Bee Math Be Wrong?

Or maybe it’s MY math that’s wrong. Back in September I was worried about Bee-atrice Log hive.

She had swarmed the month before and then the bee numbers were down and more importantly,

the temperature had dropped to 62F (16C).  It’s January now and there are loads of bees, so we might be out of the woods.

January 5...Bee-atrice has bees on her face.  Lots of bees!

January 5…Bee-atrice has bees on her face. Lots of bees!

The temperature is fluctuating a lot though.

January 10...temp at 88˙F

January 10…temp at 88˙F

January 12.....Temp drops to 70F (21C)  18 degrees in two days?  What's going on?

January 12…..Temp drops to 70F (21C) 18 degrees in two days? What’s going on?

January 14....Temp is back up to 90F

January 14….Temp is back up to 90F

January 18...Temperature is holding at about 90F.

January 18 (today)…Temperature is holding at about 90F.

I shot some video just because I was happy to see numbers of bees.  About a week later they were bringing some pollen.  Just to finish off the song by Steve Montana, I added some video of the birdhouse bees.  Despite being a small hive in the shade of pine trees for a good three months, they are still holding on, treatment-free.  Hold on bees, the pussy willows will be flowering in February.

 

Building the Modern Way

This crane is waiting to off load the last piece of the medical office.

This crane is waiting to off load the last module of the medical office.

At the risk of losing all street cred, I shot a video of a medical building getting off loaded and set up.  In my defense, I set out on this day to shoot videos of bees.  Beth had called to say that she saw bees out front in the heather, bumblebees as well as honeybees.  I wheeled out my bicycle, packed my cameras and headed over to her place.  The weather had turned cool and there were no bees to be found.  Rain was in the forecast for the next 7 days so I figured I’d better get back to working on my log hive.  On my way home I see these construction guys staring in my direction.  I roll up to them and ask, “You guys waiting for me?”  The reply, “Nope, but we ARE waiting for that truck behind you.”

and there's the truck hauling the last unit to be set up.  I'm lucky...the weather is great and I have time to shoot a video.  How cool is that?

and there’s the truck hauling the last unit to be set up. I’m lucky…the weather is great and I have time to shoot a video. How cool is that?

For the next hour I was able to shoot video of the Modern Building Systems crew rigging the module,  the crane lifting the module off the truck, and swinging it into position.  I’ve got to say I was impressed at how everyone knew what to do…and they absolutely nailed the placement of that module.  I know, I’ve got it on video, corner lined up to corner, perfectly!

Side view of the totem shows how tall it is.

Side view of the totem shows how tall it is.

As I'm standing directly in front, it looks like the panther is staring right at me.

As I’m standing directly in front, it looks like the panther is staring right at me.

The panther was created by sawing wood from the tree, something that's really hard to grasp for non artist people like me.  You create something by taking something away.

The panther was created by sawing wood from the tree, something that’s really hard to grasp for a non artist person like myself. You create something by taking something away.

Peacock carving

Peacock carving

Brian Vorwaller poses with the finished totem

Brian Vorwaller poses with the finished totem

I should have been hollowing out my next log hive because Brian is going to carve the faces of my three grand kids on it next, but I just wanted to show you how talented he is.

Beginning of the 3 Kid Log Hive

Some progress has been made

Following a Dream-Brian and Zada

"All the leaves are gone, and the sky is gray."  For the last few weeks, every day when I walk past this tree, the Mama's and Papa's start playing that song in my head.

“All the leaves are gone, and the sky is gray.” For the last few weeks, every day when I walk past this tree, The Mamas And The Papas start playing that song in my head.

1-10-15...There are still many seed pods hanging on the tree.  I've got a whole bag of them, so I won't be picking these.

1-10-15…There are still many seed pods hanging on the tree. I’ve got a whole bag of them, so I won’t be needing these.

Close up view of a seed pod.

Close up view of a seed pod.

Already a promise of things to come.

Already a promise of things to come.

Many thanks to Lucy at Loose and Leafy for hosting the Follow a Tree blog.  I have learned so much about this Tulip tree that I never would have learned if there had not been a deadline.

Perone Hive Failure

Back in May 2013, I had an extra swarm to give away and  Vernon was in need of a swarm for his self-built Perone hive.  We gave him our Mother’s Day Swarm which went into his Perone hive #1.  Through Vernon’s updates we’ve learned that the Perone hive that our swarm inhabited, made it through the 2013-2014 winter treatment-free.  Vernon built a second Perone hive which he populated with some packaged bees.  The following is the story of the second Perone hive…

In Vernon’s words from January 5, 2015…For almost a month the activity at the entry of my newer hive has been near zero.  At first I thought the colony was settled in for the Winter, but the weather has been mild and the older hive was still somewhat active.  So today I opened the shutters and found that my colony had failed.  Although there were a few dead bees left in the hive, it appears that the majority absconded.  It’s a clear case of Colony Collapse Disorder.  My heart is broken, but I decided to take some pictures to document the failure, in hopes of helping other beekeepers.

