Posts Tagged ‘natural comb’

Grand Kids Log Hive

October 8.....Grand Kids Log hive might be showing signs of a comeback.

October 8…..Grand Kids Log hive might be showing signs of a comeback.

About a month ago, I was in despair about this hive.  The temperature had dropped, I saw drones flying out of the hive, and the number of bees around the entrance had declined.

Sept. 3...The temperature has dropped to 87˙F. I've seen this happen before. The temperature drops indicating there is no brood up here. It could just be that the eggs are being laid in a different section or that no eggs are being laid at all.

Sept. 3…The temperature has dropped to 87˙F. I’ve seen this happen before. The temperature drops indicating there is no brood up here. It could either be that the eggs are being laid in a different section or that no eggs are being laid at all.

Sept. 3.....I've been seeing more comb now. I'm not happy about it because it means there are fewer bees. What is happening?

Sept. 3…..I’ve been seeing more comb now. I’m not happy about it because it means there are fewer bees. What is happening?

Sept. 17...Then I saw a drone exiting. I took it to mean I had a laying worker. Not good. This hive is 'going down.'

Sept. 17…Then I saw a drone exiting. I took it to mean I had a laying worker. Not good. This hive is ‘going down.’

Sept. 21...The bee population is dwindling. What more evidence do I need that this hive is history.

Sept. 21…The bee population is dwindling. What more evidence do I need that this hive is history?

Oct. 4...Temp has risen 2˙F. What is happening?

Oct. 4…Temp has risen 2˙F.   That’s interesting.

Oct. 6...Are there more bees here?

Oct. 6…Are there more bees up there?

Oct. 17.....I had just visited a big hive that had gotten robbed out. I was worried these might be robber bees because when I looked inside the hive, the bees were running around on the inside of the hive.

Oct. 17…..It looks like there’s a lot more traffic here.  I hope they aren’t robber bees.

Oct. 23.....WOW! Look at all these bees inside!!! The hive must have superceded, but why had I seen a few drones last month?

Oct. 23…..WOW! Look at all these bees inside!!! The hive must have superceded, but why had I seen drones last month?

Note:  I asked this question on beesource web site.  Harley Craig answered  “…those drones could have been from anywhere in my limited experience when you see a lot of drone interest in a particular hive they typically have a queen getting ready to mate or just had one return.”  Maybe drones were already sniffing out a new prospect. 🙂

November 4...New comb has been built.  This new queen is ambitious, but is November a good month to be building new comb?

November 4…New comb has been built. This new queen is ambitious, but is November a good month to be building new comb?

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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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June 8, 2014...Bee-atrice has BEES.  It's been a rough time for her, but I think this one will take.

June 8, 2014…Bee-atrice has BEES. It’s been a rough time for her, but I think this one will take.

June 16, 2014...10th day of bees in Bee-atrice.  I think they will stay this time.

June 16, 2014…10th day of bees in Bee-atrice Log Hive.   I think they will stay this time.

While I was out of town, a huge prime swarm chose Bee-atrice Log Hive for a home.  I knew if we waited long enough, we’d get lucky…I just wish I could have witnessed the swarm moving in.  Bee-atrice was happy.  She had been rejected twice.  I had tried to console her after she had been rejected by two small swarms that I had given her.  I told her that “rejection” might more appropriately be referred to as “redirection.”  Those small swarms would not have made it anyway.  I told her that she just had to be patient until the right swarm came along.

April 27, 2014...Pat drops the little cast swarm into Bee-atrice.  They stay a total of two days, then take off to parts unknown.

April 27, 2014…I drop the little cast swarm into Bee-atrice log hive. They stay a total of two days, then take off for parts unknown.

May 25, 2014...A second chance presents itself, in the form of a swarm in the apple tree.  I get the swarm bucket ready.

