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!


From hive to apiary?

hive added The bees are sending signals–they think it’s spring, no matter what the calendar says, or what the infamous groundhog says. (Happy groundhog day, all.) In reading about beekeeping you often find mentions of the varied opinions of different beekeepers–as 5 beekeepers and you will get at least 5 opinions. Well, in describing my hive situation to three master beekeepers I’ve gotten only one opinion: prepare for swarming.

Not being one to ignore what seems good advice, especially with the consensus.  I’ve set up another hive in preparation for  (but hoping to prevent)  the swarming. One hive is soon going to become two.  The bees may dictate that I’m going to do this split sooner rather than later! I won’t know until it’s warm enough to get a good look inside the hive to see if there are swarm cells, or not.

Right now I don’t know if there is another queen in the making in the main hive (I guess that’s hive #1–but I need to think of something more poetic). From some quick searching on the internet, it looks as if I may have not choice but to allow the girls to “make” their own queen for those that stay behind in the main hive.


I keep mentioning candyboard (or candy board) but I don’t think I ever explained what it is and why I put one on the hive for winter.

sugar in mould for bees


Bee candy is just about what you would make for yourself–sugar and water–cooked to a hardball stage then poured into a mould that fits on top of the hive so the bees can get to it for emergency food in cold weather. The bee candy likely has some additions that you’d not like–essentially vitamins, and pollen or pollen substitutes. The is a picture of a candyboard taken in Bailey Bee Supply store while I was there purchasing hive components for the second hive. This is hard candy.  (There’s a photograph of the candyboard that I put on my have after the bees had worked eaten some of it.)  They ate the whole thing! Much sooner than I expected. Now depending on the weather the bees will need more “emergency” food.

Another option for feeding during times when there is not an adequate nectar flow is fondant (soft candy). Since I’ve displayed absolutely no talent for making candy–ever–I chose to buy both the hard and the soft from bee suppliers. I’m going to try the fondant for feeding now until the nectar flow starts. I’ll have to make some other decisions about feeding when the split is made–all rather weather dependent, and bee dictated.

It is possible to feed bees table sugar in other ways. In warm weather, a 1:1 sugar and water syrup works well, or dry sugar in an emergency. (There’s more about my adventures with that in other posts.)

Now, off to the books to learn more about doing splits! These girls obviously didn’t read the book or look at the weather forecast.



Hive 01 Oct. 2015

pollen-carrying bees

Go girls!

Frustration here–weather has kept me from opening the hive to see what’s happening in the upper medium box that I put on a few weeks ago.  Normally, I’d have done a routine inspection last weekend but opening hive in the rain is definitely a no-no–truly ticks off the girls.  Again today, too windy and chilly.  Given our weather forecast looks like I won’t be opening the hive until sometime next week. I’ll be out there checking on the first sunny day. My curiosity must wait a bit longer.

Switching to winter feeding with 2:1 sugar to water ratio. Looking ahead to colder weather getting some fondant to provide some food if needed in the colder weather, and adding a bit of insulation and moisture protection to the hive. Time to place a mouse guard, too.

I’ve done an assessment for Varroa destructor (mites) about 2 weeks ago with a stickyboard. There didn’t seem to be many mites. I’ll repeat that in the next few days to be sure that I don’t need to treat before winter.

Still sticky

Perhaps this should be titled sequelae to stickiness sequelae. . . .and for all my friends who are grammarians, I used sequelae intentionally, to refer not to this sequela to the previous post, but to the myriad, multiple, bucketful, and gobs of effects stemming from that one event of a leaky syrup container.


bees at hive entranceOn hive check this morning, it looks like normal activity at the entrance. No “invaders” hanging around the entrance for the time that I was watching–just “my girls” coming and going on the landing board.

I have traps out for yellowjackets and for bald-faced hornets.  Looks as if a few yellowjackets have been lured into the trap.

Unfortunately, there are still yellowjackets clustered on the lower right cement block that is supporting the hive.

I suspect that yellowjackets on cement blockwas were most of the sugar syrup flowed down.  That rather porous material is probably saturated with sweetness! They see to be preferring that to the trap with Coco-Cola in it. More concentrated sweetness (I hope). Maybe when that’s all been slurped out they will like the trap better.

