Quick look

Since it was over 60 degrees yesterday I had a quick look at the hives to see how the ladies were faring the winter.

All 5 hives are still alive! They had been propylizing the batting I had put in to reduce condensation in the hives making it a little harder to peek in without tearing their roofs off.

Each hive had representatives come to see what the hell was going on.

Beekeeper’s work is never done

So most people think that beekeepers get to take the winter months off. That’s not necessarily so.

I plan to at least double the apiary this coming year. That means I need to build hives and frames. The hives need painting. I am going to build some top bar hives as well, meaning hours of woodworking. I’m a mechanic not a carpenter so I have to work twice as hard to build them.

There’s all the back issues of beekeeping magazines to read to review what I need to be ready for next year.

There’s also armor to make so I can go fight next season.

No, in all reality the winter is the busiest time of the year for beekeepers in the northern part of the country.

Buttoning things up

Two weekends when I looked in the nucs, the one I thought was doing well had half the top frames filled with groceries, the rest were bare. The nuc I thought had been robbed clean was jam packed with honey and pollen, probably enough to get the colony through the winter.

As I went to put the entrance reducers on the big hives I got stung 8 times on the back of my hands. Although I was wearing gloves, they were not the correct gloves for the task at hand.  PPE only works when its the right kind and worn properly .

I figured I might be in trouble a few minutes later when the bottoms of my feet started to itch. Went inside, hit myself with an EpiPen and had a big gulp of Benadryl. Sat down on the couch and waited for the magic to happen. After a while got up to get a drink of water and couldn’t swallow it.

Off to the hospital I went. Didn’t have to wait too long before I was given a comfortable spot to lay down on. They hooked up the monitor machine and after 4 tries at getting a BP they went old school and did a manual – seems that I wasn’t supposed to be sitting up talking with BP as low as mine was.  I lived an “interesting life” in my younger days which probably helped me there.

They gave me more epinephrine (adrenalin) and Benadryl. Had a wee nap thanks to the combination and everything stabilized. After a while they came in and told me they’d like me to be their guest for the night but I declined, having 2 dogs waiting for my return. Got a new prescription for epipens and thanked them for likely saving my life.

So the beekeeping season came to an end today. Removed the last of the feed cans with 2:1 syrup and duct taped the seams of the topmost boxes of the 2 nucs the ladies didn’t get around to propylizing.

The beehive stand had developed a list to the back, meaning any water that might get in would go to the rear and puddle there. Wet bees don’t stand a chance of .making it through the winter so I made a couple braces to level the stand.

After my last experience I was doing all this in my bee suit so things went slowly.  As a wise man once said, if you don’t make time to do it right, you best have time to do it twice.

Hives leveled, feeders removed, seams taped, all that was left was lay some batting in the top of the well provisioned nuc, and lay a layer of paper covered with sugar on top of the lean nuc to provide moisture control and food.

Now for the hard part. Waiting for winter to break so I can once again look in on the ladies and hopefully discover that they all made it through the winter and are as ready as I am for spring to bring the cycle of life around again.

330 A.M. beekeeping

One day last week i was walking past the hives and noticed that there was a lot of traffic around both of my NUCs (a NUC is a small hive used for making a new colony).

I had added anti-robbing screens to both NUCs to help the small colonies keep what they had worked so hard to put away. Robbing is where bees, wasps etc who don’t live there come and steal what the residents worked so hard to store away for winter. The small piece to the right of the jar (a feeder) can be removed. It was out of place and there were bees coming and going through that opening instead of climbing up the hive body and out the opening at the top of the screen.

I pushed the misplaced pieces of wood all the way into the hive openings and continued about my day.

At 3:15 this morning i realized what i had done – completely closed the openings to the NUCs!

By 3:30 i was out there, pretty much dressed, flashlight gripped in my teeth, removing the screens, feeders, and small pieces of wood, replacing them with simple entrance reducers.