May 25, 2014…A second chance presents itself, in the form of a swarm in the apple tree.   I bag it and drop it into Bee-atrice.  I thought for sure it would stay, but after 8 days, it took off for the Asian Pear tree.  I started thinking something was wrong with Bee-atrice…then it dawned on me…maybe I was the problem.  Maybe I should just back off and let nature take it’s course…thirteen days later (while I’m away), a huge swarm picks out Bee-atrice.   She later tells me, SHE rejected those little swarms, not the other way around.  I guess she didn’t want to hurt my feelings.

June 9. 2014...lots of bee traffic at the entrance.

June 9. 2014…lots of bee traffic at the entrance.

June 10, 2014...This is the first time I've ever seen 94 degrees register on the thermometer.  This is the optimal temperature for brood.

June 10, 2014…This is the first time I’ve ever seen 94F degrees (34C) register on the thermometer. This is the optimal temperature for brood.  Three days ago it read 60 degrees (the ambient temperature)

June 9, 2014...the bees can be seen through the observation window.  If they stay, we'll be able to watch the comb building process.

June 9, 2014…the bees can be seen through the observation window.  If they stay, we’ll be able to watch the comb building process.

June 16, 2014...10th day, natural comb can be seen already, through the top side entrance.

June 16, 2014…10th day, natural comb can be seen already, through the top side entrance.

June 19, 2014...Day 13, this is where the bees hang out at night while they are waiting for the comb to be built.

June 19, 2014…Day 13, this is where the bees hang out at night while they are waiting for the comb to be built.

June 19, 2014...In this slightly out of focus shot, you can see how far the bees have built the natural comb...almost to the top of the observation window...a length of about 14 inches (35 cm).

June 19, 2014…Day 13, in this slightly out of focus shot, you can see how far the bees have built the natural comb…almost to the top of the observation window…a length of about 14 inches (35 cm).

Drones dropping down every time I uncover the observation window…

The carving of Bee-atrice.

Getting her ready for a swarm last year.

Bee-atrice’s debut

A Bonnet for Bee-atrice

Two month’s later Bee-atrice’s swarm chooses Bee Beard Log Hive

 

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January 14, 2013...a beautiful warm day brought the bees out to the heather.  I saw very few honeybees, but very many bombus Melanopygus (this one) and also Bombus vosnesenskii (yellow-faced bumbles)

January 14, 2013…a beautiful warm day brought the bees out to the heather. I saw very few honeybees, but very many bombus Melanopygus (this one) and also Bombus vosnesenskii (yellow-faced bumbles)
Here you can see the pollen release.  When the bee gets the nectar, the pollen shoots out.

Here you can see the pollen release. When the bee gets the nectar, the pollen shoots out.

As she grooms herself with her front legs, you can see what looks to be a static electricity charge on her bee fuzz...shows up better on the video.

As she grooms herself with her front legs, you can see what looks to be a static electricity charge on her bee fuzz…it shows up better on the video.

This short video shows a bumblebee (bombus Melanopygus) sipping nectar from heather in mid January.  As she sips, pollen can be seen shooting out.  Later she grooms herself.  I noticed what looked to be a static electricity charge when her front legs combed her fuzzy head.

I didn’t want to interrupt the music so I added some video of my Bee-atrice log hive which didn’t make it through the sub freezing weather.   I looked at a comb which had some capped honey as well as uncapped cells.  I replaced the comb in the hopes that this hive will attract a swarm in spring.

It should be raining sideways this month.  It’s not.  After our cold snap, we’ve been enjoying daytime temperatures in the 50’s and 60’s F. (10’s and 20’s C)  When I filmed this it was 71 F. (22 C).  Our honeybees love it.  They are bringing back yellow and orange pollen.  I can’t figure where they’re getting it because the pussy willows aren’t blooming yet, but traffic is heavy as can bee seen on the video.

This is my second winter with bees.  They don’t fly when it’s raining of course, but we do get breaks in the rain, the sun pops out and the bees are flying.  I feel bad for the beekeepers that must tuck their charges to bed in the autumn and trust they will emerge when the weather warms up sometimes months later.  I’m talking about people like Emily Heath among others in cold far away places. 🙂 I guess you could say I’m spoiled to be able to see them active during the winter.   I don’t know what will happen in spring.  It’s possible we’ll get our rain then…given the choice, I’d rather get it now.  In any case the bees are making use of the warm weather.

