Archive for the ‘Feeding sugar’ Category

2016 has not been a good year for my bees.  My ‘end-of-year’ hive status saw four bee hives that had activity.  Now I have only one.

After being in denial for a few weeks, I figured I’d face up to the fact this Warré was a goner.

2239 Warre plastic film protected, 12-25-15 copy

Dec. 25, 2015…I had pulled off the empty top box and pinned some protection from rainwater getting in. It was too late.

2378 Warre 2 dismantled+detailed, 2-7-16 copy

Feb. 7, 2016…This is the top box. There was plenty of honey on the four outboard bars, but very little in the middle.

Biting the bullet I figured I’d better find out ALL the bad news…and opened up Bee Beard log hive.  Somehow rainfall had gotten inside here too, even with the hat and headband.  Because of El Niño, we’ve had copious amounts of rainfall.  Yes, it’s good for the forests, but not so good for the bee hives.

2430 Bee Beard, hat off, 2-20-16

2-20-16 I pull off Bee Beard’s hat.

Footnote to above…I’d like to make a waterproof ‘hat’ for this hive.  If anyone has a suggestion, please pass it on to me.

So why have these hives died back?  Could it be the El Niño effect?  Record rainfall in December?  Ron lost his hives around December.  This year I didn’t cover my hives very well.   I should have been more careful.

Another thing that’s been bothering me for awhile is the questionable source of swarms I get from time to time.  Where are they coming from?  I’m beginning to realize they might be coming from the commercial hives in the cranberry bogs.  The commercial hives, I just learned from a cranberry grower, come straight up from the almond orchards in California.

These ‘almond orchard bees’ could be infecting my bees and I DON’T GET any payment.

181 Several hundred hives, 3-24-15

March 25, 2015…..Less than 3 miles (4.8 km) distance away from my bee hives is the staging area for the commercial cranberry hives. These hives are most likely coming from the almond orchards south of us in California. They were being held here prior to being placed in the cranberry bogs.  Arrrrgh!  Bog bees…”diseased and loaded with mites.”

My wife suggests I ask Bill W. if he sells any Warré nucs.  Bill lives inland about 150 miles (241 km).  I tell him of my suspicions of commercial hives.  His reply…

“Hello Pat,
I don’t have Warré nucs for sale.  I get a lot of “bad” swarms also. These are mostly from poorly kept urban high density colonies having bees from poor commercial sources.  I pick up a lot of swarms with poor genetics and failing queens.  It has caused me to put out more hives and rely upon higher colony failure.
In the Willamette Valley, many commercial beekeepers will keep their colonies here when not busy with almonds or cranberries or something else.
Good luck. -Bill”

2223A Anchored GKLH today, 12-19-15 copy

The Grand Kids Log Hive is most likely inhabited by “bog bees.” Maybe I should say “was inhabited,” because it’s been silent for almost two months. I thought it successfully superceded, but I’ve not seen any activity since early January.

After assuming my troubles have come from the cranberry “bog bees,” I asked Steve about his bees.  We had gotten a swarm of bees, (most likely they were from cranberry hives) last year, May 30th.

105751 Steve's hive, 2-17-16

Feb. 17….. Steve sent this photo and said…”My bees are fine, but I fed them 50 lbs of sugar in the fall.”  Should I rethink feeding sugar to them?

Then there’s Pete’s beehives.  I asked him recently about his bees.  He is near cranberry bogs too.  “They’re doing great.  Out flying every non-rainy day, getting into madrone blossoms and other things, possibly even gorse, bringing back all kinds of pollen.”

Bob (of home-built bee vac fame) said his hives were doing fine too.  Bob is located near the bogs too.  Hmmm, maybe I can’t blame my bee problems on the bogs.

2454 The only active hive left, 2-23-16

February 23…the Green hive in the tree is the only active one left. The bees are flying in small numbers on sunny days…even bringing in pollen, but again in small numbers. When our willow tree blossomed, I expected to see bees all over it. I was disappointed. Few bees were seen. Maybe it was the almost constant rain.

Since my tree hive seems to have lasted through everything, I decide to try another one. I’ve got to do some trimming around it, but this will be the location for the next one.   It’ll hold Warré sized bars, but it’s too heavy to lug around for a bait hive, so I’ll be trying to attract a swarm.

2506 Next tree hive location, 3-10-16

I’ve got to cut back the laurel hedge limb and holly tree. Then I’ll custom fit the hive box between the trunk and the angled limb. I’ve tried it. I think it’ll work.

Bottom line…I think it was the El Niño rainfall.  I chose NOT to cover my Warré bee hives this winter.  Why not?  I didn’t see other beekeepers cover their hives up.  I think the difference this year is my observation window covers are slightly warped (outward)  Some rain possibly entered there.  With so much more rainfall this year than in other years, it was just too much.  Somehow the rain got into Bee Beard Log Hive too.  I’ll have to work up some kind of ‘head gear’ to shed water.   As for the Grand Kids Log hive?  I still have to figure that one out.  Maybe it WAS a weak, diseased strain of bees from the commercial hives.

