Day by day blog: aka exterior inspections - Page 2
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  1. #21
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    Smile Day 18 - Bodhi Bee

    Day 18
    Tuesday, April 4, 2017

    My first memories of honey bees was seeing my great-uncle tend his bees. He had such a peaceful smile on his face.

    Beekeeping means something different now compared to those many years ago. Now its about the future.

    I would like to get my son Bodhi at least familiar with beekeeping, maybe learn some nature. I won't push it, though.

    Today I gave him his bee suit. When I first got my bee suit, he was jealous. He's really into superheroes, he was playing Spider-man, so I said I was "Bee-man". He really wanted a bee suit so I bought him one.

    It's a bit big on him, but he manages okay in it and he really likes it.

    We went out to the hive. Our cat Tiggy followed us. At one point he even jumped on top of the hive. Silly cat.

    It was later in the afternoon, so mostly bees returning to a full hive. Some of the bees had big pollen loads, bigger than I saw before. I warned Bodhi not to touch the bees. If one landed on him, don't swat it!

    I really hope he gets into it!
    Attached Images Attached Images
    Last edited by Yunzow; 04-06-2017 at 06:35 AM.

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  3. #22
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    Default Day 19 and Day 20

    Day 19 and Day 20
    Wednesday April 5, 2017
    Thursday April 6, 2017

    We had a tornado watch through most of Georgia and Wednesday was a very cloudy dark day. I visited the hive at night and there was much less activity at the entrances than I had seen before. I was able to get out there a little Thursday afternoon, a cool day. Similarly not much going on around the hive; usually there are many bees buzzing around, coming and going. Instead a few bees coming in every now and then. Any bee that exited took off like a shot.

    I'm looking forward to Saturday. Going to open up the hive, it will 21 days since the install!
    Last edited by Yunzow; 04-08-2017 at 09:46 AM.

  4. #23
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    Default Day 21 - moon and lake

    Day 21
    Friday, April 7, 2017

    It was a busy day at work and after work and then we had a long dinner, so I didn't see the hive until late at night almost midnight. The moon was bright and a stream was running from the lake. It was very serene. No activity at the entrance but I could see inside the first comb, which is set back several bars from the entrance, bees busy doing there thing.

  5. #24
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    Sad Day 22 - stressful!


    Day 22
    Saturday, April 8, 2017

    Today I opened up the hive and inspected all the bars. This was very very stressful. The hardest part was putting the hive back together, the bees were getting more and more agitated. Not so easy to get them to go back into the hive. I need to keep working on my technique, because whenever I closed one space it would open up another space and the bees would come pouring back out. Part of it I think is that the front of the hive, there is not a great stop if I push the bars forward. I had put a couple of angled screws in the front board, but if I push a bar against them, the bar tends to want to hop over the screws. Hard to fix now!

    I could see that I squished a few definitely. Then there was a bunch gather right on top of the bars and I could get them to move away so I could put the lid down without squishing them. Brushing them caused them to buzz me.

    Very stressful!

    The combs start perhaps four or five bars back from the front and go to the letter "p", since I labeled the bars using the alphabet and then numbers 1 - 6. I could see the last couple of combs appeared to be just honey.

    There were definitely capped cells in the brood area and I could also identify a small area of drone domes. There was some cross combing in a couple of the brood bars, a little bit of attachment to the right wall, but not strongly attached.

    Whew, closing a hive is not fun!

  6. #25
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    Default Day 23 - hive modification

    Day 23
    Sunday, April 9, 2017

    I had used the design for Kenyan Top Bar Hive that Michael Bush had posted to his website. You'll note that the entrance is a gap between the first bar and the front board.

    The problem I've been having with this is that when I am putting the hive back together if I can't really push forward on the bars because there is nothing that would stop the first bar from closing that gap / entrance.

    I had put a couple of slanted screws in the front board to serve as a stop, the one on the right was at the right angle / length, but the one on the left, the bar just pops over it.

    So today, I ended up putting a screw vertical in the left board, this serves an effective stop.

    I verified that I killed about twenty bees, when I put the lid back on yesterday. Some got squished immediately, others could get out from under. I had tried to brush them away but that just agitated them and they went right back to the same place on top of the bars. Sigh.

  7. #26
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    Default Day 24

    Day 24
    Monday April 10, 2017

    I checked the hive in the late afternoon, looked like there was still about an hour of sun left. There were some returning bees with pollen, big loads, the others with nectar. There was also bees shooting out of the right side entrance. Could have been new foragers doing an orientation flight?

