• Tag Archives drones
  • Bee Diary: July 7, 2010

    Summer                                  Waning Strawberry Moon

    Dave Schroeder, president of the Minnesota Hobby Beekeepers, came by this morning to look at my bees.  We opened up the package colony first.  “They’re drawing out comb, look good.”  He gave me a tip about keeping megan173/8″ inch between foundations–bee space. “If they have more space than than, they’ll fill it with comb.  Wasting their time.”  “You moved a frame up from below. Good.  Just like you’re supposed to do.”

    (a fellow docent’s daughter, Megan.  she was a graduate student in the bee department at the time.)

    We cracked the parent colony.  Taking the telescoping cover off he placed it bottom side up.  “That’s where I put the supers,”  he said, “Helps you avoid killing bees.”

    As I lifted the top two off, he asked, “Any weight to’em?”


    He checked them.  I then took the fullest honey super off.  It weighs about 50 pounds.  Heavy, man.  And the next one.  A bit more weight on that one than last Friday.

    We checked the colony itself, in this case I wanted him to take a look, give me his impression.  “That on top is drone comb.  That means you’ve got a happy colony.  Now, I always scrape this off.”  He took his hive tool, scraped along the top of the frame, lifted off the drone cells with their white larvae exposed and dumped them in front of the hive.  “It’s just neater.”

    He made sure each box was square and fit perfectly on the next one.  I like to do that, too, but the heat or the weight of the box sometimes makes it hard for me.  I’m a little guy.

    After that, we replaced the queen excluder, the honey supers and moved 05-31-10_queenexcluder1over to the divide.  Oh, he did tell me I had the queen excluder on upside down.  Ooops.

    Commercial beekeepers apparently refer to queen excluders as honey excluders.  The bees don’t like to climb through’em, so it slows down honey production.

    On the divide, the one that prompted me to connect with him, we removed the two honey supers I’d put on as he suggested.  Then we looked at the top hive box which had honey on almost all of its frames.  There he showed me about moving end frames into the middle of the box.  “The bees won’t draw out comb on the side facing the box.  This way they will.”

    “Yeah.  This is plugged with honey.  If you don’t put supers on, they’ll crawl up here (into the third hive box), think, well, we’re done.  Ready for winter.  Then they won’t go up into the supers.”  I’m not clear why putting the honey supers on solves this problem.

    He suggested I take the queen excluder off  this one for a week.  That will encourage the bees to go up.  “Bees like to go up.”  Takes one barrier away.

    After we closed this colony, he said, “Where did I shake out those bees?”  Dave had shaken bees off the queen excluder as we checked it in the parent colony.  “Oh, yeah.  Let me show you another trick.”  He searched around, found a stick a bit thicker than a thumb and round.  Breaking it off at about 8 inches, he put it in the middle of the bees on the ground and rested the other end against the hive entrance.  “They’ll climb up that and get back in the colony a lot faster.”

    As we finished, he said he likes to have all his colonies facing south and in the open. “That way, they come to the entrance, look out, go, Oh, it’s sunny!  Think I’ll go out and go to work.”

    A lot of the comments he made were straight forward tips gained from years in bee-yards.  He’s been at it since 1974, 46 years by my count.

    (Got this on 7/8 from Bill Schmidt.  Why I’m not a scientist.  By the way, your math on the beekeepers years with bees needs attention.  2010 – 1974 = 36 years, not 46.)

    After we finished the hive inspections, “Your bees are doing good.” we sat in front of the honey house and talked bees for about a half an hour.

    He keeps about 100 colonies and plans to take them to California this fall.  “Out there they can work.  Get strong.  Here, they’re just struggling to survive.”05-31-10_filledhoneysuper

    He told about honey extracting, the relative merits of different kinds of equipment, about the high trailer he uses to store honey supers near his colonies, the years he spent working for his brother-in-law, “I wouldn’t take no money.  I was just in it for the education.”

    He says 100 doesn’t make him commercial.  When I asked him what does make a commercial bee-keeper, he said, “Oh, 400-500 colonies at least.”

    It was a pleasure to have him over and very useful.

  • Bee Diary: July 2, 2010

    Summer                                   Waning Strawberry Moon

    Just sent an e-mail to the Minnesota Hobby Beekeeper’s Association.  I need help.  We’re in mid-season now and I don’t understand what I’m seeing in the hives, nor do I understand enough about where things should be right now.  The two  make a whole.  That is, I don’t understand what I’m seeing because I don’t know where things should be right now.

    I did a reverse on the parent colony, the last one, according to the book.  I do have more weight in the second honey super, but little action in three and four. This colony continues to be defensive, much more so than the package and about on par with the divide.

