Archive for the ‘Warre Hive’ Category

It might not be pretty…

1-warre-hive-protection-2016-2017-2-23-17-copy

…but it’s pretty effective. This is my Warré hive winter protection from high winds driving copious amounts of rain against my hive. Since October, we have gotten 66.5 inches of rainfall (1689 mm).

7a-warre-hive-lots-of-honey-12-29-16-copy

A look through the observation window in December shows lots of natural honey comb.

4a-bees-with-pollen-2-23-17-copy

I think this bright yellow pollen is from the Hooker Willow which thrives in soggy wet soil along The Oregon Coast.

I’ve been somewhat afraid to write about my bees.  They seem to be doing fine with my efforts to protect them, but I didn’t want to jinx them.  This is the end of February.  The Hooker Willow has started flowering and bees are returning with bright yellow pollen, so I think they will make it.  Also the gorse (Ulex europeaus) is blooming as it always does in February.  The video shows bees on both.

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The bees have been busy and so have we.   Gerard Van Duinen of La Tabú (The Hague) graciously let us use his Tango music.

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2779 Andrea's swarm, view, 4-16-16 copy

April 16…Andrea called to let us know she had a newly formed swarm, hanging about chest high off the yellow plum tree…did we want it? “ABSOLUTELY!”

2780A Shaking swarm into bucket, 4-16-16 copy

It was pretty easy to ‘pop’ the bees into the bucket…

2802A Brown Warré, 4-19-16 copy

…and into a Warré hive. Back to having bees again. Thank you, Andrea Gatov!

2756 Echium against blue sky, 4-15-16

I’ve been protecting this echium plant for two years. It has finally paid off with these bluish-red blossoms. Just in time for the bees. I think this is Wild Prettii echium.

2804A Bee near Echium, 4-19-16 copy

The day after we hived Andrea’s swarm, the bees were all over this shapely echium plant.

2804B Bee on Wild Prettii, 4-19-16 copy

One of our new guests partakes of the nectar.

2757A Bumblebees like it too copy

Yellow-faced bumblebees like it too.

2833 Turnip flowers, 4-21-16

Turnip flowers collect bees.  Is that a ‘hat’ on Bee Beard Log Hive???

22A Turnip flowers, 4-21,16 copy

April 21…Close-up on turnip flowers.

 

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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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Standing tall, Bee Beard Log hive is doing well since it was revived in August 2014. It swarmed at least once on May 11, but that swarmed moved on without us capturing it.

Standing tall, Bee Beard Log hive is doing well since it was revived in August 2014. It swarmed at least once on May 11 of this year, but that swarm moved on without us getting it.

Sept. 23...Lots of good orange pollen being carried into this hive. This hive will go into winter without me intervening in any way.

Sept. 23…Lots of good orange pollen being carried into this hive. This hive will go into winter without me intervening in any way.

Sept. 17...These birdhouse bees are doing so well, I'm starting to think that small bee hives are the way to go. This hive has no other openings other than the entrance. I don't understand how they can survive without much ventilation, but they are doing well, which is a good way to head into the winter shadow.

Sept. 17…These birdhouse bees are doing so well, I’m starting to think that small bee hives are the way to go. This hive has no other openings other than the entrance. I don’t understand how they can survive without much ventilation, but they are doing well, which is a good way to head into their second winter shadow.

Here's a closer look at the entrance showing how crowded they are.

Here’s a closer look at the entrance showing how crowded they are.

The video shows the amount of pollen flying in. This is at 125x (digital zoom) and not as sharp.

The video shows the amount of pollen flying in.

May 14...The day after the big swarm moved into the Grandkids Log hive, Bee-atrice went into swarm mode.

May 14…The day after the big swarm moved into the Grandkids Log hive, Bee-atrice log hive went into swarm mode.

May 14...Ron got this one. He lives just up the road. I'm happy to report that Ron says they are doing well. They are active and bringing lots of pollen. They can be seen flying well here... https://drive.google.com/file/d/0Byp0gCTqCQ6rZjBJVmZOa0FJZzQ/view?usp=sharing

May 14…Ron got this one. He lives just up the road. I’m happy to report that Ron says they are doing well. They are active and bringing in lots of pollen.
They can be seen flying well here…

Sept. 23...I'm down to only one Warre hive now. It's doing well with lots of pollen coming in. You can see Bee-atrice Log hive 'shuttered' in the background. When the wasps were running rampant inside, I had to wrap it up. I'll clean it out (scorch it) come spring and try to attract another swarm.

Sept. 23…I’m down to only one Warre hive now. It’s doing well with lots of pollen coming in. You can see Bee-atrice Log hive ‘shuttered’ in the background. When the wasps were running rampant inside, I had to wrap it up. I’ll clean it out (scorch it) come spring and try to attract another swarm.

