2015 Apiary Season notes - Southwest Missouri

It has been a gloomy for weeks, not a lot of sun and the bees have hunkered down for the winter. The hives I have looked at are wintering in the lower hive bodies and haven't moved up yet.

Feb 5 2015 - The tempature is pushing 70 degrees and the bees are actively pulling pollen; local trees have buds showing, a few dandelions are in bloom, and deadnettle is starting to show. All hives are showing some external activity.

Feb 14 2015 - Had another cold snap and hive 2, which was the swarm I caught two years ago, is a deadout. It appears to be weak colony that just didn't survive this last cold snap. I moved the honey stores to another hive and cleaned up the brood chambers for reuse in splits. Today was in the low 50's and bees were pulling pollen. I'm not sure just where they are getting it; it ranges from a light yellow to a dark orange. I've placed sugar blocks on the three hives left, and trying a no cook method this year, mixing sugar with enough corn syrup and water to make it damp and placing it in 8" x 8" pans to stiffen up. So far, it looks to be working well.

Feb 21 2015 - Weather has turned bad again with five inches of snow and now a coating of ice. Acivivity outside the hives have dropped to zero.

Mar 7 2015 - This crappy weather finally broke and hives 1 & 3 are out in force and pulling pollen of a yellow to dark yellow color. They have been eating at the sugar blocks fairly aggressively. FYI, if you sit next to your hive after a really cold period when they are first getting out and one of the girls lands on you, she isn't being friendly, she is taking a dump on you. Yep, thats bee poop »

Mar 16 2015 - It's been in the upper 60's for the last couple days and the bees are active, pulling a lot of pollen and the maple trees are budding out. Drones are few if any at the hives.

The feral hive in the water heater have either died or absconded, and the remaining three hives appear strong.

Mar 21 2015 - I had left a medium super each (previously used as brood chamber) on hives 1 & 4 that were on when I treated those hives with Apivar and Fumagilin-B in the fall. The Apivar treatment worked well as I have not seen any Varroa mites in either of those hives since. I had placed the strips in the hives late in the season and cold set in, so I had to leave them in longer than recommended, but it doesn't seem to have hurt anything, both hives are strong and doing well. To recover the honey in those supers for brood usage, I removed and placed them several hundred yards away to let the bees recover the honey and put it back into the brood chambers. I replaced the supers back on their respective hives about a week later. It's a little scary to watch the feeding frenzy bees get into when they find a super full of honey ready for the picking, like opening time at a Black Friday sale. I had previously placed some comb near the hives to let the bees recover any honey and clean up the comb. Both times, it triggered a robbing event. Now I take the comb at least couple hundred feet or more away from the nearest hive and that seems to have solved the robbing issues.

Mar 28 2015 - Fruit trees are starting to put out blossoms but the tempature is still getting down into the 30's at night and its been raining off and on for the last couple weeks slowing bee activity. I removed the candy boards on a warm day last week and inspected hives 1 & 3 and found uncapped drone larvae, maybe 6-7 days old. I've seen the occasional drone flying but nothing significant. The bees have been coming out on sunny days in the high 40's or higher and been pulling significant pollen, mostly dark yellow, with some very light yellow, and the occasional red from the deadnettle and henbit that is now blooming.

Mar 29 2015 - Bees are all over my nectarine tree which is the second tree that bloomed in my yard. The first tree to flower out was a plum tree but the bees don't seem to like it.

Apr 3 2015 - Most of the fruit trees are blossoming out and I am seeing more drones flying in the afternoon.

Apr 20 2015 - Set the stand for a 3rd apiary. The girls have done their work, most of the fruit trees have been successfully pollinated.

Apr 30 2015 - We did a hive inspection of my breeder hive, found two uncapped queen cells and made two splits with them. We also grafted larvae today into a newly created queenles's NUC, this is my wife trying her hand at it. I think this hive was about to swarm as there was a lot of bees and not a lot of larvae to pick from. It appears the queen's laying has slowed down considerably after a phenomenal spring buildup.

May 1 2015 - I think my garden hive cast a swarm today, the neighbor found a swarm in a bush about 20 yards from my hive. A normal amount of bees are still going and coming from the hive however. The swarm was caught and moved to another location.

