Monday, December 28, 2009

Pressing Honeycomb Video

Small Cell & Crossing the Great Divide.

We were discussing natural comb building on the yahoo warre group and again on the NBN forum. Other beekeepers were saying that after just one season of bees building comb foundationless they were finding cell size in the brood nest at 5.1 to 5.2 and even less. Well I measured as much comb as I could this year from all the deadouts. They built consistently at 5.3mm in the brood areas. I never found anything less than 5.3. Now Stefan in Las Palmas who is a Dee Lusby disciple and therefore small cell advocate maintains that to get small cell the comb spacing must be 32mm. My Kenyans were all 35mm and my warre were the standard 36mm so he may have a point. This may also be part of the reason I saw so much comb curving in the kenyans. Scott from the yahoo warre group has said he puts nine 20mm wide bars in his warre hives instead of eight. I did the maths and realized if I did the same, I would get 32mm spacing. So this batch of 4 warre boxes and all subsequent boxes will have nine bars.

These photos show exactly how I achieve the spacing.

The first photo shows an end spacer of 9mm and the first bar pinned into place, the 12mm spacer with the screw as a handle and the next bar also pushed up and pinned.

This photo shows the 9mm spacer removed and the 12mm spacer put into the next position.

The next photo shows the next top bar being slid along before pinning into place.

All bars now in place and pinned in position. The pins are 'gimp' pins or what the Americans call frame nails.

Four boxes pinned and ready for the top surface of the top bars to be laquered with pure linseed oil.

These and several others will have a couple of months to dry and air before use.

In these next photos, you can see I have waxed small pieces of comb between the middle top bars, set on top so that when it is put under the warre hive it will crush slightly between the combs. This is to act as a bridge which the bees will be able to cross from the comb above. Bees are reluctant to cross a divide and have been known to swarm through lack of space even though there was an empty box below!

Friday, December 25, 2009

Another lost colony

The cutout from my log cabin didn't make it I am sad to say. I thought I had the queen and sufficient bees to keep them going with some feeding but I may have damaged or lost her during the transfer. I noticed the hive I put them in was attracting a lot of attention from robber bees even though they had a very small entrance. When I checked inside, there were just a few bees remaining plus the robbers on the goods candy I had put over the crown board. I laid the crown board with what remained of the candy upside down on the table and just let the bees go for it. Here is a very small video from this morning with most of the candy gone. Goods Candy is just honey mixed with powdered sugar and you can see the bees somehow taking the honey yet leaving clumps of sugar. This shows quite clearly what they prefer to eat!

Over the last few days I have been making up spare warre boxes, quilts, floors, roofs etc. I have been dismantling the now redundant kenyans and utilizing the materials, wood and screws, to make some of the above. I will be giving each of my surviving hives an extra box, possibly in February if the weather is kind.

With my comb collapses and warre blow overs this year here in Spain, I have been thinking of ways to improve the situation. I had considered a large beehouse similar to the one in Sweden until I saw a photo of some WBC hives in an English garden which looked picture perfect. By utilising a larger footprint floor and WBC style lifts and roof around a warre, several objectives are reached at once. Shade, insulation and a more stable floor. The aesthetics of these hives is also to be considered. One of the disadvantages of a WBC hive, namely the extra work involved with removing and refitting the lifts, is not a problem with a warre system as they are rarely disturbed. The main disadvantage as I see it is the extra material and work required to make them. Perhaps the advantages outweigh the disadvantages. I will ponder this.....

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Cross Combing in Kenyan Hives

I have had questions asking do I really need to convert from Kenyan to warre hives. I suppose I could, once a year, butcher thousands of bees to put things right but I cannot do that to the bees or myself. Below are photos of the underside of top bars and a kenyan carcass that I had to butcher to get the combs out of. You can see the cross combing and the wall attachments. The lower part of the kenyan is where the comb had completely collapsed and was anchored to the floor with brace comb.

As with all the photos on this blog, they are clickable to enlarge them.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Apiary in Transition

My apiary looks very different now that I have transitioned from Kenyan to warre hives. This first photo shows some of the hives in transition now.

The follwing photo is one of the mini kenyan sat on warre box.

The only hive I have not transitioned into warre is my hybrid hive. This is the one that has half frames with kenyan style lower part to the combs. There was no cross combing or attachments with this hive so the experiment worked. I haven't harvested honey from this hive yet but I may take some in March next.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Bees wax collecting

I set my old top bars on top of some empty Layens hives and there were bees collecting wax from them. They were chewing the wax off and packing it on their back legs just like they do with pollen or propolis. This small video does not show it in enough detail but that is what they were doing yesterday.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Two more kenyan warre transfers today

Today I transferred two more kenyan colonies into my kenyan/warre transfer hives.

This first photo is of the blue kenyan as I am removing top bars.

This next shot is of the kenyan transfer box that is sat upon the warre box. You can clearly see the angle difference of the original comb and the widened angle.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Transfer of kenyan to Warre

I transferred bees from a kenyan into my kenyan/warre hive this morning. Beautiful weather at around 23 degrees C. This was a very small cast that I hived in Spring and because its seven combs it had built were not full size and they were unable to fill any with heavy honey, it was the only colony that didn't have any collapsed comb. Lovely calm bees and they didn't mind at all being moved into their new home. I am hoping this one gets going next season.
I have three more kenyans to convert to warre hives and I have started butchering the vacant kenyans to make into mini kenyans that sit on the warre hives. I think I may have enough wood left from each one to make a warre box so nothing is wasted. The next couple of conversions are bigger colonies so I am trying to make the mini kenyan fit ten top bars. We will see how that works out.
I am feeding the bees with honey water that is left over from washing my pressing gear. I have set out on a table four round plastic feeders (leftover gear from previous years) sat on wooden bars so that they can enter from underneath and not drown.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Kenyan to Warre Transfer

I mentioned in my last blog entry about a new idea I had to transfer from a kenyan to a warre. The transfer boxes I made in Sweden for this purpose were small kenyans with fillet inserts at the bottom to block the gaps over the warre top bars. This idea is similar but it opens out the kenyan sloping sides to match the width of the warre box at the bottom.

I started though with a new design of floor. I have had a few blow overs on my warre's this year and it is mainly down to the small footprint of just 34cm x 34cm. The floor below is 43cm x 43cm and built of stout timber so it is heavy.

The warre box sits on top as normal.

The modified small kenyan now sits perfectly on top of the warre as the bottom section of the kenyan is exactly the same section as the warre.

If you look at this next photo you will see the original end panel and the original screw holes positions marked in white. The new positions are marked in black. The top screw remained in place and the kenyan side rotated about its axis to its new position to match the warre. When it was in the right position, I marked the kenyan side at the bottom as it now projected below the end and sawn and planed the bottom to get it flush.

And here you can see the whole thing with top bars in place. You may notice the filled original entrance holes on the kenyan part. I just use wood glue mixed with sawdust for a filler.

When I transfer the top bars from my kenyans into these transfer boxes, they will have more space to fill with the extra room given. At this time of year there are but few brood combs and as there is only room for eight bars in this box it is important that I transfer them now before they start to build up again. I think I have about a month to do it.