Day by day blog: aka exterior inspections
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  1. #1
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    Thumbs Up Day by day blog: aka exterior inspections

    Hello, all,

    thank you so much for hosting this forum. I really value everyone's contributions and wisdom! I am so glad this forum exists at all.

    I am going to post my day by day blog, see replies below. Consider this the newbie's guide to DIY, written from a newbie's point of view.

    Why bother? I realized I could learn a lot from observing the exterior of the hive. It certainly helped me get more comfortable with the bees and they with me. I think I might have been upset by the ants if I hadn't been looking every day. Also, I learned a lot just watching the bees, watching them bring in pollen, seeing the Nasonov fanning. The producers of "Hive Alive" assert that you might tell that returning bees have nectar if their bottoms are sagging from the weight so they come in with an angular posture. I also deduce that they aren't coming back empty handed, especially because the pace was so fast.

    So here are my day by day observations....

    Heart,
    Thomas
    Last edited by Yunzow; 03-21-2017 at 04:30 PM.

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  3. #2
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    Default Day 1

    Day 1:
    Saturday, March 18th, 2017

    I picked up the 3 lb package near Baldwin GA, from Jarrett Apiaries. They were very nice and friendly and gave me excellent recommendations.

    I am a little superstitious, so I chose to drive my dad's pickup truck, because I thought the electromagnetism of the Chevrolet Volt might disturb them. It was a late start for me, I hoped to be up before 7 a.m. but alas, it was Saturday.

    It was a little wooden box of bees, with screens on two sides. I didn't realize how heavy it was until I picked it up, because it looks deceptively light. Don't touch the screen with your fingers, I suspect you might get stung.

    There were a couple of things I improvised, but what I did was largely follow the advice of experts in the field, though perhaps they are non-conformist, which suits my nature. For instance, I did what I would call a modified open release of the queen. I pushed in the cork (accidentally) on the non-candy end and smeared crystallized honey over the opening. Then I placed the cage on the bottom board. If I had it to do over, I would attach the queen cage to a bar, perhaps lengthwise parallel to the bar so the queen will come out on the middle of the bar. Remove the queen cage in a couple of hours if she is out.

    I was very intimidated by the dumping out of the bees. Especially when there were so many left in the box and I was nervous to keep whacking the box. So instead I came back a couple of times. Some I dumped directly on the lid. They figured it out.

    I placed a thin stick under the lid to reduce the entrance side. Here I made a clear mistake by putting the main entrance on the left side. I should have put it direct middle.

    I smeared raw honey all over the bottom of the board. I know some would disagree with using raw honey due to risk of spreading certain diseases, but I was following an expert's advice in that one. I misplaced the can feeder for sure. I think I should have propped it up on something.

    Oh, jumping back a bit, the cedar bars had got wet a little from a rain, so they expanded. I had to remove a bar and put a thin stick in its place so I could have the bars leave a gap in front.

    Jumping forward a bit, I went to look at the hive at night. I saw ants and I saw a mass of bees on the right wall. Oh no!

    Here is a video I posted to facebook from Day 1
    https://www.facebook.com/thomas.yun....type=2&theater
    Last edited by Yunzow; 03-21-2017 at 04:46 PM.

  4. #3
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    Default Day 2

    Sunday, March 19th, 2017

    On day two, I fretted about the situation with the bee mass on the right wall. I wanted to get the queen cage out and give them some more food. I filled my smoker with sage and pine. I have since concluded, I don't want to use a smoker with these bees in this hive, it seems to agitate them.

    For the ants, I decided to try cinnamon. So far this is working well. The bees seem most vulnerable to the ants at night, when the ants are relentless, so I would advise other newbies, check your hive at night.

    So I got the cage out not much problem. When I set the lid back down I inadvertently shifted the bars backwards, which if the clump was attached, it surely would have disrupted them.

    At that time the bees were agitated. A combination of the smoke and I had opened it up too much so many more bees were flying wildly around.

