Monthly Archives: July 2010

Week 16 Activities

It was another hot Saturday today, but at least the humidity was about half of what it was last weekend. The bees were much calmer today which makes me think they didn’t like the hot sticky weather last weekend anymore than I did.

The girls had sucked the feeder dry for the second week in a row. I had planned on checking the syrup level mid-week, but it rained all week which ruled out opening the hive. I think the weather is rain free for the near future so I’ll hopefully be able to check the feeder at least once before next week’s full inspection.

On the plus side, I really think feeding the bees is helping out in the wax production department. I was pleased to see comb on the previously empty frames, and in the case of the photo below, they are even able to raise brood in small section.

Comb on Frame

It’s not 100% fully drawn, but I’ll take progress at this point. I wish I had started feeding in early July, but hindsight is 20/20.

Comb on Frame

I also got an extra treat of seeing Large Marge in the 2nd super. I even managed to get some video with my iPhone that I’ll post later. Everything else was business as usual. I’m still finding small hive beetles, but I have yet to find any evidence of comb destruction (knock on wood) so the girls are keeping them in check. All in all, a good inspection and a healthy hive.

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Austin Urban Beekeeping Meetup Sunday

For any Austin area folks who are beekeepers or interested in beekeeping, tomorrow is the monthly Urban Beekeeping Meetup at Emerald City Press. It starts at 2:00pm and usually lasts a few hours depend on how many people show up.

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Solar Wax Melter

One thing we have an abundance of here in Austin in the summer is plenty of sunshine and hot days. After my two honey harvests, I had a bunch of unprocessed wax sitting in the freezer, and what better way to get it melted down than to use the power of the Texas sun (which is actually bigger than anywhere else in the world). There are plenty of plans on making a solar wax melter out on the internets, but they seemed a lot more complicated than I wanted to deal with. Luckily, Linda’s Bee Blog had a suggestion for those living in the hot southern climates of the U.S. which is to simply use a cheap styrofoam cooler with a piece of clear glass on top to melt your wax. Beeswax melts at around 145 degrees and with average daily temps between 95 and 100, it doesn’t take a lot to get an enclosed space hot enough to melt your wax. So here is a quick video I put together today to walk you through the process.

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Week 15 Activities

It is not very professional, but since I got an iPhone 4 the other day, I figured I might as well take some video of the hive before I opened it and got the girls all worked up. Be sure to listen for the chickens in the background at the end.

If you recall from last week, I decided to add the top hive feeder back onto the hive to hopefully supply the necessary artificial nectar flow to encourage the colony to build out more comb in the empty 3rd super. When I removed the inner cover, the girls had totally used every last drop of the syrup.

Empty Feeder

However, after performing my hive inspection, it appeared they used most of the syrup to fill out the comb in the 4th and 5th honey supers on the frames I had previously harvested honey from and added back to the hive. It did appear that some work had gone on building out comb in the 3rd super, but not really enough to use for brood. This was not what I wanted to see.

Empty Frame

Of course I didn’t have the foresight to bring out more syrup because I really thought one batch would do the job. Now it looks like I’ll be making up another gallon to add back on tomorrow which will hopefully do the job.

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This just makes me sick…

Earlier this week, someone broke into the Hayes Valley Farm and sprayed pesticide into 3 thriving hives. Two were completely destroyed and one loss 60-70% of its population. Unfortunately, we live in an environment where bees are exposed to all sorts of pesticides that have now become a given in modern agriculture, but I can’t believe someone would intentionally want to destroy these hives especially after all the media around the current plight of the honey bee.

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Vampire Bees (via Laura’s Bad Ideas)

I found this very amusing.

Vampire Bees I've been trying to get a picture or video of the bees on my patio, with no success. No matter how many bees are around, I always wind up with a picture completely devoid of bees; in fact, I don't even see them when I look through the viewfinder. This is probably because I'm taking the pictures from a distance (because they're bees, and they've already stung me once), or because I'm not a very good photographer, or because my cellphone camera jus … Read More

via Laura's Bad Ideas

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How to Light a Smoker (with Neil Gaiman)

Via BirdChick:

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Lose Weight Fast!

I think I may be on to the next weight loss fad. Lose inches fast! Just 30 minutes a week in a full bee suit in the middle of a Texas summer, and you too can get the body you have always dreamed about.

Even checking the hive by 10:00am is still bloody hot. The girls were still more aggressive than normal, but nothing too concerning. I did take several stings on the hands but the gloves took the blunt of the damage. They seemed more angry at the frame grip than at me at times.

Bees on frame grip

After Saturday’s inspection, I decided to put the feeder back on for at least a week. With all the rain, I think there is enough blooming to maintain the hive, but not enough to build out more comb. I really believe if they could just build out the basically empty 3rd super, they would feel less crowded, and the number of queen cells I find each week would diminish. So we will see if a week of feeding will encourage more comb. I may cry if they just store it away in the 4th and 5th supers.

I went back Sunday early afternoon, and was dismayed to find a bunch of ants on the inner cover cleaning up the squished bees from Saturday’s inspection. I killed as many as I could before putting the feeder back on. Ants were the last thing I wanted to see before putting a feeder full of sugar syrup on top of the hive. Luckily, I got the hive stand with built in “moats” that I filled with water. I will probably need to go mid-week to fill them up with either more water or mineral oil. I’ve also heard that cinnamon is a good natural ant deterrent which I may try.

Sunflowers are going strong right now, and I’m not sure how much nectar they produce, but they are certainly full of pollen.

Bee on Sunflower

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Nature Nights at the Wildflower Center

Tomorrow evening, the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center will be hosting one of their Thursday Nature Nights focusing on both native and honey bees.

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Week 14 Activities

It was disgustingly humid today, and the girls were not happy to have their hive inspected. I didn’t like wearing a bee suit in 70% humidity so I guess we are even. I got stung once on the hand (or rather on my glove) which kicked off more aggressive behavior because bees release an alarm pheromone when they sting. The smoker was put to good use today to calm the bees down and mask the pheromones.

With the exception of a bunch of grumpy humid bees, the story is very similar to last week. Supers 4 and 5 are still mostly all honey. Supers 1 and 2 are mainly brood, and the girls just really aren’t drawing out comb in the 3rd position super I added to give them more space to try and avoid overcrowding and a swarm.

Bees need a good flow of food coming in to draw out wax so I may need to feed them for a week to help them get that 3rd super filled up with comb. July usually is a hot dry month for Austin, but it has been anything but with the storms in the Gulf, and there seem to be a lot of flowering plants around the hive. Even so, I guess it is not enough even with the 2 full supers of honey. I did move some drawn out frames of brood into the 3rd super which will hopefully encourage them to use that space more and the empty frames in the 2nd super will also give them more room.

I still haven’t seen Large Marge, but there was plenty of eggs and larvae which means she is in there somewhere. I’m also seeing good brood patterns which means she is laying well.

Frame of brood

There are also some very nice frames of capped honey in the 4th super, but I’m going to leave it in there for now. July and August will be lean months in terms of nectar and pollen availability. I now see the plus side of having a mechanical extractor because you don’t have to destroy the comb to get the honey. I really don’t want to remove any more honey and give them back more empty frames to draw out again since they are having a hard time with the ones in there now.

Frame of Honey

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