Hive report: 17 June 2018

This turned out to be a very quick peek into Hive A–the heat got to me.  I’m such a wuss when it comes to heat and humidity.  I’ve been trying so hard not to degenerate into complaining (no, actually make that bitching) about the weather but I give up.  When I went out to do this inspection the local weather conditions were reported as 90°F with a heat index of 102 °F: however, my thermometer read 94.9°F.  Inside my bee jacket (the common white one)–well, I don’t even want to think about that.  (More about the cool blue one later).

What I found when I opened the hive was brood all over the place–yes, I forgot to put on the queen excluder–so now I have brood right up to the topmost medium super.  Some of the foundationless frames that I had inserted are being drawn nicely though.

One frame on plasticell foundation had been drawn into space where the foundationless one was–the girls seemed to be ignoring that one so I had very deep comb on one side. You can see how I disrupted a lot of the comb, so I just pulled that frame out for harvest.  I replaced it with an undrawn frame . This one is going to get harvested in some variation of crush/strain method and I’ll hope that some of the foundationless ones can be harvested for cut comb.

Unfortunately, the heat got to me in a big way so I couldn’t stay out long enough to do a full, meticulous find-the-queen inspection–at least I know the queen is doing well.  I need to make some sort of plan to deal with what these girls are doing–probably going back in and consolidating brood, and putting on a queen excluder would be a good start. But to do that I have to find the queen and that’s not easy because the hive population is SO heavy. At least I know that the girls do have space to store more honey, but…

But I need to see what’s in the “brood box”–though the girls and I don’t seem to agree on where that right now. I also need to inspect the other three hives–but not today. My thermometer is now reading 95.8°F and I’m totally wilted. (Yes, I did start hydrating a couple hours before I got into the bee jacket, but that wasn’t enough.  More water, sooner next time–and start earlier.

I guess maybe the girls will get me appropriately trained sooner or later, maybe….



Hive report: a beekeeper’s notebook

21 May 2018:  I’ve had a new beekeeping experience–dealing with a seriously angry bunch of bees. I do hope it will be a while before I have that experience again.

Yesterday  I planned to inspect Hive A (Dave’s Girls), but I didn’t take into account lawn mowing and trimming activities that had been going on around the hive. I had just removed the telescoping cover and the inner cover when I was in the midst of a serious attack–I now know what seriously PO’d bees sound like. After getting stung on my hands (only thin gloves on) I beat a very hasty retreat, but the girls were angry enough that they followed me–so I had to stand around in my bee jacket until they finally gave up and went home.


22 May 2018:  This morning  I went back to do what needed to be done. Things were good when I opened the hive–bees all over all of the frames just doing their thing and they let me look around and do my part of the housekeeping.  I’ve put in foundationless frames to see if the girls will cooperate with me for some cut-comb honey this season. Fingers crossed and waiting.

26 May 2018:  There’s obviously been a bit of a hiatus here–the weather has been rather erratic–intermittently cloudy, windy, with less traffic in and out of the hive than usual. I’ve learned (the hard way) that the girls are quite testy (even bitchy, maybe?) when the weather is good.  Of course, that also means that lots of them are out at work so there are fewer to deal with during the inspections–and that is definitely an advantage with a large colony.

I made the mistake of putting work hours before bee time! Silly me.  By the time I was ready to do inspections, the weather wasn’t cooperating–intermittently cloudy with threatening clouds and a little drizzle. Then another bit of sunshine. Then clouds again.  I wussed out and decided to wait until tomorrow morning. I mean, in this area I should know that thunderstorms are likely in the afternoon.

27 May 2018:  This morning I had my priorities straight: to the hives just of soon as I had adequate Sunday morning caffeination.  I started with the Georgia Girls (Hive B) since that was the big job. They had been cooperative, actually doing what I wanted them to do–most of the brood was now in the deep so I could reverse the medium and be back to deep-on-the-bottom then the medium, still with some brood, above. They still had room to store honey above the queen excluder so I didn’t give them any foundationless frames.