How are your bees?

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This beautiful box of honeycomb is 'welded' to the box below...to move it, I've got to cut the bottom of the comb.  I'd like to do it without damaging it or killing bees.

This beautiful box of honeycomb is ‘welded’ to the box below…to move it, I’ve got to cut the bottom of the comb. I’d like to do it without damaging it or killing bees.

I only wanted to switch the third box (full of honeycomb) with the top box which was empty.  The box of honeycomb was blocking the empty, so it made sense to swap…but the honeycomb was attached to the bars in the box below.  If I just pried the box up, I might tear the combs apart leading to a real mess.  I consulted the forums…Bernhard suggests cracking the boxes a bit then taking a thin wire to slice through the bottoms of the combs to lift the box out.

I wound some stainless steel wire around some cut broomstick ends.  I'll see-saw it back and forth to cut through comb.

I wound a short length of  stainless steel wire around some cut broomstick ends. I’ll see-saw it back and forth to carefully cut through comb.

After reading some of the experiences of beekeepers tearing apart combs I knew I wanted to avoid that.  The whole thing actually took less time than I thought…about 5 minutes.  It came apart with the minimum of damage.

I shot this video (sped up in parts to avoid the ‘yawn’ effect)

Warre hive details

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My Perone hive, showing the brood box (24 inches in length, width and depth), one super and the roof.  Construction was of Douglas Fir with the exterior thin-coated with linseed oil.  Materials cost about $140 including the concrete footed mounting frame and a sheet of galvinized metal for the roof.

Vernon’s Perone hive, showing the brood box (24 inches in length, width and depth), one super and the roof. Construction was of Douglas Fir with the exterior thin-coated with linseed oil. Materials cost about $140 including the concrete footed mounting frame and a sheet of galvanized metal for the roof.

When my first Warre hive was threatening to swarm, I knew I was in trouble.  I didn’t want any more hives but I wanted to give it to someone who would really appreciate a prime swarm.  I found out about Vernon through the new bee keeping network of Oregon South Coast Beekeepers Association…he had just built a Perone hive.  He wanted a swarm rather than package bees.  That was me a year ago.  The bees swarmed on Mother’s Day, May 12, 2013.  We handed him a bucket of bees a day later, but I didn’t want to leave it at that,  I had never seen a Perone hive before and wanted to see how big it was…I wanted to make sure our bees had a good home.

He sent me these photos and his details…

The plans I used to construct my hive are on-line:

http://peronehive.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/Making-a-Perone-Hive.pdf

The authors are from Chile so the useful dimensions are in metric.  Perone insists that the internal dimensions of the brood box be 57 X 57 X 57cm, which is 184.5 liters.  Each of his supers is 32.5 liters.  Whenever I converted to English units I adjusted the measurements slightly for convenience.  My brood box is built of 1 X 6 inch lumber, which of course actually measures 3/4 X 5 1/2 inches.

Stacking 4 boards on edge gave me a brood box 22 inches in height (not including the floor which is 3/4 inch thick).    The outside dimensions for length and width were 24 X 24 inches, so the interior dimensions were 22 1/2 X 22 1/2 inches

Stacking 4 boards on edge gave me a brood box 22 inches in height (not including the floor which is 3/4 inch thick). The outside dimensions for length and width were 24 X 24 inches, so the interior dimensions were 22 1/2 X 22 1/2 inches

Scrap lumber sticks placed inside the brood chamber to help support the expected massive comb loads.

Scrap lumber sticks placed inside the brood chamber to help support the expected massive comb loads.

The height of my supers is 4 1/2 inches rather than the 4 inches recommended by Perone.  I measured my bars in metric (24 cm height and width, which is about 15/16 inches) and cut them on a circular saw from 2 inch cross-section stock.

