New Hive Configuration … Again (short update)

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.

  1. We inspected OH, Girls Split #1 on 3 July (although WordPress dated my post that day as 4 July).
  2. 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.
  3. 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. 🙂

OH, Girls: The Hive that Keeps on Giving

This is the present configuration of OH, Girls — 2 deep brood boxes, queen excluder, 3 medium supers for honey, inner cover, quilt box, and outer cover.

It takes a long time to check a hive with this many boxes.
Correction: It takes us a long time to check a hive with this many boxes.

Again we hoped to find capped honey frames ready for extraction. There was one, which we pulled and replaced with an empty. But most looked like this, beautiful, but only partially capped.

Here’s a closeup.

In the first deep, there was lots of drone brood on the frames, and I was starting to develop a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. Was our new queen laying only drones? Did we somehow have laying workers? Again?

Also, there were queen cups with larvae inside. Had they killed the queen?

But then, we saw this, which proves we don’t have a laying worker, but a large hive with enough bees and food to support drones.

And finally, I spotted our beautiful queen (Me! The one who never spots the queen, especially an unmarked one!).

Sorry for the blurry pictures, but she was running around laying eggs as fast as she could.

So BIG! And surprisingly golden, which you may have noticed in my earlier post. Saskatraz bees are generally darker, as you can see from my photos, so to end up with a gold queen from a Sasky mother is kind of interesting.

Although we didn’t see any eggs, there was plenty of larvae, and the hive remains crowded. The bees evidently think so too since they are again raising queens.

Next plans for OH, Girls: Make another split this weekend, and cross fingers we’ll have enough frames to extract honey over 4th of July weekend.

Next door in the Kremlin, Empress Olga’s laying pattern is starting to improve.

At first glance, her capped brood still looks spotty, and in some cases, it is. However, there were also frames with larvae and eggs interspersed between capped brood cells. And she’s laying eggs more toward the center of the cells.

The Engineer Points at Olga with his Hive Tool

Plan for the Kremlin: Regular hive check in seven to ten days (probably over the 4th of July).

Finally, we turned to the OH, Girls split.

We haven’t done a true hive check on this hive since we saw the queen was injured on 26 May. When we’re hoping a hive will make a new queen, I just think it’s best to leave them alone to get on with it.

However, during our last hive checks, I asked The Engineer to tilt back the top box so I could check for queen cells. I saw one that was either opened or not yet capped, so we decided it was time to have a look.

When we opened the hive, we discovered the bees had completely propolized the top of the Beetle Jail, which drastically lowers the chances of any beetles actually being caught in the trap, although there was one.

Saskatraz bees also seem to propolize. A lot.

OH, Girls Split

There was larvae of all sizes.

There were also eggs, which you might be able to see if you look very carefully at the above picture. So, although we didn’t spot our new queen, we know she’s there.

Here’s her old cell (along with some of her brood).

And a closer look at that cell.

Plans for this hive: Continue to monitor, adding boxes if needed.

Other plans for all three hives: Start to replace old frames, discard old foundation, pressure wash the wood, and put in fresh foundation.

In summary, OH, Girls has truly been the hive that keeps on giving! We got honey from it last summer, they survived the winter, and bees from that hive have raised two new queens, with hope for another.

In other bee news, we attended the meeting of our local beekeeping group last night, the first one held in person for over a year. The topic was safety in the bee yard, presented by a nurse anesthesiologist.

Well! Her presentation was certainly enlightening, full of information about the types of toxins in bee venom, how to recognize if a reaction is mild, moderate, or severe, whether it’s localized or general, and what to do when a bee stings you.

She also had diagrams including one of a stinger. The picture I’ve linked to isn’t the one she shared, but it’s similar enough to show what I’m talking about when I say my idea of a “barbed stinger” was nothing like the actuality of one.

I pictured more of a hook, not something that looks like a twin-bladed saw! No wonder it hurts!

If you want to know more, you can go here. Again, not the exact information she shared, but it’s close enough.

Must close now. There’s mead that needs bottling, and we need to eat dinner before doing it because I know there will be tasting involved.

Almost forgot! Here’s the beeyard tool caddy
my clever husband engineered from an empty kitty litter tote.

Orientation Day

The nurse bees we shook into the OH, Girls split seem to have segued into the next stage of their working lives.

The Engineer took this picture of them around the bottom entrance of the hive. He said they seemed to be orienting. Bees do this before flying away from their home so they can find their way back.

They are such incredible creatures! Click through the link above if you’d like a more detailed explanation of the orientation process.

We’re just happy because it’s exactly what they should be doing at this point.

Meanwhile, the OH, Girls main hive continues to be quite active. With the weather seeming to have finally turned (please, God!), and lots of nectar coming in, we’ve decided it’s time to put another box on for honey. After all, while they wait to grow their new queen (please, God!!), they have a bit of a break in eggs being laid. Ergo, less brood to rear, so they can spend more time making honey.

This type of break in brood rearing — whether initiated by the beekeeper with a split or naturally occurring — also helps with integrated pest management. No new eggs and larvae means nowhere for Varroa Mites to lay eggs = a good thing.

As for Olga, The Engineer and I had the following text conversation yesterday while I was at work.

10:56 am
Engineer: Bees eaten through candy plug, but Olga still left inside so left alone again.

12:49 pm
Me: Maybe look Sunday.