    So I didn't know what to do and I still have yet to receive any advice other than how to avoid it, which is very wise advice indeed. So I decided I would at least try to put honey on the wedges, which I had not done, in a minimalist approach, again not an improvisation, but advice from an expert.

    On the other hand, I want to mention over the first couple of days, I developed this idea of "bee meditation". Just hanging out in front of the hive, hive closed, watching the bees come and go, as they buzz all around my head. These are very intense little creatures! I keep chickens, too, and I do sometimes like to just hang out with them and watch them. It's a different thing with the bees. Of course, there is an instinctual fear.

    I think it is the energy that is completely different, just a very, very high vibration as the New Age folks might say. Yet very simple at the same time.

    I could probably sit in front of the hive for hours, but this would definitely raise the ire of my fiancée.
    Last edited by Yunzow; 03-22-2017 at 11:35 AM.

  5. #4
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    Default Day 3

    Monday, March 20th, 2017, the equinox

    I resolved to try to put honey on the wedges.

    When I pulled out the first bar, I saw that it was criss-crossed with amber threads of syrup and bees were hanging from it. Well yay! they figured it out. So I just closed up the hive and left it alone.

    When I went back at night, I couldn't really see any bees hanging in the middle near the entrance.

  6. #5
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    Default Day 4

    Tuesday, March 21st

    On Day four, it was very hot all of the sudden. It went from 40 overnight low around 6 a.m. to in the high eighties by the afternoon. Weird stuff. The weather is going to drop off mighty in a couple of days.

    I was worried that the entrance was going to be too small for them in this heat, but when I checked it about 5 p.m. there was no problem. It was certainly very active.

    I think I might open the hive again tomorrow. I have a new strategy with the clump. I am going to lift one of the bars and inspect it. Partly for education, but also to manipulate the clump. Like move the middle one out in front. Or switch sides. If it is even attached at all!

    PS. This was before Trishbookworm gave advice. In the late afternoon, I attempted to examine one of the bars in the middle of the cluster. I found it to be unattached by comb, but maybe it was part of a festoon along the wall.

    The sticks I have been using to reduce the entrance consistently fall every time I lift the lid. I have to fashion a reducer that will stay in place. Perhaps out of cardboard....
    Last edited by Yunzow; 03-21-2017 at 08:41 PM.

  7. #6
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    Default Re: Day 4

    This is a great idea! I have a caution and a question... probably not in that order... First, this mass of bees you speak of - if it's inside the hive, then that is normal bee behavior. When they don't have comb, then they hang in a clump. Soon they will build comb inside that clump. If you look up "festoon", on youtube, you'll probably see lots of examples. I like to peek inside my hive at night too, through the entrance - I have a headlamp - just a quick peek though! They have come out towards the light. :0

    My caution is about moving the bars near the cluster again. I have heard of bees absconding after too much stress/messing with them. If you can avoid disturbing the cluster for the next 10 days or so, then you will minimize that risk. Hopefully putting the honey on the bars has sweetened the deal - take care not to sour it! If you want to feed them, you can just put a mason jar (or old pb jar or anything airtight - even ziplock bag) on blocks maybe 3/4 inch high, inside the hive. You'll need to use a small nail or pushpin to make holes and then just put the inverted jar (or even a baggie, hole side down) on the bars. You can just put that 10 bars from the entrance. Or even better, on the other side of the follower/divider board, away from the bees and the entrance, if the follower board has holes.

    If you use 1 part sugar to 1 part syrup, that mimics nectar, so it's good for the bees to build comb. I also use raspberry tea in the water - just to give the sugar syrup a smell. any herbal tea, or even just some oregano if you don't have herbal tea, will serve to give the sugar syrup a smell. So the bees will come looking for it! I just use hot water from the tap - I think 2 quarts with 4 lbs sugar, but that makes 4 or 5 quart jars. Adjust as needed!

    Very exciting, good luck... try to have confidence the bees can fix most of our mistakes! We're still a good 3 weeks away from swarms and longer until packages arrive.

