Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Lesson 35: Another Hive Removed From A House

[This is a blog and the information contained within each entry is time sensitive, meaning prices are subject to change and information due to new discovery can change as well.]
Before our next lesson on the importance of having an observation hive, I want to show you how we removed a hive from a house last Friday.
As more and more people learn that you are a beekeeper, you'll eventually be asked to remove a swarm from a tree or a hive from a house.
This is a great promotional opportunity for honey bees and a great occasion for you to educate bystanders about the important role honey bees play in our survival. And you'll probably get a front page spot in the local newspaper like we did. Front Page Paris Beacon News Article Online
Removing a hive from an existing structure requires much work. Shaking a swarm from a branch is easy compared to removing a full grown hive from a structure, having to tear out walls and remove every bee including the queen.
Last Friday, with the help of my father-in-law, Bill Henness, we removed a hive from a house. I want to share the step by step process with you so that you can tackle these removals with confidence.
First, we have the owner sign a release form giving us permission to remove the hive and for them to repair any damage.
Next, we gather up essential tools for the job. This is critical.
Having done my share of these removals, I have found that several tools are essential for me, but you may not need them all. Minimally you will need a smoker, a bee suit, gloves and tools to remove whatever is covering the bees. But, for me to get the job done, I use a bee vac, an alternate power source such as a auto inverter or a generator to run my saws and bee vac, a saws-all, a good bee suit, containers for the brood and honey not to mention demolition equipment such as crow bars, hammers, ladders etc.
removal1 Here's the entry point of hive at the corner of the house. You can click on the pictures to enlarge the photos. This is a courageous undertaking. It is not for the weak or timid. It is very tedious and time consuming because when you first start all you see is where the bees are going in. You don't know if they are going up or down or sideways. You really can't listen to the wall and determine much either because of the way sound travels through wood. So you just have to cowboy up and start tearing away either the inside or outside wall. We prefer to do it all from the outside. It makes too much of a mess from the inside. The house will smell like smoke and you'll track honey and propolis in the house too. So do it from the outside when possible.
removal11 Next, we started by removing the outside siding to expose the comb. In this picture we were fortunate enough to venture a good guess at where the hive was and you can see a new section of brood comb freshly made just below the existing section of older comb with brood intact. Notice the crowbar as Bill pries off another piece of wood siding. It's impossible to be gentle or quiet in this sort of work, so suit up well! Although the above picture makes it look easy because other than the two bees on his back, there are no bees on the comb.
removal13 That's because with the bee vacs we sell and use, we safely vacuumed them into their holding cage. Here is what it looks like before we used the vac. Trust me, without a bee vac, it is almost impossible to herd 80,000 away from their home.
With the bee vac, we can clean off all the bees and then remove the comb. It is very tedious because you just have to peel away sections at a time, carefully search for the queen while vacuuming.
Piece by piece pieces of the comb are handed down, brood comb placed in one container and honey in another. I carefully inspect for any diseases such as heavy mite infestation, American Foul Brood, Small Hive Beetle or other noticeable problems.
removal16 Like most hives the honey is store far away from the opening. I started at the bottom, now I'm about four feet from the top and finally I've reached the honey frames protected by the bees which are on the comb in the picture, soon to be vacuumed safely into their transportation cage.
removal22In fact, this was our second cage and look at all the bees! It takes two hands to hold this package! Bill makes our bee vac with a special "secret" so that hardly no bees are killed by being vacuumed into their cage within the bee vac's outer box. This "secret" is visible in the picture, but if I told you he would have to kill me :) But I was impressed that I noticed only about a handful of dead bees several days when I inspected them in their new hive. Way to go Bill!
Here's a new bee, about to emerge from her cell and wondering what all the morning racket is all about! Workers are not helped out of their cages like drones are. Instead, they must wiggle and climb their way out all on their own and then they have to clean their own cell.
removal20 That's a lot of brood foundation. This was a pretty large colony.
Sometimes we take the brood and place it into our own frames and then place it into the hive. This is essential if you cannot be sure the queen is save with the bees.
removal21 Of course, the treat of raw honey is wonderful, and you never know how many pounds of honey you'll get from a job like this. But, not as much during early spring because the bees consumed most of it during the winter and have not yet had time to replenish their supply.
removal24 Finally, the job is done, the bees are safely caged away and the space between the studs is clear of comb and bees. My father-in-law sprays some soapy water to keep the stray bees from coming back or another swarm to decide to move in.
So, get ready beekeepers! It's up to you to help save honey bees rather than have them destroyed. Go get 'em. Just make sure you have some spare hives sitting around so that you can put these captured swarms and hives into a new home. If you don't have a spare hive, call us today and place your order, or order a bee vac before you get your first call! 217-427-2678.
Our next lesson will address the need for all beekeepers need to have an observation hive. I believe it is essential for your success and I'll tell you why, and how to keep one going.
Davidsheriborder For now, this is David & Sheri Burns thanking you for joining us today and remember, BEE-Have Yourself!

