June 27th: Opened Up the Hive

At this point, I have two 10-frame boxes.  On the bottom is the original deep brood box in which I first placed the NUC on May 10th.  This is a box I got from another club member along with some plastic-cell foundation frames that had a little bit of old drawn comb on it.  The second box is a cypress, unpainted, medium-depth box.  In it are 6 new plastic-cell foundation frames and 4 new foundationless frames that I created by glueing split-down paint stir sticks into the top groove.

I opened the hive this evening, including taking off the top box and setting it aside so that I could look in the bottom brood box.  I did not smoke the bees, nor did I wear protection.  When I cracked the top box loose from the bottom box, the bees immediately started making a different sound; less of a buzz and more of a growl.  “ERRRRRR.”  I got stung, once, for the first time, right on the neck.

Next time I am going to try using the smoker.

Here is the original foundationless frame, which, by now, has been in the hive for 14 days:

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Here is a plastic-cell foundation frame full of nectar.  It was surprisingly heavy.  My understanding is that they have to evaporate this down to 14% – 18% water at which point it becomes honey.  Then they will cap the cells.

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Here is another foundationless frame.  This one was added, along with two others (for a total of four), on June 17th.  So it’s been in the hive for 10 days at this point.

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June 24th: Dead Bees Outside the Hive

Right about dusk I noticed that the bees seemed to be acting a little “differently” on the landing board just outside the entrance.  A few of them seemed to be acting like their very back legs weren’t working correctly.  And, the bees seemed to be “clumped up” just inside the entrance.  I also saw what was probably around a hundred dead bees on the ground outside the entrance.  Some of the dead bees seemed completely dried out; this may not have happened all today, but, rather, more gradually, and I just now noticed it.

I spoke with John Babb about it on the phone.  He theorized that, most likely, a scout bee got into some plants with pesticides on them but didn’t die before making it back to the hive and telling other forager bees where that source of nectar was. So a whole lot of them visited those plants and got poisoned. They later died in the hive and the worker bees moved them out.

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June 20th: Built a Hive Stand for an Eight Frame Hive

In anticipation of splitting my hive later this summer, and going to all medium-depth, eight-frame hive bodies, I built another hive stand.  This hive stand is the correct width for an eight-frame hive.  I also assembled another 10-frame, medium depth hive body.  I need to get the bees up and out of the 10-frame, deep-body, brood box – at the bottom of my original (and first, and so far only) hive – and onto the medium-depth frames.  After that, I can transfer those medium-depth frames to 8-frame boxes.  My goal is to move to all 8-frame, medium-depth hive bodies for everything.

June 17th: Added Additional Foundationless Frames

Because of the amount of wax the bees had drawn on the one foundationless frame, in just two days, I decided to replace three more of the plastic cell foundation frames with foundationless frames.  I now have a total of four of them and they are all sandwiched between plastic cell foundation frames.  My thought for sandwiching them between the frames with foundation is that I’m hoping that will help the bees build straight comb on them.

June 16th: Checking the Drawn Wax on the Foundationless Frame

Four days ago I set the second hive body on top of the brood box.  I had done this because the bees seemed crowded; they were drawing wax on all ten frames and I had seen almost a full frame side of capped brood on the inside of frame 8.  These frames had plastic foundation.

Two days ago I replaced one of the plastic foundation frames, in the second hive body, with a foundationless frame that I made by removing the plastic foundation and glueing a comb guide into the groove of the top bar of that frame.

Today I moved all of those frames in the second hive body to a cypress hive body that I had built yesterday.  In two days, there was 10 times the amount of wax on the foundationless frame as had been drawn, in four days, on all the plastic frames combined.

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June 14th: Adding One Foundationless Frame

I purchased a 6 1/4″ frame with plastic-cell foundation, from Murdoch’s, and cut out the foundation.  I got two paint stir sticks and cut them to length (one is not long enough), and also cut them down, lengthwise, to the width of a craft stick.  I glued these two pieces into the groove of the frame (it was a grooved top frame) and marked it with an “FL” for “foundationless.”

I put this in the top box in place of one of the plastic-cell foundation frames.  This is a medium depth box and is the second box that is sitting right on top of the original deep brood box.

I plan to check on this when I swap out the white medium box for the cypress medium box I ordered from Kelley Beekeeping.

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June 12th: Adding Second Box and Top Feeder

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On June 9th, I had pulled frames and saw that there were capped brood all the way out to the inner side of frame 8.  I thought it was time to add a second box for fear that they might start feeling cramped and swarm.  I ordered two 6 & 5/8″ unassembled, medium boxes, in cypress, from Kelley Beekeeping.  They were shipped UPS ground, and were supposed to be delivered today, but there was a train derailment, thus delaying them.  So, I purchased a medium hive body from Murdoch’s with 10 frames with plastic cell (wax coated) foundation.  I wasn’t happy with either of those choices, but that’s all that was available at short notice.

I had read online, by some beekeeper somewhere, that he had had no trouble getting the bees to draw wax on the plastic-based foundation if he sprayed sugar water on the foundation with a little lemon grass oil in it.  So I did that.  I also added the top feeder back on to encourage them to move up through that new foundation.  I used organic cane sugar and put a little ascorbic acid in it to make it more acidic.  (Honey has a pH of 4.2, cane sugar has a pH of 6.)  In addition, I put a few drops of lemon grass oil in the sugar water (I put the drops in the dry sugar first).

I plan to check the hive in a few days to see if they’re up in the new box, on the new frames.  I will probably do that when my cypress hive bodies come in and I swap one out for the white-painted pine box I got at Murdoch’s.

I’m also planning to order frames and 100% beeswax foundation (which I will have to learn to cross-wire with John Babb’s help).  I plan to order 20 of these and will swap them out for the plastic-based foundation frames as soon as possible.