A new bee year

I finally had the weather and a day off to check in on the ladies. Went into the winter with 6 hives, came out with 5. Not quite as good numerically as last year’s 7 to 6 but I’ll take it.

The NUC that I really didn’t think would make it was so full I moved them into a bigger home! They got a mansion (2 – 10 frame full size) compared to 2 – 5 frame. This was a daughter colony from the queen I got from my friend Tucka Bee, who is from the town I grew up in. I figured the genetics from up by the Canadian border would come through this winter and they sure did!

The parent colony to the NUC is still booming along. I have yet to be able to isolate the queen. This colony is very fecund, and a great honey producer. Too bad the queen is all over the place. I need to put queen excluders between all the boxes to isolate what box she’s in.

One colony I thought made it didn’t, they starved with 2 medium supers of honey over their heads. There was fighting going on at the entrance, but surprisingly, the honey supers above were not robbed. I rescued the honey supers and will extract that honey sometime soon.

One colony has become aggressive, I will address that when the queen production starts up for the season. Basically you kill the old queen, wait a few days for her pheromones to dissipate, then introduce a new queen. I did flipflop the boxes on this colony to get the queen out of the honey supers and into the supers I want her to lay brood in. Once the regicide has been committed it will take around 3 weeks for the aggression to end.

I hope to keep the number of colonies down to no more than 6, I plan on selling bees to help keep the number of colonies down to a manageable number.

Only 1 sting through the suit, again that’s a win.

Saddest thing I saw recently

It was nice and warm today so I had a mind to see how the ladies were faring the winter.

I had some doubts about one of the Nucs going into the winter, they hadn’t put away nearly as much groceries or drawn comb on many of the frames. The only bee in the whole hive was the queen, and she was very much dead.

The real surprise was one of my 10 frame hives. The bottom was covered with dead bees. From what I saw, the hive had a lot of condensation . There was mold in some of the wood.

This hive had a solid bottom board with no provision for ventilation from the bottom. So basically the hive died from the bees getting rained on inside the hive in the middle of winter.

My other 3 hives are very strong with lots of groceries and bees. I split the 2 un needed pollen patties between them.

So all we have to do is make it another 5 weeks or so.


One of the things about an eclectic life is one gets exposed to many different things. While in the Cast Guard i brought an airplane flight navigating tool onto a ship I was on and used it to calculate set and drift (the effects of wind, current, and ship characteristics) and what course/speed it would take to compensate for these effects. Since those above me did not understand it i got in trouble for using a tool that made my job much easier.

What does this have to do with bees?

I was thinking the other day about a tool i used to use to peer into the combustion chamber of motorcycles and VWs I worked on to give me an idea of the condition of the cylinder and piston. It’s called an borescope, or endoscope. Basically a camera on the end of a flexible shaft. If it works in engines and up people’s butts, it should certainly work inside a beehive.

Of course an engine doesn’t care, and people are usually asleep. Bees get pissed off when you shove a camera on a flexible shaft into the hive. Controlling the view direction of a cheap-o borescope is hit-n-miss at best, and the bees don;t much like it.

I got this poor quality video and a sting on my leg for my efforts.

There bee boxes on my porch!

In the area i live in, there are many skunks. That in itself doesn’t bother me in the least, since i view skunks as beneficial animals. They eat all kinds of insects and small creatures i can do without. Thing is, they will also come up to a beehive, scratch at the entrance, and eat the bees that come out to see who’s knocking.

Since I like bees and skunks (though i do prefer bees), and want to keep the bees around and the skunks away, i knew i had to do something about the skunks liking to eat the bees. Also, at my advanced age and frail condition I prefer to not have to bend way over to tend the hives. It made sense to raise the hives above skunk level. I could put a couple planks across some blocks like the last time I kept bees, but since the front porch is the apiary, i thought something a bit more aesthetically pleasing would be preferable.

It also gets very windy here on the hill. One day a few weeks ago on a nice day i thought i would assemble hive frames (where i want the bees to put comb) sitting outside on my front porch. After my hammer blew away for the third time i moved the assembly line into the living room. Since it does get so windy, i wanted a way to hold the hives down so they do not blow over.

So i figured the solution to both issues would be to build boxes to raise the hives, and weigh the boxes so they don’t blow away, and give me something to strap the hives down on the boxes.

I am not going to go into complete construction details here. The idea was originally to use concrete pavers to weigh the boxes down but whilst in the masonry area of the big box lumber store i noticed that for the price of a single paver i could buy a 50 lb bag of sand. So the plan changed right then. The bag of sand could go into a bucket that fits on a frame inside the box. Honestly, i now think it would have been easier to simply make a floor inside the box and set the sand bag on the floor. But that was an after-construction epiphany. If i build more boxes that is what i will do. Photos follow

So there you have it, now we wait for the ladies to become available to fill the hives!

To bee or not to bee

For several years I kept bees. Not just because I like honey and other bee products (i truly do). There is just something Zen about the process of working the hive, watching the hive grow, and just sitting back watching the ladies come and go on a summer afternoon. The honey was the sweetener in my Kombucha and it made the most amazing flavors as part of the Kombucha.

When I moved to Peru (not NY, the one in South America), I passed on most of my beekeeping stuff to Ashley, our self proclaimed daughter (she worked at our favorite restaurant and was a potential hippie). Far as I know, she still has bees

Peru has a variety of honeybee that is black. They would swarm around the sugar cane juice vendor on the corner near our place. I would buy cane juice to use as the sweetener for Kombucha. I would have ultimately found a swarm and taken them if I had remained there.

But we left Peru and moved to Waterford, Ireland. I tried contacting a couple bee suppliers in Ireland but they were a cantankerous bunch. Just as well, since we really didn’t have the space for a hive there. Plus we had to make an abrupt departure and I can just imagine trying to find a home for a colony on top of all the other logistics involved with coordinating an international move from go to out of country in 2 weeks.

So what’s all this ramble about? Since we’ve been back, I’ve wanted to get bees again. In Roanoke, the apartment we lived in wasn’t likely to be bee friendly. Here in lovely Radford, I have the space and the neighbor kids are ok. I started looking for bees for sale and came across the local beekeeping association. Saw they have a beginning beekeeping class starting this weekend. Since its been a while since I have kept the company of the ladies, I figured it wouldn’t hurt to take the class. Plus, the association has good deals on bee packages so I figure some learning and a good deal on bees is a great way to get back into it.

I kept my suit and gloves. Our new favorite store around here is Rural King. I had been eyeing their “everything you need to keep bees package and the other day when I went in, it had been opened so they had slapped a half off price tag on it. So i left the store poorer, but with a complete hive setup. I was going to build my own hives but the cost in the basic tools alone would have been much more than the ready made kit. At least i have more time to build more hives and can start the first colony when the season gets here.

So here we go again, all the yummy goodness and a box full o’ladies to play with. Ain’t life grand?