Monday, March 30, 2009

Careful what you wish for!

After last year with 10 hives without any swarms, I decided this year to encourage them. I purposely left frames full of stores so that laying space would be restricted. Did not check for QC's etc. The result of this is too many swarms and having to deal with them. Perhaps this season is exceptional anyway as far as swarming goes. Even both the hives I have in transfer with Layens frames in the top baxes have swarmed. My thinking that reducing the brood to eight frames in my warre transfer would drive the queen down to lay in the warre boxes has proved incorrect. They just swarmed instead! I would not recommend the transfer box method to anyone now. Same for my Layens/Kenyan TBH transfer. So I started the season wanting to rid myself of Layens hive and somehow get them in warre's and kenyans. I find I now have all my warre and kenyans populated plus most of the Layens.
I had finished waxing some starter strips in layens frames on my porch, I left the hive on the table feeling smug that I was now ahead of the swarming. I went for a siesta and woke to hear a very loud whirring noise outside the bedroom window. When I saw the bees taking over this hive still on the table, it was like a tsunami of bees and a wonder to behold, truly awesome. Next morning I took this hive to the out apiary. Whilst at the out apiary, I checked on the bees at the hexagonal hive. There were none in there so the bees I saw last week were just scouts. I removed this and all the other bait hives to my home apary. I really don't need any more bees right now.
Currently, I have 3 seperate casts sat in cardboard boxes waiting for me to combine them into a yet to be built warre hive. Again I will put on a queen includer at the entrance and let the bees decide which of the 3 virgins they want to keep. I assume the queens will fight to the death. I will remove the Queen Includer after 3 days in order for her to get mated. At least I may be able to sell the populated Layens hives!

Friday, March 27, 2009


This post was started yesterday morning.


Firstly the cast from yesterday was back in the same tree this morning. Confused
I got it back in the cardboard box before 10am. I will wait again until twilight. This time I will put them in a warre box with queen includer for a couple of days. Let's see if they like that any better.

I am still not sure if the papercrete hive is populated, lots of bees on the outside but very little happening at the entrance.

The other two 'prime' swarms in the kenyans are now bringing in pollen so I will remove the queen includers soon. The includers are knocking off the pollen.

Mid Day
Seems I was wrong on both counts, the cast in the Kenyan nuc is still there and so is the swarm in the papercrete hive!! Not only that, yet another cast, albeit smaller was sat in exactly the same spot on the olive tree. That is now in a very small cardboard box, again awaiting twilight. I will combine both these casts in the warre box this evening and let the bees decide which queen shall lead them. Removed the queen includer from the first swarm in the blue kenyan hive.

Mid afternoon
Seems like my policy of nil swarm control has backfired on me a little. This afternoon I am sat with 5 swarms/casts in cardboard boxes and a bucket waiting for hiving. Phew! I don't want this many colonies so I am going to have to start combining some.

I hived two large swarms in Layens hives, as that was all the full sized hives I have available now. The three smaller casts I threw into two warre boxes that were held together with metal brackets and a mosquito net stapled to the top of the top box. I upturned the two boxes which had topbars and starter strips in place and threw in all three casts one after the other. I brushed the bees which were spilling out back in and popped the floor on, then screwed that in place. I put on a queen includer on the entrance and turned the whole thing back the right way up, put the quilt on and then the roof. I will let them decide which queen to go forward with.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Swarms again.

Well, surprise surprise, both swarms were still in their cardboard boxes when I went back down the apiary. I am not sure I got the queen in the papercrete hive. It was getting dark when I had dealt with both of them. Here is a small video of me hiving the cast. I have not put a queen includer on the nuc as she has to be mated as soon as possible. Time will tell if they all stay put.

More Swarms

Yesterday and today I had other swarms. Luckily, in both cases I saw which hives they were issueing from. Yesterdays swarm was at 3pm from a Layens and todays was from the Layens to Kenyan top bar hive transfer that is in progress. Yesterdays was treated exactly the same as the previous post and deposited in a Kenyan TBH with queen includer on the entrance at twilight. Todays swarm was at 11am and as of this moment(2pm) they are still in the cardboard box under the olive tree. It is a long and nailbiting time until twilight, will they stay or will they go!!!!!
I am thinking that if I try to deposit them now in full hot sunlight, the queen may just fly off and I can wave them goodbye! So I am nervously waiting until this evening again before I attempt to transfer them. If they stay, I will put them in my 'Papercrete' Kenyan top bar hive. I made this a couple of years ago out of moulded papercrete (see biobees forum for details), it is the shape of a Kenyan on the outside and has a catenary curve on the inside. This hive has stood outside for over a year so I know it can withstand the weather. What I don't know is if it can withstand the humidity of the bees or even if the bees will chew it up! .....................................................
Update at 2-30pm. I just went down to the apiary to see if they were still there. I never got as far as the cardboard box which is at the far end of the apiary because there in a different olive tree sat a small soccer ball size cast patiently waiting for me to drop it into a box. I didn't have my bee suit on so I tucked my pants in my socks found another cardboard box and old curtain and deposited them as before. So far not one sting from all these 4 swarms then as I was putting something under one corner of the box to prop it open a little, one got me on the ankle through my sock. I have no more full size Top Bar Hives so this one is destined for my small TBH nuc box........................................................

