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Mentor Needed!! Treatment-Free Tolerant in SFV

Home Forums Bulletin Board Mentor Needed!! Treatment-Free Tolerant in SFV

This topic contains 9 replies, has 2 voices, and was last updated by  Mel Futrell 2 months, 3 weeks ago.

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  • #11287

    Mel Futrell
    Participant

    Hello!

    I don’t know whether this should be posted in Bulletin Board, or Forum, but my post in Forum disappeared, so I guess I’ll try here…

    I now have two active colonies in my two backyard hives, for about a month. They come from related but different origins, and both from the same beek. I feel there may need to be some queening/frame-swapping decisions to make, and I’d REALLY like a mentor to help me out and provide some insight; I don’t know *exactly* what I’m looking for, and with ZERO prior experience, my confidence is not very amazing. The gentleman who got me set up with the bees is taking a step back from beekeeping, and is not treatment-free/organic, in the first place. He is tolerant of my views, but can’t offer much in the way of advice, and isn’t really hip to jump on any learning curves on the topic. And, he is largely unavailable. Many of those I have met in the local beekeeping community are very pro-treatment, and while I do not challenge their viewpoint, they’re not terribly willing to advise without going the treatment-route. I am in North Hollywood, just west of the Burbank Airport, near Valley Village. Please email me at Futrell.Mel@GMail.com

    I also do a lot of bee-oriented carpentry/crafting, and am happy to exchanges skills and services (i.e. putting observation windows in deeps, cobbling together cheap but sturdy nucs, etc.)

    For anyone interested, here is the background on my hives:

    In February, a retiring gentleman in my neighborhood posted on NextDoor that he was looking to rally the local bee-curious community and place some hives in their backyards as his retirement project. He had been keeping 1–3 hives at a local nursery, as well. At the time, I was preparing to finally try my hand at backyard beekeeping and I had part of one hive built, and plans for a second. I eventually got both hives built (as well as a nuc’ or two) and intent on starting with swarms and beekeeping organically, I did a great deal of research, attended many events, and continued to prepare as I waited… and waited… and waited…

    I did get a couple of swarms in March/April, but they didn’t stay. Then, in mid-May, this local beekeeper was required to relocate the bees at the nursery. In that time, he’d also captured a small swarm in the nursery. We set the nuc containing the small swarm next to my first hive, and he parked one of his larger, very active hives next to my second hive, while its new host prepped their backyard. (They were my foster-bees.) I went out of town for a week immediately following this installation. When I returned, we moved the small swarm into my first hive, and added a couple of frames (1 brood, 1 honey) from the strong, active foster-bee hive. The foster-bees remained parked for another week, at which time he split them, leaving half, which I moved into my second hive. Neither of us knows which split ended up with the queen, though we assumed his. This was now the first of June.

    So, in the past two weeks, both hives have seemed to do well. Initially, the activity of the split hive was about 6:1 compared to the small swarm hive. I removed the swarm’s entrance reducer and they’ve since grown well. I’ve done one inspection about 12 days ago (when I removed the reducer from the swarm and some old unoccupied comb from the split) and things were going OK, though I couldn’t locate a queen in either hive. I intended to inspect over the weekend, but the weather wouldn’t cooperate. I’d like to go in today, but I am concerned at my skills, and would like help before I do. The split hive activity has reduced SIGNIFICANTLY. Neither seems to be building much in the way of new comb.

    NOTE: I will go it alone, again, and will try to video each frame to do a queen search later, but again, I’d REALLY like hands-on help with at least one inspection before I move forward.

    Any advice is appreciated!

    #11289

    susan rudnicki
    Participant

    HI, Mel—a couple things—when doing a inspection for a split becoming queen-right, you are not looking for the queen, but the evidence of her work. That means you must see EGGS. There can be a queen but she is still a virgin, or a queen, but poorly mated. The ONLY sure sign of being queen right is the evidence of her performance. Please learn the chart of “Bee Math” on Michael Bush’s site as one of the first things committed to memory. This enables you to make calculations for splits, and all sorts of remedies.
    http://www.bushfarms.com/beesmath.htm It is hard to tell from your narrative how many days have elapsed since the split was done, but in general, at LEAST a month is required for you to have a new laying queen.
    Also, you may contact Chip Clements in Hollywood about mentoring 323-791-6581 or Tyson Kaiser at Sweet Bee Removal

    #11307

    Mel Futrell
    Participant

    Hi, Susan!

