2012-01-30 The Queen is dead. Long Live the Queen.

I came to work today to discover the queen bee I'd ordered 6 days ago in the letter box.  They had actually turned up. They were alive. Amazing. I'd ordered these a week ago as I thought that Metropolis was queenless. Yesterday, I found that it wasn't, fresh grubs had appeared, in worker cells. So I had a new queen in there, they had sorted themselves out, with no assistance from me. Then this one turned up, anyway. Sheesh. Two queens. Decision time. The one in the hive was an unknown quantity, the one that arrived by post was from a breeder.

So, I gave the newly arrived  queen and her escorts a drink (it's been a little warm lately...), then dashed home with them on the bike at  lunch-time to install her. She's a caucasian, a little different to the Italians I have ordered in the past. Russian accent. Apis Mellifera caucasica is supposed to be a gentle bee. 

This quote lifted from Heathmont Honeys website:
Originating from Caucasus Mountains between the Black and Caspian Seas of Russia, these larger grey coloured bees are gentle to handle and very hard working. They are tolerant to a harsh winter environment, building up slowly during the spring and having a low inclination toward swarming. Caucasian bees are susceptible to diseases such as Nosema and produce more propolis than any other race.

They also have the longest tongues of all the bees, around 7.2mm. I checked.

Anyway, something different, we'll see how they go in the next year or so. I dont expect any honey until then, anyway.

Interesting thing about introducing a pre-fertilised queen, is that you are basically replacing the entire gene pool of the hive over the next couple of months. None of the new bees will be related to the old ones, but they will inherit the honey and other stores.
This is how she arrived, in a container about the size of a matchbox. 
From Grafton.
Queens come from Queensland. 

Into the hive, already there was capped brood, the previous checks couple of days ago showed only grubs, I think.

A Supercedure cell. A few of these around. Maybe the result of the previous queens capitulation? (That would be 2 queens ago, now.)
Ladies and Gentlemen, Her Majesty the Queen!
Found her easy, on one of the middle frames.
She ducked around a bit. Nervous?
Sense of impending doom?
Here she is, just before she died. Sad.
A couple of her escorts tried valiantly to defend her, but the big glove from the sky just squished her head in.

New queen in her cage, installed.
Should take a day or so to eat her way out?
Hope she is OK, the last 6 days would have been very traumatic for her, now she's in a box full of hostile bees. At least until they get accustomed to her scent, and realise the old queen is gone.
Below, a couple of old queens. That's a $2 coin, for scale.
The little white things at the back are eggs she was secreting (?) even while she was dead.

Seems crazy to kill a young queen,
but them's the beaks, one of them was going to die.

2012-01-26 Baghdad checkup

Popped in to Edis' On Australia day, whatever you want to call it., 
He chucked on his size 93 trackies and customary 3 pairs of socks,
and we got in amongst them.
I was hoping that this hive would be doing as well as The Other over in Northcote, but no such luck.

Team Photo
(thanks Rima for the photos!)

The girls were a bit shy at  first. 
Been a while.
 Dad was on smoke patrol while I got into the sticky side of it.
He even re-lit the smoker after it went out at one stage.
I could use that sort of help again, after 2 years of this caper, I still can't keep the dang thing lit properly. Might have to go back to bee school.
 A typical frame, about 60 - 70% full.
I put a couple of the fuller ones aside, but in the end we decided that it wasn't worth  extracting these few frames, and I put them back in.
If all the capped honey was consolidated  rather than scattered throughout, we would have had 9 or 10 frames all up. The rule of thumb is if the frame is 70% capped, then the sugar content is high enough that you can extract it, any less and you run the risk of it going off or fermenting.
 Bees getting more active...
Down in the brood box, all was good, we didn't spot the queen, but loads of brood, all healthy etc.
 Edis contemplates the next harvest.
I reckon in 2-3 weeks, this one will be ready for harvesting.

I found out later than Rima got stung while taking these photos.
Just goes to show, you need to be careful.

I haven't been stung for a while, I'm extra careful since I was completely massacred by bees a couple of months ago.

Current measures to prevent stings:
  • I tuck my jacket into my jeans, this prevents "plumbers crack" when I bend over. The crack isn't the biggest problem, it's when you lift the gusset back down over your bum, then discover that by doing this you've let a bunch of bees inside the suit... Maybe you can get better jackets than the one I've got, not sure.
  • I tuck my jeans into my socks. This looks so cool , as a bonus!
  • I wear thick grade moleskins (R.M's). the weave is tight and thick so the stingers don't get through. Normal jeans are not sting proof. You can get white moleskins too, these would be better at not-attracting bees.
  • Check yerself , before you wreck yerself. The number of times I've opened up a hive, then realized I hadn't zipped up the mask yet....
  • A long sleeve Tee-shirt under the suit would prevent stings on the fore-arms (very common) ...but bugger it,  it's too hot already.
  • Be careful de-suiting. Close to half my stings would be from either I'm taking the suit off and there's one around the back somewhere that I haven't seen, or after I've finished, go back unsuited to see how things are, and a mad bastard dive-bombs me out of nowhere.
If you do get stung, get the stinger out fast, apply Stingose as soon as possible. Keep some handy. This stuff works like magic if you get it on quick. If you get stung somewhere dangerous (i.e. windpipe, eyeball....) , or are more-than -usually allergic, get to a doctor.....(memories of driving Adrian at 130km/h + along Maroondah highway to Alexandra hospital one sunny afternoon..)

