Monthly Archives: May 2012

Hell Hath No Fury……

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It had been seven days since my last disastrous encounter with the girls.

I had left some pieces of the collapsed comb in the hive in hopes that the girls would partially rectify my heavy handedness.  I had watched intently over the past week, and they had cleaned out the two smaller pieces.  I didn’t know what was going on with the larger piece.  I did notice some of the cells had started to be open.  I didn’t know if that meant the girls were cleaning them out or what was happening.  However, at least once a day, typically in the morning, I would notice one of the girls removing a little white pupa.  I didn’t know if it was coming from the broken piece or not.

My original thought was to leave the large piece until the time frame indicated that any developing bees would have hatched.  But I noticed that their comb building had significantly slowed.  Perhaps there were more concerned with cleaning up the mess than with expanding the comb.  So before going in on Saturday morning, I had to make the call.  Leave it… or Clean it.

I choose Clean it.  So I opened the hive probably around 10:30 am, to encourage the forager girls to get out of the way.  I slowly removed the top and the cover and then began to pry open the back top bars (“TBs”) immediately in front of the false back.  I removed two of the TBs to give myself some working space.  I slowly inserted my hive tool into the hive to begin removing the smaller pieces.  No sooner had I gotten the tool down to the small pieces when …. WHAM…. Burning Hot Needle Poker… right into my index finger knuckle closest to my finger nail.  “WTF???” I think to myself, “I’ve just started and I already got stung!”  Ok, on go the gloves right after I flick the stinger out.  This is not a good start to my day.

I remove the smaller pieces of comb that I had left and they had completely cleaned them out.  Next, I remove the larger comb piece.  I take it out of the hive and attempt to brush the girls off.  They aren’t in a good mood today and I can already tell by their hum.  There are still pupae in the comb.  Some are white, others seem sort of grayish.   They won’t go to waste I tell myself.  I shall provide nutrients to the birds as a final sacrifice for my clumsiness.

I start to methodically process through the TBs.  I work slowly and use the hive tool to disconnect the burr comb, which the girls build to attach the comb to the side wall.  Learning from the mistakes of last week, I start from the bottom of the comb and work up towards the top.  However, still petrified and mortified by the beenocide I perpetrated last week, I decide to NOT lift the combs out this week.  I shall merely move them and try to look at them while still in the hive.

Each time I insert the hive tool into the hive, girls attack it.  The girls are NOT happy.  It is somewhat difficult to really see what is happening with the comb without lifting it up.  Then I reach TB #5, where the comb collapsed last week.  What’s this?  There is new comb built here.  “But I thought I moved that bar and pushed the whole comb together last week after the collapse” I say to myself.  I suppose in my hastiness, I moved the TB to the front when the comb fell off and didn’t move it to be with the other empty bars.  This now sets off another whole train of thought.

If I didn’t move the bar, that means there was brood comb, empty bar, and brood comb.  What if the brood comb got to cold and all of that brood has died as well?  My nightmare just won’t seem to end!

I continue looking through the comb, forever being watchful for Queen Victoria.  I get all the way to the first TB.  The girls hum, more an extremely loud BUZZ, is saying… no yelling… at me, “WE ARE NOT HAPPY WITH YOU SIR JAMES!” ringing almost deafening in my ears.  A peculiar change has happened with the first TB.  Last week, TB#1 appeared to be fully capped brood and all of the boys where hanging out there.  This week, the entire comb was open, there were no boys there, and it seems to have been turned into the pollen pantry.

I begin placing the TBs back into position, working slowly and still searching for Queen Vicky.  There are five to seven stingers in my gloves.  Thank goodness for them!  “Should I start using smoke? I wonder to myself.  My original goal was to not use a smoker, but it may become necessary if they get this mad each time I try and visit.  I get all the TBs back in place, unfortunately, I never saw Her Majesty.  But I do notice that pollen is still coming in and take that as a sign she is still in control.