    Thank you so much for the swift and attentive reply! I’m sorry for my delay; I just returned from a conference and am scrambling to catch up on many things that got put on hold.

    I actually familiarized with the math and biology/behavior, having taken a few courses and researched information, etc. during the 5 years I prepared the hives and especially the recent months waiting for bees. I’ve also gone to mentoring workshops, and meetups, and visited other apiaries. I do have all 3 volumes of Michael Bush’s book, but have actually not spent very much time on his website. Thank you for that chart! I printed and added it to my bee log/journal. My real “problem” isn’t head-knowledge, it’s hands-on prior experience. I do have mentors and fellow beek-acquaintances of varying experience in my area, but they are not treatment-free, and not all discussions flow comfortably.?

    To help clarify, the split was done around the 1st or 2nd of June. Thing is, as told to me, that colony was already the result of a split done in February (queened with a Hawaiian hybrid) that was very strong and active and had been making queen cells for weeks (which the beekeeper continually crushed), prompting the 2nd split. He did that split while I was not home, and it is unclear to me if there were already queen cells at the time, or if so, how old they would have been. There could have been an emerging virgin queen nearly immediately, or not for a couple of weeks.

    This is the status of things as I did my very first inspection [EVER in my life] of that split hive and the growing swarm hive on June 5. I changed the entrance reducer setting on the swarm (more open) and removed too-old, unoccupied brood comb from the split the donating beekeeper had put in there while I wasn’t home. All of this while handling frames and bees and comb and propolis for the first time on my own, trying to work the *$@#!%* smoker (I have a love/hate relationship with that device) and frame perch and hive tool on boxes and frames cemented together, in a StayPuff Marshmallow-style hazmat suit in some pretty busy airspace, nonetheless!

    While I wanted to be thorough, I really wanted to get in, get some designated tasks done, and get out fairly quickly. I also removed a little cross-comb, and cleaned out the hive-feeder (something I’m not sure I want to ever use again). I did have the help of a completely non-beek friend, but that was also a bit of an added responsibility for me… ensuring her safety, and monitoring actions around the bees for THEIR safety. (She was awesome, though!)

    I did the second inspection alone (with my same friend), as well, on June 20 but this time we took pix of each and every frame for review later (or sharing) and 30-sec of video of each hive’s behavior at the entrance. The swarm is doing amazing and strong, with good brood frames and decent stores, and I feel bad for bothering them just for my education. The split is weak, and small, and there’s evidence of an emerged queen, but the brood comb is all empty, and there’s very little forage activity. I thought perhaps they were being robbed, but there’s still a very full frame of capped honey, so… ?

    So, that’s where I am now. I am about to combine the weak, queenless hive from the split to the strong queenright hive that was originally a small swarm (both hives are currently 8-frame single deeps). It’ll be adding 2-3 frames of empty brood-comb, a full (heavy!) frame of honey and a little bit of pollen, and a handful of straggling bees, as well as another deep with 4-5 empty foundationless frames for their expansion. They (the original swarm) are currently working 6 of the 8 frames, in their single deep.

    I was not sure if I should barrier between the two deeps until they get used to each other, but I’m thinking, “No”: 1) The split is SOOO incredibly small, and 2) The swarm has a frame of the split’s brood (capped & open) added on May 27, when the swarm was small and before the split was split. Those brood would be active bees right about now. I will consider doing a split later, or early next season, with some planned, conscious queening decisions, to repopulate the second hive once the first grows sufficiently. Unless I catch another swarm.

    Personally, I just think the colony from the split was probably worked waaay too much, as the other half is also gone and the original queen even stopped laying, I’m told. But, I’m a novice with only as much practical experience as I’ve detailed here. I’ve been talking to Kirk Anderson (he helped me get started 5 years ago), and will reach out to Tyson (I didn’t know his status on TFBK) and Chip — thank you for the references! I don’t plan to invade my hives any more than absolutely necessary; I am just looking to know someone in the area who is treatment-free with more experience than my “None.” (And, I’m a very social creature!)?

