The quest for better smoke

Today we got back sort of late from a fun weekend of camping, but it was still nice and sunny out, so I decided to quickly knock out the inspection to get it taken care of. But as a result, there aren’t all that many pictures this time.

BUT – I totally forgot to mention in last week’s inspection report that I tried yet another smoker fuel: Wood Pellets. The same stuff you burn in pellet stoves for heating purposes:

Unfortunately, I am not completely sold on them, either. They do produce smoke:

And the smell isn’t unpleasant either, but

  • they are difficult to get started
  • they burn HOT, even inside the mostly enclosed smoker
  • the hotter they burn, the less smoke you get
  • mostly burnt-up pellets tend to fall out of the hole where the bellows blows air into the smoker, and create a fire hazard on a super dry lawn.

I am still having the best results with a cedar kindling fire and ripped cotton fabric on top. The trick is to get it going really well, so the fire doesn’t completely go out, and just keeps on smoldering. I may experiment with mixing in some pellets as fuel, but not as the main source of smoke generation.

This is the inner cover of West-Hive.

The bees have tried to attach it to the frames again. There was a lot more burr comb this time than I had seen in several weeks (burr comb is wax comb that the bees build where you don’t want them to – extending beyond the boundaries of the frames, making them hard to manipulate, or on top / in between frames, connecting them).

You can see a little bit of burr comb on the lower left side in this picture – I didn’t fully get all of it in the shot.

Nice progress on a frame out of the top hive body of West Hive.

This is a lot of capped brood on a frame out of West Hive’s upper hive body. There were about 6 fully drawn out frames in the upper hive body, with 3 frames largely untouched. If the bees keep it up, I may be able to put up the first honey super next weekend!

Another fully loaded brood frame from West Hive.

Big chunks of burr comb on a frame from the upper hive body of East Hive. I removed it all using the sharp edge of the hive tool.

As I was looking at one of the frames of East Hive, something caught my eye. If you look toward the right side of the picture, about 2/3 down, you can see a new bee in the process of hatching! Her head is barely sticking out of her cell.

No Queen sightings in either hive, but lots of fresh eggs, in nice tight patterns. That means the Queens were there at least of a few days ago, and seem to be generally healthy.

observation I made is that the bees have started producing a lot of propolis, a resinous “bee glue”. They make it by collecting sap mostly from tress. It’s orange-brown in color, SUPER sticky, and will stain most any surface – including skin! The bees use it to fill gaps in the hive, and to improve the structural integrity by gluing components together.

In a movable frame environment, propolis is your enemy. It’s best to scrape it off the frames wherever you see it, because the longer you let it go, the stronger the bond becomes, and you may have a hard time separating the frames.
It appears that East Hive is using it A LOT more than West Hive. Almost all the frames in the lower hive body of East Hive showed signs of it, whereas West Hive barely had any.

There supposedly are medicinal uses for propolis, so I have been collecting whatever I scrape off the frames. It’ll take a while to have any significant quantities though, so stay tuned.

Both hives had fully consumed all their sugar syrup – the Honey-B-Well must have been doing its thing. I had run out of syrup refill, so I had to make more after the inspection – it has to fully cool down before you can use it, so I will have to add the feeding pails back onto the hives tomorrow

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This entry was posted on Sunday, June 14th, 2009 and is filed under DanTheBeeMan. Both comments and trackbacks are currently closed.