May 4 2015 - I keep a bait hive in the same yard as the garden hive and it appears it is also a swarm detector. I saw bees actively checking it out and started looking in the trees for a swarm, my garden hive had cast another swarm, I caught it and moved to location 3 as hive 4. This hive cast two swarms in quick succession in July 2013, but still put out about 20# of honey. So I'm begining to think this is normal for this hive; There is plenty of room in the hive, but they are still casting small swarms.

May 9, 2015 - The grafts did poorly but we found two more ripe queen cells in breeder hive and plenty of bees to make a couple of splits.

May 10 2015 - Hive 5 appears to be doing better than I expected, the girls are actively working the bottom honey super and drawing comb on the top honey super. This is the same location I lost my feral hive and one managed hive, the only losses for the winter.

May 12 2015 - Moved one of the first splits to location 3 as Hive 2, queen is laying.

May 26 2015 - We inspected the new hives at the 3rd apiary and found they had doubled in size since placing them there. My wife got the be the recipient of the season's first sting. One of first splits looks to have left for better parts, we had a big rainstorm and looks like water got inside; most of the bees are gone and no sign of a queen. Of the second set of splits, one is still without a laying queen but the other kicked into high gear yesterday, pulling pollen and getting really active outside the hive.

May 29 2015 - Combined the two weak splits with the one good split and moved the original donor hive 3 to location 2.

Jun 4 2015 - Combined split is starting to cap brood cells and larvae of various ages observed.

Jun 6 2015 - Inspected the two hives at location 2, which I have been feeding and they appear to be off to a strong start. I did an experiment with foundationless frames, using a 1/2 inch waxed plastic foundation and a clean wood starting strip. The bees definitely prefer the waxed plastic foundation to start comb on.

Jun 22 2015 - Got a swarm call in the evening from a gentleman that really wanted them gone right then, so we caught them in the dark. Not my first choice, but it worked out without too many stings. Next day, the bees were still in the NUC catch box and not acting right so we hived them into a regular hive. It didn't take long before they started filing out of the hive to the top of it like BeeGo was poured in the hive. I had a weak split sealed up sitting next to their hive and they seemed to taking an interest in getting into it. I suspect, their queen was lost, and they were looking for a queen. The split queen had only been laying about a week and there were not that many workers in it, so we made the decision to combine the two colonies. After opening the split hive restrictor, the new bees began entering the hive and were all in, in about 15 minutes. I haven't observed any fighting or ejecting bees, and the hive appears strong, taking about half a gallon of syrup a day drawing comb on the second brood body.

  Just a bit of advice, if you work with bees at night and leave your truck door open with the dome light on, you will get a cab full of bees. Kinda funny now in retrospect, but real annoying at the time. People look funny at you if you drive around in a bee suit.

Jul 1, 2015 - This swarm was from an unknown source, so I fed one gallon of syrup with a dose of Fumagilin B as a precaution. All and all, they look good, but a little defensive when I get into the hive.

Jul 3, 2015 - There were lots of bees in this last hive so I split it into two deeps and a queenless NUC, grafting in several larvae the next day in JZ-BZ cups.

Jul 7 2015 - Apparently the girls didn't like that configuration and cleaned all the grafted larvae out; so I recombined those bees with the queen right deep. The queenless deep now had at least two frames with emergency queen cells, some capped. I created a new NUC with one of those frames, and equalized the remaining bees with the queen right deep and NUC and placed entrance restrictors to get the moved bees to reorient to their new locations. Feeding syrup to a all three.

Jul 10 2015 - All three hives quit taking syrup of any significant amounts, so I removed them. It has been raining most every day for weeks keeping the girls indoors.

Jul 19 2015 - The queens in both splits have hatched and killed the other queens, but I have not seen any new eggs. It has been raining and may have effected them getting mating. It is getting late in the season and I may have to cut my losses and recombine those splits with queenright hives.

Jul 22 2015 - One of the splits didn't get mated and was recombined with the original hive. The other split is just weird, the girls are acting completely normal but I'm not seeing any eggs, just some capped drone cells. Waiting to see where this goes.