Hives C and D each got a quick peek under the cover to see how things were. Both obviously had a queen doing her thing. Hive D (a split with a queen cell from Hive A) had brood in the medium (and the deep), but needed more room for honey.  Add queen excluder and a super for honey–done!  And–just in time for it to start getting a bit more overcast and breezy.

Happiness for a beekeeper is knowing what the girls are doing!


Hive report: bees and cats!

The last week or so has been a bit hectic–indexing work, and beekeeping. The apiary has grown to four hives now–two from swarms cast by the two large (Dave’s bees and the Georgia Girls) hives. Now I have hives C and D. Hive C is from the swarm from the Georgia Girls. Hive D is from a swarm from Dave’s Bees. The purpose of my inspections of three hives today was to check to see that all were queenright even though looming deadlines for indexes have put a limit on the amount of time that I can spend with the bees on this Mother’s Day; so necessarily very quick question-oriented inspections.

brood box of hiveI had already found that Hive C was queenless. I started the procedure of requeening earlier in the week, but I did need to make sure that the queen had been released from her travel cage. Happily, the queen was out and about in the hive. However, the comb in that brood chamber is so exuberant and higgledy-piggledy that it was (in a reasonable amount of time, with sweat dripping from my eyelashes) impossible to see if there was brood. But, the queen is free so I’ll check again for brood in a while.

[Why did I have sweat dripping from my eyelashes? Well, it happens if you neglect to put on the sweatband under the veil. Needless to say, I went back and added that to my attire before moving on the Hive D.]

Hive D (I know, very unimaginative) was a swarm from Hive A and since I had not captured the queen, I had put a queen cell into the new hive. Today was to check and see if that colony was queenright. Still dripping sweat, I opened this hive to find that there was now capped brood, lots of capped brood in a very good pattern in that hive. Again, I settled for the quick answer without a detailed search to find and mark the queen as I need to move on to Hive A.

In Hive A, my concern for this quick inspection was to see if there was a functioning queen here, too.  The quick answer was a resounding yes! I found lots of capped brood in an excellent pattern–in the medium super above the brood box.  Again, I accepted that, but realize that there is another problem that I need to address immediately. I need to get some new frames for the bees to start for cut-comb honey since they are rapidly filling everything with honey and pollen. I admit that I didn’t even look in the brood box to see what was going on, but I suspect it’s being filled with honey and pollen, so I likely need to reverse the medium with brood and the deep at least for a while.IMG_7769

Ok–you wondering about the “bees and cats”!  Since this was the week that I had to tote Frankie, the cat, to the vet and deal with his foibles about the carrier and the car, cats, and their sometimes strange ways have been blatantly obvious.  After these quick inspections, I thought that bees shared some of the same characteristics: both bees and cats do what they damn well please, no matter what I think, or hope, they will do!

I definitely need some consultation with a very experienced beekeeper to try to sort out what these girls are doing and how I can best deal with it.  But from a beekeepers perspective, all is right with the world.


Hive report: 30 July 2017

The weather was lovely today–low humidity, sunny, not terribly hot–a mere 81°F with a nice breeze–so I took advantage of it to do hive inspections when the conditions were good for me and for the girls. They were pretty cooperative today though just a bit tetchy when I first opened the hive but that’s not unexpected at this time of the year when nectar is a bit scarce.

The girls in both hives seem to really like applying propolis to anything that doesn’t move–especially between the inner cover and the top of the frames. Prying the tops of the frames away from the inner cover was when the bees in the upper box got just a bit irked with me and switched from humming to buzzing–including a few that got in my face about it–that’s why we wear bee jackets or at least veils. Once I had the inner cover off the hive the bees did settle down and let me do my thing.

Both colonies are looking good–a reasonable population of bees, good brood pattern, honey and pollen storage although there were enough varroa mites present on the sugar shake that I started treatment today on both colonies with ApiVar (Amitraz) strips since we still have some hot weather coming. That’s part of getting ready over-wintering.






