Thursday, January 3, 2013

Lost new queen while replacing old one.

Lost $30 dollars and my (Keith and Jane) new Carniolan queen :-( and this is our story. We had a hive that is doing well (double brood boxes) and wanted to split the hive and giving the old queen a new nuc box. So on the 9 Dec (late spring in NZ) I got my new queen in a queen carrier. It was a warm night so I put her in the hive about 7pm.

First I took out 2 brood frames and the old Italian queen and forming the new nuc. I put in a frame feeder into the nuc to keep them going for a while and blocked up the entrance for a couple of days so they won't fly back to the old hive. They are now a good hive.

Day 3 from the split I checked the frame with the queen carrier and found the queen still there! I had forgotten to check that the plastic travel tab had been removed, which means the new queen couldn't get out. Breaking the tab lets the bees have access to the sugar candy. On Sat (day 6) we found the queen alive and well, she was on the first few frames so we put the hive back together in order not to disturb her too much while she was settling in.

Yesterday was 2 Jan (day 23 and height of honey flow) we inspected the hive. No brood in the bottom box, although some patches of dry cells. This means the hive thinks that there is a queen. No queen in the bottom brood box. So went through the top brood box. In the top box there was honey and pollen in every frame and still no queen. That is, until that last frame and there she was. Our new Carniolan queen had a red dot painted on, but this queen look very Italian and without any dot. I did find two open queen cells in the bottom box which I did not pay too much attention to as these could have been from earlier in the season. But apparently our new queen had come from one of these.

My best guess is that when we removed the old queen the hive must have made new queen cells. The hatched queen found the new queen and killed her. I don't know why the Carniolan queen didn't destroy the unhatched queen cell, maybe she had already hatched when the Carniolan was released on day 4 or 5 of the split. The hive must have had two queens, neither laying, until the showdown.

Now waiting to see if my new queen will do any laying. The hive will now die down due to the break in brood. At least we broke the verroa cycle, not that we can find any in any hive right now :-)

Please leave any comments or insights you may have.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Queen temperament

It's late winter, on a warm day for winter. I opened the hive lid of the first hive. Bees hardly noticed, the next hive the same thing, but when I lifted the lid of the third hive a thick cloud of bees flew up looking for something to kill. This hive has been this way since re-queening. I am just amazed at the differences in bee temperament.

The second hive although quiet is the first one up and the last one to bed. It does not get the sun first. They just seem to be harder working.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Dead bees over winter -- Yes we killed our first hive!

April 2012
Nearing winter now. The club hives have had to be feed to keep them alive. But our hives are still bringing in pollen and nectar. That's because there are in town with lots of trees and peoples gardens. The variant means as long as the weather is not continuously cold the bees are happy. Since the hives are in our yard we check actively almost daily, when it came time to treating I took off all the honey boxes to avoid contamination from the treatment. We made sure that there was some empty comb in case the nectar was still coming and we had some full honey frame for feeding. Two of the hives were strong and had a lot of bees so I put an empty honey box on, without any frames, just so that they would not over heat. 6 weeks later and both empty boxes were absolutely chocker with newly made comb, all capped. Attached to the top board right down to the top of the frames in the bottom brood box.

Not only that but the comb was chocker full of capped honey! Incredible when there was not supposed to be any nectar source. The hive next to these was smaller and we had left it with some space and only the brood box. On inspection this hive had not eaten supplies but had not increased the honey either!

Must be all down to a different type of bee in these 2 hives from the other 2 hives. Both strong hives came from the same queen stock. I'll be breeding off this queen next year.

Now what to do with this unframe honey. I had to break up the full box of comb honey to get to the bottom box. When I finished I put all the broken pieces of capped honey on a tray to get robbed down into a new box of drawn out frames.

Tasting this honey was an experience. It had a very bitter after taste. This could have been Apistan, but it was more likely to be dandelion. The dandelion honey was all crystallised.

July 2012

I had periodically gone out in our finest days throughout the winter to cut up the remaining dandelion honey so that the bees could get it and rob it down below. All the hives were busy with pollen most days in winter.

One day I went out to visit the hives in the morning, as I normally do, and I saw that all the hives except one were busy with activity. Someone (my wife, Jane, will not be mentioned of course ;-), someone had got in the mood to melt down all the wax from last season and decided to take the dandelion honey boxes off. Thinking that all the honey had been robbed down below.