There were 49 bars: 17 bars for the brood comb spaced 9mm apart, and 16 bars each for the two supers, spaced 10 mm apart.

There were 49 bars: 17 bars for the brood comb spaced 9mm apart, and 16 bars each for the two supers, spaced 10 mm apart.

Perone insists that the brood comb bars be 9mm apart because he feels this helps the bees maintain optimal brood comb temperature to fight infestations.  Also, that spacing is preferred by the queen, so an excluder isn’t needed to keep her in the brood box.

Note the lower entry and 2 inch deep landing strip.  The metal strip above the entry is a mouse guard.  The upper landing strip is also attached to the brood box.

Note the lower entry and 2 inch deep landing strip. The metal strip above the entry is a mouse guard. The upper landing strip is also attached to the brood box.

My gabled roof has a 5 1/2 inch peak and the ridge is 31 1/2 inches long.  The roofing is made from 1/6 inch boards and is covered by galvanized sheet metal.

My gabled roof has a 5 1/2 inch peak and the ridge is 31 1/2 inches long. The roofing is made from 1 x 6  inch boards and is covered by galvanized sheet metal.

Side view of the hive just after the swarm dump.  Everyone's confused!

Side view of the hive just after the swarm dump. Everyone’s confused!

It wasn't long before scouts returned and started their waggle-dance.

It wasn’t long before scouts returned and started their waggle-dance.

I asked Vernon if he would consider shooting a video of the bees…

This video was shot  on May 23rd about 9 days after installation.

Some updates below…

On Aug 3, 2013, at 10:50 PM, Vernon Strength <eurekawriters@yahoo.com> wrote:

Today I removed the super from my Perone hive and had a chance to look down through the brood box grid bars.  The attached photo shows that the bees have been building weird comb: rather small, all in the southeast corner, cross-combed to the extreme, and the comb cells between the bars are oriented “up.”  After almost three months the population of the hive seems about the same as the original swarm.

Obviously, my inclusion of a super from the beginning was a dumb idea.  The colony isn’t going to come close to filling their brood box by winter, much less a super.  My only defense is that I believed the South American beekeepers’ claims of rapid proliferation in the first few months.

Now the roof lid is directly over the brood box bars, almost touching them, so maybe the bees won’t be able to move over the top of the bars so easily to produce vertically-oriented brood cells.  That might reduced cross-combing, too.  Still, it’s already August and I don’t think there is time before winter for the bees to change their ways and build enough aligned combs towards the center of the grid.  They will have a hard time increasing their numbers significantly in their present nest, which may also be hard for them to heat in winter.  I can’t think of anything else to do now that I’ve removed the super.  Unless you have any suggestions I’ll follow the Perone philosophy and let the bees figure it out.

Vernon

On Aug 26, 2013, at 12:42 AM, Vernon Strength <eurekawriters@yahoo.com> wrote:

The population of the Perone hive colony seems to have increased significantly in the last few days, based on the unprecedented numbers entering and leaving the hive entryway.  Maybe they’ve increased their numbers for a last big food gathering push before winter.  It’s still a mystery what they are foraging on; they still fly straight up and over some big trees and disappear when they leave the hive, and they return from the same direction.  Lots of bumblebees have foraged around my house, but zero honeybees.

Last time I gave you an update I was concerned that there was so much cross-combing, and the comb was smaller than I’d expected.  It appears that the oddball comb has produced lots of brood though, the comb is ugly but functional, so I’m going to follow the Perone approach and leave the bees to gather their own supplies.  If this colony doesn’t make it through the winter I’m going to feel like a murderer.

I’ve started building another Perone hive using lessons learned from this first one.  The main difference is a 11in X 16.5in observation window.  I’m going to mount the new hive on the same platform with the first one, but probably the entry will face in the opposite direction so the bees won’t get confused about which entry to use.

