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Category Archives: apiculture

  • Everything is back under control in the hive

    The unfortunate effect that I had in the hive by trying to fix things and enforce straight comb drawing had me pretty pessimistic about the chances of my bees this winter. Everything was completely disorganized with brood and honey in random places, way too many drones and barely any honey.

    The lesson I learned is that the hive is self healing and surprisingly so. Today’s ¬†inspection was an amazing discovery of their capacity to adjust. They reorganized all the frames, gathered some very good honey reserves late in the season and have a very healthy population.

    And the best part is that the approach of enforcing straight comb drawing with plastic foundation every other frame worked! It’s still not an ideal scenario to have plastic in my “natural” top bar hive but it definitely takes care of the problem and I still get half of the frames 100% built by the bees.

  • More top bar bullshit

    After the bee holocaust that was my first harvest, it became evident that I needed to monitor the hive more often for misaligned comb. They didn’t take long to fuck things up again by building shit all over the place.

    Well that’s just great

    As you can see on the above picture, they’re building from the walls, the ground and the comb on the bar to the right is slightly misaligned. What you are not seeing is that the layout of brood, honey & nectar throughout the hive is completely inconsistent. Where before brood was towards the front, honey the middle and nectar the back; everything is now all over the place most likely as a result of my adding empty bars and moving things around to encourage straight comb drawing.

    They started working on this mess a week ago and as soon as I saw it I ordered a bunch of these guys. Let’s ponder on the absurdity of the situation: the main argument for Top Bar Beekeeping is that it’s more natural, you let the bees do their things and yoink some honey every once in a while. Well guess what, you need the bees to build their shit exactly right or you’ll be decimating them every harvest for not much at all. I’m reduced to adding plastic foundation to my “natural” hive to enforce rather than encourage straight comb. And I’m sure they’ll figure out a way to fuck this up as well.

    This is my last attempt at fixing this, if they don’t get it right we’ll ditch Top Bar in favor of Langstroth next season.

    Cutting the plastic frames to specs

    A bunch of top bars with a slit a little wider to accommodate the plastic foundation

    Plastic top bar

    Good luck mis-aligning that

    I did every other bar in the area of the hive that was a mess

    As is becoming routine with top bar beekeeping: waste left for the bees to rob clean

  • Wasted harvest, or is it?

    Here is all the comb that was too bad to harvest after the “clean up”. I put it in front of the hive for the bees that were on it to make their way back and hoping the bees would clean it and get the honey back inside. They didn’t take long, it’s almost empty already.

  • Bee Bridges

    Separating bars always yields these awesome bee bridges

  • Beepocalypse – lesson learned

    The fact that every comb built since the beginning had been so perfectly straight made me loose the habit of checking every frame. Horrible mistake, what started as a little bump in an early bar became more and more angled resulting in comb crossing bars. When I caught it, it was simply too late and a major operation had to be done to set things straight. Comb fell, deep cutting needed to be done & a ton of bees died in the process. I lost half of my honey production & half of my colony. There was just no easy way to do this.

    The lesson learned here is to inspect often and all the bars, especially when the bees lay a lot of comb.

    Some crossed comb, when things weren’t ugly enough that I was still taking pictures

    Here are some tips to incentivize the bees to build straight:

    • lay some wax in a line that you want them to follow (I had done that and it worked really well for a while)
    • cut if they deviate, cut again until they stop
    • keep the following board close to where the last comb is built because it is a straight reference, in other words, don’t expand to far from the comb.
    • add an empty bar between the ones that had crooked comb

    I’m not sure how these techniques work but I certainly am religiously following them now. Hopefully this will save us from another traumatic experience.

    All in all this sucked and I feel really bad for failing my bees. I still got some 6 jars of honey out but I could have gotten a lot more. It’s the most delicious honey I ever had but every time I have some I am reminded of the beepocalypse.

    Lesson learned…

    It’s a freaking mass-grave in there

    Got some decent comb out

    Filtering the loot

    The loot

  • Bee Baby Boom

    The colony has been growing very dramatically in the past couple of weeks. All the brood I saw finally saw the light of day and the bees are now quickly filling their hive. All in all it took them a while to really get going. This is one of the disadvantages of top-bar beekeeping, the bees have to build everything by themselves so it takes the colony longer to establish itself. I think it’s a good thing, for one because it’s more natural but also because building comb is one less thing I need to do :).

    Given that population growth is now in full swing, I gave them quite a few more top-bars to expand on. We are approaching the maximum size the hive will allow though as I would like to keep a few empty bars to have room for shifting and rotating. It may be time to start thinking about a second hive.

    Bee population growth is not exponential, only 1 queen does all the laying although she can lay a few thousand eggs a day. So it’s linear and will probably turn asymptotic with older bees dying. I wonder how big a hive could get outside of its habitat limitations.

    Turn on the sound and hear the hive’s rumble.

    [flv:http://ben.akrin.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/IMG_1149.MOV1_.flv http://ben.akrin.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/Screen-Shot-2012-07-02-at-11.28.15-AM.png 688 387]

    The hive entrance is very busy.

    [flv:http://ben.akrin.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/IMG_1151.MOV.flv http://ben.akrin.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/Screen-Shot-2012-07-02-at-11.30.26-AM.png 688 387]

    I wish I had a high speed camera.

    [flv:http://ben.akrin.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/IMG_1150.MOV.flv http://ben.akrin.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/Screen-Shot-2012-07-02-at-11.32.24-AM.png 688 387]

  • Removing the accident

    Further inspection showed that the comb on the floor was most likely a mis-attached comb that fell from a top-bar. The bees weren’t exactly expanding on it but they weren’t removing it either, it was time to give them some help. Doing so was like playing a game of Operation but it went very smoothly and the bees¬† were very docile even though I was digging pretty deep in their hive.

    Not much in this wreck of a comb but the bees were still tending to some brood in there.

    Going at it very carefully.

    I’ll leave them to clean the remaining pieces.

    Eventually one of the back bars that I had set aside was abandoned of all bees so… I just took it! Not necessarily the best thing to do but I was very eager to taste what the bees were up to. And it was delicious.

    From comb,

    To sweet nectar.

    It tasted very much like a mix between sap & honey, super good.

  • Honey & an accident…

    I inspected my hive today and it’s doing great. I drilled a few holes in the part that is currently uninhabited to give the bees some air. I did it early in the morning to lock them inside for the drilling, they took it really well and didn’t care a bit about the ruckus, even after I released them. I continued on merrily with the inspection as if nothing happened.

    A few holes for aeration in the middle of the hive, I stapled netting to prevent robbing and to make sure they don’t become an entrance.


    Honey!

    Today’s surprise though, came with the presence of comb on the floor. I’m not sure if this fell from one of the top bars but I doubt it. I don’t know what to do with it right now, I’ll monitor the situation and decide later whether to remove it or not.

    The mess