I’m contemplating how to be sure that my pail feeders are not leaking, although when I check the inner cover and the empty super covering the feeders this morning there doesn’t seem to be wetness that would suggest feeder leak that would be dripping through the hive. I guess time will tell.


cropped-crop_img_20150801_130019171.jpgI told you in an earlier post that I changed to a different type of feeder when I inspected the colony yesterday.  Well, I’ve now changed feeders again as of this morning. It’s turning into a  “feeder saga”.      I started with a Miller hive top feeder–from reading that seemed like it would be what I wanted. My only objection to it is that as a learning beekeeper with a new colony, I have to do almost-weekly inspections to make sure things are going well in the hive. The issue is that at times I can be a veritable Klutz (the capitalization is intentional–I can take klutziness to a special level without even trying just in the kitchen with a bain-marie)–the good side of that is that at least the sugar syrup (1:1 sugar to water) is not hot. All the good and bad things I’ve read about this style of feeder seem to be true, so obviously I’m not having a novel experience here, and I suspect that I’ll return to this style of feeder once this colony is established and I’m more familiar with beekeeping.

However, I did decide to try to make my life a little easier (so I thought) by changing to a feeder that would be easier to put on and take off for inspections. I went to Bailey Bee Supply, my local bee store, intending to purchase a simple pail feeder.  What I discovered was that the pail was too tall to fit into an empty medium super. Since I didn’t have a deep (and truly didn’t want one since all my equipment was medium 8-frame) I decided to try a different style of in-hive feeder.

Bee smart feederAfter the inspection yesterday, I put the new feeder into the empty medium super.  There was a minor mishap–which I thought was beekeeper, not feeder.   About an hour later I went back to check and there was syrup running down the front of the hive. This is not a good thing, since it attracts other nectar-drinking insects as well as MY Apis mellifera.

I got in there and made some adjustments and finally managed to get the syrup to stop overflowing by leveling the feeder and tray; closed things back up and went about my evening’s activities. (I did get the Miller feeder off yesterday without sloshing syrup everywhere so the wetness on the front of the hive here is not a result of my klutziness. No matter why its there its not a good thing to see.)

This morning I checked on the food–the feeder was empty–meaning that one-half gallon of sugar syrup had been “dumped” during the night.,  This was not a happy thought but all was quiet around the hive.  I took the empty feeder away and made a bee-line (sorry–that pun is unintentional, but I’m leaving it there) for the bee store again.

white pail in medium superI bought an extra medium hive body and a pail feeder (pail is just barely too tall for the medium) so that it would be covered.  Home–install new feeder. Amazingly, everything around the hive was very quiet–I had expected to see all sorts of insects attracted by sugar water spread around on the ground and the front of the hive.

Now, a couple hours later–back to check and there are bees flying everywhere–not aggressive though. I think it’s bees from my hive reclaiming their syrup.  At least I hope it is. There are a few other wasp-like critters, but they are not making any effort to get into the hive. Thankfully, no hornets either.  I think maybe a rain dance this evening with hopes of a good hard rain to wash away the syrup. What I saw under the hive (I have a screened bottom board, and no sticky board in place yet) was not what you want to see around your hive.

group of bees under hiveThe only thing for me to be thankful for is that there were only a few other insects buzzing around–I just hope that lasts. Interestingly enough, I did not see any ants around–but perhaps they were all in my kitchen slurping up the syrup from where I carried the other feeder back in to clean it out. I wonder if that is a commentary on how ants feel about cinnamon–because there’s certainly a lot of it sprinkled around the hive.

Turns out that the ants were not in my kitchen–the cinnamon sticks that I had lying around on the counter must be doing a job. But, now I’m wandering around the house with a damp cloth trying to get sugar syrup wiped off of everything I touched–outside door handle, inside door handle, cell telephone (have no idea how that got there), the faucet in the bathroom sink. . . .probably other places that I didn’t realize.  I’ll find them later when I least expect it.

I never realized that “simple syrup” could be SO sticky!

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!


pollen rainbow

Watching the bees bring pollen into the hive, I saw mostly yellow but on looking at the frames I saw other colors–and so to Google–a veritable rainbow.

krista and jess

You really should click for a larger look.

And if you are a nerd (I know you are), click for the Wikipedia with a pollen color chart.

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Honey bees are here. . . .

nuc box

box of bees

This might seem like a digression–but not really, since it eventually relates to honey, which is edible (so deemed appropriate by me, at least) though there won’t be even a single serving until next year.

