2014 Apiary Season notes - Southwest Missouri

Mid March - The bees in the hot water tank are active and foraging for pollen.

March 30 - Opened the 2013 swarm hive consisting of two deep hive bodies and candy board. All the bees were clustered in the top hive body and were actively consuming the candy. The bottom hive body was nearly empty. I did not remove any frames at this time for further inspection. I reversed the hive bodies moving the cluster to the bottom body. The bees have been foraging for pollen since mid February and very active now

April 2 - Opened the original garden hive consisting of one deep body, two medium bodies, and candy board. Bees are occupying all bodies and have honey stores available in the top super, they are consuming the candy board but not as much as the 2013 swarm hive. Workers, drones and larvae noted in the hive. Hive looks like a good candidate for some splits as soon as it gets warmer. It's currently in the mid 60's in the daytime. The bees have been foraging for pollen since mid February and very active now.

April 3 - Blooms on the fruit trees are starting to show. Henbit and Purple Dead Nettle is abundant which contains a bright red pollen visible on the bee's legs.

April 9 - The bees in the garden hive were really crowding the restricted entrance, I removed it and the candy board, and placed a med super on top. The bees had eaten most of the pollen brick and much of the sugar was still left, however, they still had honey stores left from last year. It was 70 degrees today and sunny.

April 12 - Inspected 2013 swarm hive. The candy board was nearly empty and was removed. Comb is being drawn and honey being stored in upper hive body. Brood is being raised on several frames in the lower body and drone comb is being built on lower parts of the frame as well. Drone comb built below and hanging from the frames was removed and Varroa mites noted inside. No queen cells found.

April 23 - I moved one deep frame and two med frames of brood with a single swarm cell from my original hive in an attempt to create a minimum size split. As of June 16, either the new queen did not mate or died, or a worker is laying eggs, as all I was getting was drone cells. I added some more capped worker cells and grafted a larvae to a queen cup. On June 18, robbers hit the hive and did some damage, but fortunately I was there at the time and it wasn't a loss; the queen cell survived and since been placed in a protective sleeve and as of July 4th has hatched out. I have had to add brood to the hive twice due to the length of time this has taken. There is some truth to more frames at the time of the split is better. However, this is an experimental hive to determine mimimum requirements and workarounds.

May 8 - My original hive was composed of one deep and two med supers in 2013, however that got a bit awkward to work with in the spring during swarm season, so I removed the lower med super and placed it on its own deep as a walk away split with three swarm cells noted in it. That split has proved to be a very strong hive and has been moved to my secondary apairy.

May 26 2014 - I noticed on several occasions bees with the effects of Deformed Wing Virus outside my #1 hive indicating a heavy Varroa mite load, and I decided that this was the time to try drone trapping and a Oxalic Acid treatment. To get an accurate mite baseline reference, I installed green drone comb a month earlier in the brood chamber and let it populate out, then removed it for forensics. Of ten drone cells opened, 8 of 10 cells had 4+ mites per cell, and I decided to try Oxalic Acid using the dribble method. The intact drone comb was placed in the freezer for 3 days, then returned to the hive and let the bees clean out the dead bees and mites. Approximately three weeks later, I removed the drone comb and found 4 mites on approximately 20+ cells. Given those results, I treated all my hives with Oxalic Acid using the dribble method. An interesting result was the swarm hive from last year which had been doing poorly but not showing any visible mite load, suddenly took off and the rest of the hives as of day one of fall, are doing outstanding. Oxalic Acid is a naturally occurring component of many things we eat and can be applied at any time, but as a precaution, I did not harvest any honey that might contain it.

June 16 - All attempts to get my #3 split up using additional brood comb has not worked and it appears I have a worker laying drone eggs. I grafted some larvae from my strongest split into a queen cup bar in an attempt to inject a queen into the hive.

June 18 - Robbers started raiding the #3 hive. Fortunetly, I was there at the time and got it stopped with a robbing screen. One of three queen cells being constructed, survived the onslaught. The hive really took a hit in appearance internally. Robbers returned serveral times over the next couple days and I placed the hive inside a dark garage sealed up for two days. Four days later, I removed the queen cell cup frame in hive #3, putting the one good queen cell in a protector and placed it between the middle frames to let her hatch.