Aug 1 2015 - Still no signs of a laying queen in the last split. We grafted larvae into JZ-BZ cups primed with diluted royal jelly and honey. This was a new attempt priming the cells with a store bought royal jelly/honey product from the health food store, then diluting it down. Just enough to float the larvae appears optional, more isn't better. I have heard that new unused cups work better and in this case, it seems to bear that out. One other important note is, my wife is way better at grafting than me.

Aug 3 2015 - Honey supers have been slow to build up in all the hives this year. We harvested 12# of honey from the May swarm catch hive and tried using Honey Robber for the first time on that hive. YES it stinks to high heaven, it gets on your clothes and you smell it for days, but it works fast, the bees really don't like the stuff and all but the most determined will to put some distance between them and the fume board.

Aug 7 2015 - Two queen cells were built and capped, one was left in the hive and the other was placed in a NUC box with a frame of drawn comb (laying space), a frame of honey covered with bees, and the queen grafting frame which was covered with nurse bees. Both ripe queen cells were placed in cell protectors. The weather appears to be a bit better for mating this next couple weeks, so we wait and see. Bee keeping teachs patience!

Aug 9 2015 - Harvested 21# of honey from the wintered over split (#5). Moving both these hives to another part of the property to give more morning sun. Neither of the hives at this location did well in the honey production side of things. hey seem healthy but not slow to build up honey stores.

Aug 12 2015 - The dearth is on, leave out old supers or wax and here the girls come. I left a extracted super in the garage and forgot to close the door. The bees were so thick they were tripping the Safety Beam Sensor and keeping the door from closing. I did get the door closed, turned off all the lights and left a crack in the side door. It took a while but they all left.

Sep 1 2015 - All supers have been pulled and a total of 59# of honey has been harvested from four hives and we configured all the hives for winter. Those hives that appear behind are getting patties and I will place candy boards on all come December.

Sep 5 2015 - Inspected the last split that we grafted a queen cell into and found her alive and well. These are the bees from the swarm catch on June 22 and has been one odd ball hive. I have not seen a queen or any brood, and any brood I put in, they cleaned out the next day. They made emergency queens cells but none appear to have taken, and only on this last graft attempt did we get what looks like a somewhat normal hive of bees. In all the time they appeared normal, foraging, cleaning, and defending the hive, but were not reproducing. By all rights they should have been a deadout by now.

It's been one strange summer for bees. Goldenrod is now blooming and the bees are still actively forging, bringing in pollen. I have not had to buy any queens or bees, so we are now three years running of locally bred stock. Varroa have been minimal, hive beetles have been out in force but not causing any issues, but the wax moths have been a real nuisance this year. We started the season with three hives, lost one, and ended up with six hives to winter over and 60# of honey, so I guess it's a good year.

Oct 09 2015 - Tried using used dryer sheets as hive beetle control; trapped two bees and watched a hive beetle run across the sheet unhindered. So much for that idea. My beetle traps haven't been working well this year either. Best tool so far this year has been my finger mashing the little buggers.

Oct 10 2015 - I have been feeding Hive #5 syrup for the last couple weeks as they seem a little low on stores. They have become really defensive, not taking much to set them off; could be the wild animals around, skunks and the like and not a lot of people traffic. I got the bottom covers (screened bottom) and entrance restrictors on all the hives for winter. Beetle traps and Apivar is being applied to those hives that look like they need them.

Nov 15 2015 - Moved hives 7 & 8 to location 2. Installed candy boards on all hives at that location.

Nov 16 2015 - Installed candy boards on all hives at location 1 & 3

Dec 1 2015 - Placed a brick of sugar in my garden hive as the bees have went thru half of the candy board already. The other hives have been are eating at the candy boards, but not as aggressively.

Dec 5 2015 - Placed a hay bale windbreak around the hives at location 2 and added a sugar brick to replace the sugar consumed in #5.

Dec 22 2015 - Of the six hives going into winter, two appear weak in the number of bees, but stores appear good. It has been unseasonalby warm in southwest Missouri and the bees have been active outside the hives.

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