  8. #27
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    Default Re: Day 24

    Whenever I have squished a bee, I've seen the rest congregate around there too. The dead bee leaves an alarm smell, or something like that. using the smoker on it can help disperse the "crowd". Also try sugar syrup in a spray bottle - 1:1 sugar syrup - spray it lightly on the center of the comb (not the bars) to attract them to the comb not the bars. That was Lorenzo Langstroth's preferred method - he didn't like a smoker - way back in the 1850s or so!

    Some days are like that, where closing is a pain. I have had a hard time getting fast with bee inspections too. But practice makes perfect! Check out Randy Oliver NY wellness on bee inspections - he has some good tips even though he runs langs for money. Still I learned a lot!

    Also consider putting together a "comb dropped" kit and bring it to the hive. You can use bird netting and a clip or staple gun, with a hair clip to hold it in place while putting together what you need to for repairs. Check previous posts about technique - but it is a real pain to have to run back to the house for materials when the comb has dropped!

  9. #28
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    Default Re: Day 24

    Thanks for all the tips Trish!

  10. #29
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    Default Day 25 - Wyatt A Mangum

    Day 25
    Tuesday, April 11, 2017

    I visited the hive in the late afternoon after work. All I really can do is look at the outside because it is not an ideal time for me to open the hive for lots of reasons.

    I saw a bumblebee buzzing around the hive. I assume she is not long for this world....

    The bees have shifted entrances. They were using the center entrance as their main, now they are using a side entrance on the right. I think this might be because that is where the morning light hits first.

    I went to the Gwinnett County Beekeeper meeting. Very pleased to see so many people and of all ages. However, I was the only person to raise a hand when the speaker asked who kept bees in a top bar hive.

    They have an excellent library. I have to say for a total newbie like myself, Wyatt A Mangum's book is the best. This gives much more detail about the basics of building a top bar hive, said details are very scant in other books I have about Top Bar hives. I've only skimmed it so far, so more later....

  11. #30
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    Default Day 26 - carpenter bees, drones

    Day 26
    Wednesday, April 12, 2017

    Okay, you'll see elsewhere I posted I found a couple of carpenter bees boring holes into the bottom board of the hive. One had just about made it all the way through. I guess the guard bees would take care of them once they made it through, but I don't like the idea of them making a bunch of holes. So I duct taped all the bottom with blue duct tape. We'll see!

    I saw some drone activity, which I hadn't seen in a while, so I figure these could be hatched from the domes I saw on Saturday.

  12. #31
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    Default Day 27 - blue duct tape and lid mods

    Day 27
    Thursday, April 14, 2017

    So it looks like the blue duct tape worked. No more carpenter bees! In other threads, you will see mentioned that carpenter bees can chew their way through most physical barriers, so the tape itself isn't a real impediment to them. I was figuring the blue color and maybe the adhesive "smell" might throw them off.

    I spent most of today obsessing about fixing up my hive lid, per Mangum's recommendations. My current lid is a piece of plywood about 17" by 48". I've been concerned the whole time that it didn't have enough overhang, and really no overhang for the front and back entrance. Also, I realized that providing a 2x4 spacer underneath the lid (Mangum says for airflow to reduce the heat) would also make it easier for me not to squish any bees when I am replacing the lid.

    One thing I will do instead of painting the lid is staple white plastic cardboard to the top (Mangum recommends paint the plastic cardboard is my idea). I got two 18" by 24" pieces from Home Depot, so I will have a couple of inches in the middle not covered. Then I am going to have two cedar 2x4's attached to the bottom to provide the airflow / non-squish space.

  13. #32
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    Default Day 28 - return of the carpenter bee!

    Day 28
    Friday, April 14, 2017

    She came back. She is avoiding all the duct tape on the bottom board, but started making a hole where the side board meets the bottom board, looks like trying to angle up into the side board. So I duct taped that angle junction on both sides. We'll see!

    I modified the lid as per Mangum, with 2x4s underneath to provide airflow space. My own modification, instead of painting the top, I stapled white plastic cardboard to the lid, overhanging the lid by a few inches on the sides and ends.

    Now this left a large gap where the first bar doesn't meet the front board (which follows the original design). I put a spare wide top bar over the gap so that the entrances were reduced as before lid modification.