June 20 - In mid-April, I had put up a NUC bait box in the upper corner of my garage door baited with queen pheromone and lemon grass oil in mid-April. What appears to be a smaller secondary swarm entered it and seem to have settled in. I will leave it along for now for the bees to do what bees do.

June 22 - I moved my strongest split #5 to the permanent location. This was a very strong hive, crowded, and getting defensive. Since this photo, I added another deep body to it. My wife, pictured, paints the hives. While somewhat decorative, it serves to help the bees sort out which hive they belong to when hives are grouped together. The rack will hold four hives, the left hive is a swarm catch from 2013 and the right hive is a split from this year. The item on the front of the right hive is a Robbing/Moving screen.

July 18 2014 - I inspected the bait and #3 hives. The bait hive is mimimal at best and doesn't appear to be salvageable, the queen isn't mated or has failed. The #3 hive is now laying worker brood and appears to going strong. Interesting enough, there was a shift from a lackadaisical behavior to active foraging about the time the queen was due to hatch. While the queen was a foreign larvae, they capped the queen cell and have accepted her even with laying workers or a bad queen. They did not attempt to create a new queen from available larvae during the last four months, it took a grafted queen to get this hive up and running. Time consuming yes, but well worth the education.

Aug 8 - Goldenrod, which is one of the last big blooms around here this time of year is starting to bud out, so I reconfigured all 4 hives to their winter configuration and harvested 12 pints of honey of my own use, the rest the bees can have. The swarm hive from last year really didn't do anything this season and I plan on letting it swarm next spring and let it re-queen itself. There is the possiblity that it contains the original queen from the NUC from 2013, which could explain it's poor performance. My original hive, which I split twice, has recovered and produced the bulk of the honey I harvested. Hive 3, the one I spent so much time and effort getting it to take a queen is now very active. Hive 4, the walkaway split is very strong, full of bees and capped brood in all bodies. Had I had any laying queens available this late in the season, I would have split this hive three ways.

Aug 15 2014 - Begain treating the hives with Fumagilin B and Terramycin for wintering over. The bees in the hot water tank are still there as always doing what feral bees do.

Sep 1 2014 - Hive #3 that I spent so much time and effort on, has been taking 50/50 sugar syrup by the gallons for the last month after the worker brood begin hatching out from the new queen. After a month they are beginning to draw comb on the upper deep and very actively foraging.

Sep 21 2014 - I opened the tops of all the hives to check the progression of the girls in packing in stores for the winter. The #3 hive is taking syrup a little over a quart a day and continuing to draw comb and store honey in the upper body. The other three hives are packing stores in all the upper frames. Completed Fumagilin B treatment and removed any uneaten Terramycin blocks.

Oct 10, 2014 - Hive #1 appears healthy but was showing symptoms of a significant Varroa mite load and I placed Apivar strips in it. There was a significant mite drop found on the removable bottom of the hive the next day. Apivar is a 42-56 day treatment that spans the brood hatching cycle, exposing all the bees to the treatment. Hive #1 was where the original 2013 NUC was introduced and apparently came with more than just bees. The other three hives I have either are swarm or splits from this hive, that have mated in this area and have significantly less issues with diseases and parasites.

Oct 25, 2014 - The weather is getting colder, wet, and windy, and I have started placing entry reducers on the front of the hives to keep the weather out and reduce stress on the bees. I do use upper ventilation, either in the form of slot cut in the inner cover or by placing a coin between the inner and outer covers. It's not much, but enough to vent out any excess moisture that the bees might generate but not enough to create a significant chimmey effect.

  One interesting thing I did notice this year was the significant decrease in Hive Beetles. What I did do last year was place Beneficial Nematodes under most of my hives. While I can't positively say it was what caused the decrease, the only hive with any significant number of beetles was the only hive not placed over the nematodes from last year. I have repeated this on a larger scale this year to include my garden which seems to have more than it's fair share of undesirable bugs.

  I had no luck catching a swarm this year, the one I did catch, has winnowed down to nothing and is essentially gone. The three other bait hives producted nothing but wood roaches, red wasps, and a mouse. But on a bright note, I learned how to graft a queen, gained two hives from splits and I don't think any of my hives swarmed, so I kept all my bees this year and I got this award at the local fair, so all in all, it was a good year.

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