Feeding results, and we hope it’s not too late to make a Nuc

These bees are going through a TON of sugar; we have refilled their feeders 11 times with 1:1 sugar syrup (1 cup sugar : 1 cup water mixture), but they are drawing out comb nicely, are storing their sugar syrup, and are certainly gaining weight.

Bee-Stuff weights are now up over 100 lbs; very nice! (Wish we would not have stopped feeding them and been a bit more scientific about stopping the initial feeding).

As far as feeding goes, our experience here is that count on needing 2.5 lbs of sugar per frame in order to help a new colony build out comb.


Now, look at the queen cell below (from 3 June 2017); this came from our “Yellow” hive.

We sought much advice, and decided that if we saw more (after destroying the last batch), we would try and get the bees to think they had swarmed, by taking the frames with the queen cells, pollen, honey, and bees, and put them into an 8 frame Nuc, and let the queens emerge, then putting new frames into Yellow to give them more room.

We might have missed the boat (but the story ends well)… We were inspecting and noticed that Yellow seem to have a lot less bees. I checked the Broodminder weight, and saw that 30 minutes after our last week’s inspection, we saw an 8 lb drop in weight, followed by a 6 lb gain in weight over the next day; sure looks like they swarmed out of Yellow.

Our plan was to inspect on Saturday, look for evidence of no queen, and plan on getting a new queen (or see if Blue is creating queen cells).

Much to our surprise, we found our Yellow queen, and capped queen cells (again). So, we enacted our Nuc plan.

We talked about our experience with some old-time beekeepers, and the puzzle as to why we were observing what we did; they figured what must have happened is that they swarmed, and then came back (they had seen this happen before); I think we are very lucky.

Now we just hope it’s not too late in the season for this Nuc to start running with a new queen. We’ll feed the Nuc and basically not touch it for about 3 weeks (~7 days for a queen to emerge from a capped queen cell, ~ 5 days to fly and mate, ~ 3 days to start laying).


Why are our hives losing weight (our 2nd mistake)?

Since we use the Broodminder weight devices, I’ve been getting weight readings from the hives regularly, and I’ve taken care to determine what our tare weight is, based on how we add and take away equipment.

When we first installed our hives, we added top feeders; then when we inspected on day 3, we saw that the sugar water in the top feeders was hardly touched (but we were not very scientific about it), so we dumped the sugar water, and took off the feeders.

Then…. I noticed that we had good weight gain, until we removed the feeders; then we struggled a bit with what was going on…  even though the loss was very gradual, we asked “Why would a hive lose weight?” Or, “Why would a hive stop gaining weight?”

Here are some theories:

1. The bees are feeding and eating more than they bring in.

2. We are losing bees (die – off)

3. The hives are being robbed (beegled…. cause it’s almost like burgled… instead of burglars, we have beeglars).

4. Something (skunk?) is eating our bees.


Based on some things we observed, I think we may have removed feed too early, AND we have some robbing (dead bees that look like some other kind of bee, no fuzz (cause fighting knocks the fuzz off).


So, we decided to go after all the possibilities

1. The bees are feeding and eating more than the bring in:

Feed the bees; though our brood pattern looks fantastic (the queen is even laying up in the 2nd box), they are not drawing out all the comb as expected), they probably could use the extra energy to build comb, and it probably won’t hurt anything.


2. We are losing bees (die-off):

All we can do is monitor the dead bees that we can see around the hives, inside the hive, and monitor for swarming behaivors.


3. The hives are being robbed.

Based on some of the behavior I’ve seen (bees fighting, bees looking for other entrances, dead bees), I think this is likely.

Reduce the entrances to the hives; we put the entrance reducers to the smallest opening possible.


4. Something (skunk?) is eating our bees.

Raise the hives to be 2 concrete blocks high (instead of just one), and install carpet tack strips to the front of the hives (to help deter skunks getting their paws onto the hive).

AND, install a field camera, to take pictures of critters, etc. (What is coming around our hives?)


Today (Saturday), we did all of those things.

I will save the discussion of Yellow Hive, the single queen cell we found, our mite count test, etc. for another time…..

I hope you can gain something useful out of this; I will let you know how this all turns out….

Our Bees Have Arrived!

You are looking at 1 frame of bees (out of 8 frames) from our overwintered Nucs that we put into our Blue Hive today! Strong; we are very happy with how this has turned out, especially compared to the experience of installing (and tracking) packages at the Ohio State Open Bee Yard.

When we picked them up, Dan Williams found our queens, showed them both to us, put them into protective transport cages, while he transferred frames from his nucs into our boxes. Then he put the queen cages back into our hives, we strapped them into the truck, and drove them to our bee-yard (about 50 miles away).

We showed up with our Blue and Yellow hives (screened bottom boards, 10 frame, Mediums, 10 wax and wired foundation frames, inner cover, telescoping lid, and queen excluder between the bottom board and the first (and only) medium box).

We (Anita) had to reach into this mass of bees to let the queens out when we got them into our bee yard. (That was an experience that Anita was just fine at doing for us both).

Dan advised that Blue was probably ready for another super, so we put another Medium with 10 frames of wax and wired foundation, before we finished closing up Blue.