    The bees are very busy today. I notice that the drones are really loud and clumsy! One thing I noticed, it seemed like there were different size worker bees. I am going to speculate this is because the original package was from a Langstrom, with bigger cell size due to foundation, whereas the bees hatched in my top bar are smaller.
    Last edited by Yunzow; 04-14-2017 at 04:12 PM.

  14. #33
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    Default Re: Days 15 - 17: the move

    I just installed my bees today, thanks for sharing this! Really interesting to see as a new beekeeper myself. Glad I'm not the only one who is slightly intimidated by hive inspections - I had to go back into my hive today after install and they were furious - I felt awful.
    Excited to read about and learn from your journey!

  15. #34
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    Default Re: Days 15 - 17: the move

    Cool, thanks for the feedback, what kind of top bar do you have? Could you tell me your experiences about smoking or not? I started off with smoke, then stopped because it seemed to aggravate them (I was probably doing it wrong), but now I'm back in the mindset to try it again....

    Quote Originally Posted by VanBow View Post
    I just installed my bees today, thanks for sharing this! Really interesting to see as a new beekeeper myself. Glad I'm not the only one who is slightly intimidated by hive inspections - I had to go back into my hive today after install and they were furious - I felt awful.
    Excited to read about and learn from your journey!

  16. #35
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    Default Day 29 - partial inspection

    Day 29
    Saturday, April 15, 2017

    Today I only did a partial inspection, for the purposes to see how many combs they had made and how far forward they were going.

    I had labeled the bars a-z then 1-6, so I could see them beginning a comb at E and starting a comb at Q.

    Last week I had switched O and P where P was a partial comb. So at the end they had definitely added an almost full comb and then a partial comb.

    I didn't have a good sense from last week where the beginning comb was. So today it seems like about 11 full combs and two partial combs. this means my total from last week was wrong, so it wasn't 12.5 last week, I would hazard a guess it was ten or nine.

    The other thing I noted was that the bees completely covered every single comb. Now this was at 10 a.m., when most of the foragers had left. I think this hive is quite crowded now.
    Last edited by Yunzow; 04-16-2017 at 07:11 AM.

  17. #36
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    Default Re: Days 15 - 17: the move

    Quote Originally Posted by Yunzow View Post
    Cool, thanks for the feedback, what kind of top bar do you have? Could you tell me your experiences about smoking or not? I started off with smoke, then stopped because it seemed to aggravate them (I was probably doing it wrong), but now I'm back in the mindset to try it again....
    Thank you for asking this because it got me thinking, and I think I understand what happened yesterday!

    So, when I went into the first hive (I needed to wire the queen to a top bar I had left her on the bottom board not realizing it was too cold for that), I didn't expect much resistance. I guess I assumed they still didn't feel like they had a queen or hive so wouldn't be bothered. THEY REALLY WERE. Which, maybe I should feel encouraged about, but it was incredibly stressful for both of us. I hadn't used a smoker on that one, not thinking I'd need to.
    When they started being really aggressive, I wrapped up as quick as I could and decided I really needed to smoke the next hive. This is where I should've practiced because I don't know what fuel to use, etc. to make sure the smoker isn't hot but is doing its job. Under the circumstances (I was pretty flustered), I think I did okay in that regard but I'm sure it could've been better. With the next hive I smoked the entrance, then when I lifted the roof, then when I would lift bars. I was trying not to oversmoke but it didn't seem to be doing ANYTHING and I couldn't figure out why.
    HOWEVER, and a more experienced person can correct me if I'm wrong, I think I realized why it did nothing when you asked me this question. Smoking, as I understand it, works because they think there's a fire and respond by filling up with honey in case the entire hive needs to relocate. This makes them heavier, and slightly more sluggish/docile. But these gals didn't HAVE any honey because I just put them in. So instead of calming them it just heightened their aggravation. I'm sure they thought, "WOW TERRIBLE LUCK, a bear is ripping into our hive, attacking our queen, and ALSO THERE'S A FIRE."
    Maybe in the early days I should be using a sugar syrup sprayer instead? So they're distracted trying to clean that off themselves? I didn't really want to get them all wet since the weather wasn't warm, and I've heard mixed opinions on that causing issues.
    Sorry, long post, but that's my current frame of thinking. I do plan on smoking slightly, or at least having it on hand if needed, in future inspections, but I don't think it'll "work" till the hive is really established and has honey stored.

  18. #37
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    Default Re: Days 15 - 17: the move

    Oh, oops, forgot to answer your question about what type of hives I have. Kenyan, custom dimensions.
    IMG_20170403_181704251.jpg
    (My hive build journey can be found here.)
    Second year beekeeper with two Kenyan Top Bar Hives.