Fortunately, on Sunday I did get a visual on Queen Victoria through the window.  She was moving around the edge of some of the comb, maybe on TB#7.  I really do not see any Ladies in Waiting with her.  Maybe she still has some maturing to do or something, but I thought she was always going to be surrounded by a little group that saw to her every need.

They do seem to be expanding TB#5, the new comb where the collapsed comb was; however, they don’t seem to be building any more new comb.  This has been the case now for a few days and I am starting to get concerned.  I’m not sure what to do.  Hopefully when TB#5 gets out to the edge of the hive, they girls will start building on the end again.

I don’t think I will go in this weekend and see if that helps get them going again.  I will just watch through the window.  They were going gang busters with pollen on Monday though.

My new mantra… They know better than me… They know better than me… I just need to leave them alone.

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It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, … …

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… … it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, … …

Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities — English novelist (1812 – 1870)

Saturday had finally come.  The weather was gorgeous, and I was excited to check up on the girls.  They had made such progress with their comb building and they appeared to be in good spirits, bringing in an exception amount of different colored pollen, bright orange, bright yellow and pale yellow.

I started at the false back and began working my way forward.  There are currently four Honey Top Bars (“HTB”) and twelve Top Bars (“TB”) in front of the false back.  There was no comb built on any of the HTBs.  I started to proceed through the TBs.  I carefully pried each bar apart and moved it towards the false back in the space created from removing two of the TBs.  I find comb on TB#8.

“Wow, that’s amazing”  I say to myself.  Here are the girls peaking up as I move bars.

TB#7, bigger comb… TB#6 comb with brood.  What an amazing sight!  TB#5 more brood.  The same thing on TBs #4, #3, #2 and #1!  TB#1 is basically completely sealed.  But for some curious reason all of the boys were hanging out on TB#1.  “Seems odd that they all hang out here” I think.

Everything is looking Great!  Now I need to find Queen Victoria.  I begin to inspect each side and put the TBs back in place.  I find Queen Vicky on TB#5.  I honestly cannot tell anything different about her.  I know her abdomen is supposedly longer, but it honestly does not look that way to me.  Thank goodness she is marked otherwise I would never find her.  She seems to be hanging out at the very top of the TB, which concerns me.  I snap a few Glamor Shots of Her Majesty.

I place the top bar down into the hive.  However, concerns enter my mind about moving TB#6 up against her so I decide to move TB#5 against TB#6 and then move both together as a single unit.  I slowly attempt to work the bars together and get the girls back in, which I hadn’t had any problems with so far.

And then it happened.  TRAGEDY BEYOND BELIEF.  The entire comb falls off the TB.  Thinking back now with almost a day to replay the horror over and over in my mind, I believe I may have tilted the TB towards me in an effort to persuade the girls in.  The entire comb broke off, with Queen Vicky on the edge falling into and onto the next comb.

I stand there in disbelief.  What have I done?  How do I fix this?  I try to remain calm.  The girls are NOT happy at this time.  I had better put on my gloves I tell myself.  Yes… I had actually been doing everything prior to this without gloves.  The day had been going so well.  Lot of future baby bees and no gloves.  And now this.

I put my gloves on and remove some more TBs to give myself additional working space.  I use my hive tool to try and gently move the broken comb.  There is nectar and/or syrup running all over the place now.  I have to reach into the hive and try to retrieve some of the comb.  It breaks in my hand.  I place the piece into my orange bucket.  I remove some more.  There are poor bees worm babies falling out.  I’m so upset.  Luckily I am able to remove a very large section of capped brood.  I get the broken comb out and look and the mess that I have created.

I quickly had to determine a course of action.  Do I completely take away the entire comb?  I feel absolutely horrible.  I come to a decision.  I will leave some of the parts that appear to have pollen and nectar so that the girls can move it to other areas of the hive.  There’s no reason all of their hard work should be a total waste.  I then decide to leave the big section of sealed brood against the false back in hopes that perhaps some of the babies might survive.

I will diligently watch this over the upcoming week.  If it appears it may be salvageable, I’ll leave it until I move the false back.  Otherwise I will remove it next Saturday.

