March 29, 2015

I grafted to 30 JZ-BZ queen cups from my 100% VSH breeder queen purchased last Fall from Harbo Bee Company http://www.harbobeeco.com/breeder-queens/ . Grafting is hard. I have tried various grafting tools and so far the one I like the best is the inexpensive Chinese grafting tool. I have found that it works best if the tongue is a little wet so I dip it in water and wipe it off every other or every third graft. This seems to help the tongue more easily slide under the larvae or perhaps to wick the larvae onto the tongue. It also helps the larvae slide off the tongue into the cup. Before I figured this out I am sure I injured at least a third of the larvae I grafted.

A head mount magnifier with LED lamp makes seeing the larvae much easier. I was able to find larvae the same size or slightly larger than eggs. The wet tongue on the grafting tool hleped a lot with these small larvae since there is not much royal jelly in their cups yet. It is true that the wet tongue greatly dilutes the royal jelly but research has shown that all the royal jelly is removed from grafted cells and then refilled by the cell building bees, so as long as you get the cells into the cell builder fairly quickly it should not be a problem.

The top chamber above the closed cloak board is packed with bees with bearding bees at the entrance. I am hoping for much better results than my past use of a swarm box to start the cells and separate cell building colony. Tomorrow afternoon I will open the cloak board partly.

March 28, 2015

I placed a cloak board between the brood chambers of a double deep hive after rotating the hive 180 degrees. The queen is in the bottom chamber and I added bees shook from a total of 10 deep frames from two donor colonies to the top chamber to increase the strength for cell building. One frame was removed from the center of the top chamber so it is ready for the grafts to be added tomorrow. The cloak board is closed to make the top chamber queenless.

March 24, 2015

Swarm #2: A nice 5 frame swarm found in a 5 frame bait hive in Concord. I expanded it into an 8 frame hive body and will pick it up in April 7th at which time I expect another swarm to be in a second bait hive at that location. I expect this because there are a large number of bees investigating that bait hive. I place the hive in HS #1 position.

March 10, 2015

Swarm #1: I picked up a nice strong 7 frame swarm in a bait hive place in Concord California. When I picked up the full bait hive I place an empty bait hive in the same location and expect that it will be successful in attracting another swarm within two weeks, we will see. I placed the new hive in the Harkins Slough yard and will be setting a honey super over a queen excluder within the next couple of days. I placed the hive in HS #16 position.

 

2015 year is underway

It is Early March and Honeybee Spring is will under way for 2015. Unusually warm winter days, few rainy days has the bees well advanced in their spring buildup, as compared to a normal year. Little rain over Winter makes for a low nectar and reduced bloom however, so the bees will burst out with early swarming and then be stressed to collect enough resources to live through the year in some areas such as the Royal Oaks area.

Last year I treated my bees for mites for the first time. I used formic acid in the form of mite away quick strips. This is one of the few organic treatments available, and it can be used while the honey supers are still on the hive. The acid can also be very hard on the bees, and I lost about 5 queens during the treatment. Over all it was worth the effort and it did help to reduce my winter loss. In October 2014 I had 27 Hives and 14 Nucs, In the beginning of March 2015 I have 18 Hives and 8 Nucs. This translates into a winter loss of 33% for Hives , 43% loss for nucs and an overall loss of 37%. Over the winter of 2013- 2014 I lost about 80% so this winter was a vast improvement. It is worth noting that nucs are too small to be treated per the mite away quick strip directions so they were not treated. In my hive count some nucs had changed into full hives and some hives had reduced to nucs over the winter so my numbers are not really representative if comparing hive and nuc losses.

A review of the 2014 season shows that I only harvested 12.5 pounds of pollen, my usually harvest is 130 to 150 pounds. I harvested 240 pounds of honey as compared to 700 pounds in 2013, this is well below my target of 1000 pounds per year. The drought has been very hard on the hives especially in the Lewis Road area. Harkins Slough is much better and the bees are doing better in that area overall. This year looks to be another very dry year so I do not plan to harvest any pollen. Any honey to be harvested from the Lewis Road area must be obtained by the middle of  May and we can expect a nectar dearth through June and July. I had to feed several hundred pounds of sugar last summer so I will leave most of the honey this year to decrease feeding requirements. It looks grim in the Lewis road area as far as a harvest goes so I will concentrate on the Harkins Slough apiary for production.

Bees are already swarming on the Monterey Peninsula so I am setting out my bait hives in preparation of the coming swarm season. I posted a notice on the social website www.nextdoor.com with great results in finding locations to set bait hives though my home area so I am hoping to get enough swarms to restock my empty hives. My target is 50 hives going into winter with hopes of 20 strong hives the following Spring. As of March 9 I have set 14 bait hives.

June 29

The first 30 queen cell grafts were moved from the swarm box into LR1 set up as a cell finisher. Another 30 JZ cell cups were grafted and placed into the swarm box. Before placing the grafts into the box I refilled the water cloth and added fresh frames of honey and Pollen though I probably did not need to. I actually think I set the swarm box up with more bees than I needed to so it should easily be able to do well with the second grafting.

June 28

I purchased a VSH breeder queen from Harbo Bee Co. http://www.harbobeeco.com/breeder-queens/ The Queens are about $250 each plus shipping. I purchsed one as I only need about 10 queens to make my yards 30 % VSH queens. The Idea is to raise queens that are 100% VSH so their workers will be  50 % after mating with the local drones. Also all the drones produced by queens that are produced by the breeder will be 100 % VSH introducing the VSH qualities to any queens that they mate with. My goal is to produce 10 queens.

I introduced the queens into a nuc on 6/11/14 and released her from the cage on 6/16/14 after I saw that the bees had accepted her. She has been laying now for about 8 days now so today I made my first grafting into 30 queen cups adding them to a swarm box that I made up. Because of the drought there is not much available for the bees and we are near the beginning of the dearth here. I have been feeding both sugar water and pollen Substitute now for about three weeks to keep the bees raising brood in preparation to make splits and setting up the cell builders. I have never tried to raise queens under these conditions so it will be interesting.

June 10

Swarm #20, Small Swarm of 2 frames of bees in Pleasant Hill Bait hive. I left it in place as the forage available is better in Pleasant Hill now that in Watsonville.

Update 6/24/14: I moved the hive into a 5 Frame nuc. It has 2 plus frames of bees and one frame of brood.