Bees head into the Warre loads of pollen. This hive is heavy. I haven't taken any honey from it. I think they will make it through the winter without me feeding.

Bees head into the Warre loaded with pollen. This hive is heavy. I haven’t taken any honey from it. I think they will make it through the winter without me feeding.

Sept. 23, 2015...Sad to say, this hive is not going to make it. The temperature started falling in mid July, and now I see wasps nosing around and drones flying out.

Sept. 23, 2015…Sad to say, the Grand Kids Log hive is not going to make it. The temperature started falling in mid July, and now I see wasps nosing around and drones flying out.  The Grand Kids are back.

Sept. 3...Temperature is down to 87F (30C)

Sept. 3…Temperature is down to 87F (30C)

Sept. 21...Looking up into the empty combs, this hive is clearly NOT going to make it. When the wasps start attacking, I'll plug up the entrances and wait until spring. Maybe I'll get lucky with another swarm...

Sept. 21…Looking up into the empty combs, I see a lack of bees.  Clearly the queen isn’t laying and I’ve seen a few drones exiting.   Footnote:  This hive must have superceded a queen, because there are not only new bees, but also new comb.  This is the only hive I can see from the house…from where I eat actually, and I gotta say, I’m so happy to see the bees flying to and from this hive when I sit down to eat!!!

Steve says his swarm 'is hanging in there,' but he's starting to feed again because they haven't built up enough comb to get them through the winter.

Steve says his swarm ‘is hanging in there,’ but he’s starting to feed again because they haven’t built up enough comb to get them through the winter.

We are headed into autumn with four hives, which is all I ever really wanted, but I had really hoped that Grand Kids Log hive would be among the survivors.  It begs the question…are smaller hives better?  I’m beginning to think so.  I’ve thought about partitioning off the big log hive, but then there might be air flow issues.  The birdhouse bees seem to deal with lack of air flow, so maybe it won’t be an issue.  Right now I’ll let nature take it’s course and hope I can attract another swarm in spring.

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Are there more wasps now or is it just me?

Aug. 17...Please don't sting me!!! This wasp wouldn't stop crawling on my fingers while I was trying to bury crab shell in the garden.

Aug. 17…Please don’t sting me!!! This wasp wouldn’t stop crawling on my fingers while I was trying to bury crab shell in the garden.

That wasp didn't sting me, but the one in my glove did. A little mud works wonders.

That wasp didn’t sting me, but the one in my glove did. A little mud works wonders.

I decided I'd better wear a bee suit to keep the wasps off me. Wasps are carnivores. Maybe they eat the soft parts of the crab remains, but they always gather around whenever I pop the lid open. Lately they've taken to crawling on me as well.

I decided I’d better wear a bee suit to keep the wasps off me. Wasps are carnivores. Maybe they eat the soft parts of the crab remains, but they always gather around whenever I pop the lid open. Lately they’ve taken to crawling on me as well.

I got the largest single day load of crab shell. I can't have wasps holding up the process. Bury the crab shell. Plant directly on it four days later. We will plant beets, winter lettuce, and more turnips on this batch.

August 16, I just got the largest single day load of crab shell ever. I can’t have wasps holding up the process. Bury the crab shell. Plant directly on it four days later. We will plant beets, winter lettuce, and more turnips on this batch.

Aug. 20... Beets on left , turnips in middle, Sue plants winter lettuce on right. (Yes Pat, you did remember to put ashes under the beets.)

Aug. 20… Beets on left, turnips in middle, Sue plants winter lettuce on right. (Yes Pat, you did remember to put ashes under the beets.)

Planted 4 days after burying crab shell, hoops up, deer netting on, let's watch you grow. :)

Planted 4 days after burying crab shell, hoops up, deer netting on, let’s watch you grow. 🙂

Oct. 5...Beets are already bigger than the ones we planted a month before.  It must be the crab shell.

Oct. 5…Beets are already bigger than the ones we planted a month before. It must be the crab shell.

Oct. 6...Those turnips might be crowding out the lettuce, but we're happy everything is growing so well.

Oct. 6…Those turnips might be crowding out the lettuce, but we’re happy everything is growing so well.

July 1...I spotted this Ancistocerus antilope wasp getting into my Mason bee tubes. I relocated them in the house immediately. I hope the wasp didn't lay many eggs in any tubes before I moved it, or I'll be hatching wasps in the back bedroom.

July 1…I spotted this Ancistocerus antilope wasp getting into my Mason bee tubes. I relocated them in the house immediately. I hope the wasp didn’t lay many eggs in any tubes before I moved it, or I’ll be hatching wasps in the back bedroom.