Fixing Bee Beard Log Hive…

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This is what we were waiting for...Bee Beard's Prime Swarm, but it was waaay out of reach

This is what we were waiting for…Bee Beard’s Prime Swarm, but it was waaay out of reach

When we started keeping bees we read that a healthy hive will swarm, at least once every year.  Our goal was to get through the winter without feeding, medicating, or miticiding. The swarm would be our sign of success.  On a warm day March 30th, that’s what happened.  We heard the loud buzzing, came out to witness the bees heading up to the top of a nearby spruce tree.  I even tried ‘tanging,’ banging a spoon on a pan to create noise so they wouldn’t go far and would form near the ground.  I was wildly unsuccessful.  This would have been the swarm to get, but it was clearly out of reach.

Swarm #2 is within reach

Swarm #2, April 17 is within reach

Swarm number 2 is withing reach, but the 2nd log hive isn’t ready for it yet…I’ll have to stick it into the ‘back-up Warre.”

Let's try out this bamboo swarm catcher so I won't have to use a ladder

Let’s try out this bamboo swarm catcher so I won’t have to use a ladder

Well I ended up using a ladder to cut the bamboo and let the swarm drop into the white sail cloth basket.

My wife noticed some bees on the ladder...we brought it near the hive for them to crawl in, but looking closer, they were fanning.  The queen must be here.  We gathered them up and placed them into the hive.

My wife noticed some bees on the ladder…we brought it near the hive for them to crawl in, but looking closer, we noticed they were fanning. The queen must be here. We gathered them up and placed them into the hive.

After the bees were dropped in, we added the top bars with comb attached…hoping they would stay attached once I hung them in the hive.

Top bars with old comb melted on.  Quilt box in background

Top bars with old comb melted on. Quilt box in background

I had already built the sugar frame shown below.

Sugar for comb building pm a couple of sheets of blank newsprint.

1/2 inch hardware cloth will hold up sugar if using newsprint.

Premixed sugar recipe laying on a couple sheets of blank newsprint

Premixed sugar  laying on a couple sheets of blank newsprint for the Warre hive #2

We slid the sugar frame into place.

Sliding the sugar frame into place

Sliding the sugar frame into place

Next comes the quilt box.

Next comes the quilt box.

Top it off with the roof.  Matt Reed of, you made a nice hive kit.

Top it off with the roof. Matt Reed of, you made a nice hive kit.

Bees flying orientation flights.

Bees flying orientation flights.

Through the observation window we can see the bees working.  No new natural comb can be seen yet, but it won't be long.

April 23…through the observation window we can watch the bees working. No new natural comb can be seen yet, but it won’t be long.

April 26, Natural comb can be seen on Day 9.

April 26, Natural comb can be seen on Day 9.


Where this and other swarms are coming from…Bee Beard Log Hive.

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After I added a frame of sugar on top of the single brood box, October 25, 2012, I figured that would do it for the winter.  But at the bee meeting in January, we were advised to keep feeding into the spring.  It was important because the bees would be flying more and using up the last of the honey stores…if the weather was bad, they wouldn’t be able to fly and could starve and all our efforts would be wasted.  Just to make sure I ask the natural beekeeping forum.  I was advised to super another box.

We opened the hive on a sunny February day, adding more sugar on top of the brood box, then added an empty box on top.  Inside the empty box hung a bit of comb on two top bars that measured about 2 inches (5 cm) down.  I figured the bees would come through the slits, eat the sugar which would give them energy to build more comb.

Sugar frame added 2-15-13.  Slits cut through newsprint to allow bees access to sugar from bottom box.

Feb. 15,  More sugar  added. Slits cut through newsprint to allow bees access to sugar from bottom box.  The chunks of sugar on the right of center was all that was left of the batch we placed in October.

 February 17, 2013  Bees feeding on new sugar above brood box

February 17, 2013 Bees feeding on new sugar above brood box

The bees came up through the slits no problem, ate at the sugar, but stopped there.  They would overnight on the sugar…soon it was covered in bees.  They didn’t have any desire to build on the comb slightly above their heads.  Meanwhile the bees were crowding out the single brood box.

The box is getting crowded...March 3, 13

March 3…This box is getting very crowded…

What to do???  Okay, here’s a plan…if they like the sugar so much, let’s place the sugar frame above the empty box.  They’ll sniff out the sugar, climb up the comb to the sugar, and build out their comb.

Placing sugar frame above both boxes

March 9…Adding more sugar to the frame and placing it above top boxes

We waited a few days before we realized the bees were NOT going up to the sugar and certainly NOT building up more comb.  Meanwhile the bees were getting even more crowded in the brood box.

I go back to the beekeeping forum and notice that Bernhard has added some info about using ‘ladders,’ along with some very excellent photos taken with his expensive macro lens.

Should I try to buy foundation for the Warre…I don’t want to use plastic in my ‘natural’ hive, and I don’t want to use wax that might carry disease, but I do have a bit of comb left over from a failed hive last year which had swarmed late, not queened successfully and was finished off by the wasps.  I piece it together.

