Ada Apiary Full Spring Inspection 4-1-2012.

Today I visited my Ada apiary to do a full inspection and add additional supers if needed. I am currently down to only 2 hives at this location. My dad came along to watch from the truck and see what I was going to be doing.

I brought along a 5 frame medium nuc box just in case I was able to do a early split. I was not able to do so today, but I am happy I brought the nuc box. The nuc box turned out to be the most important piece of equipment I brought to the apiary today.

The 2 hives that made it though the winter consist of 3 medium 10 frame boxes. Both hives had plenty of stores in the top box the last time I did an inspection. However, the hive on the right did not seem very active today, while the hive on the right was booming with activity. There turned out to be a very clear reason for this.

When I opened up the left hive, I found the top box was full of honey that had not even been touch yet. The second box showed 8 frames of honey, with two frames in the center which looked to have had been full of brood, but now had only a spot on the two facing comb sections that was about 4 inches in diameter. The brood was worker brood, but the bees had filled in everything else with honey. The bottom box had honey and pollen in most of the center frames, but the outer frames were empty. The number of bees left in the hive probably would not have amounted to much more than 2 cups of bees.

I was not really prepared for this condition. The hive basically made itself honey bound during our really early spring, and the queen had been confined to the center two frames in the second box. At first I started to make up a 10 frame nuc, but realized that the number of bees would not be enough to raise or defend the hive. I had not been into the second hive yet so I did not know what I would find.

This is were the nuc box I brought to the yard came in handy. I put the small amount of brood that was in the hive into the nuc box, along with an open comb for the queen to lay in, and the rest frames of honey and pollen.

Now that I had this hive consolidated down to a weak 5 frame nuc, I broke open the second hive. What I found was a brood nest filling 8 frames in the top box, a similar situation in the second box, and a completely empty comb in the bottom box. I sadly found a large population of hive beetles in the bottom box. There were bees covering most of the bottom frames and they were doing a good job of keeping the beetles in the corners. I did have a beetle blaster trap in each hive. I ended up putting both into this one. They do work, but there needs to be at least one trap/box.

I used the abundance of brood and nurse bees to help boost the 5 frame nuc I had made up. I found a frame containing all capped worker brood and a few open cells with eggs and larvae. I checked for a queen before adding the frame of brood and bees to the nuc. I then checked another two frames for the queen and making sure she was not on those frames, I shook an additional two frames of bees into the 5 frame nuc. I hope this will allow the nuc to take off.

Additional notes:

Hive 1 was reduced down to a 5 frame nuc with bees and brood added from Hive 2. A boardman feeder was also added to the front of the nuc. Hive 1 did have small hive beetles and evidence of varroa mites, white residue in several open cells along the bottom of frames that had previously housed brood.

Hive 2 contained a good amount of drone cells and drones. The drones were raised along the bottom of frames between the third box, and the second box. (hive was 3 mediums hight). A good number of drones were active within the hive. No queen cells found. Bees appeared healthy. Top and bottom boxes were reversed as the bottom box was empty of stores and brood. This gave the hive drawn comb to store honey or expand the brood nest. A 4th medium box containing new frames of RiteCell foundation was added to the hive. It is hoped that this will be a honey super. (The Bottom Box contains the older combs from the 10 frame nuc it was started from last May).

Hives 1 and 2 contain carnolian bees from Ohio Queens raised at honey run apiaries.

Hive 1 has a marked queen and she was easily found. She was the second queen I marked last year.

Hive 2 does not have a marked queen. I have yet to see the queen in this hive. Eggs and open brood seen during this inspection.

Full Sized 3 story hive reduced to a 5 frame nuc.

 

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3-10-2012 Hive Inspections. 2 more hives dead.

Temperature was about 50°F and windy.

My main concern at my Ada apiary was the two surviving top bar hives. I did add some suger cakes to the end of the hives hoping the bees could find them if it warmed up enough. Turns out, the bees had plenty of stores along to tops of the combs.

My last inspection was Feb. 18, 2012. Both top bar hives had what sounded like a large population of bees.

This inspection was a disappointment. The first hive had wired board partially swinging towards the back of the hive. The eyelet had been pulled out and the board was then allowed to swing free. This revealed what I had hoped to avoid. A critter had made a snack of the hive. Below is a photo looking into the hive from the top. You can see the comb has been scooped away. The gap at the bottom of the hive can also be seen where the board has come loose.

