Comb with Young Larvae

This is a good example to see what young bee larvae looks like in the comb.  You see some eggs and the larvae which are probably 2-3 days old.  You will notice a white liquid inside the cells, that is royal jelly. Worker bee larvae are fed royal jelly for the first 3 days, after that they are fed nectar, honey and pollen.  Only larvae that have been selected to become queens will be fed royal jelly the entire time of their development.

Young larvae

Young larvae feeding on royal jelly. A few eggs can also be seen. 

Comb-with-young-larvae-2

More young larvae feeding on royal jelly. Here you can see some that are smaller than others, just different age larvae. 

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Spring Splits

We have been busy with life and our bees the past few weeks and I realized I haven’t posted on my blog in a while (shame on me).  We had been preparing and building up our hives for splits and swarm prevention and everything went well. All the splits are doing great and we prevented swarming.

Getting our equipment ready.

Getting some of our equipment ready.

Grabbing a frame with plenty of brood.

Grabbing a frame with plenty of brood.

Grabbing a frame full of pollen, which serves as food for the brood.

Grabbing a frame full of pollen, which serves as food for the brood.

Splitting-hives

Going through the hives looking for good frames to use in the splits.

More hives, more frames.

More hives, more frames.

Providing additional nutrition with bee patties.

Providing additional nutrition with bee patties.

Finally, new nucs ready to go.

Finally, new nucs ready to go.

 

Fall Honey Flow: Brazilian Pepper

Here in South Florida the bees get a nice treat during late September through early November, a large fall honey flow from the Brazilian pepper trees.  This honey has a nice golden color and the flavor is mild with a slight “kick” to it, however it is not spicy as some may think because of the name.  I actually prefer it over orange blossom honey.

It is such a large honey flow that the bees will swarm if you don’t split them ahead of time.  So we use the long Labor Day weekend to make our splits and prevent swarming.

Brazilian pepper (Schinus terebinthifolius), also called Florida Holly, is an invasive species originating from South America. It is actually illegal to cultivate, sell or transport the seeds and plant.  It is a very fast growing tree that spreads quickly and overtakes other native vegetation.  It is very hard to eradicate because of how easy it proliferates.

Despite the negative perception many people have about the trees, we like them because our bees love them.  We fully understand the environmental impacts is has had on native plants, but at the same time with honey bees on the decline, they need food sources too. This tree provides a great amount of honey for them to store and survive on during winter when not many other flowers are blooming.

Brazilian pepper flowers

Brazilian pepper flowers

Close up of flowers, they are very tiny.

Close up of Brazilian pepper flowers, they are very tiny.

Do you think this is a bee? Well, you're wrong! It is a Drone Fly. They mimic the look of a bee to prevent predators from eating them.

Do you think this is a bee? Well, you’re wrong! It is a Drone Fly. They mimic the look of a bee to prevent predators from eating them.

Brazilian pepper seeds. This is how it got the nickname Florida Holly.

Brazilian pepper seeds. This is how it got the nickname Florida Holly.

Lots of brood still being produced in fall.

Lots of brood still being produced in fall.

Even drones being produced too!

Even drones being produced too!

Capped Brazilian pepper honey.

Capped Brazilian pepper honey waiting to be extracted.

Look at that beautiful golden honey - liquid gold.

Look at that beautiful golden honey – liquid gold.

How to Identify Elements on a Bee Frame

I thought it would be helpful for some of the beginners out there to see a frame with some important elements pointed out. I’m also providing a link to the full resolution versions so that you can zoom in.

Frame_small

Frame with important elements marked.

Click here for full resolution file of marked up frame.

Unmarked frame for comparison.

Unmarked frame for comparison.

Click here for full resolution file of unmarked frame.

Splitting a hive

Two new splits.

Two new splits.

This weekend we split two of our strongest hives and created two new hives.  We did this to increase the number of hives we have, but to also prevent swarming.  Spring is prime swarming season, so we do what we can to reduce the chances of that happening.

There are several ways to make a split, and every beekeeper will have different methods and advice.  I will explain the method we used, but before making a split of your own always make sure the hive is strong enough to split, that you have the necessary equipment (including ordering queens ahead of time if you go that route), and that the weather is warm enough.

Here was our method:

  1. Make sure the strong hive has at least 8 frames of brood.
  2. Move 4 frames of brood and 1 frame of honey into a new hive.
  3. Locate the queen and move her to the new hive.
  4. Make sure the old hive has at least 4 frames of brood, including a frame with eggs/uncapped brood, and 1 frame of honey.
  5. Fill in the rest of the old and new hives with empty built or new unbuilt frames.
  6. Put entrance reducers on the hives.

The eggs/uncapped brood in the old hive will give the worker bees what they need to produce a new queen.  We’ll give them 2-3 weeks to produce a queen. If they are unsuccessful, then we will introduce a mated queen from a local queen supplier.  Alternative method: After the split you can wait 24 hours and then introduce a new mated queen instead of waiting for the hive to produce their own queen.

If you are using new unbuilt frames, then you should also feed.  Feeding stimulates wax production so the worker bees will build out those new frames faster.

Entrance reducers help the smaller population guard the entrance of the hive from pest and other intruders.

I’ve put together a Q&A list of some common questions.

Why to split a hive?
There are a few reasons to split a hive.

  • To discourage swarming
  • To increase your number of hives for honey production
  • To control mites

How does splitting discourage swarming?
When a hive becomes strong, it is a natural behavior for part of a bee colony along with the queen to leave the hive and create a new hive. This is the way bees reproduce in nature.  When you split a hive you are removing half of the bee colony.  This makes the bees “think” they have swarmed.

How does splitting control mites?
When you leave a hive without a queen for 2-3 weeks that breaks the brood cycle.  Mites reproduce by laying eggs on bee brood, so if the bees are not producing brood, mite populations decrease.

Do I need to feed?
If you have introduced new unbuilt frames into the hive then, yes, you should feed.  This will help the bees draw out comb faster. Just use a 1:1 ratio of sugar and water. If you are using empty built frames and have enough honey in the hive, then you should be okay not feeding. Bees consume about six pounds of honey to produce one pound of wax.

Here we are with our 2 new hives.

Here we are with our 2 new hives.

Hive Combination & a New Queen

Just wanted to give a quick update of our weekend inspection.  A few weeks ago I posted about a queenless hive and a round queen cell.  Well, we have a new queen!  We didn’t see her, but we did find new eggs and very young brood, positive signs that there is a queen. 🙂 We’ll try to find her and mark her during our next inspection.

Then we had a hive that was not doing so great these past weeks.  It happens.  The population was dwindling and the queen was not laying,  so we had to make a decision.  We killed the old queen and combined the weak hive with one of our strong hives.  We decided not to requeen because the population was small and could not support a new queen at this time.  Soon we’ll split the strong hive, thus creating a new hive and give the bees a chance to produce a new queen.

Well fed bees

Two weeks ago we added a second floor to our strong hives and they are doing very well. Here is a frame we pulled from the top chamber.  You can tell right away that these are well fed bees.  The brood (baby bees) are clustered together and capped in the center. Very nice laying pattern, meaning the queen is good.  Lots of capped and uncapped honey surrounding the brood, meaning they have plenty of food for the adults and to feed the larvae.

well-fed-bees