2015-01-05...It's difficult to remove the comb from a Perone brood box.  I broke two combs, which isn't too bad.

2015-01-05…It’s difficult to remove the comb from a Perone brood box. I broke two combs, which isn’t too bad.

Here's a view from the other side.

Here’s a view from the other side.

Maybe some of the local beekeepers will be able to help me do a post mortem.  Some of the comb is very dark, almost black.  Is that mold or mildew I'm seeing?

Maybe some of the local beekeepers will be able to help me do a post mortem. Some of the comb is very dark, almost black. Is that mold or mildew I’m seeing?

The spaces between the combs appears generally uniform.

The spaces between the combs appears generally uniform.

This close-up shows that most of the cells were empty, and the black substance was pervasive.

This close-up shows that most of the cells were empty, and the black substance was pervasive.

Although this comb measures an impressive 19.5 inches in width, it was, in the end, non-functional.  Most of the cells are empty, and those that are capped are covered with that black substance.

Although this comb measures an impressive 19.5 inches in width, it was, in the end, non-functional. Most of the cells are empty, and those that are capped are covered with that black substance.

It appears that brood was developing when the colony absconded.

It appears that brood was developing when the colony absconded.

A few dead bees remain, but the most concerning thing about the floor is the black mold (or whatever it is).

A few dead bees remain, but the most concerning thing about the floor is the black mold (or whatever it is).

Close-up of the Black Death and some of its victims.  The hive was always very moist inside.  Maybe next time I'll slant the floor, or drill some holes, or make some other provision for drainage.

Close-up of the Black Death and some of its victims. The hive was always very moist inside. Maybe next time I’ll slant the floor, or drill some holes, or make some other provision for drainage.

A solitary worker clings in death to the comb she helped build and fill.  You and your mates worked tirelessly, little friend, and I'm sure you're all in bee heaven now.  Hail and farewell!

A solitary worker clings in death to the comb she helped build and fill. You and your mates worked tirelessly, little friend, and I’m sure you’re all in bee heaven now. Hail and farewell!

Vernon wrote yesterday his recent thoughts…”I’ve got a plausible hypothesis for the cause of this hive failure. Some beekeepers equalize the populations of adjacent hives by trading frames. This is supposed to discourage robbing.  Early this Spring my Hive #1 probably had close to 100,000 bees.  I located Hive #2 adjacent to it, populated with at most 12,000 bees from a 3 pound package.  Not smart.  Bees from Hive #1 were probably robbing Hive #2 from the start.

Going back over my old photos it’s clear that the new bees built a lot of comb that never got filled, even though they brought back a lot of food and produced a lot of brood.  Wouldn’t that indicate robbery from their stores?

Stocking the hive with package bees may have made robbing more likely.  The queen was a Carniolan type and the workers were Italians, derived from a number of hives.  The brood was Carniolan, so the Italian workers were nursing juvenile bees with a different pheromone signature.  That may have desensitized the colony to the unfamiliar pheromones of bees from outside the colony.

What do you think?”

The beginning of the project

Bee-atrice log hive is on the left.  The inner tube is a draft reducer, not what it looks like, so no snide remarks!

Bee-atrice log hive is on the left. The inner tube is a draft reducer, not what it looks like, so no snide remarks!

Here's a better shot of Bee-atrice.  The blue tarp in the background is protecting my Tower of Jewels echium plants and artichokes.  I'm hoping they will bloom this time around.

Here’s a better shot of Bee-atrice log hive. The blue tarp in the background is protecting my Tower of Jewels echium plants and artichokes. I’m hoping they will bloom this year because the nectar is so good for the bees and they’ll bloom all summer.

The outside temperature is a frosty 34˙F.  Barely above freezing.  It's no wonder the bees aren't flying today.

The outside temperature is a frosty 34˙F. Barely above freezing. It’s no wonder the bees aren’t flying today.

While the outside temperature is 35˙F (1.67˙C), the inside is 50˙F (10˙C).  Someone should have cleaned off the cob webs. :)

While the outside temperature is 34˙F (1˙C), the inside is 50˙F (10˙C), which means there is something warm inside.  Someone should have cleaned off the cob webs before he shot the photo. :)

Looking through the observation window of Bee-atrice Log Hive reveals lots of honey.  It's such an improvement over last year's status of 'no bees.'

