Saturday, April 07, 2012

So much to learn... bees

Well, since the observation hive was so full, I figured I could take 2 of the 4 frames and the queen and start a nuc.   Sounds easy enough, right?  Everything sounds easy when you're sitting in front of your computer.  

Here's how it went (for posterity):
Early Thursday, I put in the metal thing to keep all the bees in the OH.  Of course, it was cloudy and chilly so I had to wait till nearly 11 before it was 60 degrees and starting to clear.  The hubs carried the hive outside (heavy!) while I covered the hole so bees wouldn't fly in the house.  I also (thanks to Michael Bush) covered the outside entrance to the hive so there wouldn't be a crowd waiting when we put the hive back.  (this was very smart - there were tons of bees waiting by the door by the time we were done.)

Outside, we leaned the hive against the house near their entrance.  I unscrewed the side of the glass away from the queen cells.   (These were on the top 2 frames.)  I brushed the bees on the glass into the nuc box.  (Have I mentioned how many bees were in this hive?)   Then I put the bottom 2 frames into the nuc.  At this point, there are too many bees for me to be able to see the queen.  So I started hoping.  (Hubs cleaned the glass while I was doing all this.)  Then I brushed a TON of bees from the hive into a bucket and then into the nuc.  It looked like I was getting a whole lot.  

I decided to put the OH back together and just hope that I got the queen...  After we installed it back in the house, I saw the queen of course.  sigh.  But, I didn't want to mess with the frames that had queen cells on them.  At least that's the best excuse I have for not trying harder to find her.

Next I put the nuc over in a new location only a 150 ft (ish) away.  Shortly there after a zillion bees came out and were circling around.  Now I know that all the forager aged bees will come back to the parent hive, but this was looking like ALL the bees.  Sigh again.   So, the OH hive has tons of bees still and they've already started drawing out one of the empty frames I put in.  (Note to self: next time just seal the whole box for a day or three, and get the queen.)    I suppose I could have tried this again, but moving the OH outside is labor intensive for both of us.  But, the OH is still fine, it's just "wasting" a perfectly good queen because there's not much room for her to lay and I'd really like to be using her to her full potential now to make up for all the winter losses.

On to the next day:   The sun finally came out in the early afternoon, so I check on the nuc.  Sadly, there were only a handful of bees, the brood in the frames appeared to have gotten chilled and the one queen cell on that frame was empty. So this is a pretty hopeless situation for a bee.  I'm shocked that 90% of the bees I put in there could fly back home.... where they sit and do nothing.

Checked the queenright outside hive:  They're still small, but picking up steam.  After much deliberation about whether to just combing the sad little nuc with them or give the nuc some resources, or even the queen...  I decided to give them a frame of brood with nurse bees.  I also notched some of the cells with young larva in hopes of helping them make a queen.  They still have very few bees, but they only need to make one queen cell.  If this doesn't work, I'll combine them next check.  (Note: bring a sheet of newspaper to do the combine.)

Our neighbor's bees are robbers.  Fortunately, (or unfortunately) I've gotten really good at recognizing robbing.  So I completely sealed up the nuc (with lots of the robbers inside!)  If I leave it sealed long enough, the robbers will join the hive.   As soon as the sun comes out again, I'll see if they've managed to start queen cells.  If not, I should probably stop risking resources and just combine them with the good hive.

One good hive is better than 2 weak ones.  

My very humble goal is to have at least 2 strong outside hives going into the coming winter... I'd rather have more of course.  It is only April, so I should have plenty of time unless the weather is icky like last year.

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