    The divide has filled the third hive box with honey, no brood at all.  I don’t know what that means, though I suspect it might mean I’ve had a swarm and am now queenless.  I did see brood, but workers will lay if a queen is gone.  Trouble is, since they’re not fertile, the only thing they can produce are drones.  There did seem to be a number of drone cells–they have a higher cap to accommodate the drone’s larger body.

    The package colony looks pristine, the larvae laying pattern seems ok and there is a general air of healthiness.  Not that there isn’t in the other two, but this one is like a puppy, all fresh and perky.  It has not, however, done much work at all on the third hive box, a bit of drawing out comb, but that’s about it.  Again, I don’t know what that means.

    I did get stung a couple of times, but I smoked the stings, scraped them off–rather than pull them out which injects more venom–and applied sting-ease.  The parent and the colony both have a more defensive posture than the package.  It could be, too, that I’m still somewhat clumsy with my frame inspections and crush the occasional bee.  There are many more bees in both of these colonies, so more chance for accidents.

    So much to learn.

  • Late June Hive Inspection

    Summer                        Waxing Summer Moon

    Mark and Elise came over today.  We wandered through the garden and the orchard, followed by Rigel and Vega.  They licked and pressed and jumped.  New people!  New people!  Oh, boy!  Oh, boy!  New people!  Rigel and Vega found Leif and Tate and Tate’s twin really, really interesting.  Baby head!  Baby head!  Oh, boy!  Oh, boy!

    Mark and I went out to the hive and popped the lid after suiting up.  The smoker worked better today, but I’ve still not got it down.  There are a lot of bees.  I thought so, but Mark confirmed it.  There are lots of brood, plenty of honey and a few uninhabited queen cells.  We scraped and checked each of the 20 frames, leaving two frames out to insert into the new box we put on top.  The hive is now three boxes high, its maximum.

    Next week or so, the honey supers go on the third box.  About half the size of a hive box the supers fill up with honey.  They are the work product that goes into the centrifuge for extraction.  A typical super has about 30 pounds of honey.  Seems like a lot to me.

    Mark finds the bees fascinating per se, the honey a bonus that sometimes pays for the bees and the equipment in a given year.  I agree.  The hive construction project alone interests me.  The six sided cells, the propolis, drone, worker and queen cells, the making of honey and its storage reveal a life way and a life form unlike any we contact in the usual day to day.  There is more, too: the queen and her squadron of drones, hopeful suitors, all but one of whom will live and die unfulfilled, the solitary life of the queen, moving from cell to cell squeezing out egg after fertilized egg, the workers who build the cells and scout out food, coming back to communicate in a well known  complicated dance.

    Many bee keepers work without suits and gloves.  Honey bees that survive our winters have a docile temperament and are not as defensive as the ordinary person would imagine, though Mark says they get more protective in the fall when the beekeeper begins to take the honey.   This might seem a bit cruel, but in fact the bulk of the honey, say 80-90 pounds, remains in the hive boxes and has enough nourishment for the hives to over winter.

  • A Good Night at Cards

    Beltane                          Waxing Dyan Moon

    “After another night of losing sheepshead, it finally came to me.  These guys have been playing a lot longer than I have.  Bill since childhood.  Roy and Dick since high school and Ed since entering the Jesuits.  Now I view them as my mentors.  That way I can lose and learn, instead of just lose.”   from a May 7, 2009 post after I finished at the bottom again.

    Some nights the cards change and the tide flows with  you.  Last night I got great cards and did well.  Anything I’ve learned in this reprise of my brief sheepshead career in Appleton, Wisconsin, I’ve learned from these guys.

    Those cells I thought were queen cells were drone cells.  Drones have a life devoted to the vain pursuit of sex.  Sounds like the American teenager when I grew up.  Drones fly out and around, hoping to find a queen who needs him.  This is a very rare occurrence, so only the most fortunate of these bee princes ever become king for a day.

    Yesterday I planted squash, melons and beans, thinned the turnips and replanted carrots and beets.  The last time I dicentra09planted carrots and beets I didn’t water them in.  Probably should have.  The potatoes needed mounding and I discovered that the beets and turnips both benefit from mounding too.  If a portion of these tuberous vegetables stick up above ground, they turn green and inedible.

    The red car got expensive again and will get a bit more so.  This time it needed a new radiator and coolant flush, a flush of brake fluid and steering fluid, a new transmission gasket and a flush of the transmission fluid with new replacement fluids.  It probably also needs a new master brake cylinder, but I said no to that out of sticker shock.  After consulting the mechanic, I’m going to order the part and have it replaced.  Suddenly having no brakes is not a good thing.