You would thing that at 3:30 in the morning with the temperature under 60 the ladies would be blissfully asleep or at least lethargic enough that my bumbling about wouldn’t bother them. This was not quite the case. One lady really didn’t like my poking about in the dark and buzzed around telling me all about how she didn’t appreciate being woken up, the door to her house being ripped off, some wooden monstrosity shoved in its place, and how her sisters just don’t listen…

Of course there’s no going back to sleep after early morning gonzo beekeeping so i had time to breakfast and write this missive. Hopefully they didn’t consume lots of the winter stores while shut in the NUCs for many days. Might have to feed these two. I’ll check in a few days when i can look when there’s light outside.

Bee adventure, Ramblings

A few weeks ago I had opened the hives and moved things around. My bee suit is several years old and I managed to tear a hole where the legs meet.

Of course I forgot about that minor detail.

Tuesday I went back into the hives. I often sit in front of the hives and hang out with the bees so they are used to me. I can mow and weedeat around the hives and they leave me alone.

I have one hive that is really aggressive when I inspect it. Doesn’t matter that we were best friends just yesterday. Once I open it up it’s on!

Since it’s been really hot and the bee suit is all covering I tend to not wear much underneath it.

So I suddenly remembered about the hole in the suit about the time I pulled the first super off the last (aggressive) hive and a couple of the residents started flying around my nethers.

Something I didn’t want to do was start dancing around or swat at the new tourists. All I could do was hope for the best.

So I kept working and monitored where the interlopers were.

We completed the inspection and had everything back together when they decided to object to flying around the suit.

I got stung of course. Twice. In the chest and the back almost exactly opposite of each other.

Betcha thought I got stung someplace else. I’m very glad that it wasn’t other places.

We bee movin’

We bought a house a while back and after a bunch of work it was ready to move into. Got most of the stuff in, but the trickiest part happened early this morning.

The ladies were happy on the front porch of the old place, but the people we were renting from were not nearly as happy about the location.

We got up about 3am today so we would have all the ladies at home, catching up on their beauty sleep. After achieving an acceptable level of caffienation, we departed new place for old. We arrived to find the ladies blissfully taking their rest:

Caught them napping we did!

I had reached out to the local beekeeping club for advice and many people stepped up and offered tips, notably (in no particular order) Mark, Noah, Bill, and Bill. The water mist made the bearded ladies move inside, assisted by a light application of the bee brush. Closed the entrances with entrance reducers that I had stapled screen on so there would bee ventilation. Strapped the hives together with ratchet straps.

The hives were on boxes I had built The trailer was backed up to the sidewalk, and the dolly easily picked up the hives on the boxes, allowing me to wheel them over to the trailer without any drama. The boxes were exactly the right height to slide the hives onto the trailer. The 2 larger hives are probably close to 125 lbs each!

Off we headed to their new place! A stop for people supplies on the way and soon we were at the new home. A couple tries to get the trailer close to the stand, the grass being wet and all wheel drive still not quite enough to get up the slope…

The height of the trailer was almost perfect to allow me to slide the hives off the trailer and onto the stand.

Merlin is a really good helper

All that work and they were here! All that was left was to remove the hive closures. Imagine, if you will, someone coming in the middle of the night, spraying you with water to force you indoors, locking you in the house, and shaking the heck out of it. You might understandably be a little unhappy. When I popped the closures out, the ladies came boiling out wanting to take the pent up anger on anything nearby. Maggie and Merlin each got a couple stings.


Did I get stung? You betcha! Once on the leg, once on the wrist, and once on the nose. The leg and the nose were because I didn’t doublecheck and make sure all the zippers were closed on my suit. The wrist was through the ventilated part of my glove.

Free bees

On Memorial Day we saw an email about a swarm in Pulaski the people wanted to give to a good home.  Kim and I were there in under 30 minutes.

Videos of the capture and introduction into the new hive are up on Facebook.  5 days later the new hive seems to have settled in.

This photo is of a couple of the ladies fanning. They are broadcasting the scent of the hive announcing that this is where home is to the foragers.  I think they are here to stay.

Another bee non issue

One of my hives had been showing signs of overcrowding. There were always bees hanging out on the front of the hive, even on cool mornings.. Since I paid good money for them I want them to hang around.

Hoping to score some honey this year I had added a medium super (bee box) and a queen excluder to the hives.

