Monday, September 17, 2012

Fall 2012

Posting to this blog has not been as frequent as I would have liked.  After almost no posting last year and none yet this year I thought I'd at least add one small thing here for now.  We do have honey this year!!!  For the most part we have a "hand off" approach to our beekeeping and as such don't always getting things added when we should to get good honey production.  But right with one hive we have a super full of honey, and another hive has a 3rd body full of honey to harvest (don't ask why we used a body instead of a super).

Last night we did go to add one more super and being foolish I didn't put any gear on.  Wearing just shorts and a t-shirt I took off the top cover, added a super, but then before getting it back together got a sting in my leg.  Freaked out at that point I geared up with my suit and veil, only to find I had a bee inside of it and had another freak out (my wife was very amused).  So, it was a fun night and in the end the bees have one more super to work with during the short amount of summer time left.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011


Last year we really didn't get a chance to post much.  It was a weird summer for us that involved a job loss and various other stuff.  As a result we lived with one hive in the storage shed in our back yard for a while, and had to find a home for another hive as well.  We helped collect one swarm and actually harvested enough honey to provide cute little honey bears to friends and family at christmas time. 

We've inspected both of our hives once this spring and happily they both made it through the winter fine with several frames of honey left even.  Hopefully spring will really be here soon (snowing right now on March 29) and the ladies can be out collecting nectar and pollen.  We plan to re-queen one of the hives in a few weeks and will also be installing a package in our observation hive.  I'll try to do a better job updating the blog this year and share as many pictures as I can.  Perhaps we'll even provide some posts on our newest adventure of making SOAP!!!!

Sunday, March 28, 2010


We visited the hive today with the goal of swapping the two main bodies.  Bees tend to move up the hive and we want them to stay low when the queen starts to form brood and work up through the season.  This will also help to keep the brood cells low so that the "Supers" on top are only used for honey storage (and hopefully harvesting by us!)

We first removed the one Super we had on the hive.  Last summer we had put it on with a queen excluder between it and the 2 hive bodies.  The excluder is to keep the queen from laying brood in the Super but it seemed to keep all of the bees from doing anything up there.  We eventually removed the queen excluder but they still never really showed any interest.  We are removing it now until later in the summer.  After it was off we used the hive tool to unstick the hive bodies and lifted the top one off.  I was very surprised how many bees were around and how heavy the top body was.  It was obviously very full of honey still and it really looks like our bees did a good job getting through the winter as their numbers are high even though it's doubtful any new brood has emerged yet this year. 

The lower hive body was much lighter as we swapped their positions.  It was about 56 degrees and the bees were very active.  We didn't smoke them and they really seemed to be annoyed at us, flying into our masks all of the time and landing on us quite often.  We really were not set to inspect the individual frames without the smoker going so we'll leave that to later.  The bees also would not leave the Super we took off so we left it sitting by the hive hoping they'll leave by the next few days when we come back.

All in all we think our hive is going to do good this year.  Their number are good already and things have not even started blooming.  When we installed them last year most of the fruit trees had already passed their blooming.  We hope that our friends will see better fruit production this year as a result. 

Sunday, March 7, 2010


It had been over 6 months since we last checked on our bees.  We did no winter preparation for them, no providing of supplemental food beyond in April when we first installed them, and really took mostly a hands off approach.  This winter then was one of the coldest and snowiest we've had in years.  Other colleagues we've talked to with hives have said that none of theirs have made it through the winter.  So when we were finally able to get out to the hive yesterday our hopes were not high.  We were already planning to have to order new bees.

But.....  when we took the top cover off we saw movement, there was a bee walking around in there.  Removing the top super we saw that the bees were still there and alive!  We're sure their number are down as would be expected, but there is at least a core of them there.

On our trip we were really not expecting to find live bees, so much that we didn't even bring our hive tool along.  As such we really couldn't look too closely at the frames to see how much honey they still have available or to see if the queen was still around.  We did have a bag a sugar we thought about giving them for food but then decided against it.

The author of another blog I read frequently seems to always be feeding her bees.  I understand when you install a hive the need to do that as they have nothing to eat from the trip.  But bees are wild creatures who have lived for centuries without human help; including over wintering year after year.  We'd like our bees to be as natural as possible and to me feeding them is not natural.  Just like bears, raccoons and other wildlife can become habituated to being feed, perhaps this can also happen to bees and make their colony actually weaker if provided a food source rather then having to seek it out for themselves.

I could be way wrong on those assertions but it is something we are going to try and follow with our bees with keeping it as natural as possible.  I will admit that for my wife's observation hive in her office she does provide some food during winter.  It is only a 4 frame hive though so there is no way for them to store up enough honey for the winter.  During the summer as they fill a frame with honey she removes it and sticks it in the freezer, then during the winter as needed she give them back the same honey they had created earlier in the year by swapping out frames.

OH, one more thing I forgot to mention.  It was only 45 degrees out so we didn't expect to see much flying from the bees but a few did come out when we opened up the hive.  During winter bees hold in their poop for long periods of time and then do "cleansing flights" when it's actually warm enough to go fly.  Often if there is snow around a hive you may see yellow or orange drops around the hive entrance from this.  Well, my wife noticed that one of the bees that came out to fly pooped right in front of her.  Then when we got to the van I noticed something orange on her face.  Yep, the bee got her with poop!  The funny thing was that while walking back up my wife kept thinking she smelled apricots.  Sure enough it was the poop and there are apricot trees around the hive and I bet the honey they produced has a apricot flavor to it.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

No honey this year...

We went out yesterday to check the hive, just about 1 week after having removed the queen excluder. Still no work in the super. There were certainly more bees than before, but no work we could see of drawing out comb. I guess it's just too late in the season.

So, we won't be harvesting any honey but we do feel like we have a good hive going and look forward to getting them through the winter. In the spring they should be all set to work on those supers and do some heavy pollinating of the nearby fruit trees. When we installed the hive this spring most of the fruit trees had already bloomed so I'm not sure how much of an effect the bees had on pollination. Next year....

Monday, August 17, 2009

Queen Excluder, Be Gone!

On Friday night we checked the hive again to see if there had been any action in the super. Nope. Still the same, a few bees up there but no action drawing thing out at all. So, we decided to pull out the queen excluder. The only problem was that we had driven the 20 minute out to our hive and realized that we had left all of our bee gear in the garage!

We were determined so I lifted the super while my wife pulled the queen excluder. I was nervous, especially when I felt something land on my bare leg, but neither of us got stung and now we can see what happens. I just hope the queen does NOT move up into the super. We'd really like to keep brood out.

We also saw a SNAKE in the grass by the hive!!!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Where's the honey?

We've now had a super in place above two hive bodies for over 4 weeks. Last night when we checked the super we saw NO evidence of drawing out comb. None. Zip. We did see a few bees in the super hanging out but that is it. We are using a queen excluder and it seems to be keeping out more than the queen. I suppose we could take it out, but we really don't want brood in with our honey when it comes time to harvest. Could we have damaged or killed the queen when we took out the comb they were building in the empty frame slot?

We're gonna let them go a bit longer and see what happens. It's been hot so we tilted the lid up last night too and perhaps that will give some of them another entry point. I'd really like to get at least a little honey this year out of our hive. But, at least we have two good bodies now full of drawn out comb with brood and honey stores. If we can get them to over winter well they should have a much better start than they did this year with a new hive.