    I appreciate any and all feedback on my “plans,” clarification of my understanding, or tangential advice!

    Cheers,
    Mel

    #11308

    Mel Futrell
    Participant

    Incidentally, my understanding is that when the virgin queen emerged in the split, they after-swarmed.

    #11309

    susan rudnicki
    Participant

    So, who reported this? “Incidentally, my understanding is that when the virgin queen emerged in the split, they after-swarmed.” That is not a “afterswarm” A secondary or tertiary swarm from the MOTHER hive is a “after swarm” If bees left after a split (in the side WITHOUT the original queen) that is absconding and you would not have any bees in that split.

    The bee math is still not working out, as I see it. If the original June 1 split was done and eggs were in the split, and the bees made a queen cell (this guy you mention does not say if the split had a capped queen cell, which would shorten the time till there were viable eggs??? Sorry, but that is a doofus move!) it would still be too soon for there to be a queen laying.

    Inspection #1—in all those words, but no mention of seeing eggs in the split. What did you SEE? (yes, keeping a smoker lit and going took me longer than any other skill—it IS hard)

    Inspection #2—I don’t understand this–” The split is weak, and small, and there’s evidence of an emerged queen, but the brood comb is all empty, ” WHAT is the evidence of a Queen? If the brood comb is empty, the preeminent evidence of a Queen, eggs, is not there.

    If this were me, I would be much more directive about anyone messing with my hives and smashing queen cells. Maybe I don’t get the set-up arrangement, but that is a fundamental mistake. Michael Bush writes of it here—Along with some other fallacies—http://www.bushfarms.com/beesfallacies.htm

    Finally, what is this about? “as the other half is also gone and the original queen even stopped laying, I’m told. ” Why would a queen “stop laying” and how was this asserted? Based on what evidence?

    Chip and I just did 2 cutouts today. He is very personable and has a good set of knowledge now. I would reach out to him. I told him you might.

    I think you should hold off on splitting for the time being, so you can focus on the basic management tasks of the hive you have. I would just place the “split” on top of the other one without the paper. Do all the other frame adding etc. BEFORE you place it on the swarm hive, so there is less stirring around upstairs.

    #11310

    Mel Futrell
    Participant

    OK, I should not have called my first entry into the hives an “inspection.” It was only 3 days after they had been placed there, and again, I was focused only on getting out the old broodcomb, expanding the reduced entrance on the other one, and closing up. I did not check for eggs or queen cells or anything of that kind, because I was relying on the person that set this up to know more than me and I was intending to leave them alone for a while.

    I have reported any other information as it was told to me by other people. As I said, I have never done this before, and I’m relying on third-party information every time I get into the hives. The arrangement is that these bees were donated to me and placed on my property while I was not home. All of the manipulations I’m describing happened BEFORE I got them. The person that placed them here has had minimal availability since and I am doing the best I can with the information I have.

    I am not and was never thinking of splitting any time soon. Again, perhaps late in the year, or early next season, depending on advice from you knowledgeable people. In the meantime, I was intending to just combine the hives into the strongest one. I will assemble the transferring box with all frames, etc. before placing on the hive.

    Thanks again for the quick advice and resources!

    #11311

    susan rudnicki
    Participant

    Mel— I am trying to help you understand how planning what to do needs to be based on the fundamentals of understanding the bees. If I had got this information in my education, it really would have helped me know that the manipulations won’t elucidate much if they are not in combination with clear goals of understanding the state of the colony. ” I was focused only on getting out the old broodcomb, expanding the reduced entrance on the other one, and closing up. I did not check for eggs or queen cells or anything of that kind, ” With two colonies as small as these two, looking for evidence of the Queen’s work is very important. You may know this after 5 years of prep work, as you mention, but I am reiterating that. Please don’t be in a hurry—getting to “closing up” and removing old broodcomb (I’m not sure what this is about,either….) would not be a relevant plan, based on what has been written. BTW—I mention the part about not focusing on splitting because you wrote this ” I will consider doing a split later, or early next season, with some planned, conscious queening decisions, to repopulate the second hive” Splitting is not what I consider a task to be undertaken by “…more experience than my “None.” as you describe. It is just my bias, but based on experience, that “planned queening decisions” are best undertaken by the bees themselves over buying queens. One practice that is VERY helpful is the keeping of a log for recording the progress of your learning and the state of the hives every time you go in. I still keep one—with 40 or more hives, I can not rely on memory, and learned early on, that even with ONE hive, memory fades very quickly once one leaves the bee yard.

