Thursday, July 10, 2014

Gory Details of first sting

Ok! I finally got the video up.  The first minute and a half will show how I managed to get stung.  I earned this one.  I will say that I wasn't expecting the girls to be hanging out behind the follower board.  My reaction was absolutely awful.  My girls were much more forgiving than I had any right to expect.  As for the rest of the video, it is how an inspection looks like when I am shaken up.  It is not pretty.  The only good points are when I get to the last two frames.  Those were the new-style frames.  They were a whopping success!  The girls drew the comb down through the wire as straight as can be.  Now it will take me until next July to finish culling out all of the old style frames.  I plan on starting the process on my next inspection of Team Dai-Gurren some time this week.  If I can find my queen I will get rid of the double comb first.  There is so much bad comb that the girls started offset just because I forgot to install a spacer between the first comb and the wall of the hive.  Near the end of the video, when I was looking at my last frame, I did hear piping.  I didn't see any queen cells.  I think I am in for a new batch of trouble soon.

Here is a video someone else took of piping for comparison.

It has been almost two days since I received my first sting.  I think the itch is worse than having the chicken-pox.  I sure hope I build up a resistance to this effect with time.

In about 5 more days I will inspect the nuc to see how it is doing!  The girls are still bring in lots of pollen.  That is very encouraging!  Also, their numbers are up to the point that my packages started at.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

First bee sting ever details coming soon!

     I am still in the process of editing the video. I should have it finished tomorrow afternoon.  Got to work tonight and need rest.  I am only cutting out the dead time( about 8 minutes) and I am adding some captions.  After you see the video you will see why I named this blog what I did.  It is funny to me, and I am the victim of this joke.  Here is a photo of the sting 4 hours after the incident.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Finally! I have two queen candidates for my nuc.

It has been 11 days since I started the nuc with two frames of brood and eggs.  I am happy to say that the girls are working on acquiring a queen.  Of the three queen cells that I saw in the inspection 4 days ago, two of them now have pupae in them.  The nuc looked pretty good on this inspection.  It doesn't appear that any robbing took place despite the obvious attempts.  I guess the robbing screens really did do the job, even when the nuc was in no position to defend its self.  The next benefit that I am looking for is whether or not the robbing screen helps detour wax moths.  I will have to think of a way to measure this.  I don't have enough bees and equipment to run a comparison of hives with and without robbing screens.

I finally saw the bees bringing in a respectable amount of pollen earlier this afternoon.  Also the comb that was placed from the two different hives don't appear to be too close to each other.  I feel good enough about the nuc to wait two weeks before taking a peek in there again.  Here is a video of the nuc inspection.

I think the next time I start a nuc, I will start with one frame of capped brood with good pollen stores.  Then after 4 days, I'll add another frame with eggs.  I think I'll wait a week and add one frame of eggs if no queen cells are filled, or I'll add a frame of capped larvae if they have a good start on their new queen.  I'll go through this routine until the new queen is laying eggs.  After the nuc has four frames I will have to perform a trade instead of just adding frames.  

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Finding a diversion!

    This has been torture trying to stay out of the nuc and letting the bees do their thing.  I would like to wait at least 4 days before checking the nuc to see if they have placed any larvae in the queen cups.  That means that I should wait until Tuesday before checking.

Here is a checklist of what I am worried about.
     1)  Is there a queen developing yet?
     2)  Do they still have sufficient pollen stores?
     3)  Are they getting robbed and I don't even know It?
     4)  Was there sufficient room between the new comb added and the old comb?
     5)  Are they even attempting to build up any honey?

The reason that I am worried about #3 is that I have seen plenty of activity near the entrance with very little pollen being brought in.  This may be due to the age of the bees.  It could be a bunch of outsiders visiting.

In an effort to divert my self I planted a desert willow, two red sages, and two agastache this afternoon.  It doesn't look like much yet.  I already see the plants as they will be.  You don't want me drawing on the picture as I see it.  My drawing skills make a toddler look advance in comparison.

I also need to add a poacher killed counter to this blog.  Here is widow #3 this year.  She is caught red handed with one of my bees

Friday, June 27, 2014

2nd transfer of eggs to the new nuc

     I apologize for not having any pictures or video.  The wind was still bad, just as expected.  There was no way to get video without having the wind drown out any other sound.  My hands weren't free since I needed to keep the comb low near the hive and work fast.  This was far from an ideal day to perform an inspection, but I just couldn't let the new nuc flounder any more when they had the new queen cells prepared.  Today I managed to tear one of the combs that was attached to two top-bars.  I pushed the comb back a little.  I am afraid that this won't qualify as a fix. There are several combs that were close to this same state.  I finally stopped this trend with a liberal use of spacers and with the new inch and a half top bars.

