Hive report: 31 March 2016


RG Queen bee

Queen Salem

First, I’ve officially named my hives now–after herbs. Rosemarinus (#1) and Salvia (#2–the new, split). Now to figure out a consistent way to designate the queens and track the lineage, since I’m allowing Rosemarinus to “make” its new queen. I think I will name the queens after cultivars/varieties of the herbs. Maybe since my first queen was marked with blue (year ending in 5), I think she is Salem. It’s her blue dot that has kept me from losing her twice! The new queen, from the Rosemarinus hive, will be marked with white (year 6) so she’s could  be christened Irene (a white-flowered cultivar of Rosemarinus)–perhaps!  I have to work out something that will be logical and consistent. I can see a problem with that right off–Queen Irene, descended from hive Rosemarinus, but living in hive Salvia?!–perhaps I need to work on this some more. Hives will definitely be named after herbs though.


The performance and temperament of that hive as been so exceptional that I want to keep the genetics as much as possible. Thus, the hive has only capped brood, and queen cells. There have been about half a dozen queen cells made between the time that the first one was found open and this inspection today.


It was blustery, partly cloudy, but warm today so after looking at the weather forecast–rain possible for the next several days–I decided I HAD to inspect Rosemarinus (at least) today. That was quite a job since there are three medium brood boxes, one honey super on regular wired wax frames, and one honey super with thin wax foundation (above a queen excluder) for cut comb honey. All these boxes have bees and all except the cut comb super and being drawn, including the very outside frames.  The girls have been very busy.

I put some wax-coated plastic foundation in that hive and the bees are drawing it out quickly. I’m happy to see that as I think it will make less work on equipment for the beekeeper, with more time to attend to the bees and the cut comb honey production.

I opened Rosemarinus hive to start the colony inspection at 13:00 EDT with less than optimal condition: partly cloudy, steady wind at about 7 mph, with gusts up to 10 or 12 mph. Since this hive is heavily populated despite the swarm (that went into Salvia)  I needed the smoker once I had taken off the cut comb honey super–really don’t want my cut comb honey to be reminiscent of BBQ! It was so windy that it was difficult to use the smoker effectively so the girls did a lot more flying about than usual–I think they get cranky with me taking the roof off their home when it’s windy, but none registered displeasure by stinging me. (Another reason to maintain the genetics that I have going in this hive.)

I finished a pretty thorough inspection at 14:05 EDT with lots of bees buzzing around outside the hive and clustered on the sides of the hive. Since that hive has been without a laying queen for at least seven days it wasn’t surprising that I saw only capped brood–and queen cells.

When I was about two-thirds through the inspection it was getting windier and completely overcast;  more and more bees were flying around me and around the hive. By the time I reached the lower brood box, agitation was setting in so I didn’t inspect each frame individually–I moved them to one side so I could look down between them–lots of bees there as well.  I could see some capped drone brood protruding, so I know that there is brood in all three boxes. The bottom board wasn’t littered with dead bees either.

Since I had inspected the honey super containing wired wax foundation a week ago, I let that one slip in favor of a more in-depth examination of the two brood boxes, and the one where I found the first queen cell.  Unfortunately, the weather didn’t let me do the complete examination of my lower brood box–I just know that there is some brood there, and  a lot of bees.

I’m happy to see multiple queen cells–I now know that the first one has not emerged yet. It was a little tense thinking of only one possible queen, just in case anything went wrong. Because of the weather, I didn’t even attempt a sugar roll for mites today, which leaves me just a bit anxious about levels; I’m going to try the sticky board again to see if I can get at least some idea of mite population. I was planning to treat (if needed) with MiteAway Quick Strips, aka MAQS (formic acid), but I’m hesitant to do that with the developing queens in the hive–at least until the new queen is established.

If the weather is suitable I plan to open Salvia and see how Salem is settling in  I hope that I’ll need to add a second brood box to that hive shortly.




Rosemarinus, 31 March 2016






Hive Report (13 Dec 2015)

IMG_8824Warm enough today to I could open the hive and remove the strips I’d placed for Varroa mite treatment. There was a lot of activity at the front of the hive.