1:24 pm
Me: Still alive is good.

2:29 pm
Engineer: Shes out. So many bees inside and outside the cage she was trapped so I released her.

2:33 pm
Me: Were they friendly bees?
🤞🤞🤞🤞🤞🤞

2:33 pm
Engineer: To her yes not to me.

2:34 pm
Me: Stung?

2:34 pm
Engineer: No.

Well, that was a relief.

Later I learned he’d been unable to locate his bee jacket (which zips to the hat and veil) because when I washed them on Wednesday, I forgot and left them in the washer. Whoops! 😱

Next steps:

  • We put a box on OH, Girls and hope for honey.
  • We wait again, this time to see if Olga begins to lay.
  • And we wait to see if OH, Girls are successful in making a queen.
  • If they aren’t successful, we may have to buy one.

The excitement never ends.

In other news: I got my second vaccine yesterday (Pfizer), and am okay so far. I did wake up at 6:30 with a bad headache, but thankfully ibuprofen took the edge off. (What did our ancestors do without aspirin and other analgesics? Bayer only began manufacturing and selling asprin in 1899. Imagine having to find willow tree bark to make tea or chew on at six in the morning.)

My co-workers told me to expect to fee super tired, but I don’t, at least not yet. What I do feel is sort of off-kilter, with vertigo and lightheadedness. Odd and disorienting enough that I don’t plan to do much today.

Bee Bus Arrival: Hello GeeBees

A week ago, on a lovely spring day, we picked up our package of bees. Because the weather was so nice, we were able to install them immediately (unlike last year).

By evening, they were beginning to bring in pollen, and on warmer days this week, they’ve been quite active.

The girls came not from Michigan as expected, but Georgia with a Michigan-bred queen who was mated in Georgia.

Intitially we were concerned because in the US, when you buy southern bees, you run the risk of getting Africanized bees, notorious for being overly aggressive and dangerous. It soon became clear, however, that the bees we received were mild-tempered, interested only in adjusting to their new circumstances. And, on review of the package description, I discovered I had misread the details.

Also, the package seemed to me to have fewer bees than last year’s, an idea that may be only a figment of my imagination.

Photo by The Engineer

Below are two pictures from the 2020 Bee Bus, but since they’re from a different angle from this year’s photo, it’s hard to tell.

The 2020 package was the Saskatraz bees that grew into the hive that made it through the winter. We named them California Girls, but rechristened them OH Girls to celebrate their having survived an OH (Ohio) winter).

In a nod to their origin, the new hive is called GeeBees (Georgia Bees).

We had a bit of a scare during the week when I came home to find a frenzy of bees at the entrance of the new hive. I was sure they were being raided for the honey stocks we’d given them and blocked the entrance until things calmed down. When I reopened it, the girls came streaming out, so perhaps it was them all along.

Still, I’d rather be safe than sorry.

We plan to look in both hives tomorrow — a quick check to see if the queen has been released in GeeBees and a more lengthy look at OH Girls.

While picking up a few things at Queen Right Colonies, I found Honey B Healthy has a new product called Amino B Booster, which I’m looking forward to trying. If I’m reading the information correctly, it may be a better supplement than pollen patties, which tend to attract Hive Beetles.

I also picked up two frames and wax foundation so we can try to jar some comb honey this year.

In other unrelated news, I managed to get an appointment for my first vaccine next week. I’m nervous because I’ve read if you’ve had the virus, it can really knock you down.

Stay tuned for details and more bee progress updates!

No Easter Eggs Here but Let’s Hear It for OH Girls

I wanted steal a clever phrase from an Instagram photo and caption a picture of bee eggs with “Easter Eggs.” Unfortunately, though we saw a gratifying amount of capped brood and larvae, I didn’t get any photos of eggs.

And yet, I bring good tidings from our hive check.

Last time we saw the queen, she seemed apathetic and slow-moving, but today Her Royal Blueness was back to scurrying around the hive like she owns the place. (I was waiting for spell-check to change that to “palace,” but it never chimes in when you want it to.)

Also, there were more bees, many of them clearly young and very fuzzy (as you can see in the above picture).

I love how they look up at us from between the frames.

And lastly, there was a major increase in capped brood and larvae.

Can you spot the larvae above? You may have to zoom in to see it.

The only bad news was we also spotted some beetle larvae in a pollen patty we removed. Time to order the nematodes and quit supplementing with patties now the real stuff is coming in. We have two traps in each box, which helps, but the nematodes help break the life cycle of the beetles, preventing the larvae from developing.

To replace the hives that didn’t make it through the winter, we’ll be picking up a package of bees on Saturday from the same place we got our nuc last year — Grandpa’s Bee Farm. The man who runs this endeavor is a county bee inspector, and although the nuc didn’t survive the winter, we are trying again with his stock. We’re reasonably convinced the hives died because we weren’t able to keep up with treating them for Varroa through the winter. It was never warm enough to do so.

Also, we made the mistake of not doing a count of the nasties after we last treated them in October. If we had, we might have gone ahead and treated them again then.

We have to do better this year. It’s ridiculous to expend so much effort if we can’t do a better job of helping them survive the winter.

In other news, we’ve (I’ve) decided it’s time we change the hive name from California Girls to OH Girls since the only California girl left in the hive is the queen.

So, cheers to OH Girls. <raising my glass> 🙂