This top bar hive had the bottom board partially opened when the eyelet holding the board to the bottom broke away during an animal invasion. The comb can be seen scratched away in a arch from the animal using its arm to pull out the honey and the bees. This hive was overwintering well as of 2-18-2012. As of 3-10-2012, it is dead.

The bees are all dead with plenty of honey remaining. This hive most likely would have made it if the bottom had not been detached.

The other top bar hive that was alive at the time of my last inspection still had bees inside. Sadly, at the last inspection, there were 2lbs or so of dead bees on the bottom of the hive. The dead bees on the bottom also included brood.

During this inspection I could still hear bees in the hive. I opened it up and started going through the combs. Several were empty as they never go filled last year. However, the further I got into the hive, the more honey I found in the top 1/2 or more of each comb. I found several sections of dead bees that had formed very small clusters of less than 20 bees. I could still hear bees, but I had not come to them yet. Finally, I came to the brood section of the hive, no honey. The bees that had died before most likely either got wet or starved to death, or both. Soon, a small group of bees came out for a visit. There are only a handful of bees left. I would estimate the cluster to be smaller than a baseball. I did not see a queen, and the bees only occupied a small section of the comb. Due to the brittleness of the comb, I was not able to separate the two bars the bees were between. I also did not want to remove the combs with the bees as it was very windy. I did check from the other end to see what was going on on that end, nothing. I found a comb with dead brood that had been partially eaten by something. I am guessing a mouse had chewed up things a bit and soon got chased away by the bees (when the population was higher). I moved the combs of honey closer to the small cluster and the bees immediately started eating it. They were starving to death.

The bees on the frame starved. There was honey a couple of frames over. A small cluster of bees can be seen peaking out in the upper left of the comb watching me.

Small Cluster of bees remain in top bar hive.

Very small cluster of bees left in the hive. I did not see a queen. I did move honey combs closer and the bees started eating the honey. However, they are too small and with no queen they will die out shortly.

I can only hope there is a queen still in the hive that can make it until it warms up. If she is there, I plan to add a few more bees from a package (I will cage her for a bit to allow them to get use to her first). I may also installer her into a nuc box and split up a couple pounds of bees from some packages I am getting. This queen was a daughter from a swarm. They were very nice bees to work with. Sad to see them go this way.

One reason I do not like top bar hives is that the bees may not move sideways to get more honey. I had 3 top bar hives overwinter and do well last year. However, one died this winter, and the other has that small baseball sized cluster in it. A top bar spit I made died as well (the one the critter got). Of the three langstroth hives I had going into winter, all three as still alive.

I also checked on my top bar hive in Arlington, Ohio. This hive is alive and kicking. I did had a quart jar of honey to the feeder I have in the hive. This one is 4 foot long and has a open end for me to add a boardman feeder to the follower board. This hive had a mouse build a nest on the top bars and has made of mess of things. The feeder area is also messy as I did not install bars over that open end and I should have. This hive will need some major cleaning and replacement of top bars on the damaged ends. I only hope there is no brood in those areas when the time comes. I also plan to relocated the colony into a langstroth hive this year if time and my attempted method of transfer works.

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Top Bar Hives vs Langstroth Hives

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In 2010 I started my beekeeping adventure using top bar hives. My intent was to get started in the least expensive way possible. The cost of making a top bar hive is much less than making a series of boxes, bottom board, inner and outer covers, and a hive stand. Plus, I had no intent of really collecting tons of honey (don’t kid yourself, you will want to collect all the honey you can) I just wanted to help out the bees. Plus, if I ended up not being able to handle all those bees (hated the critters up until I watched “Silence of the Bees” in the fall of 2009), the investment would be very small.

In 2010 I became a member of a local beekeeping organization. I attended the club’s picnic which had hive inspections which included: re-queening, pest inspection, honey harvest, and winter preparation. Seeing this, I noticed a few things that were much easier to do with a “modern hive”. Below I will list what I have found to be pros can cons of the top bar hive and the modern hive (langstroth).

Top Bar Hive Pros:

  1. Inexpensive to make. I made several for less than $25 each. Can be made from scrap wood laying around.
  2. No frames or foundation to purchase.
  3. No extractor to purchase as the combs are destroyed by crush and strain harvesting.
  4. The entire colony is not opened at one time. This allows for fewer bees to be aware of the beekeepers intrusion.
  5. Hive is built to the beekeeper’s wishes.