Ciao,

Vernon

November 26, 2013…I took my new & improved Perone hive to the beekeeper’s meeting in Gold Beach last Thursday and got a lot of interest.  In fact, Del is thinking of using something similar while he’s in the Peace Corps. The new version has two large picture windows so I won’t be completely in the dark about activities inside the hive the way I am now.  The day-before-yesterday I checked the first hive when the weather was damp and in the low-to-mid 50’s and there were no signs of life.  I put my ear to the side wall but could hear nothing, so I lightly rapped it with my knuckles and three bees came out to see what was going on.  I concluded that the hive was simply hunkered down inside due to foul weather.  Really, I’m not sure what the temperature was outside, though I have two thermometers that weren’t cheap.  It’s nearly impossible to find a mercury thermometer anymore:  The alcohol substitutes are safe but inaccurate.  When I compare thermometers at a store they always show different readings (i.e., two different thermometers of the same make & model may have readings over 5 degrees apart).  The Italian bees we are keeping are apparently notorious for taking the day off when it’s coolish outside.  My friend Steve Sottong of Eureka recovered a swarm he claims was about 3X the volume of mine.  His bees are little and black, probably the species native to Great Britain, and they forage when it’s in the high 40’s.

Del suggested again that  I feed my bees.  His idea had some appeal:  Hang a Christmas candy cane from a top bar using a string or thin flexible wire.  Of course, once I do that I no longer have a “pure” Perone experiment going, so I’m torn.  Maybe the foragers are still finding nectar.  Lots of ivy grows around my neighborhood, and some weed flowers still persist.

November 28, 2013…Well, my (inaccurate) thermometer reads 61 damp degrees and my foragers are out in moderate numbers, moving verrrry slowwwly.  The bees appear healthy so I’m attributing their lethargy to the cool moist weather and perhaps advanced age.  I can tell the bees I’m seeing are all experienced veterans because they approach the small entryway so accurately.  The inexperienced foragers I observed in mid-summer came in crazy-fast and usually crash-landed on the runway, sometimes banging their heads against the hive walls or landing on other bees.  Anyway, nothing worrisome to report regarding the colony.

Vernon

January 24, 2014…The Perone bees are busy foraging this morning, taking advantage of the unseasonable 64 degree F. (17.7 C) temperature.  I’ve still never fed them.  Hopefully they are finding nectar someplace (the myrtle trues seem to have buds).

Vernon

Solarbeez says…Hi Vernon,  I’m so glad you decided not to feed.  I’ve been reading Michael Bush’s book, “The Practical Beekeeper.”  He talks about the pH of the hive.  When you feed sugar, it raises the pH of the hive which makes it more susceptible to nosema.

The only hive I’m feeding is the Warre, but I’m going to discontinue that.  I never took any honey, but I CAVED IN  to the temptation to feed them dry sugar.  The other two hives are not getting fed and they seem to be fine.

Here’s another Michael Bush quote you won’t see anywhere else… On Page 435…
“Pathogens?
Even some seemingly pathogenic organisms such as Aspergillus fumigatus which causes stonebrood, supplants worse pathogens, in this case Nosema.  Or Ascosphaera apis which causes Chalkbrood but prevents European Foulbrood.”

Thanks for the update.

Pat

January 26, 2014...a bee with orange pollen entering hive.  Does that indicate the queen has started to lay?

January 26, 2014…The Perone bees are collecting from a different pollen source today, a golden yellow variety.

January 26, 2014...The only flowers I see in my yard are on these myrtle trees, which locals also call pepperwoods or bays.  Of course, my bees never forage around my yard so I don't know their actual pollen source.

January 26, 2014…The only flowers I see in my yard are on these myrtle trees, which locals also call pepperwoods or bays. Of course, my bees never forage around my yard so I don’t know their actual pollen source.

February 10, 2014...Vernon says, "After a few days of rain the foragers are again out in force, and they are collecting more golden-yellow pollen than ever.  This winter has been so warm and dry I'm not sure the Perone hive is getting an adequate test."

February 10, 2014…Vernon says, “After a few days of rain the foragers are again out in force, and they are collecting more golden-yellow pollen than ever. This winter has been so warm and dry I’m not sure the Perone hive is getting an adequate test.”

