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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I hope all my beekeeping friends had a wonderful holiday and are enjoying the lull in beekeeping duties before the spring swarm season is upon us. While the winter months aren’t completely void of tasks, it is a nice break from the hectic spring and summer months.
Austin finally got into the mid-50’s today after several weeks of cold overcast weather. It was also nice and sunny which helps warm up a hive allowing bees to take cleansing flights. I stopped by the Sunshine Community Garden today to plant another round of beets and carrots as well as harvest some chard and arugula (rocket for my readers down under) for tonight’s dinner. While I was there, it was the perfect opportunity to check my hive without opening it up. Just by quietly observing your hive entrance, the amount of activity can give you a good indication of the health of your hive.
I think I timed my visit perfectly when the temperature and sunshine finally got the girls warm enough to take off. The entrance was alive with activity as the hive left for a cleansing flight and then returned.
An hour later, the activity was much more subdued as all the girls had taken their turn. I also noticed bees taking advantage of winter crops such as broccoli that were not picked quickly enough and had flowered. The forecast shows temperatures in the high 60’s next weekend so I may take a quick peek in all my hives to make sure their honey stores are still looking good.
Well, it took over two years, but we finally went through all the lip balm we made in August of 2010. While the balm we made last time turned out really well, we always felt is was a tad on the hard side so we tweaked the recipe this year to make it easier to apply.
We used the basic same ingredients and supplies found in my previous post with the addition of some bergamot essential oil, and we even added a little honey to the mixture.
This time I went with 110 grams of beeswax and 60 grams each of the almond and jojoba oils. We also added a teaspoon of honey. Be sure to break up your wax into small pieces to help it melt quickly.
Here I am adding the oil while Gitanjali is so happy to be drying cutting boards.
Once the mixture completely melted, we added 2 mL of grapefruit essential oil and a few drops of the bergamot. Then you just pour into your empty tubes.
It cools pretty quickly and then you can scrape off the top layer of the balm.
Then you can cap them and slather your chapped lips with beeswax goodness!
After Jesse over at Dai Due used some of the honeydew honey I gave him to marinate some feral hog loins along with mustard grape vinegar and Texas olive oil, I was inspired to find some recipes that complimented this honey’s unique woodsy taste.
I hit the jackpot last night. These balsamic and honey glazed root vegetables are amazing and super easy to make as long as you have a few hours to roast them.
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil plus extra for greasing baking dish
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
2/3 cup honey (if you don’t have aphid poop on hand, a darker honey is probably better)
1 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary
1 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground peppercorns
3 lbs of root veggies (I used carrots, parsnips, and cipollini onions all cut roughly the same size)
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Grease a large baking dish with oil and set aside. Whisk the oil, vinegar, honey, rosemary, thyme, salt, and ground peppercorn in a large bowl. Add the veggies and toss with the glaze. Transfer to the baking dish and roast until the glaze is thick and bubbling, turning the veggies every 30 minutes for 1 1/2 to 2 hours.
Since Thanksgiving is right around the corner, this is truly a dish worthy of a holiday table. Bon Appétit!
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:
Only a few bees remained in the hive. This was on what was once a beautiful frame of pollen:
I don’t know if these are SHB or Wax Moth larvae, but either way they are gross:
Another sad frame:
All that remains of this hive:
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.