More–bees and me

beekeeper me

beekeeper me

An incredible experience today! All the beekeeping books I’ve read (a fair number by now) try to describe the experience of seeing a hive in action.  It’s likely to remain indescribable.  I certainly can’t begin to put it into words.

One week ago today I brought my nuc home and transferred the girls (probably a few guys as well) to their permanent home. It didn’t take long for me to discover that I needed to modify the protective clothing that I wore, so back to the bee store.

Today, I opened the hive to see what was happening inside. (Had friend to take some pictures, too.)  As you can see, I’ve opted for different attire–a much nicer experience for me. Still sweaty, but at least not dripping on my veil. The weather was cooperative–clear, sunny, low humidity (41% and 87 °F reported at the time I opened the hive).

I did light a smoker and used it only for a couple of puffs to clear the Miller feeder before taking it off.  Last week I did the newspaper-pine needles-punk wood, routine.  This week I wussed out and simply used the cotton fiber fuel that you can by from the bee store–such a time-saver, and so much easier. This colony seems rather tolerant of me nosing around so I didn’t put on gloves. There was one point when I was just getting ready to start pulling the frames (after I had removed the first one) when there was an interesting line of bees, all side-by-side, wall-to-wall, in the cracks between the other frames–I definitely did feel I was being watched!  They got anther puff of smoke then–given that several of the books say that indicates need for a bit more smoke.  I really felt I needed them to move down so I could pull the frames without hurting anyone.

Because I’m going to be in and out of the hive about weekly with the new girls getting established and me learning, I switched from the Miller-type hive-top feeder to a Bee Smart feeder today. I tried out the Bee Smart in the kitchen sink before toting it out to the hive.  The  Bee Smart tray filled nicely and didn’t overflow.  Fingers crossed because that should be easier than moving the other one each time without slopping sugar water all over the place. After talking with other keepers, I did add Honey-B-Healthy to the feeder.

queen on frame

queen bee

To my very novice eye, things looked good in there. I did see eggs around where the queen was–they are really hard to see–I may add a magnifying lens to my “bee bag” with all the other goodies that accompany me to the hive.  I made sure that I did this inspection when the sun was out or I doubt I would have seen eggs. I didn’t see a lot of larvae though. Lots of capped cells. And bees crawling about everywhere….

On the left 1/3 of the frame, you see what looks like a white/light blue spot–that’s actually the queen bee (marked with the international standard color). She was moving around slowly on that frame.

Soooooo happy to see her in there doing her thing (yes, with effort I did see eggs) after my first adventure with her.  It seemed like every single cell was stuffed with nectar/sugar water/honey in all of the frames from the nuc. Surprised at how much heavier they were when I picked them up today, compared to what I remember from last week., (The hive was certainly heavier (after the feeder was off). With luck it will be heavier still next week.

newly drawn comb on new frame

newly drawn comb

They had started to draw the comb on the unused frames–so it seemed appropriate to add another box–certainly want them to have enough room to do their thing.

Now to wait another whole week to see what is happening in there–I really do want to peek sooner, but I’ll refrain, and just deal with the anticipation.

Since this was my first go at doing a frame inspection, I didn’t take my tablet or notebook computer out to use Hive Tracks live on the inspection, or for that matter even attempt to use my smart-telephone. That will be added next time. It was certainly wonderful to come in and have the weather entered at the time I started the inspection.  I liked the check-things-off approach.  I suspect that I got a more complete record than had I been handwriting or even making notes on the computer. Just reading over the inspection form before I actually even lit a smoker helped with organization–which I need badly as a brand new beekeeper!

holding frame


OOPS!  Well, a bit of a mishap with the Bee Smart feeder–which may be with the beekeeper.  It’s good to read the instructions, but then you do have to follow them if you want something work as promised.  I put feeder in, but neglected to note that “the base can be rotated to adjust the syrup level; since most hives are not level make sure that the syrup stays. . . .”  So–some sugar water spilled onto the inner cover, and down the front of the hive. Didn’t run out all that much, and it did not douse the frames. But. . .it did not stop overflowing until I leveled it.  Slight movement while trying to adjust it lead to sloshing which lead to more syrup. After leveling it has (right now) quit overflowing.  There will be an early morning check on this for sure. Likely an internet search for an alternative just in case.  I’m looking for something that fits in a medium super rather than a deep (or two mediums). In my internet searching before I got the Bee Smart feeder, there did seem to be a split: love it or hate it.  I talked to users who loved it–I’ll have to wait and see.  I might want just a plain simple bucket feeder!