Yesterday afternoon I went to Hillsborough NC and came home with a large box of bees:  brood in all stages, workers, queen, and even honey; all in a nucleus colony from Bailey Bee Supply.  The bees in that box had to be transferred into their permanent hive. I was a little uncertain about what their disposition might be after being carted around hither and thither–from apiary to supplier to home.  As you can see by comparing it to the cement blocks, it was a rather large box.  A buzzing box.  When I picked it up to take it out of the car I could feel vibrations. An adventure waiting for me when opening that box.

The bees from that box needed to be transferred to the hive body (below) that was to become their permanent home.  The nuc contained 5 frames–a miniature colony. Their permanent home will have 8 frames in each of the boxes.  Right now, only the one, but I C:UsersBailey Bee SupplyPicturesVent Jacket w Hood Veil 3.JPGhope I’ll be adding another super and frames in a week.


Before opening this box of bees, who might just be a bit PO’d after all the travel, I got the smoker going, and then I donned the “typical” beekeepers jacket and the veil despite the heat.of the afternoon. The jacket pictured here is a special ventilated one–you can see through to tell color of clothing underneath.  Mine is NOT ventilated–it’s heavy cotton–and HOT. I didn’t put it on until I had the smoker going, and was right ready to take the lid off the box. Even the ventilated one like that would not have been much help because there really wasn’t any breeze.

empty hive box

empty hive body

I started untaping the box after giving them just a bit of smoke through the vents on the ends of the box, and then a little more before I lifted the lid completely off–and a little more before I removed the inner cover. And there they were –a busy, bustling, buzzing mass of bees. . . .

By the time I picked up the first of the five frames to move it into the hive body, I was absolutely dripping sweat which plopped onto the veil in front of my face when I bent over to pick up a frame. I did even use a headband, too, but that didn’t stop the drips or sweat getting in my eyes. Drops of sweat clung onto the veil–not going right through, so I’m looking at a mass of moving bees with drops of sweat in front of my face. Now, being the truly quick learner here, I made a real effort NOT to bend over so far again. (At least I’d had the sense to put the nuc box on blocks rather than on the ground.)

I inspected each of the five frames–looking for the queen, and saw her on the last one, of course–at the bottom of one side of the frame.  I turned the frame to inspect the other side–probably not really necessary since I already spotted the queen–but I did it anyway and then put that last frame into the hive body, put the three additional empty frames in, picked up the box and tapped all the lingering bees down into one corner as much as possible, dumped them on top of the frames, put the hive-feeder on top and then the outside cover. Done! There were still some bees clinging in the box so I put it on the ground in front of the hive so those could climb up to the entrance. There were some bees buzzing around outside the hive, but all seemed good.

No problems, right? So I thought.

Being a bit like a new parent, first thing this morning before even first coffee, I went to take a look. What I saw, even from a distance and UN-coffee-d, evoked a fervent, emphatic (and unprintable) epithet!  Too many bees flying around and around the hive–not coming in and out, but flying around the hive. Dashing over to the hive, I found a fist-sized cluster of bees in the corner of the nuc box. That was NOT good–that’s when I realized that I must have dropped the queen when I rotated the frame (which fortunately I did over the box) rather than over the grass.  Too bad I didn’t do it over the hive–duh!  I guess that’s what you call a learning experience. I prefer that phrasing to either dumb, or stupid thing to do.

After taking off the cover and removing the feeder I did another dump of bees onto the top of the frames–queen still didn’t go in so I gently nudged her out of the box into the hive with my fingers–and closed the hive again.

Back for another look after about 30 minutes and all appeared much more normal–bees doing straight-line in and out, without all the flying around the hive.  Huge sigh of relief here, though the real relief will come only when I open the hive in a week  for an inspection and find things normal.

. . . .and I think this may to be a pretty friendly colony. I didn’t even think about getting out the smoker or putting on the jacket and veil. Here’s me in shorts and T-shirt opening the hive and popping the queen inside without all the paraphernalia. I had a few bees crawling on my hands and arms while nudged the queen out of the box, but not a single sting. Admittedly, I wasn’t pulling frames out of the body (in other words threatening their honey or brood).  I will wear a veil so that I don’t have bees crawling over my face, but I doubt I’ll put that heavy jacket on again.

So ends the first adventure of beekeeping.

closed hive and nuc box

home, sweet home