     I am beginning to think that with the wider bars, the bees are building thicker comb.  This may only be a matter of perception.  It may be just a result of not having a spacer between the first bar and the front of the hive.  (That is a mistake that I will never repeat again!)  I do know that the comb is straight and centered on the new bars.  They still haven't built the comb down below the wire.  That is not a problem, since are still only about an inch away from the wire at this point.  We should reach the moment of truth in about two weeks when we do an inspection of this hive.  I can say that that the new comb is almost artificially straight.  You will get to see the new comb in about two weeks from now.

     I am still worried since I did not see the queen in this hurried inspection.  I am pretty sure that I didn't transfer her to the new nuc.  I will have a better ideal this evening while observing the hive from the outside.  I have found that sitting near the entrance of a hive and watching the girls work is very relaxing.  It is amazing how few people will come up and interrupt ones musings.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Wind! Wind! go AWAY!

I did an inspection on the new nuc this morning.  It looks like they are heading towards starvation on the shortest route possible. On the bright side, they did build three queen cells.  They just don't have anything to install in those cells.  I was hoping to add a frame of eggs today from team Dai-Gurren.  Well it isn't happening.  The wind was blowing in excess of 24 MPH all day.  Tomorrow it looks like it will get down to 16 MPH.  It looks like it will be Sunday before I can add that frame.

I have been feeding the nuc.  I don't think the robbing is too bad.  The wax capings on the bottom were of the usual fine texture.  Pollen is what I am most worried about.  They have completely gone through the stores.  Here is a picture with two queen cells awaiting their prospective guest of honor.

On a good note!  Today is the first day that I have seen bearding on any of my hives.  Team Dai-Gurren is starting to rock!  It looks like there may be about a half-pound of bees hanging out at the porch.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Why did I name my blog "The Bumbling Beekeeper"

     After creating this blog and doing a google search to see if I could find it, I soon discovered that I was light-years away from being original.  I found one person in the U.K. that has been running his blog a year longer than my-self.  And I don't even want to consider how many blogs by the same name have faded into obscurity.  Even with all of the company I still feel that the title is very appropriate for this blog.  No matter how much experience we acquire, we will always be bumbling beekeepers in comparison to the real experts (the bees themselves).  From all of the reading I have done, I have learned that the bees pretty much take care of themselves.  All of the effort of inspecting hives and manipulating the comb is generally for the benefit of the beekeeper.  Much of it is to satisfy our curiosity of what is going on in the hive.  Some is to make harvesting honey easier.  Occasionally, we may come across a situation where we can actually assist the colony.  I am not sure when that is right now.  But, I will keep telling my self that in order to justify the frequent inspections.  It is an absolute rush being in the middle of a bunch of bees during an inspection.  I still haven't lost my apprehension for being stung.  It hasn't happened yet.  But, I know it is coming.  I predict that it will happen while inspecting the new nuc.

Since I think it is necessary to have a few pictures or videos in each blog, I figure I would post a couple pictures of my hives.  Also I will post my blueprint for my follower board which also acts as the internal cross-section of the hives.  My main hives are only 33 inches long on the inside.  And I built the hive bodies out of 2x6's.

I made the plans for the end-boards to be cut from a single 1 x 8  that is 6 feet long.  On the lower right, I had to record measurements of where my skill saw would actually cut when using my guides.  And yes< I could get my cuts almost to a 64th of an inch in precision.  I don't know why I bother.  The wood will shrink and swell by more than 16th of an inch.  I think that is the OCD kicking in.

I don't recommend building a hive with these dimensions, until my bees successfully overwinter.  These dimensions are an experiment.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Making my first nuc

Alright!  I finally built some of the new style frames with a wire running across the bottom.  And since I was in an industrious mood I built a nuc as well.

Well yesterday I went to select my first two frames to put in the nuc from team Roamey.  I was in a bit of a hurry, so I didn't bother to light my smoker.  It turns out that in this instance that was a good thing.  Apparently the smoke will drive the nurse bees off of the frame as well.  When it is all said and done I should have four frames added to the nuc.  The next two frames will come from team Dai-Gurran, one each week.  This should discourage a laying worker.  I plan on adding frames that have both capped brood and eggs.  Before adding the frame I will inspect the nuc to see if they have started their own queen cells.  Here is a video of the split.

