2011-04-11 Local Bees

 Some bugs I saw walking the dog this morning near All Nations Park, Northcote...

Only a couple of trees were flowering in the park, a red banksia and some sort of gum,
they were both going nuts with bees... I guess there is not much to choose from when the colder weather is coming on, so it's all in...
 ..and a few European Wasps
(Vespula germanica ; European Wasp)
Big brown Hairy  bee
 (Apis Mellifera; European Honey-bee)
 sucking down some nectar
 Another bloody wasp..
(the wasp / bee ratio was about 10%)
 A very yellow example of a European Honey-bee, and the whole tree was full of them.
I've never seen one this yellow.
Someone around these parts has a hive of these yellow bees...

I'm really hoping to see a Blue-Banded bee one day, they are a native bee, with bluish irridescent bands, are solitary, and live underground. Apparently they are around in Victoria, but much more common in warmer parts. Pretty sure I've never seen one, but I've never really paid attention, either.

2011-04-08 Metropolis is go / Winter shutdown.

The fate of Metropolis is decided - it shall live...for the moment.

I had a scare that the normal monarchal system had been over-run by Drone-laying anarcho-syndicalists (laying workers), but it seems that the new imported queen had survived her introduction into Metropolis.
 A typical frame from the Metropolis Brood box..
... and one with a patch of brood!
 More brood, different frame.
In all  I had four sides that had at least some brood, with grubs visible, too.
I didn't see the queen in person, but only she can be responsible for these,
so I have to assume she is alive and well, if a little less productive than I would like.

While I was there, I counted about the equivalent of 2-3 frames of capped honey in there, as well as sundry uncapped and nectar. This should be enough to get them through winter.

I took out the queen excluder, and that'll be it until next springtime.

 The weather was kinda coolish, and the girls were pissed off with me.
While working, I noticed the tone of the buzzing around me had lifted a notch...
At the seam in the glove you can see where one disemboweled herself, while trying to sting me.
 Another attempt, this time successful.
I looked down and had 2 seperate bees spinning in one inch circles,
tethered by their guts to my jeans, the sting at the anchor end.
Kinda like when you tie a fly with a thread.
By the time I got the camera, they had fallen off.
This one actually got me in a mild kind of way, through my jeans.
++++++++++++++ ooooooooooooo ++++++++++++++

Jonas : 2
Adrian : 0
Edis : 1
++++++++++++++ ooooooooooooo ++++++++++++++

Meanwhile, in the other hive, the girls had emptied the feeder, I filled it up again twice.
A total of 8 kilos of sugar had gone into that box in the last week or so,
should be enough to get them through the cold season I hope.
They would have had no chance as they were, with no honey at all at the start of winter.
 One of the brood frames, bees shaken off
With bees on..

 One of the previously empty frames, now glistening with sugar-syrup.
It's not nectar, and it's not honey, but it is sugar syrup that has been through a bee.
I wonder what it tastes like?

2011-04-03 Northcote bee check

Late last night, the Other Hive arrived in Northcote, now sitting next to Metropolis in the Vegie patch.
Today was barely warm enough to warrant opening em up, but my curiosity got the better of me.
Just got up to 18 C.......in the sun.

 Metropolis and Other
 Inside Other, only the middle 2 older frames had barely any nectar at all, the 4 outside frames were only slightly drawn.
 One of the middle frames from the top.
 A light glisten of nectar near the middle.

 This one has an old plastic Queen excluder, from the 80's.
These bees are blacker that the Italians in  Metropolis. Bush bees?
They came from a swarm from John the wrangler, so are probably some sort of mix.

++++++++++++++ ooooooooooooo ++++++++++++++
At about this time, I felt a bee crawling up the inside of my leg.
I calmly put everything down, got away from there, carefully pulled off my pants, couldn't find anything.
Pants back on, back to the bees, same feeling of a bee on my skin inside my pants.
Stripped again eventually found a bee in there, hiding in a seam.
 I got the bee out successfully, but got a small sting on my hand from another bee in the process. ouch.
Jonas : 1
Adrian : 0
Edis : 1
++++++++++++++ ooooooooooooo ++++++++++++++

 Patchy brood in  most of the frames below.
Almost no nectar, and no capped honey at all.
Seemed to be less bees than when we were in there in January.

These bees are starving, and it's not even winter yet. Seems to me that Buxton was not very kind to these girls, the Peppermints that flowered did not help them out with nectar, and the Manna gums were not flowering.  Also,  the bush around there is pretty much all trees, apart from Adrians truffle patch and the grapes down in the valley. Not much for a bee to eat, it seems.

 Some grubs visible.....
I didn't see the queen, and I didn't really look for eggs,
I didn't want to hassle the brood for too long on a cool day.
 I put in a feeder full of sugar syrup (2 litres water 2 kilos sugar) to fatten them up.
I'd much prefer not to do this, but these bees are in trouble.
I also replaced the undrawn combs with the drawn ones I had taken out of Metropolis last week, when it brought it down from 3 boxes.
 The girls having a free feed, my shout.