I didn’t do a full frame-by-frame inspection but removed all the boxes to get at the mite strips and remove the wooden entrance reducer and place a metal mouse guard for the winter.

IMG_8826Seems that the girls have been noshing on the candyboard already–in retrospect I probably should have waited until December to put it on, and just continued with the syrup feedings until then. But hindsight is  always better than foresight.

When I lifted the two upper boxes they were heavy–so they must be full of honey. Just looking down between the frames it looked as if there was a good supply of capped honey. The bees weren’t clustered–they were busy throughout all the boxes.

The bottom box was lighter–probably because some honey has been used from there already since there’s not much for them to forage on at this time of the year even though I’m seeing a little pollen being toted into the hive.

I didn’t try to find the queen this time–with all the activity and loads of bees I assume she is in there doing her thing–and it’s too late in the season to really do anything if not.  Keeping fingers crossed.

I’ll take a peek later when there’s a warmer day just to see how much of the candyboard has been devoured, and add sugar if necessary.



Hive report 11 Nov 2015

IMG_8695_11_11_trafficFinally a let up in rain and warm enough for me to play at the hive.  There’s still traffic in and out of the hive, but less than during warmer weather when there was nectar and pollen in more plentiful supply.  I didn’t see much pollen coming in at all.  When I removed the syrup feeders, there were lots of the girls up there slurping up syrup.

After I removed the syrup feeders I removed the inner cover–which were firmly glued in place with propolis.  The girls now have a candy-board and a quilt box to see them through the winter.  I wanted to place a mouse guard today, but wasn’t successful since the girls have done such a good job of gluing it in place with propolis that I’m going to have to actually lift the bottom brood box in order to get it out.  That means removing the other brood box and the super.  I didn’t do that this afternoon. Other beekeepers in this area have told me that they do not use metal mouse guards–just the wooden entrance reducer. I would really prefer to put metal mouse guard on, but there was enough traffic and enough guard bees out that I didn’t attempt that today. I do have a metal shield that will fit over my entrance reducer so I’ll place that instead, entrance reducer opening at upper edgeonce I get it cut down to 8-frame size.

I’ve heard different opinions for beekeepers on how the opening in the entrance reducer should be oriented–up or down. Mine is down now.  I wasn’t concerned about this as there was an upper entrance in the inner cover. I heard that for winter, the opening of the entrance reducer should be on top if there is winter-die off: if it’s down it could be blocked with dead bees. Now that I’ve removed the inner cover to place the candy-board and quilt box, I no longer have and upper entrance or ventilation.  One certainly hope that there’s not  going to be winter-die off, but I know some bees will die during the winter. (I’m learning how thoroughly things can be glued in with propolis.)

entrance reducer opening at lower edgeSo–do I place an Imrie shim to keep an upper entrance? Or am I going to have to lift the bottom box and change the orientation of the entrance reducer, or just substitute the mouse guard.  I miss having the class before the bees arrived; however from the looks of the colony, they are training me pretty well.  From Bee Journal, the inventor of the Imrie shim has written about it’s appropriate use–and providing upper entrance in fall and winter is not an intended use–it fact it’s an explicit no-no. Since he’s a successful beekeeper, and inventor of the shim, I think I may heed his advice.  But then there is the advice to provide an upper entrance. . . .

Now I’m left with the quandary of the orientation of the opening in the entrance reducer! Multiple opinions. (I’m beginning to suspect that if you ask 10 beekeepers about this you’ll get 12 different answers. I can see the logic of having the opening at the upper edge of the reducer, especially for winter–especially if that is the only entrance. The solution is probably to get the entrance reducer out and place the mouse guard.  No matter what it looks as if I’m going to have to lift that bottom box–which is pretty well filled with brood and honey, and the two above are now well filled with brood, and the upper with honey.  (This all makes me contemplate the virtues of the long (horizontal) Langstroth hive–which is not the same as a top-bar hive.