    #11318

    Mel Futrell
    Participant

    Hi, Susan –

    I will try to answer your questions and address your concerns as directly as possible.

    <<I am trying to help you understand how planning what to do needs to be based on the fundamentals of understanding the bees. If I had got this information in my education, it really would have helped me know that the manipulations won’t elucidate much if they are not in combination with clear goals of understanding the state of the colony.>>

    I assure you, and hope to demonstrate as time goes on, that I understand this concept completely. However, understanding the concept and being familiar with which actions successfully lead to the desired outcomes by interpreting the bees correctly are not the same thing. I sincerely appreciate your guidance!

    I must also clarify, I think you may be misattributing many of the actions I’ve described though taken by the previous beekeeper as of my doing. But, I’m trying to provide as thorough a background as possible. I am also relaying a lot of advice given to me by both non-TF and TF beekeepers who have been guiding me in various capacities. That I recognize some of their information as less informed in the philosophies which I embrace is what led me to specifically seek a local TFBK mentor.

    <<With two colonies as small as these two, looking for evidence of the Queen’s work is very important. You may know this after 5 years of prep work, as you mention, but I am reiterating that. Please don’t be in a hurry—getting to “closing up” and removing old broodcomb>>

    I do understand this, but it was my very first time in the boxes by myself, ever, and I was nervous, and I did not expect to be doing it alone. Again, to call it an inspection is probably a misnomer. However, the hivelog I keep does not have a tab for “going in the box,” and I inappropriately applied the term. I have been and will continue to be much more thorough, since.

    <<[Re:] removing old broodcomb (I’m not sure what this is about,either….)>>

    When the donating beek hived the split he left, he used any random comb and frames that I or he had available. One of the pieces was extremely old comb that I had been advised not to use. Again, I was not home when he did the split and had to change some of the things that he had done.

    <<BTW—I mention the part about not focusing on splitting because you wrote this ”I will consider doing a split later…”>>

    Oh, I know. I just wanted to clarify that I was not considering doing it until I had gained more experience and not without the advice/help of someone very knowledgeable.

    <<Splitting is not what I consider a task to be undertaken by “…more experience than my “None.” as you describe.>>

    I couldn’t agree more!

    <<It is just my bias, but based on experience, that “planned queening decisions” are best undertaken by the bees themselves over buying queens.>>

    Exactly the kind of TF experience/advice I’m looking for. Thank you!

    <<One practice that is VERY helpful is the keeping of a log for recording the progress of your learning and the state of the hives every time you go in. I still keep one—with 40 or more hives, I can not rely on memory, and learned early on, that even with ONE hive, memory fades very quickly once one leaves the bee yard.>>

    You are right! In my industry we keep a checklist and logs for all of our operations. I have been using HiveTracks, as well as a pen and paper notebook.

    Thank you again for all of the advice! I will reach out to Chip this week, though he’s not particularly local, so I don’t know what his policy is regarding a little bit of travel and traffic.

    #11319

    Mel Futrell
    Participant

    Update:

    There has been no real activity in the split hive for a couple of days. As you know, I intend to combine the two. I have simply been working on construction of the second box for the swarm hive. In reading some of your replies, Susan, to other posts, I noticed some advice about supering a growing hive. The swarm hive has 4 of the 8 frames completely full, and 2 others about 2/3–3/4 of the way full of comb. I intend to cull out any non-bee-made comb (previous beek) from the split box before transferring those frames to the swarm hive. (I will leave all occupied comb alone in the swarm hive.) After reading your response to the other post, should I also swap a few frames of brood out of the lower box into the new upper box? I will be bringing a full frame of honey from the split, at least.

    #11321

    Mel Futrell
    Participant

    Hi, Susan –

    I talked to Chip. Very accessible and available and all around nice guy.
    He’ll come by next week and meet in person, though he’s not particularly local; (I’m in North Hollywood, near Sun Valley/Burbank.) Nonetheless, that’s all I wanted was someone TF to check things out once. I appreciate the reference and all of your help!

    Thank you!
    Mel

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