David & Sheri Burns
Long Lane Honey Bee Farms

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Lesson 34: Marking The Queen

markqueen1Without the queen the hive will perish, and perish fast! New beekeepers fail to realize how crucial it is to have a healthy queen, and how fast a hive will die when the queen perishes. Sure, the colony will try to raise another queen, but to do that several factors have to work perfectly. Needless to say, we do not live in a perfect world and the colony does not always get the job done in time and remain queenless and perish--and fast!
Because of this, queens are in short supply and in extreme high demand.There are plenty of apiaries that sell queens, but usually you have to wait two weeks or more before they can ship. Here's the problem: Queens that die now, say in May, are hard to find replacement for until June. A hive will be too far gone if a they have to wait more than two weeks for a queen.
You must have a queen supplier's number in your speed dial! You must have a good source for queens or else you could lose your hive fast. Think about this for a moment. We pay as much as $100 for a package of bees, but if we lose the queen, we can lose the entire colony and the entire cost of the package. Queens sell for between $10 to $30 which is a small investment to keep the hive alive and growing.
For the most part, queens stay out of trouble and avoid calamity. But, not always. As she ages, she can be ousted by the bees due to her poor performance in laying eggs. Not to mention our inspections pose the greatest threat to her. Moving frames, smashing lids down, prying hive bodies apart and smashing them together can lead to the queen being killed. I accidentally smashed and killed a queen Sunday. I know to watch carefully, but this time I never saw where she was and smashed her dead. It happens. We must be more careful not to kill the queen when working our hives.
I've never been too keen on marking queens. For one, it is costly and time consuming. And since there are no Africanized hives in Illinois, I'm not worried about my queens being superceded by Africanized queens. Without marked queens, you can never tell if your original queen has been replaced.
But I'm changing my mind about marking queens. A marked queen is beneficial because it aids the beekeeper in identifying the queen more quickly, thus knowing where the queen is so as not to accidentally kill her. It also allows us to keep detailed records on a specific queen, particularly her age and performance.
Also, when making splits, the queen can get moved around, so by having her marked and numbered you'll always know the history of that particular queen no matter where you place her.
In the past I would occasionally mark certain queens by picking them up and holding them by their legs and mark their thorax. Even whiteout works fine. Testers model paint works better but takes a few minutes longer to allow it to dry.
But I decided that I needed a better way to track not only my queens, but specific bees in my observation hive. I'm building this awesome and huge observation hive that holds 8 deep frames. In it I hope to study various habits of these marked bees. So, I've decided to number all my queens and specific bees for my observation hive. Everyone should have an observation hive. Really, it is a blast!! I've studied the whole observation matter for some time now, and at first shied away from it because it can be hard to operate. However, after attempting to overcome some common problems, it really is a great research and educational tool for the beekeeper. Not to mention it is a huge attention getter! I'll do my next lesson on the "how to" of an observation hive.
Also, I've number a great number of my bees, and I can actually watch their behavior and even find number 15 out on a flower.
Let me show you how you too can number/color code your queens yourself. It is very easy and you'll feel like a professional entomologist when you're done.
First, you must know that there is an International Color Code system for marking queens. Do not just mark your queens any ole color. You'll forget what year you started with them.  Here's how the color code works:
queen Color Codes
So, this year, queens should be marked in red. The span between years is 5 years. It would be next to impossible for the queen to live that long, so you would not have to wonder if the red dot meant 2008 or 2013.
So how in the world can you mark a queen. We sell the complete kit for marking your queens or bees too, but let me walk you through step by step.
Okay, first open up your hive and locate your queen. Here's mine. I found her fast because it was a newly install package, and not a full hive.
Next I gently chase her down and pick her up by her wings or thorax, the middle section just behind her head.
In the field, I have my marking system in hand, which is a plastic tube with a removable plunger in one end, and a screened opening in the other. markqueen2I place her in there while holding everything over the hive, incase she falls off, she's back in her hive and not in the grass somewhere.
Next, I slowly push up the plunger being careful not to snag a leg or wing. I wait until the queen stands on the plunger, then I slide her up to the screen. May 4 08 003When she is close to the top, I slow down and carefully slide the plunger until the top of her thorax pokes up through the screen. It may seem like you are smashing her, but you don't want to push any harder than just to hold her thorax in a screen square as in this picture. You can click on the picture for a larger view.
Next, I punch out one of the numbers from the numbering kit that comes with this complete marking kit. For this queen, I've chosen number 4 and of course in keeping with the International Color Coding system, I've chosen the color red. This kit also comes with non-toxic glue. I put a little glue on the back side of the number, and carefully place it on her thorax. markqueen4I press down gently to give it a good seat. I hold her in this position for a minute or two allowing the glue to dry. I have big hands so I wear a jeweler's magnifying glass for better placement and control. We sell these as well if you need one. At 48, my close up eyesight is not what it used to be :)
Now, she is numbered and ready to be returned to her hive. I make sure she is over the hive, very close down to a frame before pulling out the plunger. Some times she does not immediately drop out so I gently shake her out on to the frames.
markqueen7For your sake, I pulled out the frame to show you how proud she is of her new number and notice how impressed all the other bees are as they stare and marvel over her new red number four.
Also, now I can keep a notebook and make any kind of notations on queen number 4 that I want. If she is ever replaced, I'll know it as well, because her replacement will not wear the number 4.
Marking worker bees is a bit harder because this system is made for a larger queen and the smaller workers squeeze through the top screen. But, with a little patience I was able to pin them at just the right moment and number them.
You don't have to use numbers if you don't want to mess with the glue and numbering system. We sell a paint pen, so that when you pin her thorax up through the screen, you can put on a touch of paint.
In summary, a marked queen is not essential. However, there are benefits that make it worth the while as you have discovered in this lesson. The marking systems are affordable and easy to use.

To order the queen marking kit, just give us a call at: 217-427-2678.
Thanks for joining me for another beekeeping lesson.
davidsheri Remember to BEE-Have yourself!
David & Sheri Burns
Long Lane Honey Bee Farms