Top Bar Hive Cons:

  1. Combs are not easily exchanged between hives (unless each top bar hive is identical).
  2. Combs are fragile and can break easily. This is even more of a problem when the weather becomes cooler.
  3. The queen may lay in every comb in the hive as there is no way to exclude the queen into a “brood area”. The queen will normally not lay past a comb off all honey. However, I had 2 top bar hives that the queen laid eggs in all the combs in the hive. I had honey combs with a few brood cells scattered about. Not fun to cut out.
  4. During winter, there is no easy way to feed the hive. Combs break and crumble if the beekeeper tries to move them about to make room near the cluster to attempt a winter feeding.
  5. Did I mention that there is no practical way to feed the bees in the winter…?
  6. The hive are long and not easily moved from one location to another. Plus, the combs are fragile and can break during moving.
  7. No industry standard for the hive or other parts.

Langstroth Hive Pros:

  1. Most commonly available hive in the world.
  2. Frames are easily moved from one hive body to another.
  3. Combs are easily moved from one hive to another. This allows for good resource management to help with struggling hives.
  4. Hives are easy to feed in the spring, fall, and even winter.
  5. Many types of feeders are available.
  6. Combs are easily reused after extracting honey. Honey is easy to extract leaving drawn comb available for the bees to reuse.
  7. Faster inspections. 10 frames can be moved about by simply removing a box to get to the other boxes. To bar hives require each comb to be moved slowly over to get to the next.
  8. More tools and accessories available.
  9. Parts are interchangeable with other hives in the apiary. Hives are built to industry standards.

Langstroth Hive Cons:

  1. They cost more to build than a top bar hive.
  2. A honey extractor is needed to harvest honey. Unless doing crush and strain then there is no difference.
  3. Multiple boxes and frames are needed.
  4. More parts are required. Hive stand, hive bodies, bottom board, inner cover, outer cover, frames, foundation.
  5. The entire hive must be open for inspection. Not just sliding one comb over at a time as in the top bar hive.

I did my time with top bar hives. I will continue to use the top bar hives that I have, but I am moving to only langstroth hives for any future expansion. It is much easier to manage a hive when all the parts are interchangeable, easily handled, and easily swapped about. I cannot take combs from one apiary to another using top bar hives, they just break apart. I can see top bar hives being good for someone that only wants 1 or 2 hives and little honey production. However, if one wants 3 or more hives and/or has any interest in honey harvesting, get a modern langstroth hive, they are just easier to work with in the long run. One of my top bar hives produced no surplus honey in 2010 nor in 2011.

Top bar hives are inexpensive to build, and are a good way to see if one even likes bees. If I had not built my first top bar hives, I would not even have bees. When I started out, I could not justify the expense of starting with a modern langstroth hive. I was able to build my first top bar hives in my living room.

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Ada Hive Inspection Feb. 18, 2012

We have had a very mild winter this year. A couple of weeks ago I checked on my hives in Ada to see how they were doing. My smallest top bar hive had been killed after the bottom had been opened up by some animal. The other two top bar hives were light, but still had bees in them. The only way to check my top bars is to tap on the hive and listen for the bees to buzz.

The two langstroth hives consist of 3 medium boxes each. One hive I left a frame feeder in and the other I did not. Both hives entered winter with the top 2 medium boxes filled with honey (minus to frames for the one with the frame feeder still installed). At the time, it was too cold to open the hives to check and I just did a tap on the boxes. A couple of bees flew out and I could hear the hives well. So far, so good here.

The weather had been warm for this time of the year for a few weeks. We have had temperatures as high as 58°F this winter. I was worried that I was going to have some bees starve out.

I made up some sugar cakes to add to each hive. Each sugar cake was 1lb. I planned on adding one to each hive if they needed it. I really should have made up more than 5lb worth, but this is all the sugar I had on hand.

It was about 37°F on Feb. 18, 2012 at approximately 3:30PM. It was mostly sunny with a slight breeze. No snow on the ground. I am not sure I should have done so or not, but I did smoke the hives. I thought that if they bees had been in the upper box when I opened them up, I would have been greeted with some not so happy bees.

