Diseased bees

Let me start by saying this is NOT about my bees! But some of our club’s new members have received EFB and possible AFB infected nucs. It’s a rotten way to start their beekeeping adventure. Not only did they get sick bees, but the supplier has been “mum” and offered no support, refunds or responses AT ALL.

As you know, it’s been a crazy season of swarms from my hives. I caught 10 (kept 8) but with all of these swarms, I was facing a conundrum…I knew I needed to condense the apiary down to a more manageable size (4 hives with a nuc) but to do that the queens would need to go away somehow.

First I thought I would remove the poorly performing queens…but they’re all doing pretty dang well, some better than others but none are so bad that I need to “off” the queen. I’m not a good queen killer so what was I going to do with all of these colonies??  Then my plan morphed to offering queens to those in our club that found themselves queenless and work the remaining frames into the main colonies somehow (I’d figure it out along the way).

Problem is the swarm colonies keep growing…

Then we started getting reports of EFB and the poor new beekeepers sounded so overwhelmed and unhappy. With the first report, I immediately offered a swarm to the beekeeper. Then a second beekeeper reported similar symptoms and before the state apiarist arrived to do the inspection, the bees absconded. So I offered a swarm to this beekeeper too.

You can’t treat for AFB–that requires burning of all equipment. EFB is treatable in the sense that the disease can be suppressed with Terramycin. There are varying reports of a colony surviving without developing symptoms after treatment. But wouldn’t you always be nervous that the honey and frames were contaminated? Think about how many times you move frames from hive to hive….  Supposedly you put the bees on all new equipment and treat them. Personally, I wouldn’t do it. I would always be wondering and I stress enough about my bees.

So I reached out to the first beekeeper and she brought me all new equipment, which I worked into one of the swarms. Since I run deeps and she uses mediums, I spent a few days thinking about how I was going to do this. I had a few ideas in mind but knew I would make the final plan once I got in there and saw what the colony was up to. I ended up cobbling together this:

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So I pulled up 2 frames of open brood (deep frames) with the queen into the medium. But there needed to be space for the bottom of the frames to project, so I grabbed a large shim (I have several) and placed that over the deep. This of course leaves open spaces under her medium frames but there’s nothing for it. Did I mention she uses 8 frames and I use 10 frames? So I had to cover the open space on the side of my deep with a piece of wood and then place another piece on top to make sure it stayed put (to the left of her blue hive body). Talk about improvising.

Once her apiary is completely cleared of the infected hives and all equipment, I will give her these bees.

The orange colony above this “donation hive” is one of my swarms that built out 10 frames in one week so I gave it another box on top. This season has seriously strained my equipment.

My overall goal is to have 3 drawn supers for each strong colony when the nectar flow starts. I can tell you that the most eager comb builders are swarms…they need the comb for the queen to lay eggs and for food storage. Once I finish extracting, I’ll take an account of all my supers and see how much more needs to be drawn out.

 

 

June 2nd update

Finally a stretch of sunny days after prolonged rainy period. Concerned about virgins being able to mate.

Noticed the pink hive (scale hive) was losing weight and dumping drones. Scooped up a bunch of dead bees on the ground in front of the hive–of the 37 dead bees, 36 were drones. They do this when they’re trying to conserve resources. This colony has swarmed 3 x and has now made itself queenless. Added a frame of eggs from the chicken coop colony. Need to check for queen cells.

 

5 frame nuc stack is filled with drone brood–virgin failed (had a lot of rainy weather) didn’t see multiple eggs per cell (except last week found a queen cell with 7 eggs in it). Maybe a drone laying queen or laying workers. Leaving hive to die off (maybe it’ll fill the frames with honey that I can extract?)

Aqua hive-Two queen stack: top colony is queenright all frames are built out so I gave them a super of foundation. There are SO MANY bees (this was the Taranov colony) that the inner cover is completely covered by bees. It’s “boiling over” as they say. Hope they work that super. Bottom colony had been given a frame of eggs last week, no queen cells but I saw eggs, FINALLY! Didn’t spot the queen, will keep an eye out.