I shot some video on the Warre hive just to make sure what was going into the hive were wasps. Yes, there were some robber bees, but mostly wasps.

I shot some video on the Warre hive just to make sure what was going into the hive were wasps. Yes, there were some robber bees, but mostly wasps.

August 7...The numbers of bees at the entrance of the hive has been lessening. Looking down at the pile of dead bees, I notice there are mostly drones, but there are also some dead wasps.

August 7…The numbers of bees at the entrance of the hive has been lessening. Looking down at the pile of dead bees, I notice there are mostly drones, but there are also some dead wasps.

August 7...I picked up a couple of dead wasps from the pile in front of the Warre. Did the bees kill them? I doubt it. There were very few bees left.

August 7…I picked up a couple of dead wasps from the pile in front of the Warre. Did the bees kill them? I doubt it. There were very few bees left.

This hive (the one on the right) was real active back in June, and heavy with honey weight. What happened?

This hive (the one on the right) was real active back in June, and heavy with honey weight. What happened?

Most of the comb was empty like this. No eggs, no larva, spotty drone cells. We might have had a laying worker.

Most of the comb was empty like this. No eggs, no larva, spotty drone cells. We might have had a laying worker.

This is what the wasps were after...a comb or two of honey.

This is what the wasps were after…a comb or two of honey.

After removing most of the comb, I put these top bars out for the bees to clean them off. Where are the bees? These are all wasps!

After removing most of the comb, I put these top bars out for the bees to clean them off, but where are the bees? These are all wasps!

August 16...Wasps are in search of sugars. Here's one on the blackberries.

August 16…Wasps are in search of sugars. Here’s one on the blackberries.

Sadly, Bee-atrice log hive is infested with wasps too.

Sadly, Bee-atrice log hive is infested with wasps too.

Bee-atrice log hive...Looking through the observation window, we see the final indignation...wasps are roaming at will inside. We must remove the comb. I won't kill the wasps, but I don't want to grow their numbers by feeding them honey.

Bee-atrice log hive…Looking through the observation window, we see the final indignation…wasps are roaming at will inside. We must remove the comb. I won’t kill the wasps, but I don’t want to grow their numbers by feeding them honey.

What's the bee suit for? There aren't any bees, but a bunch of wasps. The wasps didn't attack me like the bees would have, but I had already been stung once as an accident. With that many wasps flying around, I wasn't taking any chances.

What’s the bee suit for? There aren’t any bees, but a bunch of wasps. The wasps didn’t attack me like the bees would have, but I had already been stung once as an accident. With that many wasps flying around, I wasn’t taking any chances.

This is where the ground nest is, in the laurel hedge area. My wife discovered it when she was coaxing the cat out. Luckily, she only got stung once. In the video you can see how fast they move...at least twice as fast as a honeybee.

This is where the ground nest is, in the laurel hedge area. My wife discovered it when she was coaxing the cat out. Luckily, she only got stung once.
In the video you can see how fast they move…at least twice as fast as a honeybee.

July 8...We won't be killing the wasp nest. Wasps are good for the garden. My wife spotted this wasp flying into the cabbage to rid us of the cabbage worm. We haven't seen ANY this year. In years' past, we would have to painstakingly pull little green worms off the seedlings. The wasps didn't kill my bee hives...they just took advantage after the bees had died out.

July 8…We won’t be killing the wasp nest. Wasps are good for the garden. My wife spotted this wasp flying into the cabbage to rid us of the cabbage worm. We haven’t seen ANY this year. In years’ past, we would have to painstakingly pull little green worms off the seedlings.
The wasps didn’t kill my bee hives…they just took advantage after the bees had died out.

Are there more wasps now?  We think so.  The winter was mild, we didn’t get as much rain as usual, and the wasps had an earlier start.

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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.  Lost it…see below.

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.  Lost it…see below.

 

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.

March 4th note…  We lost Del’s hive.  It’s not a surprise because it never really built up any ‘honey weight’  pre-winter.  I haven’t taken it apart yet, but when I do, I’ll clean it out, put in observation windows, and donate it back to the bee club.

We lost #3 Warré too.  I took it down last week after I saw robber bees visiting it.  There was still some capped honey in the combs.  About 125 bees were dead on the bottom.  Some of the combs were moldy, so I’m guessing it’s been dead for awhile.  Both hives were weak hives.  While I’m upset at having lost them, I’m thinking that maybe it’s for the best because if the bees can’t survive in our relatively mild winter, maybe they shouldn’t be in the gene pool.  I’m down to six hives now, but the willow tree has been blooming for about three weeks and I can see the bees bringing in orange pollen and that means nectar too!

 

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