Plenty of seasoned beekeepers don't use suits, or just sometimes a veil if they are stealing honey.
These people are nutcases. Do not trust them.

See link below for mad but charming french beekeeper in the film Queen of the Sun:

Link below for Bee Beard competition in China:

Do any of these people seem normal to you?

Tip for young players: don't get lazy with the protection.
Don't become a statistic,

++++++++++++++ ooooooooooooo ++++++++++++++
STING TALLY: this season
Jonas : 30 
Adrian : 1
Edis : 6
Jazmina : 3
++++++++++++++ ooooooooooooo ++++++++++++++

2010/11: 34 litres
20011/12: 49 Litres so far.

2012-01-23 PAYDAY in Northcote.

The whole spinning thing is a bit slow and sticky, spinning the 12 frames I got the day before took me 5 hours all up, including at least 1 hour of cleaning.Finished up about 1 am, 
My uncapping tray, the plastic gauze gets squeezed out at the end, at least a couple of litres in there by the time I get through all those frames.
 The strainer. Need to start the straining process earlier, as it really slows down after the first few litres clog up the gauze....

Some solid red spots  in some of the comb. I think this is where  the girls have been stashing pollen upstairs, instead of in the nursery downstairs? not sure. I could find nothing on this on the intergoogler.
I found a couple of wax moth grubs while I was extracting, but I don't think this is related?

drip. drip.
drip. drip.
drip. drip.

18 litres all up. Bottled it the next day.
Stickies went back into the hives the next day, too.
Probably the tastiest honey I've got so far, a lot redder than usual, and tangier.
I think this is because there were some quite old combs in there, that dated back a year or more.
I deliberately moved them to the middle of the boxes recently, so I could harvest them.

++++++++++++++ ooooooooooooo ++++++++++++++
STING TALLY: this season
Jonas : 30 
Adrian : 1
Edis : 6
Jazmina : 3
++++++++++++++ ooooooooooooo ++++++++++++++

2010/11: 34 litres
20011/12: 49 Litres so far.

2012-01-22 Northcote check - harvest and a queen-less hive

Beautiful day, let's see what the bees are up to.....
first the 'Other', on the right.
Under the hive mat... 
 Loads of honey!.
I won't bore you of snaps of frame after frame of honey.....
This one below is one of the oldest ones, I deliberately put it where it would fill up so I could get the honey out of it, it had been almost full for probably a year or so....?
One of the oldest frames we have. Lumpy-style.
 In the brood box, a few not-so full frames
 And some full ones.
.Not so flash over in Metropolis...
 This is the dis-assembled boxes waiting to be put back on...

Down in the brood box...no bloody brood at all.
No grubs

I noticed the check before (a few weeks ago now, things got a little bit slack over the summer break) that Metropolis had a lot of drone brood, but I hadn't predicted this....
Hopefully I can get a queen in there before it goes completely pear-shaped.
Actually, I think I'll chuck a couple of frames of fresh eggs in there from the Other hive, I've heard that this way they can make their own new queen....if it doesn't die out first.

Despite this disaster, I pulled 8 full frames out of the Other, and 4 out of Metropolis.
There's gonna be some spinning.

2012-01-29 - grubs in Metropolis
After a failed attempt to order a new queen last week (Do not order bees before Australia Day holiday - she  will arrive dead or not at all...) I decided to swap a few frames of brood / eggs from The Other into Metropolis, to let the bees make their own queen from scratch. Once I opened them both up, ready to start swapping, I noticed that there were small grubs in there. Whew. So, what does this mean? Maybe I lost a queen a few weeks ago, the girls raised their own queen from a fresh egg, and she has only just started laying? This seem the most likely. They always surprise you, these things.

2012-01-04 The hills of St. Hellier - Albinas bees.

Up in the rolling hills of St. Hellier, Albinas bees had been building a small empire.
These are the bees that came from Katrinas' compost bin, 
Jazmina had taken them up there a little while earlier...

That looks like a big rooster sitting outside the window.
Poor lonely thing has no harem since the fox visited.
 The setup.
A fairly shady spot, but well prepared.
That's the single box that arrived a couple of weeks ago, and the second box we were going to put on.
I'm hoping that Albina will look after these herself, I feel like my hands are full, just with all the bees we have in and around Melbourne. We'll  see.
 Lots of bees
 Plenty of brood for a young hive. All healthy looking.
Workers keeping the front door busy.
 After the second box was put on. A proud beekeeper.

2012-01-04 Baghdad is humming................


Over at  dad's just after new year, it had been stinking hot, time to see what's going on in Baghdad.
Last harvest was on the 11th November...


Front door looking pretty. Girls lookin' busy.
Lift the lid...
 Some frames filling up with nectar...
 Some getting capped off...
 Some had been sitting crooked, they had filled in the gaps.... 
I carved these burrs off and tried to re-align them as much as possible.
 Some just had big gaps for no apparent reason.
The gaps were symmetrical on both inside sides of adjacent combs, if you get my drift...

Overall almost a few barely harvestable frames, 
but it takes a bit more than this to get me to fire up the spinner these days
 Plenty of brood down below
 I notice that the grubs end up "right side up" in the frames, before they are capped off.
 Lots of bees...
 And an audience.

 Next time, I predict lots of honey.

This hive has really taken off since the "Welcome to Baghdad",
 ... just over a year ago now, and one big harvest since then....