 I quickly opened up Metropolis as well.
I didn't take the lid off, just lifted off the whole top box.
Under the queen excluder, the cage was empty.
Her Majesty was either killed by the uppity "Laying Worker" bees, or hopefully had survived and was happily starting to lay eggs in there.

Go Girl!

I guess I find out next weekend whether Metropolis is a write-off or not.
If there is brood, all might be OK.
If there is no brood, they are doomed.

2011-03-02 Buxton Exodus

Adrian reported that up at Buxton he was having problems with bees feeding
on his almost-ready-to-harvest grape crop.

The Utter Hive and the Other Hive were up on the hill,
overlooking the river and the valley were the grapes were.

Mid January we had checked both of these, and they each had at least one full box and looked like filling up the next.

A couple of weeks later, a casual "lift the box" check had revealed that the boxes seemed a bit light, despite the Peppermints flowering at about this time.

More recently, another lift check showed that the boxes were very light, meaning almost empty.

The bees had to move. 

So, last night we went up there to grab the boxes, one to take to Mt. Evelyn, one for Northcote.

Beekeeping by the reversing light on Adrians ute.

The bees in the Other Hive went nuts when we taped up the door with an old sock and some duct tape.
Didn't help when the tape snapped and the sock went flying.
The Utter Hive had a proper door you could shut. Nice.

A long night.


Since then , Adrian said that there were still loads of bees on his grapes, so that means there are lots of feral bees up there, probably. Unlikely that any of the neighbours keep bees, there are none close enough.
Last year it was wasps.

2011-03-31 her Majesty arrives in Metropolis

The new queen for Metropolis arrived on my desk at work on Thursday, after ordering them Monday.
All the way from Queensland, from Ross Wood.

 Neat timber package, the size of a matchbox.....

 ...which came in a express post bag, which came in a huge box.
One queen and 5 escorts to keep her company for the trip.

Here above you can see the candy plug that the bees will chew through over the next few days.
When she first arrives, the bees want to kill this new unfamiliar queen, but by the time they have got through all that candy, they are familiar with her pheromones, and want to put her to work laying eggs.

Her new home.

Time to make friends...

That'll be their third queen in a year, hope this one works out.
It would be easier if I knew what went wrong last time I guess.
I'm just hoping that this time all goes well.

2011-03-28 Baghdad - business as usual

A quick check through Baghdad, I'm a bit spooked after finding Metropolis queenless....

 Top box is as before,  some capped honey in the middle, almost nothing at the sides
It's been there ever since I added the second
 box and lifted 2 full frames up above the excluder.
 Edis, still waiting for the rent.
He got stung later on, as I was leaving, a bee had gone up his sleeve. Ouch.
 Honey in the middle of the top box
Brood from the lower brood box. Lots of brood throughout the whole bottom box.

All OK.     Phew.

I should probably think about reducing it down to a single box for winter,
but this means getting rid of either capped brood, or some honey.

I think I'll leave it for the moment.

2011-03-27 Metropolis - queenless again!

The days are shortening, so time to look in on the bees, reduce their accommodations, and generally get ready for winter. I've read that you're supposed to bring each hive down to one box, to minimise the space that they have to heat, and to reduce the population generally, for their dormant months. I think I may just take it down to a pair of boxes, one brood and one of honey, this seems better than ditching the 8 frames of half-honey / nectar, which would mean getting the wax off the frames, too. they'd just get full of moths if you dont store them in a freezer.

One of the girls bringing in the pollen...

 I took out 8 frames that were pretty much empty and unppopulated.
The girls had cleaned up these stickies after harvest, you can still see where I had gouged out the comb slightly with my amateur de-capping technique.
A bit of debris and discolouring here and there.

 The top box I took out completely, but the middle box still had a fair bit of capped honey
and lots of nectar in it.
I guess if one of these was a drone, I could get out a microscope and measure a bees dick.
Capped honey from the second box.
Since harvest, the amount of honey in there had pretty much stayed the same.
The frames with honey in them that I had left, were still fairly full,
but the ones I had harvested were still pretty much empty, too.
So I get down to the brood box, and bugger me, no bloody capped brood.
No eggs to be seen. No sighting of the queen, either.
This means almost certainly that the queen is gone.
There are a few capped brood cells here and there, but I'm pretty sure they are drones.
Lots of pollen.
So re-queening last time didn't work?
Mysterious, and really bad news.
This could mean that I lose the bees completely, as I have no idea how long the queen has been gone, except that it seems to be more than 3 weeks ago, as this is the time it take from when an egg is laid to when  they come out of the capped brood. This means that all the bees are getting older, and their life-span is only sometimes 7 weeks, if they have been working hard.
This reminds me how little I know about this whole bee business.
Time to get another new queen.

Since I posted this, I've done a bit more research, and it looks to me like of got a case of "Laying Workers", which means that the queen has gone (How, when???), some of the workers have taken over and decided to lay some eggs themselves, and most likely any attempt at re-queening will fail, as these workers will kill the new queen. This is probably the end for this hive, if I'm not wrong. An extract from one of my reference books below (the ABC to XYZ of beekeeping).

Looks like I'm a poor beekeeper.