Today I did see some activity in front of the nuc.  It appears that the other bees have discovered it as well.  This is where I am real happy that I make all of my hives with robbing screens.

Next week I will probably just take pictures of my nuc inspection.  But I will get a video of the inspection of team Dai-Gurran.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Something interesting today!

Ok! you are seeing a non-bee project that is not getting done.  I have been working too much, and it has been too windy to put up my new metal roof.  Consequently, I haven't been able to inspect the bees either.  So what does this have to do with beekeeping?  The picture above only shows a few bees at the edge of the sheet metal, where earlier today I saw as many as nine bees at a time hanging out at this exact same spot. They were running a shuttle service between this spot and the hive where the average bee would spend about two minutes at this site.

I am guessing that the bees were either getting rust off of the edge of the sheet metal.  Or, they found salt.  I am betting on the rust.  I just added some rusty nails to their watering station in hopes that this helps provide the bees what they need.

The windy day hasn't been a complete loss. I did use that time to start making a new style of frames.  
Here is a stack of my old frames just before I hived my two packages.  In one of my previous videos, I was discussing how the bees weren't building the comb down below the bottom bar.  In the new style of frame, I am extending the frame a few inches further down and I am replacing the bottom piece of wood with a thin wire.  Also, I am making the side frames narrower to allow bees access to where the topbar rest on the hive body.  This is to allow the bees to use propolis to seal up the hive a little more thoroughly.  I'll have more on this when I finish the frames.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

How I started beekeeping

I have never considered taking up beekeeping for fun or work until early September 2013.  I remember sitting on the back patio watching some worker bee dying on the concrete.  (She was probably at the end of her natural life.)  I was thinking about some article discussing how the honey bees were disappearing in North America.  It was one of those moments where I was between obsessions and I thought that I could do my part to save the honeybees in my part of the world.  This is extremely silly in retrospect, considering that honey bees were introduced to the new world by Europeans.  But the honey bee does play a major part in our modern agriculture and increased productivity.
    It didn't take me a week to begin doing research on beekeeping.  I found one of the most informative forums and registered an account with them (Bee Source).  This site is a wealth of information, and it is one of my favorite places to visit.  My user name there is Needo.  On this site I got to learn about different kinds of hives (langstroth, warre, top bar, ect...).  Each of these hives have their strong points, and all are worth trying.  Yet, I had to decide on a hive to start with.  I chose a top bar design for the simple reason that it is not standardized.  I have never been one to follow instructions to the line.  This design gives me the most room to tinker with.  From what I have read in books and in discussion forums the bees can take care of themselves in spite of my interference.  I will talk more about the design and my reasoning behind the features and modifications in a future blog entry.
     Some time in December I committed my self to the venture by placing an order for two 4 lb. packages with Honey Hive Farms.  Tim Moore is a very nice person to work with.  The deciding factor for why I ordered from him is that he has four different delivery routs.  And, Amarillo is on one of those routs.  I ordered two packages so that I would have resources to assist the other hive.  Also it let me do a comparison between two hives to see what is normal.  This last part hasn't quite worked out so well.  I have discovered that  every hive has its own individual quirks.  There seems to be no rule set in stone when it comes to beekeeping.
     Although the packages were suppose to arrive in early April, It wasn't until May 10th before I received my packages.  This was the first practical lesson I got in beekeeping.  Don't rely on a date for events to happen in agriculture.  The weather doesn't know what a calender is, and it will do what it is going to do.  The harsh winter caused a delay on when the packages were ready.  Unfortunately, I was out of town when the bees arrived.  My wife was kind enough to pick up the packages for me.  I still wish I could have met Tim in person to thank him for the experience to follow.  I did get in that afternoon and installed my first packages just before evening.  I apologize for not getting that experience on video.  I was very nervous and in bit of a hurry to beet the sunset.  I will say now that shaking the packages for the first time has been the most exciting experience.  Also in hind sight it is the safest time with the bees.  They don't have anything to defend, so they are at their most docile state.
     This is how my beekeeping experience has started.  Now my focus is to not kill my bees before next spring.  This is a very daunting task to someone that just picked up this hobby on a whim.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

First Blog Entry

I'm posting this first blog entry to see what a post will look like and to see if I can link up YouTube videos that I have created earlier.  I must warn the viewer that hive inspections can be rather boring to watch.  It will be especially so with the earlier videos.  I am trying to get every inspection on video this first year of beekeeping so that I have an inspection record.  This is part of the process that I am using to learn by.