    Oh one more thing - I have seen the bees work hard to cool the hive. They use the smaller entrance and water to do air conditioning. Like I said, have confidence in the bees... they know what they're doing!

  8. #7
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    Default Re: Day 4

    Thank you so much for the reply, I am so glad to have a concept around the clump, which I will now call a festoon! And I will heed your advice about not moving the cluster bars right now.

  9. #8
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    Thumbs Up Day 5

    Day 5
    Wednesday, March 22, 2017

    Last night there was a big storm. The wind was whipping through the woods, so I was worried about the lid of the hive.

    This morning everything was intact. Of course the rain had washed away all the cinnamon and there were ants clustered at the rear of the hive. I think they had found a small gap in the back to get in.

    I'm going to switch gears with the ants, from discouraging them with the cinnamon barriers to killing them with a non-toxic spray. I usually mix a small amount of dishwashing detergent with water in a spray bottle. This kills most insects if you spray them directly. I figure this will allow me to kill the ants without putting the bees at risk. I've had decent success with this kind of spray with ants and hornets, but it does take a while to convince them that they are losing, usually repeatedly spraying them over the course of several days.

    So I made a mix of water and dishwashing detergent. I sprayed some ants in the kitchen, it worked! I also made a new entrance reducer, because the other one was completely unstable. I cut a fifteen inch wide piece of cardboard, maybe square, and I stapled two short bars to it. This worked well for my purposes.

    In the afternoon, after work, I observed the hive and drew the conclusion that I was not going to feed them anymore, because I believe they were getting plenty of nectar and the honey I was giving them was attracting pests. It had been cooler today, cloudy at times, but in the late afternoon it was warm and sunny. The pollen count was very high. I don't know yet if that is good for the bees. There were no visible ants on the hive.

    At night, I sprayed the ants that had suddenly appeared in the darkness. Quite a few gathered in the back, looking like they found a way in.

    I removed some back bars and looked inside. The festoon was growing in size. Now at its widest against the right wall, definitely spanning five bars or more, and also reaching like a pyramid towards the left wall. If it were a comb, it would be a massive comb. Of course, I don't know what I'm looking at. Please correct me if you know what is going on!

    Inspecting a hive at night is quite silly, I do not recommend it unless you are very stubborn and need to suffer for yourself.
    Last edited by Yunzow; 03-22-2017 at 07:46 PM.

  10. #9
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    Default Day 6

    Day 6
    Thursday
    March 23, 2017

    I haven't actually looked at the hive yet today, but I want to mention another thing I found last night, which was a dead bumblebee on the ground by the hive. I took it inside to look at it more closely, so fuzzy! No signs of any damage to it, but I assume the honey bees "took care of it." I also assume it is being attracted by the smells of bee food, which leads me to optimistically conclude my bee friends are drawing comb inside the hive.

    I went to look at the hive in the afternoon. That festooning clump is quite large now, which I suppose is a good thing, bigger and better. But it still looks like a big blob spreading out over many bars.

    I realized I had come to the wrong conclusion a few days ago when I decided against putting honey on the wedges.

    So I removed a couple of wedges right at the back of the clump and applied honey to the wedges. Then I put honey on the first four wedges in front of the clump.

    So we will see how this goes! I'm trying to stay optimistic.

    I went back at night and saw many ants, there were none during the day. I sprayed them dead with my non-toxic detergent spray.

    I almost got stung. One bee got under my shirt. But this was my fault, I started messing with the lid, which I have been fretting about all day. And I wasn't wearing any protection at all.
    Last edited by Yunzow; 03-23-2017 at 07:52 PM.

  11. #10
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    Default Day 7

    Day 7
    Friday March 24th, 2017

    Nothing much today. I took my friend Dave to go see the hive, from a distance because I didn't have a bee suit for him. Dave helped me build the hive. I had offered him honey, but he has sugar problems, so I told him I would make him a nice beeswax candle.

