Category Archives: beekeeping

R.I.P. Sunshine Hive

After two requeening attempts, the hive I moved from Sunshine Gardens is officially no more. I arrived last Saturday to a flurry of activity at the entrance. As I moved closer, I found a large number of dead bees on the landing board which is never a good sign. Upon opening the hive, it was clear that this already weak hive had been robbed. The only bees remaining were removing what little there was left of the honey and pollen and flying off.

It is always a terrible feeling to lose a colony, but I tried my best to save it, and sometimes that just isn’t good enough. I still have one remaining hive so I’ll be able to concentrate my efforts on making this one a successful as possible.

4 Comments

Filed under beekeeping, death and disease

Double Facepalm

In my last post, I was attempting to requeen both my hives. I had to wait a week to go back and check due to a freak cold front that blew into Austin the day after I installed the new queens. I found one queen dead still in her cage. This was the hive that had gone queenless (or so I thought) after being moved from Sunshine Community Gardens. The other hive had an empty queen cage. We will have to wait and see if this hive’s aggressiveness level goes down in the coming weeks meaning they accepted the new queen, and she is producing more gentle bees.

In one last ditch effort to save the other hive, I order another queen and installed her last Saturday. I went back last night to check on her release progress and found her still in her cage, but at least she was still alive. Since it had been 48 hours, I was debating about releasing her myself when this unmarked queen pops up from the side of the hive, runs across one of the tops of a frame, and then goes back down into the hive. It happened so fast I thought I had imagined it at first.

This pretty much sums up my reaction.

So somehow this hive that hasn’t produced any eggs or capped brood in a month now has a queen. I’m thinking either the hive swarmed and the new queen was poorly mated and has been here the entire time or the hive was just a victim up a usurpation swarm. Of course, this mystery queen ran all the way back down to the bottom of the hive so it took me a while to find her, but I also confirmed if this was a new queen from usurpation, she hadn’t started laying eggs yet.

I ended up removing this queen once I found her and leaving the new queen in her cage for at least another day or two. I also put some honey over the candy to encourage the remaining workers to come free this new queen. I also removed one medium super to give the remaining bees a smaller area to defend as their numbers are dwindling. I feel I’m at the tipping point with this hive, and if this new queen isn’t released this week and starts laying, it won’t have the numbers to come back. I’m already seeing way more SHB’s than I would like and a few wax moths to boot.

I hope to post again with some good news on this hive.

4 Comments

Filed under beekeeping, queens

Requeening the hives

On Friday, my two Italian queens arrived in the mail. They are hard to see through the cage, but here they are.

Two Italian Queens

I installed them Friday after work, and it was certainly a learning experience. I attempted to do a quick release into the hive that has been queenless for several weeks. I’ve heard from other beekeepers that you can put the cage on top of an open super and the hive will come investigate. Supposedly, if you can easily shake those bees off the cage, and you don’t see them trying to bite through the mesh to get to the queen, the hive is pretty much ready to accept the queen right away.

It didn’t really work out that way at all…

After I watched the bees investigate the cage and even observed a worker feed the queen through the mesh, I thought this hive would have no issues welcoming a new queen into their home. I removed the mesh and the nearby workers immediately tried to ball and kill her. Luckily, I was able to quickly intervene and get the queen back into the cage and re-attach to the mesh, but not before she got stung once in the thorax. I ended up installing the other queen into this hive.

We observed the stung queen for 15 minutes and she didn’t really seem that worse for the wear after her ordeal. I went ahead and stuck her into the other hive and will just hope for the best. In hindsight, getting the queen into they hive and laying a few days earlier is not worth the risk of her getting balled and killed. I’ll check back later this week and will keep my fingers crossed that both hives accept their new queen.

Leave a comment

Filed under beekeeping, queens

Queen Problems

On April 7th, I did a late afternoon inspection of both my hives at Baab-Brock Farms. I first checked the hive I moved from Sunshine Community Gardens and found no evidence of a queen. No eggs, larvae or capped brood were present. I’m not sure what happened but without any eggs, the hive is unable to even make a new queen.