I replace the remaining TBs and close up the hive.  I walk back to the house dejected with my head hanging… the Hindenburg quote, slightly modified, ringing in my ears…. “Ooooohhhhh the Beemanity.”  I say a prayer for all of the lost little bee babies.

As of today (Sunday), the girls appear to already have removed the nectar and the majority of the pollen from the two smaller pieces I left.  And they are doing something on the larger piece.  Are they attending to it ?  Or trying to remove the horrific aftermath?

I make a batch of 1:1 syrup for the girls and put it out for them, but they don’t take it.  Maybe that’s a good sign that they have found a true nectar flow.  I check the girls throughout the day.  I see busy bees everywhere.  I occasionally witness a girl removing a little white corpse.

I also watch a very bizarre occurrence.  I observe one of the girls literally drag around and then fly off with one of the boys.  He wasn’t dead and didn’t seem injured.  But she literally drug him off the edge and flew off with him.

Around 4pm, I was trying to remove a little bit of cactus from an area in front of the hive when I feel this incredible burning sensation on the front of my shin.  I look down and there’s a rogue girl hanging on my leg.

“Sh!t…. this hurts…. It’s burning like a hot poker being pushed into my leg!” I’m thinking to myself.  I quickly vacate the hive premises and look at my leg.  The poor girl is now gone, having sacrificed herself, but I see the stinger.  I scratch it out of my leg and head inside to put ice on my first battle wound.

So there it is, the good, the bad, and the ugly.  A weekend with such amazing highs unfortunately clouded with such loss.  I only hope that my decision to leave some of the sealed brood was the right decision.

Nice Surprise !

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So, last evening, when I got home from work, I went out back to take a peek at the girls through the window, as I do every evening weather permitting.

They are still building comb like crazy women !!  🙂  They must be working on Top Bar 6 or 7 by now.

It’s REALLY looking good.

And …. (wait for it)…… there was a sighting of Her Majesty and Royal Highness !

Just for a few brief seconds, but I saw her little orange dot moving along the side of some of the comb !  I think she may have been giving the light bulb wave.

I thought to myself, “That’s cool.”

The Verdict Is….

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There must have been a mix up when I picked up my girls.  My BeeDealer says I must have been given a package with a marked queen, and that they had seemed to recall at the end of that day they were short one marked queen.

So I guess that means Queen Victoria is sporting bright orange/yellow body paint!  🙂

At least I won’t lose her now!

As I didn’t see any BeeBabies last Saturday, I’m thinking I may go in for a check this Saturday.  I’ll be crossing my fingers of seeing good indications that Queen Vicky has stated laying.

The Bee or Not the Bee… That is the Question

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I got up yesterday thinking the day was going to be a waste due to the weather, even though I had sooo much I needed to do… cut the grass, move the false back, check the girls. It was cloudy, and although not hot, was not cool or cold. I feared it would rain and ruin everything.

At about 9am, I decided I needed to do it now or perhaps lose the opportunity for the day. I donned the space suit and took to the woods.

First I check their comb through the window…. looking good !!

Off comes the top and then the inner cover. So far so good. I had originally planned on moving the false back to the end of the hive, in accordance with the hive instructions. But the “not hot” weather had me concerned that the space might be too big for the girls to keep warm. I decided to only move the false back by four top bars, including the spacers.

I chose to do this without gloves and everything went off without a hitch. No problems. In looking through the window I can see how beautiful their comb is coming along. There is a little bit that they have actually attached to the window. I think they must be 5 or 6 bars back now.

I stop to consider what I should do. I decide I should take a quick look at some of the bars, just to see if Queen Victoria is laying yet. I look at one bar, which is mainly just bees hanging in their comb building chain formation. I move a few bars closer. Looks beautiful, but sill nothing notable to report.

I decide to take a look at the second top bar. I loosen the bar and pull it straight up. There are a lot of bees, and the hum of the hive turns noticeably louder and more unfriendly. Odd I think to myself. The comb is aging nicely and starting to turn yellow. I check the side facing me and I can see they are setting some good pollen. I turn the comb around and that’s when I saw it.