The apparent overcrowding caused me concern that the ladies might swarm, taking Her Majesty with them.

My mentor Jerry told me to take the excluders off and give her room to make more bees. That would give the hive something to do besides get ready to move out (swarm). The other morning I did just that.

Next day there was still the apparent overcrowding as there were still bees hanging out outside the hive in the morning.

Looking again at the hive I remembered that this hive has a solid base board where the other hive has a screened base which allows for ventilation.

I had thought about ventilation for this hive and had built a ventilation box. With nothing to lose except almost $200 worth of bees I put the ventilation box on the other night.They were unhappy about me pulling the roof off and several ladies came and told me so. I didn’t get sting but the message was clear.

Next day I went into the hive to make sure that there were no queen cells being made. There were not so my fear that they were getting ready to swarm turned out to be unfounded. Her Majesty popped up while I was looking around which is always a pleasure to see.

The ventilation box and the removal of the queen excluder was the answer. There are no longer big clusters of bees hanging out.

Here is what the ventilation box looks like on the hive.

I was peekin’, man!

Got into what was formerly my weak hive. 
Had some tasks to take care of and it’s too nice a day to sit inside and listen to Primus 🙂

First, props to Jerry Borger for the smoker fuel tip – rolled up cardboard is da bomb!  Lasts longer than cotton fuzz – things still out by the hives smoking away.  It usually went out about the time i needed it before.

The hive setup is 2 large 10 frame boxes with a medium box above those.  The medium had a feeder in it and I wanted to eliminate it, I believe there’s enough nectar out there now to allow them to draw comb and make stores for winter.  Pulled the feeder out of the medium box and set it aside to the ladies could finish feeding, clean it out, and go home.

Next box down had drawn comb on 8 1/2 frames.  Lovely brood pattern, pollen and honey around that, not to mention the 2 full frames of honey, leaving 4 frames of brood, and 2 1/2 frames of comb under construction.

Bottom box has the frames from the NUC.  2 of them were medium frames that the ladies had added comb to turn them into large frames.  Inspected frames, again nice tight brood pattern, pollen, and honey. Scooped 1/2 cup of bees off the middle frame, poured them into a handy jar, added sugar, and rolled them around for quite a while.  Shook the sugar out into a big white bowl, put the candy coated ladies back into the hive.  I bet they will be popular for a while.

Reassembled the hive, added a queen excluder and frames to the box that formerly housed the feeder.  Put the top on.

Now for the part i had been dreading – mite count time.   A gentle wash to dissolve the sugar yielded 2 mites from 1/2 cup of bees means 1% if my grasp of “new math” is not too precarious. They sure are tiny!  This was seat of the pants confirmed by looking at the drone larva i saw as I ripped their cozy drone cells open like Godzilla lunching on Tokyo.  I didn’t see any in the probably 50 cells I tore open to look at the larvae.  Seemed kind of brutal but since there was a fair number of drone cells I figured it was ok.

No queen cups or cells were seen, so for now the ladies have enough room.
May try my hand at splits in a few weeks, depending on how strong everything looks at next inspect (yeah, I know, just leave them alone)

Worried mind

I had been concerned about #2 hive for a week or so. It started out as my strongest and just hasn’t looked like it’s booming self.Even though Kim wasn’t here to help me with moving stuff and being the extra hands I wasn’t born with, it is a nice enough day to go in for a look.The plan was to take the feeder off, look through all the boxes for signs of a strong queen, put a queen excluder on above the 2 big boxes, and give them frames and foundation to put honey in.There were many bees in the feeder which is not what is supposed to happen. I took it off and dumped it out into the grass away from the hives cut off the lovely burr comb they had been building and set it aside.Smoked the next box down and pulled most of the frames to see what the ladies had been up to. I saw eggs, uncapped brood, and capped brood as well, with a beautiful laying pattern. Enough to tell me that her majesty is alive and well and doing a great job.There was a heavy frame of honey in this box as well. I gave it back.Next box had drawn comb in all the frames. More nice brood pattern and lots of brood. Couple more frames of honey too also.I saw what I needed to see so I put it all back together and apologized for the disturbance.