All my questions aside, it was good to see so many bees working in the honey super and  drawing and filling even the outermost frames. They’ve obviously been busy since my last inspection.  That should give them a good honey supply for the winter.  Being the “newbee” that I am, I am glad that the candy-board is on the hive.  Much better safe than sorry come spring.

Ever since the nuc arrived here I’ve been used to going out almost every day–even in the rain sometimes–to see what’s going on at the hive. I’m sure that during the winter when I can’t see any traffic I’ll still be going out to look at the hive and wondering how things are inside.  It’s rather amazing how attached you can get to a batch of insects! I’m sure it’s going to seem like a long winter, with rampant curiosity on my part. I do have to hope for another warm day so that I can remove the treatment I placed for varroa mites, but that’s going to be a very quick in-and-out for that purpose only unless it’s an unseasonably warm day.

(I’m pleased with how much honey is in the hive–I hope the candy-board is totally superfluous. I’m happier now that there is candy-board and quilt box on the hive.)



D-day at the hive.

With a lull in the rain, I went out to see what the girls were up to.  Not expecting a lot of activity with the cloudy day and the rain, but I was greeted with activity–just looking it certainly was not the usual in and out traffic. It looked a lot like utter pandemonium and chaos, but with closer observation I did  figure out what was happening.

Thanks to a video posted just yesterday on Bee Sweet Bee Farm I realized that I was seeing drones being ejected from the hive.  I think it’s considered house cleaning for the winter. On closer look at the landing board, there were a number of drones, lots of scuffling, and kicking butt–and the drones were not winners.  It was rather awesome to watch. Certainly makes you aware of ruthless side of survival!



Hive report 14 Oct. 2015

beekeeper holding Langstroth frameThis is late for my routine inspection–but with all the cloudy, windy, grey, chilly days it hasn’t been appropriate for me to be ripping the roof of the girls’ home. Then when the weather improved and the sun came out, we still had some days that were too windy for me to want to open the hive. Something about the girls clinging madly to the landing board in the gusts that suggested maybe not good time either. Then we finally had days that were not too windy and sere sunny, so I thought I’d do the inspection.

When I got to the hive, there were bees flying everywhere, circling the hive, and for the first time meeting me on the way to the hive. I wasn’t sure what was up with the ladies, but something said it might not be a good time to stick my nose into the hive.  The day following, same thing, except that I think I picked up what was causing the problem–lots of banging, thumping, nose, and some unusual traffic by the hive brought them out again; so another deferred inspection.

Langstroth fram with honey and beesToday, it all fell into place–sunny, warm, and the traffic to and from the hive was as usual.  No sign of alert bees buzzing all around the hive.

I had three boxes to inspect this time–and I came away glad that I decided to do all 8-frame mediums. Two of the boxes were heavy!  That’s not a complaint, just an observation; heavy is good. It means honey for the winter.  I didn’t have another OMG-so-many-bees reaction this time–I was expecting lots of bees.  That is what I found–but even more bees than I expected. Again, happiness.

Despite the time and manipulation it takes to check each frame in three boxes/bodies, the girls handled it well–there were more Langstroth frame with capped honey and beesthan usual flying around us by the time I was putting the last frame back in the bottom box, but I call them alert, not aggressive. This time I had an extra set of hands so I got some pictures of some of the frames as I pulled them–I was hoping to see more detail on the frames.  Guess I need to work on another way to get pictures.

I’m pleased with how the hive looks (to my inexperienced eye); bees were working in the upper body–mostly drawing comb, but starting to see a little nectar and pollen there too; no brood.  I found brood in both the middle and the lower body.  I did place strips to treat for mites (Varroa destructor).  When I go back to take that out, I think I’m going to need to re-arrange some of the frames to consolidate the brood.  This inspection raised a lot of what-do-I-need-to-do-now questions.  I’m middle outerglad there’s a meeting of the Durham County Beekeepers Association soon–I should find some answers there.