  12. #11
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    Big Grin Day 8

    Day 8
    Saturday, March 25th, 2017

    I got to examine the bees this morning, which was great, because I understand you will see different things throughout the day, and also they are less active in the hive, because most are out foraging.

    I saw a big difference immediately at the entrance, almost every bee was returning laden with pollen. This confirmed my intuition that they were getting plenty of food and didn't need to be fed.

    I looked in through the back of the hive. I could see that festoon, or clump, looked about the same. A thick pyramid jutting out from the right wall, spanning perhaps ten bars now.

    I started examining bars next to the clump, where I had put honey. They ate all the honey off, but no festooning. Fail.

    I started lifting bars on the periphery of the clump. Bees festooning, mostly. Finally three or four bars into the clump, there it was! I little bit of honey comb attached to the wedge even! I guess the only problem was that it was off center relative to the left and right in the hive, looking from the front.

    I was really challenged to put that comb back in. I ended up decapitating one bee. The body kept moving around without the head.

    Very exciting, looks like that clump is busy building combs on the wedges, from the right side of the hive.

  13. #12
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    Big Grin Day 9

    Day 9,
    Sunday
    March 26, 2017

    I wasn't able to examine the hive until late. In the main entrance, in the middle top, I could see perhaps four or more bees crowded right there. A couple were fanning, but with their abdomens down, so I believe this was NOT the Nasonov pheromone, perhaps for ventilation? I dunno.

    There weren't many ants, but there were some. Mostly little ones, but a couple of big ones. The big ones are harder to kill. I would have to saturate them completely.

    I was excited all weekend, thinking about the new comb they were making. Talk about flower children, baby bees, that is what they are!!!

  14. #13
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    Default Day 10

    Day 10
    Monday, March 27th, 2017

    Another day when I couldn't get to see the bees until late at night. The ants are looking scarce now, I think they got the message.

    We got our garden beds ready. I plan to plant many sunflowers, because I know that bees like them.
    Last edited by Yunzow; 03-29-2017 at 07:36 AM.

  15. #14
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    Default Day 11

    Day 11
    Tuesday, March 28th, 2017

    I was only able to visit the hive briefly today, due to being too busy.

    I planted some sunflowers today, I know that bees like them.

    My next "good day" for inspecting the hive is Friday morning because I have the day off. I need to do a really thorough inspection then (pull out all the bars and comb and inspect them all) because I haven't really done that yet, only inspected one comb bar because of lack of time but also some nervousness of getting the bars out and more importantly, back in there without killing too many bees.

    The gist of it appears to be removing several bars just to make space to move the comb bars around.

  16. #15
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    Default Day 12

    Day 12
    Wednesday March 29th, 2017

    Another night visit. Not much ant activity at all. I think they got the message.

    On the other hand the bees are very crowded in the entrances. (There is one entrance center top front and two smaller side entrances.) I don't know what this is about.

  17. #16
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    Default Day 13

    Day 13
    Thursday March 30, 2017

    There was a big commotion today. I85 collapsed, luckily no one got hurt. Then there was a powerful storm and many trees were felled. We lost power for the rest of the night and most of the next day.

    I checked the bees, the lid was secure.

  18. #17
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    Default Day 14 - how to bump bees

    Day 14
    Friday March 31, 2017

    I was looking forward to today because I had the day off so I would be able to examine the hive at the optimal time, which turned out to be around noon.

    It was very windy, so I got on the downwind side of the hive.

    First I removed the bars from the very back of ththe hive. This part of the hive is mostly empty, except a few dead bees on the bottom board. I could see that the combs were now stretching across to the left, and not attached to the right wall.

    I started pulling out bars of comb to inspect. I am new at this, I couldn't see any eggs for sure.

    I came to the point where there was some cross comb or perhaps it was burr comb. Basically, it looked like it was the remnant of th cluster on the right wall, attached to comb like a big bump. I took my hive tool and scraped away the bump and out came honey! Yay!

    The next comb was fairly attached to the comb next to it so that they moved together. In the meantime it seemed like th bees were more and more noticing me, or else I was getting intimidated.