Hive report: 14 May 2017

Honey B HealthyFinally! A warm, sunny day when I can open up the hive and see what’s going on inside. The bees have been in their new home for a month now. The weather has, overall, been more like March than May lately so I’ve not been able to check inside the hive, and I’ve had to give them sugar syrup with Honey B Healthy  (that’s the bee version of a one-a-day vitamin) and feeding stimulant since they don’t forage in cloudy weather or chilly, rainy, or very windy weather.

These girls went into a completely new hive on 14 April 2017 so I was really anxious to see how they are settling in. There was no comb already drawn for them to start storing honey–lots of work for them to do before storing nectar and pollen.

Go girls!

On inspection today I found that they have drawn (built) comb on almost all the frames (only one with no comb on either side, and another comb only on one side) in the brood box–so they have built comb on 6-1/2 frames of the eight so it looks like they are off to a good start. The queen has been doing her queenly stuff–there was lots of brood in the hive.

Since the weather forecast is looking much more like May for the next ten days, I didn’t replace the feeder after the inspection since there should be nectar available now that the weather has improved and they girls can go out to forage instead of staying home and slurping up sugar syrup. (When there is nectar available the bees don’t take sugar syrup even with the Honey B Healthy in it). They like the real stuff when they can get it.

About two hours after I finished the inspection I noticed that there was a lot of activity outside the hive: bees flying around the hive, but not going very away. I suspect I was seeing “new” foragers or field bees coming out for a first flight and getting oriented to hive location

When I finished the inspection–laid eyes on the queen–I added a medium super to give the girls room to start stashing honey and pollen. It looked as if the bees thought they were getting a bit crowded as they were putting pollen into some of the brood areas and building lots of burr comb. Now they don’t have to do that. I’ve given them more room for storing nectar and pollen.

First honey super of the season on the hive!


Hive report: 27 April 2017

It was clear and sunny this morning with only a bit of steady breeze, so I lit the smoker and invaded the girls’ living quarters to see how they are settling in.

The colony seems to be doing well–given that I only installed the package on 14 April in an almost-brand-new hive with no drawn combs in the brood box. Added to that we’ve had a series of chilly, rainy days when there could be no foraging.

When I opened the hive today I was happy to see that four of the eight frames have comb either drawn or being drawn on them, and one side of the fifth frame was being drawn. On inspection, I saw eggs, larvae in various stages, and capped brood–all looking like a good laying pattern from this queen. Two of the frames were quite heavy with brood, pollen, and honey. There was a little capped honey, too.

I found the queen on one frame in from the outside on the right.  Some frames on the left of the brood chamber were completely undrawn, so I shifted everything toward the left, and put two of the empty frames on the right so that the brood is now more central in the chamber–I didn’t change the order of any frames with brood on them though–just shifted them toward the left. I sure hope that was an appropriate thing to do. (I suspect that this right sided distribution of drawn frames and brood has something to do with how I replaced frames after removing the shipping box from the hive–I should have split the empty frames–shifting the frame with the queen more toward the center of the hive. But that’s what keeps beekeeping interesting–always learning.

The colony seems quite calm–even while I was removing burr comb that they had constructed between the frame tops and the inner cover (and had filled with “nectar”–I couldn’t help wondering if that “nectar” was the sugar syrup from the bucket feeder that was on the hive. After inspection, I put the bucket feeder back on but if the weather holds, I’ll not refill it–letting the girls get on with foraging for nectar and pollen–or remove it in a couple days if it looks as if they are no longer taking the syrup.

Because I put these girls onto undrawn (but wax coated) frames, I had an entrance excluder in place so that the queen couldn’t get out of the hive–trying to be sure that the new package and queen didn’t abscond. Now that they have brood, I’ll remove that, but I think I’ll leave the entrance reduced for a bit longer until there are more bees in the colony (which shouldn’t be long given the amount of capped brood that I saw today).

For now, all seems well. Long live the (unnamed) queen in hive 2017A!




Happiness is…

.an empty queen cage and busy bees!

