Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Busy Bees - Super-Installation, Hive Management and Heat-Protection

The yellow capped cells hold the next
generation and the darker spots honey
On Monday evening, I walked past the hive and noticed that a bunch of bees were sitting outside the hive at the entrance.

They were not all drones, who - like all men, sometimes get kicked out by the ladies for certain too manly behaviours. But there were also females, so, that was not the reason for the lingering at the entrance.

Were they OK?

Noone looked sicklish to me. I didn't see any varroe dots or ill behaviour, but then again, my bee-knowledge is still very limited.

After observing them for a while, I figured they may be either too hot or too crowded.

Considering that it had already cooled off somewhat from the day's heat (around 90F), I was betting on overcrowded. Sure enough, after opening the top cover, it was confirmed: Our bees had reproduced in such a rate that they needed more space.

Oh crap! Why do I ALWAYS discover this when the LA Honey Company is already closed, and we have no extra supers on hand.

On Tuesday morning - after dealing what felt like FOREVAH with Sprint to figure out how to repair my cell phone (they cannot because it will need replacement!), I finally was able to get to one of my favourite stores:

Los Angeles Honey Company in the heart of Los Angeles (1559 Fishburn, LA). While the drive is somewhat long and gnarly, I just LOVE being there. The place is a rather unspectacular warehouse in the metal recycling part of town but it is the people who makes this place so special.

Let me tell you: Folks there are just wonderful, always patient with my new-bee questions and super-knowledgeable (pun intended!).

 New bee home with filled up hive body on bottom,
one empty unpainted deep super in the middle
and a filled up medium super on top.
After explaining my problem and asking for two medium supers with ten frames including wired foundation, they suggested I should get one deep and one medium super as opposed to two mediums.

The owner explains to me that under very rare and good conditions (rain, nectar flow) in a wild sage area (like ours!), a hive can fill a deep super within one week. While I want them to be productive, I don't want to make another trip to Downtown LA next week to buy yet another super. OK, I take the deep and the medium.

Normally we assemble ourselves but this time I grabbed everything fully assembled because I need to provide new housing immediately: There is simply no time to wait for Roberto to come home and build this after work. I also got the extra medium super because I want to be prepared next time; if my ladies keep up this pace, they will fill this deep one in no time. Paid about $100 including tax.

Typically, I aim at the medium supers because I am not quite sure if I can lift a fully-honey-loaded deep super, which can weigh around 60 lbs. But HEY, who is to say I need to lift the whole thing at once? They advised I should take out frame by frame and that way I should be able to handle it. Good point!

Since the ladies need their home-addition immediately, should I forego the exterior painting? Yep, just put the super up. Alright then.

As I said, they are patient with me new-bee. Thanks again!

After one hour in beloved LA traffic (thank goodness for my car's MPG's being between 40 and 50!), I came home to this: a super-happy dog greeting me and two chickens (Black and Splash) in the kitchen including bird-poo on the travertine floor. I guess you can imagine, so I spare you the photos.

BUT HOW DID THEY GET IN? I am positive, I had closed the kitchen sliding door. Suddenly I remembered that Ms Smart-Paw had recently figured out how to open said sliding door. One look at my guilt ridden dog confirms my conclusion. So I shooshed out the featherheads, picked up poo, vaccumed and mopped the floor. So not what I wanted or needed! What I wanted was a massage and what I needed was 20 laps in the pool!

When I finally get to my bees a huge swarm greets me. WHOW! A quick look into all the surrounding trees: no, they are all going into the hive. So, they are not swarming; they are just a large colony.

I was advised to 'under-super' the hive, which basically means that I put the new deep super above the hive body but below the super that we installed a few weeks ago. This way the bees don't have to travel too far to get to the new room.

A quick check on the moon... perfect, it had just moved into gemini, which is an air-sign. All hive-work is best done with moon in an air-sign. Afterwards the colony will improve its brood-tending as well as honey-production after having been worked on an air-day.

I never use the smoker. Partially because I can never get this thing to smoke decently but I also don't see the point. Working the hive on an air-day, the bees are most docile, so I don't need to use it. I get the occasional bee on my hand but the majority remains on the frames.

While at the hive, I also did some colony-management, i.e. I moved some of the outer frames one frame more towards the center so that the bees may work the frames more evenly. Checked a majority of the frames to see what was going on. Didn't find anything suspicious looking - GOOD!

Found a couple of swarming cells, which I scraped off. They typically form at the bottom of the frame and contain a potentially new queen, with whom after her emergence half your colony will take off with, which is rather undesirable. My bee expert friends at LA Honey Co. had previously advised me to scrape them off and so that is what I did.

Didn't see her majesty but since there are a lot of brood-cells, I am assuming she is doing just fine.

Hive shading - at this point
still with one medium super
We installed this hive shade last week when temperatures started to rise. Our hive is located on the north side and therefore somewhat protected from the sun.

However, the sun moves and in the late afternoon, the hive gets a lot of sun.

Bees should be able to tolerate 90F and even 100F but when it gets to 110F, they sure can use some help.

I could just picture how the wax melted under their little wings and it didn't seem too pretty a sight, so I begged my man to create a shield to protect them. And he did. Thanks, BELLO!

After it was installed I realised that it disrupted their flight pattern and so I  kept observing them but apparently they are fine and if it really gets boiling hot out here, they will be in a much better place.


"Nature never says one thing and wisdom another." Decimus Junius Juvenalis

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