Villa Marti: Part 3

[Note: Corrections and additions made in bold, about eight hours after the original post– I had to check my work log and spend forever uploading pictures.]

It’s been a whole week since my last post, and we’ve been busy as all out! I’ll have a massive photo drop here soon, as soon as the 6 dozen or so photos upload, but I’ll do a quick rundown of the things I’ve been up to, and go a bit more in-depth about the things I wasn’t able to get photos of. (I probably won’t get to the accommodations post until just before I leave, but I’ll get there!)

Let’s see, last you heard, we’d hung the roof frame on the shade house, so that was last Monday. I’ll do a quick rundown of what we’ve accomplished on each day since, and I’ll follow up in the next post with photos where I note they’ll be attached. [Pictures have been added to this post, instead! NOTE: IT IS VERY PICTURE-HEAVY BELOW THE FOLD.]

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The Weight of Production

Just closed up the last hive, and wanted to update quickly:

The Silvers, god bless ’em, must have a little stupid in them. They don’t have much comb in the top boxes yet, but the one ridge they have is going sideways, violating beespace. I’m not even sure what to think, since I’ve given them all these lovely templates for comb-building. I’m going to open them up for a full investigation next weekend, though, because while I expect them to be slower as a result of their early queen delay, I want to make sure they’re not going to die of stupid (or unnecessary overwork, or… well, anything, really).

Perhaps I’m being a bit unfair to them, but the Blues– oh sweet goodness, I’m grateful for having two hives for comparison’s sake. The Blues have four and a half frames of the top box filled with honey and pollen, in lovely proportion. The frames, when lifted, are unexpectedly heavy– though that’s more my fault for not expecting it, really. I can’t wait to get the second box on them, they’ll be my productive hive this year.

I wasn’t looking for the queens this week, so no concerns about not spotting them, and I didn’t even care to see the brood area, since my last visit a couple weeks ago showed me that those were going well. I will (finally) attend my first meeting of the local beekeeper’s association tomorrow, so hopefully I’ll meet an experienced keeper who wouldn’t mind coming out and taking a look with me soon.

Everything seems to be going apace. Did get one hive beetle out of the Blues this time, so the traps will be delivered well on time. Other than that, all seems well, and since the sugar water was going when I went to check on them, I’m going to go replace that now. Feeling pretty good, I gotta say. Something about the sweat of the sun, the smell of the suit, and the hum of the hives.

Apologies for slacking here.

At least I’ve been on-point with the bees. About to go open them up, in fact, and just ordered another shallow box for each of them, exclusively for pollen/honey storage. (Mann Lake Ltd., of course.) Got a second queen excluder to that purpose, as well as some all-natural hive beetle traps to address the problem I noted last time I opened up.

The weather’s gotten much hotter, so I’m trying to decide what, if anything, I need to do about the water situation. The area of the backyard they’re in is prone to mosquitoes, so I really can’t have standing water about. There are nearby neighborhood lakes, though, practically across the street in their flight pattern, so that may be sufficient– in addition to whatever water’s spawning these mosquitoes, though that can’t be the freshest for obvious reasons.

The bees have mostly laid off the sugar water; they’d stopped entirely at one point, so I removed the feeders for a few days and washed them out, before the weather got gross and I returned them, for back-up purposes. They’ve been working on the same pound (each) for a few days now, will probably replace them tomorrow just to see. The neighborhood trees are blooming, though, and so are the red-and-yellow flowers by the roadsides, and more.

Going to start with the Silvers today, since I tend to give them less time. Will be quick about it, though– both hives have been doing spectacularly (from an outsider’s perspective). Every day I’m out there watching them arrive with more lovely loads of pollen and all. I’m not going to inspect the bottom boxes; I want to spend as little time in there as possible today, and figure I’ll get a good read on the situations by seeing what progress they’ve made in the top boxes. As above, so below, and all.

I think I still have another post hanging out in draft stage from a week or so ago. But really, it’s slowed down a bit for me: the hives are established, the flowers are blooming, the bees are happy. Judging by the color and shape of the bees around the entrance, the first batch of bees, from the package, are aging well, and the first sets of brood may be making their way towards the entrance here soon, and starting their first orientation flights. How quickly things move!

Larvae and Pollen and Hive Beetles, oh my!

A bit of delay in posting my findings from the hive opening last Thursday, but the subject does a surprising job covering it.

I was still unable to see the queen in either hive, so I’m thinking about asking a more experienced beekeeper to come open them with me next week, and maybe show what I’m missing.

While I otherwise would have fretted over not seeing the Blue Queen again, there were three frames, front and back, filled with brood in a number of stages (eggs, larvae, capped). They seem to be focused on the upper super for their brood, as well as pollen and sugar-water storage.

There were three supersedure cells this time, in three different locations, rather than just the one. I’m going to trust that the bees know what they’re doing, and let the queen take care of the competition as needed, or let them take care of it themselves. There’s plenty of room in the hive so as not to suggest a swarm situation, but I’ll continue paying attention for other signs of that.

In comparing the two hives, despite my early assumptions I feel like the Silvers may in fact be the healthier of the two. Their storage patterns were much more organized, and their queen has clearly been busy since her release– plenty of larvae at multiple stages, and less sugar-water storage than I anticipated. They also had about three frames mostly dedicated to brood.

They were also much more adept at the propolis-production and sealing of their hive boxes. I felt guilty for breaking in, especially since I didn’t get to spend as much time checking each frame as I did with the Blue hive.

It’s in the Silver hive that I first saw evidence of hive beetles. These are pests that you can expect in any and every colony, but a strong colony is the best defense against their destruction. I’ve only seen evidence of two in the Silver hive (and the first one I crushed mercilessly), but the bees seem to be keeping things in check. I’ll keep an eye on that, however, and may end up buying some beetle traps.

Sat on this post over the holiday weekend, but will go ahead and send it out now, and post about yesterday’s hive activity in a little while. Will be opening the hives again on Saturday for a proper look-through.