Category Archives: beekeeping

Hive Aftermath

A week after I discovered the death of Knives, I had the not so fun task of taking her hive apart. A wax moth was the first thing that greeted me when I opened up the hive:

Wax Moth

Only a few bees remained in the hive. This was on what was once a beautiful frame of pollen:

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I don’t know if these are SHB or Wax Moth larvae, but either way they are gross:

Wax Moth Larvae

Another sad frame:

Wax Moth Larva

All that remains of this hive:

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I managed to salvage 8 frames which happened to be the newest ones on the top of the hive and disposed of the rest. While I’m pretty sure the hive was robbed (more on that later), I decided to play it safe and not try to recycle frames that may be carrying disease.

The day I took the hive apart just happened to be the annual Viva la Vida Fest at the Mexic-Arte Museum so we dressed up as bees to honor Knives’ hive.

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R.I.P. Knives 2.0

I had a disappointing trip out to Baab-Brock Farms today to inspect Knives 2.0’s hive. While I was smoking the hive, I noticed a lot of dead bees on the entrance which is unusual. It went downhill from there after opening up the hive. There were only a few bees on the inner cover and only a handful in the topmost super. There was also a wax moth just hanging out as well. The next super had fewer bees but 2-3 frames of capped honey.

The next super is when I knew something was terribly wrong. This was a honey super but had all the classic signs of robbing. The wax capping on the honey looked ripped open and all the frames were completely drained of honey. I didn’t have my normal camera crew with me otherwise I would have liked to get some photos.

Each additional super was the same story. No honey, no brood, and just a few remaining sad bees bravely trying to stem the tide of small hive beetles and wax moths which had invaded the weakened hive.

I now need to do some research on what to do next. I think it is too far in the season to save it. Do I just leave it alone and let nature take its course, or do I remove it and try and save as many frames of drawn comb as I can?

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Mystery Honey Solved

While I have yet to receive the formal report, I did get an e-mail from Dr. Vaughn Bryant confirming my suspicion that the thick woody smelling honey I pulled off two of my hives was in fact honeydew honey.

Here is the text from his e-mail:

I did complete the pollen study. It does not contain any pollen but it does contain lots of honeydew elements and thus, it is what you suspected….a honeydew sample. I was going to take some pictures of the fungal spores in the honeydew and send them to you. However, I was at West Point Military Academy lecturing last week and just returned.

I’ll post a follow up when I get the official results, but it is at least nice to know the girls aren’t dumpster diving for food.

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Keeping Bees in Towns & Cities

Luke Dixon is a London beekeeper whose new book Keeping Bees in Towns and Cities was just published.

In addition to giving the basics on starting a hive, he talked to 23 other beekeepers around the world about their experiences and added it to his book. I was one of the lucky ones he picked so if you buy a copy or see it in your local book store, open it up to page 148 to see my smiling face. I guess now I can just sit back and wait for the movie offers to come rolling in.

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The Queen is Dead! Long Live the Queen!

Last week’s requeening of Rue’s hive got postponed due to some much needed rain in the Austin area. We decided to requeen Friday after work in the early evening. The thought was even though we’d have more field bees coming back to the hive for the evening, that would also play in our favor as the girls would have to settle down and return to the hive when the sun went down.

Rue’s hive is currently six medium supers, and of course we didn’t find her until we got down to the first super on the second to last frame. By that time, the girls were really worked up, and I felt I was touring a banana factory with all the alarm pheromone in the air.

My initial thought was the hive had requeened itself like Large Marge did, but the queen I found was marked so it was the original queen installed in April. I do think she was perhaps starting to fail as I found more empty cells in frames than I would have expected as I went through each super. She also didn’t seem to be moving as quickly as I’ve seen in the past.

Here’s a shot of the stingers I found in my gloves after the inspection.

Honey Bee Stingers

I picked up the new queen this morning and installed her in the hive. I wasn’t about to open up the hive again, so I’m trying the method of just placing the queen cage on the bottom board through the front entrance. I tied a piece of twine to the cage so I can easily pull it out in a week to see if the queen has been released.

