Swarm #3, about 1 lb of bees from city of Seaside in the same spot as swarm #2. Installed in medium 5 frame nuc in home yard.
4/12/14, swarm had a virgin queen which is now mated and laying but the hive is very weak with only about 1.5 frames of bees.
4/30/14, I killed the queen in swarm #10 which only had about 1.5 frames of bees and added them to this hive.
5/3/14, The hive is queenless, The bees from swarm 10 must have killed the queen.
5/5/14, combined swarm #11 ( about 2 frames of bees) with this hive.
5/8/14, Could find no queen. Moved this hive to HS 2 and combined with a nuc of home raised queen.
Made splits to install queen cells in. 3 queen mating nucs, 5 deep 5 frame nucs and 2 medium 5 frame nucs all are queenless waiting for queen cells.
Swarm #2, Collected a smallish swarm of about 1.5 lbs of bees in the City of Seaside and installed in a 5 frame nuc in the Home yard.
Update: 4/12/14, The swarm had a virgin queen which has mated and is now laying.
Inspected the cell finisher. There are 14 well finished queen cells which will be ready for installing into nucs on March 27th and 28th. Too bad it is going to be raining. I need to set up the nucs on Wednesday the 26th.
Swarm #1, The first swarm of the season was discovered in a bait hive I had set up in Concord. I moved it to my home yard and set out another bait hive.
Update: 3/19/14, The swarm has been in the bait hive at least 10 days. There are four frames of bees and the queen is poor with a very spotty brood pattern. I added a full frame of brood from another hive to strengthen it planning to split it into 2 nucs for ripe queen cells on March 27th.
Update: 3/26/14, I split the hive into two 5 frame deep nucs and gave them queen cells.
Update: 4/12/14, Both nucs now have laying queens.
I moved the started queen cells along with the frame of pollen and frame of honey from the cell starter to the cell finisher colony today. The cells that I could see look much better than they did with the cloak board method. The only problem is that the cell finisher is really not as strong as it should be. I added all the bees from the cell starter swarm box to the cell finisher so I hope that makes up for the shortage. Fortunately I am only trying to produce about 20 cells, at most 29 if they were all accepted, and this is much less than the 70 or more that a commercial operation would be doing that requires an extremely strong hive. Hopefully the lower number of cells can be cared for well by the weaker hive. When I moved the cells I was very careful not to jar the swarm box and left all adhering bees to the frames as I moved them to disturb them as little as possible.
I made a swarm box using a 5 frame deep nuc box, added about an inch to the bottom and stapled a screen over the bottom. I added a medium frame of honey, medium frame of pollen and two empty medium frames and a soaking wet wash cloth for water. As per Larry Connors teaching in the video at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hJvLnFDDjEo I shook between 2 and 3 lbs of young bees into the box taking them from two strong hives, covered it and set it on blocks in the garage for about 4 hours. I set up one of the strong hives that I took young bees from as the cell finisher. It consisted of 4 medium boxes, I set the queen in the bottom two with a queen excluder and arranged the top two as the cell finisher section. I moved open brood to the top two boxes with three missing frames in the top box ready for the cell starter frames to be added tomorrow. In the afternoon I added 29 grafted queen cups in-between the frame of honey and pollen and returned it to my garage. I used the Chinese grafting tool this time and found it worked surprisingly well bring royal jelly along with the larvae so there was no need to prime the cells.
It is Early March 2014.
I started the year with 10 hives four were very weak. I added brood to the weak hives from the strong at various times over the past 45 days. One of the weak hives had its queen killed when I added bees from another hive so I am now at 9 hives. Six of the hives are very strong and have had their brood chambers reversed at least once, some twice and supers added. Two are not building properly one with shoot brood and European Foul Brood Like appearance, typical of severe parasitic mite syndrome, the other is just not up to expectation. The remaining hive was formerly very weak and is now expanding very quickly at a current size of a double deep. I have been cleaning dead outs culling questionable old comb, making up bait hives, and preparing for swarm calls as swarm season has arrived. I have ordered 20 queens from Jeremy Rose of http://www.californiabeecompany.com/ due in the second week of May. The past two years I had used the Russian cross queens from http://www.honeybeegenetics.com/ . Last year I had about a 50% failure rate of his queens within the first 2 months but I must admit that they had a much better survival rate than the other queens with most of my surviving queens currently from honeybee genetics. I am concerned that my 6 strong hives will swarm before I receive the queens so I have decided to try and raise some of my own queens to make splits by the end of March. I previously raised queens using the cloak board method and was not too pleased with my results, this year I will trying a swarm box to start the cells.
I have decided that I can not continue like this and will be using Formic acid in the form of Mite Away Quick Strips http://www.miteaway.com/ as a treatment for the mites this year. I hate to treat with anything but the formic acid seems like the best solution, it is approved as an organic treatment and can be used at any time unlike all the other poisons that are approved for use in hives. Per the manufacturer of the quick strips “Formic acid naturally occurs in honey at levels ranging up to over 2,000 parts per million (ppm). The formic acid concentration in hive air during MAQS treatment remains well below 100 ppm, so the levels in the honey do not go outside of naturally occurring levels.”
I have kept bees on and off since 1976. I decided to have a sideline beekeeping business in my retirement so I started accumulating bees and equipment about 8 years ago toward that end. My desire is to have 20 production hives going into the early Spring. In a good year this would give me about 2000 lbs of honey and 200 lbs of pollen which is plenty for my sideline business. Since I am a chemical free beekeeper I have been using zero treatments and trying to get disease resistant bees. The biggest problem of course are the varroa mites. I started out with about 50% loss over winter and so figured I needed enough equipment for 40 hives going into winter. I have been trying to grow to my target of 20 spring hives and have yet to attain it. At first I would get bees each year through both package purchase and swarm collection. I was never able to collect as many swarms as I needed which is why I would purchase some packages. I discovered that the packages were not doing any better than swarms at the same time as I discovered the benefits of bait hives. I now get all my bees for replacement and expansion from swarms, bait hives and splits. The problem is that over the last three years each year sees a higher winter loss so I have never made my spring 20. In 2012 I went into the winter with 43 hives and came into Spring with 16, a 65% loss. Of the 16, 8 were very weak. I had little problem expanding back to 40 by the middle of May but with only 8 strong hives coming out of winter I only got about 700 lbs of honey and 150 lbs of pollen. Going into winter in 2013 I now had 53 Hives thinking that this time I would make my Spring 20. Not so! My worst loss ever at 85%. I am down to 9 hives at the beginning of 2014 year.