Monday, March 23, 2009

A swarm in an olive tree

A swarm issued from one of my hives today. It was about 3pm when I noticed it on the bough of an old olive tree next to my home apiary. I went to get suited and booted and found a cardboard box and a sheet. I laid the sheet on the ground and held the box under the swarm and gave the bough a sharp shake. Most of the swarm went into the box with a bit of a thud. I quickly upturned the box onto the sheet. There was a hole about 2 inches across on one corner of the box. A lot of the bees re-clustered on the bough so I shook again and brushed off the bees. They just kept flying off and returning to the bough, I cut a section of the bough off and laid it by the box. I then decided to leave things alone because if the queen was in the box they would soon join her. I checked about an hour later and sure enough they had joined her in the box and the bough was clear of bees. I left them again until 7-15pm when it was just going dark outside. Enough light to see but bees had stopped flying. I wrapped the sheet around the box, lifted it up and walked up to the apiary. I opened a prepared Kenyan top bar hive with half the bars removed and dumped the majority of bees inside the hive. Using the bee brush, I coaxed the bees back in whilst replacing top bars with the other until the full complement of bars were in place. I fitted a queen includer over the entrance and laid the sheet with a still large amount of bees on in front and up to the entrance. I knew I had the queen inside when thousands of bees walked up the sheet and into the hive. By this time it was getting quite dark and I knew they wouldn't be going anywhere. Layens to kenyan top bar hive the easy way!

Friday, March 20, 2009

More photos of first honey pressing

I don't know why blogger doesn't allow more than 5 photos so here are the rest of the photos from the last post. I would also like to add that this honey is from my La Yesera apiary which is multifloral with the main flowers being lavender, rosemary, thyme, almond and citrus. It was left for a full year before removing these two frames from one of the Layens hives.

First test of the home made honey press

Today I pressed the first honeycombs in my home made honey press. I realized right away that the hole in the pan where the honey runs out is way too small. I removed the plastic spout but the honey is still very slow coming out. Now I have started this batch, I will press on until complete and open up the hole for the next pressing. Here are some photos that shows it all.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

First baited swarm of the season

No sooner as I posted about not getting any swarms yet, I find one in one of my bait hives. I only put this one out last Sunday. I wasn't even going to check them this afternoon but my dog wanted a ride out! Long story! This hive was a bit of an experiment. There was much discussion on the warre group about hexagonal hives being the optimum shape for a bee nest. I decided to use some old pallet wood and give one a go. I found it very fiddly and time consuming so I turned it into a small bait hive. Now some people reckon that a bait hive should be about 40 litres volume. I have only ever baited swarms in smaller volume hives so I make mine about 25 litres which this is. I doubt very much that this is feral as I have been told there are a lot of hives about 200m away. This hive has angle cut top bars with pieces of comb bonded to them with beeswax. I also used a swarm lure with QMP (Queen Mandibular Pheromone) and some attractant gel smeared on the outside. I will leave them where they are for about a month and see if they stay put, then I will transfer them to a Top Bar Hive at my home apiary. I will use some of my standard 43cm x 35mm top bars and screw through into these thinner bars. Then just lift them out and into the TBH. I am hoping these bees will turn out to be the gentle stock I need to introduce into my apiary.

Another Split

Click on photo to enlarge.

Today was warm and calm so I decided it was time to do the split I have been planning. It's purpose is twofold, make up for winter losses and also to convert from Layens to my hybrid Kenyan top bar hive. This hive uses British National top bars and cut down hoffman frame sides. (trying to get the advantages of natural comb without the disadvantage of comb attachment) These extend down for about 10cm where they finish to leave open comb in the kenyan style. The top of the bars have a beespace and a set of panels which prevent the hive being fully open when the roof is removed. The open top bars allow me to sit a Layens size box on top of one end nearest the end entrance. Now I knew I would be devastating this hive and the bees have been testy before so I lit my smoker and gave them about 3 puffs of weak smoke before it went out. I always seem to have trouble with smokers staying lit so I am going to dry some olive leaves for the job next time I use it. I opened up and sure enough they were on me by the thousands so I lay a wet tea towel over the top of the frames. I lifted out the first frame which was full of capped honey, the second the same. I shook the bees off and put them aside for harvesting the honey. The third had a good lot of sealed and unsealed brood so I transferred this into my top box. The next frame had an unsealed queen cell with a grub in it so my timing appears to be perfect. I didn't hang around looking for the queen, I quickly transferred two more frames and filled up the space with frames with starter strips and closed up. I moved the original hive to the other end of the apiary. So this hybrid hive top section now has 4 frames of brood with a queen cell and possibly the queen, and all the flying bees. The layens hive which had six empty frames to fill up the spaces has 6 frames with lots of honey and brood of all ages, eggs, possibly the queen and although out of balance, will quickly re-establish itself. I give the temper rating of these hives 7.5 on my 1-10 scale of nice to nasty. The hybrid Kenyan is third from left in the photo before the Layens box went on.