Comb 'ladders' attached to bars.  This pathetic looking comb has been in the freezer for 4 to 5 months.  My wife will be happy to have the extra room

Comb ‘ladders’ attached to bars. This pathetic looking comb has been in the freezer for 4 to 5 months.   I don’t have much left so I hope this will encourage them to climb upstairs.

Adding the first ladder

March 24…Adding the first ladder

Adding the second ladder

And the second ladder…”Honey, how about trimming the grass in front of the hive?”

A short video showing the steps involved…

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Back in February, I listened to a podcast interview with Matt Reed of   He talked about the Warre Hive.  Now I didn’t really want to get into another type of hive, but it sounded so intriguing and easy to use, I decided to give it a try.   I liked the idea that the boxes stacked in a vertical orientation, mimicking  a hollow tree.  It sounded like the most ‘natural’ type of hive that wasn’t actually a tree.  I also liked Matt’s approach of not using any chemicals inside his hives.   So I ordered a kit with observation windows and a screened bottom in case I wanted to do a mite count.

I didn’t want to order package bees  because they might not be acclimated to the wet area we have on the Oregon Coast. I had passed up the ordering date and was nervously waiting for my bait hives to catch a swarm, but nothing was happening.  Then I got the call about a swarm that had just formed about an hour ago.  I threw everything into the car and was on my way.

A Swarm in a Bush…A made-in-heaven low swarm for my first experience.

A Swarm in a Bucket…I was able to cut branches and shake most of the bees into this 5 gallon bucket.

A Swarm in the Warre         Transferring the swarm into the Warre was easy…tap the bucket on the ground once or twice, then pour into the hive.  I replaced the bars on top, installed the quilt box and the roof.

Did I get the queen? Bees can be seen fanning the pheramone that the queen is ‘in the building’!

July 7, 2012 This shows how much natural comb they built in about 5 weeks. I wonder when they will start on the bottom box.

I anxiously wait.  The bees don’t build into the bottom box.  I consult the forums where suggestions are made to add an empty box overhead.  “The bees don’t like having an empty space over them.”  On July 23, 2012, I add a third box, this time on top.

After I drilled a 3/4″ hole for the bees in the top box, I waxed up some top bars and put the whole thing in place.

July 24, 2012.  I like this…I can get a view through the observation window looking down at the occupied middle box or up to the top bars in the top box.

August 3, 2012  A view of the comb in the middle box…still no building in the top or bottom box.

August 20,2012 Looking into the Warre, plenty of bees, plenty of honey,..but they are STILL not building any comb in either the top or bottom box.

I consult the forums…”can a Warre get through the winter on only one box?” It’s getting late in the summer and my efforts to get them to build either on top or in the bottom box have been fruitless.  The answers seem to imply I’m a reckless beekeeper if I don’t consider feeding them.

Partially built feeder box for Warre

After looking at the forums, I found the answer.  Build a feeder that is accessible from the outside.  If it becomes necessary to feed the bees I can do it without opening the hive up to the cold air.  The hive is kept intact with no extra holes drilled into it for the sugar water.

I want to thank Colobeekeep for providing photos of how he built this.

Front view of feeder box on right side of Warre

Back view of feeder box on Warre

Lid open, no jar yet. Bees can access the sugar water, but not the feeder box. Bottle can be changed without opening the hive.  It’s placed near the rear of the hive  to discourage robbing.

I really DON’T want to resort to feeding them.  From what I read, sugar raises the pH of the hive making it more susceptible to Nosema, but I also don’t want to lose this little hive.  I definitely won’t use High Fructose Corn Syrup because it is made from GM corn which is treated with clothianidin, a systemic insecticide highly toxic to bees.  I’ll pay close attention to the honey stores by looking through the observation window.  If they get low I’ll be able to supply either 1:1 or 1:2 sugar water without opening the hive.

This short video looks into the Warre hive through the observation window (slight reflection issues) to see waggle dancing and daisy-chaining.  The last frame shows the natural comb built as a result of the daisy-chain.

More Waffling…After going to the work of building the ‘side feeder,’  I observed the comments made about moisture in the hive.  Well, I’m not going to say we live in a rain forest, but we do get buckets in the winter time.  Should I worry about the moisture issues…yes.  Okay, I’ll build an over-the-top ‘dry sugar’ feed frame.

This shows the sugar resting on the 1/2″ hardware cloth. After this photo was taken, I dumped out the sugar and inserted a layer of blank newsprint between the sugar and the wire. That should hold up the sugar so it won’t drop down into the hive…I hope.

Sugar pressed into frame ready to slide into place

Installing sugar feeder Oct. 25, 2012. This will let the bees go upward to access the sugar from within the cluster. Quilt box goes on top. Then I wrapped with red tape to seal the cracks.

When I checked with some coastal beekeepers at the bee meeting, they said they feed with sugar syrup, no problem.  “Don’t you worry about the moisture issues?”  “No.”

I hope this works.

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