  19. #38
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    Default Day 30 - death of a honeybee

    Day 30
    Sunday, April 16, 2017

    I arrived home after midnight, having been out of town most of yesterday. So naturally, the first thing I wanted to do was go look at the hive.

    No ants, no carpenter beers. A small group of bees lounging just outside the south entrance. Nothing too interesting.

    Later when I was inside my house i realized a bee had stowed away on me. There was a bee banging into the overhead kitchen light.

    I turned off that light and she went into the light fixture over the sink.

    Easy enough to kill her, but why would I do that? I decided I would try to get her out of the house, possibly back into the hive.

    So I sprayed her with pure water and knocked her down with a turkey feather down into a bowl.

    Now here is where I should have left well enough alone. She kept climbing out of the bowl and I would knock her back down. I got it into my head that i was going to walk her back to hive. Hindsight, should just let her climb out of the bowl, put the bowl just outside the house.

    Instead, I tried putting her on the turkey feather. Worked at first, but then I immediately dropped her on the ground. I wouldn't have thought it, but this seemed to mess her up pretty bad and she looked dead. Maybe it was the combination of too much water and falling and she was cold, or something.

    Anyways I got her back to the hive eventually, but she looked pretty stiff.

    Bees dying all the time every day naturally, I just hate it when I do something clumsy that kills one....

  20. #39
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    Default Re: Days 15 - 17: the move

    Yeah I tried to use a smoker yesterday and failed miserably. A little puzzling to me because the first time I used a smoker I got it going okay. However that time I did use a whole bunch of sage mixed with pine and newspaper.

    Guess I have to practice lighting it.

    The being filled with honey thing you mentioned reminds me of what i did at the beginning. I dumped a bunch of raw honey on the bottom board before install and a few days later. When I opened the hive to remove the queen cage they pretty much ignored me, no smoke at all.

    I also did a relatively quick release of the queen. I would call it a modified quick release, smeared raw honey on the open end and then put the cage on the board. I would not do it exactly like that In hindsight, maybe attach the cage to a bar I some way.

    I understand the raw honey thing is risky because foulbrood. I tend to learn the hard way

    Quote Originally Posted by VanBow View Post
    Thank you for asking this because it got me thinking, and I think I understand what happened yesterday!

    So, when I went into the first hive (I needed to wire the queen to a top bar I had left her on the bottom board not realizing it was too cold for that), I didn't expect much resistance. I guess I assumed they still didn't feel like they had a queen or hive so wouldn't be bothered. THEY REALLY WERE. Which, maybe I should feel encouraged about, but it was incredibly stressful for both of us. I hadn't used a smoker on that one, not thinking I'd need to.
    When they started being really aggressive, I wrapped up as quick as I could and decided I really needed to smoke the next hive. This is where I should've practiced because I don't know what fuel to use, etc. to make sure the smoker isn't hot but is doing its job. Under the circumstances (I was pretty flustered), I think I did okay in that regard but I'm sure it could've been better. With the next hive I smoked the entrance, then when I lifted the roof, then when I would lift bars. I was trying not to oversmoke but it didn't seem to be doing ANYTHING and I couldn't figure out why.
    HOWEVER, and a more experienced person can correct me if I'm wrong, I think I realized why it did nothing when you asked me this question. Smoking, as I understand it, works because they think there's a fire and respond by filling up with honey in case the entire hive needs to relocate. This makes them heavier, and slightly more sluggish/docile. But these gals didn't HAVE any honey because I just put them in. So instead of calming them it just heightened their aggravation. I'm sure they thought, "WOW TERRIBLE LUCK, a bear is ripping into our hive, attacking our queen, and ALSO THERE'S A FIRE."
    Maybe in the early days I should be using a sugar syrup sprayer instead? So they're distracted trying to clean that off themselves? I didn't really want to get them all wet since the weather wasn't warm, and I've heard mixed opinions on that causing issues.
    Sorry, long post, but that's my current frame of thinking. I do plan on smoking slightly, or at least having it on hand if needed, in future inspections, but I don't think it'll "work" till the hive is really established and has honey stored.

  21. #40
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    Eugene, Oregon
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    Default Re: Days 15 - 17: the move

    Yeah, I *really* wish I had comb and capped honey from another hive to give them, but alas, the downside of being a first time beekeeper. Next time I will!
    Second year beekeeper with two Kenyan Top Bar Hives.

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