And this is Anita holding one of the frames in Yellow hive. Chock-full of bees; good pattern, good brood, pollen, honey, etc.

We installed top feeders with wire mesh so that the bees can be fed without bees getting out, 1 gallon of sugar-syrup each, we removed the inner covers, and put the telescoping lids on.

We have our Broodminder devices all ready to go, so I’ll give it a few days, then describe how those are working out, and how these hives are behaving. We’ll have to come back in a couple of days to remove the queen excluders.

The Real-Live part of the journey has finally begun!

Spring is here and Broodminder is pretty cool…

Haven’t written in a while; we’ve been continuing our research, and preparing for our bees… A few weeks ago, we went to Conrads Farm (cool place) and hung out with the bees, as he demo-ed a package install.

We pickup our Nucs this coming Saturday (Yay!)

Here are some early spring pictures of our bee yard, and some of the flowers we see… I’m trying to determine if any of the Prairie seeds we planted in December are sprouting, but I have no idea what I’m doing!

I can recognize only one of the flowers that are in the pictures above (the wild strawberry), so if you have any idea what the others are, please share.

Began fiddling with the Broodminder products that I bought at the conference at Tolles Technical (in Plain City) during winter. Really neat product. I didn’t know that the weight unit also provides external temperature and external humidity. So, with the “complete” units that we bought, we get hive-internal humidity and temperature data AND external humidity and temperature data, and hive weight; this is going to be a cool way to quantify what our hives are doing.

So, with Broodminder, you install the app on your iPhone, walk by the hives, select the unit,  and sync up. You have the option to sync real-time, or on the device’s schedule (which you can also set to 5, 15, or 60 minutes recording time); really cool. Then, you can upload data to the “beekeeper.io” site, or you can export a .csv (Excel) OR the sql-lite database format (you email it).

Here is my only issue though: we were building an empty hive with the Broodminder weight unit, to get a record of how much the equipment weighs (an empty, painted, no frames, 10 frame, medium super weighs (for example) about 3.16 pounds), and we setup the device to provide real-time data; cool right? Then I exported the .csv data, AND the sql-lite data (whole database)….

Well, let’s just say that after seeing the lack of complete data in the .csv file, and AFTER I installed DBBrowser for SQLite (for Mac of course), I discovered that the data is complete in the database, but the .csv data is certainly lacking……..So, my advice is to get your favorite data reader for SQLite, and export / email THAT format of data, so as to not to be disappointed.

Other than that, I do like the Broodminder products and would recommend them; now let’s see how long these batteries last.

I will take pictures and hopefully have more data to share starting Saturday (when we get out bees)!!!

Waiting, Learning, Pondering, and how Nucs may change everything

I haven’t bee-logged in a while (not much has been happening while we wait for winter to end), some of my friends have noticed, so here’s my latest thoughts and updates.

This picture shows the nucs that have just arrived, with a medium super on the top to give perspective; these are 5 frame, medium nucs, that are just as long as a normal 10 frame medium Langstroth box.

The feeders are pretty cool; hive tops, with closed panels, so the bees don’t really need to be disturbed for feeding.

Why am I getting Nuc Hives?

I had the pleasure of listening to (Judge) Dan O’Hanlon speak at the Tri-County Beekeeper’s Association meeting up in Wooster last month, while he described his experiences with resource hives, hives in general, and Nucs (nuclear colonies). He quoted someone in our beekeeping history (I don’t recall who) and sold me on it entirely; his quote was along the lines of “every problem in the bee yard can be solved by moving bees into, or out of a nuc”.

So, as you can see in the picture above, I’m preparing to have 2 nucs ready. There are details, but basically if I see queen cells in my new hives (especially near capping), split into a nuc; if I have a nuc, overwinter it, and if it grows strong (and looks like it might swarm), move some of them into another nuc or hive; catch a swarm, put it into a nuc; if I have too many bees, sell off one of the nucs, etc…. Beekeeping is changing.

If you monitor any of the sites that track Honey prices, you’ll see what all the beekeepers are saying… There’s not much $money in Honey anymore (if that’s why you are keeping bees); if you want to make $money in Honey Bees, then your bees are already coming back from pollinating the California Almond crop (it is pretty lucrative to rent your hives to farmers who need pollinators), and they are moving onto Apples, etc. in the Pacific Northwest, OR, you are making bees to sell to folks like me.

Many of the beekeepers are moving their operations to handle only Nucs; interesting.

I’m not in it for the $money, but I do want to be a successful Beekeeper, so that includes having strong and healthy hives; Nuc hives are a part of that plan.

Judge O’Hanlon also discussed what he is doing with developing Varroa Mite resistant queens; see his site at Mountain State Queens; he’s onto something; we all can learn a lot from Judge Dan O’Hanlon. If you ever get the chance to hear him speak, I urge you to do so; he is extremely smart, entertaining, knows his bees, and toys with his own caricature of what it means to be a Mountaineer!

By the way, I’ve been visiting our bee yard, hoping that all this warm weather would cause some of our prairie flowers we planted in December to start growing; but I see nothing yet; I bet in a week we see signs… I’ll keep you posted.

Right now, I’m just working through “Bee School”, and waiting for the call to come get our bees (nucs); that isn’t expected to happen until May.