Vernon’s entries:

February 19, 2014…Drove to Crescent City this afternoon and Queen Anne’s Lace weeds were blooming all along the road.

February 22, 2014…The foragers are out today in about the same numbers I saw during the summer.  It’s likely the colony considers that Spring has arrived.  A few dead or dying workers were on the ground below the entrance, probably over-winter bees that have been replaced by the next generation.  I believe the queen started laying during the mid-January warm spell.  About 20% of the foragers are bringing back golden-yellow pollen, which Carla believes comes from Myrtle trees.  Odd that our west coast winter has been so mild while the east coast has been frigid and stormy.

March 27, 2014…

I’m hoping to finish my second Perone hive this weekend. Will send photos when I do. I also want to write a summary of my conclusions after taking a Perone hive through the winter without feeding or treating or helping them in any way. My friend Steve in Eureka lost 5 of his 6 Langs, including the one that housed the huge swarm I wrote you about (small, cold-adapted black bees from northern Europe). He’s looking into setting up a horizontal hive.

Of course I’m in need of a swarm. Please let me know if you hear of one available.

Vernon

March 27, 2014…Pat’s reply

My congratulations on getting through the winter without feeding or treating. I welcome your conclusions on that.  I understand your second hive will have an observation window.  You’re going to love it.

My log hive has bees that are fanning.   I think they might be getting crowded.  Last year the first swarm was on a hot 80˙F day on March 31.  If the weather settles down, that could happen again this year.   The first swarm has been promised away for a swarm swap.  I’m debating whether to keep it (if that person’s hive isn’t ready) or give it away to try to get different genetics.  I’m hoping my other log hive will attract a swarm without me interfering.

If Vernon sends photos, I will post them here.

April 26, 2014  Lessons Learned

Last May I introduced a swarm of moderate size into a Perone mk2 hive. The colony survived the winter and appears to be thriving.   Since the hive has no observation windows I infer colony condition by watching the numbers and behaviors of individuals who venture out.

The hive is located in mixed woodlands on the northern California coast, USDA plant hardiness zone 9b. Winter was warmer than usual this year, with only one hard freeze. While it may be argued that survival through a mild winter isn’t an adequate test of the Perone design and philosophy, it remains that beekeepers in my area with carefully-tended Langstroth hives reported roughly the same high losses this year as previously.

Hopefully the success of my hive will encourage others to try Perone hives. I strictly followed the Perone approach of benign neglect.

  1. I never fed my bees. They were industrious foragers and didn’t appear to need any sugar water. At times it was difficult to resist feeding, because experienced beekeepers I respect advised me in the strongest terms to either feed my bees or watch them die. They cited seasonal stoppages of nectar flows (while flowers were in bloom) and pollen production (when pollen.com warned allergy sufferers in my area of high pollen counts). Swarms were represented as particularly vulnerable to starvation. My bees proved the experts wrong. Apparently feeding is so strongly entrenched in our beekeeping culture that it will persist superstitiosly no matter what.

Hive inspections. I never opened my hive to check the condition of the comb. Typically beekeepers open their hives at least monthly to check for diseases, monitor comb development, and discourage swarming.

Disease treatment: I never observed disease syptoms in my Perone bees. Of course they were given the “preventative medicine” of a Perone hive. The design of the Perone hive discourages disease through a more natural, healthful, undisturbed environment, and the relatively large populations of Perone colonies encourage thorough hygiene and robust reactions to parasite infestation. However, I do kill every yellowjacket I see.

Monitoring comb development: The only apparent benefit of monitoring comb is that it’s fascinating for the beekeeper. The removeable frames or top bars of more traditional hives encourage maniputation of comb positions. For example, one of my colleagues found that some of his Langstroth hives were “honey bound.” These hives had a few brood frames located between frames of mostly honey, which he said inhibited the development of more brood. In response he moved the honey frames to outside positions to encourage more brood nearer the center. My colleagues often switch frames between hives. For example, if a hive is producing more brood and less honey than what is considered optimal a honey frame is brought in from another hive and exchanged for an “excess” brood frame.

