Beekeeping Basics

Discussion in 'The Green Patch' started by Asia-Off-Grid, Sep 5, 2017.

  1. Asia-Off-Grid

    Asia-Off-Grid RIP 11-8-2018

    I started a previous thread back in early July, regarding others here who may be involved in beekeeping. I had already been making purchases of beekeeping equipment and accessories, while waiting for my bees to arrive. (In SEA, you don't get in a hurry for anything. Doing so will only cause you to give yourself an aneurysm.)

    Our bees (2 colonies) arrived on July 22nd. I kept them here at the apartment for just over two weeks, prior to moving them to the farm. They arrived in 10 frame poly boxes, which appeared to be pretty rugged. Unfortunately, for some crazy reason, when you buy bees here, they come with 8 frames, but in a 10 frame box. Why, I have no idea. But, I will say they serve as excellent hives to move bees in, as you just flip down the plastic cover to expose a screen vent and close the entrance, simultaneously. Transport them to their destination and open them up. Simple.
    2017-07-23 12.11.56ab.
    2017-07-23 12.15.41.
    Pretty neat hives, I have to say. Anyway...

    After just over two weeks, we closed them up and moved them during the wee hours of the morning (08/08/17), to the farm. They were calm and cool customers. Not to mention, I had movies and popcorn for them during the trip. They were happy campers.

    We arrive at the farm just before daylight, and immediately set up the poly hives, until we could transfer them into their new digs, the full Langstroth hives.
    2017-08-08 08.55.25.
    To be honest, I was a bit apprehensive that they would survive at the farm, with nothing (apparently) but rice fields for 10 kilometers in any given direction. But, they pleasantly surprised me. As soon as I opened the hive entrances up, they began taking their orientation flights - a wonderful thing to watch by the way, and immediately took off for destinations unknown.

    I was truly surprised - and a bit shocked, to see them returning within only minutes, ready to begin filling their stores. I would have never believed it had I not seen it with my own eyes.

    Anyway, two days later (10/08/17), we transferred them into the new hives we had set up for them. The frames in the poly hives were close to being full, about 80-90% capacity. So, I knew it was well past time to give them more room to expand.

    In the photo immediately below, I gave them each a second brood box, for them to expand and grow into. The top boxes served, at the time, only as vent boxes and to protect internal feeders. I would set small (1 Liter) chicken feeders, with small stones inside and on top of the inner covers, in order to feed the bees.

    Moving them into the new hives was a pleasant experience. Chan (aka "The Boss") caught a photo of one of the workers patiently waiting for us to complete the transfer, so she could carry her loot into her hive. Probably the best photo we have to date, of these little creatures:
    Anyway, the transfer went well.

    During the day, it hits about 34°C to 35°C, hotter in direct sunlight. We began to notice the workers weren't out so much during the hottest part of the day. Walking up behind the hives, they sounded like small jet engines running, to keep the hive cool. So, we drilled ventilation holes in the top boxes, in hopes that would keep them cool enough. Still, it didn't seem to be enough.

    So, we then decided to move them under a tree, closer to the front of the property. They would receive morning sun until about noon or a bit after. Anyway, this is what the apiary looked like just after the move:

    Then, I got tinkeritis and thought they were still getting too much sunlight. We put some sunshade (similar to what we used to construct the greenhouse for the aquaponics system) above them, to help keep more of the direct sunlight off the hives. We - by "we", I mean me, I - may have gone a bit far with that, to be honest.
    2017-08-14 16.10.40_r.

    Then, I left them alone for a couple of weeks. But, at least they were coming and going all day, now, rather than staying inside the hives during the hottest part of rural Cambodian days.

    Up next, expanding - splitting.
    Last edited: Sep 5, 2017
  2. Asia-Off-Grid

    Asia-Off-Grid RIP 11-8-2018

    We did one inspection that I will skip. Nothing about it would be any different than what I am about to post, other than the most recent inspection being a full deep inspection of both brood chambers.

    This past weekend, the 3rd of September, we broke open the hives to have a look. The girls, as always, were calm and easy going. I have to say, I hope all my future colonies are as calm as these bees are. We rarely even need to smoke them, prior to opening their hives up for inspections.

    First, I would like to share with you a photo we took of open and capped brood. I cropped the image to show the image much larger. It is amazing to watch these little creatures carry out their daily duties, especially the nurse bees feeding and caring for their siblings, that are yet to mature:
    Now, I have to say, I am pretty fortunate to have such strong hives. In fact, so strong that one of them was about to swarm on us. During the inspection, we found a single swarm cell. More about this later. For now, I would like to show you some of the images of the open and capped brood and the honey stores they have built, since having been relocated to the farm.
    Now, the swarm cell. Since the second (first inspected) hive had so much capped and open brood to spare, I decided to take a frame of each - one capped brood frame had the swarm cell on it, along with some honey and an empty frame, and put them all into a 5 frame nuc, to see if we could start a third colony. (This would be the first split I have ever done.)
    Yep, similar to the 10 framed poly hives, the same company sells 5 frame poly nucs. I bought two of them recently, just for this sort of urgency.

