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. 🙂

Walkaway, Walkaway

Well, I was going to open this post with something about that Dire Straits song, you know the one with “Walkaway, walkaway” in the words.

Except it turned out to be the lyrics were actually “rock away, rock away” in “Tunnel of Love.”

This is a classic example of a mondegreen, or misheard lyric. More examples are here, and I’m sure if you’re honest, you’ll admit (at least to yourself) that you’ve had your own experience with mondegreens. If I can confess, you can too.

Anyway, part of our bee work today was making a “walkaway split” from OH, Girls. This is the hive that was formerly known as California Girls before earning their new name by successfully overwintering in a cold Ohio winter.

Yes, I know we split them once already in mid-May, but in our last check, the hive was overflowing with bees despite having two deep boxes and three honey supers on.

Also, there were many (many!) queen cups, some that seemed to have larvae in.

It turns out we were wrong about the larvae in the queen cups, but there were even more cups this time, and tons of brood.

This new queen is one busy female!

Too bad we didn’t see her today.

The plan was to split the hive, moving the “old” queen to the split, and leaving eggs and queen cells/inhabited cups in the original hive.

Despite the “old” queen not really being old (since she was made from the split six weeks ago) and despite the queen cups being unoccupied, we still needed to split this hive before they began making swarm queen cells for real.

So that’s what we did.

We split the two brood boxes into two separate hives, added an empty brood box with waxed frames and a few frames started with comb to each, and split the honey supers between them.

When I say, “empty brood box,” I mean a new brood box filled with empty frames and a few frames of brood from the box below. Putting brood in the upper box will encourage the workers to move into their new box.

They went from this setup

to these.

The Engineer behind the two hives.

While we were in the hive, we also stole a peek at the honey supers. Although there were still no completely capped frames, there were many that appeared on the brink of being so, and we are hopeful we may be able to extract honey next weekend.

In the meantime, today we also finally gave in and attempted to extract old honey that’s been in and out of hives and discovered there’s a reason the bees haven’t been using it.

The comb and filling were practically solid, probably because most of it was made from sugar water. At least, that’s my best guess.

In the end, we scraped and power-washed all the foundation, cleaned off the frames, re-waxed the foundation, and used some of it today to create the new second story brood boxes on both hives.

Almost everything that has anything to do with honeybees involves stickiness.

We’ll see how the girls take to it. If they reject it, we’ll be investing in some new frames and foundation.

In short, we spent most of the day working on bee projects. And then we’ve spent most of the rest of it cleaning up after working on those projects.

And once again, we are crossing our fingers that the bees will be successful in creating a new queen.

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.