Drone cells and queen cells are often destroyed, as they consider worthless. Most destroy the “swarm cells” of developing queens to avoid population reduction in their hives due to swarming. Many “re-queen” (killed the queen and introduced a new one) when brood development doesn’t meet their expectations.

These are the same beekeepers who report 30-40% losses or worse over the winter and attribute the survival of my colony to luck. I never inspected the comb in my Perone hive—for all I know it may be “honey bound” and full of drone and swarm cells—but it seems to be working.

The value of swarms: The swarm introduced into my Perone hive appeared very organized from the beginning. Foragers quickly set out in all directions, returned in an excited state, and congregated for waggle-dancing on the landing platform in front of the hive entry. After the first day the foragers I observed always left my yard and returned from the same direction. From this I infer that the foragers quickly found an optimal feeding area and returned to it regularly thereafter.

Last week I introduced a 3 pound package of purchased bees into a second Perone hive. So far these bees appear disorganized compared to the swarm. It took several hours for the package bees introduced inside the hive to discover and regularly use the single entryway, compared to about 20 minutes for the swarm. And I never saw the package bees waggle dance. Now, after a week, the foragers continue to meander around, each in her own direction, without urgency.

My theory is that a swarm is more specialized to establish a new colony than most beekeepers appreciate. The swarm population seems to be made up of an appropriate number of workers specialized to perform each of the needed functions. It’s known that individuals carry enough supplies in their bodies to begin the processes. By contrast, package bees are shaken off frames pulled from established hives without regard for the functions the workers are currently performing. Then they are packaged with an unfamiliar queen and shipped off with some syrup to eat. What an awful start for a colony! In this first week I’ve observed a disturbing number of dead bees from the package bee colony.

Other hive maintenance. My hive is mounted on concrete foundation blocks that settled over the winter. The hive is no longer level. After some consideration I decided not to level the hive. There are no rigid frames in a Perone hive, so the bees are free to angle their comb building to adjust for settling. Returning the hive back to level would require the bees to readjust.

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Bees, bees, bees

Bees, bees, bees

My daughter, son-in-law and new granddaughter were visiting us on Mother’s Day.  It was about noon, we were eating lunch…my wife spots this horde of bees.  “It’s a swarm!”  We all rush out to see it.  I think it probably came from the Warre hive that’s been threatening to swarm for over two weeks.  Son-in-law says, “What can I do to help you capture it?”  My wife says, “Oh, thank you, Jim, I didn’t want to have to do it.”

We let the bees coalesce on a branch.

A nicely shaped swarm

They settled down into a nicely shaped swarm about 12 feet (4 m) up.

This calls for the Steinkrauss-Morse swarm retriever

This calls for the Steinkrauss-Morse swarm retriever

A Bucket of Bees

A Bucket of Bees

"The queen is over here..."

“The queen is over here…”  Bee stick their abdomen up in the air to fan the pheromone letting stragglers know where the queen is.

It was a win, win, win.  My son-in-law, Jim Montgomery provided much needed assistance in corralling the swarm, my daughter was able to capture the whole event with the camera, and my wife was able to spend more time with our granddaughter.

Where did the bucket of bees go?  Well, I would have liked to put it into Bee-atrice log hive  because it’s a ‘prime’ swarm, but Bee-atrice was already occupied.  I found someone who didn’t want package bees.  He has built a Perone style hive.  It’s a BIG hive.  I like his attitude…”The Perone hive is built for the bees, not the bee keeper.  It’ll hold about 150,000 bees.  I’ll let them build their own comb.”  We arrange for the ‘hand-over,’ and meet at a very scenic state park along the Oregon Coast.

There are 17 top bars where the bees will build their comb.

Vernon built his own Perone hive.  He brought the framework holding 17 top bars where the bees will build their natural comb.  He held it up so we could see how big the hive will be.  In the background you can see why I wanted to live on The Oregon Coast.

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