This was true of one hive, but the other one had been eating the honey directly from the top box and not storing it in the frames below. The bees had not had any honey for 3 days. When we looked into the hive there were dead bees everywhere. Only a little wing movement from 10 or so bees. Oh dear, the realisation that we killed the hive was a bit heart rendering.  Nearly every cell had a bee stuck in head first. We made up some sugar-syrup and poured this over all the bees on all the frames. I did not expect anything except the neighbouring hive to rob this dead hive. And this they did so I blocked up the entrance.

But the next day we had 2 frames of normal looking bees. When I unblocked the entrance bee boiled out for a while (the robber wanted out). A little later the bees were busy taking out dead bees one by one. 90% of the hive was dead. We found a "happy" queen and enough bees to say that the hive is functioning ok.

The next week I collected several scoops of dead bees and clean up the hive. Soon all will be forgotten...if our on very experienced queen start breeding again. :-)

Friday, March 23, 2012

Treatments and wintering the hive

It's past time for preparing for winter. Sorry for the late post which should have been in the beginning of March (4 weeks before Autumn kicks in). Here is a brief list of things to do:
  • Take the eating honey off the hive. Should have already been done. The nectar collected is eaten by the bees.
  • Treat for varroa. Do now if not started yet!!!. Hopefully the queen lays during the treatment and these new bees will be varroa free!
  • If in a cold area insulate the hive. Bees eat less and die less in a warm dry hive.
  • Make the entrance smaller (<7 mm) so that mice do get in.
 If your honey is still not capped here are tips.
1. Add a feeder and feed the bee sugar water. They will finish the honey off, if they are well feed.
2. Create a robbing situation. Uncapped honey is robbed down (if it is warm enough).

Mark any honey frames you leave on while treating, so that you don't accidental eat this honey. The frame is contaminated until the wax is changed. We feed our bees, if needed, during treatment and then give them back the honey boxes we took off.

Insulation of the hive
For a strong, healthy hive there nothing special that needs to happen, besides clean air and sunshine.

For a small hive and/or a cold place:
1. Keep the hive in the sun as much as possible. (I.e. move it if needed)
2. Have good ventilation (e.g. hole at bottom and top to allow air flow). Dry air is easier to heat by the bees than damp air. Water condensation and water dripping inside indicates bad ventilation.
3. Replace outer frames (or the wrap the outside of the box) with polystyrene or a hot water cylinder wrap, or that favourite woollen jersey. Make sure the bees can't eat the polystyrene by lining with corflute.

We haven't insulated any of our hives and don't plan to. But if you get regular frosts then it is worth thinking about how hard is it for the bees to keep warm.

Snow is an insulator so this is not really an issue (for the one or two days of snows we get a year).

Please add your comments on other things you do to winter down the hive.


Friday, March 9, 2012

A long time ago unheated honey was best

I remember way back in the 70's my wife's father telling me about the evil people who heat honey and the damage this does to the quality. So this is not a new issue. People are more aware of the heating issues now than then and hopefully we honey eaters have the ability to chose better quality - why would you chose lower quality food! I realise that heating honey depends on temperature and time and has it's uses, so I am not saying that heating is bad.


Heat treated supermarket honey

Peter Bray of Airborne Honey Ltd (NZ) has sent a well written statement about the heating of honey and the loss of quality. The quality of honey on NZ shop selves varies. Imported honey (currently happening, but illegal) is imported because it is cheap and therefore quality will be much lower than "home-made". You should note that honey is bacterial resistant and does not require processing to make it safe.

I will say more on this topic of heating honey later. Please comment below and tell me what you think and how it works for you.


The question on heating, raw, pasteurized etc. is the single biggest question we get from consumers.   Since there is no legal definition of "raw", it is difficult to compare claims.  Some think raw is "uncooked", "unheated" etc. To others it is closer to "raw materials" in meaning.

However retail honey is usually presented with visible impurities removed (bees legs, wings, wax particles etc.)  and in a processed state - it has been extracted, packed in bulk containers (drums, pallecons etc) re-liquefied, strained, perhaps creamed, and then packed into retail containers.  The degree of heating to liquefy and the amount of filtering or straining is where most changes can occur with the removal of pollen, reduction of enzymes, volatiles and other flavouring agents etc.

