Posts Tagged ‘natural comb’

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 beethinking.com, you made a nice hive kit.

Top it off with the roof. Matt Reed of beethinking.com, 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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As a newbie beekeeper I thought the bees just kept within the hive during the winter, leaving the hive infrequently.  I know things are different on the coast because we rarely get snow, but we get loads of cold winds and driving rains.  So it’s to my surprise that the bees are so active.  They are actually bringing in pollen during January and early February.  I’m hoping the yellow pollen is gorse, because everyone around here hates gorse so much (with good reason…it’s blamed for burning the town down in 1936), I’d like to know gorse is good for something, especially since it usually blooms early February.

I’m concerned about the Warre hive. The top video shows the front of the hive with the bees bringing in yellow and orange pollen and through the observation window in back.   I’d like some advice from more knowledgeable beekeepers about what to do.  I almost nadired another box underneath, had planned for the forecasted hottest part of the day at 55 deg.F (12 deg.C) but then the temperature turned cool.  Should I add another box so they can grow into it before they swarm or should I wait for a few more weeks because the winter weather will return the latter part of February and into March?  Another box means they have to heat it.  I’ve got a dry sugar pad above the box as a just in case food source.

The log hive below looks very strong, lots of activity whenever the sun comes out and the temps are in the 50’s (10 C) bringing in pollen during January and February.  Those bees came from a feral tree hive.  I’m leaving them alone to fend for themselves.  I’m hoping the hive will act as an undisturbed ecosystem…bees adapting to survive mites and other pests.

Hope to have another log hive in place before they swarm.

Hollowing out the log  Carving the log

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Back in February, I listened to a podcast interview with Matt Reed of Beethinking.com.   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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