile of … stuff … and more honey.
Still, honey is good, right? Better for the bees than pure sugar syrup, at least.
Once again, I strained the honey from the gunk, then did the same to the the other pile.
Next, I wrapped the black sludge (I’m running out of synonyms for what I cannot in good conscience call beeswax) in a cheesecloth, tied it tightly, and put it back in the roaster, with water.
Theoretically, the wax will melt and rise to the top, the gunk will stay put in the cheesecloth, and any honey that’s left will wash away with the water.
I’ve done this with cappings from when we’ve extracted, and it actually works.
Unfortunately, this stuff proved to have very little usable wax. And making matters worse, when I lifted out the second batch (while still hot, so it doesn’t get stuck in the wax), the cheesecloth slipped from my tongs and dropped back into the roaster.
Picture the first Apollo splashdown only with hot wax and honey.
Yes. It was a Big Mess, and I used every bad word I knew.
I hope the neighbors didn’t hear.
And, oh, yes, the floor.
It’s probably worth it to stain and even heat dark old wax for the honey.
It is not worth wasting cheesecloth, time and effort to try to render the wax.
An electric roaster if you can get one cheap is excellent for melting wax.
A smarter person would have used said roaster outside for this job, perhaps in the garage, if it’s raining or you’re worried about attracting every bee in the neighborhood.
Cleaning beeswax from a linoleum floor is possible, but not fun. I used water heated in the electric kettle, a scrubby, a towel, and a mop.
That’s how I’ll do it next time, minus the scrubbing the floor (I hope).
I’ve learned from my mistakes. But I’ll feel a lot better if you do too.
On the bright side, here are the brand new frames we’ll be using to swap out the rest of the old ones in our hives. The Engineer assembled them, and they’re waiting for me to apply a better coat of wax.
If only I could have somehow used the stuff in the roaster …
In the end, we decided to harness the strength of OH, Girls Split #1 by putting it into two deeps (far left). We discussed moving the Kremlin into the small nuc boxes previously occupied by OH, Girls Split #1, but instead chose to take it down to a single deep box and make use of our feeding lid. This style of lid was supposedly developed in Siberia, which seems appropriate for a Russian-queened hive ;-).
Making these changes required several steps performed on different days.
We inspected OH, Girls Split #1 on 3 July (although WordPress dated my post that day as 4 July).
On 4 July, we moved them into two deep boxes, a fairly straightforward procedure of just moving their frames into different boxes. It was interesting because we could tell as soon as we inserted the frame that must have had the queen because the noise level of the bees on the other frames in the new box dropped exponentially. Still, any moving of bees results in some confusion because the foragers who are out who come back expecting to find the hive to which they are oriented, and it’s not there.
As a result, due to the proximity of these two hives and the number of perplexed bees flying around, we chose to wait until today to wait to swap lids (having temporarily used the Siberian lid — the only spare one we had — on OH, Girls Split #1) and take the Kremlin down to one box. It’s a much better fit for them.
In the new setup, we have (from left to right) OH, Girls Split #1, the Kremlin, OH, Girls, and OH, Girls Split #2. Or something like that. We’re not 100% sure which of the two right hives has the queen OH, Girls made when we split it the first time, and which is making a new queen (we hope). The hive second from the right is more populated, but the one on the far right has foragers bringing in pollen, which can indicate they are feeding new brood.
We won’t know for sure until we check them toward the end of the month.
Our next step will be to treat the Kremlin with Oxalic Acid again. Because there’s brood (albeit not much), we will repeat this weekly for three weeks to be sure we get most the Varroa. I’ve written about the different treatments and their pros and cons before, so I won’t detail it all again here. Suffice to say, the hot weather we are experiencing precludes using Formic Pro.
And, that’s all the news from the OH, Girls Apiary … at least until the next drama. 🙂
Today we checked out OH, Girls Split #1. This is the nuc we created on 12 May from the ever-giving OH, Girls hive.
Of course, this was after we noticed the second split from this hive was being raided. I was surprised because the split is well-populated, but everything was fine once we put on this special screen we bought to use on such an occasion. In truth, this is the first time we’ve thought to use it, and I must say it worked very well. Things calmed down immediately. It’s similar to this one, but made of wood.
At any rate, once we got over that small disaster, we took the inner cover off the first split, and found this on the back of it.
Underneath was this.
It seems the girls have been rather busy. Thankfully, The Engineer thought to save that comb and the honey to add in when we extract.
This queen is prolific. Six of the ten frames in the hive were covered with capped brood and larvae.
Like their cousins in the original OH, Girls hive, these bees had refused to work a couple of the older frames, and now that we understand this, we’ve replaced two, and will replace the remaining ones as soon as we can find some new black foundation.
They had also filled and capped one deep frame of honey, which we stole from them, mostly to give the queen space to work. We added another deep nuc box too because they were bursting at the seams.
Here she is, much darker than her half-sister in the original hive, but equally big and fat!
We need to think how to give this hive more room — perhaps move the frames into full-sized boxes.
Next, we opened the Kremlin, and as The Engineer said, it was like moving from a crowded city to the country, with a lot fewer bees, and not nearly as much activity.
This could partly be attributed to the fact that they too have some old comb, but I’m afraid I think it’s Olga. Her laying remains spotty even on the brand new and newish comb and frames.
It’s here that having more than one hive becomes beneficial because we have options.
We could move a frame or two of brood from one of the crowded hives into the Kremlin. Unfortunately, I think this would just put off the issue. Besides, we gave them a frame when we introduced Olga. It may have helped them accept her, but they should be growing at a faster rate.
Another thing we discussed almost jokingly was to swap houses with the OH, Girls split. After all, we have a hive in small boxes that’s running out of space, and a hive in two full-sized boxes that can’t seem to fill them. I’m not sure this would remedy Olga’s poor laying, but it would benefit the split.
We could also requeen the hive, or “encourage” it to requeen itself. This could be done in conjunction with either of the above choices.
The Kremlin also needs treated for Varroa again because there was brood when we did the vaporizer a few weeks ago.
We generally prefer to mix up our treatment, and would normally use Formic Pro strips for this, but the weather has been too hot. It’s cooler now, but supposed to hit the 90s again next week, which is too hot for that method.
Right now, I think our best bet would be to do three treatments of Oxalic Acid over a period of as many weeks, then swap boxes with the split, give Olga another few weeks to show what she can do, and then requeen in some way if she hasn’t improved.
The Engineer and I will think on and discuss this before making any decisions.
In the meantime, tomorrow we will look again at the honey supers on OH, Girls with our fingers crossed (as always) hoping to find enough capped honey to make it worth the effort of extracting.