“Am I seeing things?” I think to myself. “Did I really just see that?” It was like a lighthouse on a dark and stormy night beckoning out. “But this doesn’t make sense” I continue my internal discussion.

What I saw was a bright tiny little fluorescent orange dot.

When I had asked my bee dealer (does that make me a bee junkie?) about marked queens, they told me it was an extra five dollars and the bees may look at it as a genetic defect and not accept her. Since I had already paid for my bees, I told them, “OK, thanks, I’ll just take an unmarked queen.”

When I took Queen Victoria out of the main box, I don’t recall seeing any markings. But I suppose I might not have seen it; although, I looked pretty closely. I additionally, don’t remember seeing any markings when I had released her last Saturday.

But sure enough, there was a marked queen. In actuality it might be a good thing, because I quickly saw the bright spot and I’m not sure I would have been able to find her without it. Actually it probably would have been impossible. I thought to myself, I should take a picture… but I had put my gloves on prior to starting with the bars and I knew full well that I can’t work an iPhone with gloved fingers!

I don’t see any evidence of brood yet. Maybe it’s still early. I started to lower the bar back into the hive when bees start flooding off of the comb. I start to panic now! I don’t want Queen Victoria to come off the comb, so how am I going to get the bar back in? I quickly realize that I was not manipulating the bars correctly. I needed to take out one bar and then use the extra space to work forward.

So now I standing there holding the comb with Queen Victoria. I have to use one hand to hold that bar and comb steady while I remove one of the top bars near the back without any comb so I can slowly move all of the other bars back a bit so I can get Queen Vicky back into the castle. I work slowly, sweat beading down my forehead. “Where is all this sweat coming from?? It’s freakin’ cloudy and mild out !!!” I say to myself.

I manage to get Queen Vicky back into the hive and now begin the process of closing everything back up. As soon as her top bar was back into the hive, the attitude of the hive immediately calmed down. Amazing. I slowly move bars back up toward the front of the hive, moving slowly and with a wave like motion to entice the girls back down into the hive and avoiding crushing any of them.

I get all the bars back in place, replace the cover and replace the roof. Then I take a look at the front of the hive. There are a few girl fanning. Good sign.

There are also girls bringing more pollen in. Another good sign. I note that I am mainly seeing some very bright orange pollen. I wonder where that might be coming from. There aren’t many flowers that look like that color, except for some day lilies; however, I haven’t seen any bees on them. I did note one single honey bee on the Gatinger’s Prairie Clover, but have no idea if it was one of my girls on one of the Ferals. However, there were TONS of Bumbles on it, with comparable colored pollen.

 

So here is my deduction… My Dear Watson…. either the dealer marks all of their queens and only charges the $5 when someone asks for a marked queen (meaning everyone gets ones) or somehow, there was a marked queen in with the package, which wasn’t the one in the cage. I’ve tried calling my bee dealer, but have not yet been able to get in contact with them. I’ll try again tomorrow.

The marking definitely looked bright orange, and in looking and the “professional” marking colors, is not one that is used. Unless this is supposed to be “red”. It’s all a mystery.

I continue to give the girls 1:1 syrup in an open feeder a good ways from the hive. I’ll decide whether I should check for brood next weekend later in the week. Or maybe as long as I am seeing pollen I should give it a few weeks. This is all sooo fascinating!

The Life of a Worker Bee

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Worker Bee Life Cycle Time Table

Hatching of Egg — 3 days

Larva stage (fed by other worker bees) — 5 days

Pupa stage — 13 days

Total (New Bee is Born !!) — 21 days

Life Span of Worker Bee After Emergence

House Bee –

Cleans cell and warms brood nest — 1-2 days

Feeds older larvae with pollen and honey — 3-5 days

Feeds young larvae with royal jelly — 6-11 days

Produces wax and constructs comb, also ripens honey — 12-17 days

Guards hive entrance and ventilates hive — 18-21 days

Field Bee –

Forages for nectar, pollen, propolis and water — 22 days –  death