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I began this blog to chronicle my beekeeping experiences. I have read lots of beekeeping books, but nothing takes the place of either hands-on experience with an experienced beekeeper or good pictures of the process. I want people to have a clearer picture of what to expect in their beekeeping so I post pictures and write about my beekeeping saga here. Along the way, I've passed a number of certification levels and am now a!
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Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Stonehurst Place Saga

Today I did a deep inspection of the hives at Stonehurst Place Inn.  I knew one hive was dead and wanted to find out why they had died.  I suspected they starved/froze in the cold few days we had when it was 19 degrees here after a warm spell.

I also wanted to check the first hive to see if they appeared to have swarm plans.  I had given them a new box when I was here a couple of weeks ago and discovered that the second hive was dead.

I always get stung a couple of times working these bees.  Today was no exception - three stings - left hand little finger, upper left arm, lower right leg.  These aren't really mean bees compared to Colony Square but aren't bees I want to work on gloveless.



The top box which I had given them at the end of February had three frames of drawn comb, two frames of barely drawn comb and one frame with comb being built from the bottom.  This is because I just threw this box on top of the hive and didn't give them a full frame from the box beneath to act as a ladder.  I moved this bottom drawn comb to the edge of the box.  If they don't fill it out, I'll take it out on my next visit.

The second box was heavy with capped honey and uncapped nectar.



When I lifted off the box to look at the one underneath, I broke open honeycomb they had built between the boxes - they were distressed and immediately began re-gathering the honey because the bees will store this again.  They do not waste something they worked so hard to create.



The capped honey was what is called "wet cappings" because the bees lay the wax cap right on the honey creating a wet look.  I wonder what influences their choice to make wet or dry cappings?  Anyway, this hive is on track to make a lot of honey.  We'll probably need to harvest early and maybe more than once.



So the top box was empty but newly drawn comb.  The second box was all honey and nectar.  The third box was full of brood - and it was pretty as well.  Here you see what brood looks like on newly drawn comb.


There are both drone cells (the highly rounded tops) and worker cells on this frame.  Some of the drone cells are not fully capped and you can still see the larva through the opening in the top of the cell.



I thought it was interesting that they put drone cells occupying one whole side of this frame.



In this comb you can see worker brood capped to the left, and uncapped larvae just to the right of that.  Then in the open cells there are eggs.  You may have a hard time seeing the eggs in the cells with the light behind them, but in the cells with the darker background, you should be able to see a lot of eggs (at about 1:00 in the photo).



I was planning to remove the bottom deep but the bees had drone brood between box 1 and box 2 as well as between box 2 and box 3.  When I pulled up frames from the bottom, it's true that they weren't fully using the frames, but there was brood as well as nectar stored there.  The good news is that I didn't see a single queen cell or even an opened one, so these bees must not be planning to swarm - at least not right now.



When I opened hive #2 it was clear that they had starved.  The bees were flying around in January when I did the powdered sugar shake and the hive looked healthy.  Right after that, though, we had a string of four or five days with weather too cold for the bees to move or fly.  These bees died then.  There was a baseball sized cluster of bees - you can see the top of the cluster in this picture.



The frames were sickening.  They were clustered through three frames.  A sure sign of starvation is to see their little rear ends up in the air, heads down in the cell, getting the final sip of honey before all dying together.



We've ordered two nucs for Stonehurst - a nuc to replace this one and a new nuc to make a third hive.  It's going to be really crowded back there, working the bees, but the Inn will be glad for the opportunity to make more honey this year.

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6 comments:

  1. Sorry for your lost hive. In that last picture, in the upper right is that wax moth webbing?

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  2. that is actually small hive beetle slime, but several of the frames had the beginning of wax moth damage so I took the hive cover and inner cover inside and left the boxes open stacked catty corner on each other, exposing each box to light, air and sun which will diminish the wax moth damage until I get back over there.

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  3. Oh, I see.
    We don't have SHB up here in New England - too cold. Thank goodness - one fewer pest to deal with...

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  4. I am sorry you lost your hive. That same bout of cold days in NC dropped our numbers, but we got lucky and it has bounced back. Regarding drones, my frames look the same, as well as other members of our club remarked about the large numbers of drones in their colonies. Weird year.

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  5. we are so fortunate to have Linda as our master bee keeper and I learn so much from her. During the busy bee (no pun intended) season it would be impossible for me to devote the time required to maintian the hives without Linda. Our guests love the honey and are always so curious about the entire process. We only have a few that seem to be concerend about "all those bees flying around". We really need more people like Barb Shadomy the owner and Linda to help make our environment a healthier and more enjoyable place to live. Keeping the bees brings back fond memories for me as my grandfather keep hives under a large stand of crabapple trees in Chattanooga Tennessee....I can close my eys and feel the sun, hear the bees, and oh the honey and honey comb....too bad every kid in the world cannot experience that!

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  6. Nikkiv5:48 AM

    So sorry you lost some bees. I am an urban beekeeper in London (UK) and lost mine to starvation a couple of years ago. It was soul destroying to open the hive and find them like that. Fortunately mine have survived again this year and the weather is now warm enough to check them. The extremely mild winter here has meant that the varroa population is far greater than usual at this time of year, but thankfully we dont (yet) have small hive beetle here in England. Really hope we manage to keep them out too.
    Good luck for the rest of the season, Linda and Caroline, I really love your blog!
    Nikki, London

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