Since I installed the package of new bees on Friday, I’ve mostly left them alone other than placing, and replacing feeders. The girls seem to really be slurping up the sugar syrup, and drawing out comb.

I did only enough inspection to see that the queen was out, remove the cage, and watch the queen moving around on the frame.

I’ll open the hive again on Saturday or Sunday to see if I can find eggs on the frames. So far, it looks as if the new colony is off to a good start.



Hive inspection: 19 July 2016

This time of the year can be hard for bees–we’re  enjoying the results of their work earlier in the year but there’s not a lot for them to tote back to the hive to store in preparation for winter right now. As a beekeeper, dripping sweat in feels-like 97ºF temperatures, it can be a bit difficult to realize the ladies in the hive are in the midst of preparing for winter, or that while we enjoy plenty they are in a dearth of nectar and pollen–that bees can starve at this time of the year if the beekeeper is not keeping up with what the colony needs.

hive addedThis was a routine inspection as, from the outside, both hives appear to be doing well, judging by traffic in and out though not much pollen seems to be carried into either hive. But that’s expected at this time of the year while we’re waiting for asters and goldenrod to bloom.

Although I can see the effect of the dearth with less brood, Rosemarinus colony has almost a full super of honey that is capped. My intention for that box was for cut-comb honey until the ladies declared it partly a brood box. Now there is only a very narrow band of drone brood on the lower edge of the center frames and the areas where brood had been are being filled with pollen and nectar. I was hoping to snatch a couple of the lateral frames for cut-comb honey even this late in the season but the girls have decided to put pollen there so I won’t take those frames now. (Learning experience for beekeeper!). I’m happy to see that much honey and pollen stored at this time of the year. Though I still haven’t seen that queen, I do see evidence that she’s doing what queens are supposed to do–brood in all stages and lots of workers also doing their thing.

Salvia hive (from the swarm earlier in the year) has grown well over the summer–lots of bees. Since I saw brood in all stages I didn’t spend a lot of time searching for the queen, but feel sure that this colony is queenright. The fourth box on this hive had been intended as a honey super so I had put a queen excluder on; the ladies seem to be reluctant to start drawing comb above it. They simply propolized it down to the top of the frames below. I removed it once I managed to free it from all the propolis and hope they will use it to store more honey for the winter. I’ll have to go back into the hive when the fall nectar flow starts to make sure that they are using those frames for honey storage. This hive also had capped honey and what appeared to me to be reasonable pollen stores for this time of year.


I’m so happy to see that both colonies appear to be in fine fettle for this time of year. I’ll put sugar syrup feeders on both hives today even with the honey stores that I saw because we are now in a dearth. When the aster and goldenrod come into bloom I’ll quit feeding until that bloom is over. I just don’t want the bees to have to use the current honey and pollen stores for survival right now. Those need to be saved for wintertime.

I also noticed (thanks to two stings while working the hive) that the girls are a bit testier than usual. After some research on one of my favorite beekeeping websites (Honey Bee Suite) I found a list of things that may make bees more aggressive. Among the things listed were nectar dearth, heat and high humidity, and rainy weather–all of which have been present in the last few days–and two present  right now.  The ground around my hives was definitely wet from the rain of the last few day and the dew point was in the 70s.

I guess I should be grateful that I got only two stings from the ladies! I’m sure I was grumpier after working for several hours in the heat and humidity, so I can understand theirs though I don’t care for the way in which they choose to communicate it to me.



The lingo of the hive

20160528_163841_001It has finally soaked into my brain that I keep babbling on about “boxes”, “supers”, and frames–without much explanation so I’ll try to remedy that.  The hives (that is the woodenware or structure) is made up of a number of structures stacked vertically in layers. If you look closely, you’ll see that the hive on the left  (which is Rosemarinus–how else would a cook name hives?) has five “layers” sitting on a wooden base. Salvia (on the right) has only three layers right now (a new one added just today).  The hives that you see here are Langstroth (after the inventor)–a very commonly used vertical hive. The hive is made up of several parts. Let’s start from the bottom and work up.