The US market is unusual that virtually all honey is sold in a liquid form, even when the sources are fast crystallizing honeys such as Canola.  To achieve this they filter all particles (including pollen) from the honey that might act as a nucleus for crystals to form around. They also heat it to ensure that all crystals are liquefied.  Here in New Zealand, more than half of the market is creamed honey (crystallized) so fast crystallizing honeys can be processed into creamed honey products and slow crystallizing honeys turned into liquid honey packs.

As you know Airborne has a patented liquefication process for our honey.  We assess heat damage by routinely measuring HMF (see on every incoming sample and every outgoing product we produce plus we collect and measure samples of various honey brands from supermarket shelves all over New Zealand for HMF along with a range of other parameters including pollen.

We can say definitively from this process that some manufacturers are removing significant amounts of natural pollen from honey in New Zealand and some are applying significant amounts of heat.  This is not consistent but overall it is significant.

So How Do We Stack Up?

We know that Airborne's HMF levels are consistently the lowest in the country - a reflection on the lack of heat induced changes in our product.  Our average is 6ppm for our finished products and the country average for other manufacturers is 27ppm.  Some products are over 100ppm (our standing record was 1,132ppm!) and there are many over the EU regulated limit of 40.  However not all this is due to processors damaging the product they are handling.  There is still a significant amount of damage done by beekeepers at extraction time and during storage.  Some of this is deliberate due to beekeepers storing their "manuka" honey at elevated temperatures in and effort to increase their NPA scores, a natural reaction to being paid on those scores (rather than on quality parameters assuring a manuka source).

For our own products we print the HMF and pollen levels on each and every jar so consumers can see for themselves the quality they are getting.

If consumers are interested in the quality of their product, they should read the labels carefully, and read any material that the manufacturer makes available, websites being a prime source.  They should also contact the manufacturer if they have any further queries.

Peter Bray
Airborne Honey Ltd
PO Box 28, Leeston 7682, Canterbury”

Friday, March 2, 2012

Are you suffering from ‘fat bees’?

Derek's story below seems to fit the problem we (and many other this year) have. That is, even though there is lots of nectar around the honey boxes don't seem as full as normal.

The main points:
* The bees grab lots of nectar and become bigger
* In the hive they don't want to get through the queen excluder
* Remove queen excluder, during big honey flow
* With more nectar going up stairs the queen has more room
* Queen is happy to stay below


Are you suffering from ‘fat bees’?

At a meeting last night several people around the table were reporting that the upper brood boxes on their two brood box hives were jammed packed with honey and yet the honey supers above the queen excluder were hardly touched by the bees.

Rather jokingly, Kevin said that the bees are too fat to get through the queen excluder. After the initial spurt of laughter things started to get serious as we realised that he was not far off the truth of the matter.

Jeff, being a really smart beekeeper, had already sussed out the problem and the solution much earlier in the season. As he put it, the season was a one in ten year boomer with lots of nectar to be collected. Foraging bees found large amounts of nectar and gorged themselves on the bounty.

Back at the hive they would typically make their way up to the honey supers where they would usually offload and then return to the field for another load.

This is where some imagination is required. When the loaded bees could not get through the bars of the excluder they merely dumped the load into the nearest cells which just happened to be in the upper brood box. Very quickly, the upper brood box was filled. The nectar flow was still heavy so they filled out the brood frames even more to the point where adjacent combs were almost touching and in the process they caused the queen to cease laying.

Some beekeepers, myself included, saw this happening and placed the very full upper brood box above the queen excluder, after giving the hive an empty upper brood box. The bees promptly filled the new brood box in the same way that they filled the first – and still ignored the honey supers above.

In fact, the upper honey supers in both cases were isolated from the lower part of the hive and the bees naturally thought the hive was filled. Along with the queen who found no more room to lay brood, they soon swarmed. This was what promoted the heavy swarming early in the season!

Instead of getting a super honey crop some of us got just the two filled brood boxes. Oh dear I hear you say. I wish I had realised it early in the season.

Clever clods, Jeff had; and his solution was to put the filled upper brood box at the top of the hive, give them another brood box – and REMOVE the queen excluder. Now the bees had no impediment to getting to the honey supers and they filled the whole hive, and quickly.

I thought that the queen would move up and lay in the honey supers but it turns out that she is quite happy to stay in the lower boxes and make brood.
Oh dear, we live and learn, as they say. Well done Jeff.

At the field meeting it would be nice to hear from others who think they have experienced this phenomena during this season. I have lots of apiaries and it has been the same at all of them.

Derek T Skinner