I do hope that these ladies are doing as well as I think they are–It should be interesting to take the beekeeping course after a season (well, part of a season) with already having hands on experience. The online materials (e.g. Brushy Mountain Bee Farms webinars and videos) and blogs (Scientific, Tales from the Bee Hive, Bee Sweet Bee Farm, My Latin Notebook, and many more) have provided good information.  Conversations with Facebook friends and beekeeping groups have also helped through difficulties like the sugar syrup spill bringing hornets and yellowjackets, and found me a feeder that works so well!

5th middle outerÔ¿Ô

Today I got my first sting–even though for everything except installing the nuc, I’ve worked only wearing a veil. I know it would happen sooner or later…and it finally did. No big deal.

Hive report (08 &10 September 2015)

traffic in and out of hive08 September 2015: Even though it’s a cloudy day there’s a good amount of traffic in and out of the hive–I’m glad I did give them a larger entrance to the hive when I had it open for the inspection.

I’ve looked at the flight path in and out of the hive and I think that they are heading for a local greenway/trail. Looking at Google Earth map, that is easily within a one-mile radius of the hive. I need to go hike the trail and see what is blooming now.  That’s one of the things you need to look at the blooming flowers from a bee’s point of view, and the quality of nectar produced by the flower. So much to learn….

Today I put the “stickyboard” in the screened bottom board to assess Varroa destructor (mites) in the colony to find out if I need to treat for them before winter. That has to stay under the hive for three days so I can get an idea of what’s going on with mites.

honey bees at hive carrying pollen10 September 2015:  The girls have been slurping down the sugar syrup (with Honey-B-Healthy), as well as bringing in pollen and nectar.  I gave them new syrup today as they had almost completely cleaned out the jars.

When I went out to the hive I got to see some different honey bee behavior:  I had bees washboarding on the front of the hive. No one seems to know what this behavior is, but it’s common, and it’s done by “adolescent” worker bees.

There was lots of traffic in and out–different colors of pollen being carried in–the bright yellow shows up most clearly, but I saw some orange, white, deeper yellow, and some very dark red while I was watching them come and go.

Tomorrow I’ll be able to pull the stickyboard and see what the Varroa population looks like.  Fingers crossed on that one since this is a new colony.  I’ve been reading about the various treatments, including some “natural” ones that use herbs, and other “harder” chemicals.

It will be another week before I can sneak another peek inside to see how much pollen, nectar, brood, and honey is there.  It’s  like wanting to peek into the oven to see if the soufflé is rising properly–not at all a good idea no matter how curious you are.

pollen colors

At the hive. . . .

bees on upper super top framesMy last inspection was a little off my intended schedule–I didn’t want to open the hive with yellowjackets buzzing around. They were finally gone last week so I peeked into the hive to see what the “girls” were doing. (I have to keep reminding myself that the colony only arrived here on the 24th of July.)  Definitely more regular traffic in and out lately, carrying pollen in all colors different colors.

Goldenrod is starting to bloom here now–and I think I’ve seen ragweed.  I’m not yet used to looking at fall flowers for a bee’s point of view. From the meeting of the Durham Beekeepers association this week, it seems that I was correct about the goldenrod, and the asters will be later.  It’s a whole new perspective on looking at flowers when I consider the bees!

There is new comb in the upper super, but only very rare pollen or nectar, so I didn’t add an extra super this time. I’ll be checking again in about a week to see where we are. I’ve asked an experienced beekeeper to go through an inspection next weekend.  It will be good to have a “teaching” inspection since I wasn’t able to get into a class before my bees arrived.


Hive report

bee coming to hive with pollenThere is considerable relief in the last couple days as I watch the traffic in and out of the hive. There are no longer guard bees clustered on the landing board–they are able to do their job from inside the hive since the sticky mess of spilled syrup has mostly been removed by changing the cement blocks that were saturated with it, and there’s been some rain that apparently help wash away what was on the hive and the ground.

It’s very relaxing to watch the steady traffic of bees coming with pollen–white, yellow, orange, and some greenish in color.–and then heading back out for more.

Only the very occasional bald-faced hornet seen now and the yellowjackets seem to have either been trapped or decided that the sugar left around the hive is not worth fighting the guard bees for.