Looking through the observation window of Bee-atrice Log Hive reveals lots of honey. It’s such an improvement over last year’s status of ‘no bees.’

Bee Beard Log hive is doing well with the August 9th swarm that chose to move in.

Bee Beard Log hive is doing well with the August 9th swarm that chose to move in.

This hive in the tree swarmed three times during summer.  Two went to Bob and one we transferred into Del's hive.

This hive in the tree swarmed three times during summer. Two went to Bob and one we transferred into Del’s Warre hive below.

Del's hive...the bees came from the green hive in the tree.  After hanging on the pine tree for about three days, I tried to get them to crawl into an inverted swarm catcher scented with lemon grass oil.  No luck.  They finally disappeared.  I thought, "Good, I've got enough hives," only to find them on a branch of this spruce tree.  After they had hung out for at least 6 days, I dropped them into this hive that I had planned to donate to the bee club.

Del’s Warre hive…the bees came from the green hive in the tree. After hanging on the pine tree for about three days, I tried to get them to crawl into an inverted swarm catcher scented with lemon grass oil. No luck. They finally disappeared. I thought, “Good, I’ve got enough hives,” only to find them on a branch of this spruce tree. After they had hung out for a total of 6 days, I dropped them into this hive that I had planned to donate to the bee club.

This hive catches the afternoon sun.  Some bees responded to the warmth.

Del’s hive catches the afternoon sun. Some bees responded to the warmth and gathered outside.

12-31-14...Birdhouse bees.  These bees came from Mary's backyard birdhouse swarm.  When I couldn't get them to move into my new Warre, I 'posted' them here.  Today they are not flying.  Too cold.  You can see frost on the ground in front.

12-31-14…Birdhouse bees. These bees came from Mayor Mary’s backyard birdhouse swarm. When I couldn’t get them to move into my new Warre, I ‘posted’ them here. Today they are not flying. Too cold. You can see frost on the ground in front.  They are in the shade possibly until March.

A closer look at the birdhouse bees shows no bee activity.

A closer look at the birdhouse bees still shows no bee activity.  Guess I’ll have to wait til it warms up.  This hive is in the coldest part of the property.  If they make it, it’ll be because they are strong bees, not because I treated them.

Warre 3...The bees came from Warre 2, around May 10, 2014.  They built up fast but only in the top box.  This 'shelter' leaves something to be desired because every time we get a stiff wind, the sheets of fiberglass blow off.  Thus the reason for the tie down.

Warre 3…These bees came from Warre 2, May 10, 2014. They built up fast but only in the top box. This ‘shelter’ leaves something to be desired because every time we get a stiff wind, the sheets of fiberglass blow off, thus the reason for the tie down.

So there it is…from three hives a year ago to eight hives this year.  As a third year natural beekeeper, I believe in letting my bees swarm.  I like the article written by British beekeeper John Haverson that “Swarming Bees are Healthy Bees,” so I don’t destroy the queen cells or otherwise try to thwart their natural tendency to swarm.

I go against the recommendations of my local bee association which advises to kill the varroa mites.   I know there are beneficial mites in the hive.  According to long time beekeeper Michael Bush, who wrote “The Practical Beekeeper,” there are over 30 kinds of mites in a typical hive.  If you are killing varroa mites, you are upsetting the ecology of the hive.  I think we should let the bees adapt to living with mites.  Conversely, if we poison the mites, they will eventually build up a resistance at the expense of the bees.

Since we have just started winter, I know that it’s possible that some hives won’t make it, especially if I choose not to feed them.  Those would be the weak hives.  As a fairly new beekeeper I’m constantly questioning whether I’m doing the right thing.  Right now, I am of the mindset that we should not be propping up weak hives because we will be passing on weak genetics.   In my humble opinion when you capture a swarm, you should not kill that queen,  but keep her with the swarm.  She has survived the winter and proven herself.  All my bees have come from swarms.

If my bees can make it to early February, the pussy willows will bloom and weather permitting, nectar and pollen will be available in a critical stage of winter.

Yesterday I noticed honeybees on the gorse blossoms down the road from me.  This was a happy surprise because I don’t usually see bees on gorse blossoms possibly because gorse is harder to work (or so I’m told), but if there’s nothing else available, the bees will be able to get nourishment.  Some individuals around here hate the gorse.  It’s spiny thorns make it impossible to walk near, it grows prolifically, and it’s blamed for burning the town in the big 1936 fire.

 

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