Wednesday, December 3, 2014

warm bee respiration and non-invasive winter measurements

I am using an inexpensive RadioShack Waterproof Pocket IR Thermometer to measure temperature differences between cool outdoor air and warm bee respiration.  Winter temperatures arrived and this makes these contrasting temperature measurements possible.  At dawn I record the top vent and concrete paver temperature.  The concrete paver sits on top of the hive and acts as a surrogate for smoothed outdoor air temperature. These 2014 measurements are a follow up from a previous post two years ago, winter ventilation and pocket IR thermometer.

I have three bee hives (Kent, Buda and Pest) and mid-day flight activity at the Kent hive is consistently greater than the other two hives.    

If hive visits do not permit mid-day flight observation, then this non-invasive method provides some assurance that:
  • The hive is still alive provided that the graph points are above the green x= y line.
  • Greater contrast with outdoor temperatures correlate with increased mid-day flight activity.  The Kent hive trend line is further from the green x= y line, while less flight active hives have a trend line closer to green x= y line.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

betterbee wood nucleus box attracts swarm

I created 5 swarm traps - all contain some dark brood comb and a swarm lure.  After many days of scouting, the swarm selects one - yellow highlighter indicates the characteristics of the selected swarm trap.:
  • entrance size and geometry -  1" round or 12" x 3/4" rectangle
  • entrance height above ground -  3' or 16'
  • entrance orientation - south, east or west
  • cavity volume - 1387 cubic inch or 5030 cubic inch
  • direct morning sun or no morning sunshine
Not every combination was created
  • 3 large volume swarm traps have a 12" x 3/4" entrances which face west and are 3 feet above ground.  
  • 2 small volume swarm traps have a 1" round entrance facing either south or east and are 16 feet above ground. 
As the swarm trap contains movable frames, there is no urgency to lower the nucleus box to a shady ground location.  If morning sun played a significant role in their cavity selection, then let them enjoy the sun while the weather is still cool and wet.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

small hive beetle larvae & dark brood comb

If I told you what happened, you probably would not believe it. The first photo contains the queen's retinue. When my finger tips touch these bees, enough space opens up for me to see her majesty - this experience is a rare gift.
I have been away for one week and returned to a hive with significantly fewer bees - maybe the hive swarmed, perhaps more than once.  My concern is that this hive has a huge surplus of honey, and many deep frames of dark brood comb attractive to small hive beetles (SHB) - too many frames, too much space and too few bees to keep the SHB confined to the margins of hive.

To my horror, several frames in the bottom box of this skyscraper hive contain SHB larvae crawling through pollen, honey and the dark brood comb.   I created a new hive configuration containing no dark brood comb at all.  I moved the small population of bees onto clean light colored comb, added a one gallon pail of 1:1 syrup (with Honey B Healthy) and reduced the entrance.  Stay tuned.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

white dutch clover

As ever, this year is like no other year in Atlanta - Lake Lanier is 1.5 feet above full pool.  Atlanta has received lots of rain and many un-sprayed lawns are full of white dutch clover.  It took me many attempts to capture this (cropped) iPhone shot of a honey bee visiting clover.  

Had a quick look in my two hives and they seem to be healthy and with small SHB populations - one hive had one SHB above the inner cover and the other hive had zero - lots of earwigs.  Knock on wood, things look on track for a July harvest and split(s).

Sunday, May 12, 2013

three purple petals and six yellow anthers

On the morning walk I discovered honey bees visiting this plant - check out the crisp iPhone photo.   We purchased this flowering perennial too, but I lost track of its name.     I eventually found the plant on an Internet search -  spiderwort.  My garden books were not helpful - perhaps Walter Reeves will consider a Georgia book for beekeepers?

The neighborhood stinks of flowering Privet which started to bloom a few days ago.   A few front yards (without  herbicides) contain tons of white clover.   Has my big honey crop year hit a bump? - is the bee population in or out of sync with the weather and flowering plants? - four inches of rain in three days was ridiculous! - these are the uncertainties of the honey harvest.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Foundationless Frames by Walter T Kelly

I discovered  a conversation to reduce the current center-to-center frame spacing from 1 3/8" to 1 1/4" in the brood chamber.  Although narrow frames are not commercially available,  the commercial medium sized Foundationless Frames caught my attention - I ordered the foundationless frames and  assembled them using the glue on day1 and nail on day2 strategy.

I wanted to add a thin layer of beeswax to the center guide, but advice on the Internet seemed either messy or complicated.   I filled an empty food can with beeswax - after removing the can from the boiling water bath, the wax remains liquid for many minutes - long enough for me to dab wax onto the center guide using a piece of cardboard.  My application method needs more work -  imagine a brushing style and not Jackson Pollock dripping paint.   I placed a large cardboard sheet on top of the working counter top - a few wax drips landed in the wrong place, but the cleanup was easy.

Friday, April 19, 2013

2013 tulip poplar flower

On April 15th, I inspected all three hives. The hive with the most flight activity recently drew 8 foundation strips and filled the frames solid with honey.  I am out of medium boxes, so I quickly supered with a deep box containing foundation strips.  I am surprised to see a good nectar flow (and storage) before the arrival of tulip poplar flowers.  Weeks ago, I planned to use my deep boxes to split this hive, but they chose to build vertically and not place queen cells where I can find them.  This could be my big honey year or this could be my imagination.

The other two hives are drawing their foundation strips and filling the frames with honey at a much slower pace. All hives have an amazing low number of small hive beetles (SHB) above the inner cover - killed 3 SHB per hive.   Knock on wood the SHB population remains within bee manageable limits.

I quickly ordered more medium sized boxes boxes from Brushy Mountain and they arrived in four days. The frames have a new milled shaped, most noticeably with a redesign of the frame sides (aka end bars).  The frames are easier to assemble than the old design.  My only concern is with nooks where sides meet the top bar and how they may become hiding places for SHB - I have an very active imagination when it comes to SHB.

At the MABA meeting, Jerry Wallace suggested gluing the frames on day1 and nailing them on day2 - works great and preformed better at keeping the frame pieces at right angles. Thanks Jerry, you are the bee man.
On April 19, I found pieces of tulip poplar flowers and unopened flowers that the wind and squirrels have tossed to the ground.  Nothing worth photographing until I found one medium sized tulip poplar flower head for this blog post.