Monday 9 July 2018

Who ever thought I would be raising insects?

This year, I'm working on raising more hives using nucs (a small hive). I have been grafting sporadically for the last few years with wild variations on success.  This year I made an effort and can reliably get 25+ out of 30 grafts.  Its all in how you set up your cell rearing box.  It has to be overflowing with bees and have lots of food.  I know this and was taught this by other beekeepers, but for one reason or another didn't always do it.  One year a virgin queen found my box and the bees destroyed all my frames of cells. They have a queen, why raise another? Figured it out when she mated and started to lay.

I have been using the extra queen cells to replace older or just plain crappy queens and hives that have gone queen less for some reason.  Its July and I have found a couple of queen less ones.  Luckily I have a queen for them!  Course I wonder how many I have not found...

Made up just over 40 nucs this year (some in the picture) and will see if I can winter them.  Next year I will work on getting more so that I can try to reduce my dependence on foreign queens.  This is my test year to work out the details.  I would like to start earlier and only my few early ones have a mated queen.  All the rain is slowing down the mating. But, I can't resist and have poked at them to see that the queen was released (all but one) and found a virgin running around in one.  That's positive!  I need to wait for next week to be sure what is going on.  Queens can be mated anywhere from 10 days if all is super ideal to 20+ days.  With the rain, I am certainly not on the 10 day schedule.

Monday 5 February 2018

Midwinters Death

These are a couple of hives I have out back, the one on the left is dead. It was alive in December, but I knew that it was weak this fall and didn't have high hopes for it. No surprise to find it dead.

The little dark spots on the snow are dead bees from the living hive and if you look close, you can see the tracks (wings and feet) from the birds picking up the bees.  Just behind the hives the birds fly up into the trees and eat the bees, leaving the legs and heads to litter the the snow below.

Insulated Hives Feb 2018

Dead bees outside a hive are always a good sign contrary to what you might think!  A dead hive has no bees that will fly outside to die, but here the telltale sign that the hive on the left is dead is the lack of frost in front of the top entrance. You can see a comb of frost obscuring (not blocking) the entrance to the living right hand hive. Just like people, bees breath and release moisture. It was -27°C last night so that little frost comb formed as the moist air inside the hive escaped.  It doesn't always happen,only in the really cold days have I noticed it.

Of course the best way to know if a hive is alive is to wait for a warmer day and see the bees in the entrance. That is definitive.

Final note:  The foil wrap insulation is useless as insulation.  The hives look sharp, but it gives an R1 value (maybe) if you just wrap it on.  It needs an air gap to do somewhat better with no air leakage.  I used it here because I had some kicking around.  I have also heard of people just wrapping their hives with geo-textile fabric just to block air infiltration into the hive. The foil would at least do that.  Locally, a very experienced commercial beekeeper uses the foil in combination with I think felt paper and they do well with that I hear. Top of these hives has 2"" of foam board in the lid (R10).  Yes, I just had that kicking around as well. I think that all beekeepers feel the insulation in the top is important.  I've heard of R5 to R10.