This boy was all brown a week ago
Well lo and behold, the addition of a Champagne d’Argent stud has led to some pretty serious silvering in the offspring!
We got some very cute silvered black hybrids who had their ticking from day one resembling Silver Martens, and have recently begun to lighten up even more. Most of the blacks have sold due to their impossible cuteness but a couple of bucks remain. The real surprise is all the chestnut agouti buns that are starting to look a little snow-covered. How sweet!
Oddly, only Caraway’s kits are showing silvering, she is my Creme/Rex hybrid so her kits are a mix of three breeds. Her mother’s kits which are half Creme and half Champagne do not show any silvering yet and may not at all.
I have to say that I find the coloration to be quite lovely, and I expect these agouti buns to end up quite frosty-looking with a brown head and undertones. A bit like an Arctic hare changing from their summer to winter coats.
Well today turned out nicer than expected, albeit a bit windy, so I decided to install my nuc. I didn’t want them to get too crowded in there as I know they work fast!
I got my brand new smoker lit for the first time with some pieces of burlap, and pried off the nuc lid. Since there are only four frames in the nuc box, but room for five, the bees have already started drawing out comb in the empty space. These combs were just tiny nubbins when I picked up the nuc two days ago, so you can see just how quickly they are constructed. Aren’t they elegant looking?
The next thing to do was to remove the little nails that were holding the frames in place so they wouldn’t shift during travel. Easily done with a pair of pliers. Then it was just a matter of carefully removing the four frames and installing them in the center of the new hive, in the same order that they were removed from the nuc.
While removing the frames, I did a quick inspection of each one. It was tough to see well because of all the bees, but I was able to identify some capped brood and some drone comb, as well as some drones. I couldn’t locate the queen, and I’m not going to worry about that too much right off the bat. I didn’t see her in the box after the frames were gone so I assume she made it in on a frame.
After installing the frames, I mixed up a 50/50 sugar water solution and installed a feeder inside another deep box on top of the inside cover. This will help the bees draw out all the comb on the new frames which so far only have foundation.
So that’s it! The first nuc is installed and the bees now have lots of room to build. I did wear my veil for the installation but I didn’t wear my gloves. I don’t think the veil was even really necessary and I don’t really like how it obscures my view of the bees. I may try without it next time. I wasn’t stung at all today and the only damage was a very minor burn on a baby finger from the smoker. It’s hot!
Today I went on a little excursion to pick up my second colony of bees, a complete three box mature hive with drawn comb and a brand new queen. They were purchased from an 85 year old German beekeeper who after 60 years of keeping bees has decided to retire. I went a bit early to observe the banding of the hives in order to get them ready to transport, and I was able to get some photos of the process.
I feel really privileged to be able to take over this hive of bees from such a seasoned keeper, and even more lucky that he has offered to mentor me on an ongoing basis if needed. He is quite close by and has many years of bee knowledge under his belt.
My hive is the third one from the left in the above photo, with the brick on top.
So it looks like I officially have all my starter bees! As it was cloudy today, I decided not to hive my nuc yet and will wait until the next sunny day which should be Thursday. I learned a lot today and can’t wait to dig into my new hive and check it all out! Thank you so much to the other volunteer beekeepers who helped me get it home!
I took the foam block out of the entrance last night after the bees had settled for an hour, as instructed. They were mad! They came boiling out ready to deal with whatever had been vibrating and bouncing them all over the place an hour earlier. I decided to back off and let them calm down. It began to rain lightly so I covered the top of the nuc with a board and called it a night.
The next morning I went to check on them and they were busy at work, flying in and out of the nuc like they had always lived here, packing little orange, yellow and white pollen balls on their little legs. Adorable! A few bees came in completely covered in orange dust, and the beekeeper I bought them from mentioned that those bees have been into the scotch broom. Well I’m glad they like it because we sure have plenty of it on the island!
I drove three hours today to pick up my very first nuc of bees not far outside of Victoria. Boy am I excited!
The gentleman who sold them to me was very knowledgeable and told me he’s been keeping bees since 1974. Apparently he used to work for a large apiary in southern California for over 27 years. I was glad he knew what he was doing, as I didn’t ask many questions before committing to the trek. He was also kind enough to allow me to snap a few photos.
I needn’t have worried, as he had a nice little selection of nucs that were made from his strongest overwintered hives. He was on a good varroa treatment schedule using oxalic acid and thymol which he explained to me. He recommended the oxalic treatment during the winter when there is less brood (since the treatment can’t penetrate the cells) and the thymol treatment around the end of August after the honey harvest. (Thymol needs hot weather to work).
He said that he breeds for honey production, colony strength and gentleness. He admitted he doesn’t breed for hygienic bees per se, but that his colonies were all very strong and so he might as well be. (Hygienic selective bred bees are much better at keeping themselves clean of varroa mites.)
Opening up my nuc
He showed me his active hives and then got out the smoker to show me the nuc. It’s a four frame that is positively chock full of hard working little ladies. It must weigh about 30 pounds. He secured the four frames to one side with two nails to avoid shifting, and the top was nailed on as well. The entrance was sealed with a little block of foam. Once I got them home I was advised to allow them to sit for an hour to let them settle, and then remove the foam. Since it was dark when I arrived home, I will wait to do the transfer into the hive until tomorrow.
I also have a lead on a full, three box complete hive with bees and drawn comb for a good price, and I think I may pick it up so I have two hives to compare. I’ll keep you posted!