The spring flowers are still glorious and the citrus is about to start flowering too so plenty of forage is avaiable in this good weather. Some of the pollen being brought back is a deep royal blue? No signs of any bees in my bait hives set out in three different areas as yet but it is a weekly anticipation which I look forward to, followed by slight disapointment at each site. But there is always next week!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Home Made Honeycomb Press

I saw this on a german bee forum that Bernhard Heuvel had mentioned on the warre yahoo group. I made mine out of an old exercise bench. I already had the pan and I bought a new scissor jack capable of lifting 1 ton. I will wash the jack several times in washing up liquid and relubricate with olive oil. The spout at the bottom of the pan is a cut down nozzle from a frame sealant cartridge. I cut a circular pressing block of pine and a rectangular block that the jack sits on. Around the inside periphery of the pan are many teak laths strung together with stainless steel wire. The jack was my only expense at 18 euros and considering I was going to pay several hundred euros on a press I am well pleased. Just need some honey to try it out now.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Layens to Warre Transfer Plan C - warre #2

Today I did another transfer of Layens to warre hive. I made a box which will take 8 of the 12 layens frames and sits on a warre box with a little gap front and back. Screwed closing pieces to it and warre, made a top board with hole for feeder, quilt box and roof.
The bees had covered 9 frames with brood so I have donated the frame of brood to the hive I did the first warre transfer to using two diagonal frames. See entry below.
These bees were extremely defensive and on my scale of 1 - 10 I give them an 8.5, I will not be increasing from this stock. Luckily they are now in a warre hive so I will not be touching them again until next spring.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Layens to Warre transfer plan B

I think the upsidedown layens sat on a warre transfer is just too unstable so I have decided to go with other methods.
I have put four warre boxes, with the top two boxes completely empty and the bottom two boxes with normal top bars and starter strips, in the position where the layens was. I opened the layens and went through until I found one frame with eggs in and another with sealed brood. The top two warre boxes will take these two frames diagonally but there is no room for anything else. I then put a solid board over the top with a feed hole covered by a feeder and the upside down empty quilt. I put two frames with starter strips back in the layens and moved it to the other side of the apiary. These are very defensive bees and I used two wet tea towels on the tops of the frames of the layens to keep them subdued. On a scale of 1 to 1o for defensiveness I would give them about a seven. Last year when I opened one up, which I found was queenless, I would have given it a nine!
I also took the opportunity of the good weather to do a Layens to Kenyan Top Bar Hive transfer. I have a box with the same internal dimensions as a layens which sits via a board directly on the top bars of the TBH. The middle five top bars underneath the layens box have been modified with slots to allow the bees to go down through and out through the entrance of the TBH. I would rate the defensiveness of this colony at 6.5.
I feel quite happy at the new method of transfer into a warre because it kills two birds with one stone. I wanted to do some walk away splits anyway to make up for my three losses so if this one makes it, I only have two more to do.
Quite warm today, the spring flowers are at their peak. The almonds have virtually all finished blooming and the field poppies are glorious.

Friday, March 6, 2009


Well I was warned that they looked top heavy! I was meaning to tie them down but thought the olive trees would act as a wind break. Started with heavy winds t'other day and both hives went over and separated. One went down a 6 foot ravine. They are heavy and I had to use my tractor lifting bucket to get it back up. Both hives tops were open and the cloud of bees were determined to get me. Some did manage to get into my overall legs and I was stung on the calf.

So I have to start all over again. I can't lift them up myself so I am going to have to wait until I can get my brother around again. Boy these bees are going to be confused! One minute upside down next right way up and I now have to invert them again!

I promise myself I will tie them down next time

Still blowin! 3 straight days now. It takes a heavy toll on the bees, temps are around 9 degrees, I can see snow on the far mountains towards Granada. The bees sense the temps are OK and it is bright and clear so out they go. I suspect I am loosing far more flying bees than I will to the bee eaters.

Spent time in the workshop devising new methods of non intrusive transfers between layens and warre. I have made a transfer box that takes eight layens frames and almost sits directly on a warre box. I just need two fillets to close the bottom. Using just the eight brood frames, I think the bees will go down in time because they wil need to use these frames as honey storage. I have made a crown board with a feed hole. The 4 other frames which should be full of honey will be fed back to them with a feeder over and enclosed by a type of eke I have made. I have also made a warre style roof for this box which should also be able to be used for a warre eventually.

I also discovered that two layens frames sit perfectly diagonally in two warre boxes. If a crown board is fitted over these, a split of two frames with a queen cell, a shake of a couple more frames and some honey being fed back to them will be an excellent way of not only increasing stock, artificial swarming, and easy transfer from Layens to warre.