Note: All the images of hive parts are from the Bailey Bee Supply website since my components are all in use.  The photographs of bees and in-use components are from my hives (bought from Bailey Bee Supply). Since many of the pictues seem to have disappeared, I’m adding a simple diagram that’s labeled.

Related imageThe wooden base with a sloped area (at the entrance) on the very bottom of the hive is a landing board to help the bees get into and out of the hive easily. It’s kind of a landing pad and place to taxi for takeoff.

Obviously, the hive needs a “floor” of some sort; on top of the landing board and frame we use a “bottom board”.  Clever terminology, huh?  In this hot climate for ventilation and to help control pests that like to hang around the hive, I use a screened bottom board–hardware cloth that is a small enough mesh that the bees cannot go through it. The white grid you see slides out so that the screen is open–it’s used to do maintenance things like mite counts when we need to assess for Varroa destructor infestation.

Now for the business parts of the hive. We build layers of “boxes” for various functions of the colony (that refers to the bees living in the hive). We add as many boxes as the colony needs to rear brood and to store honey so hives can be tall.  (The upper layer is just at shoulder height for me, filled with honey, so it weighs about 40 pounds.)


A box is just a wooden structure. We refer to them by different names depending on what the bees are using them for: brood boxes are where the queen lays eggs and the nurse bees rear new bees. Usually, the lower two or three boxes on the hive tower are used this way and we call those brood boxes or brood chambers. That huge open space is not very functional for bees to build tidy comb so we put in dividers: frames on which the bees build comb.


Here is a box filled with frames. Each frame is a wooden (or plastic) frame (like a picture frame without a picture in it). In order to help the bees be neat and tidy, we supply them with something to start building comb: a foundation–a base on which to build (draw) comb.  This can be a sheet of beeswax, or plastic (coated with beeswax). You see a frame with wax foundation tipped up at the back of the box.

Bees are constantly rearing new brood–in the summer when work is hard the lifespan of a bee is about six weeks. So the lowest three boxes on my hives are brood chambers. The frames there are filled with comb into which the queen deposits one egg is each cell. To keep the housework simple, honey and pollen needed for brood rearing are stored around the edges of each frame.

5 middle outer

Above is a frame that I’ve pulled out of the brood chamber for inspection. (It’s actually being held upside down as I’m rotating it to look at both sides–so the bottom of the frame actually appears at the top of the photograph.) The darker, golden brown comb that you see (and the area under the cluster of bees) is where the queen has laid eggs, which turn into larvae, and then into pupae. The bees here are nurse bees–they are feeding the larvae. This is a pretty typical brood frame.  An area at the bottom of the frame in an arc contains the brood. Around the ends and the upper edge of the frame is stored honey and pollen used to maintain the colony. The cells containing honey are covered with wax–“capped”.

6th middle outer

This frame is held right-way-up. You can see the brood area. Near the bottom center you see the golden brown cells that now have been covered with wax. These are what we beekeepers call “capped brood”–and contain maturing pupae–which will emerge from the cells to begin their working life. Again around the edge is capped honey. Now you have a general idea of the brood chambers. Hives will always have brood chambers. Now we come to another section of the hive–the honey storage part.

The term “super”–is the beekeeper way of saying that we have put boxes with frames above (over or superior to, thus “super”) over the brood chambers for the bees to use for honey storage–some of which we will take away for honey harvest.


bees on frame of honey


The frame above is from the “super”–the box over the brood chamber where there is only honey storage–no brood rearing. The wax here is lighter in color since it hasn’t been used for brood rearing–this is the good edible stuff that can be used for comb honey, or have the honey extracted (by centrifugation) and the comb (wax) returned to the bees to fill again.

