Thursday, June 29, 2017

Re-Queening Success!

My Carniolan queens arrived on Tuesday this week and I immediately picked them up from UPS. One was hung in the middle of Dave and Pam's colony after a complete hive check and determining that hive was truly queenless.

My Italian colony was next on the list for a hive check during which I discovered the second queen cell I allowed to develop had hatched out and I now have a new, unmarked queen in that hive laying full patterns of brood. Note to Self: If I had been killing all my drones, the queen couldn't breed during the first several days of her life. Keeping drones around is good practice for at least 3/4 of summer.

That meant I had two queens and only one colony that needed a new queen. I checked the Buckfast colony to ensure no queen had hatched. It was queenless so I placed one queen in the middle of a brood box and separated the boxes with a queen excluder. This hive would soon become home to a two-queen colony.

I later received a call for a hive check from a local beekeeper. I determined both of his colonies had swarmed. At this point, with only one extra queen on hand and the late date for re-queening, I suggested he combine both colonies by placing newsprint paper over the top box of one colony and stacking the other colony on top of the paper after making a few slices in the paper for the bees to begin chewing through, slowly combining into one colony. I then pulled one of the new Carniolan queens and gave it to him, removing my queen excluder on the two-queen hive.

I will check these colonies again on 7/1/17 to confirm the new queens are doing well.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Honey Flow and Queenless Colonies Update!

Today was beautiful at the UAF Botanical Gardens! I noticed a variety of bees competitively foraging the lovely flowers.

What perfect weather we have been experiencing in the Interior! A nice balance of rain and sunshine. This allows flowering plants to make more than what they need for food, offering up extra nectar for foraging creatures such as our beloved honeybees! 

The Interior Honeyflow Is Beginning! Fireweed has arrived in some locations. All of my colonies, including the two queenless ones have started to store extra honey in the super frames. I have put all of my medium honey supers on this weekend. It is important queens don't get "honey bound" with no place to lay new eggs. Having supers helps the workers to have extra space for storage and allows the queen space to lay up to 2,000 eggs per day. I figure my queens have about five to six more weeks to lay eggs before I will invite folks to watch a queen caging demonstration. By then we will be in the thick of harvesting honey, veggies, and berries. One of our favorite fall activities is making sour kraut.

Queenless Hives Update: Neither one of my queenless hives had new queens after I left a queen cell in each to hatch out. I am trying again to hatch out one queen cell in each of these colonies and praying for viable, well-mated queens in each. Regardless, time is running out, and any day I expect a worker to have developed ovaries and start laying multiple, unfertilized eggs in every cell, which cannot be remedied. If this is the case I will shop vacuum both colonies and recycle them by dumping the drowned bees into my compost. The soft organs will become rich soil and the exoskeletons will become organic vermiculite because the exoskeletons don't decompose very quickly, so they aerate the soil beautifully. I ordered three new Carniolan queens from Kohnen Brothers and they are due to arrive this Tuesday. The third queen is already spoken for by my friends, Dave and Pam. I will do complete hive checks to see if the queen cells I left in both hives have hatched and the queens are doing their jobs. If not, they will both be re-queened. I will leave the cork in the new queen cages for a few days, hanging them in the center of the hives so the bees can get used to the new queen pheromones. On the 3rd to 4th day, I will perform a slow release with a mini-marshmallow (if I don't end up with laying workers).

Sunday, June 25, 2017

UAF Botanical Gardens Anniversary Celebration Today!

Today 6/25/17 I will be doing mini-workshops about honeybees and pollination from 11AM to 4PM
at the UAF Botanical Gardens. Bring your questions and visit this beautiful garden!

Thursday, June 22, 2017

New Hive Check Shadowing Schedule

My schedule for hive checks has changed a bit due to weather. Here is the new and improved schedule:

June 23rd - 11:00 AM 

June 30th - 11:00 AM

July 10th - 5:00 PM

July 19th - 5:00 PM

July 29th - 6:00PM

Honey Extraction - Friday, August 4th 7-9PM

August 9th - 5:00 PM

August 19th - 5:00 PM

Monday, June 19, 2017


I have a couple colonies with queen problems and I am letting them hatch out a new queen, hoping the colony has enough drones to mate with the new queens. What I do is leave one developing queen cell remain in the hive to hatch out. On my next hive check I look for eggs and if I find eggs in a full pattern, it was a success. If I don't have any eggs and no developing queen cells in the hive then I would need to purchase a new queen or if I have another colony I can take a frame with an emerging queen cell and brush all the bees off of it. Then move it to the queenless hive and wait to see if it hatches out, gets mated and starts laying. If I need to purchase a new queen, I contact Steve Victors first and if he is out of queens, I contact Kohnen Brothers. Please see links to their websites below:

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Swarming and Very Aggressive Honeybees

My past two hive checks have been rather interesting.
Five of my colonies are doing fantastic and two are not doing so well at this time.
I have one Buckfast colony with a queen that wasn't laying many eggs, her pattern was "spotty" and the population is not nearly as high as my successful colonies. Another sign of problems was the number of supersedure cells in the pupa stage of development. I eliminated all but one swarm cell and smashed the queen. Now a single swarm cell is developing and I hope to have a new queen hatch out and breed with local drones. Remember, queens are only fertile in the first few days of their lives and they must mate with around 21 drones to get enough fertilization to lay up to 2,000 eggs per day for up to 7 years - now that's some very busy days for our queens!

Another extremely aggressive, Italian colony in the same location as the struggling Buckfast has no evidence of a queen. Once again, there are about 10 swarm cells and I removed all but one so they can hatch out a new queen. I hope to find a new, beautiful, unmarked queen in both of these colonies during my next hive checks. which will be in 9 days.

I cannot stress enough how important full hive check are every 10 days, especially during the month of June since it is the largest swarming month! Before destroying every swarm cell, I always ensure I have a queen and be looking for all stages of brood regardless of whether I actually find her during each check or not. Please contact me if you want me to complete a hive check with you. My fee is $40 for this years beekeeping students and $60 for anyone else.

This year I have heard reports and personally experienced more aggressive bees. Out of 7 colonies, two of my Italians are extremely mean. If I didn't have a bee suit on I would get thousands of stings upon first opening my hives. This is unusual and can be a very dangerous situation. I will not check my hives without a full bee suit. Take the suggestion, folks! I have been stung more this year than in any other year and these stings are right through my bee suit.

Supers can be added anytime in the next two weeks. I do not use a queen excluder because it slows the bees down during the honey flow when they have to squeeze through the excluder to store honey. With new equipment, the bees often fill the excluder with wax and create a ceiling between the brood and the honey supers. How can that be efficient?

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Summer has finally arrived in Alaska's Interior!

The past few days I removed outer insulation and entrance reducers until fall. I am finding between one and several swarm cells in each hive, which I remove after determining I have a queen. Hive checks are done every 10 days religiously. Keep grass and weeds clear in front of the entrance. Make sure the upper entrance is open for the bees to utilize and for proper ventilation. On days 80* and warmer, I place a nail or stick between the outer and inner covers to allow better ventilation. Often, on warm days, bees will hover outside the hive fanning to bring better ventilation into the hive. We can assist them in keeping the brood and queen from overheating by lifting the outer lid. I am sure to keep a water source nearby.