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….



Reading about bees…

On a chilly, grey, drizzly day, what could be better than a good book, a cat, and maybe a big mug of hot cocoa?

If you’d like a glimpse into the bee hive, I’d recommend “Bees Make the Best Pets” for an hour or so of delightful reading. It’s also available for Kindle.  Jack Mingo has a delightful way of describing the events of the hive.


Please note: I do not have affiliate links with either Amazon or The Regulator Bookshop; I provide the latter as my favorite independent store with excellent customer service for special orders.


Hive Report: 13 April 2016

Though not as warm as I’d wished, and much windier than I liked, I thought it was hive inspection time again. Amidst errands and indexing work, I opened both hives on the 13th.

quad feeder base on inner coverSalvia was quick and easy. The queen was in there doing her thing and easily found since she was marked when she arrived here last summer. I found brood in all stages as well as honey and pollen. Looking good but since this is a small colony I’m feeding them. I removed the Miller hive top feeder which I find difficult to handle if there is any syrup still in it (and it seems that there inevitably is). I replaced that with the hive top feeder that I got from Brijean Acres Apiary after a Facebook friend told me how well she like that type of feeder. It sits on the inner cover and holds four quad feeder with jars in placesmall-mouth mason jars. Since my hives are just outside my front door, I can check feed often, so this feeder works well for me. I’m feeding that colony 1:1 sugar syrup with Honey-B-Healthy. (Though they are doing some foraging they are still taking the syrup. When they quit taking it, I’ll quit feeding.)


Rosemarinus was quite a project–three medium hive bodies, two medium honey supers, and then the one honey super for cut comb honey. This inspection of the hive was to check the queen cells and look for a new queen.

That hive still seems to have an incredible number of bees even after that swarm which was small. It was so windy with gusts that made it difficult to use the smoker. Just getting the girls to move so that I could pick up frames by the ends without smooshing bees was difficult. I was wishing for frame grips when I had to resort to picking up some of the frames in the middle.

I didn’t get a full inspection of the two very heavy honey supers but on earlier inspections, there was no brood in them. I did inspect the three medium hive bodies frame by frame. The swarm happened on 24 March. When I looked in the hive on 31 March, there were some queen cells and some brood. On this inspection, I found no eggs, larvae or capped brood but there were open queen cells. Some looked as if they had been opened from the side. I hope that is a sign that there is a queen lurking in the hive, and I just didn’t have a good enough eye to find her. I saw one closed queen cell that I left in place since I didn’t find a queen.

I’m getting a bit antsy since that same day I saw a group of bees (about the size of the original swarm) flying around quite a distance from the hive. They eventually went back to the hive, and I haven’t had bees collected on the outside of the hive as I did with the original swarm. I saw a good example of a virgin queen at our last DCBA meeting so I’m sure that I might well not have seen a queen even if she were in the hive.  Once I do find her, she will get mark so that it’s easier to find her amongst all the other bees.

Now I have to wait. Not patiently, but wait to see if the colony is going produce their own queen or do I need to purchase one from a supplier. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that the colony will (maybe even already has) provide a queen–these seem to be very gentle, productive girls. I like that!


Hive inspection 29 Feb 2016

IMG_8958It’s a lovely, sunny (but slightly breezy) almost 70-degree day, fit for a hive inspection to do a recheck on the queen cells noted on the 21st and to go into the bottom body to assess brood. I was fortunate to have friends–aka “bee buddies” to lend extra hands and eyes. So there are a few pictures of the queen cells and (unfortunately) of the two varroa mites that we saw.

There is lots of activity in and out of the hive. It appears that the girls are finding pollen–a rainbow coming in ranging from cream, greenish-white, bright yellow, to deep golden yellow. The pollen baskets are better filled today. There were drones out and about today too.

Happily, the queen cells are still open and without egg or larvae–which makes me a happy beekeeper. Although there was some capped brood in the lower body, there is not enough capped brood to do a split, but lots of nectar and pollen stored.  I have to wonder if they were not slightly honey bound.

I did place a new super with wax foundation for the girls to expand into so that the queen has more room to lay–so that I can get enough brood to do a split in a month or so. It’s a relief to find those queen cells still vacant today.  I’ll be hoping that they are still vacant in a week because we have some more cold weather forecast.

The girls have demolished five pounds of fondant in the past week, and given the forecast, I guess I’ll need to supply more food for that period, but since we still have some nighttime temperatures hovering close to, or slightly below, freezing it seems a little premature to start syrup yet. Now the question is do I buy more fondant or do I try one of the techniques for feeding granulated sugar.

I got my first look at varroa mites–two of them–on one bee today. Even with the video of last week’s inspection and looking at lots more bees today we saw only two. It’s time for me to get out the sticky board and also to do a sugar roll to get a better idea of the mite population.


14 Jan 2016 hive report

Today is grey, drippy, damp, at the very least; otherwise it been pouring rain every time I’ve had to go out to run an errand.  On my trip to the hive today I saw a couple of the girls peeking out as if to check on the world without actually going out. I think it was the bee version of “yuck”.

Yesterday was sunny and warm so there bees flying and bringing in a bit of pollen.  I was at least able to lift the cover and get a glimpse of the inside of the hive. The first thing I noticed was that the girls have carefully applied propolis all around the edges of the quilt box so that it is difficult to lift the shavings and burlap to see down into the hive. The cedar shavings were wet on the top, but dry down next to the burlap despite all the rain and humidity.  That was good to see (and feel).


candyboard 13 Dec 15

I was finally able to tug one corner of the burlap loose to peer down to the top bars of the upper  box. That immediately left me standing there with my mouth hanging open. The candyboard appears to be completely gone. Though I did not lift the quilt box off, I couldn’t see any candy left anywhere. There were bees on the top bars moving about and doing whatever it is that they do this time of year in this crazy weather, but certainly not clustered.

Looking back on my hive notes, I see that I put the candyboard on the hive on 11 November 2015. As you can see, there was a lot of it eaten by the 13th of December. (I can tell that I’m going to want next year’s candyboard to have some support in it, because I couldn’t lift this off the upper box to really look into it on that last inspection–not even a year yet and I’m developing some definite preferences for equipment.)


04 Jan 2016

Looking at the seven-day forecast, it might be warm enough tomorrow, if it’s not raining or too windy to get a better look into the hive. If not tomorrow, it’s likely  to be a week (at least) before I can do an inspection.

Keeping my fingers crossed and hoping that I’m just being a worrywart, novice beekeeper, but you can see that this pollen basket is not exactly stuffed–this was taken 04 January 2016–not exactly when you’d expect bees to be bringing in lots of pollen.






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 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.

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

Friday hive news

honeybees at hive entranceAs you can see from the video FB post, there’s a lot of traffic in and out of the hive–fall nectar flow.  That kind of traffic makes for a happy beekeeper!  It’s so hard not to look into the hive more frequently than I should, but I’ll get to check what’s going on inside over the weekend.  Watching the activity from the outside makes me feel like I’m going to see that a lot of work has been done on the inside!  I hope that there’s enough pollen and nectar stored that I have to add another super so these girls will have lots of food for the winter.  Nectar must be good since they are not taking much of the sugar water–they know where the good stuff is.

Just a bit of frustration, though certainly not with the bees, but my telescoping cover seems a little cattywampus so I’ve got yellowjackets in the top super where the feeders are located.  BUT, they can neither get into the hive nor can the bees get into that super.  I need to find a solution to that.

(I also need to find a video converter so that I can post videos here–I’m so impressed with the traffic in and out–there’s no way to capture it on a still unless you’re very lucky.)