Many of the cells here have already been covered with wax–sealed for storage after dehydration so that it won’t ferment. At the bottom center, you can see some open cells–uncapped cells–that still need to have water evaporated from the nectar for it to become honey. Now you know about supers as well as brood chambers.

inner cover

inner cover

Now our bee house (hive) needs a ceiling and a roof. The ceiling is the inner cover.  It helps to control heat in the hive, and allows us to use feeders if needed during the cooler weather or when not many thing are blooming or to get through the winter. (Yes–we do sometimes need to feed our bees.)



cropped-20160202_1347541.jpgFinally, we come to the “roof”–which in bee lingo is a “telescoping cover” or “outer cover”. We call it “telescoping” because it can slide forward or backward to allow ventilation through the hive in hot weather or to allow a top entrance for bees to enter and exit the hive. This is a basic, no frills, functional hive roof–what you see on my hives.


As beekeepers we need to “inspect” the colony. That means that we look inside the hive to see if all is going well: the queen is laying eggs, to make sure that there is not some nasty disease in the colony, to see how much pollen and honey is stored.

inner cover

For an inspection we disassemble the hive into its parts and we pull at least some of the frames and look at both sides of them–to see if the honey is capped, and if the larvae look healthy, et cetera.

You start the inspection by removing the telescoping cover and the inner cover–after using some smoke to let the girls know that you are going to invade their home.

Here is my hive with the “roof” removed–and looking down on the “ceiling” or inner cover. You can see that you start encountering the welcoming committee right away. Once you remove the inner cover (below) you can see the frames in the boxes–and the girls going about their business. They’re going to be walking and flying around all the time you are inspecting the colony, but they don’t sting unless you injure them. (They die when they sting, so it’s a last resort for them.) But they are curious, and will explore so a veil is a necessity during an inspection.

lower body


Now when you look at first photograph, I hope you can find the parts of the hive at bit better. Rosemarinus (on the left) has three brood chambers and two supers. If it’s a very productive season, I may need to add one or two more supers. One of the supers on Rosemarinus is for comb honey so can remove it when the girls have filled it and give them an empty one to go to work on.

Salvia (on the right) has only brood chambers right now. I’ll be keeping a close watch on it to see when they need to have a super put on so there’s plenty of place for them to stash the sweet stuff–some for them for the winter, and some for me.


Hive report: 28 May 2016

I woke up to pleasant, sunny weather this morning–so I made a beeline (sorry, but I just had to put that in) for the hives.

I was feeling really pressured to inspect Salvia (the hive on the left) to see if I needed to add another honey “super”–another box with frames and foundation. My inspection was abbreviated as soon as I got the inner cover off and pulled out one of the side frames. Bees don’t really “like” to work the side frames in a box, so those are often empty or light. This one wasn’t it was a good three pounds with both sides drawn into comb and being filled with honey and pollen.Looking between the other 7 frames it was obvious that the girls had been very busy. I needed to make a trip to Bailey Bee Supply on a pretty urgent basis–this colony was started from the swarm from Rosemary. Since this was a long holiday weekend, and the weather is a bit uncertain with a tropical depression heading out way and I certainly didn’t want these girls to decide that the hive wasn’t big enough and decide to go live somewhere else. I closed the hive back up, leaving the feeder (which was 20160528_163841_001empty) off and moved on to check out Rosemary.

Rosemary (on the left) hive was inspected much more recently, so I just removed the top honey super on top–all 40 pounds of it–and pulled some of the frames in the super that is for comb honey. It looks as if the colony size is increasing now that the queen is laying. The bees have started drawing comb and storing honey on the center frames of that box now the queen excluder (which was almost entirely closed off with propolis) has been removed and the colony is growing rapidly. I closed that hive quickly so that I could make it to the bee store before they closed at 2 p.m.

After my dash to Hillsborough, I came back and gave the girls in Salvia some more room to stash honey on nice tidy frames instead of building extra comb on the base of the feeder–I think they were definitely feeling crowded.

Normally I’d give them more room when they had used 5 or 6 of the 8 frames in the box, but these girls had been so industrious that they were already close to filling all 8 of the frames. Looking in the hive today made me realize how fast they can fill a super with honey. I was a little late adding the super–I’m just glad I wasn’t too late.