    So I started closing the hive up.

    I want to talk about "bumping technique". This would appear to be a very crucial skill for beekeeping so as not to kill too many bees while closing the hive. Basically, bees are going to be in the way of the bar such that if you put it straight down you would crush them. To get them out of the way I would nudge them with th edge of the bar. Very gently. They got the hint and would descend back into th hive.

    I started to open th hive from the front. The first bar they had sealed to the hive body with propolis. I wanted to make sure it was removable.

    As for the remaining bars in what I assume is the brood area, I did end up pushing the bars back and forth along the length of the hive, because the bars had expanded somewhat so I had to put a different size spacer bar at the end. That they could move freely along that axis let me know at least there wasn't comb attachment to ththe wall.

    Anyways, I was super excited to see the honey. To me I seems they started building comb in dome shape on the right wall, then they spread onto the bars.

  19. #18
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    Default Re: Day 14 - how to bump bees

    This is a neat day-b-day! I am so looking forward to active bee season up here in OH, we get "fly days" in fits and starts right now until late April.

    I find that I am slow to put the bars back together when the bees are going up and over the sides, but that a thin slat, maybe 1/16 inches thick, so it is flexible, helps me a lot. I get the bars 1 bee width apart, then I gently put the slat down. Then I can move the bars closer and then remove the slat and do a final close. It's not that I am so reluctant to kill a bee or two, it's that their little corpses leave a gap that leads to a ton of propolis! Which I then have to scrape off to get the combs together... a pain.

    I have hived a couple of swarms, which start on plain bars, and I have been so amazed when they start their combs perfectly on the bar! I found it really hard to trust the festoon to be "tidy" when I saw them. However, I wait 10 days to move the bars with the cluster so I don't trigger absconding - I've had that happen before with a swarm when I went in too early.

    One thing I am trying this year is to keep an empty bar at the front of the hive, so I can start my hive inspections in the front by the brood nest and be sure I am not pulling apart something awful on accident. Each visit I will replace any comb there with a blank bar. Hope the girls get the message. I tried a 1/2 inch bar in front last year, and the bees put half of one comb on that front spacer, and half on bar #1. So I could never take it out. ;( If they had just picked one side it would have been fine! Fortunately the rest of the combs from then on out were only a bit off.

    Take care with not feeding - it's recommended that we feed sugar syrup (1:1 sugar water) until they have 2 or 3 combs of stores built up. Likely they will have the pollen/stores on its own comb, often at the edge of the broodnest for insulation and easy access, and then the brood combs will have some stores near the top and brood the rest of the way. So I will be feeding my swarms until they are at that point, but not past that. Sometimes we get a rainy/cool stretch where they can't forage for a week, and a hive without those 2 or 3 combs of stores will starve. Beginnings are such delicate times!

    Good luck and keep us posted! But take care not to poke and prod too much

  20. #19
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    Default Re: Day 14 - how to bump bees

    Thanks for this tip Trish, I will definitely try it!

    Quote Originally Posted by trishbookworm View Post
    I find that I am slow to put the bars back together when the bees are going up and over the sides, but that a thin slat, maybe 1/16 inches thick, so it is flexible, helps me a lot. I get the bars 1 bee width apart, then I gently put the slat down. Then I can move the bars closer and then remove the slat and do a final close. It's not that I am so reluctant to kill a bee or two, it's that their little corpses leave a gap that leads to a ton of propolis! Which I then have to scrape off to get the combs together... a pain.

  21. #20
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    Default Days 15 - 17: the move

    Days 15-17
    Saturday - Monday, April 1 - 3, 2017


    Haven't been near the hive for several days now because we were helping my mom move.

    I decided to plant alfalfa in our backyard for the chickens and the bees. I did read somewhere they don't like to get pollen from alfalfa because the plant somehow pops them on the head when releasing pollen, but they figure out some what to get nectar without triggering the pollen "snap".

    More later!

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