Monthly Archives: June 2013

Austin in Bloom

While the temps are finally hitting the high 90’s, we’ve received well timed rain showers that have kept Austin mostly green and in bloom.

Tending to our plot at Sunshine Community Gardens, we noticed bees everywhere. We let our mint go to flower, and the bees really seem to favor it.

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We also let our fennel flower in the hopes of attracting butterflies that use it as a larval food source. No signs of any butterflies yet, but the bees are working it.

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The purple coneflowers this year have really been spectacular.

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One of our neighbor plots have huge plants of oregano that flowered.

Bee on Oregano

In August, I’m sure Austin will be brown and dry, but with our rather chilly spring this year, I’m glad to see so much in bloom which will hopefully allow bees everywhere to get their hives strong.

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Is Frankenqueen alive?

In late April, I attempted to requeen my two remaining hives. It didn’t go so well, and I ended up with a queen stung once in the thorax. Without any other option, I ended up putting this queen in my most aggressive hive and just hoped for the best. We’ve been referring to this stung queen as Frankenqueen ever since.

Now over a month later, this hive is completely different. When I removed the outer cover, it was nice not to be immediately hit with a whiff of the banana smelling alarm pheromone. There were a large number of small hive beetles that were asking to be crushed.

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The top super was all drawn out wax that was slowly being filled up with honey.

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Going deeper into the hive, it was a combination of honey and frames with brood, eggs, and larvae.

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The entire inspection the bees were completely chill. So much so, Brenna was taking pictures without a suit and wasn’t even getting buzzed. With the complete requeening failure of my other hive, it was nice to have one that was successful. Since I didn’t see her, I can’t be 100% sure Frankenqueen is in there, but I can’t imagine the hive going from super aggressive to this sweet, if they had requeened themselves with existing genetics. Regardless, I’ll take it, and it was a welcome pleasure to inspect a hive that is healthy and calm.

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Underground Bees

Thomas D. Seeley did a number of experiments to determine how a swarm chooses a site and came to the conclusion that bees prefer a nest entrance that is rather small, faces south, is high off the ground, and opens into the bottom of the nest cavity. His excellent book, Honeybee Democracy, goes into great detail on how he came to these conclusions, and I would highly recommend it to anyone interested in learning more about the decision making processes in a hive.

With all that being said, sometimes a swarm will choose a location that goes against those basic tenets. I give you Exhibit A:

This hive is underground in one of the large green boxes that contain the water cutoff valves for either a sprinkler system or the water line entering your home.

I was initially sent this photo of a bunch of bees on the ground that was causing some concern.

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Fallen leaves were completely covering the entrance, and I had to remove a rather thick layer of leaves to reveal what is shown in the video. I did not try and remove the cover as it most likely was lined with comb, and my intention of this first visit was to properly assess the situation. Luckily, the bees were not aggressive even after raking away the leaves and dirt covering the entrance. I had one or two guard bees give me a buzz but other than that, they were rather nonplussed with the whole situation.

My next step is to reach out to some fellow beekeepers to see who would be interested in removing this hive. I personally don’t do bee removals as I really don’t have the special equipment or apiary space to relocate these feral hives. I’ve seen hives in some interesting places, but this is the first time I’ve personally witnessed a hive located underground. I’ll hopefully be posting an update soon on the successful removal of this hive.

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