Orange hive–they started to draw out the supers! This hive has over 80 pounds of honey in the top deep, saw eggs in the bottom deep last week, couldn’t find her.

Deep colony between orange and purple hive–at first I thought she was not doing well…boy was I wrong, found several frames of solid brood there are 4 unused forms. Will be exploding soon…

The medium orange on top of this deep—all 10 frames are worked and being filled, added super.

Purple hive working the two supers.

Chicken coop colonies: top one has laying queen, working steadily on the frames. Space is adequate. Bottom colony (Taranov parent)–working 2 mediums and all 10 deep frames are in use. The queen is MASSIVE! I’ve never seen such a big queen, she looked like one and half queens…VERY long abdomen.

Queen castle with super: removed the queen excluder from the stronger side. We’ll see if they draw it out even a little.

Cardboard nuc has a queen, all frames are drawn or being worked. No eggs, but the frames looked as if they were preparing for her to lay. Saw the queen, top of her abdomen was larger than the bottom–ovaries developing?

I’m surprised they are putting up as much as they are considering there have been 10 swarms from the 4 colonies (3 swarms each from 2 colonies). As a collective apiary, they are working on 7 supers that were just foundation–I hope these frames are at least drawn out even if they aren’t filled. Drawn comb would be fantastic. Since our nectar flow is so short, getting supers drawn out here is a top priority/struggle every year.

That’s one thing I can say for swarms…even though they drive me mad, they are extremely eager to work that wax! Hopefully their eagerness will be my benefit.

 

Swarm season

Lots of swarms this year. I’ve only ever had one swarm (helps to mark your queens so you know this!!) which I was able to hive. But this year was different.

The bees had built up quickly, did not suffer from a late cold snap that came after a warm-up, they had food (I had to supplement because you would be AMAZED how quickly they can eat 3-4 lbs of food when brood rearing has begun).

I had located all of my marked queens during a mid-April apiary inspection.

The Taranov method was used for my so-called “little” hive when I saw swarm cells. Little did I know that the other colonies were making similar plans. The issue was the weather. Since I work and really only have weekends available for inspections (and that time can be restricted to because of family activities), I try to take advantage of nice days by checking one or two colonies after work. Unfortunately, it was either rainy, windy, or cold, or some combination of that on most days I’d have time to check them. But then we would have decent mornings, less pleasant afternoons. Seemed like I couldn’t win.

But the bees still collect their food, raise brood and if they get congested they make swarm prep regardless of spring weather. Two weeks before the swarms started was the last time I was able to go into brood chambers. All of the marked queens were found, I saw a couple of queen cells in the colonies that still had  2015 blue queens, and figured they were superseding and that was fine with me.

Notes for self:

To date there have been 8 swarms, majority with virgins. Unfortunately, we had quite a bit of rain and I worry that the virgins weren’t able to mate.

Swarm dates:

April 27, April 30 (orange hive), May 1, May 4, May 8 (landed on elderberry, from pink colony based on scale–saw eggs), May 9(two swarms–one from pink again, gave to Brad), May 14 (aqua hive-gave to Larry T.)

May 14:

Checked the colonies (all but the orange one) and cut out all swarm cells. Capped queen cells were given to the new swarm colonies if no eggs were found.

Pink (scale hive)–left one capped queen cell, did not see a queen or evidence of one.

Aqua hive- Two virgins, all capped queen cells removed

Taranov swarm on top of Aqua–laying yellow queen

White hive– no eggs, added queen cell (there was a queen here before, maybe out mating?)

10-frame nuc–no eggs, added queen cell

Purple hive–had marked this queen before saw eggs–she’s no longer there (bad move on my part?) –added capped queen cell.

Chicken coop–2 queen system, each with a laying yellow queen (woo hoo!)

2 cardboard nucs– no eggs, added queen cells, threw in a virgin into the nuc closest to chicken colony.

I have 3 laying queens: in the two queen system by the chicken coop and the Taranov swarm on top of the aqua hive.

PLAN: 1. Check orange hive

              2. Recheck of colonies with no laying queens and combine as needed next weekend.