I then moved over to the queen eating hive that I attempted to requeen twice last year. The last queen was one sent from sunny Hawaii in late October in an attempt to chill out an aggressive hive. I actually found the queen very unexpectantly near the top of the hive, and it was not the marked queen I had dubbed “Aunty Lilikoi”. The hive was also more aggressive than from past inspections a few weeks back so I don’t know if the hive swarmed with my Hawaiian queen leaving me with a queen mated with the local drone population. Trying to find a queen in an aggressive hive is one of the least fun things a beekeeper will do, so I made the snap decision to remove her right then and there.

I now have two cordovan queens on the way which should arrive in the next day or two. Since I feel the location of my hives are in a AHB influenced area of Austin, having a queen that produces distinctive coloring on workers and drones will help be an early indicator that the queen has been lost or replaced.

1 Comment

Filed under beekeeping, queens

Flat Stanley Wants to Visit You!

I really meant to get this going when Flat Stanley visited our hives a few months ago, but better late than never I say.

Since Gitanjali took so much time drawing out Flat Stanley as a beekeeper, it seems like a shame not to send him around the globe. So if anyone is interested in hosting Flat Stanley at their own hive, please leave a comment and we can exchange address information. If you are interested, I’d only ask for the following things:

  1. Be willing to have a blog post with some pictures of Flat Stanley at your hive with some interesting facts about beekeeping in your state or country.
  2. If you don’t have a blog, send me some photos and a little write up which I’ll post to my blog
  3. Be willing to mail Flat Stanley on to the next beekeeper

Flat Stanley is looking forward to visiting all of you.

Flat Stanley's Texas Visit

15 Comments

Filed under beekeeping, Fun

Long Overdue Post

Spring in Texas always seems to come early and time just slipped away. I can’t believe it has almost been two months since my last post.

The biggest piece of news is I moved my hive from Sunshine Community Gardens down to Baab-Brock farms. After the hive got tagged last summer, there have been additional incidents of people deciding it would be fun to remove the outer cover. As a beekeeper, I felt it was my responsibility to remove this temptation from the public gardens so that no one ended up getting hurt.

So last night, with the help of a fellow beekeeper Jim Hogg, we arrived at the gardens, got the hive taped up, and then wrestled it in the back of my truck. In prep for this move, I did harvest 16 medium frames of honey a few weeks ago to get the height and weight down. Even a hive with four medium supers is still pretty heavy and certainly not the most elegant thing to move. Here is a shot of it partially taped up.

Sunshine Hive partially taped

After I got the hive installed at Baab-Brock farms, I decided after all the jostling around, it would probably be wise to keep the hive taped up overnight. I got up early today to avoid rush hour and SXSW traffic and got the tape removed from the entrance. I even put some branches in front of the hive as an additional visual cue for the bees to fixate on their new location. Hopefully, they will enjoy their new location south of the river.

6 Comments

Filed under beekeeping

Flat Stanley Visits the Hive

Flat Stanley arrived courtesy of my niece Riya shortly after the holidays. Part of the instructions suggested “dressing” him to reflect either the season we were in or an activity he performed.

We took these instructions to heart and got Flat Stanley all suited up and ready to do a hive inspection complete with cowboy boots since we are in Texas after all.

Flat Stanley's Texas Visit

We had a nice break from the cold weather this past week. It was perfect for a quick peek into the hive I requeened with the Hawaiian queen at the end of October 2012. The hope was the hive was still full of bees with plenty of honey to make it through spring. It would also be a plus if they didn’t try and kill me.

To calm the bees before the inspection, Flat Stanley first smoked the hive.
Flat Stanley the Beekeeper

After smoking, we opened up the hive and started inspecting frames in the top most super. All 8 frames were all mostly drawn out combs of honey.

Flat Stanley the Beekeeper

The next two supers after that were still all honey as well. The bees were also calm and only started getting a little annoyed towards the very end of the inspection. I didn’t go any further into hive because it was late in the day and the temps were starting to go down. If we have another warm weekend this week, I’ll do another inspection and go straight to the 2nd super now that I know the top three are all honey. I’ll hopefully see some activity of brood meaning the queen from Hawaii was accepted.

10 Comments

Filed under beekeeping, education, Fun