I’m now officially a beekeeper without any bees. It is amazing what can happen to hive in less than a month. I finally thought I got my remaining hive straightened out with a new queen producing gentle bees, and the hive seemed well on its way storing honey for the lean late summer months we have in Austin.
I went from a hive filled with frames that look like this:
To a hive of frame after frame of empty comb:
The interesting thing is there were still many frames of honey in the hive. As I initially approached the hive, and my stomach sank at the sight of little to no activity at the entrance, my first thought was a I had yet another hive get robbed. However, there were at least twelve frames of capped honey still just sitting there. Granted the pests were starting to move in, but the honey was basically untouched. So it didn’t get robbed.
I went through all the frames to see if the queen was around, and I didn’t see her. If she was in there, she certainly was laying. I would say there were a little more than the numbers of bees you would get in a package scattered throughout the hive. I was greeted with this fun sight when I finally got all the way down to the screened bottom board.
I squished as many as I could to prevent them from flying off and finding another hive to invade. I also found and squished a few wax moths during my inspection as well.
I consolidated all the bees down to one super with 6 drawn frames of comb and 2 of capped honey. I’m debating whether to try and put a queen in there to see if I can save it, or get a fellow beekeeper to give me a few frames of capped brood to see if I can jump start it.
As for what got the better of this colony, I don’t have a clue. It certainly wasn’t robbed, and I didn’t see any evidence of disease in the frames. The hive was also pretty clean with no dead bees on the bottom board. Perhaps a population boom of varroa mites?
On a happier note, Flat Stanley should be arriving soon to the Isle of Wight before heading off to the south of France and then Australia. I wish him well on his journeys and hopes he finds healthy and productive hives in his travels.
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.
The top super was all drawn out wax that was slowly being filled up with honey.
Going deeper into the hive, it was a combination of honey and frames with brood, eggs, and larvae.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?