Now I just have to sit back and wait. Other than checking on the queen cage, I’m going to leave this hive alone for at least two weeks. Hopefully this new queen will produce some gentler bees.

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What’s going on behind that capped cell?

During the last honey extraction, while inspecting the frames to kill any small hive beetles still lurking about, I noticed one lone capped brood cell in a frame otherwise filled with capped honey. I carefully removed the developing bee since I didn’t want it in the honey.

Once the cell has been capped, the metamorphosis is well on its way and it is very obvious now that this is a bee in the making.

Honey Bee Larva

Honey Bee Larva

Honey Bee Larva

Of course, these great macro shots just don’t happen by themselves. The Worker Bee Honey team uses the latest photography techniques and exotic reflective materials to bring you these fantastic photos. Here is a behind the scene shot of the state of the art facility used.

Behind the scenes bee shoot

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News from the Hives

I’ve bad been about updating since our return from Seattle, so a synopsis post is in order.

We did another honey harvest this past weekend with a super from Sunshine Community Gardens and a super from Rue in Baab-Brock Farms. I was pleased to see that the Sunshine honey was just that. Nothing weird about it although the light floral honey from early spring has now given way to the darker late summer honey.

Rue had 4 frames of good honey and 4 frames of the mystery honey. I finally got to the post office and mailed off a sample to A&M for analysis today so perhaps an answer is just a week or two away.

I am also planning on requeening Rue this weekend. This hive has gotten aggressive as of late, and one of the neighbors got stung (on her birthday no less). I don’t want another Large Marge experience so I’m taking the steps now to try and nip this problem in the bud. I’m anticipating a fun Saturday trying to find the old queen.

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Puget Sound Beekeepers

I spent the past week in Seattle visiting friends and on a whim I decided to google Seattle beekeeping before heading out for some area wine tastings. It just so happened the Puget Sound Beekeepers were meeting to inspect their hives in the Washington Park Arboretum. I decided to stop by and check out their apiary.

Seattle is in full bloom right now and the bees had a huge variety of flowers to visit. We also saw many more bumbles than I usually see in Austin. The beekeeper I spoke with said the maple and blackberries made up an excellent flow this year but a wetter spring prevented the bees from taking full advantage. I also noticed the bees around town seemed darker than the Italians we are used to in Texas. The Seattle Beekeepers confirmed they use mostly New World Carniolans. These bees are more suited to the weather in Seattle, but he did say they have a tendency to swarm more.

Here are some photos of the apiary on a beautiful (and sunny!) Seattle day:

No Trespassing Sign

Seattle Hives

Seattle Hives

Seattle Bumble

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Mystery Honey Part Deux

A few weeks ago I posted about my first honey harvest at the Sunshine Community Gardens, and how it was a complete bust. The general consensus was a super filled with dumpster honey which I ended up throwing out. I had planned on sending a sample for analysis but in the end decided it wasn’t worth the money to have someone tell me my honey was 40% high fructose corn syrup.

I had another harvest this weekend from one of my south Austin hives which has been consistently producing beautiful floral spring honey. When I started extracting this time however, it was that same thick weird “honey” I found in my central Austin hive just a few short weeks ago. Clearly something is up, and I’m now thinking perhaps this wasn’t produced by some dumpster diving bees.

My new theory is honeydew honey. Central Texas is experiencing an explosion in aphids due to the rains and hot weather we’ve had this summer. I’m guessing that the bees are taking up aphid honeydew instead of plant nectar which is resulting in this unusual honey. It is extremely difficult to extract using the crush and strain method and also has a very grainy texture. At this point, I think I need to bite the bullet and send a sample off to A&M. Are there any other beekeepers out there who have run across this issue before?

At least this harvest wasn’t a complete bust as we had a wonderful lunch from Team Baab-Brock Farms based on honey and the wild plums ripening around Austin right now.

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McKayla is not impressed with your graffiti

For whoever decided it would be fun to tag my hive at the Sunshine Community Gardens, there is really only one response.

McKayla is not impressed with your tagging

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