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Sunday, March 29, 2015

Hive Expansion

Slat Adds 8 and 9

Today we provided two more slats for the bees to work with.  Following inspection and expansion, we decided we probably won't mess with the hive for two weeks to give more time for larger comb building and to give the bees a bit of peace.

Slat 3

Top Bar Slat 3 March 22, 2015

Top Bar Slat 3, March 29, 2015
We have pictures of slat three from one week ago and this week.  The queen continues to be busy, but we still can't seem to find her among all the other bees.  We did find what we think is a drone though.

It looks like the cells were freshly capped last week when we first got a look at the bees work.  The comb was pretty full, but still had some uncapped cells filled with larvae and the size was slightly smaller than this week.

When we got a look at slat 3 this week, the cell caps look dehydrated and darker.  Less of the cells are open and new brood is in some of the open cells.

Bees are very busy even as we're inspecting, doing something while dipping almost half way into the cells here and there.


It is probably a good sign that we haven't seen many drones in the hive, because they are high maintenance and are only around to service a virgin queen.
Drone Bee Found On Slat 3

We have no large cells or bulges in the hive either.  Large numbers of drones and queen cells are an indication that the old queen is not doing well and a new queen will be taking over.  I guess that's not happening here for a bit longer.

New Comb

New Comb On Slat 6 After 7 Days
In just 7 days, we have two good sized new combs.  Since they aren't completely full or built out, we're going to let the bees do their thing for two weeks this time and then expand the hive again (although peeping through the observation window still).

We've been toying with the idea of putting in an excluder partition slat to keep the queen towards the front of the hive and the honey/wax production towards the back of the hive.  Our main purpose is the health of the hive over honey/wax production so we aren't in
New Comb On slat 7 After 7 Days
any hurry to make decisions on this right now.  It may be difficult to find an excluder for our top bar hive.

That wraps up the hive status for our little bee farm.  If anyone has any tips for keeping bees in Zone 9/10, we'd love to hear them.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Captured Swarm

Swarm Capture and Management

It's been quite some time since posting.  Mostly because our new dogs ruined just about everything in our garden which was pretty depressing.  This caused pretty much no news to develop with the exception of the March swarming of bees in our area.
Our 'dog eared' top bar beehive sited

I previously posted about our slump block bees and our construction of our first 'dog eared' beehive from cedar fence planks.  We waited patiently for bees to move in on their own, but that never really happened.

I tried making a lemongrass tincture from our lemongrass plants, but no interest.

In March, there were many reports of swarming and our neighbor told us they had a swarm in their oleanders.  They wanted us to know because they were planning to have an exterminator come and kill them off.  We were so glad they knocked on our door!
Oleander Swarm

The Swarm

We didn't photograph the entire process, but managed to get one blurry shot of the bees swarming on an oleander branch.  It was towards our side of the property, so Mr. Man donned a make shift bee suit and set to fetching them.

It was really interesting to see.  The first try Mr. Man cut the branch and the jolt caused the bees to fly around in a cloud.  They didn't land on either of us, just flew around really disorganized.

Second try we got the branch and shook it so the bees just kind of fell off like a bunch of dirt falling into the bucket.  Not many people get to see this kind of thing.  I'm glad I had the experience.

We poured the bees into the beehive, but they started gathering back on the oleander pretty quickly.  We probably didn't get the queen the first two tries.

Hanging Around

Bees on the top bar beehive entrance
Third try, the bees hung around on the outside of the hive and didn't meander back to the oleanders.  We must have successfully moved the queen on the third try because after 24 hours there was nearly no activity on the outside of the hive, the oleander was bee-free and they were busy working on the inside.

We were very pleased to have the bees actually move in and get to work.  We then started wondering how are we going to manage them because we hadn't really expected that they would actually move in.  We decided to buy some 'real' bee suits which work wonderfully.


On our first inspection of the hive, we found all the work the bees have been up to and ended up
Busy bees in the top bar hive
expanding the top bars by two more slats for them to create more comb.

We found that many of the comb cells were capped and there were several cells with assorted sizes of larvae prior to being capped.  This means that the queen went straight to work in the 14 days they had the hive, laid eggs and workers capped them (at least 9 day old larvae).  I didn't see any honey comb, but it makes sense the energy is going towards expanding the hive before starting to store food.

We checked through the window this morning, and found that the two new slats have comb started, so we will expand the hive by two more slats tomorrow morning.  Hopefully this will encourage the bees to make straight, unconnected comb.

Slump Block Bee Hive

Slump block bees
So, what happened to the old hive?  It's still there.  We have talked about what to do with it and decided we'll build another top bar hive, version 2.0.  We learned a lot from the initial build and mistakes and plan on documenting the second version really well for posting.

We really don't want any bees in our small garden retaining wall.  We'll be researching how to remove them and help them through the transition.

We'll need to clean out the slump block afterwards (maybe purification by fire) and then fill the slump block openings with dirt to prevent any new bees from becoming interested in this really odd hive location.