For the bees (and me)

After my experience with the dome veil and jacket while I was putting the new bees into the hive, my mission for today was to get a veil that would allow a lot more ventilation. My last experience while in the jacket and veil was a bit like looking at the world through raindrops–not the best for clear vision, especially looking at little moving critters and trying to find one specific little moving critter that (thankfully) had a nice, bright blue dot on her thorax. So, off to Bailey Bee Supply this morning.

new equipment on car seat

new stuff

As is likely typical of most of us when we start a new project/hobby, gadgets and new equipment are totally fascinating and there is such a variety to check out. I suspect that beekeeping gadgets are going to be like kitchen gadgets and widgets–a lot of them better  in advertisement than in actual practice, but you never know, though chatting with other beekeepers certainly helps in choosing, or not. You find out all sorts of things that never appear in the “book learning” part of beekeeping.

For example, in discussions of hats and veils that I’ve read online and in books, nowhere did I find any mention of having a chin strap on the helmet. A friend mentioned, while chatting on FB, that she wished her helmet had a chin strap. I was about to settle for the basic plastic helmet, when my brain registered the fact that a helmet sitting right in front of me had a chin strap–quick change, and I have a helmet that is ventilated and has a chin strap to support a veil that will allow some air flow. That doesn’t mean I won’t drip while working outdoors, but it should help.

Obviously I came home from the bee store with more than just a helmet and veil–just like when I go skulk around the kitchen store.  I had a delightful chat with the lady in the bee store about pros and consult of various gadgetry and her experience–much greater than mine, gave me useful information and contributed to my purchases.

After opening the hive once, I discovered that the disadvantages frequently described for a this type of hive-top feeder  8 Frame Miller Top Feederwere very real. Biggest one for me right now is the difficulty in lifting it off the hive without slopping sugar syrup all over the place. Think about lifting a big, fairly shallow pan–like when you use a bain-marie in the oven–how the liquid shifts and threatens to slosh.  Well, slopping sugar syrup all over me, the bees, the hive, and surrounds is not something I want to deal with right now when I’m doing frequent inspections for my learning experience. SO, new feeder. (Given the good points of this style of hive-top feeder, I suspect that I’ll use it again when I’m not in and out of the hive so often because it’s large capacity is attractive–so it’s not a write-off.)

Despite reading some very contradictory reviews on forums–seemly a definite love-it or hate-it reactions–I got a Bee Smart in-hive feeder in-hive feeder. I’ve read the instructions, and  I’ve been checking it out over the kitchen sink with water. It seems a little touchy about getting the cover screwed back on, but as long as I pay attention to that (and I think my OCD-tendencies will kick in there), it seems to work. Since can go on the inner cover, it will certainly make opening the hive easier for me right now.

My only other purchase was some Honey-B-Healthy–an all-natural feeding stimulant for bees that is HONEY-B-HEALTHY® Supplement 16 ozreported to help with some of the problems that one encounters with bees–like  Nosema ceranae and some of the other really nasty things that can get your bees! It’s not advertised for that (I guess like off-label drug use in humans), but for those attempting to do without giving heavy-duty medications unless absolutely necessary, it has good reports from experienced beekeepers.  So, add a bottle of Honey-B-Healthy concentrate for the girls.

Now comes the sort of hard part–they are not due for a hive inspection until Friday–I have to content to watch them carrying pollen into the hive.

bee with full pollen baskets

pollen into the hive