On opening each hive, I was happy to see that the top box on each hive had not even been touched yet by the bees. This means one hive has a full 10 frame medium box of honey. The other, with the frame feeder, still had 8 medium frames of honey. Since the second hive only had 8 frames (the other 2 taken up by the frame feeder), I decided to add 5lb of sugar to the frame feeder.

The sugar cakes ended up going into my top bar hives. I was not able to get them located very close to the clusters. I hope this warmer weather will allow the bees to find the cakes and utilize them. I did add a bit of Honey B Healthy (HBH) to the water I used to make the sugar cakes. I hope the addition of the HBH will help them find the sugar.

I did remove the board from the bottom of one of my top bar hives. I do not believe this hive is doing well. There was a pile of dead bees and some white pupae on the board. This very well could be an indication that the hive is starving. I could still hear bees in the hive. 2lbs of sugar cakes were added to help out. One thing I have found out about top bar hives in the winter is that they are very difficult to emergency feed. I will be slowly moving away from them over the next couple of years.

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Have Not Been Out to the Yards for Awhile.

I have not been out to the bee yards to see how things are going for awhile now. Been busy getting things ready for a new baby coming in December.

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Small Harvest from Ada Apiary.

8-28-2011

Went to my Ada apiary with my dad today. Leveled the small top bar hive that was slowly tilting sideways on the blocks it was sitting on. Also, harvested a bit of honey. Got about 12 lbs of honey and comb to crush and strain. Did loose half a comb when it broke loose and dropped over the side of my bucket.

Found one small hive beetle in each of my 2 langstroth hives. Put a beetle blaster beetle trap into each hive. Hopefully this will catch a few of these nasty little pests.

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First Honey 2011

Well, after loosing 2 colonies of bees that had been started from packages this spring, the 3rd hive was able to produce a small surplus of honey. I was able to remove 6 medium frames of capped honey. Prior to this, they had 9 frames of capped honey, but I allowed the frames to remain on the hive as there was a shortage of nectar for a short time. The frames I did leave in the hive are partially capped at this point and are still on the harvest list if they get capped. The field of wildflowers is currently blooming with lots of honey bee activity on the yellow flowers (look up correct identification for later).

I added a small hive beetle trap to the hive. I did see one beetle running and smashed it.

Out of the 6 frames harvested, I currently have 4 quart jars of honey with the possibility of 6 as I am still straining the last frame. I also have two slices of cut comb from the best frame. I used crush and strain as I do not have a honey extractor at this point. I can see why an extractor is a good investment as the extractor can remove honey much faster than the drip method. Plus, comb can be reused with an extractor.

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Small Hive Beetle Traps

Received my order from Brushy Mountain Bee Farm today. Below is a photo of the Beetle Blaster Small Hive Beetle traps I ordered.

Beetle Blaster Small Hive Beetle Traps

The Traps are filled about 1/2 way with vegetable oil. The bees chase the beetles into the trap. Once inside the trap, the beetles get coated in the oil and die. These are suppose to be disposable traps, but I have heard from a few other beekeepers that they can be cleaned out by running water through them. The oil just dumps out and the dead beetles get forced out the exposed holes that they originally fell through.

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Odd Year For Beekeeping.

This year has not been a very good year for beekeeping. The Spring was very wet and bees did not have much time for foraging during spring bloom. Soybeans and Corn crops did not get planted until late in the season. Summer was hot and dry for a very long time. When the field of wildflowers was just about to bloom, a heavy storm with hail up to 2 inches wide flattened the field. The field of wildflowers did return, but almost a month later than the year before.

I experienced my first wax moth damage to hives in Findlay. Small hive beetles have been seen in both Findlay and Ada. Small Hive Beetle traps will be installed as soon as they arrive.

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Anticipating arrival of some beekeeping equipment.

Tomorrow I should be receiving a package from Brushy Mountain Bee Farm. I have 20 small hive beetle traps, a comb honey cutter, and some honey-b-healthy.

I am planning on adding the beetle blaster beetle traps to my 3 remaining langstroth hives (1 in Findlay, 2 in Ada) Monday and Tuesday evening. If weather and lighting permit, I will also be removing a medium honey super from my Findlay apiary to try some cut comb. If the honey cappings have become soiled from bee prints, I will only be cutting the comb out of the frames and using the crush and strain method of honey harvesting. I currently do not have an extractor and will probably not be able to purchase one for another year or so.

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