    As you may be able to tell, we took the mother hive and moved it adjacent to the hive on the far end, and turned it around facing the opposite direction. I then put the nuc in the place of the mother hive, to help build the population even more. By the time stamp on the image, you can tell that many of the foraging bees were still away from the hive. So, by nightfall, there would be even more bees in the nuc, than I originally started with.

    The next morning, I wanted to see how the nuc was doing. You can see, by viewing the following video:

    Up next - dropping some of the girls. :(
  3. Asia-Off-Grid

    Asia-Off-Grid RIP 11-8-2018

    Last segment, dropping some of my girls.

    During the hive inspections, we had so much going on, one person with the camera in hand, one person lifting frames, and one person holding frames - at this point, it was me, Mr. Butterfingers, who was holding the frames.

    Chan had given me a frame holder with 3 frames on it, that she had just pulled from a hive body (box). This was so Tha could put the upper brood chamber back in place, so we could close up the hive. You see, my hands shake a bit, due to high blood pressure. Well, that's what I believe it to be anyway. Who knows? Either way, my hands began to shake too much and the frames, one by one, fell from the holder. The frame holder looks like this:
    The bees took to flying as though they were in a swarm. I tell ya, I have NEVER been in the middle of so many bees in my life. I didn't realize, truly, how many bees actually were on a frame - at one time! Anyway, there I stood, frame holder in hand, three frames on the ground - one damaged, and 3.9 million bees flying all around us. I was wearing nothing but a veil, a t-shirt, and shorts. Chan was wearing long pants, a thick shirt, and a veil. Tha had just come over from working on another project, to help us do the inspection. He insisted on not wearing a veil.

    Chan picked up the frames and carefully put them in one of the hive bodies. Tha finished putting the boxes together. And, then there was me, standing there with a stupid look on my face, wondering why the girls didn't come after us like a bear stealing their honey. Not one sting on any of us, from the bees. Not a single one. Amazing.
  4. Airtime

    Airtime Monkey+++

    Very good.
    One question, is there a particular reason you have them on tables up as high as they are? (Critters, or something?)
    I always had my hives much lower. That made inspection a little easier but the bigger reason was lifting full supers that may weigh 70-80 pounds from chest high hives can be pretty tough solo.
    Asia-Off-Grid likes this.
  5. Asia-Off-Grid

    Asia-Off-Grid RIP 11-8-2018

    Hi @Airtime
    Thank you.
    There was no particular reason for making the hive stands so tall. We just estimated dimensions and had them built. Lifting them is not really an issue, due to one of our employees being so tall - knocking on 2 meters. Not to mention, we have other people who can assist in lifting them as well.
    Wild Trapper and Motomom34 like this.
  6. Asia-Off-Grid

    Asia-Off-Grid RIP 11-8-2018

    Well, we returned to the farm this morning (8/Sept), to do an inspection of the nuc. Just wanted to get an idea as to where we are at with it. I was surprised. I had actually been a bit concerned that I had not put enough bees in it, when transferring the frames from the mother hive. However, I had put it in place of the mother hive, during the middle of the day. So, many of the foraging bees were away from the hive, at the time of the split. Then, I turned the mother hive around 180°, so the bees would not return there. Anyway, I had seriously underestimated the number of foragers that had been away from the hive, at the time we did the split. Have a look:

    Drawing out the comb on the empty frame.

    Working on the honey frame.

    So many in the nuc, they were on the inside of the cover, as well.

    The one thing I neglected to photo last time, the swarm cell. It was not capped at the time we made the split, on the 3rd. So, I figure they capped it, probably, about the 4th. Around the 20th, we should have us a new queen for these bees. This frame was also full of bees. So full, in fact, that I had to gently blow on them, and move them with my hand, in order to get them to move so we could see the swarm cell.

    Due to the number of bees that are in the nuc and since there are so many of them, AND, they are working hard on the frames, we will return to the farm in the morning to transfer them into a full 10 frame hive.

    As soon as I see the current capped brood frame has hatched, I will toss another frame of capped brood, as well as another frame of larvae, into the new hive. This will guarantee there are enough bees to tend to the queen, after she emerges from her royal cell.
    Mountainman and Wild Trapper like this.
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